Bridal Show - Really Worth The Expense & Effort?

Business By cakesdivine Updated 2 Dec 2008 , 6:05pm by CakesByJen2

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cakesdivine Posted 30 Nov 2008 , 2:33pm
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Okay, don't beat me up over this...BUT. I have done 3 bridal expos, two of which didn't allow samples, and I even won best cake design at one of them, and the one that allowed samples people were flocking to my booth to get them and commenting on how wonderful the cake was..SO you would think I would have had a ton of bookings, I also offered a discount to anyone who mentioned they met me a the bridal expo. I even do a raffle to give away a free wedding cake ($200 max) to get leads. I have never had enough business generated from the shows to even break even on the expense of the show. I have heard this same thing from other decorators/bakeries as well so I know it isn't just me.

I would love to hear from some of you that do these religiously. Do you keep track of how much business you are getting from these shows vs. the expense of these shows? And can you clue me in on what you are doing that is netting you those brides?

12 replies
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indydebi Posted 30 Nov 2008 , 3:16pm
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How large are the shows and how many / what kind of other cake decorators are there? Larger shows, of course, cost more, but it should be balanced with more brides showing up.

who sponsors the shows and how are they advertised? I find that PWG (Perfect Wedding Guide) shows are well attended and are advertised very well. One wedding vendor told me to skip the big convention center show (3000+ brides) and do the PWG show instead (only 800+ brides) because he found he got way more business from the 800 bride show than he did the 3000 bride show. He felt he got lost in the competition in the convention center.

Most importantly, how do you deal with the brides when they are in your booth? Are you too pushy and try to get a booking then and there .... or are you too laid back and let them "just look"? It's a fine line, especially when you have just seconds to deal with each one, and you want to be confident but not forward, easy going, but not laid back.

Before the show, do you walk around and meet-n-greet the other vendors? Sometimes THIS is your most valuable connection, not the brides. I also make sure I send brides to other vendors' booths and tell them "be sure to tell them Debi at Cater It Simple told you to stop by". Getting to know the other vendors so you become one of their referrals is very very valuable.

So far, I've recouped more than my investment in any bridal show. I'm not sure I would be in a show that didn't permit cake samples .... I think brides expect that and to not permit it (unless it's some local ordinance or some other unavoidable reason) is short changing the brides, which is a red flag against the organizers to start with.

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Kiddiekakes Posted 30 Nov 2008 , 3:19pm
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Yes..I have heard the same thing..Around here there is really only 2 large Bridal Shows which come right after Christmas in January.They charge as much as $1000.00 a booth but you can pretty much do whatever you want and they alott you a fairly large area.Serve samples,decorate your area up fancy,Giveaways,hand out business phamplets etc...I guess all I can say is do your area up really fancy and professional.Have several dummy cakes to show...lots of material to hand out...You don't necessarily have to hand out samples but be on hand to answer questions etc..and just talk to the Brides and Grooms.When I was engaged and looking at cake decoraters at the bridal shows (Long before I did cakes)..I was more interested in the displays of a cake, Ease of talking to the actual owner/decorater....creativity/design and then of course when I decided on one ...a cake tasting!! Sometimes samples given out at the shows are just a "Free for all" because someone is hungry while walking by with no real interest in your business.Another inportant thing is checking around and seeing what is "IN" for the season/year.Designs change..colors come and you want to make sure you are up to date and then design your booth accordingly! I usually end up booking several weddings from the shows so in the end it was worth it but there have been years it has not! Hope this helps!!

Just reading Indydebis tips also are great!!

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mixinvixen Posted 30 Nov 2008 , 3:32pm
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i personally have not done a bridal show, but have planned for one when the time comes! icon_redface.gif i love going to the local shows here in nashville, like the southern womens show, the home shows, etc, and i can definitively say that if a table has samples laid out, i'm going to sample...i'd say most people are the same way. if you don't want your samples eaten up by the tire kickers of the world icon_redface.gificon_redface.gif , maybe you could move your samples to the back of the display, so the guests have to actually move through your display to get to them. that creates more of an intimate setting with intent, so a lot of people will pass right on by your station so they don't have to have face time with you.

am i making sense brain is so jumbled from all this turkey and pie...

what's my name....OH!...starla icon_cry.gificon_biggrin.gif

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Mac Posted 30 Nov 2008 , 3:41pm
post #5 of 13

I have been to many "shows" just to look around and get a feel for when the time comes for me to show at one. I have met alot of the cake people and have actually become good friends with them. We have collaborated on a couple of cakes.

We have 2 in our area...a new one offered by the University here that is limiting the number of each "business" in that area (only so many cakers are allowed, and so many caterers, so many wedding planners, etc....). When attending one over the years, I have seen the attendance number decline and the price of the booth is $600 PLUS the price of your ad in the newspaper. The new one is $425 so I opted for that one. New--fresh, so I am hoping that the attendance will be better.

As for advertising...I have an 1/8th page ad in a local bridal magazine called "The Wedded Bliss". They showcase local weddings. I had very little response or mention of my ad when I had a traditional wedding cake in the ad. I changed it to the "Caddy Wampus" cake (even tho' it was a BD cake) and the response has increases. Not all book with me but just the increase in the calls make me feel like the ad was worth it. I am upgrading to 1/4th page in January.

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cakesdivine Posted 30 Nov 2008 , 4:01pm
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It was in Houston so very large, one PWG sponsored the other not but usually larger than the one offered by the PWG. My booth was decked out each time, I spent not only the booth rental space of over $1000 but about an additional $2000 on brochures, biz cards, electricity costs, and decor.

The one funny thing is that a bride called me, and raved about a cake she saw at the expo that I did, as she began explaining which one it was it became very obvious to me that she was talking about someone elses design, not mine! So I thanked her for her interest, but informed her that the cake she described was not my design, and asked her to visit my website to see my designs. I did get her business, but it is just that brides are so overwhelmed by all the vendors they are encountering that many times you get lost in the crowd so to speak.

My main background is in entertainment, so I am very open and friendly with all the potential clients. I have no problems speaking in public, and do so often in my other field of expertise. I bring my sister and my oldest daughter with me to assist, and they are just as at ease with conversing with potential clients, as they too are in the entertainment industry. I am one of those people that can sit on a bus or plane and the stranger next to me will start spilling their guts about their life story, then they will say, "you are so nice, I have never been that open with a stranger before" or something along those lines. So I don't think it is my approach to the potential client. I really think it is the samething your friend stated about the larger shows and getting lost in the competition. I have only done 3 shows but it isn't like you get the same brides every year, it is always a new crop so the old advertising addage of do your advertising consistantly for at least 6 reps I don't think will apply here. It isn't about brand recognition at a bridal show. I mean the amount of money it costs to do them is almost my entire annual advertising budget so I'm not getting alot of bang for my buck so to speak. I also follow up on the leads I collect by sending a little postcard thanking them for visiting my booth, and reminding them of the discount offered if they bring back the postcard or mention they attended the bridal show. And yes I network with the other vendors, I do that like crazy!

I'm not saying I don't get any business from them because I do, it is just so minimal and when I add up the cost of the show vs. the profit from the orders generated from them it just doesn't add up. Also, alot of brides had told me that they had heard about my cakes, or were at a wedding that had mine and were planning to contact me anyway, but were glad to see me at the expo to start the process.

I am now in a very rural area (the Texas Hill Country - Canyon Lake to be exact). I actually am thinking about producing a show up here myself as San Antonio & Austin are really too far away, only problem is most of the brides that get married up here are from Houston! I might go back & do a Houston one again to specifically target those brides that are doing destination weddings in the Hill Country. I might actually fair better since I would be the only cake designer there from the Hill Country. icon_wink.gif

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leah_s Posted 30 Nov 2008 , 4:49pm
post #7 of 13

We have so many bridal shows here that it's crazy. Literally every weekend from the beg of January thru the end of Feb. Sometimes two shows per weekend.

I am nearly half booked for '09 and have decided not to do the bridal show circuit this year. I will do one show, possibly a second, but no more. In past years I'd do up to 6 shows. I track where the brides come from and it's just not from having seen me at a show.

Having said that, there are TWO valuable things you should plan on getting from the show.

1) As Indy said, you develop relationships with vendors. At the end of the show, I walk thru the aisles, giving away the last of the cake samples to vendors and a biz card, of course.

2) The bride info list. The show should be providing you with a list of the brides who attended the show - names, addresses and emails. Your marketing campaign takes over from there.

But don't expect to book cakes or even many tasting appointments at the show. You have maybe - maybe 30 seconds to talk to a bride. You're doing the show to get her contact info and the show promoter should be providing that to you.

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CakeForte Posted 2 Dec 2008 , 1:58am
post #8 of 13

I agree w/ you 100% cakesdivine. I get a lot of interest and feedback, but not actual booking to where it makes up the cost of the show and expenses.

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CakesByJen2 Posted 2 Dec 2008 , 1:12pm
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It has been a few years since I was doing cakes full-time, but I found doing the bridal shows essential for getting started. I did my first show in 2000, and at that time it was the only larger show in my area, and the booth fee was only $400. Over the next month I got a lot of calls and booked quite a few orders. It was not enough to be full-time, but I was working from home, so that was okay. I had a small booth, with 2 display cakes, gave out sample of several different flavors. There was only 1 or 2 other cake people there, and my displays and samples were definitely better. Another big advantage was that sine the brides got to sample several flavors at the show, I very rarely needed to have samples for my consultations.

The next couple of years I expanded my display a bit, and I booked even more than the first year. After the third year, I had to take time off after having a baby, but I still got enough calls from word-of-mouth that I could have done a fair amount of business if I had wanted to.

Now, there are several shows, which i think reduces the effectiveness of any of them, and the booth fees have gotten higher. That being said, I think one would still need to do shows to get established, then perhaps after a couple of years or so, you could drop to doing one every other year, just to keep your name out there, and keep networking with other vendors. I think it's just a matter of figuring out which shows would give you the most bang for your buck, and it's probably going to be a mid-sized show, not too small, but not one of the ginormous shows where brides are just going to be totally overwhelmed by the shear number of booths. I like the idea of shows that limit the number of each type of vendor so there's enough competetion to compare, but not get lost. I would not do a show that did not allow samples, either. Talk to other wedding vendors in your area about which shows they do and what their results have been.

Good Luck!

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cakesdivine Posted 2 Dec 2008 , 4:07pm
post #10 of 13

Right, the ones in Houston are HUGE! over 2000 vendors usually and usually 50 or more cake businesses. Now I am in a very rural area that doesn't seem to have a show except in Austin or San Antonio and that isn't truly where I want to market as I sit between them further North.

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Kitagrl Posted 2 Dec 2008 , 4:13pm
post #11 of 13

So far I have only done one...and was going to do a second but the timing was wrong. Will do one in March.

I only do them if they are cheaper...can't afford the $400 ones.

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CakesByJen2 Posted 2 Dec 2008 , 6:05pm
post #12 of 13
Originally Posted by cakesdivine

Right, the ones in Houston are HUGE! over 2000 vendors usually and usually 50 or more cake businesses. Now I am in a very rural area that doesn't seem to have a show except in Austin or San Antonio and that isn't truly where I want to market as I sit between them further North.

Yikes!! That IS huge! I wouldn't want to do a show that big. The "big" show I did would be tiny compared to that! I'm not sure how many vendors, but there were only 2 or 3 cake people, about 300-400 brides that registered. That show has since folded (organizer passed away) and replaced by a bigger show that I don't care for. The booth fees are much higher ($1000, I think), but the attendance is not that much more, and they charge admission, which I don't like. A florist I recommend used to do the same show I did, and she now does a slightly smaller one at a hotel, and is happy with it. There's probably only 2 or 3 of any type vendor, and not so many people, and cheaper booth fees. More brides doesn't necessarily mean more orders. Sometimes the smaller shows are better because even though there are fewer potential customers, you have more time to spend with them, so more likely to get their interest.

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CakesByJen2 Posted 2 Dec 2008 , 6:05pm
post #13 of 13
Originally Posted by cakesdivine

Right, the ones in Houston are HUGE! over 2000 vendors usually and usually 50 or more cake businesses. Now I am in a very rural area that doesn't seem to have a show except in Austin or San Antonio and that isn't truly where I want to market as I sit between them further North.

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