How to Prepare for a Trade Show Without Breaking the Bank

While trade shows are essential to grow your business, they can also be costly. Here is how to attend one on a budget.

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By Jason Lucash

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So you know you need to attend a trade show. You know it is essential to grow your business and bring in more sales. You also know that trade shows can become very costly and be a financial burden. But it doesn't have to be.

If you would like to bring in the money without breaking the bank, consider cutting cost with these simple steps:

Related: 5 Ways Small Businesses Can Afford a Big-Time Trade Show

Register early

Typically trade shows offer lower prices for early registration. Try to establish a marketing plan early in the year and target the trade shows you would like to attend. Make sure to sign up right when registrations opens to get the best rates. This can also apply to ordering supplies for your booth as well as booking a hotel. The sooner you order things such as tables or chairs and book your stay, the more money you will save.

Plan for shipping

Now that you are signed up for the trade show and have your living accommodations set, it is time to plan for shipping. Gather everything you want to take that is essential to the show and you cannot purchase while there. This typically includes products, electronics and expensive display items such as signs or back drops. Since you have established where you are staying, ship to the local FedEx office via their "Hold at Location" service and pick up the products once you arrive. By purchasing your own foldable dolly's at stores like Home Depot and bringing the boxes in yourself, you can save thousands of dollars on labor and set up fees.

Related: 6 Tips for Making the Most Out of Trade Shows and Conferences

Avoid going crazy with booth display

Booth displays can cost thousands of dollars and many times are not necessary. You can create a consumer-friendly booth by incorporating a few things. Order some high-rise tables that will display what you are selling. Invest in table cloths that can cover the tables, and an eye-catching sign that will draw people's attention. You can also cut down on costs by going to the local Lowes or Home Depot to buy display items that will help showcase your products and return them once the show is over. If you believe in your product, there is no need to spend an insane amount of money on a booth display, let your product speak for itself.

Go local with marketing collateral

If you plan on having catalogs or brochures at your booth, you can easily cut down on costs by hiring a local printer. By hiring a local printer near the trade show, this allows you to save on the shipping cost it would take to send heavy paper to the trade show. Many shows now offer scanners but this can become very costly to gather leads.

Before attending the show, research and download some free apps that make gathering leads easy and cheap. Another big idea that companies have to draw attention to their booth is giveaway items. Now giveaway items are extremely effective at bringing people to your booth, but the key is to give away something that will make people remember what you were selling in the first place.

For example, many booths have now started serving beer. These booths tend to gather hundreds of people for their "free happy hour." Foot traffic around your booth is great, however, if you were to ask someone a day or two later what you were selling, the majority of them would say they have no idea. It is essential for you to have a giveaway item that is cost effective, popular and also relates to what you are selling.

Get friends and family involved

Many times companies have their employees leave to go work trade show booths, which can be very costly. You are paying for their salary, flight, hotel and food. Plus, they are not in the office working. You can really cut down on costs by asking local friends and family to help out with the shows. By asking for assistance, it allows you to save money and keep your business running while you are gone.

Trade shows are not going anywhere, they are essential for many businesses to keep going, but they do not have to put a hole in your wallet. By incorporating a few of the above steps you are guaranteed to have a successful trade show while saving thousands of dollars!

Related: 7 Ways to Get the Most Out of Exhibiting at a Trade Show

Jason Lucash

Co-founder of OrigAudio

Jason Lucash launched his first business as a third-grader in the San Francisco suburb of Danville, California and has had the same entrepreneurial spirit since then. Most recently Jason launched OrigAudio which makes unique portable audio products in 2009 and has received numerous accolades and awards such as Entrepreneur Magazine's "Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year", Time Magazine's "50 Best Inventions of the Year", and Season 2 winner of ABC's hit show "Shark Tank".

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