So I posted this thread a little while back http://cakecentral.com/t/766618/no-order-no-business-id-appreciate-any-help/30 and have been so grateful for the replies
Here is my latest asessment:
Expos - extremely pricey!!! with no promise of business. When to do them? Now January. I found most engagements happen from Thanksgiving thru New Years & some on Valentines. So this is when brides start shopping.
Online directories - the knot, wedding wire. Moderately priced. Free listings are good for reviews from your clients. Also helps increase visibility, if you do the paid options. Doing this for a short period of time does not pay because you don't want to be there one month and then gone the next so I would advise at least a year (I could be wrong on this but I imagine most brides take 12-16 months to plan).
Websites - Do what you can. And while it should reflect you - it should also reflect what you do. What I mean is, find a happy medium that allows your clients to see you and 'Themselves'. In my case I have to put out more bridal cake pics and tone down (not eliminate) my 'fun' voice.
Most important is to be seen, invest in SEO and perhaps AdWords.
Local venues - I am working on this. I have just finished the brochure and have moved into the printing. Then 'Blanket all the venues!' But try to get in via Networking first - cold calling or showing up will get you 'eye rolls'.
Shoppes - I managed to get into 2 dress shops and leave a small photo album but brochures will soon replace these. Bring the 'look book' to the appointment ;)
Charities - Do your best to manage them. There are no shortages so focus on those that target your market and limit what you do. I only do mini cupcakes. One non-profit wanted it custom so I asked for ingredient costs and donated the labor. Then there is Icing Smiles and my heart can't say no. At least their Facebook gets you some exposure.
I've miles and miles to go but hope that helps... now to start a blog ;) Wish I was kidding but its important to get your website seen (another thing I've learned)...