What's Your Budget?


It may be stated in different ways, but it all comes down to “what’s your budget?”

If there’s ever been a question that gets an Exhibit Manager squirming in their seat, this is it.  There’s an old myth that whatever number the Exhibit Manager responds with will miraculously be the price of the project, and the exhibit builder is just trying to see how deep your pockets are. A  Sweat breaks out on their forehead, eyes darting from side to side, there’s no escape, they must say something . . . so after some hesitation, the response of the EM is usually blurted in an unintelligible mumble. Oh, it’s fiftymbmbmbm. To which the AE replies cheerfully . . .So, is that all inclusive or just for the exhibit? Oh no, The EM is trapped, I gave the AE a number and now they want more information.

Many of those who feel that way and provide a SWAG (Simple Wild Ass Guess) are then often shocked and angered when you quote something way beyond the figure they actually had in mind (but wouldn’t share). For the exhibit house it means they wasted time creating an exhibit design that had no chance of being purchased.

The reality is that it’s easier for an exhibit house to stay within your budget or lower if they have a target to hit. Like building a home there are a lot of variables, and the quality, appearance, and integrity of the resulting exhibit is dependent on what goes into it.  Just like a house, I can show you the basic model and let you decide if you want the upgrades now, or do them at a later date.  In the long run, it’s usually less expensive to add the bells and whistles up front.

The Exhibit builders greatest concerned is that you’ll take their “original” design to several other companies to be quoted.  An unscrupulous builder may use the design created by another supplier and offer a lower price as you just saved him the time and expense of having a designer create the exhibit. However, unless you paid for that “Original Design” with full understanding that you intended to shop around, be prepared to have a lawsuit on your hands.

If you’re buying on line, “Caveat Emptor”. There are many cheaper products available that LOOK like the one that was just quoted to you by a reputable supplier at 2 or 3 times the price. You may actually find a bargain out there. But generally if it sounds too good to be true, it is. Unfortunately, cheap products and Murphy’s Law go hand in hand, and it’s probably going to bite you square on the keester at the worst possible moment.

The bottom line.  Be up front about how much you have to spend.  If your budget was $50K and I give you an exhibit proposal of $45K, you’re going to be happy. If my proposal is $60K and you‘re really in love with the design, you may find the difference in your budget, or ask me where we can trim the budget without destroying the integrity of the design.

If you have more than one supplier quoting the same project, tell them, and tell them who is quoting. We know who our competition is, and we know if we have a competitive edge on them. Nobody likes to lose a project, so knowing the budget we have to work with often brings out the most creative approach to holding costs down.

A helpful tip many exhibitors tend to forget when trying to stretch their budget for a purchase; Talk to your finance dept. A 5 year amortization on a capitol expense on the corporate level is akin to a 20 year mortgage on your home.

By Scott Jameson, CME