Bridal show tips for cake professionals: to exhibit or not to exhibit?

Bridal shows. Wedding fairs. Wedding shows. Whatever you call them, it can be tricky to weigh up (pun intended!) whether exhibiting is worth it for your cake business. How do you find the right wedding fair? How can you get the most out of exhibiting? And most importantly, do they work?! We’ve teamed up with The Cake Professionals who share their bridal show tips and wisdom for exhibitors. Lucky us!

Image credit: Christine Jensen at a wedding fair

The Cake Professionals: Bridal show tips

At The Cake Professionals, we want to see cake businesses (and their owners!) flourishing all across the UK. Whether it is a full-time job for you or sweet side gig, the whole point is to see your cake business, big or small, really flying.  

Phil and Christine Jensen - The Cake Professionals

On our regular Monday night Facebook Lives, the question of whether wedding fairs are really worth it sparked more response than any other we’ve asked. 
There was a LOT of debate about how worthwhile they are. Some shared regrets. Some shared tips. For the record, our take is that the answer is yes... if it’s the right kind of wedding show AND you’re ready to work smart. We’re going to share our bridal show exhibitor tips with advice on how to prepare for a bridal show. 

Here’s a teaser of our wedding show tips – scroll down to view them in order or click each one to browse individually:

  1. Find the right fair
  2. Work smart
  3. Think like a customer
  4. Make a great first impression
  5. Build your industry relationships!
  6. Ask the right questions
  7. Be helpful - guide couples through the process
  8. Take details and follow up!
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Bridal show vendor tips 

The Cake Professionals' five tier wedding cake at a bridal show

1. Find the right fair 

Wedding fairs are dedicated days where potential customers can meet your business face to face, to ask questions, see and taste your cakes. If you’re meeting the wrong kind of people for your kind of price point, then you’re not going to get far with sales. That was the painful lesson of our first two years in business.

In that time, we exhibited at 25 wedding shows. Yup. Gluttons for punishment, but each one taught us a little something more! They ranged from a huge three-day super luxury event at The Dorchester, to a tiny three-hour event at a village hall. A few seemed immediately worth it, and others a complete waste of time and money.

Here’s the key… you’ve got to find the right one. So, what makes a wedding fair right for your business?  It has…

  • the right buyers – meaning it has the kind of people you want to sell to.
  • at the right stage – the couples have a date set and their venue booked. That’s the point you can start a meaningful conversation. 
  • venue showcases… we’ve found these to be best kind of wedding shows. Events put on by venues for their prospective (or already booked) couples and their preferred suppliers. It’s the perfect combination. 

The Cake Professionals' bridal show stand

“Great, you’ve found the right wedding fair. Now it’s down to your preparation and winning work on the day!”

2. Work smart

The hard truth is that the reason some wedding shows don’t work is not the fair, it’s us cake makers… ouch! We absolutely own the fact that it was us in our first few wedding fairs. Money spent, fair attended, no orders…what was going on? 

3. Think like a customer

If you want to get more customers, you need to think like a customer. Put yourself in their shoes. What are they looking for in a cake maker? Are they ready to buy? How can you be helpful? It can help to do some secret shopping at an upcoming fair and then think: What branding catches your attention? Who would you trust with your money? What makes you dismiss a business without a second thought? We need to see ourselves through the eyes of our customers.

4. Make a great first impression

The Cake Professionals' five tier cake at a wedding fair

It only happens once so make it a good one. The area you occupy, what you wear, leaflets, cake samples, your manner and attitude… all speak loudly about you and your business. Make sure it’s all lining up to be a company the customer can trust; someone they want to buy from. It’s not about being fake, it’s about representing your business well. 

“Stay confident. Keep smiling. Most people won’t order from you… and that’s OK.” 

Wedding shows, are like finding your Cinderella(s). You’ll meet and greet a bunch of confused, stressed, excited people, and let them all try on your gorgeous glass slippers to see if they fit. They’ll fit a few, but not everyone. Which means it’s ok to let folk walk on by if you know they’re not going to be comfy with your style, your pricing, your vibe. There’s someone else who’s going to be perfect for them. Understand where they are in their planning.    

5. Build your industry relationships!

The last hour of a wedding fair is often best used connecting with other businesses. Arguably the worst wedding fair we ever went to had ten suppliers, and only two couples attended. What a disaster right? Not really. 

Never underestimate the value of connecting with other suppliers. From that event we won one of that year’s best orders, all through a recommendation from another supplier. Your fellow industry pros are another great potential source of orders.

6. Ask the right questions 

You can only have a few conversations in a day. Even with a thousand people in attendance, you’re only likely to have between 15 and 20 memorable conversations. You need to quickly work out which customers are most likely to buy from you, and filter the rest. Our thought process is below. 

The wedding planning journey

Early in the conversation you need to ask something like, “So how long have you been engaged?” This’ll help you get a feel for where they are in their planning journey. If they’re engaged you can then ask something like, “Where have you decided to get married?” 

If they’re ready to buy, then you know this is a conversation that you can invest time in. But, if not, they might buy in the future so make sure you help them move a bit closer to becoming a buyer.

7. Be helpful - guide couples through the process 

Most couples at wedding fairs have not planned a wedding before. It’s kind of intimidating. There’s a lot they don’t know, and you do. So, one option is to choose to be super helpful and point them in a useful direction. 

You will likely know other great wedding suppliers and venues. So, go ahead, ask the couple what they need, and give them a few names that might help. It goes a long way in building trust and when they’re ready to buy they might come looking for you.

Make sure you ask them to let the supplier or venue know you recommended them. If a supplier or venue knows you’ve recommended them, they’re more likely to return the favour. Go on, share the love - what goes around comes around. 

8. Take details and follow up!

It sounds basic, but we didn’t do this for about eight months. We believed turning up would be enough (it seriously isn’t).

We now get 15-20% of our business via wedding fairs. It’s all about following up within a few days of the event. 

For good prospects where the conversation has gone well, ask for their contact details. Not just the basics of their date and email address, but also note the style they like, which of your cakes they connected with, etc. Then, follow up with a brief personal email to help move them to the next stage, e.g. would they like to book a consultation?

The Cake Professionals' three tier wedding cake

There you have it. Wedding fairs CAN work well for gaining business, but you need to be meeting the right buyers for you, and work smart at every step to make it worth it for your business. We hope you found our bridal show tips helpful! Looking for more handy cake business guides? Check out how to price your cakes, or starting a cake business if you’re new on your cake business journey. For lots of cake inspiration, ideas and advice subscribe to Cake Decoration & Sugarcraft magazine.

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