Zak and I attended what I would say was our first big bridal show last night. It was the Bridal Faire 2014 event thrown by Edith's of Fond du Lac and the Sunny 97.7, and 96.1 TCX radio stations, held at the Holiday Inn in Fond du Lac. There were just about 40 vendors and an estimated 100 or so brides at the event that ran from 4:00-7:00 with a fashion show to follow. A great way to meet some great potentials! But here's the catch, we got the call just yesterday morning! It seemed a vendor had to back out due to medical conditions and Terry, the host and owner of Record Entertainment, called and asked if we would be able to sub last minute, but that meant that would have to be at the Holiday Inn and set up no later than 3:45, it was now 11:40. I immediately called Zak and he took a half day in order to help me prepare and promote! It was a mad dash to get out the door, but by 2:00 pm we had all our gear packed in the truck, picked up our 500 freshly printed business cards from our local printer (thank you so much Minuteman!), and were on our way!
It went great! Especially considering I didn't feel even close to prepared! Before and after attending, I researched the potential benefits from doing shows like this in my industry. How many weddings can I expect, if any, what tips and tricks are out there, etc? There was so much back and forth between opinions from other professionals as to whether or not they find them to be worth it. Some said it's a complete waste of time, that only women looking for freebies show up, and others said it's how they book 65% of their business and highly recommend it. Well, I figured I would share my own thoughts on this very split idea in case anyone out there is considering being a vendor themselves.
Was it worth it?
For me and my business, yes. The event expected 200 brides/700 total people. If I had to guess, I would say a little over half of that were there, but let's remember what extreme weather we've been dealing with recently so a great turn out, I think. Out of that, I got a total of 68 e-mail addresses as well as handed out dozens of business cards and other promotional materials (thankfully I had enough ink at home to print some out!) to many beautiful brides-to-be which I think is an excellent number! I just sent out those 68 e-mails so we'll see how many turn into hard leads. My amazeballs number is 5 weddings, (photo, video, or the booth, I wouldn't care!) that would be mind-blowing. My realistic number based on actual interactions with a few ladies last night is 2-3, which I'm ecstatic about! Besides the fact that there is a definite possibility of a couple bookings, it was awesome just to have that face-to-face time and to hear some of the feedback. A few guests mentioned that they had seen my work or heard my name before (blushing) while others complemented my photography on the spot after viewing my slide show (blushing harder). How awesome?!?! Also, I'm not just a website to these ladies anymore. They've met me, got a taste of what I do and the personality that comes along with, which I'm hoping is a bonus... So I feel that the marketing and face-to-face interactions with over 100 potential brides alone is worth the average bridal show fee and additional costs, which can range from a few hundred up to over a thousand dollars. (This event was $575, plus the cost of business.)
What did I learn for next time?
Well, I would assume the next event we participate in we'll actually sign up for it in advance :), allowing me time to prepare more materials to hand out and what not, but there were a few other lessons we walked away with for next time...
1. Introduce myself to other vendors.
I made friends with my neighbors, but that's it. (ATTN Brides: If you're planning on preserving your fresh flowers, check out this site, super cool!) I should have gone around and introduced myself to every single vendor there, you never know where your next referral is going to come from! Plus, some of them have great tasting left-overs. Thanks Linstrom's!
2. Invest in upscale promo items and/or giveaways.
Again, having more time to prepare will help with this one, but I would want to make sure I invest a decent amount of money into some post-production options like canvas, metal, and bamboo prints, and I desperately need to make a few sample wedding books too! Soon! Also, having a clever giveaway prize or thank you would help keep me in the minds of brides as well! We had a candy dish and of course the guests were able to walk away with their photo strip, but I want to think outside the box for next time. I'm thinking something with a mustache...
3. Wear more comfortable shoes.
So, before leaving you to re-check my inbox for the eighth time since I sent the 68 e-mails out to see if anyone's replied, my final answer on bridals shows is: YES! I will most definitely be taking advantage of marketing myself and my business at bridal events in the future!
Have you attended bridal events, either as a guest or vendor? I would love any additional feedback or opinions that you have on the topic! Comment below! Thanks guys! Stay warm!