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    A ‘can’t mess it up checklist’ for your first bridal expo

    Green Finch Florals booth design via AmyNicolePhoto.com

    Green Finch Florals booth design via AmyNicolePhoto.com

     

    Congratulations! You’ve gotten clear on your business offerings, set some serious goals for yourself, and have determined that you. are. ready.

     

    Ready to book that expo space, baby!

     

    Read More: Need help on getting clear on whether a bridal expo is right for your biz?

    Now that you have committed is when the fun stuff happens: Designing your booth! Pimping your promo materials! Perfecting your pitch! The laundry list of to-do’s goes on and on…..and on….and on. Before going into panic mode check out the following ‘can’t mess it up checklist’ for your first bridal expo. It’s chock full of helpful hints, tried and true techniques, and some hard won lessons along my journey of booking brides.

     


     

    Your bridal expo must haves….

     

    • A pre show promotion strategy.

      • Set goals for your booths outcome.
        • # of email signups, # of tentative bookings, # of social media channel follows
      • Spread the word via social media, website, word of mouth, printed invitations, newsletter high-lights, etc. Seek to build targeted awareness for even better turn out at your booth.
      • Inquire about advertising opportunities with the expo directors for additional visibility.
        • Promote on the expo’s social media channels, website, promo booklets, door prizes, swag bags
      • Pay attention to what other vendors will be present at the show and make a plan of action to connect with any complimentary businesses prior to the show, or if time permits, during setup or breakdown of the show.

     

    Booth at Unveiled Bridal Expo

    Booth at Unveiled Bridal Expo

     

    • A creative and brand-on-point booth display.

      • Beautiful signage must be apparent, easily visible, and attract attention. Prospects should not have to hunt for your business name on your booth.
      • Design a warm, welcoming, and professional booth.
        • Look, dress, and act professionally
        • Smile! Say hello! Be polite and conversational, thank people for stopping at your booth
        • Complimentary decor – stand out in a way that makes sense to your brand
        • If using electricity, make sure to confirm this with show directors in advance and provide for safe and aesthetically pleasing stashing of cords. No one should be tripping coming into your booth!
        • Nor should they be second guessing your organizational abilities with messy cords, tape all over the place, or piled up boxes they need to step over. Key: create a visually appealing booth.
      • Interactive Product/Service displays that draw in prospects
        • Create levels within your display, catching visitors eyes and increasing visual interest
        • Interactive display (cake tasting, mirrors for jewelry try-ons, live models modeling your gowns)
        • Create an engaging, memorable experience. No clutter, no trash, no half-eaten sandwiches instead offer beautiful albums to peruse, confetti poppers to fill, a beautiful flower for their hair, use your imagination! What would make you say, “oh wow, that was awesome! I have to book them!”, then do that:)
        • Don’t include items that take away from or confuse prospective clients. For example, don’t offer prospects multiple types of cupcake favors if your there to showcase your jewelry. Make it relevant!

     

    • Perfect a clear and concise non-pitchy pitch.

      • Seek to be more than a robot. Interact with your prospective clients, ask them questions, draw them in
      • Sell who you are not just what you do. Project your passion for why you do what you do and how you can help your prospects to achieve stellar results.
      • Be aware of your body language, no one wants to talk to you with a grumpy look on your face while slumped in your chair checking your phone. If this is you, you have no business being there anyway! Your phone can wait until after the expo.
      • Perfect some opening lines that facilitate easy interaction with prospects, asking what can I help you with? might deter a conversation, whereas asking when is your wedding date? might be more likely to open a dialogue you can steer toward gaining information about them and their wedding, giving you a prime opportunity to pitch. You savvy marketer, you!
      • Get clear on your business messaging and be able to deliver it confidently and concisely to those engaging with your booth. No ummmmm’s allowed!
      • Don’t get discouraged if people don’t book right away. The whole point of the show is to expose your biz and make a stellar first impression, that way when they are ready to book you are the first one that comes to mind

     

    Alt Summit Biz cards from Dandee-Designs.com

    Alt Summit Biz cards from Dandee-Designs.com

     

    • Develop branded and easily digestible promo materials and takeaways.

      • Make sure prospects leave your booth with an engaging and beautiful piece of marketing material. How else are they going to find your website/book your services/call you up if you don’t give them that information?
      • Really think about what the best piece of promotional takeaway material might be. If you are printing your logo and info on a wrapper for a yummy cookie, what happens if they throw that wrapper away? Make sure your marketing dollars and efforts aren’t going down the drain.

     

    • Implement a lead capture system.

      • Offer an email signup/social media follow/information gathering incentive to prospects. You can offer a discount, free product, a consult, a trip, whatever you think would be of great value to your clients. Whatever it is make it desirable so prospects WANT to sign up/follow/leave their information with you.
      • Make it easy! Don’t ask them for every piece of information you can think of, ask for the basics in an easy format. You can follow up for any additional clarification at a later time. Oh, and have lots of working pens at the ready!
      • Make your intentions with their information clear to your prospects. Plan to email them once a week with updates, tips and tricks, and possible booking incentives? Tell them! Let them know that you are going to act responsibly with the information they are giving you, give them no reason to mistrust your use of it.
    Example of a great opt in offer from ChalkBirdStudio.com

    Example of a great opt in offer from ChalkBirdStudio.com

     

    • Have a strong post-show follow up strategy.

      • Re-evaluate your goals pre-show to see how everything panned out. Was your opt in offer desirable and you had lots of sign-ups? Or, do you need to evaluate and course correct for next time?
      • Follow up with your prospects and thank them for stopping by your booth. Remind them (in case they threw that cookie wrapper away) where to go for more information about you, your products/services/ and how to work with you.
      • Follow up with any vendors you met at the show. Let them know you enjoyed meeting them and look forward to networking with them in the future. You never know where a good referral can come from or how a referral you make can come back to reward you.
      • Continue to follow up. Now that you are in front of your prospects continue to create value and position yourself as a valuable contact by keeping them informed of what’s going on with your business, tips and tricks, incentives, and ultimately just reminding them that you care and look forward to helping them.

     


     

     

    Well, there you have it. Your ‘can’t mess it up checklist’ for your first bridal expo. Let me know in the comments what item(s) you might be struggling with and how I can help.

     

    Once you’ve completed your first show, come back and let me know what worked for you and what needed improvement. You never know how much your insights might help out someone else struggling with the exact same thing.

     

    Wishing you much success! Now go out there and rock that expo!

     

     

     

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    Marketing

    3 Must ask questions before you commit to a bridal expo

    My first ever bridal booth

    My first ever bridal booth

    So you’ve been considering booking a space at a local bridal fair to really jumpstart some exposure for your brand?

     

    You’ve heard that, done well, a bridal fair can help you rake in some great bookings?

     

    This opportunity could be exactly what you were looking for to break into the wedding industry and assert yourself as a pro?

     

     

    Good idea? Well, maybe not.

     

     

    Take a hard look at why you are booking a booth and what it means for your business.

     

    In other words, in order to justify the investment of booking a bridal expo you need to be clear on your expected ROI (return on investment) and no, “booking some brides” does NOT cut it!

     

    Did you know that booking space at a bridal expo can run a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars depending on your market and the show itself? Now add in the cost of any promotional materials or elements to elevate the look and feel of your booth, and you’ve got yourself quite a little investment going on. After all the booth itself is the face of your business for this type of event, it needs to convert just like your website would (stay tuned this week for more about how to rock out your booth).

     

    When booking a booth your goals need to be more in depth than just to “gain exposure”. Exposure is great but targeted and effective exposure is better. Without a follow up strategy, an opportunity to catch and track leads, and something of value to offer your customers you could be sitting on a hefty bill without anything to show for it. Ouch!

     

    Libby&Jean Bridal Booth

     


     

     

    Below are 3 must ask questions you need to consider before booking space at a bridal expo to really make it worth your while:

     

    1.) Are you 100% clear on your products, services, and offerings?

    IMPORTANT! In addition to providing clarity to couples or businesses that may want to book your services or buy your products, you also need to be clear on what you do and do not do to preserve the longevity of your business and sanity of yourself.

     

    Point in case, the first bridal show I ever did with my accessory company, I marketed myself as the custom, artsy accessory designer that could do it all at great prices. Hmmm, was that in tune with what my business was about? No, not exactly. My accessory company was about reasonable pricing for custom accessories within a realm of overpriced cookie cutter-ness, yes, but where I screwed up was not being clear on what I did and did not do on those accessories. I ended up booking lots of orders from brides that day however, most of them were for requests to knock off what they had seen and loved at a bridal store but weren’t willing to pay for. I spent a lot of time after that show working on pieces that I didn’t love and my heart wasn’t into the work I was doing.

     

    Cue major burnout.

     

    What’s worse, I committed the cardinal sin of creative small business, I thought a newbie like me couldn’t command the prices of a more established business so I competed on price alone to draw in bookings rather than the skill, quality, and artistic vision of my pieces. When I broke down my pricing, I was practically paying people to “buy” accessories from me.

     

    Cue depression along with said burnout.

     

    I learned a very valuable lesson the hard way that show. You must go into the show already being clear on what your business is and what you do. It is easy to get caught up in all of the amazing work out there along with the prospect of booking amazing couples, but if you’re not careful, you can quickly wind up on a different path than what you intended. Being clear on how your business works, your pricing, and your offerings can ensure you are working with the right couples, doing work you love, and growing your business in a way that is in tune with the reasons you went into business in the first place. Because, the last thing you want to do is create another shackling “job” for yourself. Ensure your on the right path by getting clear on what you do (and don’t do!) well before you attempt to share it with others.

     

    2.) Are you clear on who your ideal market is?

    Besides stating the obvious (or maybe it’s not so obvious?) reason’s behind knowing whether to book your business a booth at a wholesale vs. retail bridal expo, you need to keep in mind who the intended audience of the show is and how that will impact your business. For the example I just shared, a bridal boutique looking to purchase gowns for their store is a completely different show than a bride looking to find her gown for her wedding. The obvious differences aside, a bridal expo appealing to couples getting married will also have an intended audience that you need to be aware of to best position your business.

     

    Pay attention to how the show has been marketed and positioned itself.

     

    A large bridal expo at a conference center highlighting all of the local vendors could produce dramatically different results than a smaller scale show held at a local vineyard with pre-qualified vendors and an interactive element for couples. Which one is the right one for you?

     

    Just because a bridal expo promises a “large turnout with great opportunities to get exposure” doesn’t mean that it is the best exposure for your business and therefore the best value for your booking. Consider your price point, your offerings, your business goals. These should all factor into whether or not a bridal expo or a particular show is a good idea for you.

     

    3.) Are you ready and willing to push past your comfort zone to follow up on leads?

    One of the benefits of participating in a bridal expo are the hot leads you gain by participating. Good bridal expos will have some type of registration process for collecting attendant’s information and upon completion of the show will provide this information to participating vendors. In addition to this list, you also need to be collecting information at your booth from interested parties.

     

    This information is the cherry on top of the sundae that is a successful bridal expo.

     

    However, if you have doubts about your ability or comfort level in following up, do not, I repeat, do not waste your time or money working a bridal expo.  This is a question that anyone booking a bridal expo needs to consider regardless of how many shows they have done or how many years they have been in business. You do your business and yourself absolutely no favors by putting yourself out there and then failing to follow through. What’s more is that if you’re customer follow up is lacking in any way, you could easily create a negative experience for potential clients which in essence is like taking the fast lane to No Bookingsville. Take an honest look at what your intentions are and what you are willing to do for the success of your business.

     


     

     

    Now, all of the above being said, these questions are not meant to be a deterrent from participating in a bridal expo. Additionally, I’m a firm believer in starting before your ready (it’s no fun to stay stuck in the what-if stage of your business forever), pushing past initial resistance to really engage to gain clarity around what you are doing and why you are doing it.

     

    However, if you answered no to any of the above questions, it’s worth it to take the time to get clear and confident about what your business stands for, what you stand to gain from participating, and if it is something your are willing to take seriously enough to get the best value out of.

     

    With the right mindset, the right amount of preparation, and the clarity within your business you can really propel your business forward, just don’t follow my example and propel your business into teary, angry, Ben & Jerry binge eating, work that you don’t love.

    Vintage Necklace

     

    Now is where I turn it over to you:

     

    Share in the comments what has impacted you on your yes or no decision to book your spot at an upcoming bridal expo. Have you learned some things about your biz? And in the process, some things about yourself?

     

     

     

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