How to prepare for a wedding expo – and stand out from the crowd!
Imagine being inundated by hundreds of inspiration-seeking, information-gathering brides-to-be – and not being prepared for it? That’s what happens to so many wedding vendors who sign up for a spot at a wedding expo, then don’t know what to do next, but that needn’t be the case.
While digital advertising is a highly effective and affordable means of attracting new customers, many of us in the wedding industry, Easy Weddings included, like to get out and meet our customers and brides, but, if there’s anything we’ve learned it’s that you MUST plan and be prepared for all sorts of questions and scenarios!
Double check what’s included in your exhibitor package. The price of hiring tables and chairs may seem like an unnecessary expense when you can just BYO, but remember – you’ve already got six trips to the car park ahead, just as many elevator rides and one domestic-grade trolley to carry the load. If you’ve got more on your plate than hands in your team, it may be worth the extra expense.
Find out the policy on things like lighting, power points and electricity boards – electrical equipment typically needs to be tagged and approved before doors open, so don’t go sneaking lamps in and risk having them removed half way through a hair and makeup demonstration.
“Remember to ask about getting power to your stand and internet access,” says Adrian Christian, Easy Weddings Commercial Director, who is in charge of our Expo presences and has clocked up many hundreds at Easy Weddings’ expo stands. “Sometimes Wi-Fi may be free depending on the venue, but with hundreds of people on the same network, you don’t want it dropping out in the middle of your online portfolio viewing…It pays to have backup!”
Before you get carried away with what type of messaline satin drape you’ll use to cover the tables, have a serious think about why you’re actually exhibiting; who are you hoping to meet, how are you going to attract this type of customer and what are you hoping to do with them? Create a profile of your ideal client, including their wedding fears and dreams, and how your business can help solve their problems and address their needs.
Develop some qualifying questions to help differentiate ideal customers from less likely buyers. “Your time is best spent with someone whose wedding date you are actually available for,” says Adrian. “So, make sure prospects are a good fit before over-investing your time and energy.”
HOT TIP: Beware the curse of first impressions! You don’t know who will or won’t be a customer, so never judge a book by its cover and treat all clients the same!
“Ensure you’ve got ample collateral for the duration of the event, including business cards and flyers and investigate bulk-buy promotional items for giveaways,” adds Adrian. “Think innovation: weddings are stressful – a pink stress ball with your logo could be just what the bride ordered!”
Your budget for promo stock may depend on the level of interaction required: will you be handing out branded candy to passing traffic, offering candles to newsletter subscribers, or gifting personalised wine to couples who book consultations? Whatever you choose, make sure it displays your business contact details!
HOT TIP: Place freebies inside or at the rear of your stand to encourage potential customers to come into your stand and engage in conversation.
Establish some key points you want to communicate to potential customers. Many encounters will be brief; if you’ve only got visitors’ attention for about 20 seconds, what are the three unique selling propositions or key points about your brand, product or service you want to communicate?
HOT TIP: Adrian suggests printing out the script and ensure all staff have memorised these key points before the expo. Quiz your team and experiment with different ways to work these messages into conversation naturally.
Invite existing prospects to visit you at the expo with the incentive of a special gift or discount, and let your social media followers know you’ll be exhibiting as well. Schedule in some time during the expo to drop in and introduce yourself to other local suppliers. Not only are there endless opportunities for cross promotions and joint ventures, but when clients ask for your expert recommendations, it helps to have a pool of trusted suppliers to refer them to.
Don’t be afraid to befriend competitors as this can, in fact, help both your businesses.
HOT TIP: Ensure staff wear name badges and aim to use visitors’ names at least once during your encounter. It’s a nice thing to do and your customers will appreciate it.
The name of the game is Lead Generation and the goal is to talk to as many people as possible.
There is a delicate balance between showing genuine interest in every single enquiry and spending too much time with one couple while ten others stroll past unnoticed. Have at least two staff in the stand at all times and aim to set meetings or consultations with prospects to follow up. This keeps you available to speak with as many people as possible.
Use promotional incentives or a giveaway like a night at fancy hotel to encourage people to hand over their contact details and send a follow up thank you email within two days of the expo.
HOT TIP: “Invite people to sign up to your newsletter using an iPad or laptop,” says Adrian who always ensures our expo stands are equipped with at least three (fully charged!) iPads or laptops.
“Handwriting can be a nightmare to decipher, and instant online signup through your website will save you hours of manual entry post-expo.”
All things going to plan, you’ll have back-to-back enquiries of enthusiastic prospects, so take plenty of water, refreshments, soothers and snacks to reduce the need to leave your stand.
“Remember that while you are there to sell, so is everybody else,’’ says Adrian. “Brides may be overwhelmed by facts and figures they’ll never remember, but they’ll always remember how you made them feel.”
Don’t let anybody leave your stand empty handed, stay all the way until the exhibition doors close and remember to follow up every single lead within 48 hours.
Have you had success (or learned some lessons) from attending a wedding trade show? We’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!