Consumer Events – Yes or No?
Pros and cons of participating in consumer bridal events
Wedding and bridal fairs are happening by the dozen in cities across the nation. Have you thought about exhibiting at one of these consumer-based events? Here’s my take.
As background: my daughter has accepted a proposal of marriage. Next step: of course — to take in a wedding show. It was with keen eye and camera in hand that I attended with my smart, beautiful offspring. What caterers would I see there? What type of event planners, hotels, resorts, tabletop artists? What gimmicks? And in the end — did I think that it seemed like a worthwhile endeavor for those who expend the time, energy, and money to exhibit?
First off, unlike a trade event, a consumer event is a total attendance crapshoot. There were kids and strollers, very few men, and packs of women of a certain youthful age approaching wedding cake sample tables like a rewind of a classic tree decorating segment in A Charlie Brown Christmas.
First takeaway: Those caterers who offered food samples were near-trampled by a crowd of hungry attendees (the show opened at noon) who really only wanted to fuel themselves. I felt bad for the two women occupying a small catering services booth who spent the entire time with heads down, scooping chicken and a side onto plates, with not a breath expended on engaging people about their company. Clearly, they needed one more employee to greet and hand out cards.
Conversely, those planners who offered a “visual feast” (such as the Do Not Touch but You Can Look entrée samples or décor) along with a beverage that required attendee self-service seemed to have more face time with potentials. Add in a drawing for a discount of sorts and they were also able to capture sales leads.
Takeaway two: A money grab booth, photo booth, or a spin-the-wheel game offers a reasonable interval when your potential client is politely waiting for their turn. This is an opportunity to approach and capture names, or press business cards into palms or bags. Those vendors who had simple tables with brochures fanned across in artful ways found that even a bowl of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups did not draw the kind of face time they’d hoped for.
Another vendor had a logo gift bag with a cute spatula inside plus other company materials. Want one? Fill out this card. Their booth was slammed, but in a good way.
Final notes. Making a show floor sale is difficult for this type of consumer event when one half of the decision-making is (perhaps) at home watching Sunday afternoon football. Know that this is more about that tiny window of opportunity to connect with potential clients. And then — do connect. I put my name into at least 25 bins and drawings. I have heard from two vendors so far.
Kathleen Stoehr is the Publisher and Executive Editor of Catersource magazine and enjoys writing about trends in the catering and foodservice industry.