I haven't seen this discussion yet, so I'd like to ask if anyone has had success or not, with bridal conventions. I plan to attend an upcoming convention to get a feel for it but don't want to appear to be snooping out info, so I'm seeking help here Any advice would be helpful. Thank you
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I did a number of bridal shows when I had my bakery, and they were very valuable, especially early on in the marketing/development of my business, as they put me in direct contact with brides, but - more importantly - with ongoing referral sources (hotel events managers, wedding consultants, etc.) who eventually drove business my way year in and year out. The lion's share of my business was wedding-related though . . . (this was on purpose, as that business is more predictable, easier to schedule, and higher margin than average run-of-the-mill birthdays and other occasions) . . . So I would have been daft had I not attended these shows in some capacity.
But because I did labor intensive, custom, and relatively expensive work (as I guess you probably do), I only did the high-end shows at places like the Ritz or our super deluxe mall (not the big mass market shows at the convention centers). If you do the latter, you run the risk of getting a lot of people grazing/sampling who probably will never purchase. Providing samples is an entirely other discussion - it can get very costly, thought there's no doubt that good samples will draw people to your table. Another reason to be more selective in the shows that you do.
I ended up meeting the events manager at the Ritz at one of my very first shows, which then turned into me being the exclusive provider of all of their wedding cakes for 3 or 4 years. That one show and that one relationship that I forged there accounted for at least 30% of my revenue during that period. So, I'm a huge fan of these shows, provided they fit your target market and product.
Also, I think it's a great idea to attend a show just to scope it out before attending for real as a vendor. The more homework you do, the better - especially if the show charges you to attend. And I think there's no reason not to be obvious about the fact that you're scoping it out. I'd go as far as to ask the vendors how the show has been going for them - say you are considering it in the future and you'd welcome their feedback. Any non-competing vendors will no doubt talk freely; even competing ones probably will.