What are your thoughts on bridal fairs/exhibitions? Are they worth the investment? If so, which aspects would you consider the most important to the potential bride/client? I would like to invest my money wisely if I commit to having a booth space. (ex. How elaborate should the floral display be? What marketing materials should I provide to ensure they remember my business?)
Based on the advice of some other well-trusted wedding professionals, I decided day one not to invest in bridal fairs. I run a small studio; doing no more than one event per day. Bridal fairs are more suited for large studios that are able to book multiple events for the prime wedding dates. I’ve also tried really hard to find my clients through more organic means; friends of friends and referrals – I’m looking for a very specific person who will value local flowers and my design and sourcing philosophy, and the bridal market isn’t where I can best find those people.
Clare Day (Clare Day Flowers)
Every florist has experimented with wedding fairs and expos, and for some, they are a really good conduit for potential work. My own experience is that they can be very expensive for a floral designer, given how much we need to spend in raw materials to make a display with impact. Photographers bring their books and some display materials, which they can use again and again, but that’s just not an option for cut flowers!
Being a good salesperson is its own mystical art form, and not one which often sits well with creative types like myself. I’ve learnt every other aspect of running a business and disciplined myself in the dark arts of marketing, but chasing a sale face to face will just be one of those skills I won’t get. And why would I need to? Social media, the blogosphere and e-marketing are by far and away the most powerful tools for the floral designer. Images of your work taken by professional photographers, at beautiful venues, with stunning lighting… a portfolio is a powerful thing, and people can really see your breadth and style when there are lots of images to see.
My advice for those who choose this route – visit the venue before you book and commit your money, as the setting and lighting, which you may need to provide, really changes how the flowers look and feel. Be restrained as to how much you are planning to spend and stick to it, costs spiral very easily when you want to make an elaborate display. Spell out for yourself what you want to achieve for your effort/money and go for it. Get some help… expos are exhausting and you’ll need someone to boost you, bring you tea, hold the fort while you take and break, and help give out info and details. Anyone who takes your card, leaflet etc. will look you up online at a later date, so make sure your website reflects what they saw on the day.
Jo Rodwell (Jo Flowers)
I would advise being very careful with any bridal fairs/expos. In my experience, most are a complete waste of money and time. Most are very generic and only attract “window shoppers” who want the grab bag at the door and whatever freebies all the vendors are handing out. I would say avoid any show with more than 50 vendors. There are a few shows that are popping up now that are smaller and more dynamic in a way that actually engages couples in hiring the vendors at the show. We did one show in particular for a few years with some solid success. I think it is a great way to get yourself launched into weddings if you haven’t done them before. But now, as an established wedding florist with a strong reputation, we no longer attend any wedding shows. We do, however, attend open houses at some of our favorite venues and set up a table there. We find this is a much more targeted way of marketing our services since the couples that attend are usually getting married at that venue.
If you do a show, regardless of size, I would suggest not going too full throttle with fresh florals. In my experience, couples have sensory overload at these events and aren’t going to remember your display a lot of times. You do need flowers to make it evident you are a florist (and make sure you have a good sign!), but don’t spend $5,000 on decking out the display. Instead, focus on talking to the couples. Don’t hide behind your booth. Stand out front and try to talk to everyone walking by. Have a stack of business cards in your hand. If you can make a personal connection at all, you’ll have a far better shot at hearing from them again.
Jennie Love (Love ‘n Fresh Flowers)
I have never personally participated in a bridal fair or exhibition. Unfortunately there don’t seem to be any within my immediate area that appeal to my aesthetic/target audience. Social media is free and has proven so powerful, considering the investment involved, I would find it hard to believe that a bridal fair would yield much better results… but that is coming from someone who has never had a booth.
Emily Avenson (Fleuropean)
Unfortunately, in my area, the bridal expos are not that appealing. I’ve attended quite a few, and even though I have made connections, and secured weddings, the clients tend to be price shopping, and the whole experience seems impersonal. I haven’t participated in one in five years, instead focusing my marketing efforts on maintaining vendor relationships, getting my work published, and engaging on social media. I find these are the 3 ways that brides find me.
For those that do have good wedding expos in their area, I’d say focus on one complete look- a tablescape that you love, that really speaks to your aesthetic.
Make a bouquet or two to talk about, and a few wow pieces to draw brides in. A floral fascinator or necklace, perhaps?
Susan McLeary (Passionflower)
To my experience yes, fairs are worth the investment as long as you are sure that the fair will attract the kind of customers you are looking for as not all fairs attract the same public… In the past, I have rather focused on small scale but high level fairs and it did pay off. First of all because it gives you the opportunity to meet couples looking for vendors, but also because it allows you to meet other wedding professionals and networking is as (if not more) important in that business.
In terms of booth space, it could be a good idea to go and visit the fairs you are planning to exhibit at as a simple visitor before committing to them just to make sure they are the right fit for you and to see what kind of other professionals display. Then create something that is totally you for the floral decoration and the flyer/cards… Make sure that what you will show is unique and true to your style, think about flowers but not only… think style, objects, anything that will make your booth attractive to the customers you are targeting.
In the last fair I took part in January, I had the possibility to decorate a table with two different themes in collaboration with an event designer. It’s been a great experience! (see pictures below). As for marketing material, usually I don’t have much paper to give away during the fairs, I only have my visitor cards that are distributed with some nice looking and “true to my style goodies” (for example a small tube full of “happiness seeds” with a recipe to grow them…). Finally, I do not give prices or sign contracts during fairs. I feel they are not the right place for that. I prefer to take e-mail addresses or phone numbers of people really interested and meet them at a later date to prepare a real “unique” project for them.
Laetitia Mayor (Floresie)