Wedding Planning Success Lounge: Tips for successful wedding shows
This is part 2 of the Wedding Planning Success Lounge dedicated to wedding shows. Last week we discussed the differences between wedding shows and venue open houses (you can read the post HERE), and this week we will be talking about the way you should prepare for the event, connect during the event, and follow up after the event.
Before the event
1 – Read the fine lines
Review the contract that you received from the show production company or the hosting venue and make sure what you are paying for (or even if you are not paying) is included. Things to look at: your company name and category correctly spelled (this information will be shared on social media and maybe also on TV / radio channels if they do exhibitor spotlights); date and time of the event; size of the booth and location (in-line or corner); what will be provided (table, chairs, draping / divider, power, etc.); setup and strike times; parking privileges; promotion campaign. Also, review their Rules and Regulations carefully: what will be allowed (booth sharing, food and beverage, décor, etc.); space usage such as “Exhibit spaces must allow a 5’ traffic flow area on any side not adjoining another Exhibitor or a wall” or “Any Music or audio must be played under 65 decibels” or ”No vinyl banners or excessive signage is allowed”; permit from the Health Department if you give food or drinks to attendees.
2 – Marketing materials
This is something that you really need to plan carefully. These will be the pieces that you will distribute to the attendees at the show and you need to stand out. Think about all the business cards, brochures, flyers, samples, and more that couples will receive every time they stop at a booth. They will get the card, put it in their show bag and walk away. When they get home, what will they do? They will empty the bag and they will start sorting, and if your pieces don’t stand out they won’t probably remember talking with you and they will toss them, this means they will move on to the next candidate.
Always make sure these materials match your brand, style and they include your contact information. I’m talking about business cards, brochures, but you should also pay attention to your signage such as banner, posters, and sign up forms. Everything should be a reflection of your brand, your colors, your logo prominently placed, your style. This should also match the décor of your booth to create a consistent look.
Make sure that you have your marketing materials and signage designed and printed or made in advance and with enough time for production (one month can be a good time frame). Don’t forget to include your social media handles and maybe your Snapchat code that attendees can scan at the event!
Try to hang a sign above your booth or create a large, tall piece that will draw attention to your area (lounge furniture can help). You need to make yourself and your display stand out from the crowd.
3 – Booth design
Don’t just bring photo albums, magazines where you were featured and “stuff”. Attendees want to see what you can create, what you can do for them. A vignette / tablescape would be ideal and if you have a specific theme or color palette that goes with your company brand even better. A colleague of mine here in San Diego loves purple (it’s her brand color), and when she exhibits at wedding shows her booth has a purple theme / color palette. Make sure your booth is professional and appealing and, most of all, attracts your ideal client. If you are targeting high-end clients don’t decorate your booth with mason jars or burlap and lace…
Depending on what you promote or sell, try to come up with something that is eye-catching so people will be attracted and will stop to look and then talk with you. One of my favorite photographers in town created a custom booth that she always uses for wedding shows and it’s basically a little campsite: she brings in a teepee, a picnic table with benches where she can sit down with the couples visiting her booth and look at her photo albums, and the entire booth is surrounded by rustic wood planks. It is beautiful and clearly defines her style: rustic, outdoor, relaxed, low-key atmosphere. Needless to say, she’s extremely successful at wedding shows because of this branding.
Let’s talk a little about the location of your booth. If the event is at a historic location or a beautiful event space, try to have your booth next to a place of interest. There’s an old cathedral in Los Angeles that is now used only for special events and they hosted some wedding shows there. Everybody wanted to have a booth close to the altar because the booth would look much better and it would attract more people without even paying a lot for décor. On the other hand, if the event is at a conference center, or in a hotel ballroom where the space is plain, then try to select a corner booth. Corner booths get more traffic because they are highly visible (two sides).
4 – Promote, promote, promote!
Blast the event on social media and let everybody know that you will be there! People will spread the word and your friends will invite friends who are getting married!
5 – Invite
Personally invite your prospects to the show (some shows have their own invitations that you can mail or forward to your contacts) and welcome them with a special thank-you when they stop by at your booth, that showed how serious they are to connect with you and you want to thank them for that.
6 – Set expectations
It is important to know exactly what your goals are before the event. Is it leads that you want to gather? New bookings made on the spot? By setting these goals you will be very focused during the event and you will be able to determine if the show was worth your investment (time and money)
During the event
1 – Get help
You should be able to assist couples stopping by at your booth without having them wait in line because you’re talking with someone else. If they need to wait they will just leave. Couples want to talk, gather information, and move on, and if you’re not organized at your booth they might get the impression that you’re not organized in your business either therefore, you won’t be organized at their wedding.
Make sure you bring enough staff to the show so that two to four couples can have questions answered at the same time. Train your staff so they know how to answer the questions couples will have, including the services you provide. Ideally, these should be your assistants or brilliant interns who have been with you for at least one year and they have worked at weddings with you, they understand your philosophy, your message and your mission.
2 – Engage
Stand in front of your booth, smile and greet people! Period. That’s it. This will make you much more approachable than sitting behind your table and watching people go by. You will lose business if you sit down! You have to give couples a reason to stop and talk with you. So, engage with them, don’t play with your phone, don’t eat at your booth! What you show at your booth that day they will think you will do the same at their wedding (eating in front of the guests, or using the phone during their ceremony). Remember, you are representing your brand, your image at the show. Give a professional image and couples will want to know more about you
3 – Build your own mailing list
By attending the show you will receive a list of those who visited however, a list of brides and grooms that you create yourself (some tips are listed below) will always be more beneficial than the one provided by the show because your list is made of “warm” leads (people you have talked with) as opposed to “cold” leads. These leads are people you have not had contact with and they might not even be interested in your services. Maybe you’re a planner and they already have all of their vendors but they visited the show just to look for a DJ.
4 – Offer an activity
This is something that I see at photographers’ or other vendors’ booths. Wedding designers and planners are usually focused on the décor and beauty of their display but you can join forces with a photo booth company that is exhibiting at the show, for example, and have one of their booths at your space. When couples stop by at your booth they can take fun pictures. The prints they take home will have your logo and contact information (excellent marketing!)
5 – Offer a giveaway
This is another incentive to collect leads for your mailing list. You could offer a spa treatment, wedding magazine subscription, etc.
This is what I always do when I participate in wedding shows (mostly open houses) in order to collect my own mailing list. I print little cards where bride and groom can write down their contact information, date of the wedding, and what services they are looking for, and I select a random winner (usually 1-2 days after the show). This is an excellent way for me to follow up because these are the people who talked with me at the show and I know they want to hear more about me (and eventually hire me for their wedding). We establish a personal connection. So, always make sure that you continue the conversation after the show.
6 – Have freebies for special couples
A lot of brides and grooms go to wedding shows just to collect “freebies” and for free tastings, and you can definitely offer something However, the couples should earn them. For instance, you can give your business card to a couple who just stopped by and didn’t show much interest in what you do but they were polite to listen to you (these are called window shoppers). If, on the other hand, you meet with a couple who seems interested in your services and they ask you questions and they want to chat with you next week, then you can have a DVD of your portfolio. When you “qualify” these couples you should take into consideration their level of interest, their wedding date and the wedding location before you give them your piece of marketing. Maybe you can offer mini consultations on site (5-10 minutes) where you can answer questions and assist with challenging issues of their planning and, in exchange, you will give them a mini wedding planning binder, or a basket of goodies, whatever you prefer (and that matches your brand). By sitting down with them at the event you will create a bonding relationship and if you’re good at marketing yourself in 10 minutes the client might be yours!
7 – Schedule follow-up meetings at the show
You can tell by the conversation if the couple is interested in your services. If that’s the case, invite them to schedule a meeting or phone call with you after the event. Keep in mind that it might be easy to schedule a meeting but more difficult to make sure they keep that appointment and show up. If this seems a little challenging, make sure you still follow up with potential couples after the event.
8 – Network with other exhibitors
This is an excellent way to make new friends or hang out with old ones (the market is over-saturated and this helps them to remember you). Also, it helps you align yourself to the right vendors if you are new because you can see their work on display, get to see how they interact with clients (personality, attitude) and meet them personally.
After the event
1 – Follow up
I could stop here. This is the most important goal of your experience with a wedding show or venue open house. If you don’t follow up you won’t continue the conversation, and the couples you met at the show will most likely forget about you,
Don’t be like those wedding professionals who don’t follow up for fear of rejection (yes, it happens!) or they simply forget! Things to keep in mind are:
~ Be fast. Today’s couples are not very patient, the more you wait to follow up the less attention you will get from them
~ Be different. Offer something different from your “competition”
~ Be consistent. Keep following up with those leads who showed interest in your services every week for 5-10 times. They will eventually respond (whether it’s to schedule a meeting with you or to ask you to stop).
~ Sort the information on the list you collected and the list you received from the show producers (or the hosting venue) and identify the best matches based on the wedding date (make sure you’re available on their date) and location.
~ Via Phone and e-mail – Thank them for stopping by at your booth and ask for a meeting or consultation to continue the conversation
~ You can set up a series of auto-responders on your email marketing provider and share valuable, useful content for their wedding (this could be planning advice, best seasonal flowers, types of wedding dresses and men’s attire, etc.). The idea is to establish yourself as the expert in your field by showing the potential client how much you know so they want to work with you. Be informative, not pushy or sales-y. Remember, today people want to get to know, like and trust you before doing business with you.
~ Via snail mail – A lot of people say direct mail is dead but it’s not the case. If you are able to send them something that stands out from the regular mail you will win because your piece won’t be lost in a sea of bills or junk mail that we always receive every day. Think about a square envelope in a bright or metallic color (you can partner up with a stationery designer where you can both promote your services). You can fill it with something bulky and I assure you they will open it – Wouldn’t you be curious to know what’s inside? This can be a little chocolate favor, or a mini picture frame, something that can be used – not thrown away. Make it intriguing and attractive.
~ Remember to include a letter about you and your business, and a few options to connect and chat regarding their wedding. Make it very personal, include their first names in the letter – that shows you really care about them and you remember about talking with them.
~ Make sure that each follow up contains an effective call to action and a deadline. Some wedding professionals “bribe” couples to a meeting with them in exchange of a gift card. This is a great way to make them say yes but I personally don’t do it. My target client doesn’t really need $20 in gift card and they could get offended so always research your target audience before offering something.
2 – Was it worth it?
Compare the shows you have done in the past and find which one worked best and which marketing techniques worked best for you. If something didn’t work for you try something new or, select a completely different show if that didn’t bring you anything in return. Many times wedding professionals complain with me saying that wedding shows don’t really work. But you have to keep in mind that a wedding show is an opportunity, consider it like a job interview, and you might see the results later on, maybe in a year from now when the couple is ready to plan their wedding and work with you. Maybe it was your fault, you stay seated behind that table and you didn’t connect with anybody….! Keep track of all these details and you will be able to decide whether that particular event was good for you or not.
~~~ LEAVE A COMMENT ~~~ What are the biggest challenges you experienced at a show? What worked best for you?
~~~ TAKE ACTION ~~~ Have you ever exhibited at a wedding show or venue open house? Go down this list and make sure you have all it takes to make it a successful event for your business
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Holistic Precision Life Coach, Brain Wellness Coach, and Life-Work Balance Strategist helping busy professionals and high achievers live and work better by prioritizing themselves. I use different modalities (epigenetics, neuroscience, chronobiology, and positive psychology) to implement effective lifestyle changes.