What do I need to know about setting up cakes at a wedding or bridal expo or show?
Getting the best out of exhibiting a wedding expo booth at a Wedding Fair is a common question for cake decorators and sweet makers.
So how do we, cake decorators and sweet makers, know whether a bridal show are right for our business?
Plus we cover how to ‘get into’ Wedding Expos, what to have ready and what to take… With no idea where to begin!
Get your free Ultimate Wedding Expo Guide PDF here.
We have a co-guest blogger and seasoned wedding expo attendee, Natasha Rains from The Sweet Tooth Factory, Adelaide, who offers some really great advice on exhibiting.
Deciding is a wedding expo for you?
Are a bridal show a good idea or a waste of money?
Natasha – A wedding expo is for you if you are looking at expanding clientele into the wedding cake market.
I decided to trial wedding expos to expand clientele. I wasn’t confident to offer packages in the wedding cake market until:
- I had filled a few wedding cake orders (and gotten married myself!)
- That I could provide a special type of service that was different to birthday cakes.
I took a long time to develop the packages, which included:
- Customised service
- Consult & tasting
- Creation of cake
- Delivery, set up & handover
I think these are all important as part of the experience of booking a wedding cake from a cake decorator. (You are, after all, there to create a stress free experience.)
Research is key. This might seem obvious, but doing a Google search and reading the expo website will give you a load of information. Talk to other expo vendors, such as cake decorators, wedding coordinators or florists, about which expo they go to and why.
It could be an expo is poorly organised while others get 3 times the amount of people through the door. Some are more upmarket with entry fees while others have free entry. There is no right or wrong answer – information is key.
Natasha – It is important if you are looking to get into the wedding cake market to do the research first – how many vendors in your category, limitations on setups, needing your own insurance, etc?
While researching all the wedding expos in your area, find out the cost. They can range from anywhere from $100 to $thousands. Find one in the right price range with the right target market for you. Cheaper isn’t necessarily better and nor is expensive better.
Choosing an expo with the right target market will yield a better return on investment (ROI).
Natasha – Some expos are very expensive. Think about what price point you will have as well as unique point of difference compared to others at the wedding expo. Big expos are not only insanely expensive, but incredibly hard to compete with.
I found a smaller boutique expo, which offers a more intimate experience and entry fee at the door. That way you are targeting the right market, being they are willing to pay in the door and therefore more likely to pay for quality. People that are looking for cheap bargain will generally not want to pay to get in.
On average, cost is $400-500. You generally need 1 client to make that money back. While 2-3 clients will cover extra costs such as props, samples and brochure costs.
Talk the talk
Cakers start a cake business because of the love of creating cake, not the business aspect of book keeping or putting up a gazebo! But it is a necessary skill to be able to talk to your potential customers.
Your confidence will grow with your business, as well as your skill set but you do need to be able to stand in front of (and stand up for!) your cakes and show your passion when talking to people. Remember why you got into this business in the first place.
Natasha – Customer service and being to be able to talk and communicate in a professional and reassuring way. You have to be confident in what you are selling, and have to be prepared to do a lot of talking.
To be able to talk the talk you need have a bit of confidence and believe in yourself, you will get more confident with expos, but you need to know you can deliver the goods.
Most people take ‘dummy’ cakes, being decorated styrophone. I recommend taking at least 3 cakes, depending on the size of your stall and display take. Show a mixture of different techniques and style.
A great tip is to have a card in front of each cake, name the cake, number of tiers shown on the display, serving size and price. Otherwise you will be asked these questions a bazillion times!
Natasha – Look at current wedding trends. Decide on what types of cake you want to display. Don’t make cakes that you don’t want to make on a regular basis or take orders for. (I don’t like quilting and a lot of royal icing and therefore don’t take those display cakes!) I also like to showcase my stands for hire and I also offer bonbonniere, cupcakes so I try to take a handful of those as well.
Sharing your portfolio or gallery of your work and cake designs is a great idea. It give more for your potential customer to look at.
It could be a photo book, a TV set up with photos or videos, a laptop with a slideshow playing or a iPad with a gallery for people to click through.
Natasha – In the beginning I took a good ol’ fashioned photo album. The downside to this is they have to physically turn the pages to see the images and then you have to update every time. And it creates crowding around your stand – if you need to do this create two albums, and halve them at separate ends. You want crowding, but not where people are frustrated not being able to see/ interact.
I have since got my 12 year old to set up the tablet slideshow, which sits on repeat. I got a mobile charger and I can set up to keep moving all day. It doesn’t take much to update, set up and people can see it from afar.
Sealed containers is a great idea, as it saves cutting and handling food on the day. That way you can concentrate on customer service!
Baking off sheet cakes, layer with butter cream or ganache and make sure to put a business sticker on it. (Imagine if there is more than 2 cake decorators and how a bride-to-be will remember which sample belongs to which cake decorator.)
Take forks & napkins.
Natasha – Take loads of samples, including the most popular flavour. A special diets option (such as gluten free or vegan) is a good idea if that is something you offer. I take clear containers with logo sticker in it. I fill each cake with ganache layers with perhaps 2 flavour combos in each container. I go down to my local packaging place and get 100 for $10. I will have a stack of them in various places, and always be holding samples along with a brochure to hand out. It’s a great icebreaker!
Get your free Ultimate Wedding Expo Guide PDF here.
Take professional signage with your business branding on it. When people take a physical picture of your stall you want your business name or logo to be part of that memory.
Natasha – The more boutique wedding expos have made me think more outside the box a little bit. Normally the general expos will allow vistaprint signage and pull up banners and the one I go to, don’t allow pull up banners. You can outsource for someone to create your logo on a vintage board. Officeworks can do a canvas blow up, which cost me from memory, about $50 or $60.
This time round I went to a professional designer who is doing a raw timber board for me and with logo.
Signage can be anything you want to make it. Remember, it is your shop front that you want to portray to people. Think of how you can stand out from the crowd.
Pull up banners are cost effective and easy to pull up and down, and eye catching, just depending on your style and branding.
Brochures & Business Cards
Take some type of physical promotional material, where people can pick up and take away with them that has your full list of contact details. A 1 page, double sided, flyer is perfect, as well as a business card.
Natasha – It again depends on how much you want to spend. I gave my graphic designer the dimensions for Vistaprint’s 3-sided brochures. My wedding brochures has details of my philosophy, the service I provide, the cake flavours, pictures of some wedding and engagement cakes.
I also have a DL size flyer, which is a bit cheaper. It is just as effective with a bit less information and pictures. I also got my graphic designer to create these, but vista print for the cheaper print option.
Before an event I make sure I have my DL flyer tucked inside a wedding brochure, and a business card stapled to the outside. Setting up a bunch of these along with your samples your giving them all the information they need.
Once a year I pay my graphic designer about $50-60 to update the brochures and I will print off more through Vistaprint.
Dress to Impress
You want to look professional and on brand. Whether in a smart suit or chef jacket and a bonus would be your business logo is on your shirt.
Natasha – I got Jackets and aprons with logo embroidered on it. I believe that businesses that don’t dress nicely it gives me a unique position that I look more professional and step above the rest. Spend time to work on personal presentation, like nails clipped, and hair pulled back. My history is in the hospitality industry, so food and personal hygiene is something I want my customers to see is important to me.
With paying a fee, with your signage, business cards, flyers, samples and portfolio, this expo is a shop front for you and your business. Treat it as such and give the impression of what you want people to experience when dealing with you and your business.
Natasha – An expo stall is like a mini shop front. It is what you want people to see about your business in the hope of people to order.
Brides will want to do some stalking. Having even a simple one page website with a couple of photos and a contact form will be effective.
Natasha – After my first expo another cake lady was very similar playing field (the same amount of time in business, skill set). I decided to research and find a way that I can better improve. She had a website. It was clean, and gave a professional image.
I didn’t have a website and I decided by next one I wanted to have a website by the next expo. It is an extension of that mini shop front that sells for me.
Strike up a Conversation
Qualify people straight away, by checking they are your target market and you are actually available on their wedding day. Ask ‘’when is the big day? Are you looking for a cake decorator?’
Natasha – ‘’Hi, how are you going? When are you getting married? When is the big day?’’
Start a conversation, small talk. Ask about themselves. This is what I am saying you have to be a good people person, adapt, and have a bit of personality, conversation. As I mentioned before, offering a sample is also a great icebreaker.
Hold a Competition
Collect your own leads with a contest at your own booth. Collect contact details of people you meet on the day so you can follow up with them after the event. Partner with businesses, such as a romantic meal for 2 or a massage at a spa for prizes and offer to share the lead list with them.
Natasha – Having a competition with $100 voucher (for example) is a great way to draw over and start a conversation. ‘’Just browsing, not a problem, feel free to enter this competition.’’
You can then go home with contact details. You can ring or email and say, ‘’hi, you didn’t win the $100 voucher but I have this free taste testing day or I can give you a free quote.’’
You will be more memorable. Even if the wedding is 18 months away, give them another way to come on a journey with you. From meeting you at an expo, following your FB page, sending an email or a phone call. Think about the different contact points.
Changing it up
Much like a market stall, I am always aiming to improve my exhibit and set up and I probably always will!
Natasha – As you grow, get more professional, play around with setting. Google sweet table styling. You will learn and grow over time.
Talking with all the other exhibitors at the bridal fair or wedding expo is a great networking event. Forming and building a relationship with other people in the industry is valuable. For example wedding coordinators are always looking for cake decorators to recommend.
Natasha – Bump in is your set up time, usually the day before. Find out how long do you get to set up, what size stall and where, dimensions, etc. Having a bump in gives you the opportunity to meet the other vendors, networking is JUST as important as the brides on the expo day. If people remember they will talk about you. That is also how you find out about other open days and events and they want to network with YOU. They want to work 1:1 and are always looking for a preferred supplier list. Introduce yourself, have a chat, go from there.
This is also another great way to utilize other suppliers – styling companies will be a part of these events – hire props from them. Saves you money and space from buying them all and gives you the opportunity to change displays regularly!
After the event the bride register will collect the contact details of the brides-to-be that walk through the door. They will email you these leads and contact details.
Sales usually don’t happen on the day. After the show, follow up. FAST. That could be in the way of a quote or a free taste testing day that you are taking bookings for.
Natasha – For me, I was taught there is a 90 day rule.
You are never actually going to get an actual booking for a wedding cake sale on the day. Much like selling a house – they will go away and think about it. Take in all the information from the day.
Maybe the next day, maybe the next week, maybe the next month. If you sold yourself well, people remember you, remember you aren’t everyone’s cake maker. There is more than enough cake for everyone!
Don’t Forget to Take
Calendar, calculator, pen & notepad, to write down inquiries.
Napkins and forks for people who want to eat their sample on the spot.
Water bottle for yourself.
Natasha – The first couple of expos will be a bit of time, money and planning. The benefit is 10 fold. I have been able to quit my day job, since displaying at wedding expos. I have done the hard yards. I have spent a bit of money making my exhibit appealing and worked hard at building my business up, networking with other suppliers and really making my mark.
Natasha – The expos are quite big, busy and can be overwhelming. The bride will come home with a big bag of brochures and business cards.
You will be in competition against other businesses and large initial outlay. Ask the coordinator for feedback, and take it all in your stride! You wouldn’t be there if they didn’t see some potential.
If you have decided wedding expos aren’t for you:
Natasha – Actual Wedding venues have individual open days. Go in and introduce yourself, ask to be added to their preferred contact list and offer exclusive package or discount if people order from their recommendation.
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