Advertising Your Decorating Business

Feb 15, 2023

Advertising Your Decorating Business

Photograph EVERYTHING – good and bad. You’ll learn from all of it.
– Unknown


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.

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.

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

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 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 

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)


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

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

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

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
  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.    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,

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

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

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.


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

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!


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 

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).


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
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

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.


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!


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

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  
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


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.


 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

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 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.


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 
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".

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.

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

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.


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.

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.

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! )

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, 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, 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.

City, State, Zip______
I'd like decor ideas for:
__Holiday Party
__Bar & Bat Mitzvah
__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

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 

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 
	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 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 
	**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!)

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

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 ...... 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"
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 
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 
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. 

MB 12/13/95
MB 12/22/95
SKB 01/13/97
SKB 12/23/97
MB 7/20/99
MB 12/11/99