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!
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.
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?