Advertising Your Decorating Business
Photograph EVERYTHING – good and bad. You’ll learn from all of it.
*ADVERTISING CLOTHESPINS PIONEER QBN/CBA MAGAZINE ADS DECK THE HALL/PORTFOLIOS PRESS RELEASES SIGN YOUR WORK WINDOW DISPLAYS DISPLAY BALLOONS CONSPICUOUSLY TARGET YOUR CUSTOMERS DIRECT MAILINGS IDEA BOOKS TRADING DECOR FOR EXPOSURE NETWORKING YELLOW PAGES COLD CALLING WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK WHERE TO BUILD THE DECOR - IN THE SHOP OR ON SITE? REPEAT BUSINESS SIGNS BRIDAL FAIRS / SHOWS BEFRIEND THE BALLOON RETAILERS REFERRALS COMMERCIALS
Some of the following comments include amounts of money in the imaginary unit called “C-shells.” These units are used to avoid any hint of illegal price fixing in the balloon industry.
*ADVERTISING What advertising works best? - #1 Yellow Pages - #2 Reputation (others call it word of mouth) - #3 Various QBN marketing material (direct mail brochures, posters, profit kit, flip chart etc) - #4 Visual Exposure (our showroom is on a very busy main road) - #5 Bridal Fairs - #6 Web Site Please note that we rate visual exposure at #4. However, this is because we have been around for 8-9 years. This has allowed us to build a strong client base, based on Reputation. In our first 3-4 years Visual Exposure would have been at #2. Nos 5 & 6 are expected to move up in importance in the coming years for us. We've tried pretty much everything at one time or another.... getting very selective nowadays. No newspapers, no calendars, no kids soccer team, no letter box flyers.... forget it! Very important to set an annual advertising / promotions budget and STICK TO IT! create something really unusual and organise your local media to cover the event. What promotion have you done ie colour brochures of your own work, yellow pages, sign written vehicles, post office box drops, cold calling? Are you in a store front or work from home? Do you have a well presented ideas book? Often times the huge jobs are very expensive to create, and possibly your success will come from many regular smaller jobs. Do deliveries as this will increase your cash flow, and increase public visibility. MARKETING 1. Budget your advertising dollars when the marketplace is primed: ie, Valentine's Day, Halloween, etc. 3. Yellow Pages. Color... big... get their attention. 4. Be professional!! 5. Honesty and reliability 6. Word of mouth CLOTHESPINS Here's a couple of suggstions for using clothes pins as an advertising tool. First, you can get them imprinted by just about any company that does specialty advertising imprints. Check around on prices with several companies in your area. We went that route for a while but the price just kept increasing and they got just too expensive. Second, you could have a rubber stamp made and just stamp them yourself. If you have any part-timers working for you, it would be good busy work. This second way is less expensive but time consuming. Bags of clothes pins are cheap but your time is valuable so you must decide which way is more reasonable for you. Using imprinted clothes pin is definitely a good idea. Here's an order story -- I received a call one day from a guy in the Navy who had been stationed in our town. He was calling from an island in the south Pacific. He said that my "clothes pin" had followed him all over the world because he used it on his chip bags and cheese bags in the frig. He went to the frig. to get my number before he called. He ordered a $50 bouquet of balloons. How bout that one!!! It really worked it!!! And he's not the only order that we received from people reusing the clothes pins. Plus it really helps in keeping the ribbons less tangled and making your business look good! We use just regular wooden clothes pins with the spring clip. We use a small scrap piece of paper OR a piece of broken latex to wrap around the ribbons then we put the clothes pin on top of that. If you just put the clothes pin on, it slides around too much and doesn't secure the ribbons. Hope this makes it clearer for everyone. Most specialty advertising sellers will tell you to give them something with your name on it that your customer will use again and again. This definitely gets used over and over. These clothespins come in red, blue or yellow or assorted. They are 21/4 x 1/2 inch. Price includes 2 lines of copy. Cost: 500 - 30 cents 1,000 - 28 cents 3,000 - 26 cents 5,000 - 24 cents Price includes shipping. Send orders with payment to: Jan's Advertising 1149 W 102 Ave Northglenn, CO 83221 - Phone/Fax: 303-451-093 PIONEER QBN/CBA MAGAZINE ADS Pioneer has an advertisement "Magical & Memorable" which is available to QBN chapters. Our chapter (SoCAL QBN) has used this ad for the last few years. It is published in Southern California Wedding Magazine. The cost for the year (two issues) is around $4500 which is split up among participating chapter CBA members. Everyone in the ad always comments that they can tell when the magazine hits the newsstand -- their phones really start ringing! Our company does tremendous business off of this ad. This magazine is sold and is also given out at all the local big bridal show. Contact Craig Senn at Pioneer Balloon for more information. As the person who helped coordinate the first couple of the SoCal QBN ad's, I have some experience with this topic. Let me throw some thoughts in here. "Editorial Coverage" - the content of articles in magazines - is heavily influenced by the advertising. I was told by sales reps at more than one Bridal Magazine that they would be more than happy to include balloons in more articles, if we'd buy more ad space. These magazines may have started as a service to brides, but they are all business now. So, if we want those articles about the wonderful effect of balloons at such and such event, we need to be willing to pay for the full color ads in the same issue. It would be lovely if Pioneer ran some ads to promote the industry. And, they have - I remember an ad in Special Event a few years ago. But, is it realistic to ask them to do more? Take just one bridal magazine alone - like Modern Bride. A year's worth of advertising, in all 10 of their regional versions, for all 6 issues a year, would be hundreds of thousands of dollars. And, that's just one magazine. As much as we'd all like that to happen, I don't see asking Pioneer to do that. Pioneer has made the current ad available to QBN chapters for use in their local advertising, and I know that there have been some good sucess stories. It's a matter of organization. Maybe there are not enough CBA's in your chapter to make such an ad cost efficient for you, but can you split the ad over more chapters? I know that even the Southern California version of Modern Bride covers Arizona, New Mexico and (I think) Hawaii - and I know that other chapters have gone in together on these ads. If you can get just 12 CBA's in the publication region to split the ad, you should try it. As for a National Program? Well, yes, Pioneer has the "For a CBA near you, call _____" phone number. But, how many responses can they handle before they start having to add more phone staff? At one point, SoCal QBN had looked at getting an 800 number, and running THAT number in the ads, rather than the individual listings of all of the participating CBA's. Callers would be refered to the nearest CBA's to them. We looked at having an answering service provide this service. It was REALLY expensive, about 75c per call. I don't think we're going to have alot of luck getting the $50.00 from each CBA a promotion like this could cost over a year. But, hey, maybe one of you wants to coordinate a National Ad Campaign for the balloon industry. ;o) DECK THE HALL/PORTFOLIOS Photograph EVERYTHING - good and bad. You'll learn from all of it. There are a ton of ways that you can bring exposure to yourself and to balloons. decorate your local facility on an "off" day when they are not booked and have a photographer to come in and take some professional photos. Present the photos to the facility. This gives the brides an idea of what can be done there and gives the facility some really great photos of their room(s) and your work! A bride is really influenced if she can see her room decorated.... 9 times out of 10 she will want the exact same decor! photograph every job upon completition. Not only is this "proof " that the job was done as contracted and that we left the site in perfect condition, but, you will create a GREAT idea book full of photos to show other clients what you have done. I save up the doubles till I have enough from one location then give it to the hall manager or hotel sales manager. Then they have a book that shows how beautifully the rooms can be transformed with Balloon Art. Of course that little album has MY Company Name and Phone number embossed on it as well as few cards tucked inside. this has worked wonders for us...I get jobs regularly from clients who have viewed the photo books at the location and just call and say "Do It " ! All my art friends keep either photos or slides of their work. This photo album of creations is called a Portfolio. It's nice to look at, to have to show to someone for selection purposes, and in general is a good record (in case you ever forget how to twist a certain figure). Your portfolio and Idea book are also very important. Invest in a good quality book, (professional black leather, etc.) you'll probably have it for years and it will make look like a professional when meeting with clients. we also have an "idea" book of photographs of other's work that does not leave our warehouse. When customers come by we show it to them but not at any showcases, etc. I have kept the book in a plain loose-leaf labeled in large letters "IDEAS" and cut out the full page from which each photo comes. The full page is put in this idea book so there can be no question about where these photographs have come from and even who produced the work. We have had unfortunate experiences with regards to our published work from competitors using the images and claiming them as their own. We have found this happening at showcases (where we and the "guilty" party were exhibiting) and in other's showrooms, too. The showcase event where this occurred really created a big mess for us, as one of our own customer's brought the problem to my attention. She questioned whether we made our own centerpieces or did we "sub out" the work, as another vendor was bragging about having done the work in our pictures they were showing. These were pictures of our work taken from several Balloons and Parties issues. It took several uncomfortable minutes to calm the fears of our customer and assure her of our policies and practices. I then approached the other vendor only to find more of our pictures (and a number of other artists work,as well) being shown in their portfolio and "pitched" as their own work. We then had a long discussion about it and I persuaded them to take at least our work out of their portfolio. I left their booth knowing I really didn't stop them from working this way. It was just a temporary solution to an ongoing problem. It's flattering to have someone in your field want to emulate your work. It's another matter entirely to make it their own when it is not. It's all a matter of your ethical standards and perhaps how well you want to sleep at night. Now how can we really put a stop to this? That's easy - we can't!! When you put yourself out there to be published (and your work is good) people will copy it. However, it is up to all of us to do just that - COPY IT, not just make a copy of the photograph and claim it for our own. At a Conwin Carbonics Wedding Symposium, one of the instructors suggested that in addition to our own portfolio containing ONLY pictures of our work, we could also have an IDEA BOOK containing pictures, photos and clippings of other people's work. The book should be clearly labeled as an Idea Book. One step better is to have on the front page a disclaimer such as the one contained in mine: "The pictures contained in this Idea Book were created by other talented balloon artists. While they are not the original work of (name of company or designer), we can create any of the designs in your colors for your event." Where known, I would include a lable containing the designer's name. It's a wonderful way to display those photos you take at IBAC or elsewhere. Now I keep a "log" of photos I take: where, when and who's design. When I get the film developed, I have a record to give proper credit. As a balloon artist that has had photos published in trade magazines, I contribute photographs of my work so that other decorators will be able to learn new ideas to use in their businesses. It helps to spark my own creativity if I can see what other people have done for a "50's & 60's" party, or a mardi gras theme, etc. We constantly use our own "library" of trade publications that we've collected over the years, so that is my way of "paying back" for all of the ideas I've gotten from other people. A lot of times I will even show the photos of other people's work to my client so that they have an idea of what I might be proposing, but I am careful to make it clear that we did not do the work in the photo, but we could do something like it. Most of the time though, the photos give us our own ideas and we will change the designs around a little to add our own "touch" and then take our own picture to put in our portfolio. The difference here is that I have not cut the other designer's photo out and placed it in my own portfolio, and tried to pass it off as my own work. If you put other people's work in your portfolio it opens you up for an embarassing situation with a client. For example, a client is leafing through your portfolio and says "Oh, that dance floor canopy is so cool - where was that done?". You then say "well, uh, um, I didn't really do that, but, um, uh, I can do something just like it". Now you have some distrust from the client and they will be wondering if you did any of the work in your portfolio. If you would have put a label on the photo stating who did the work and where, or left the photo in the magazine and just told the client "here are some additional ideas of different dance floor canopies we could do for you", you could have avoided this embarassing situation. The only time I really have a problem with someone using a photo of ours that was published in a magazine is when they use it in any type of advertising or promotional material, such as company brochures, commercials, newletters, business cards, etc. (and believe me, it has happened many, many times.) That is not only discourteous and rude - but it is completely illegal! Now if you were to reproduce the decor that was shown in the photo and have your own photo shoot - you could use the pictures any way you wanted. It is my understanding that the design itself is not copyrighted, but the actual photo of the designer's work is. (I'm sure if I'm wrong on this, someone will let me know!). In our trade journal "Weddings with Style!" there is a fold out "portfolio page" in the back that has a full color picture that people are welcome (and encouraged) to use as a selling tool in their portfolio or idea books. If I were using it, I would definitely put a label on the photo that it was supplied by a trade publication so as not to mislead my clients or open myself up to that "embarassing situation" I discussed earlier. "Weddings with Style!" also offers color glossy photographs for sale - if you purchase those, you are buying the rights to use them in your portfolio, but not the rights to copy the photos in any way (brochures, business cards, etc.). I'm sure this is the same with any business that offers portfolio photos for sale. There is a big legal difference between making copies of someone's pictures and taking pictures of the same project done with your own hands. Duplicating photos without permission is, unquestionably, a violation of copyright law. Copying someone's design gets into the complicated area of intellectual property. Some basic examples: 1. I make a bunch of spiral columns and take an artisitc photo of them. a) Since you think it's a really awesome photo, you make copies and mail it to your clients. This is clearly wrong according to the law. I own the photo. b) You like the colors I use and the placement of the columns and reproduce it. Since I didn't really introduce anything new here in my design, it would be hard for me to claim you've stolen my ideas. You can even take a similar picture to mine. You did all the work I did and I don't need to be recognized for my effort on later jobs that you do. 2. You take Wynn and Lindy's Cinderella Carriage and sell that. This is clearly the creation of a particular team. Legal issues aside, I wouldn't dare sell it without asking for permission from the creators. and then, if I was given permission, I'd make sure the person that paid me for it knew where the idea came from. Legally, you probably could recreate it. Q. If, for a wedding, I create any of those pieces I see in a magazine, can I take pictures of them to use in my porfolio? As a general rule, people that are publishing instructional materials are doing it so that you can recreate the stuff found in them. This is why people buy publications of this sort. I expect some people to find things I publish useful and to use my ideas. However, I rarely use things exactly as I saw them published. If you take the concepts and build on them in a way that makes the creation your own, you don't have to feel that you're using someone else's work. (And you can later tell them how you've improved it and offer your changes if the originator is interested, just as a common courtesy.) Q. Do I have to say, I did this but it's someone else's design? Why wouldn't you? Especially if you've modified it. You're giving credit where it's due, but still letting people know that you're an artist and can create as well. In fact, it might help clients see your ability to modify existing designs to better fit their event. If you have one static design that they can take or leave, you're limiting your audience. Q. Do I have to name the person who's design it is? Do I have to volunteer this info to my Brides even when they could care less? Again, why not? While it's probably not going to get back to the designer that you've been saying good things about them, can it hurt? It's a good feeling when word does return to you through some strange path that another artist is giving you all the credit you deserve. Most clients won't remember the names you've given, but they will remember that you're honest and not claiming to be better than you are. Now, as far as portfolio, we have created our own web site. it is always up-to-date and is always at their finger tips. this is only the way we look at it, and might not be the best for your company in your area. we offer a small selection (about 20 different photos) of 8x10 wedding photos for sale. We usually only sell these at our seminars, but if you're interested, you can check out some of them on our web site under Wedding Balloons. http://www.balloonsandflowers.com Once purchased, these photos may only be used in an "Idea Book" that is not your own personal portfolio. If you are interested, please e-mail Wynn & Lindy Bell, WynnLindyB@aol.com Images magazine has several back issues that have some beautiful wedding work featured in it. You can call Pioneer and ask them to send you all the back issues they have that spotlight wedding word. Also, there is a wonderful new magazine out there "Weddings With Style" which is strictly wedding related decor. I would never hand one of those beautiful glossy brochures that Qualatex makes available to one of my customers without first telling them that this was a picture of something I *could* make but that particular picture was not mine. Your client will assume that your brochure and website pictures are yours unless plainly stated otherwise and when they find out differently you might lose their trust. Legal and ethical are two entirely different issues. Would Picasso put one of Monet's pictures on his websites and brochures (OK if he was alive and had brochures and websites) when he went out looking for business justifying it with the fact that he *could* do that same work? We are artists and should remember that when we promote ourselves. Early on in the business we gave some photos to friends we met a different conventions. Most used the photos as they should - as an add on to their own portfolio but clearly labeled as another's work. We have however seen at portfolio competitions our photo in another decorators book unlabeled. We felt violated by this. First it should not have been used without giving proper credit. Second it should not have been in a competition that is judging someone work. We also have other friends who have reported seeing our photos in others books again uncredited. This is unfair. In good faith we gave, at no cost, photos to them to use and they could have properly given credit to us. But the vast majority of our balloon friends have used our photos the proper way and it was our pleasure to have given them the pictures. although we were the original co-designers and creators of the pictures in the Modern Bride Ad, even we were not given permission by Pioneer to use the ad in any of our own business' personal advertising. It was our understanding that Pioneer wished the ad to be available in their flyer form only to CBA's, or to QBN Chapters for co-op advertising where no consumer would mistakenly attribute the design to any one company. It was because of this desire on Pioneer's part to keep this design as generic as possible that we chose not to have our names credited on the flyer. Pioneer has always given us the courtesy of contacting us for our permission prior to allowing any use of the ad outside of selling the flyers to CBA's or QBN Chapters. In addition, we have had numerous individuals contact us about using the pictures on their web sites and in their personal advertising and we have had to politely decline our permission. Therefore, unless Pioneer has changed their policy regarding personal use of the ad (in which case we would be one of the first to use it for our own advertising), we assume no one can use the ad, and only we or people we have given permission to, can use the individual pictures in the ad. As for the other brochures and flyers, we can only assume the same goes for them. They and the pictures in them can only be used as they are intended. PRESS RELEASES Also, if you have a local paper in your town, write and article, call it a press release, you do not have to say that you are tooting your own horn, but let the town know what an impact your balloons had on the event! Do it for every event that you do! Your name will become familiar with everyone and people will start to call to see what you could do for them! (Most people like to see their name/event in the papers and it never dawns on them to do it themselves!) Someone I know decorates her yard, then calls the local newspaper anonymously and tells them that there are some wonderful balloon decor at such and such an address and they come out and take photos - free publicity - the best kind. Be creative! To get FREE publicity from your local newspapers and T.V. stations just fax, e-mail, or snail mail them a Press Release of any events you will be decorating for. Give them a contact person for questions. We just did an outdoor event for 4th of July, and I faxed press releases to all our local media. One out of four T.V. stations showed up, and the Kansas City Star sent a reporter and a photographer out to do a story on the event and on our company. Balloon decor makes great photo opportunities you know- which is exactly what I told them! Wish I'd thought of this sooner! SIGN YOUR WORK post signs by your work or incorporate the sign in your design such as "Balloon Decor By Sunny Balloons - 111-222-3333" because its also advertising for future jobs too. From the delivery person to the bouquet itself NOTHING leaves here, whether on a delivery, on a centerpiece or on an arch, without our name and phone number on it!! We use small gold oval "address" type stickers on the bottom of every piece of table decor underneath, instead of MADE IN CHINA it says "CUSTOM DESIGNED by Balloons Balloons Balloons and our #, a Flyer on the deliveries that tells them how to care for the balloons and to please not release them into the environment, a small paragraph about who we are and what we do and a form to fill out and mail in as to how pleased they were with the delivery. , When they fill it out and return it we send them a coupon for 10% off a bouquet and there name is in the mailing list for all holidays. Then, when we build an arch - we had latex imprinted with our company name as a TOP PRINT. that way every arch, sculpture, column etc. etc. has a "artists" signature in the bottom right hand corner. We have gotten tons of jobs from this small imprinting investment and the clients do not mind at all. It makes them feel as though they have purchased a "designer" piece and our competition cannot take credit nor can they mistake it for shabby work done by another at the same location...such as a bridal show, trade show or in a mall. WINDOW DISPLAYS borrowing merchandise from other stores is a great way to build displays for cheap (be sure to post a sign saying "bikes from Al's Shop" or something like that). DISPLAY BALLOONS CONSPICUOUSLY When I came back from my first convention and had all this knowledge and no store front to display it in, there was one thing that really got things moving for me. The gal that styles my hair is very friendly and when I get my hair cut we talk (naturally). I was so enthusiatic about what I was doing that she told me that if I wanted to make something up to display in her area and leave her some business cards she would let people know who had done it. She specifically said that she had several customers that were getting married in the next few months and that she would be sure and talk it up to them. She did send several brides to me and it was what got my business up and running. If you can't use this idea as is, think about how you can adapt it to work for you. -Make up something special to celebrate a new business opening. -Take something creative to the school for the secretary for Secretaries Day. Even if it comes from you, it'll get people thinking. -Take something creative to your bank just to say "I appreciate you" to your favorite teller. Get your work seen. If you can get paid for it, great. If other people aren't sending it, send one yourself. The advertising is great. But notice I didn't say, "Send a bouquet of balloons". If you are doing it for the advertising, show the stuff that you are itching to do. The more people see it the more they will order it. The great thing about using the hairdresser's place was that alot of people are in and out of there each week. If you have doubts as to whether your stylist will display one, send her (him) one. They will proudly display one sent to them as a gift. Cross promotions are great. Maybe try decorating a grocery store bakery that's doing a wedding cake display or this type of thing. Call bridal stores in your area. Offer to decorate their window in exchange for displaying your flyers. I have got more booking this way than any other form of advertizing. I usually do a 5 inch air filled arch with tulle, lights and some silk flowers. Once a month I replace the balloons with a different color. It's easy and the cost is minimal. Ask a bridal shop or tux shop or other business that brides use: florists, cake decorators, bridal shops, halls, caterers, etc... if you can set up some decor in their shop (maybe a window display). It can be something as simple as a pretty balloon heart or something fancy. Make it air-filled and work with them so they'll want you to keep doing it. All of this can also be used for photos. If nothing else leave your business cards with them so that brides can have them. Whenever we do a display with a limited amount of space, we always chose to do a wonderfully colorful hot-air 36" imprint with a white basket, lots of curlies on the "net" and our brochures in the basket. We also add a stack of discount coupons beside the hot-air balloon with a discount on any orders for the hot-air by such-and-such a date with mention of where you picked up the coupon. People are really drawn to these big hot-air balloons, and one of the best parts of doing this piece is that if you Hi-Float the balloon, it will last up to 4-5 WEEKS!!!! Needless to say, we always either Balloon Shine the balloon or spray it with Design Master Foliage Sealer and it stays looking terrific for a very long time. We usually only have to go back to restock our brochures. One of the most effective ways to market your business is by partnering with another business. Find some business with a similar market that is not your competition (maybe a formal wear store) and offer to do their window displays. This will give you exposure to all the brides-to-be that walk into their shop. The cost for materials and labor is much lower than a newspaper ad and generally gets a better response because it is going to be seen by your chosen market (the brides). Plus a real example of your work gets a better response than a black and white picture lost among other ads. Be sure to leave business cards and flyers in the shop too. TARGET YOUR CUSTOMERS I teach about marketing and advertising your small business. I teach the importance of spending a lot of time collecting data BEFORE wasting money on advertising "balloon decor". First thing to do - IDENTIFY YOUR POTENTIAL CUSTOMER. ie; Demographics. Are the people in the area you service mostly rich, poor, middle income? What race or ethnic backgrounds? What events do they celebrate... and what events don't they celebrate? Are your customers going to be mostly male or female? What percentage? How many children in the average family in your service area? What is the age group you have coming through your shop door? You will be astounded at the REAL figures. You've had it wrong all along! Do not make the mistake of saying, "All of the above." If you do, you are left with "hope for the best" advertising... rather than "Target Marketing." Suppose your research finds that your typical customer is; 85% female - 2.2 chilren -household earnings $41,000 p.a. - 60/40 caucasian/black community - big on Xmas.... not excited about St Patrick's Day. etc, etc... Simple, target all your marketing AND advertising dollars at HER. Now you know who, when and what to advertise! Where you advertise is where SHE will go - what SHE reads - The radio station that SHE listens to. Starting to get the picture? The secret to "selling" (I learned from Lindy Bell)... All consumers only ever buy one of two things! a) A good feeling, or b)a solution to a problem. No point trying to sell a bride elegant balloon sculptures, if what she really needs is balloons to conceal ugly mustard drapes throughout the venue! So.... in your newspaper ads, make sure you are selling good feelings and/or solutions ...... USING BALLOONS. The balloons are just the unique product you offer to meet your customers true NEEDS. Focus your ad on what your product is delivering! Our best advise is to talk with an expert in marketing or advertising. The reps from the radio stations, newspapers etc, rarely give great advice. It might be a few hundred dollars at the front end, to save many wasted thousands in the long run. That's what we did. #1 identify your target market!!!! You can't reach them if you don't know who they are. I would also like to second the idea of getting professional advise. I think it could have saved me alot of money. We recently had a logo developed and just that one thing makes a diffence. I know when you are a small biz just getting started that everything sounds like a lot of money but trust me, it is worth it. It doesn't make a difference if you can do the work and have the equipment if no one knows you are out there. You will save money in the long run! DIRECT MAILINGS Maybe you can get a jeweler to share his list of names and addresses monthly of people he sells engagement rings to. This will give you a good fresh database to mail flyers to. But remember, it usually takes more than one contact to get someone to buy from you. When you do a mailing, commit yourself to contact each individual three times (a combination of mailing and calling works). You might have to do a little something for him..... a little deco work maybe but again this will get your work out in public in front of brides. If you really want to do direct mailings the best idea is to find a few other businesses who will do this with you. Go in with a limo service, a dress shop, a hairdresser, a florist, a dj and each contribute a flyer (maybe with a discount coupon). Put one of each in an envelope and mail them to the brides on your bridal show list or a list that one of them has put together. Everyone splits the cost of envelopes and postage. The results are generally pretty good from this kind of mailing. My wife was selling wedding invitations on the side for a while and every sunday night I would hand address envlopes to anyone getting married in 6 week or longer and lived in the Colorado Springs area. This included using the phone book and mostly sent to their work address. We had about a 20 - 15 % response rate. it would take about 1 to 2 hours on sunday night. We included a letter with a free guest book offer in it. As well as diffrent promo items that would mail for free (imprinted balloon maybe). As far as the college crowd, I would put my money into creating a professional sales letter and send it to the groups that sponsor student events (frats, student body, clubs, etc.) and follow up with a phone call. Since dropping our yellow page ad, one of our most successful programs has been our monthly and holiday mail-outs and our "Forget-me-Not" program. The programs we use on a regular basis to gain daily sales are: 1. "Forget-me-Not" Program: Every new customer we get receives a thank you letter and an introduction to this program. This is an old, established program, used by many in our industry, and is a great way to generate more deliveries. The customer fills out a card with relatives and friends' birthdays, anniversaries, etc., and returns it to us in the addressed, return envelope (stamp provided by us, of course). He/she then chooses a method (telephone, fax, e-mail, letter, etc.) and a time frame (i.e., 1 week, 2 weeks, 1 month, etc.) by which we would "remind" him of the upcoming occasion with suggestions for a delivery gift. Not all people sign up for this program, but with today's busy schedules, many more are doing it than in the past. 2. "Reminder Cards" - This great idea was shared with us by Linda Bruce,CBA and we thank her every day. Whenever we get a delivery order, we fill out a 3-part NCR order form that fits in a 5x8 file box, separated by month (we buy our NCR paper by the ream and print our own NCR forms on our little deskjet printer, a few at a time as we need them....about 1/2 the cost of having them printed). We also fill out a postcard (i.e., like you do at the dentist). The first page of the form is, of course, the order form the second part is filed by month so we will have something to refer to next year, and the third part is filed by customer name so we have all the information as to what they sent last year when they call in response to our reminder. This system takes very little extra time (thanks to NCR paper) and REALLY works! 3. "Picture-of-the-Month" - Each month we send our regular corporate clients a 4x6 print of a decorating job or sculpture we have done. Sometimes it is something we have done recently, but if we have nothing recent, we will send out an older piece of our work. We describe the work, where it was done, and any other non-confidential information we feel would be of interest to them. We have been told by several clients that they keep most or all these pictures in a file in case they ever find a need for one of them. All our clients say they love getting the pictures and often share them with others in their office. These 3 programs bring us many, many times the cost to run the program and feel our advertising dollar is well spent here. There are several other types of mail-out programs around. One form of marketing we used when first starting out was a direct mail piece. I purchased specialty design paper from PapersDirect and used my laser printer to create a New Year's Eve "Bulk Balloon Special". I only could afford to send out 100 pieces (went through yellow pages and picked out potential clients). The piece cost me apprx. 74 cents each and I booked one event from it. However that client has gone on to spend well over $50,000 in the past two years since I mailed that 74 cent piece. Well worth the "investment". If you have a college in your area it might be possible to find one of the better students in the advertising design class to help you out. Some schools even have a separate dept. that handles projects like that. All around the country there are many printers that offer full color runs in small quantities at reasonable prices and at a quick turn around. Don't "lift" photos from the industry publications for your promotional use. That would be the worst way to leave yourself open for one incredibly expensive copyright lawsuit... not from the publisher but from the person that contributed the photo... and you would lose BIG TIME! I have always felt that originality is what makes a business stand out, particularly in its promotion material. The most important things are who you market to and how you relate to them! If you wish, e-mail my designer (Ken Skistimas) at Meddle0001@aol.com. He could help you out on printed material, and he is fair! Post cards or mailing list. Always a good lead but again it's hard to catch the clients attention when you know everyone else is sending them stuff. I like to wait a week of two. Let everyone else send there stuff. Then mine comes in all by itself. They have time to look at it. It's not lots in this big pile of junk mail. I like to send a postcard and invite the client to upcoming jobs ( before show time of course) This shows them. Your a working artist, professional and trusted by other. If they actually come to your job site. No more should need to be said. If your doing your job right you future client will see it. I normally call a hotel and ask for the name of the Banquet Manager or Event Coordinator. If they happen to connect me with them, I just simply say that I would like to send them some pictures and literature about my company and services which can enhance theirs. When in doubt, address to the General Manager. Every business has one. If the decission on purchasing balloons is done by another person, chances are that he or she is subordinate to the General Manager and therefore the GM would pass your letter to the appropriate person for action. There are a few possibilities..... depending on the (population) size & (personnel) structure of the dealership/business, it could be...... larger dealerships/businesses will have -- * marketing director * program director * media/publicity director/manager * sales & marketing manager * unit marketing & recruiting director or simply direct your inquiry to -- * general manager or the top of the totem pole -- * owner IDEA BOOKS As far advertising, it is so expensive that it is hard to justify. Sometimes it works but it is hard to predict. Read the book Marketing Without Advertising for some wonderful ideas to get your name out there without spending a fortune. An EXCELLENT book on advertising, especially on a limited budget is Guerrilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson. It has a lot of "non-traditional" advertising methods that we can use to get things off the ground. TRADING DECOR FOR EXPOSURE As for decorating, volunteer to decorate at a fundraiser or festival in your area in exchange for free advertising (have them mention your name in their own advertisements and have your business cards available at the event). Your only costs become your supplies and your time but when people actually see who you are and what you can do, then the visual impact you've made on them is a lot more powerful than reading a newspaper ad. I don't know if its true in your area, but here people don't necessarily think of decorating a complete wedding or party in balloons. They might say "lets get some bouquets of balloons" but that's usually about it. You have to plant the idea in their head and the best way to do that is to show them what you can do! Also an additional avenue you can take is to "trade" with various advertising media. By this I mean tell them you will do say $300 in decorations for $300 in advertising on their station, in their magazine etc (this works especially well if you hear of an event they have coming up-or have advertised--we have found radio most receptive to this.) If you live in a university town like ours, the advertisers have a lot of space in the summer-additional incentive for them to trade. One thing to watch when trading -- don't give them any price breaks because, especially with radio the rate sheet they will quote you is almost never what people paying cash spend. For the "trading" to work you need to get advertising at a "wholesale" price, in this case your cost of doing decorations, or sending balloon arrangements. They, of course, will get their balloons at the price of there advertising (usually almost nothing). the secret to successful "free decorating" for me is to always do something that I don't have in my portfolio. That way I have new pictures for my portfolio and new effects to sell my paying clients so I feel that the money that I spent on the freebie is justified. I know "don't give it away." I don't agree with that. I have been blessed with a talent ( yes it is a talent not just a money-making job ) I do a fair amount of decor for charities. I always receive jobs referrals that more than cover the cost of my supplies. I of course have certain guide lines that I follow when choosing my donations.Personally, I have to feel strongly about the charity. I make sure the charity is really helping victims not just the officers of the board.As a Business person I want a big event that a lot of people will see my work, I can do what ever I want ( as long as it's within the theme or colors), I am invited to stay ( after I go back home and get cleaned up and put on my tuxedos shirt with my company name on it ) I like the location or hall. For example, last week I did a X-mas display for the Solvation Army, at one of my favorite halls. I booked 1 wedding and have appointments for 2 other from working on that display. That was just from the brides stoping in to check out the hall. They saw my neat x-mas trees had to see more. NETWORKING Networking is another good way to find new business. It can be very inexpensive, mostly a time investment. If you've joined your Chamber of Commerce, participate on a committee. Just joining won't get you noticed, they need to see your face. YELLOW PAGES Next would be the yellow pages - it doesn't have to be big, but you need to be represented there. We had a yellow page ad for the first 5 years of our business and, at the time, felt it was working very well for us. However, as our local colleagues started upsizing their ads, we found we had to do the same to get "our share" of the calls. Because of this, the last year we had the ad we were paying in excess of $1,100 each and every month! It was at this point we realized that although we were bringing in an average of $2,500 per month from our ad (sounds good doesn't it?), we were actually LOSING money on the ad, because the $1,300 difference in sales we were making from the ad wasn't even paying it's portion of our overhead, direct costs, etc. Once again, THANK YOU QBN for giving us the knowledge and tools to realize how much money we WEREN'T making! We even contacted all the people in our area who were running the larger ads and suggested we ALL downsize one step to save us all some money, while still keeping our "spot" the same, thus our market share the same. A lot of the folks agreed that would be a very wise thing to do, but unfortunately, a couple of businesses were afraid to do it for fear someone else might not do it, therefore, no go. On the other hand, we've talked with many, many people in our industry who's business is supported almost entirely by yellow page ads and who wouldn't give them up for anything. I think it would have been more profitable for us if we hadn't had to spend so much on our ad. Since dropping our ad, we have invested that $1,100 each month into other types of advertising that brings us sales that are 5-10 times our investment each month rather than only 2 times our investment, and have never regretted giving up our ad (Hmmmm... well... maybe during Valentine's week we miss it...
). In conclusion, our best advice would be to check out the other ads of the folks in your area and carefully calculate the amount of sales you would have to generate in order to make paying that yellow page bill every month, worthwhile to you. A neat way to monitor response from phone book advertising .....In each of your advertisements, directly under the phone number, put the line... "ask for Suzie" Of course you don't have a Suzie working for you! All you do is reply "Suzie is on annual leave right now, can I help you?" You get your staff to record the number of "Suzie" calls each day. Use a different name in each ad or publication. Always a female name. (most women and men prefer to talk to a female voice on the telephone) It will not be an exact method, as some people don't read past the phone number. But, it will allow you to monitor which phone book or paid ads are the best value for what you pay. Worked for us and we dropped one phone book's ad size as a result. The sales rep couldn't challenge the data we provided as evidence of the lack of response we got. Can use the same for radio ads as well. We tried radio once .... but it didn't work. However, I am convinced that radio could work for us, if we find the right combination of audience / denmographics, cost and an ad with a "hook". COLD CALLING Make cold calls or warm chatter. Does your grocery store need a cool fruit & veggie display for their upcoming promotion. What about car dealers? Also, your local florist could be a good source for wedding business, especially if they don't already provide balloons. Don't waste time making cold calls. Try to entice them to your location so you can show them what you do, customer service, etc. and they will be back when they see all the wonderful things you do, and how courteouse you are, etc., and they will return for the big corporate events, etc. because they may be employees of a large corporation, and can use your services down the road. When I started my business I had nothing. I worked from home, and the only way I could get business was through cold calling. I had no money for advertising, and all I had was me. I recognised an area of need in a retail chain, and went from shop to shop, I quickly built an excellent reputation and word spread, before I knew it the shop retailers had a niece getting married.... a fathers 60th birthday..a parents wddding anniversary... Actually I built most of my main customers on cold calling. One customer gave me over $20 000 of balloon work in one year! Cold calling is hard to do, but you get used to it, and you develop your own professional style, it makes you strong, it helps teach you how to handle objections etc... Sure If I had the money to have a retail frontage, staff, and stock, sure I would have always tried to get the potential clients to come to me, however for some of us this is not possible. WHISTLE WHILE YOU WORK Put a sign on your van - not a magnetic sign (which may give the impression you're not seriously committed) - excellent, recognizable, noticeable lettering or graphics. If you do it right, people will remember your name and will come up to you while you're loading, unloading, etc. Drive it everywhere to give your business maximum exposure. Wear uniforms of some sort with your business name printed very large across the back of the shirt and that your personal name is on the front or sleeve so that people know who you are on site. Always have business cards and brochures with you on site - leave the doors open when you work so that the staff and guests at the hotel peek in and get excited. I think you should make certain your staff wears your normal identifiable uniform with your business name easily read from the front and back of the shirts. Make certain everyone looks clean and neat (like shirts tucked in, clean shoes, name tags, business cards in pockets, smiles on faces, etc.). Park your van in a prominent spot where everyone going to the wedding will see it. Share business cards with the other vendors on site and start to develop a relationship with them (florist, videographer, photographer, limousine driver, bird releaser, musicians and of course, the site personnel). Be on time -- both getting in AND getting out. Clean up the area and assist anyone needing help. I invested in shirts with our logo and company and in the color hunter green. Whenever we go on a job the staff wears the hunter green shirts & black pants. My partner and I were different color shirts with the logo and company name and our name printed in the front of the shirts and we also wear black pants. All shirts must be tucked in and clean shoes or sneakers. I have experienced that not only it makes us look professional but when we are on a job site people know who to go to for questions, details, etc due to our shirts being a different color. Just imagine when you go to a sheik hotel and everyone has a different uniform due to their dept. Or to a restaurant and the busboys have on usually just a white shirt with black pants and the waiters are with jackets. Depending on the size of the job, I sometimes go very well dressed and wear a pin with the company name on it. I CERTAINLY, think that when people are in uniform it shows that the company is a little more organized & professional. WHERE TO BUILD THE DECOR - IN THE SHOP OR ON SITE? There a lots of reasons for and against pre prep. Sure it saves time on site but that's not always a good thing. The work has to be done some time (at home or on site) and if done on site sometimes the venue owner/ client will see your attention to detail and admire your professionalism. Sometimes hanging around in the right venues can allow you to come in contact with their potential clients as well. Building rapport for future work is never a bad tact. We used to only deliver e.g.. 100 balloons on the ceiling as a pre inflated in bags. All we had to do was let them loose, collect the money and go. But we were finding the clients (sometimes) were making remarks about how easy our job was as if we were ripping them off. Our policy changed to sometimes inflate at least 1/2 the quantity in front of the customer so we don't leave them with a bad impression. If a client asks for e.g.. 10 bunches on tables we might inflate all balloons at our workshop and arrange the centre-pieces on location, this often saves the effort of taking the cylinder in the venue itself. And the client feels he's getting his $ worth of work out of us. That is important to some clients, especially if they are considering using you again. Again different attitude for different circumstances. Our balloons are flexible and so must we be. REPEAT BUSINESS get in the habit of working your current customers. Send them a thank you send them a self-addressed envelope and survey questionnaire to assess how well you're doing and to hammer home what a good job you did (and also to request new customers) send them articles they might be interested in call them every three or four months, etc. SIGNS Your sign is your is a great chance to catch business. Studies of passers-by show you have 3 to 8 seconds to catch someone's attention. That means you need to have a catchy sign. Use big letters for what kind of store it is, like "Balloons" put your name in smaller letters (unless you name is well known to people already) Details such as far as delivery, phone or other important items can be put across the bottom. Most of all pictures say 1,000 words. Put some balloon graphic at least on one side. Don't use a dark color backing. Most noticeable colors studies show are black , red, yellow. Try different placements of words and color. Choose the fewest words possible to get across what your store does. Don't clutter your sign. also remember your window is another great chance to get that sale. put neon around it, it doesn't cost that much to have neon put in or to operate neon. But at night it outshines all your neighbors' windows and signs. the best paid advertising I've done so far is getting signs for my truck. Not to mention the best price. For ~$60 I got two magnetic signs from a local sign making co. I've had it for only two months now and have received 4 jobs from it. That's more jobs than I ever got from the yellow page ad that I paid ~$300 for! The best free advertising is word of mouth! Put a sign on your van - not a magnetic sign (which may give the impression you're not seriously committed) - excellent, recognizable, noticeable lettering or graphics. If you do it right, people will remember your name and will come up to you while you're loading, unloading, etc. Drive it everywhere to give your business maximum exposure. (If you put a sign advertising your balloon business on your car or van that you have now become a "commercial" vehicle and your car/van must be appropriately insured as "commercial". If you just have private car insurance and you get into an accident with the signs on your car your insurance may likely NOT PAY! ) BRIDAL FAIRS / SHOWS Some tips for getting brides: Do bridal shows. We get most of our brides through bridal shows and referrals from happy customers. We participated in a Bridal Fair last January. A few things we learned include: Put together some kind of raffle. this allows you to take a moment to personally interact with each person who stops at your booth. Personal contact is very important, we believe. Be in your best graces....smile, smile, smile! No matter what! Make sure you have enough people to help you during the day so you all can take breaks and keep fresh and happy. Have some kind of handout you can give people.....something in addition to a small business card. they'll be filling up their plastic bags with all kinds of stuff from other booths. You dont want to get lost in the shuffle. As regards booth decor...we used a heart sculpture as our backdrop. - had a table centerpiece on the table and a garland column at corners of booth. maybe float something above the booth to catch the eye. Just make sure whatever you do is well done. we decorate at least 8 bridal shows a year and have tried just about everything. We too have brides fill out a questionnaire regarding decorations among other services we provide and we set up appointments at the show or call them within 1 week for an appointment. We tell the brides that by seeing us within 2 weeks, they qualify for a 15% discount -- we call this our "sanity discount" so that we can plan as far ahead as possible because we are ALWAYS getting last minute weddings. We don't hand out freebie gifts anymore, but what has been successful is an upscale two-sided flier that we wrote that "educates" the bride on the importance of professional balloon decorations and how those decorations can be used appropriately. The brides really like the additional info instead of just our business card because they feel they are making an "educated buying decision". I have noticed that because we list several design ideas for each area, i.e. head table, entrance, dance floor, etc. etc., we are actually achieving higher sales because the bride may have only wanted an arch behind her head table, and then after she reads the flier, she sees all of the other wonderful, alternative decorations that are elegant and specifically designed for weddings for not only the head table but for every other area of the room! For the future, I would like to attach a color photo of a balloon canopy or head table decor to this flier, but we are trying to keep costs down at the shows. We generally "get hit" by no less than 200 brides at each show and book 65-75% of them. Because we trade the cost of our booth for show decorations, we put all of our emphasis on blowing the brides away with the show and our booth decor. And because there have been occasions when fellow balloon decorators have taken credit for our work, we make sure every bride knows that we decorated the show (we also barter a full page ad in the show program that states "official bridal show decorator"). Hope this helps! Hope to meet some of ya'll at Ballooniversity! I am looking for some ideas on inexpensive handouts to give to the brides-to-be at an upcoming fall bridal show that we can attach our business cards/postcards to. We just completed a bridal show today and did the 6" jewel hearts with the 260Qs for the "stem" and the brides loved those. How about stuffing a 11" printed wedding balloon with some of your business cards...I had a customer do this for a trade show once and it went well. They also put some additional advertisements in each balloon (and a few from the bunch contained some free giveaways and discount coupons). For our last two bridal shows, we used 4" heart shaped mylar holiday balloons that were appropriate to the next holiday-- Happy Valentine's Day, Happy St. Patrick's Day -- with an oval business sticker on the back. These were balloons that had been reduced by suppliers; I think I paid ten cents each for them in quantities of 100. The reasons I liked using them....cheap, could be done months ahead, used up last year's holiday stock, didn't take much space, everyone wanted one (we only gave them to the people that completely filled out an entry blank at our booth), not too awkward for the brides to carry, etc. We donate 100 balloons to be used as client wishes (picked up) for the winning entry. Not sure if we get more bridal work, but we sure do go after all the other events. Our entry blank requests name, address, telephone, wedding date & location, E-mail address and then has check marks for balloon releases, centerpieces, church decor, sculpted heart, flowers, balloon drops, arches, canopy, dance floor decor and head table decor. Below that we list personal event_________corporate event_________ school events_______ organization event______ Date_____________ We scanned the entry for missing info before handing them the 4" mylar. We began using these entries the following day and had enough information to target their specific needs quickly over the telephone or via E-mail. The 4" mylars were left over from Valentine's Day the previous year and we simply did not have time to air inflate all the 5" latex hearts that we used to hand out. Then there was the matter of bulk with them - if it's a really good show and you have to have several hundred ready along with your decor & booth components, it becomes a bit of a space dilemna. We coordinate our booth decor so the color of the balloon is in harmony - or a neutral foil for it. 1. 4" mylar hearts on omni sticks w/babys' breath and wrapped in 1/2 sheets of tissue paper. 2. Stuff 11" pre-printed wedding balloon w/business cards and/or discount coupons. 3. Inflate 5" pearl w/business cards attached. 4. 260Q swans w/4x5 printed business cards in the tails of the swans. 5. The Printers Shopper company in Chula Vista, Ca. has camera ready artwork of a booklet titled "How to make your wedding go smoothly" that can be copied adding your own business cards. The phone number is 1-800-854-2911, stock # BP1902, $39.00 ea. 6. Fantasy Roses. Each heart that got in to the brides hand had a 4x5 card attached with a "Wedding Special" and our business name and info. about us pre-printed on the card. We also had a drawing for free decor that we had brides fill out to win. We did not have time to talk to very many brides so we were not able to books dates, schedule consultations or anything else. I think next time we need at least 2 more people in the booth with us so we can talk to the brides instead of blowing up free handouts. At trade and bridal shows I give away balloons with my name and number on them (as well as a sticker on the plastic weight for when the balloon goes down). if you decorate a WONDERFUL booth for a client, you get even more notice than for yourself and you get paid for it! Case in point: a few years ago we decorated the stage area for a trade show. The client was the trade show. We discounted the job ( I knew that we would get referrals.) I left business cards on the stage. To make a long story short, we won best of show and we didn't even have a booth! Your work speaks well of you. Do it for a client and when someone comes to your booth, point out the work that you do. In reply to handing out cards & making appointments at bridal shows...... Here in California Bridal show booths cost upwards of $800.00 for a one day show and it is considered in bad taste to have someone who did not pay for a booth to hand out their cards..... How would you feel if you paid $1200.00 for a booth and then someone who paid nothing for a booth came in and handed out the same type of information? One hint I have for any trade show booth is to set it up so that the customers must walk into it to see the display. That way you can get their attention better and perhaps spend a few moments with them. MAKE SURE you get their names, addresses, and phone numbers, or your whole booth will be pointless. Besides the address, get the date of the planned wedding. My friend uses drawings for prizes since they usually put their real address on and the prizes don't have to be expensive. He would follow up with a congratulations letter to the winner and a consolation letter to those who did not win. He would offer them a discount for a quicker order for his products. You might be able to work deals with other people at the show to recommend them if they recommend you or work out packages. I know a photographer who works with caterers, gown makers, etc. to get more business. Create a video highlighting your best wedding work. It should be played continually with a musical background that enhances the visuals. You might want to hand out air-filled, heart-shaped, latex balloons - imprinted if possible, or tagged. These will stand out and last a long time (giving the future customer a good feeling about the value of balloons because most people only think "helium" and also paving the way for selling more air filled work that can be done ahead because of all the business you guys are going to get. Yes, these will take up lots of space, but have all your vans parked in strategic, visible positions - filled with bags of the inflated balloons. Every employee should wear their company shirts and get the opportunity to visit each of the other booths and collect their handouts. They would also be available for helping in the booth when it gets overwhelmed. First you should talk to someone in charge at the show. Talk them into letting you decorate the runway and the registration tables. I made a deal with a Brides to Be, that I would do the show but only if I could do the decoration for the runway and greeting table. I told them I didn't even need a table ( but they gave me one anyway). So first I wanted to give the brides something bigger than a business card not so easy to lose in all the other flyers they got but for around the same price. I found this special paper from Office Max that you design your own folding brochure. I printed up what I wanted to say on the computer, cut it out and taped it right where I wanted it. Then put lots of different picture of my work. Made copies onto the brochure paper (make sure copier has special setting for photos.) I got 500 photo brochure for $65 and they had lots of room to put all the information I felt I wanted to say. I put the brochures at the bottom of each creation ( in plastic brochure holder, also availed at Office Max) I made 3, 10 foot columns at the back of the stage ( with exploding 3 foot toppers) Then put together the 2 heart frames joined in the middle at the end of the runway (9 inch clear balloons with light and greenery running thru it.) When the models came out and stood under the hearts it just looked like a story book ( not many of people have seen this effect, the clear balloons and the tinkle of the light just bring out the beauty of a wedding gown.) Then at the end of the show I exploded the balloons,( again something not everyone has seen). All thru the show and during breaks I made sure I got up on the stage and acted like I was adjusting something on stage. But I really was letting everyone just see me, the person that did these balloons, and of course my company name in big letters across my back was not missed. I also put different balloon arrangements on the greeting table and around the entrance. The Brides to Be Company complemented me and have already asked me to decorate again. That show was just last Sunday, and I did have all my brochures picked up by the brides. I know I impressed every one there. Now if you're stuck with just one table and there is no way they'll let you decorate even just the runway, then make sure you make something that moves, lights up or explodes. Something they haven't seen or something that looks like it would cost a lot but is cheap ( and put the price on it). Have to catch that bride's eye. Have lots of picture of your work. Maybe a book from each business. Put your brochure out and have all the companies' names listed that took part. As for who should watch over the table, have everyone there wearing your company name and if each of you talk with a bride you'll have everyone knowing about your chapter and talents. Then when the brides decide to have one of you do her wedding she can just pull out her brochure and call one of the closer shops to her. I don't think you can ever have too many sales people. Use the following entry within your booth so that you will immediately have a workable list of prospects. Name___ Company___ Address_____ City, State, Zip______ Telephone_____ E-Mail______ I'd like decor ideas for: __Holiday Party __Bar & Bat Mitzvah __Prom etc. __I wish/do not wish to receive any further information You will be able to use the entry blanks to target each potential client's specific need and will not need to wait to get the show's list of brides. Make certain your staff scans each entry for complete name, address and phone number. One of the tricks that work for us is to have a "give-away." We create very simple balloon roses. Stem: 1 -- 260q emerald or white inflate leaving 1/2 to 1" at the end tie off. Find its half point and twist (one-half towards you one half away) From the twisted end measure about 6 inches or a hands length and perform a simple twist again. Now you have a donut at one end. From the top (outside twist) of the donut push that twist into meet the other twist and twist again. Now you have a bow. Take the ends of the bow and twirl them around each other and about 1 inch from the bottom make another simple twist to hold the twirl in place. Now inflate a 6" heart, rose, pink, red etc. and take the knot and twist-wrap it around in-between the top of the bow. Now you've got a simple rose! We even imprint the 6" hearts with are company name and contact info. What I have found to make a big difference is to have something for them to walk under. The best bridal show around here has booths that are about 8-9ft deep and about 15ft wide. We always make our booth a walk in and have the brides walk under some kind of arch. Last year we did a simple fish-spine arch attached to 2 of our poles/bases swagged in satin. This year we did a walk thru heart. Anyway you do it, it makes them want to walk under it (don't ask me why, but it works...) and then into your booth. Once there, they look around at your beautiful things and talk to you, and, hopefully, they're hooked! It is something different that most of the other vendors don't do, so it turns into an attention getter. Another thought would be a canopy, but it's so much work for such a short time of exposure. We also don't have a whole lot of brides around here willing to pay that price tag. The other thing is that we have given them gifts, and we've not given them gifts, and, to be honest, I haven't noticed a heck of a lot of difference in bookings. This year we were able to put a flyer in the bag that the sign up desk was giving out. I'll have to let you know how that works out, but I can tell you it was a lot less work and stress on my part! Good luck, I love bridal shows because if nothing else, you get to decorate the way YOU want to! Remember, bridal fairs are a mid to long term investment! Don't expect immediate sales that day or even next month. Most brides that visit bridal shows have only recently become engaged. The wedding date is often still a year away. Consequently, your investment in time and money for a bridal fair won't show any "return" on wedding decor orders for some months into the future. Your objective here is to get your company name out there into this "specialist" market. You do that best by impressing them with what they SEE on show on the day of the fair. By showing special items, fine quality work with the very best in product..... you are sending a message that your company is professional - sound - and a cut above the rest. They'll remember that and come back to your showroom when their "shopping around" is finished and it's time to order (a few months from now). When you have a "clear point of difference" ..... price becomes a secondary consideration in the buyers mind. Wow 'em When it comes to bridal shows, a little can go a long way. Make sure whatever you do, you do it well ! I used to try to decorate the whole show. Runway, entrance, my table, registry table. I was so rushed that by show time I didn't want to talk with the brides. Now I only do the runway and my table. I have found that "I give my heart", ( designed by the Bells, featured in the Q.B.N. promotional material's ) gets me the most questions. I build that over the runway, and put my flyer on each corner column. It is a simple dance floor, does not take forever, yet it's very impressive. Canopies are impressive but very time consuming. Not to mention if you don't know what you're doing, the results are going to hurt your business. Make your display booth match the runway. Have a sign stating that your company designed the runway. Don't overload your table with stuff. Make sure you're ready to smile and meet new friends. Try to talk to one bride at a time. (They like to feel that their wedding is special to you.) I have never given free gifts away, but that might be something to look into. I depend on my work to impress the bride. ( I even impress myself sometimes ) If I can make the bride want it, then I'm half way there. If they asked you any question, that means they are interested in your services. Ask the bride her colors, then explain to her the vision of her beautiful day: cascading tulle, crystal (in her colors) bubbles, the soft, romantic sparkles of twinkle lights draping from above ( and so on, you get the picture). If you can paint her the beautiful picture, she'll have to have it. Above all, do beautiful work. Don't do something you're not confident about. It will show in your mood when you talk with your brides. Remember it's your magic creations that will sell the brides. Not balloons. I did my first bridal show, and it sure did turn out great! I bartered for my space. (The space was 12 x 22). At the entrance of the hotel I made a walk through heart with a bride and groom. A florist made a bouquet for me to put with the bride. I also decorated the registration tables. I put plaster pillars that I made look like stone with tulle and a 3 foot balloon in the center. The florist made bouquets for the top of the pillars. I also decorated with columns in other areas. I split my space in 1/2 and made a white swan and a walk through arch way on the other 1/2. I got a lot of compliments and got phone calls the next morning and have allready booked some events. On average, I would say I have almost 99% conversion rate. As well as designing and helping clients with their wedding decor. I point out the pitfalls of: a) doing it themselves b) the cheap cost-cutter decorator - after all no one wants their decor on the floor when they arrive. I offer: c) real value for money, and d) DIFFERENT decor, no one wants the same as their friend had. Update your portfolio! Win the mother of bride over to your side! I find if mother comes to, they are ready to buy. Also it is the one time when being older has its reward. The mother trusts me! I find that we can resell the same decor every 3 years, as the brides change round with their friends is covered by this time period. So, I rotate decor on a 3 yearly period, also try to bring in one really spectacular piece of decor each year and show this at our top bridal fair. It's worked so far! It worried me that I had not booked so many jobs this year, until I looked at the calibre of work we were booking; much bigger and better paid work, and not so much of the small jobs. So be prepared to change, if it's better for your Company. Bridal shows are costly but 1 wedding booked will cover the cost. A few suggestion from my experience would be: If you're asked to send flyers to be put in bags for the brides for say, 10,000 bags. Don't waste fancy full color flyers in these. A lot of the bridal shows offer great give always. A lot of the people are not really getting married ( well someday ) They are there to win the prizes. So all those bags ( and your costly flyers ) go straight in the trash. Not to mention there is so much stuff in there the brides are over whelmed. Make sure your table display will get the sincere brides over to your table. Then they can pick up your full color flyer. I have noticed lately the brides that are really interested in your service are now marking my flyers with a flag, post-it, or some other means of telling my information from all the other stuff. Always decorate the run way for the models.( or entrance to the show ) It is work but do it right !! Put some of your color flyers by each column. Put a picture similar to the stage decor ( same design maybe just a different color ) on your table. This helps the brides to recognize that your the company that the bridal show company trust ( wish make it seem like they are recommending you ). I did my first Bridal Fair this past February. Best thing I've ever done in the way of advertising! My wedding business has increased tremendously. As far as getting cold feet, I can sympathize. I did too. I nearly backed out at the last minute! I'm so glad that I hung in there. For your booth -- I don't know what, if anything, the Bridal Fair people have told you -- but I'll give you some very important do's and don't's...... **Don't place the display table across the front of your booth, as it restricts traffice flow... tells people "Stop, I don't want you to come into my space." **Do put the display table(s) along the back wall and/or side walls of your booth. You rented the whole booth, didn't you? Use it. Let people into your booth. It says, "Welcome". I had ALWAYS thought you were supposed to place the table up front and sit down at the table.... waiting for patrons. NOT!!! This set-up simply says, "Don't come in my booth, I'm resting, and really not interested in you and what you want." I watched a video at a REAL bridal fair.... then observed for myself at the Bridal Fair -- you wouldn't believe the difference. It WORKS!! **Don't sit down or have your staff seated AT ALL! **Do have them up in front of the booth -- Smiling with brochures and/or flyers in hand - ready for possible customers. Need a break from standing? Switch off with a partner. Go sit a spell, come back. Believe me, this works too. **Do take PLENTY of business cards, product information, flyers, brochures, etc. Don't get caught empty handed. Send EACH person away from your booth with SOMETHING in their hand. Don't forget your pictures/portfolio!! **Don't eat or drink at your booth. **Do take an occasional break - get a coke or whatever. Be sure your partner is available to swap off with you. **Don't leave your booth unattended. **Do be sure to dress the part.... at our Bridal fair, the attire was formal/semi-formal. Since you will be "working", you want to be comfortable, but yet professional with some elegance.. You can probably get by with an elegant pants outfit. **Do wear comfortable shoes! As far as color and theme - well, everything seems to be "millenium" madness. My suggestion (that I got from this list!!!) -- Go traditional/neutral. White, Ivory, Diamond clear w/Flowers around, maybe gold or silver. The metallics are really in right now, and probably a safe "2nd" or "3rd" color for your booth. Take it easy though -- you want it to match, flow. You don't want it to look like a circus. Use additional color in various centerpiece items. Be different. Fortunately, we were the ONLY balloon professional at our show. So about anything we did was different from the rest. Our booth entryway -- We put up 2 six-foot columns (4-cluster) in pearl white, gold, clear w/flowers around. We topped them off with a 3-foot d. clear w/flowers around. Between the columns was a pearl arch of 11" d.clear w/flowers, with tendrils of satin ribbons hanging from the arch. It was pretty...... and gathered A LOT of attention!!! (For some reason, people like to "walk under" something. Then - TahDah! They're in your booth!) BEFRIEND THE BALLOON RETAILERS I never buy balloons wholesale. I buy all my balloons and most of my supplies from a local small-time retailer. I have done this for going on 15 years and I love it ! Am I nuts ? Maybe, but that's a different story. I pay about 25% more than I would if I purchased from a wholesale house. How much business can the wholesalers turn me on to ?? None !! I suppose there are cases where wholesalers ( in your city ) might be of some promotional help to you but I doubt that applies in many instances. The retailers on the other hand can send tons of business your way and if you take the time to establish a good friendly relationship with them, they will go out of their way to help you. They have Yellow Page ads ( I Don't ) that are aimed at consumers. They pay a lot for these adds. They trust my services enough to mention balloon decorating in their ads, fully intending to send the business to me ! It's an absolute win win situation. I pay about $125 for $100 worth of balloons.....depending on the type of deco, these balloons will do a project that I charge between $600 to $900 for. Is it worth the extra $25 ??? Duh ! I wouldn't have had the job without them !! I spend more than $25 on pizza for the crew! The key is to find retailers that are not interested in "on location" decorating. I have established a great relationship with a major party store in our city. They decided some time ago that working outside their shop was not what they wanted to do. I got acquainted with them by offering to deliver for them one Valentines Day. They loved me. Since then they have sent probably 30% of my annual business to me and I don't even buy balloons from them. They simply do not want to say no to their customers when decorating is requested. In addition to all that, when the client takes the referral info and calls me, my negotiating position is very strong. Other bonuses.....I have a local person to yell at....some one who always listens to me. I have an arrangement with them to allow me to return any un-opened grosses....this means we never come up short on a job when the client asks (as they almost always do) for last minute additions and changes (boy ! do those pay well !! ) But not if it's the middle of the night and you don't have enough extra balloons to fill the order. These two "retailers" account for 50% of my annual business......the event planners that I have taken the time to "court" provide the rest. I do no advertising of any kind ( with the exception of a well developed web site that costs me less than $1 per day !) Bottom Line....The Wholesalers need you a whole lot more than you need them!!! Do the legwork to establish the relationships and it will pay and pay and pay. Party City can be your friend. They do not offer on site decor. ( not the kind we do ) I made friends with the store manager and he hands out my flyers, when brides ask about decor. I slip him 25 C-shells cash when I book a wedding from him. ( I gave him 25 C-shells even before I actually booked a wedding, to motivate him more ) He is more than happy to pass on the big jobs and I am more than happy to let them have the little jobs. Besides watch their sales. You can get supplies for less than wholesale. Stock up and let them pay for part of your supplies. Half off card shop will work with you. Just make sure you make arrangements with the right person. Make sure you pay them in cash every time one of their leads book. You can never have too many friends. I found that if you talk to the Party City manager (or make friends with the employees) they will refer people to you that want the special decorations that they don't do. Slip them 20 C-shells and they are your best friend. REFERRALS I give and get referrals. If I can not do a job , at first I wanted to send the clients to someone that wasn't as talented as my company. That way the come back to me, then I thought oh no if they get a bad job no one from that job is going back to anyone. So I have a few fellow Eastern Michigan Q.B.N. Chapter members I will call and trusts when I can not take on another wedding. In return they offer my service when they are overbooked for a date. Now as for party planers, halls, or D.J. I pay 25 C-shells cash when they send me a referral. In return they send me 25 C-shells cash when someone I send them books. >Has anyone been charged a referral fee by a party planner, D.J , >etc.. when you receive business through them? If so , what is the usual fee? I do get business from various sources. There are no "usual" fees. With some we just refer business to each other without keeping exact tabs. For others it is a fixed percent usually from %5 to %10. Still for others I negotiate my fee and they do the booking work, adding a mark up for themselves. As far as referral fees. I let everyone know I will pay them a 25 C-shell cash referral fee. I find that most halls or D.J's like the cash and are happy with this amount. I just added the 25 C-shells to my job cost form and so it really don't cost me anything. By far my favorite way to get business is referrals from bridal shops. Some will let you decorate their window or do a display in the store in exchange for referrals. I have found this to be the best way to get work. COMMERCIALS Commercials ...... very tricky! The cost of radio or TV commercials is very high, but that is proportionate to the return one can expect IF ...... you do your homework first. We'd like to share our experiences. We first tried radio commercials for Dolly's decorating company about 2 years ago. We ran 3 separate 30 second commercials, 4 nights a week between 7pm and 11pm. During the "Love Song Dedications" show. The radio station we chose mainly for geographic reasons. (our target area) These ads ran for a month.It turned out to be a total waste of a lot of money! We got orders ..... but ......? It has taken 2 years for Dolly to even LISTEN to the idea of trying again. Recently we began a new radio campagne. This time .... radio station with wider geographic audience but high DEMOGRAPHICS towards females aged in our target bracket ..... daytime only, .... one day per week only. The results have been very good so far! We'll run for at least 3 months and then probably give it a rest till the season (or reason) is right again. The best thing .... the total cost of this campagne is less than the radio ads 2 years ago that bombed. If you own a balloon decorating business, there are so many critical factors to consider for radio or TV advertising. Consult some experts, it helps enormously. Things to consider; Demographics that fit your target market. (WHO specifically are you trying to reach?) The day of the week and the hour of the day that your product / service will appeal to listeners. (toilet cleaners don't advertise well during breakfast radio) The month/s of the year. (season) The duration of the advertising campagne. The wording of your ad can make or break the bank. What is the REAL purpose of the ad? Selling product? Maybe .... maybe not .....? Too many words or messages in an ad loses appeal. Remember the "KISS" message? Are you seeking short term or mid-long term return on your investment? There are key factors that I can't divulge on this list. (Dolly has competitors - so ask us at IBAC) If you disregard just one factor, your results could be disasterous. A tip from a couple in Sydney who found the answer the expensive way .... be careful, be thorough and seek professional guidance BEFORE you listen to that first demo tape. Our best advice is; don't disregard any form of advertising until you have thoroughly looked into the merits and demerits of each IN RELATION TO YOUR BUSINESS. Start with establishing a FIXED annual advertising budget. Advertising cost in general is a major part of our overhead but we do not advertise to the mass in general, we target our client base, primarily through selected print media. Print media "Hangs" around for a while. If you are determined to follow up with this media blitz, there is a chance you can barter for a lot of the media, including TV. You have got to realize you would be laying out a lot of cash, time or both. Your return will probably come back nickel and diming it with orders for deliveries and small decor jobs. If you are new we would really advise taking it slow and methodically. Your return on any advertising is long term and your advertising has to be long term also in order to show stability. To complicate it further, as an industry, we do not offer meat and potatoes, it is not a necessary commodity just a frill. We are also competing along side the floral and gift basket industry and the prop and party rental companies. You should weigh your expected return against your ability to provide the services also. If you sink a lot of capital into advertising and you are unable to meet the demand of a successful campaign then you will kill yourself in several ways. You will defeat all the positive marketing with an inability to provide a consistently good product. If you over book, you're dead. If you don't book enough you're dead. Then you will need to hire and train more people increasing overhead. Their learning curve could be devastating! You also need to factor the cost of all the media you are exploring. For every Radio station or TV channel you pick to advertise on there are also demographics. The cost could be devastating if you advertise in a demographic market that does not care to buy balloons. Even print media has demographics. You need to think about your marketing very carefully. When I first started out in the business I check into commercials. I was shocked at the cost of running the ad. The more reasonable prices were of course cable T.V. and other small local media. The cost to me was way too much. Personally I felt I would rather keep my cash and show as many people my magic. Picture, video and fancy words are great, but nothing will win you customers like seeing your work.