HOW TO - Get the Best Out of Exhibiting at a Wedding Fair

The most popular wedding fairs and bridal shows worldwide are usually held in October.

After visiting many of them and after the participation at “Salon du marriage” in Luxembourg with my booth, I can state that there is definitely a strategy to making wedding fairs work for your wedding business

BEFORE THE FAIR

1-WHICH FAIR – DEFINITION OF THE TARGET

Do you want to just attract all brides or do you have a specific kind of bride and wedding you’d really love to work with?

Research is key word: Look around for fairs that suit your style.

Reading the expo website, the specialized forum, the feedbacks of the participants and visitors, walking through a fair before attending it, will give you a load of information about the event and the visitors.

Last but not least, since couples are now using social media a lot, check how the fair is advertised and marketed online and offline, if it has a strong social media presence and if the organizer advertises the event on relevant blogs and publication.

2-COST & AGREEMENT

Wedding shows cost money, not just the participation fee but also the cost of the booth display set up, of having marketing tools made, consumptions, transporting of the stuff to the show (and back), any staff, freebies etc.

After receiving the agreement proposal from the organizer of the event, read it carefully and research what is included in the cost of the exhibit (i.e. electricity, basic furniture) and what are the responsibilities and the obligations of the organizer and the exhibitor

Contracts for wedding fairs also list:

-    the payment condition – the exhibitor usually shall pay 50% of the price as a non-refundable deposit and  the final payments must be received 1 month prior to the event-

-    rules for the exhibitor (i.e.  restriction booth occupancy to one company’s product or service only, prohibition on distributing advertising and promotional material from other suppliers, etc.),

-     anything that is required by you such as a copy of your insurance policy, or documents attesting the existence of your company, etc.

3-DESIGN OF THE SET UP OF THE BOOTH

You need to make yourself and your display stand out from the crowd, particularly at larger, national shows where you might have ten direct competitors just a few meters away.

I warmly recommend you to not be cheap because if your space looks cheap you won’t attract the right customer – unless of course you are looking to attract cheap!

The booth is your business card and especially if you are a wedding planner, a wedding stylist or a flower designer, it has to show your creativity and your style to potential clients….and don’t forget to insert what is currently “on trend”.

Once you have decided what type of design you want to go for, sit down with a pen and paper and draw it out to scale… paying attention to the rules laid down by the organizer of the event – i.e. most venues will not allow you to hang nails or stick items on the walls although in some cases you will be able to erect a backdrop or board behind your stand or a suspended ceiling on top.

Draft a budget: are you in a position to bear such cost?  If so, go ahead and list what you need: items you already own, objects you could borrow and you must buy.

My advice: if the design of your stand includes extra furniture beyond the table and chairs sometime provided by the organizer, make a test at home: does the space look like harmonious at the first sight? Is the space too empty or too busy? Is there enough room to permit the potential client to enter in and see your proposals/stuffs?

The drawings and a mood-board are useful to show your idea to the other suppliers or the carpenter if needed – i.e.  if you asked a flower designer to decorate your booth that presents a catering service.

Lastly, be sure to use an image of this piece in your marketing materials so that people remember you for your work!

NOTE: the participation of MADE IN ITALY WEDDING at a Wedding Fair will be the object of a later post.  

4-MARKETING STRATEGIES (ADVERTISING, MARKETING TOOLS, FREEBIES & SPONSORSHIP)

ADVERTISING – before the wedding fair, use Twitter and Facebook space to talk about the fair and what you are doing in the run up to the fair and connect with other exhibitors.

INVITATION - The most successful trade show attendees start contacting potential customers and clients well before the show sending them sales literature, gift coupons...

Even if you have already booked a client they will appreciate knowing there is somewhere to go to find their other suppliers.

Don’t expect bookings/sales on the day, couples like to go away and discuss what they have seen on the day. If they liked what you had to offer they will contact you after the fair so they must received your contact details and some tools reminding them who you are and what you do.

There is a variety of MARKETING TOOLS: business cards, flyers, small catalogues, DVD with some pictures or music tracks, freebies, photographic albums…. some more appropriate than others depending on the service you are offering.

You should be strategic about giving marketing materials away: make sure that the person in front of you  are a good match for your business before you give away the more costly (to you) marketing materials: you can give a business card to all the visitors and a more detailed DVD of your portfolio to more serious potential clients.

At first, make sure you have enough BUSINNESS CARDS available with your Social Media details on them.

FLYERS & BROCHURES - You will miss the chance to sell personally when you are away from the booth or are with other attendees. Have easy-to-read sell sheets potential buyers can pick up and quickly see your benefit.

VISUAL DEVICE- depending of the service you are offering, it could be a photo book, a TV set up with photos or videos, a laptop or iPad with a slideshow playing or, in case you are the manager of a reception’s location, the latest trend is the mask 360 degrees virtual tour showing the entire building.

Design and print CONTACT CARDS - most promoters will promise you a list of the brides registering for the fair but you may not receive it for weeks. Better to collect your own leads (name, wedding and location date, email) encouraging the potential client with a contest at your booth (i.e. leave your data and win a discount or a romantic meal for two or an overnight stay in a top hotel, in partnership with other suppliers). Jot down other notes too to remind their needed and their special requests to connect with them on a more personal level.

Hang a professional SIGNAGE or a FRAMEWORK with your business branding on it. When people take a picture of your booth, your business name or logo will be part of that memory and if they will post the image on their social networks, they will advertise your brand, indirectly.

FREEBIES - Consider offering a free gift or sample to attendees who visit your booth, maybe mailing a coupon to them before the show starts.  To be honest with you I think that serious customers have a need for what you sell and won’t buy from you because you gave them a sweetie, however you can use freebies:

- to get business cards so you can build a mailing list of people you met at the show,

- to remind them your brand once they get home.

So: put freebies at the back of your stand giving them to potential clients and make sure that whatever you give away has your business name and contact information on it for extra promotion

SPONSORSHIP - many fairs will allow exhibitors to sponsor certain aspects of the event to gain brand exposure.

Think of everything you could possibly sponsor to become one of the big “players” at a trade show - for example:

-    taking ads in the trade show program book

-    if you sell bride dresses or if you are an hair stylist or make-up artist, you can present your activities at the fashion show,

-    a pastry chef can put a (branded) sweetie in the  sponsorship bags offered by the organizer

-    a DJ can propose a background music,

-    if you offer a catering service, you can manage the bar/restaurant at the fair,

-    a flower designer you can ask the organizer if you can decorate the reception…

5-DRESS TO IMPRESS

Statistics show that when meeting new people the impact is:

7% from what we actually say

38% the quality of our voice, grammar, and overall confidence

55% the way we dress, act and walk to our interlocutor.
So be carefully when you choose the outfits you should wear during the event .

The look is as much important as the good looking of the stand.     

DURING THE FAIR

6-HOW TO BEHAVE

Remember that couples can sometimes be nervous, make them comfortable being friendly, smiling and approachable letting them know that you are there to help them find what they are looking for. Be informative more than business oriented and don’t be too pushy.

People make judgments on you and your business instantly and if they see someone playing with their phone or eating a sandwich in front of the visitors, they can think: “will he/she do that at my wedding too?” – so if you need to take a break, step away from your booth.

Get in front of the table and don’t sit behind it watching people go by but strike up a conversation with the visitors. Don’t cross your arms showing a negative mood.

 At last, stay all the way until the end because packing up early looks unprofessional.

7- NETWORK WITH OTHER SUPPLIERS

One of the biggest benefits of a bridal show is that it gives you a chance to network with dozens of other wedding vendors and the networking opportunities are often just as valuable as the potential clients you might book.

So set aside time to walk around, have a chat with other suppliers and exchange cards: this builds relationships that lead to referrals.

AFTER THE FAIR

8-FOLLOW UP

Many of your best contacts won’t sign orders/agreements at the show and most of the work is done at a later stage so: after the show, follow up. FAST. A prompt, professional, tailored response is a great way to make your company stand out from the competition.

Be interactive – i.e. Offer a special post-bridal show bonus or discount that expires within a certain period of time.

Use the attendee list you generated – and the one of all the attendees that sometimes the organizer of the event send to the exhibitors, on request- to send thank-you e-mail, a digital postcard with an images that reminds your booth (crode), sales materials and making yourself available to answer any questions. If you have collected addresses, you can also send a gadget enveloped in an intriguing, branded, packaging, including  a letter about you and your business.  

Above all, confirm any appointments you’ve set.

Don’t forget to Invite the reader back to your website or blog and ask them to follow you on Facebook and Twitter and give them a link to get there easily.

CONCLUSION: are Bridal Shows a good investment or waste of money?

So is it worth it? It’s honestly hard to say.

I think the answer depends from the quality and the type of the service you are offering: a wedding planner proposing a sophisticated 360 degrees organization, a top location and suppliers ensuring a very high standard results- in other words: more expensive – should attend just the more exclusive events to avoid the risk to be too expensive for the type of bride who typically attends bridal shows.

On the other hand, if you're new in the wedding business, or your prices are more competitive, or your work needs some improvement, these shows could result in some contracts to help grow your business.

Generally speaking, participating in these events helps with brand awareness.

On top of that, like I said, bridal shows are great networking opportunities.

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