I'm wanting to embark on opening up a cake shop and I'm making my first big marketing move....getting a booth at a bridal show.
Any tips or words of advice from you seasoned bridal show veterans? I'm quite nervous because my funds are pretty small to put into this marketing venture. However, I know that this will be a great opportunity to get my name and product out to the public.
What do I put in the booth? Has anyone noticed any increased business from participating in the birdal shows?
Thanks so much for your help!!!
I can't help you, but I sure am interested in the responses! I hope to open a shop within the next year or so, and I will be doing the same thing...
you mention you are "going" to open a shop. May I ask if you're legal now? If not, I would strongly recommend staying away from bridal shows.
My health inspector mentioned how, when she gets the list of attendees at a show, she has to go thru the list and verify everyone on there. If she doesnt recognize a name, she calls the show organizer to find out where this person/company is from (might be out of county or out of state).
Note I said "When she gets the list".
Many states/counties are now requiring show organizers to submit a list of attendees. THe health dept may be checking you out and you may not know it.
My health inspector told me she shut down 2 cake ladies at the big show here in Indy this year.....they were found when she checked out the list.
If you are legal, I will share that I was in a small show earlier this year and I've already recouped 10 times the cost of the booth.
I agree with Indydebi! I also want to say that the County Assessor was looking at booth's at the last bridal show I was at! I was shocked! I never expected to see the tax guy on a Saturday...at a freakin' bridal show!
thanks for the replies. yes, I am legal in the sense that I have the necessary permits to avoid the dreaded inspectors.
however, I have yet to do any large scale marketing.
I just talked to a lady about being a vendor in a bridal show. They have one in June and Sept. I haven't done any wedding cakes yet, but am wanting to get into that part of the business. She offered to let me attend the one in June for free to get a feel for it and see the other cake people there, then if I want to do the one in Sept, I'll be more prepared for it. The cost is a little under $800. Does this sound like a lot to you guys or is this the norm. I'm thinking I'll get quite a bit of business, so it should make my money back at least. good luck.
Atan, then your first big hurdle is done!!
When I did the show, I turned the table sideways to allow for an open feel ... and didnt' leave the table in front of the booth as a barrier.
I had all of my cake pics in a power point slideshow running on my laptop ... this prevented my cake photos from being carried off and gave brides something to look at while they were waiting their turn to talk with me, plus more than one person could browse my pics at one time.
Giving out cake samples is almost a must. I did just one flavor ... white cake with white icing. cut in slightly less than 1" squares (a 1" square is really pretty good size!). They were in plastic cups with lids (found at GFS). I also handed out forks with them ... even tho' they were finger-food size, the forks were a big plus.
Have a trash can for the cups and forks. I used a cardboard box lined with a trash bag. Bring extra bags to change it out when it gets full.
I found this is NOT the time to set appointments with folks. They are browsing for info and they aren't carrying their calendar either. It's a short time to meet the bride ... my booth was pretty busy and I only had about 3-4 min to talk with each bride ... no time to compare calendars and set appts.
What I did was ask for their wedding date and email address, which I wrote down on a notepad. Even tho' I was getting the database from the show, there were some brides who just happened to show up at this show and weren't registered. plus I got some names for non-wedding events. Then when I got home, I emailed them my standard info packet with a "Thanks for visiting me at the show" message. I found that most brides were more comfortable with "can I send you info later this weekend?" rather than dealing with someone who was trying to push them into making an appt.
Be sure to walk around and meet the other vendors before the show opens ... great networking opportunity! During the show, I was referring a number of brides to a candle shop that had a booth out there. After the show, I made sure to stop by and let her know I sent a lot of biz her way!
There are pics of my booth set up on my flickr site (link below in signature)
Wow, you're incredible!
Great advice that I will definitely embrace as I embark on this venture. I like the idea about the powerpoint slides. Unforunately, I'm rather new so I don't have that many photos. Would a constant loop of just a handful of photos (including non-weddings cake photos) suffice? Or should I work on making cakes and taking pics ASAP?
Did you find that you got much business when you contacted the brides after the show?
I love your ideas about the samples, the Power Point slides, the booth layout, and the networking with other vendors..pretty much all of it!
If I'm not booking an appointment, what pertinent questions should I ask the bride?
Sorry if I sound lost...I am.
But, your comments really help!
I've done a few shows myself & the samples are an absolute must! Try to avoid chocolate because sometimes it can make a mess, especially on childrens fingers that might proceed to touch something on the next vendors booth. Another thing I think is a huge bonus to have at your table are at least 2 cake dummies to show your work (Much more of an impact than just photos). I think the slide show is a great idea but if you don't have a lot of photos, another idea is that you could take the few wedding oriented photos you have & set them in frames on the table. People are probably going to want to see a portfolio of wedding cakes though so I would probably work on getting a few together for the show. If you're reallly short on time, you could make one three tier cake and photograph it in a few different styles before you put it together in it's final form. For example.....frost the three tiers (fondant would probably work best for this type of thing & is also good because trust me....people WILL try to stick their fingers in the frosting!). Add a little decoration, set it up on pillars, take a picture. Take it off the pillars & stack it. Add a flower cascade & take another picture. Take the flowers off, add some more scrollwork, piping, etc & take another picture. You've just got three pictures of different cake styles for your portfolio out of one cake dummy.
Another thing I've found helpful is having something (anything) to pass out with your name on it. Most bridal shows are so busy & crazy that the brides are going from booth to booth & gathering a ton of literature to go through when they get home. If you have a flyer, coupon, magnet, etc. with your name on it, they will put it in their bag & be sure to see it as a reminder when they get home & go through everything they've collected.
I believe in low pressure sales. Even at my samplings, I open the session with "I view this as you are here looking for information, so I'm not looking for a decision, a committment or a check today."
A bride would walk up to the booth and I'd hand them a cup of cake with a fork. "Hi! I'm debi, Here's a sample of our cake........ are you shopping for just cake or do you need food also?" (I also do catering) I ask them for their date and how many people they are planning. A few seconds of chit chat while they ooh-ahh over the cake and point out the cakes they like from the display. If it's a good date (i.e. NOT june 7th of this year!), then I ask "Would you like me to send you via email our information packet?" then I wrote down their name/email/date on a notepad.
I think the hardest part of doing this (especially if it's your first time at a trade show environment ..... I spent YEARS in corporate america working industry trade shows!) is doing everything in a smooth action before the person even knows they are being handled info. I pick up the cake and fork without even looking at the cake containers ... looking the bride right in the eye while saying, "Here's a sample of our cakes.....when's your wedding date?" Having everything at hand's reach so you can pick up a card or a flyer without breaking stride, without breaking eye contact, without stopping in the middle of your conversation. Your arms are on auto-pilot while you are talking ... before they have any idea, they have a piece of cake and a flyer in their hands!
I could be talking to Bride A and handing cake to Bride B without ever breaking sentence or eye contact with Bride A. This keeps bride B in the booth area, eating cake, while I finish talking to bride A.
The bulk of brides are not going to book everything within days of a bridal show. Keep in mind that they are Information Gathering at this point. The show I did was in early February .... over half of the wedding dates on the database were more than 6 months out. I just booked one this past week .... almost 3 months after the show.
I also think .... and I'd love to see other opinions/experiences on this ..... that small town brides don't tend to book as early as those in larger cities. This show I did was in my small home town. Logistically, there's not as much competition for the reception room at the local hotel or the Knights of Columbus in a small town as there would be in a larger city. Fewer brides ... ergo fewer folks wanting the same services on the same day. So there's not as big a push for the smaller town brides to get things done a year or more in advance.
Brides are in your booth for literally seconds .... so having just a few photos will be fine, looping thru the program. No one stood there long enough to look at all of my photos. I could have had only 12 pics and it would have worked just fine.
I offer these observations so you dont' stress if your phone doesn't ring off the hook within hours of the close of the show. Relax. Wait it out. Brides picked up a LOT of info at the show ... they need to sort it out before they start making their phone calls.
My cost for doing that small show was around $300, including the samples and the flyers. I've booked over $5000 in business from that show. To be honest, I didnt' expect to book that much .... my first time in a show, small town, 75 miles away. But evidently we impressed enough folks for them to be willing to drive to Indpls to order their cake!
lovetofrost, cost is relevent to the size of the show. This show had less than 100 registered brides. I signed up for another show this past December (blizzard forced me to cancel showing up) that was in the $300 range with about 300 registered brides. BUT ..... the big bridal show at the convention center was in the $3000 range with THOUSANDS of registered brides. While that one had great potential, I just didn't have $3000 to spend then.
awesome. I'd like to see you in action at one your bridal show booths....sounds like you have it down to a science. But, you're right, everything has to be organized and ready to go because you only have a few seconds with that bride.
Again great information....I'm going to take it all in and process it. I have lot to do. The bridal show is July 19th.
Another thing I've found helpful is having something (anything) to pass out with your name on it. .....If you have a flyer, coupon, magnet, etc. with your name on it, they will put it in their bag & be sure to see it as a reminder when they get home & go through everything they've collected.
The magnets are a good idea. I found, at a sign shop, a pack of magnets cut to to the size of biz cards. Peel off the paper backing and attach your biz card. These are flying out of my shop door and I'm SO sorry I didnt' have them at the bridal show! It won't get lost if it's on the refrigerator door! YOu can bet I'll have them at the NEXT show!! I'm handing out biz cards anyway ... might as well hand them one they can attach to the 'frig!!
I agree about the samples, an absolute must! I usually bring a couple of flavors in case there's something someone doesn't like. Also definately bring at least a couple of decorated dummies. Make sure they are a design that you won't mind doing several times, because some girls are very visual and they will decide something they like just because they can't envision anything else. Also have some cards and price books or something they can take. The magnets are a good idea, I've done those a few times and they go over better than the pens. There are a lot of companies that will print those for you probably cheaper than using cards and the magnet blanks. I always take my portfolios and lay them out, most girls take a quick look, but as someone else mentioned, they move through pretty quickly. I do take my calender with me, just so if they ask if I'm available on a certain day, I can look and tell them for sure. I don't take any money at a show, it's just too hectic. Other than that, all I can tell you is smile, smile, smile and make eye contact. People will come and talk to you if you look them in the eye and look friendly! If you act like you are confident, people will have confidence in you!
I used Vistaprint.com for some postcards with photos and my logo adn info on them. They were a big hit. I did one of the big shows in April. I have only gotten one order from that event. Not sure if I didne't work the crowd well enough or if I'm just being impatient. I did samples on the spot and samples to go. They were a bonus too because so many of them could not eat another bite after grazing all day.
My booth is pictured below. I did a lot of dummies, but I'm just a bit crazy too.
If you do participate in a show, I think it's a good idea to always ask brides when they call "where did you hear about me". That way, you will know if the show pays off for you.
Definately have display dummy cakes. Offer samples... keep it simple for elegant. If you have pics of your work, that's always a good thing to bring along, too.
Doing the bridal show has helped me a ton. The first bridal show I did was Aug 2007. Just one cake I booked from that showed paid for the entire thing. I did the show this past Jan. I am a home based business so I expected to grow more slowly that a store front. Even though my business has been "open" for a little over a year I don't feel that way. Have a variety of display cakes. It draws the brides into the booth. I too have my booth open for brides to walk in. I used mini cupcakes for my samples which the brides loved. Also I just had some oversized postcards made and I will be handing them out at the next bridal show. Bring someone to help you. My SIL and MIL came to the last show and they were a god send. I didn't even have time to pee I was so busy. I always ask a bride where they got my name from so I can see how my advertising is paying off.