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COST CUTTING

I need to cut exhibiting costs, but I don't want to eliminate entire line items. How can I trim the fat with smart thinking rather than eliminating elements?

You don't have to eliminate entire line items in order to trim your exhibiting budget. Instead, you can often decrease costs with careful planning and negotiation. Here are a few ideas to get your wheels turning.

Start by analyzing and reducing third-party markups. Unless you're dealing directly with each supplier involved in your exhibit-marketing program, ask your third-party vendors how much they're marking up your bill for other vendors' services.

For example, according to a recent study by the Exhibit Designers and Producers Association, average exhibit-house markups on everything from transportation to installation-and-dismantle labor range from 28 to 76 percent. If you're having a hard time making ends meet, ask your suppliers to reduce the markups, or simply buy directly from each supplier rather than through a third party. Granted, buying direct may cost extra time, but when funds are scarce, you might have more time than money.

Along these same lines, investigate the costs to pay large supplier fees upfront rather than over time. Suppliers often will offer you a discount if you can pay in a lump sum instead of paying individual installments.

Also, don't limit your analysis to your supplier. Consider your internal assets - including everything from your products and services to your executives - and look for ways to barter their use in exchange for exhibit-marketing necessities. For example, negotiate with show management to have your CEO offer a keynote address at the show in exchange for a free or discounted booth space. Or trade educational sessions offered by your company's employees for free or discounted show sponsorships.

Cutting costs doesn't have to mean eliminating entire exhibit elements. With smart planning, negotiation, and bartering, you can cut costs without negatively impacting your program.

- Thom Walker, vice president of special projects, Winntech, Kansas City, MO


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