How can businesses get high-quality trade show booth design on a budget? There are 9 keys to designing a dream-worthy exhibit display with your budget in mind:

  1. Plan in Advance
  2. Break Down Trade Show Costs
  3. Know Your Booth Necessities
  4. Leverage Your Social Media Presence
  5. Rent Your Display
  6. Distribute Freebies Consciously
  7. Understand Your Scale
  8. Find Expos Near You
  9. Find Customers and Build Relationships

In this blog post, we’ll outline these 9 tips to design the best trade show booth for your business and budget.

9 Tips for Creating a Trade Show Booth Design on a Budget

Trade shows are an excellent way to grow your business, and trade show exhibits allow businesses to really get creative with their branding. Double deck displays and other larger formats are often known to take the spotlight on the show floor. However, these displays can quickly become quite expensive, and may not be the best option if you’re looking for trade show booth ideas for small budgets. 

So how can exhibitors make a statement with their trade show booth design on a budget? Follow these 9 key tips.

1. Plan in Advance

Timing is everything, and many of the best strategies for creating trade show booth design on a budget come back to planning in advance:

  • By securing third-party show services (such as electrical, Internet, rigging, material handling, lead retrieval, and drayage) in advance, you can often get discounts.
  • Shipping and freight will be more expensive if you have to expedite them. Planning ahead not only saves money, but also gives you wiggle room if items take longer than expected to arrive at their destination.
  • Booking flights and hotels in advance often allows you to lock in better rates. You can also make reservations at the best restaurants for client meetings before they run out of availability.

It takes time to process your ideas, understand your needs, and strategize. Many of our other 8 trade show booth ideas for small budgets rely on planning ahead, such as understanding the necessities for your booth and leveraging your social media.

Planning ahead allows you to make the most of your investment in your trade show booth design cost. When you wait until the last minute, your exhibit design may not get developed as fully or with as much careful detail as it might with more time to consider every angle. Printing, approvals, orders, and more must get rushed, incurring higher costs and risk of error, with little to no time to deal with any mistakes.

2. Break Down Trade Show Costs

The best way to do this is to determine a budget limit, or the maximum amount capable of being spent. After this limit is found, break down trade show funds into smaller itemized categories to determine how much can be spent on each.

What should you expect for your trade show booth design cost? While the costs of participating in an expo vary from show to show, we’ve calculated a general breakdown of what most exhibitors should expect their budgets to go towards:

  • Exhibiting space: 10% of budget
  • Staffing and travel: 25% of budget
  • Exhibit design: 40% of budget
  • Show services and premiums: 25% of budget

Our trade show booth design budget breakdown allocates 10% for your exhibiting space, 25% for staffing and travel, 40% for exhibit design, and 25% for show services and premiums.

These budgets can easily be adjusted based on your needs. For example, if you’re exhibiting at an event held near your offices, you can reduce the costs associated with your staff’s transportation and lodging, and budget more for your trade show booth design cost. 

To help outline their budgets, many businesses use digital budgeting tools. This allows exhibitors to create budgets that are easy to adjust as plans change, and that can also easily be shared among their team members. When considering trade show booth ideas for small budgets, the organization of your budget itself is key.

3. Know Your Booth Necessities

Especially with trade show booth design on a budget, it’s vital to set clear goals and objectives for participating in the trade show in the first place. Objectives can guide businesses on how best to allocate their funds in terms of booth size, style, and needed promotions.

Once you’ve outlined your exhibitor expenses and booth budget, consider carefully what aspects of the trade show are essential for your business to invest in and which can be lived without.

For example, if your primary goal at an upcoming show is to promote a new product launch, you should make that a priority when budgeting for your trade show booth design cost. You may want to focus less on a designated sitting area and more on display shelving and other product-oriented design elements. If the goal is to make personal business connections, a smaller space with proper seating and table arrangements will help you create a more personal setting to accomplish this objective. 

Additionally, carefully consider the layout of your business’s booth. Do you really need that large, closed off conference space?

Spaces like these often only end up getting used for quick moments of privacy for sales calls and the like, providing no value added to your organization’s trade show booth. Even worse, they tend to eat up a significant portion of your square footage and budget when you account for their furnishings, conference tables, media, monitors on the walls, and any refreshments.

Instead of dedicating spaces like this for private use, creating open areas for visitors and employees to gather and engage with each other is a more effective use of your booth’s space. If you are sure that a private meeting space will be necessary, make sure that you have enough meetings booked in advance to justify its cost.

4. Leverage Your Social Media

Trade show booth design on a budget is all about leveraging the power of tools you already have at your disposal. That’s why social media is a key part of building up the presence of your trade show booth.

Before the trade show, ensure all of your social media channels and your company website are updated with the latest information about your business, such as your address, hours of operation, and phone number. Fix any glitches that may interfere with user navigation.

Properly managed social media channels can demonstrate to customers the legitimacy of your business. Make sure to tell existing followers of the company’s plans to exhibit at the convention to promote more interest in your booth.

If you already have a social media following for your business, leveraging it to garner interest in your trade show appearances far ahead of time is a great way to ensure that your appearance at these shows is one that attracts additional attention and engagement.

During the event, you can gain new followers by advertising your social media channels on business cards, freebies, or even on your trade show booth. Live posting on your social networks from the event is a free way to direct show-goers to your booth, especially if you include any hashtags being used for your expo within your post. 

5. Rent Your Display

When it comes to creative trade booth design on a budget, it’s usually best to rent your display. Unless you’re attending over 10 expos per year, paying to outright own your trade show display is much more expensive than renting. This is especially true when you think beyond your trade show booth design cost and factor in the storage, freight, maintenance, and labor costs associated with owning and managing your own booth. 

Renting trade show booths gives businesses more freedom to try different booth sizes, styles, and layouts for different shows. You can scale up or down depending on your purpose and budget for each show. While this year a larger booth space may have been available for a great price, you may book a show next year with a booth space that’s half the size. 

With buying, there is no guarantee that the booth will work for every occasion. With renting, you can keep your trade show costs down and get even more great benefits.

6. Distribute Freebies Consciously 

While freebies can be a fun way to make sure booth visitors remember your brand, you’ll want to make the distribution of freebies a conscious decision when you’re doing trade show booth design on a budget. Even the cost of small gifts like keychains, pens, or cups can stack up fast if you aren’t careful.

If you do decide to include trade show freebies, try to not make them freely available to every booth visitor. Instead, hand them out to visitors once they come talk to you so you don’t run out of supplies too quickly.

Another budget-friendly option is to invest in a smaller number of more valuable items for attendees who show genuine interest in your services. Consider offering smaller freebies like pens to every visitor that stops by to talk, but reward those you make a connection with by giving them something more valuable.

An exhibitor and a guest shaking hands after talking. This demonstrates the kind of engagement you can reward with a promotional item if you're planning your trade show booth on a budget.

Alternatively, consider a giveaway! Offering a raffle for one larger item can be just as effective at getting people to show up to your booth, and may cost significantly less than ordering thousands of trade show freebies. If you’re a business that carries products that lend themselves well to being offered as a giveaway, it could be an effective way to drum up interest in your business and its products.

Keep in mind that certain industries, such as healthcare and finance, have strict restrictions on what you can give away and how you do it. For example, you often can’t incentivize a specific action (such as signing up for your newsletter or a credit card) with a giveaway entry or a gift. Before you go to your show, understand your industry’s restrictions and provide freebies appropriate to your business’s line of work.

7. Understand Your Scale

As a business looking to attend a trade show, you should first understand the scale that will fit your budget. There are a wide variety of booths, setups, and spaces that you can inhabit at a show, and it’s important to understand which one is best suited for your needs.

At Cardinal Expo, we offer many different booth sizes for rental. Here are a few best suited to trade show booth design on a budget:

  • 10×10 Exhibit Booths: A 10×10 booth is perfect for any business looking for an easy entry into their next expo. As our smallest size, it’s a great option if you’re planning trade show booth ideas for small budgets. It also doesn’t have as much space to manage compared to some of the larger booths. As appealing as it may be to go out and rent the biggest booth available, a well-managed 10×10 booth will always be better than one that is too large for a business to properly utilize.
  • 10×20 Exhibit Booths: A 10×20 booth can be the perfect middle ground for any business attending an expo and wanting a little more space than a 10×10 can provide. A 10×20 booth is more versatile, and that versatility can help your business meet more of your goals at an expo without the added costs of a larger booth. 
  • 10×30 Exhibit Booths: A 10×30 booth is great for businesses that want to dominate their space at an expo without the higher cost of an island display or larger format. A 10×30 exhibit booth is perfect for companies that are already established in their industry and want to show up big for their expo, as well as those that want to make a name for themselves with a larger display space that doesn’t break the bank. 
  • 20×20 Exhibit Booths: A 20×20 booth can help any business looking to make a lasting impact at a trade show. 20×20 booths will help you stand out from the crowd and make space for a variety of product displays, meeting space and furniture, demos, giveaways, or games. While these start to get more expensive than some of the smaller booths, it can be worth the investment for a larger or more important show for your company, especially if you’re able to reduce costs in other areas of your budget.
  • Custom Booths: Does your business already have a specific idea, direction, or unique need in mind for an exhibit booth? Ordering a custom-sized booth may be the right choice for you. Cardinal Expo will work with you to find the booth size and layout that best suits your needs, while also providing management, transportation, and construction services included with your booth rental.

8. Find Expos Near You

Combined with the trade show booth design cost, the last thing your business needs is to worry about exorbitant travel expenses for you and your team. To avoid this, try searching for trade shows that occur in or around your area.

The big, industry-wide trade show happening thousands of miles away may seem enticing, but it may not be the most efficient use of your business’s budget. By reducing your travel expenses for trade shows, you allow more room in the budget to spend on the actual necessities of the show itself, like your booth design and staffing. 

Going to smaller, local expos is also a great way to find customers that are physically close to your business and may offer a higher level of engagement than those you find thousands of miles away. Local customers often form the basis of a small business’s customer base. Depending on your offerings, you may also have greater margins when selling to local customers.

9. Find Customers and Build Relationships

This sounds like obvious advice—what else are trade shows and expos for? You’ve spent large amounts of time finding the right expo, researching trade show booth ideas for small budgets, and you’ve finally made it to the trade show. What now?

It’s easy for staff to forget why you signed up for the opportunity in the first place and get lost in the sea of booths. Your budget, costs, and necessary return on investment may not be at the forefront of their minds. Be sure to emphasize the goals of the trade show to staff the day of the show, as well as throughout the process leading up to the event.

As fun as they can be, trade shows are meant to be a way for businesses to locate new customers, forge relationships, and do business. That’s how you offset the cost of these shows. Your trade show booth design cost should ideally be offset by the new business relationships you develop over the course of the event.

In remembering to put an emphasis on generating a new customer base, you shouldn’t then forget to have fun as well! Customers can tell when the people they’re interacting with are enjoying themselves, and people are much less likely to purchase from a business whose employees don’t seem to be passionate about their work or enjoy the process. Make sure staff get breaks so they can show up refreshed and ready to make connections.

In addition to locating potential customers, your business should also focus on forging new relationships within the industry at your next expo. There are many potential friends and business partners present at trade shows, and it should be your business’s goal to seek them out and engage with them as well.

In the long run, strong relationships within the industry can assist your business in getting new client referrals or solving issues that other organizations may have already run into. Competition doesn’t always have to be competitive—it can be collaborative as well.

Trade Show Booth Design on a Budget Is Easy with Cardinal Expo

If you want to achieve polished, professional trade show booth design on a budget, give Cardinal Expo a call at 800-695-3452. We have decades of experience in the country’s top convention locations and know how to make an impression with creative trade show booth ideas for small budgets.     

Our exhibit rentals come in a huge variety of styles and sizes that can be customized from head to toe with your organization’s branding. On top of providing booth rental and design services, Cardinal Expo provides product management, logistics, construction, and many other services to our customers. Your focus should be on performing your best at the upcoming expo, so let us handle the logistics of your booth.

If you’re interested in learning how our unique, customizable booth rentals can promote your business, call us or contact us below today.

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We at Cardinal Expo are here to answer any questions you may have, provide you with additional information, and create an effective solution for your exhibit needs.

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