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As your brand’s premier trade show of the year starts to loom, many of you might feel that it’s better to write a trade show display RFP rather than calling up a few providers.  It makes perfect sense as many exhibitors want to be able to ensure they’re getting the best deal and the most value from their largest spend of the year.  However, with decades of experience reading these trade show display RFP documents, we’ve seen most of these RFP’s fall short.  Consider the following to achieve better results from your trade show display RFP:

Start the RFP Process Early and Allow Plenty of Time to Respond 

Stop me if this sounds familiar- one of your stakeholders suddenly realizes your show is in two months and you need a trade show display.  Suddenly, you spring into action, write a hasty RFP and blast it across the internet with a deadline for design and quote within a week.  If this is your process, you’re likely missing out on some of the strongest vendors because of your inability to start the process early.  By starting the process 6 to 8 months ahead of your trade show, you allow more thoughtful designs, better pricing, and more of the right vendors to respond to your request.  No exhibit house wants to push aside the rest of their customers and prospects to respond to an RFP in a week’s time.  Consider giving your vendors a few weeks to a month to respond with their best offers.

trade show budget calendar

Outline Clear Objectives for Your Trade Show Display

Exhibit houses like our own work with customers at hundreds of trade shows per year.  Each one has their own desired outcome from the show, desired brand stories to communicate with their trade show exhibit, and design elements they want included.  Communicate these clearly upfront so vendors can give you the trade show display you envision instead of fumbling around in the dark. With clear objectives defined at the outset and clear branding guidelines, you can ensure a better trade show display design and better responses from vendors.

outlining trade show display RFP objectives

Include Your All-In Budget for Your Trade Show Display Plus Services

Like it or not, budget is a necessity for designing trade show displays.  Often, exhibitors mistakenly think that just because they have $50,000 that means they can get a $50,000 design.  Not so fast.  You’ll want to factor in show services, installation and dismantling, shipping, and whether or not your desired vendor will need to store this trade show display for use at another show.  If those are all costs you’ve already factored in, you should make that clear in your trade show display RFP budget breakdown for vendors.

trade show budget

Compare Apples to Apples

When comparing vendors who respond to your trade show RFP, it’s important to compare apples to apples, not apples to oranges.  Many exhibit houses are not as transparent with their pricing and only provide estimates.  They later bump up the price.  If price is one of your evaluation criteria, you need to ask the tough questions such as whether or not pricing is guaranteed.  Ask for all vendors to outline whether or not their costs include shipping, installation and dismantling, storage, or show services.  Every vendor should be able to provide clear answers to your questions in order to make an informed decision on which one to choose.

trade show display RFP comparison apples to apples

Limit the Number of Vendors You’re Soliciting Quotes From

If you’re blasting your trade show display RFP to dozens of vendors, you’re not only wasting your time, but you’re also wasting their time.  Do your homework on the kind of trade show display vendors you want to work with and what their actual capabilities are.  If you’ve got a small budget, it’s likely you’ll be working with small to mid-sized exhibit houses instead of giants that only touch the larger scale exhibits.  Also by limiting the field of vendors to say four and under, you ensure that you are able to spend the necessary time evaluating potential exhibit houses you might want to work with. Larger fields of solicitations don’t allow for the necessary time to clearly evaluate everything you’ll need in your trade show display RFP.

Using an RFP process can make things more streamlined for some businesses and allows for multiple quotes and designs from which to decide.  It offers a transparency to stakeholders as well.  But if that process is flawed, you may still wind up unhappy with the trade show display you rent or purchase.  There is always room for improvement in any process.  Try these ideas in your next trade show RFP process for a better result.

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