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What I Learned at My First Bridal Expo

Full disclosure, this blog post may not be for you! I’m taking a slight tangent from my normal blogging topics of “wedding planning tips” and featured photo sessions. Today’s topic is 80% marketing strategy and 20% wedding-related. If you love marketing, buckle up and get ready to nerd out with me. If you don’t, maybe just skim or skip.

Most of you know by now that 2020 is my first wedding season as a full-time wedding photographer! It’s exciting yet terrifying to call my dream job a reality, and God has already more than provided! 2020 is shaping up to be my best and busiest season yet (and we’re not even done with the booking season!).

Going full-time in 2019 and moving to a new market meant that I needed to invest in advertising. And that I did (gotta put that BA in marketing to good use!). My techniques included everything from overhauling my website and running digital ads to exhibiting at the Wichita Bridal Expo. And that brings me to the focus of this post!

The bridal expo was the second weekend of January and proved to be insanely fruitful. I was honestly surprised, especially given that it was my first time ever attending, much less exhibiting, at a bridal expo. Here are my top 5 takeaways!


TREAT THE EXPO LIKE THE SHOPPING EXPERIENCE IT IS.

Keep the example below in mind, as it will bring together the subsequent points:

  • The Bridal Expo is a mall
  • Attendees are shoppers
  • Vendors are the staff at individual stores
  • Booths are the storefront (ex: mannequins or the “SALE” sign) that gets customers in the door
  • Booth content needs to be engaging, reassuring and move shoppers towards buying (AKA guiding the consumer towards buying)
  • Pitch should communicate value and reinforce booth content
  • End with a call to action and clear, actionable next steps (who wants to exert energy figuring out how to buy what’s being sold?)

DIFFERENTIATE FROM THE COMPETITION.
  • Advertise ahead of time. How often do you end up at Target because of their ads in the Sunday newspaper? This is the same thing. If you can help the shopper to have a positive impression of who you are + what you’re selling PRIOR to when they want to buy it, you’re going to go far! I had at least 10 brides tell me that they came specifically to my booth to meet me because they follow me on social media or they saw my digital ads (which I started running the last week of November for the mid-January show).

  • Aesthetic is important! Your display doesn’t need to be some crazy elaborate thing, but it DOES need to (1) be consistent with your brand and (2) be attention grabbing + inviting. I used a while slatwall, bright + bold images, and decor elements from the tv show FRIENDS to achieve this and it went SO WELL. My booth was packed with more couples than I could talk to for the majority of the expo.

  • Channel that charisma. Making yourself approachable + easy to talk to will go far. The ingredients needed to make the secret sauce of in-person sales work are pretty obvious: welcoming body language + sincere conversation + relatable content. Also, make your priority listening and communicating value (AKA figuring out their pain point and sincerely helping them solve it). Talk to them, not at them.

PLAN DAT STRATEGY
  • Set a goal, whether it be bookings or a $ amount. I set two:
    1. Book 5 weddings
    2. Network with wedding vendors
  • Create a game plan for how you’re going to achieve that goal. Showing up with a nice booth isn’t enough. How are you going to communicate value? Are you going to sweeten the deal? How are you going to create a sense of urgency? Here’s how I did:

    1. COMMUNICATE VALUE: I created a “what to expect” rack card that I used as talking points. It reiterated value with points on client resources, thorough communication, timeline consultation, posing process (and how it won’t be awkward!), among other things. I also linked to a QR code that took them straight to my website + social media because #easybutton.

    2. SWEETEN THE DEAL: Host a giveaway (I did an engagement giveaway).

    3. SENSE OF URGENCY: Offered discount pricing for one week after the show.


DON’T FORGET, YOU ARE YOUR BRAND.

Use this to your advantage! If your brand is your reputation (what you’re known for), leverage it. Decorate with elements of your office (I used my letterboard and vintage film cameras). Your strengths should be spelled out by your clients in your reviews, so weave them into your conversation. Select images that represent the experience you bring. Set yourself up for success!


MAKE IT ABOUT THEM.

I’m ending with the most important takeaway: have a mindset of giving over receiving. Brittani Hon of Hustle + Flow is one of my favorite business educators, and she preaches this! Making this mental shift has paid dividends in my business. Here’s how I implemented this into the bridal expo:

  • Be eager to help, however you can. Whether it be with vendors or a brides, listen to + identify their pain points and offer a solution.

  • LISTEN. If you rearrange the letters in “listen,” you can spell “silent.” You can’t listen well if you’re talking. People will tell you what they want, you just have to ask.

  • Make them feel valued and heard. People tend to buy in response to how they feel, not necessarily what they think.

  • Share your knowledge. It’s easy to forget that we’re experts, and that we’re hired for our expertise! For example, educate them on questions to ask when looking at other photographers, such as:
    1. How many images are included with the service?
    2. What does your editing process look like?
    3. Do you have a backup plan for equipment failure? Can you reassure me that I’ll receive my wedding photos?

TO WRAP UP…


You can advertise + strategize all day, but you can never replace the power of face to face. I learned through this expo that lots of folks in the Wichita-area had seen my digital ads and made a point of coming to my booth at the expo. Sure, they had an initial impression of me and were interested, but they weren’t ready to book until they met me. That was a great reminder of how important face to face conversations are and the vital role that confidence and competence play in forming, and ultimately growing, a brand.

next one

Trevor + Katie // Flint Hills Engagement Session