So when we made the transition to full time wedding photographers, we went “logical” and tried out both.
We quickly learned that wedding fairs have a lot of benefits … and just as many things that can make them a total waste of your time. Here are my strategies for getting all you can out of your next wedding show.
Lesson #1: Get Into The Right Fair
There are two types of wedding fairs: the razzle-dazzle show, and the intimate affair. The razzle-dazzle show is the wedding showcase that is put out to attract Cinderella’s of all types. Their goal is to get thousands through the door, a huge fashion show on stage, and give out fantastic prizes to get the brides coming back year after year.
The intimate affair is a small showcase of local vendors, and is usually limited to a select amount in each field. It’s usually put together at a local venue that is trying to increase its own bookings, and showcases many of the vendors it works with on a regular basis.
Don’t discount either event. The intimate event may or may not help you book a bride, but the exposure to the other vendors may be priceless. Likewise, the razzle-dazzle event may be completely overwhelming to most brides in attendance, but a great lead can bring you in your top client for the season.
Lesson #2: Get your booth into the right location
Once you decide on displaying your photography at a bridal expo, make sure you book early. Take a close look at the floor plan, and choose a booth that will give you optimum exposure. You never want to be stuck in the far back corner. Instead, look for doorways, natural flows of traffic, and places where people may gather. Also look at what vendors will be around you. A high traffic vendor can be extra traffic for you too.
Lesson #3: Set your goals and expectations
If you are new to a bridal show, talk with the event coordinator about expectations. How many brides do they expect? How many have come in the past? How many repeat vendors will be at the show? How many photographers will be at the show? While a new event has zero statistics, a show that comes back year after year should be able to provide you with a list of statistics.
Once you know the stats, look at the numbers realistically. If they expect 200 brides and 25 photographers, you have little chance of gaining clients at this show.
You can also look at costs to determine the benefit. If you could make a profit by booking just one client, it may be worth the effort. If it’s a several thousand dollar event, you may think twice before signing on the dotted line.
Lesson #4: Create a WOW marketing piece
The sea of the great white bag. That’s what I always called it.
A bride is given a bag as she registers. She walks around aimlessly from table to table, stuffing it with whatever marketing materials vendors hand her.
Then she arrives at home, and puts the bag in a corner. Days or even weeks later, the bag comes out and she dumps it on the table. The only way any of it will mean anything to her is if she has a connection. The piece of paper that was printed with line after line of facts will quickly be thrown away. The stand out pieces will be odd shapes, vivid colors, and giveaways that she can use throughout her planning process. Make sure you fall into the latter category.
Lesson #5: Plan out your booth months in advance
Long gone are the days of showing up a few minutes before the event, piling a few books on the table, and sitting back waiting for the brides to come by. Get rid of the provided table, and create a mini-studio right there in your space. We used portable walls to define our space. Then we could hang enlargements on either side of the walls, and showcase a ton of our work. We also used lighting to make our images pop. Then we brought in chairs and a table from our studio to showcase our albums. The expo attendees felt like they stepped into our studio for just a few moments. It made all the difference in the world.
Lesson #6: Use a giveaway to gain access to prospects
With most wedding fairs, you’ll be given a list of everyone in attendance. This is a great list to send out a brochure or postcard to. But with hundreds or even thousands in attendance at some of the bigger fairs, you can quickly become just another mailer.
Instead, give something away. Many people give away free engagement sessions. But I quickly discovered that very few people take advantage of this. So instead we gave away something anyone could use. Create a bridal pampering basket, filled with bath lotions and salts, a wedding planning book, a great novel, maybe even some chocolates, and a beautiful wedding frame perfect for their engagement photo. This is something any bride-to-be would want. And you’ll have a lot more names in your fishbowl.
Do a special mailing to these entry names. These people stopped by your booth, and have already had initial contact with you. They will be more likely to remember you.
Lesson #7: Network with other vendors
A bride will be your client once. A vendor can refer you clients again and again. During the slow times of the day, walk around and chat with other vendors. Pick out a few that you have something in common with and connect after the show. Meet for coffee or lunch, and start building a relationship that can last a lifetime.
Lesson #8: Record your own lessons
As you walk around the bridal fair, you’ll quickly see things you love and want to incorporate into your own booth. Snap a quick photograph.
Also, take along a binder and write down any ideas you have along the way. Even if it’s just a quick tip or thought, it can help make your booth that much better the next time around.