Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hints For a More Successful Bridal Fair Experience

If you're a wedding photographer, odds are you've spent your fair share of time at bridal fairs and expos. This is a busy time of year for events such as these; while they can be great events for marketing and displaying your product, they can also work against you if you aren't prepared. Worse yet, you risk damaging your image and reputation if your attitude is too casual.

Long ago, I decided that if I was going to invest the money, time and effort into doing these events, I was going to get the most bang for my marketing dollar. Time and money are too precious to waste.

While you need to make your table or booth appear inviting, simply having a few large photographs or a slideshow playing isn't going to make you stand out from the other photographers in the show. You need to do both some advance work as well as follow-up.

Here are five simple (yet important) tips about getting the most from your bridal fair marketing investment:

   1.  Do your homework. Check the vendor list in advance. See which photographers will be displaying, as well as other vendors. If you have (or would like to have) a partner relationship with the vendors in attendance, see if you can trade table space for a small display. For example, if you have photographed at a specific venue, printing a small quantity of marketing pieces featuring images from that venue could work in your favor. I generally give the vendor 8-10 of these shortly after the wedding. The card may be a small press card (4x5, 5x7) featuring your images of their work. (Of course, you've discreetly placed a photo credit along the edge of the card; something like © David Grupa Portrait - The vendor now has a professionally-designed card with their work in-hand; I always attach a little note that says "how much I enjoyed working with them and hope to again soon. Please accept these marketing cards with my compliments."

Invariably, they'll want more cards. Since they're handing out samples of my work for me, I supply them at a "preferred vendor rate". You get referrals, they get great images. Everyone wins.

If you need something to spruce up your table or booth, check with vendors who do decorating or floral arrangements. You may be able to work a deal where you can have a fresh arrangement or decor from that vendor (along with a sign, crediting that vendor's work) on your table. Again, offer to give them images from weddings you've photographed where they have also worked.

   2.  Control your environment. If possible, set up your booth or table so that it allows prospective clients to come in and interact. Too often, the table becomes a barrier between you and a bride. I like to set up my images on easels along the sides and pull the table to the back wall. This way, brides can "come in" to your space. It also maximizes the space available and provides the illusion of a larger booth.

   3.  GET RID OF THE CHAIRS! There is nothing that makes a vendor look completely uninterested as a booth at an event where the vendor is sitting behind a table. Stand. Interact. If possible, put the chairs in a position where prospective couple can sit and view your work. Get off your tail and look excited to be meeting new clients.

Also, keep any food, drink, snacks, etc. out of view. A half-eaten sandwich or partial bottle of soda just looks sloppy and unprofessional.

   4.  Network. When traffic slows and you are able to walk away from your table, use the time to speak with other vendors who appeal to the same type of client with whom you wish to work. Trade brochures, build a referral list with other businesses. Even though a particular person may not be in a position where they refer prospective weddings your way, they may have other connections which will prove valuable. Talk. Smile. Exchange cards and info.

DO NOT become a clock-watcher. While I realize these events can consume a good portion of the day, don't be one of those idle people standing along the sideline muttering "45 minutes left" to other merchants. You paid for this time, so use it wisely.

   5.  Follow up. Many shows supply you with a list of registered attendees, along with their dates and contact info. A follow-up message via USPS or email is often an effective method of spurring a potential client to action. If you choose the email route, design an attractive piece using a bulk email program such as iContact. Using a program such as this will also allow you to track when the email is opened, as well as any embedded links that were clicked on.

Do the same with the vendors you met; drop them a note and a small stack of marketing pieces or business cards. Better yet, schedule a visit and offer to photograph their site in exchange for a small display in their sales area.

Of course, the main thing is to do something. Doing nothing simply pushes you to the back of the pack where you'll be soon forgotten.
Whatever you do, make sure you do it in a timely fashion while your name is still fresh in the minds of your prospects.

Good luck - happy marketing!

- David Grupa

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