Well, I just finished my first bridal show and it was well worth it, I think! Other than hearing two of the worst reception singers sing, loudly, and often, it was a lot of fun. Things sold, I have custom orders to work on, and I'll certainly do it again next year.
I thought I would write this blog for those jewelry designers who have thought about the bridal venue but haven't yet exhibited at a show. They're just my own observations and thoughts, but I hope this will helpful.
One of the main things that hold jewelry designers back from participating in bridal shows is the cost. Shows in my area (Maryland) run from $400 and up, for a four-hour show. That can make you swallow hard. To get past that dollar figure "yikes", you have to look at the show as a marketing venture more than an immediate selling venture.
Most shows give each vendor a list of the brides who attended. While you don't want to spam the heck out of anyone, you CAN craft a good "thank you" letter, and consider an incentive -- a discount, a free pair of earrings with purchase, something that makes the letter or postcard WORK. If the list included emails, be very careful -- I personally would only use that email one time, and then never again without their permission. So use that email to SAY something, and ask if they'd like to get your email newsletters or would prefer snail mail.
If you don't have a web site, set one up to get the most of your booth fee. Unlike craft shows, bridal shows aren't really a buy-now venue -- I did have people buy things, but for the most part, brides are in the looking phase. Many haven't even chosen their dress or colors yet. If they don't have a web site to go back to, you've lost even the thought of a sale. And think about it -- if you make jewelry other than bridal jewelry, you want to gain a repeat customer -- someone who will visit your web site over and over.
You really don't need an elaborate booth set up for a bridal show -- a big pro. If you want my long-drawn-out booth design email, just click here and let me know what your interests are and I can give you technical stuff. Give your work some levels -- put busts on wrapped boxes or get creative with pedestals (a pretty plate on top of a glass vase, etc) and let the jewelry talk.
So, you pay your $400-500-whateverhundred bucks, you have a pretty table, gorgeous jewelry -- now what?
Well, don't be surprised if no one buys. Do NOT take that as a negative (see above about not buying right now). Have lots of cards -- preferably ones with photos of your work on them, to help jog their memory -- and let them know what you can do. If you're big on customization, tell them. If you specialize in a genre of wedding (beach, renaissance, etc), play that up. Flexibility is really important in the bridal business, I believe, because every bride wants it to be Her Day.
OK, the day is done, what's next? What can you do to get your name out there even more?
If you’re good at networking (and I am rather not, I get nervous), doing a bridal show can give you some great connections. I was approached by a dress boutique about displaying some things in her store, and if I’d been braver, I would have approached other boutiques (I do much better via email, I get way shy in person – I think it’s the whole fear of rejection thing – easier to take via email). Instead of asking stores about taking your work on consignment to just sit in their showcase, suggest they use your services as a “dresser” – when they change their window displays, see if they’ll let you dress the mannequins with your jewelry. (That would work for a regular boutique, too).
If you have a web site with a bridal section, consider having a Bridal Links page, and exchange links with local businesses – florists, DJs, etc. The key is to make sure they put YOUR link on THEIR site as well.
Network with wedding coordinators – they refer brides to all sorts of services. Cultivating a relationship with one is a great way to get business.
OK! I’ve rambled enough – hope this is interesting and helpful to someone!