Bridal Show Exhibiting – Why or why not?

thumbs-up-brideThe second week of January is an ideal time for second guessing. Many bridal show producers are on a final push to fill their remaining booth space. Potential exhibitors may still be ‘on the fence’ about jumping in before the clock strikes midnight.

A Public Service Message?

Last evening, I read a blog post, penned by a Pennsylvania Wedding Planner, titled: Why your perfect wedding vendor might NOT be at the bridal show(s) you’re attending…

The post is politely written, praising many bridal shows, while simultaneously explaining why brides and grooms in their area likely won’t see them exhibiting.

The business owner-writer goes into great detail about the expenses involved of exhibiting, the difficulties of interacting with brides, and any number of issues which may limit the success of their business at a wedding show.

Justifying Our Own Point Of View

Whether we have success or failure in any marketing effort, we tend to project that outcome on our peers, regardless of their business context.

Listening to people’s opinions can be helpful, provided one understands their context and reasoning… and making sure you are clear on how it compares to your wants and needs.

Profit Potential Varies

The price for exhibiting in a given show (except for some add-on options) is the same for all businesses. However, the fees exhibitors charge their clients (and profit margins) varies widely. A venue might break-even on a single sale. A stationer might break-even on 7 sales.  And so on. When one is examining bridal show potential with another business, simple differences, such as these, make for apple and orange comparisons.

Ask A Bride How Much She Cares About Your Costs

… or your profitability, for that matter. You are far more likely to hear the words, “Can you match their price?” then “I want to make sure your earning a reasonable profit, working with me?

That is reality, but it misses the point.

Bridal Shows are not primarily for selling

They are for meeting brides and grooms, face to face, and setting appointments to have a thorough discussion about their needs, your services, and how the line up. AND THEN, ASK FOR THE ORDER. For some businesses, making sales at the show is just fine. For most wedding businesses, selling at the show is NOT the most effective of time.

Excuses Abound

  • There aren’t enough brides.
  • There are too many brides.
  • There are too many competitors, exhibiting in my category.
  • There aren’t enough businesses, exhibiting in my category.
  • I don’t make enough sales at the show.
  • The weather was bad during the last show.
  • …  add your excuse here…

Assess the situation, TODAY!

Ask yourself just a couple of questions:

  • Do I have unsold availability, particularly in the next 6-9 months?
  • Am I getting enough face time and appointments with brides?
  • Do I know the competitive situation for exhibitors in my category at upcoming shows? (Assume nothing – If you say, “My category is always packed,” you don’t really know. Ask the show producer what’s happening THIS season.
  • Disc jockeys. Florists. Limos, Bridal Gowns, Caterers, Live Music, Restaurants  – Are they sold to-the-max this season, or is there an opportunity.

You can’t win the Lottery, if you don’t enter!

(Snarky remark comes next) Position your mind and business for success. If you can’t rack up some appointments and sales at a winter bridal show, maybe it’s time to close up shop and go to work for Federal Express.

(Motivational thought comes now) Gather yourself, remember what’s exceptional about your product or service, refresh your staff on bridal show strategy, and get fired up!

Your competition doesn’t exist

For a day or two, ignore every direct and indirect competitor in your market, in the show, in the aisle. Focus on brides who haven’t purchased in your category, yet, AND MAKE APPOINTMENTS.

No excuses! Wishing you nothing but success!!

Andy Ebon - wedding marketing expert

Andy Ebon 
The Wedding Marketing Authority
The Wedding Marketing Blog

Pricing and service structure: Is it time for change?

value-for-moneyWedding professionals are often frustrated by brides and grooms don’t appreciate the value of their services. Ultimately, aside from ‘customer service,’ there are three major factors that come into play.

  • Hours of service
  • Price for product/service
  • The quality of the result

One problem is traditional wedding service pricing structure . Particularly for entertainment, photography, videography, pricing is quoted within the framework of ‘time in direct service with the client.’

Until I went through the process of being a groom, I never realized how much time a videographer or photographer spent, before and after the wedding, before presenting the finished work. 

While customary in the wedding industry, linking pricing only to face-to-face service at a wedding, or wedding and reception, drastically understates the total time of service. 

A bride doesn’t know how many hours it takes to edit one hour of raw video footage from one camera, It’s hard for her to understand why the price is $5000 or more, rather than $1000. Hours of work at a wedding and reception are a specific measure of your effort; however, grossly incomplete. The result is more subjective. Hours of shooting does not equal the value of your work.

It is not enough to show a prospect samples of your reel or portfolio photos and expect  understanding degree of difficulty. Shooting a sunset wedding, has a high degree of difficulty. If one doesn’t explain situational differences in equipment, lighting, skill level, etc., you are just hoping the prospect figures it out. Likely an unreasonable expectation.

A Disc Jockey service or Live Band prices itself for a specific number of  performance hours. Travel and set up are typically not mentioned not in discussion or noted in an agreement (unless the event is outside the local market area).

What effect might it have were proposals and agreements included a ‘simple informational statement’ indicating a summary of unseen work, associated with your event service, not occurring during the reception time frame?

Effective service implementation, meeting or exceeding client expectations, includes explaining the total scope of your service, at some level.

  • Maybe this approach should become an industry-wide standard for wedding marketers?
  • What would change in the process of selling if every prospect understood you total measure of service, and its impact on a successful outcome?

I know, I’m turning wedding industry pricing and selling approach on its ear. Maybe it’s time we do that.

I invite your specific comments, and how you think this might apply within your slice of the wedding industry.

Andy Ebon - wedding marketing expert

Andy Ebon
Wedding Marketing Expert
The Wedding Marketing Blog

Rolling the dice on price: Sales process strategies that work

selling sales processToday, major complaints of wedding industry business people, about the selling process, is not much different from 35 years ago.

The short list

  • I can’t seem to get these people on the phone.
  • They either have no budget or a dollar amount, based on nothing.
  • It seems the greatest weight of their decision is price-based. Nothing else.

Why people don’t call

The reasons have changed, but the problem is still the same. Short of a face-to-face appointment, the sales process works more effectively, in a real-time conversation, than an email ping-pong match.

It was, and still is true that many prospects adverse to ‘being sold’. If they are insecure about their knowledge on any given option, they will tend to create a buffer, so as to feel less intimidated, or safe.

Understanding ‘conversation strategy in email’ is a full-blown seminar, but suffice it to say, today’s bride is most comfortable in text and emailing. She views that as a conversation. It is up to you to learn how communicate with her, in her comfort zone, not yours… ultimately, turning the exchange into a phone appointment, Skype chat, or a face-to-face meeting.

The Fantasy of the Word ‘Budget’

Rolling the dice on priceIn your experience, when a bride uses he word budget, she mean…

  • budget quantitative expression of a plan for a defined period of time.
  • A number on a dart board, hit by a dart… usually blindfolded.
  • What her sister paid for a specific product or service, in a different state, at least five years ago.
  • What an average bride pays for a specific product or service, in a different location, climate, day of week, month of year.
  • Information, contained in an article, written by an unmarried freelance writer, citing boilerplate statistics.

Moving the Decision Away from Money

When a prospect asks “How much does blah, blah, blah cost?”it used to mean they were calling from a Yellow Page Ad. Now, they might be calling from an internet directory, or if you’re lucky, a referral list or your website.

It’s a question that comes from ignorance, but if you are immediately insulted, you’re missing the point.

Usually, they are asking about price because they don’t know what else to ask.

If a prospects says, “I only have $750, will you do blah, blah, blah for that?”, it usually signals the ‘this is all that I have left situation.’ It may also show they know that their available funds are probably not enough to pay for a credible service, so they figure they’ll ask you to confirm to their price. Or… it’s a negotiating ploy.

Some Discussion Strategies

  • Try not to sound annoyed or insulted. You should be versed in many forms of the ‘price question’, by now, and have a variety of responses, at the ready.
  • Don’t get into a tug of war, between your company in their checkbook. Talk more generally about companies in your niche, the variety of services available, levels of quality, and range of prices.
  • Explain, as softly, as possible that you are not offering a commodity or selling time. Steak can cost $4 a pound or $14 a pound. They are both steak, but one is more likely to taste and cut like shoe leather. A photographer or videographer may contract by ‘time of coverage at the event’; however, there are many more hours of service, prior to, and after the wedding. Suddenly the price per hour takes a huge dip.  Expand the thinking into your area of expertise.
  • Avoid talking about the difference between your price and a competitor’s price. A $250 difference between $500 and $750 says you are 50% more. Yet, if a prospect elects to spend $250 less, it may cause a critical failure in their wedding. Instead, put the $250 price difference in the context of the entire wedding… say $25,000. Suddenly, you’re talking about only a 1% difference.

When pressed to price match, I often said something such as this.

“I realize that there are other companies that charge less than we do… (pause); there are also companies that charge more. Ultimately, at the end of the reception, none of us wear a price tag around our neck. The people you’ve chosen for your wedding day either do a good job and you’re happy… or they don’t, and you’re not. Either way, there’s no do-over.

I understand that you are looking at other companies. I encourage you to choose a company other than hours, not because they charge less, or even if they charge more, but if you have the confidence they will provide a far superior and reliable result. (I would recount some of our best sales points, as they relate to this client).”

Listen for little agreements, and then use a closing question to ask for the order.

One of the best techniques I ever learned for empathizing and guiding, in sales, is the FEEL, FELT, FOUND framework. I learned it from Sales Trainer, Tom Hopkins. If you don’t already know it, learn it, and use it. Learn to use it in multiple ways, so you don’t sound like a parrot.

There is no money on the table for sales parrots.

Andy Ebon - wedding marketing expert

Andy Ebon
Wedding Marketing Expert
The Wedding Marketing Blog

Features and Benefits: A Sales Story

Features and BenefitsIn October 1977, I started Music Man Mobile DJ Service, with my college friend Scott Foell. The office was in my apartment, in a tiny den. The equipment was kept in a storage unit made of recycled box cars. Shoestring and part-time, for sure. About two months later, along came ‘Saturday Night Fever,’ and everything changed.

I hired an answering service. Messages were taken, and I would call in to retrieve the messages, when I could.

One day a salesman named Tom Gilmore called me after seeing Music Man perform at a lunchtime event, outside our bank.. Tom worked for an office equipment store, and wanted to sell me an answering machine system. I tried to give him the immediate brush off. I had a live answering service.

  • Tom asked, “Do you know how many rings it takes for them to pick up?”
  • “They are supposed to pick up by the 5th ring.” I responded.
  • “Well, I’ve called you four separate times, and your service has never picked up before the 10th ring. Why don’t you test them, yourself, and see how they do. If they don’t live up to your expectations, maybe it would be wise to meet with me, and I’ll show you a different solution.”

Needless to say, my result was no different. The answering service failed, miserably, so I made an appointment with Tom. He was ahead of his time. He showed me a $500 answering machine, wired together with a $400, automatic phone dialer. After the answering machine had received a message, it would dial my pager, .

He coached me on the specific outgoing message to leave on the machine. “Thanks for calling Music Man, this is Andy. I’m unavailable to take your call, but right now I’m being  paged by electronic radio paging to be notified of your message. As soon as I’m available, I’ll call you back. So please leave a message beginning with your name and telephone number, and the nature of your needs, and I’ll talk to you, soon. Thanks again for calling Music Man.”

Tom’s call to action was this: “Your bookings are worth several hundred dollars each. Your answering service isn’t getting it done. The worst that will happen with an electronic system is that you will get the occasional hang up, and some calls are not urgent; however, you have a new business and you cannot afford to miss any calls. Don’t you agree?”

One more thing: Tom said he would install the system at my home office, and give me a 30-day money back guarantee. If the system didn’t work for me, he’d buy it back.

In the old days of no cell phones or fax machines, spending almost $1000 on a cobbled-together 2-function answering/paging system, for a part-time business, seemed like a huge amount of money. It was a lot of money – I bought it, the system worked…. brilliantly. The business went full-time in six months.

Tom Gilmore figured out my needs, how to solve them, and developed a clear Return-on-Investment framework for me. Not only did the system pay for itself, it did so in less than a month.

Whenever I’m selling to a client or considering a purchase for myself, this story reminds me of the difference between features and benefits.

Certainly, every sales situation is different. When you’re selling intangibles, it’s quite different. But it all starts with an understanding of the prospects’ goals and needs. When one understands those elements, making the sale is always easier. Don’t you agree?

Andy Ebon - wedding marketing expert

Andy Ebon
Wedding Marketing Expert
The Wedding Marketing Blog