How consistent is your brand messaging in your trade show program? Whether you work for a large fortune 500 company or a startup organization, take a look at all of your trade show assets and ask yourself-are they consistent and what is the attendee experience? If you are like most companies, you may be hitting it out of the park with the large exhibit experience but when it comes to the banner stand or portables the messaging changes and the experience varies from sales rep to sales rep. If you want to really stand out-and help your company differentiate itself from the competition-doing an audit of all assets and attendee experiences will catapult you to the next level in ROI. Recently we helped a client take a siloed approach for their trade show program and create a unilateral brand experience from modular displays to large islands. Why was this important? At the end of the day-even if you have the biggest budget in the world (which I suspect you are chuckling right now) you need to show value and maybe yes maybe reduce costs. And if you are nodding your head saying-yes! I need to reduce cost. Then instead of looking at the individual line item costs and asking-how can I fill in the blank-reduce drayage, shipping, labor, onsite expenses etc.-take a step back. Better yet-go to the 30,000 feet level and ask-will being consistent across all areas of my program help reduce cost? The answer may surprise you-yes- it will in big ways! This is your time to really make big strides, win friends in procurement, sales and even stakeholders. Let’s reverse engineer how you can reduce costs, increase efficiencies-and better yet-and perhaps most importantly improve the attendee experience. Ready? Let’s get started. 10 Steps to Reducing Costs with a Consistent Brand Experience Audit your current assets-is there clear identification, consistent messaging (use of tag-lines, graphic imagery, corporate hierarchy)? Identify areas that are misaligned- include all levels of exhibit properties-do you have something that scales from banner stand to large island exhibit? Leverage existing assets-fill in the gaps with rental assets. A hybrid rental will allow you to continue a depreciation schedule- if needed on assets purchased - while adding in key elements that will enhance the brand experience. Review budgets and look for hidden costs. If you are a healthcare company or are in a regulated industry that requires multiple submissions for approval before a trade show-you understand the cost of those submissions. From agency teams to internal reviews the total budget adds up quickly. What if you had a template that everyone used and it reduced costs by 20-30% would that help your bottom line? Of course, it would, but too often the focus is on drayage and things like agency content creation with new graphic templates and sizes, digital content that doesn’t follow a system or template all adds up. Look at the largest areas of spend-it may surprise you that regulatory reviews that require changes before every show could be the biggest hidden cost. Conduct internal and external research. Find out from your internal stakeholders what they think of the brand experience and see if it is aligned with attendee impressions. One key way to test theories on brand consistency is to conduct exit surveys of attendees. This gives you candid information from the target audience and will help to validate the need to create a consistent brand. Establish architectural brand templates. Cost reductions can be found in standardizing the overall hierarchy and messaging across every size exhibit from portables to large islands. Create Efficiency and Cost Savings Analysis. Many companies have two budgets-a marketing budget that is applied to agencies and content creation and a trade show budget largely focused on logistics and execution. Analyze the benefits and cost reductions/break even spend based on streamlining the brand messaging. Establish guidelines for every sized exhibit. Starting with the smallest table tops to the largest displays. This process takes time, however the payoff is simplification and eficiencies in usage and reduced attendee confusion on brand experience. Include pre-show and post show data. Compare cost reductions, attendee experience and stakeholder feedback. Evaluate, report and adjust. Establishing a consistent message is a fluid process that requires flexibility, and adjustments. For example, it may be discovered that part of the inconsistency in attendee experience pertains to sales rep engagement. A targeted training program for modular displays and each incremental size of your program may help the create a consistent experience at every level of your trade show. These 10 tips will help you on your way to reducing costs and are the first steps to thinking outside of the box and generating value for your face-to-face marketing program. Too often the first-place marketers go is slashing budgets with the intent that ultimately it will help the bottom line. In truth, a reduced budget may or may not help the bottom line-although it does immediately lower the cost of execution it may not achieve the strategic goals for an organization. Instead of focusing on a number or a percentage reduction, using this methodology of finding hidden costs, you will be surprised at the overall cost savings available while retaining the integrity of the marketing and sales plan and establish a consistent corporate image. For more insights or if you have questions about the process of creating a consistent brand, reach out to me. I love hearing from you and sharing tips on how this strategy can help you get promoted. As always thanks to Christy Haussler at Team Podcast for editing this episode.