It’s common to express remorse after a big-ticket purchase. Typically when the purchase is infrequent, such as a home, car, or expensive equipment. We know our knowledge is incomplete, even when we’ve conducted research. So we roll the dice… and then cross our fingers.
Buying a trade show exhibit is that type of purchase, especially a corporate inline or island exhibit. It may be your first time buying a display. Heck, it may be the first time for your company. There’s a lot to learn. So, how do you avoid second guessing your decision? Honestly, a lot depends on your exhibit house. It’s important to choose one that understands your marketing goals, your budget, and your available resources. Most exhibit houses make their living by keeping customers long-term. They want to work with you on your exhibit design, your trade show strategy, and your ROI goals. It’s a cliché, but your success at a trade show is their success.
10 Questions to Ask
1. What services do you provide? This can vary from designing the ideal display to providing you with storage, I&D services, exhibit training, and graphic design. You’ll need to decide what services you need based on your budget and your trade show marketing goals.
2. How much do those services cost? Unlike auto repair, there’s no “book” which serves as a guide for time and materials. Prices vary depending on the region, the size of the exhibit house, and the services they value or don’t value.
3. Can you provide me with 3-5 references? No brainer, right? Yet, so often we are reluctant to ask for customer references. Ask for customers who have purchased a similar size/price exhibit to the one you’re considering.
4. Will the exhibit include reusable packaging? Unlike the headphones you bought last week packed in tamper-resistant plastic, an exhibit has to unpack and pack again and again. Smart packaging will save time, money, and frustration. Ask to see examples.
5. Does the exhibit include detailed setup instructions with numbered components? And, can the instructions be modified if we have suggestions after the first or second show? Detailed, logical instructions will save you thousands of dollars each year. Sometimes at a single show. Ask for examples.
6. What if my exhibit is damaged or if we need to replace lost parts? It’s going to happen no matter how careful you are. A true test of an exhibit builder is how they respond when you need a replacement part or a laminate repaired. Do they treat you the same as when you purchased your exhibit?
7. What is the warranty? This question shouldn’t be followed by a verbal dance. It’s an easy question. It should be an easy answer.
8. How much time/labor will be required to set up the exhibit the first time? The third time? This will vary particularly on a custom exhibit. Less so for a portable/modular display. You’re looking for a range. Then you need to compare the range to your experience on the show floor. Admittedly this will depend on your experience, your labor crew, and a 1000 other factors.
9. Who is my primary contact(s)? Who do I contact when I have questions about exhibit design, graphic design, shipping, I&D, storage, etc. Who is my emergency contact if there’s an issue at the show? What matters is not the person(s) but the answer. What’s the tone and do they have a plan?
10. How would you describe your best customers? What do they do right? There’s no such thing as the “self-made” successful trade show marketer. We all learn from others. Taking the long-road can be expensive and in some cases, a career killer. Look for shortcuts and the best advice comes from trade show warriors. Trade show are like landing on Neptune and encountering aliens. You don’t want to be the first one. You want to learn from those who didn’t get zapped or eaten.
What most exhibitors know about buying an exhibit could fit in a Ziploc baggie. They know just enough to get themselves in trouble. So be smart. Ask questions. Lots of questions. Pretend you are four years old again and ask the endless series of “Why’s” and “What’s” and “When’s” that drove every adult insane. You won’t regret it.
Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or www.classicexhibits.com.