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Custom trade show displays vs rental displays: Pros and cons

Have you ever walked the floors of a trade show and found that nearly every exhibit looked the same? Many trade show displays are just a simple booth with a large, colorful banner emphasizing the company’s name and logo.

Maybe you saw some interesting light fixtures or interactive games that temporarily drew your attention as you passed by, but did you notice them from across the room? Were you intrigued enough to stop by and learn about their product offering?

If you’re like 72% of trade show exhibitors, you attend these shows with the key goal of obtaining new leads. But how do you expect to score new leads unless you have a show-stopping exhibit that compels attendees to visit your booth in the first place?

Both custom trade show exhibits and rental exhibits are viable options for creating an experience that lights a fire under your prospects’ feet. However, it can be hard to know which type of booth best aligns with your goals and budget.

In this article, you’ll discover the pros and cons of custom trade show displays and rental displays–and see tips for choosing between the two!–so you can make the right decision for your unique customer base and brand.

Custom trade show displays: the pros

1. You can customize every aspect to accurately represent your brand and connect with your target audience

If you’re like 88% of trade show participants, you attend trade shows to raise awareness of your brand.

But you don’t just want to get your name out there. You want to showcase your brand in a way that appeals to your target audience so you can generate valuable marketing-and-sales-qualified leads.

When you commission a custom booth from a trade show exhibit design firm, you’ll have full control over every step of the creation process, from your initial concept to the final design and branding.

While a rental exhibit allows you to add certain personalized elements to generic display equipment, a custom trade show exhibit enables you to create a customer-centric booth from scratch. You can design each and every element to tell your company’s story, appeal to your audience, and leave a lasting impression on your prospects.

When you hire a trade show exhibit booth manufacturer to create a custom exhibit, you’ll be able to ensure all signage, graphics, and colors are representative of your brand. You’ll have the ability to customize elements such as:

2. You can design the booth to show off your products and services

According to statistics compiled by event planning software company SpinGo, 92% of trade show attendees visit trade shows to learn about new services and technology. If your booth is generic and not designed around your products and services, you’re missing a huge opportunity to highlight the value you bring to the table.

The good news is that you don’t have to be skilled in this type of design to leave a lasting impression on your prospects. Your trade show exhibit company will know how to do it for you.

For example, leading quartz and solid surface maker Hanwha Surfaces approached us ahead of the 2018 Kitchen and Bath Industry Show with the desire to debut 47 new colors. We were tasked with figuring out the best way to do so.

We put our heads together and came up with the idea of constructing a 50’ x 60’ walkable gallery to draw visitors to the exhibit and showcase Hanwha Surfaces’ colors in a true-to-life space.

Here’s how we did it:

See the exhibit for yourself:

Hanwha Surfaces custom trade show exhibit designed by BTWN Exhibits.

Visit our Custom Trade Show Display Showcase to view case studies and see more of our work.

3. They’re more cost-effective if you plan to exhibit frequently

Many people put off hiring a trade show exhibit design company because they’re under the mistaken impression that custom designs are far too costly to fit their budget. However, custom trade show booth displays pay off for those who regularly attend the trade show circuit.

Even if you only attend shows a few times a year, the costs involved with renting can add up over time. Custom booths require a more significant financial investment up front, but the fact of the matter is that you can use them over and over.

4. Your custom trade show exhibit company will handle all the logistics for you

You have plenty to worry about when gearing up for a trade show appearance, like memorizing your lead generation script, preparing for a new product demonstration, and planning how you’re going to follow up with the leads you generate from the show.

That’s why it can be such a relief to turn the logistics over to your design firm and let them handle the execution of your booth.

Your hired team will take care of everything from the first sketch to the final teardown so you can focus on initiating conversations, forming relationships with prospects, and qualifying leads.

Here are just a few ways they’ll make your life easier:

Some companies, like BTWN Exhibits, will even store your exhibit for you when the trade show is over–or dismantle it and repurpose the materials (whichever you prefer!).

Plus, you can rest easy knowing your trade show exhibit design company is prepared to accomplish all of this without your supervision, saving you hours of planning and manual labor.

Custom trade show exhibit company designing a booth.

5. They’re easy to modify for different audiences and events

Some trade shows are larger in scope and see thousands of visitors, while others are more segmented and appeal to a much narrower audience. While you may prefer a more generic booth that appeals to a wide range of prospects for one show, you may need to tailor your booth to a specific buyer persona for another.

When you purchase a custom design that is yours to own, you have the ability to use it over and over again, making small and inexpensive modifications as needed to match your audience.

Custom trade show displays: the cons

1. They can be more expensive if you rarely exhibit

Custom trade show booths require more significant expenses up front because you’re investing in a team of expert designers who will build your booth for you and ensure every aspect suits your unique brand and vision.

You also have to consider that you may need to pay for repairs and maintenance at some point down the line.

While these expenses typically pay off, the cost isn’t always worth it for individuals who rarely exhibit. This cost can also be a roadblock for companies with a very limited budget.

2. You may have to factor in shipping and storage fees

When you own a custom trade show exhibit, you have to pay for the cost of transporting the exhibit back and forth to each show.

You’ll also need someplace to store the exhibit between shows. This storage area may be a designated spot in your workspace or warehouse, which cuts down on your space, or it may be a separate rented storage area, which you’ll need to account for in your budget.

However, it’s worth noting that some trade show booth design companies, like BTWN Exhibits, will store your exhibit for you if you so choose.

3. They’re less flexible

Your product offering, design trends, and market trends can all change from time to time, and you may wish to update the structure and design of your booth. These updates may require a significant investment of time and money and may be impossible to achieve from one show to another.

You may want to consider a custom trade show display if...

Rental trade show displays: the pros

1. They allow for flexibility and some customization

While rental booths don’t allow you to design your concept from scratch, many do still allow for some customization, such as the ability to incorporate your brand’s logo and colors and add interactive elements like touch screens and videos.

Before you start planning for any customization, however, be sure to contact the rental company and ask about the changes you are and are not allowed to make.

Paint color options and flooring options for a custom trade show exhibit.

2. You’re able to easily switch up the design from show to show

Because you can purchase a different rental exhibit for each show, you may find it easier to switch up your aesthetic from show to show. Whether you need a layout that’s more conducive to a unique rental space, you want to try out a smaller or larger structure, or you just want a completely fresh design, a rental booth can be a great option.

3. You won’t pay any storage or maintenance fees

One advantage of rental exhibits is that you can hand the exhibit back over to the rental company at the conclusion of the show. Because you’re not purchasing the booth, you don’t have to worry about where you’re going to store it or how much this storage will cost.

And because it’s not yours to keep, you don’t have to budget for maintenance and repair costs. Instead, you can put this money toward marketing, brand graphics, and other customizable elements.

4. They’re typically less expensive for a single trade show

It may not be wise to spend the time and money to develop a concept into a full-blown custom trade show booth if you only plan to exhibit once in a blue moon. For the rare exhibitor, it can be far more cost-effective to rent.

5. They can be a great option when you’re short on time

Custom trade show exhibits require advance planning because they are created from scratch. If you decide to attend a trade show last minute, a rental exhibit may be your best (and only) option.

Rental trade show displays: the cons

1. Customizability may be limited

Many rental exhibit companies place restrictions on the amount of customization allowed since you have to return the booth to be reused by the next exhibitor. This may mean your design ends up looking similar to other exhibits on the trade show floor, which can make it harder for you to stand out from the crowd and attract visitors.

Not sure how to draw visitors to your booth? Explore these 15 ideas for promoting your exhibit and drawing a large audience to your booth.

2. You are responsible for the setup, breakdown, and any problems that arise

When you purchase a custom exhibit, your trade show exhibit company will handle all the logistics and stay with you during the show. When you rent, you are responsible for the setup and breakdown of your booth. And if you experience a malfunction or something goes wrong, you’ll be the one who has to fix it.

3. They can get expensive very quickly if you attend lots of shows

The cost of renting trade show displays can be much higher over time. Rather than owning your own custom exhibit and paying for it one time, you’ll have to pay to rent time and time again, which can add up for frequent exhibitors.

4. They can show wear and tear

Depending on the company you rent from, you may see visible signs of wear and tear on your rental booth from previous setups, teardowns, and the shipping process. Be sure to vet any potential rental companies by reading case studies, testimonials, and reviews.

5. Availability can be an issue

When you own an exhibit, you know that it’s always available when you need it. A rental exhibit may be your only option for a last-minute show, but there’s no guarantee one will be available that fits your budget and requirements.

You may want to consider a rental trade show display if...

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