Monday, December 12, 2011

Bridal Show Do's and Don'ts: How-to Maximize your Investment and Book More Brides

By Krista Chapman

Enchanted Florist Booth Design

A challenging undertaking, bridal shows are often a costly investment.  Far too many vendors fail to fully take advantage of the targeted pool of brides and grooms that is ready for the picking at these events.  Having been witness to many flops and fail, a list of do's and don'ts were in order.  Use my tips below for your next bridal show and success awaits! 

Do plan to impress.  Don't show up at a bridal show with only a few brochures or simple poster to toss atop your black clothed 8ft table.  Brides look to shows for inspiration and ideas but most of all, they look to be impressed.  After all, they have been dreaming of this is one day their entire lives.  If your booth fails to create their fantasy, you're falling short.  Having a thoughtful and eye-catching design that highlights current wedding trends is key.  Design not your thing?  Many vendors collaborate with planners, florists and designers, trading services to create amazing displays that draw couples from all over the show floor.

Do set up the day before.  If the show producer has incurred the additional expense of renting the exhibition hall for an extra day, take advantage of this.  Spending hours setting up a gorgeous booth display, only to be left frazzled with minutes to clean up and be ready to greet brides, is not a good plan for the day.  Having extra time will also give you time to network with other vendors on show day.  Treat the bridal show as if it were a paying event... the difference being you are investing the in future success of your business.

Designs in Paper Booth Sign
Veteran Insider Tip:  Don't forget your company sign!  Relying on the small booth maker or skipping a sign all together is a mistake.  If a bride is at all confused by who you are or what your company does, you have failed! 

Do be professional.  Obvious though seems, I can't tell you how many times I have caught vendors texting on their phone, eating in their booths, gossiping with other vendors while ignored brides simple walk by their booth.  Much of this is the result of being under-staffed (see my next point) but far too many vendors turn their booth into a personal office, chachkies and all.  When spending thousands of dollars, brides want their wedding vendors oozing with professionalism.   If you are not willing to put in the effort to dress appropriately and put your best professional foot forward, you might as well skip the show.

Veteran Insider Tip:  Keep in mind your outfit for the day.  Professionalism in mind, stiletto heels and skirts that will be tugged at all day is not a good idea.  Any veteran to a bridal show can spot a rookie with this common mistake.  Three hours in, heels come off and you're chatting up potential clients about your exceptional service in stockings.

Plenty of staff sampling at the Maggie Moos show booth.
Don't under-staff your booth.  Bridal show day is not a walk in the park... the hours are long, you need to be cheerful while having the same conversation again and again, and you likely had a wedding the night before.  Successful show vendors will have enough staff on hand to properly respond to the crowd in a timely fashion and allow everyone to take breaks, without going overboard.  I generally recommend 3-5 people for a single booth at a larger well attended show, more if you are serving food samples.  Going it alone in a booth is a mistake.  You're likely turn grouchy, brides will not wait to talk with you and leaving a booth unattended while you run to the restroom sends the wrong message.  What will the bride assume you will do on her wedding day?

Do take names at your booth.  Whether you're sponsoring a show-only special or hosting a giveaway, ask attendees to sign up for something in your booth.  This way you leave the show with a lead list of brides specifically interested in your company.  Waiting up to a week for a lead list from the show producer puts you at a disadvantage.  While I certainly recommend sending an email or postcard to the full lead list, you can call your targeted list within a day of the show.  If contacted sooner, they will likely book sooner and I know you're in favor of that.

Do engage with brides.  Okay, so not stalker level engaging but sitting in your booth, chatting up your co-workers or even reading a magazine, sort of makes this whole bridal show a bit pointless.  You want to convey some level of interest in the brides and their families at the show.  Stand at the front of your booth, ready to hand out information and answer questions.  Most importantly, say hello.  I often prompted attendees by asking if they were familiar with my company... either way, you have a lead to talk about the very thing you're selling.  Savvy vendors will see every person there as a potential lead (and sale), including Mom and bridesmaids in tow.  Mom is likely to have some say in the office party caterer and bridesmaids turned bride will remember what type of impression you made for years to come.

Nashville and Knoxville Shows - Jan 8th,
Chattanooga and Memphis Shows - Jan 22nd
Murfreesboro Show - Feb 19th
Franklin Show - March 11th
Don't forget your appointment calendar.  Be ready to book... appointments, tastings, and weddings.  Having to tell a bride on the show floor with checkbook in hand that she will need to go to a website or call for an appointment on Monday and you can say goodbye to that sale.  Brides are busy and bridal shows are a great opportunity to meet with various vendors and book on the spot.  Bring your datebook, sample contracts, and then sweeten the deal with a show-only package or special.  Not only will the bride maximize her time, but when you leave with multiple contracts in hand so have you.  Having enough staff, where as someone can be dedicated to these details suddenly makes a lot more sense.

Have more questions?  Wondering what you can expect from the upcoming show you're participating in?  Contact the show producer.  Often, they have years of show experience as well as many do's and don'ts specific to your market.  Don't be afraid to ask for advice on booth set-up, tips for engaging with brides and best time for staff to take breaks.  Dollar for dollar, bridal shows are still the best way to reach a high number of your target audience, often at the point they are ready to buy.  Your success, just like with all the events you produce, is in maximizing the planning, details, and follow-up.

Best of luck!