Regular contributor and award winning cake designer, Natalie Porter, makes great cakes and great sense. Follow her simple tips for wedding show success…
Last October I exhibited at BRIDES The Show - it's London's largest and more prestigious wedding show and by far the biggest financial commitment I have made to my business - Immaculate Confections... it was also one of the most intimidating and frightening things I have done! The show is run by Condé Nast's BRIDES magazine and so attracts London's high end wedding suppliers. Putting myself out there amongst them was a real leap of faith and a massive challenge. The benefit of this is that it also attracts many brides, almost seven thousand this year, many of whom with a healthy budget. It also gives you the opportunity to meet and build links with other top suppliers in the wedding industry as well as bloggers etc.
"When designing a show stand, even for a smaller local affair, it can help tremendously to choose a style or theme for the whole stand..."
The first step was to design the show stand. It had to be big, visually attractive and representative of my style and brand. Every inch of the stand had to be spot on, from the display cakes themselves to the display for the cakes. Making the cakes was by far the easy bit! Like many of us in the cake industry I am a one-womancake-making-machine, so I was heavily reliant upon the goodwill and assistance of friends and family. They were all amazing, though I'm not sure I would want to put us all through it again…When designing a show stand, even for a smaller local affair, it can help tremendously to choose a style or theme for the whole stand. This means your display will be eye catching and consistentand will stand out a lot more than a white cloth with a couple of display cakes on it. Think about tablecloths, backdrops, cake stands and the overall impact. At wedding shows you are selling the dream of someone's ideal wedding day just as much as you are selling cakes - giving the cakes a good backdrop and context will help you do this.
Choosing Your Display Cakes
In choosing the display cakes to take I try to cover a range of styles, from traditional to modern. I think it is important to strike a balance between showing what you can do at your best and what people expect to see. For every bride that has the courage to choose something unusual there will be five who are looking for traditional and pink. Know your market and choose accordingly. For this show I felt it appropriate to take along traditional looking cakes and a couple that were more striking and out-there. I also find it's useful to take along a novelty cake - it gets people attention, entertains the inevitably bored chaps and gives customers something to remember you by. Across the weekend we handed out over a thousand cake samples! Keep samples simple - a small square with a little piped swirl will do and are easy to mass produce. I do think it is important to have them as it is part of what is expected from cake suppliers and serves as a good talking point or ice breaker. A word of caution however; keep them somewhere out of reach so you can offer them when you feel you want to or you run the risk of your samples disappearing with a few groups of hungry visitors and you could lose the opportunity to talk to the bride.
At any show its also a good idea to collect email addresses from brides as your potential customers. This can be a list with pen and paper or via an app on a tablet, for example Mailchimp. Once you have their emails, use them. Add them to your newsletter list if you have one, or at the very least send an introductory email so they have all your details. Around a week after the show I'll often send out a newsletter with pictures of the show stand to help remind brides of who and where I was.
Would I do it again? Maybe. It was a huge amount of work and very expensive but also a big achievement to have exhibited there and not felt out of place amongst some of London's top suppliers. Whether it was worth it or not from a business point of view is yet to be seen - as with all wedding shows the aftermath is a slow burn. Brides make contact anything from a week to six months, a year or longer after the show, so whilst I have had some work from it I am hoping for more as the months go on. I am glad I did it though as more than anything, I proved that I could!