I’m just gonna come out and say it…as a general rule, I’m not a huge fan of the wedding fair. A little controversial I know. My reason for this is not because I find them boring or a waste of time but because the people exhibiting aren’t making me want to love it. Often they simply sit at their stands with a ‘take it or leave it attitude’ or they’ll just thrust leaflets and samples at me like they’re going out of fashion. This is both annoying as hell and a little bit terriflying.
I don’t think the wedding fair is dead just yet. There are hundreds of thousands of brides (and poor poor grooms)-to-be that attend these shows during their engagement. So, this week, I thought a little discussion and a few tips on how you can make wedding fairs work for you would be in order.
Thank you to Heidi from The Alternative Wedding Fair, which is taking place in London this Sunday, for putting together this article. I’ll be wandering around the fair with Roo – please don’t throw things at us.
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Ever wonder why some suppliers have unbelievable success as a wedding fair exhibitor and others never see a return? Well, there is definitely a formula to making wedding fairs work for your wedding business and I’d like to share it with you. In this article I’ll reveal my top strategies that will affect your overall success attending wedding fairs so that you can get the most out of your exhibit.
Consider the types of couples the show is targeting
In the past I have found that when wedding fairs target a niche they attract brides who want what you do. That is if you fit into that niche. Be sure to ask the show organiser who their target market is. If they say ‘brides’ then I’d personally run a mile. 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? You need to know your specific target market and gear everything towards making your business attractive to that kind of bride.
Find out how and where the event is being advertised
Couples are now using social media as a tool to help with their wedding planning, more now than ever. Brides turn to Facebook to ask for friends recommendations and to Twitter to see what the suppliers they like are up to. Does the fair have a strong social media presence? Are they advertising on relevant blogs and publications?
You want to make sure the fair you choose is being promoted so that you will get a healthy amount on traffic on the day. Ask the show organiser how the show is being advertised and marketed online and offline. Does this line up with where your target market is?
Research what is included in the cost of the exhibit space to ensure value
Your exhibit space can be anything from empty space to a shell scheme so be sure to ask so that you can plan your costs accordingly. Ask if electricity, wi-fi, tablecloths and basic furniture (trestle table & chairs) are included or how much extra they will cost you. Be sure to figure your marketing materials and giveaways into your budgeting as well!
Make sure to get a list of couples who have agreed to be contacted afterwards
A list of couples who attended is nice but you can’t market to them via email because of CAN-SPAM laws. You can only legally email couples who have agreed to be contacted. If you market to couples who have not opted-in to receive your emails they could report you. Ask the show organiser if their list complies with CAN-SPAM laws. If they say ‘CAN-what?’ run away! Remember, it is better to have a smaller list of people who want your specific service than a large list of people who don’t want anything to do with you.
Review the contract
Contracts for wedding fairs can contain a list of items that are prohibited and list anything that is required by you such as a copy of your insurance policy. As with all contracts, be sure to review it before you sign on the dotted line.
Invite prospective and current clients
You will appear to be on top of what is going on in the local wedding industry if you personally invite these people along. Even if you have already booked a client they will appreciate knowing there is somewhere to go to find their other suppliers. It’s all about making yourself look good!
Promote the fair on social media and blogs
You’re on Twitter and Facebook right? Use this space to discuss what you are doing in the run up to the fair and connect with other exhibitors. The networking opportunities a fair offers are often just as valuable as the potential clients you might book.
Does the fair you booked offer a networking event for suppliers before or afterwards? If it does be sure to participate as it never hurts to have friends at the show and you never know who might refer you! If there is no pre-fair networking event make a point to set up early and set aside time to have a chat with other suppliers at the fair. Making friends with your competitors can be a good thing because then you have someone to refer couples to when you are booked solid… and everyone needs friends!
Take advantage of promotional opportunities during the show
Many fairs will allow exhibitors to sponsor certain aspects of the show to gain brand exposure. Think of everything you could possibly sponsor and then ask if you can do it. Does the fair offer a sponsorship spot for the bags – can you put a small sample in each one? What about for the fashion show – can you get your products in the show or help in any way? E.g. The music if you are a DJ.
Put your best foot forward
Never put your table out in front and sit behind it and watch people go by. You need to be on your feet and giving people a reason to stop at your stand. Get in front of the table and don’t sit down, don’t play with your phone, don’t eat at your stand! People make judgments on you and your business instantly and if they see someone playing with their phone and eating a sandwich and they will think ‘Wow, will they do that at my wedding too?’
Create eye-catching displays
You are given a specific floor space for a wedding fair but have you thought about using the space above you? Try to hang a sign, above your stand or create a large, tall piece that will draw attention to your stand. You need to make yourself and your display stand out from the crowd. Especially at larger, national shows where you might have ten direct competitors just a few metres away. You want brides to see you first!
Try to come up with something eye-catching so people will have to stop and talk to you. If you are a florist, invest time in creating a large elaborate piece for your stand. If you are a dress designer, put your most attention-grabbing design out front for people to see. Be sure to use an image of this piece in your marketing materials so that people remember you for your work!
Put the freebies in the back
Make those brides and grooms work for those freebies and put them at the back of your stand! You should be giving these to potential clients not just window shoppers. Maybe ask them for their details in exchange for a more expensive promotional gift that they will actually use.
A list of brides and grooms that you collate yourself will always be more beneficial than the one which the show provides because your list is full of warm leads (people you have broken the ice with) as opposed to cold leads (people you have not had contact with).
Be strategic about giving marketing materials away
There is a variety of marketing material available to you for a reason – you can give a business card to a window shopper and a more detailed DVD of your portfolio to more serious potential clients. You will want to ‘qualify’ each couple, in other words, make sure they are a good match for your business before you give away the more costly (to you) marketing materials. After all if they can’t be bothered to stop and give you a few minutes of their time they probably aren’t that interested to begin with.
Take into consideration their level of interest, time left until their wedding date and location when deciding which piece of marketing material to give out. Don’t make the common mistake of simply shoving everything you have into each attendee’s hand.
Make yourself memorable
If you can engage a couple in a short activity at your stand they will remember you. A friend of mine, who is a wedding photographer, recently made quirky cut outs for people to put their heads into and have their photos taken. She took their email addresses and emailed them the photos after the show. What a brilliant idea!
It is important to know exactly what you want to get out of the fair before you start. Do you want a certain number of leads to follow up on? Setting these goals will not only keep you on track during the fair but will also help you to determine if it was a worthwhile investment afterwards.
Be informative not ‘salesy’
Using an email marketing service, I love MailChimp personally, import the details of the couples whom you have been given permission to contact. Then you will need to set up a series of auto responders with informative, fun and useful content for them.
At the end of the day people don’t like to feel like they are being sold to. However by keeping it informative and fun you’re doing the exact same thing but in a less pushy way. The idea here is to establish yourself at the expert in your field by showing the potential client how much you know so they want to book you.
Know that direct mail is not dead
If you have collected addresses make use of the ‘lumpy mailer’ technique. The lumpy mailer technique is simple: Put something relevant that is lumpy or bulky into a big brown envelope and send it to your prospects. Wouldn’t you open a piece of mail like that? It can be anything from a chocolate bar to a branded mug, the point is to make it look intriguing from the outside so people want to open it (and it doesn’t just get lost in a sea of bills and junk mail). Remember to include a letter about you and your business (and a quick FYI – personally address your cover letter with the couples names, it shows you have made more of an effort).
Get outrageous with marketing
Essentially, you need to narrow down your very best prospects and then throw your entire marketing budget for the month at them in a clever way. For instance, if you make cakes, send a box of cupcakes or cookies to a few select prospects; I guarantee they will remember you! If it fits your business, why not have an invitation-only event for your prospective clients?
Be sure to always ask how people heard of you so that you can track your return on investment (ROI). This way you will find which fairs and which marketing techniques work best for you. If something doesn’t work for you, get rid of it and try something new at the next fair.
I often hear from suppliers that wedding fairs don’t work. A wedding fair is just an oppourtunity, much like a job interview, and is what you make of it so make the most of it!
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All photos taken at the last Alternative Wedding Fair. You can apply to exhibit at the next event here.
All Photography Credit: Tux & Tales Photography