The hidden costs of exhibition marketing & trade shows

The hidden costs of exhibition marketing

The hidden costs of exhibition marketing can be more than the initial price you think you'll payTrade shows can pretty cheap to exhibit at, right? You can pick up a stand for as little as a few hundred pounds.

True, you can pick up the space in which to pitch your tent, as it were, relatively cheaply for some events. However, what a lot of marketers don’t realise is that exhibiting at conferences and other events can often have a variety of hidden costs.


Before you decide to exhibit make sure you take the following into account;

The cost of lost time

For every minute spent at the exhibition you and your colleagues will spend a considerable number more planning and organising everything for the day.

All of this time is time which you and your staff can’t spend actually doing your jobs. Productivity therefore may drop, costing you money. Or, your staff will be working overtime to keep up with their day to day tasks – which will also cost money.

Travel costs and accommodation

You’ve planned your event to the nth degree. Your timetable is set. The presentation you’re giving has been rehearsed numerous times. The stand is ready. You’ve chosen your best, most personable salespeople to come with you.

Have you also factored in that each of those salespeople will be travelling and accommodated on the company tab? This can often add a significant chunk to your spend and shouldn’t be overlooked when planning your event budget.

Additional expenses

How about expenses during the event, have you thought about them? Each of your staff will need to eat, drink, get taxis, and perhaps even park at the airport. These are all things that will be added as business expenses and paid for by the company tab. How about the traditional way of celebrating a successful exhibition – going for a slap up meal on the company tab? That will be, an often not inconsiderable, cost to ensure you’ve budgeted for (or planned to avoid) as well.


Granted this is venue specific, and also situation specific – you won’t always want to take gratuitous wine for your visitors. However, when you do, it pays to be aware that many venues will charge you a fee for the alcohol provided by your company: corkage.

Cost of any refreshments on the stand

On top of the corkage fee for the alcohol you take with you, don’t forget the cost of buying enough alcohol to open a temporary pub in the first place. You could even have food as well as alcohol at your stand. There’s a cost to these commodities that is often overlooked when planning the budget for attending a conference.

Cost of literature printing & design

Pretty much every event you exhibit at, you’ll take a veritable library of company literature (technical term ‘bumf’) with you to force-feed to visitors during the course of the event.

This isn’t free, obviously. Less obviously, however, it is a cost which is often overlooked when companies are planning their budgets.

Cost of additional merchandise

Depending who you are and what event you’re attending, you might take additional merchandise with you. Whether this be in the form simply of branded pens or goody bags full of all sorts of branded merchandise, this again is a cost you’ll incur that is often overlooked when budgeting.

PR, Pre-event & follow up campaigns

Even if all you’re planning on doing is sticking an advert in your local paper and sending out emails to your mailing list before and after you exhibit at your chosen trade show, there’s a cost here. And the chances are you’ll probably do a bit more than that to really make the most of your presence at the event you’ve chosen to appear at.

On-the-day staff incentives

Salespeople, even the best of them, need incentivising. To make the most of your exhibition it’s a possibility that you’ll provide some sort of bonus or competition to really encourage your salespeople to excel on the day.

We’re not saying don’t do this. We’re just saying plan for it and allocate the relevant amount of money from your budget to it, otherwise it can become yet another additional cost in a bill that’s beginning to spiral out of control.

Venue related costs

So you’ve paid for your stand, you’ve remembered to account for all of the above in your original budget when planning for the exhibition. You rock up at the venue and you need power, you need lighting, you need Wi-Fi.

Some venues in Manchester charge a figure in the hundreds of pounds, just for the use of their Wi-Fi network, and even more for a wired connection direct to your stand.

In addition to this, venues will often charge you for the power and lighting that you use whilst there. This can get pretty expensive, too. Especially if you are running power hungry appliances.

For a successful event

Make sure you’re aware of all the hidden costs of presenting at an exhibition before you unwittingly sign on the dotted line. Once you have signed up, make sure you budget with all of the above taken into account as well as the more obvious related expenses associated with trade shows and you’ll stand a much better chance of making sure it’s financially successful for you and your company.


By admin