10 Tips for Planning and Marketing your Business at Bridal Shows
As a wedding stationer, planning for a Bridal Expo can be overwhelming, as there is a lot to consider.
Lucky for you, we're here today to help with all of that! The season of Bridal Expos will be upon us before we know it, and we know that the majority of you will be participating in, or making a decision to participate in a Bridal Show occuring in the spring each year, to celebrate all of the newly engaged couples and begin the year with excitement.
This post is a short preview of the plethora of information we'll be including in our FREE live class this upcoming Thursday, January 10th, entirely about Marketing your Business at a Bridal Show. Registration is open for this class now, and we would love for you to join us!
This was written specifically for wedding stationers and wedding planners, but it can be applied to a variety of different businesses as well. So without further ado, here are ten things to take in to consideration for your next Bridal Show.
*This post contains affiliate links, which means that we may receive a small incentive if you choose to purchase something, at no additional cost to you.*
First of all, what is your PURPOSE for doing the show?
Have a clear purpose of why you're doing the Bridal Expo in the first place. Do you want to simply meet local brides and get your name out there, or do you want to book them? How many brides do you need to book after for it to be a success in your eyes? And, what do you want to book them for? If you display invitations, you'll book brides for invitations. If you want to book brides for complete packages with save the dates all the way through wedding design and thank you cards, display a wide variety of items so that they can see more of what you offer.
What is your BUDGET for each show you do?
Determine a budget that you want to spend, and try your best to stick to it. It is very easy to spend a lot of money on Expos, and you need to think about your Expenses when you design your booth. Order, design, and purchase things that can be re-used for multiple years to "save" on costs over time where you can.
It is necessary to keep up with a running total of what you spend in preparation, so that you can go in to the Bridal Show saying "I need to book X brides in the weeks that follow the Expo in order to make up for my Expenses alone, before I begin to make a profit." It is always a good idea to review where you are and if this particular Bridal Expo had brides that are your ideal client come. There may be a Bridal Expo that you participate in where you feel that they aren't your ideal client - and if that happens, it's okay! I always suggest to do a show at least two different times before deciding it's not right for you.
Keep notes after each show that you can refer back to, think about the money that you spent on marketing materials, and if there's a better way you can approach it the next year. Instead of spending $1,000 on a Bridal Expo, can you take that money and invest it into client relationships, build vendor relationships, or advertise in a different way? Think about what's best for your business, as no two are the same.
What kinds of purposeful handouts will you give the brides you meet?
Before registering for a Bridal Show, you also want to find out how many people to expect. There is also a big difference in the cost you need to invest and the materials you need to have prepared ahead of time for a show expecting 25 brides versus 300. You want to make absolutely sure that you have enough business cards to hand out, and additional handout for each bride. On average, someone needs to see or hear your business name seven times before they will trust that you can take care of them. Giving them multiple ways to interact with you in the beginning is a great plan.
How will you remember who you chatted with in your booth specifically?
You also want to gather their information so that you don't have to rely on a list generated by the people holding the Expo. This not only helps you to collect information you want or need, but it also is a way for you to jot notes down with those you really felt connected with or want to remember a particular detail about. If you print them on a business card, you can request their name, wedding date, phone number or email address, along with asking them something else that's brief. I also provided miniature clipboards and really good quality ballpoint pens for them to write with (especially with a click-open, no cap so that it's easier to do with one hand), so that they had everything they needed.
Think through every detail of your space.
You need to determine the overall design of your booth. In particular, if you have three walls, you may need to have multiple sets of curtains if you want to have a backdrop or tables if you want to line your booth with displays. If you only have one wall or a smaller space you'll have to work with, you can save on costs for that reason alone.
Regarding the design, look at your website, your social media, and think about the overall style of your brand's aesthetic if you were to turn it into a room. For example, if your branding is light and airy, you wouldn't want to have something that is filled with dark walls and black curtains. You want people to be able to recognize your brand from afar, and especially after the Expo, when they go to your website, see that everything is cohesive and similar in the overall aesthetic of your Brand.
How will you display your work?
How are you going to display your work, and how much do you want to show? This is where you can really start to have fun. If you have picture frames or linen boards that display your work on a standing easel or that you hang from a wall, it's a really easy way to display your favorites, or the ones you want brides to see that you feel represents your ideal client design style. You can use glue dots to adhere the invitations to the back of the boards, so that you can remove them after the show.
Who else will be there in a similar industry, that you can potentially team up with?
On this one in particular, think about your fellow wedding vendors. Does someone have tables you can rent and display in your booth, or a florist that can create small centerpieces for you? Is there a local linen company you can work with, or a rental company that has amazing tables and chairs you can include in your booth? Who offers draping that you can have hang your backdrop that day? These are added expenses, but if you're a stationer, they may need handouts of their own - can you trade services in some way, and further nurture relationships with the vendor community?
Don’t forget about Lighting, the Backdrop, and the Floor.
Something else to think about is the walls, the lighting, and the floor. Sometimes, booths are created with piping and metal posts, which are at times bright blue curtains - if you have the possibility to stand out and make your booth memorable, think about creating a wall that you can hang pictures on, or hang curtains over the piping. Sometimes, a booth requires a lot of work to bring life into it!
Over the years, I have used so many different things - long tablecloths turned sideways, extended length shower curtains, ruffled curtains like shown below. When my branding changed and the ruffle curtains no longer matched my brand aesthetic, I purchased these curtains in particular in greyish-white, and they are my absolute favorite. They are thick, they are wrinkle-free (hello, no ironing or steaming needed), and they are not that expensive, considering they come in a set of two. Think about the width - for example, those curtains are 52" wide by 96" tall. That means if your booth is 8 feet wide, you only need one, perhaps two sets of curtains depending on how straight you want to pull them across.
Bring a "Just-In-Case" Toolkit.
As much as you may have everything planned beforehand, it's imperative to have things with you just in case. Even if you don't think you need it, it's smart to have things in case you do. For example, bring a hot glue gun (with glue sticks), velcro, safety pins, extra pens, and tape. Any of those may come in handy at any time, and it's better to be prepared than ask people if they have it.
More than anything, be helpful.
There is a really strong chance that this is the first experience for a lot of brides. A large show can become very overwhelming very quickly for them, especially if they've just gotten engaged or they don't know anything yet. Make a script and run through it in your mind. Ask them if they will be in need of stationery services, and if they say yes, explain a bit about what you do. However, if you notice that they have that "oh my goodness, so. much. information" look in their eyes, offer them a kind word and let them know that you are here to help and guide them as much as you can to make this easy.
The time couples are engaged is supposed to be a happy one, but for so many it is extremely overwhelming, and it's our job as vendors to make it as comfortable and seamless as possible. The more comfortable they feel with you, the better you will make them feel in their overall experience with you. As much as a Bridal Expo is about meeting new brides and having them see your work, you are there for them, to make connections with them, to build a relationship with them from the beginning and see who feels like a good fit, which goes both ways.
Develop conversations with them, be genuinely interested in what they have to say. Invite them into your booth and chat with them like you would a friend - DON’T just hand them your card and say "here's my card if you need X or Y or Z". Take the first step in the client/vendor relationship to show them that you are there to help them through this new and exciting time in their lives. Make connections and leave a good impression, and it'll be much more effective than if you simply hand them your business card and smile.
The main Bridal Show that this post was inspired by welcomed 400-500 people every year, and on average we met with about 200-300 brides in a 4 hour period. That show in particular had 150 vendors - it is huge. And when you think about it from a bride's perspective, that is a lot to process. The majority of vendors are asking them questions about their wedding, about the proposal, what they want, what they have planned, what their date is, etc. That is a lot of conversations for someone to have in a very short period of time.
And, remember to have fun!
Bridal shows can be a lot of fun, and with thoughtful preparation, they can be something you look forward to each and every year. Seek out the Bridal Shows that you think will be great for your business, and make a plan on how to make it a great success. Participating in a Bridal Expo can make a tremendous difference for your business overall, and once you find the right ones to participate in each year, they can be a fantastic way to market your business, each and every year.
Interested in learning even more? Join us for our FREE Live Class HERE!
If you’d like to hear even more tips and suggestions to help you to make a plan and learn how to market your business well at your next business bridal expo, join us at our free LIVE class on Thursday, January 10th! This class will be led by Kristin Wilson, the owner of the Society for Creative Founders. Since 2011, she has participated in more than 15 Bridal Shows, and has built a business primarily on word-of-mouth marketing, a lot simply from the people she met at the shows she participated in, whether they were potential clients or fellow wedding vendors. In this class, Kristin will be sharing a plethora of the things she learned over the years, including examples of booth design and resources shared from fellow stationers in the industry, different examples of setups, marketing and planning tips for what to do before, during, and after a bridal show, and ideas to help you use a Bridal Expo as an incredible marketing tool for your business. Sign up before Thursday to participate in the live class!
Additional Note: The majority of the linked items shared are available for purchase in our Amazon Store! This is an affiliate shop, but it contains a plethora of products for you to use to design your booth beautifully. Bookmark our store to have easy access to something you need to purchase something in particular. Enjoy designing your booth for your next Bridal show!