It started as a quick, “How are you doing?” phone call. Our client just finished her first full year of managing the company’s trade shows and events (among other things).
“If you told me a year and a half ago all the things I didn’t know, that I know now, I really would not have believed you.” She went on, “And all the unknowns? For my first show, I thought it was insane to pay for padding under the carpet. The sales people called me at the show open on a Sunday and started yelling at me about how their knees and feet were killing them.”
“Talk about a lesson learned,” she said.
She went on to tell me that her CFO ordered every department to eliminate 10% from their 2016 budgets. They were still doing the same four shows using a 20’x20’ island, and a handful of hotel shows. “How am I supposed to cut 10%? The costs for space and labor are definitely not going down.”
“Lose some weight,” I said.
“What?” I could sense the mean stare, even through the phone line.
“No, not you. Your exhibits. All that stuff you’re sending.”
Her company’s island properties were about five years old. Previously, the original manufacturer stored the property, but now the four crates were stored in their own warehouse out east. At this point, our only involvement was to provide new graphics for an existing hanging structure, a simple backwall and banner stands for the hotel shows.
“Let’s look at your freight and material handling bills from last year. Just the four large shows,” I said.
Over the next few days, she pulled the invoices and bills of lading for shows in Las Vegas, Anaheim, Orlando and Chicago. The shows were in the same cities this year. Freight and material handling alone totaled $60,000 for the 5,000 pounds of exhibit materials.
By examining the weights and shipping, I was able to reduce those costs by over one half. Yes, over $30,000 in estimated saving in just freight and material handling. This could be accomplished if they simply discontinued using the old properties and incorporated lighter-weight aluminum structure and large fabric graphics that packed into smaller crates.
Further savings could be achieved by shipping their properties from the Anaheim show, directly to the advance warehouse for the show in Las Vegas. Last year, all the exhibit crates shipped back to their warehouse in the east.
The $25,000 design proposal included new display properties, a redesigned hanging sign, storage area and two work stations with monitors. All of this using aluminum extrusion and fabric graphics. And, since the new properties would ship from our warehouse in Chicago to the west coast for the first two shows, 1,000 miles were eliminated from that initial journey. Miles are money! Just ask any trucking company.
A thorough review of all other trade show expenses followed. Literature, which was mostly returned after a show, was reduced. Renting monitors and furniture was more cost effective than the repeated shipping and material handling costs of owned furnishings.
Before you knew it, she found the 10% budget savings, even with a proposal in hand for a new display.
“You guys are rock stars,” she wrote to me in an email.
“No,” I replied, “You are the rock star. We just showed you how to plug in the guitar to the right amp.”
Oh, and never, ever skimp on carpet padding.