Monday, April 23, 2007

Marketing Bridal Lists

E-mail should be the LAST resort in a marketing strategy for working lists from bridal fairs:

First - even though we're promised, and often receive, a definitive, accurate and effective list of registered bridal visitors by the bridal fair organizers, these lists often arrive as late as two or three weeks.

And, they are rarely as accurate as we'd like, often through no real fault of the organizers, but more that many, MANY bridal fair guests do not always GIVE accurate information. Also, they are usually full of multiple registrations by moms, sisters, friends, etc.

That being said, we do whatever we can to obtain a working list of our own, one that we can begin "working" immediately. We often obtain this list by having a end-of-show drawing at our booth, sometimes requiring that the entrants be present to win, other times stating that we will notify the winner by phone and/or mail after the show.

We approach obtaining this list in many ways, but the most effective for us has been that my assistant engages the bride and/or groom with a few questions about their engagement, when or where he or she popped the question, etc. We do this TV interview style, with a camera focused on them, and microphone in hand. I have DVDs with pre-recorded demo content on a chapter, or chapters, then record these interviews, slip the DVD into a case with custom insert and business card, and hand it to them. While the bride, usually, is talking to my assistant, and being recorded, I get the groom or a friend or accompanying family member to fill out the entry card for our drawing.

Sure, we lose a few people this way, but the ones who's "stories" we capture to DVD, then hand out to them along with our demo are very effective, with a longer "shelf life" than an ordinary demo, although we do hand out those as well.

We use a multi-faceted approach when following up, regardless of how our lists are acquired. We do this in the following order USUALLY:

• Send specially printed post cards with pertinent information and hand-signed with an expression of appreciation for visiting the bridal fair, and/or our booth. This also offers an opportunity to request via e-mail, mail or phone (no sales pressure applied) to acquire a
demo DVD that includes a full wedding production, and our web site of course.

• We follow up this contact within 10 days with a one-page letter offering something special if they "act now," repeat our offer of a free demo DVD, and state that we will give them a "call within the next five days," to answer any questions they might have.

• We follow up this contact with a phone call. The contact will often CALL us - some kind of "preemptive strike" effort, I guess, but often they'll leave a message, ask a few questions or decline or say they've already selected a video services provider and not to waste our time with them. In so many words or another, but essentially this is their message. Often, however, we will actually field the call in person, affording us an opportunity to win them over with our personalities (smile goes here), and so forth.

• We follow this contact up with all but those who specifically said they had booked elsewhere and not to bother them by sending the demo DVD anyway, usually within another 10 days. We enclose a business card, brochure and a brief note that if they haven't made up their minds for
video (or not), haven't booked, or whatever to PLEASE call or e-mail. We promise to answer ANY questions or concerns they might have and promise in bold letters to NOT pressure them if they do so.

• We hang onto these lists and our notes regarding who we've contacted, who we've talked to, mailed to, etc. We have a month/year file and 60 days prior to their designated event date we e-mail (FINALLY) and/or send a one-page letter or post card, making some kind of offer if they book within the next 5 working days, even at this late hour, as we've not yet booked their date and would "love to work" with them.

We get a lot more out of our lists when we work this program faithfully.

Sure, we sometimes stumble, lose information, don't follow up, whatever (maybe I'm just in a bad mood or something, or don't FEEL like communicating with people - you know how it is.) but when we've worked the marketing system this way, and do it with consistency and conviction, our closing rate goes way up.

We are diversified, and do not focus exclusively on wedding video production. Being full time we offer video production services for (our mantra - "ALL CELEBRATIONS OF LIFE!") milestone celebratory events, funerals, memorials, montage and projection work, youth sports, martial arts, school plays and events, and productions, dance studios, swim club competitions, water polo yearbooks, rowing team yearbooks, children's birthdays, senior graduation and grad night celebrations, and more.

But when we do a wedding it doesn't end there. We keep a file of every wedding we've produced. We send an anniversary card on their first anniversary and often every anniversary, a holiday greeting card during the Thanksgiving, Christmas (or related religious holidays) and New Year's season.

We have MANY who keep in touch, expressing their appreciation for our remembering them, telling us they've had their first child, etc. As a result of this we get countless referrals, not only for weddings, but for many of the other celebrations of life people celebrate through the years. We offer them our updated multi-production demo that shows elements of the many other things we do in addition to weddings.

Marketing takes work, energy, planning, money and organization, consistency, persistency... ...but it pays off in huge dividends if you stay with the program. I sometimes allow myself to become slack and lazy, thinking I have so much ongoing business, calls, and production work to get done, I don't have time to market. But when I let it go the feast can quickly turn to famine. Every week, if not every day, requires that some kind of marketing endeavor - handing out a card, making a call, tweaking the web site, mailing a demo, etc. - takes place.

Sure, most of us know this, know that "great ideas won't work..." unless we do, and SOME of us, including myself, might stick with such a program more or less. Conducting a marketing plan with as much consistency and organization as possible really works.

There's a HUGE amount of business opportunity "out there" not only for wedding producers, but full time independents offering services for other celebrations and events as well. This kind of approach to keeping in touch with your clients, and working those lists pays major dividends.

No comments: