September 20, 2014

Are Bridal Shows Still Relevant for Mobile DJs?

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From his perspective, Mark Ashe of Enfield, Conn., sees bridal shows beginning to disappear—or, at least, evolving into smaller boutique-type shows.

“The shows around here, where we used to see hundreds of brides, see about half of that right now, while some are a downright disaster,” says the president of Marx Entertainment & Events. “Even so, we did a small show this past week that wasn’t very well attended, but still booked several thousand dollars in business within 24 hours from the show. So, go figure.

“There’s such a shift going on with the way brides and grooms find their DJs that everyone is being forced to make changes.”

Ashe reports that Marx Entertainment performs at over 400 events per year, and says 50-percent of the company’s advertising budget is nowadays spent on online advertising, with the remainder spent on bridal shows and banquet facility events.

“The shift has already started for us,” he says. “The banquet books are a story by themselves, and I think they’re following suit with the bridal shows. Either way, I think we do need to be careful to give up on anything too soon and just ride the wave of change. Who knows where it will bring us?”

We recently polled mobile DJs from throughout the country, asking them if bridal shows remain a relevant and cost-effective way to generate bookings for wedding receptions.

With everything continuing to go digital, is everything moving more toward the Internet?

Adam Moyer with Silver Sound DJs in Philadelphia says the company continues to participate in 20 to 25 bridal shows every year, though it also receives over 3,000 leads per year from its website.

“The digital age has definitely affected the number of bookings from bridal shows over the past five years,” he says. “A young and technologically inclined bride-to-be can research, interview and even book her DJ from the comfort of her own home, using her computer or mobile device—though some brides prefer to go old-school, and still like to go shopping with their moms at a bridal show.”

As the director of business development for Silver Sound, Moyer has done plenty of research into what types of brides-to-be attend bridal shows in the 21st Century.

“Sixty percent of the attendees have just gotten engaged and are completely overwhelmed,” he says. “They haven’t selected a definite date—or even a venue for their reception—and are nowhere near booking their entertainment. A lot of the young brides-to-be, in fact, seem like they were dragged there by their mother or mother-in-law.

“The fact is that 25-percent of the attendees already have their DJ booked. They also have their venue, photographer, videographer, florist, makeup artist and wedding dress. They’re only there for the free stuff, and mainly just want to win a grand-prize honeymoon or whatever else the big-ticket prize is.”

Moyer says the remaining 15-percent of attendees go to bridal shows to actually meet professionals. “They excitedly walk up to our display booth, look interested and ask questions,” he says. “They gladly give us their information and look forward to receiving quotes for our services.

“When I speak with brides at bridal shows, at least half of them have said, ‘You guys came highly recommended from our venue’ or, ‘My friend told me about your company.’ They like seeing us at a bridal show, because that’s where they can put a face to the name.”

And even though Moyer says Silver Sound attends a handful of bridal shows that don’t seem profitable, the fact is they are held at preferred facilities that refer plenty of new clients to the company throughout the calendar year.

“For instance, we do a bridal show at one of our top facilities every year in February,” he recounts. “We might get about six to 12 leads at the show—and might only book one or two of them—but this facility will refer about 20 to 30 clients, if not more, to us in a calendar year. So I feel obligated to participate in their show, whether or not the actual bridal show is profitable.”

Up in the Northwest, Adam Tiegs of Adam’s DJ Service in Seattle says most of his business nowadays comes from online inquiries or referrals from other professionals, and in fact he chooses no longer to participate in bridal shows or expos.

Tiegs offers four reasons for discontinuing these events. “First, I’ve downsized to become a solo DJ,” he says, “so I’m not a multi-op anymore and only need to fill my own calendar, not an entire team of DJs.

“Second, participating in trade shows for brides and the wedding industry is a lot of work and most of them usually happen on weekends while I’m busy with paid events. It takes a lot of time setting up a good-looking booth that’s inviting for brides and their guests to stop by and chat.

“Third, most brides attending these events expect discounts and don’t see the value most of us are able to provide—although, there are some exceptions.

“And finally, fourth, there are a lot of politics involved that can help or hinder your chances at getting business at these shows.

More-established shows have waiting lists that can be unfair, while less-established shows prey on less-experienced vendors—and therefore have lower quality shows—or even convince outsiders to have irrelevant booths at their shows. Then, instead of stopping by your booth, they’re signing up for new windows in their homes across the aisle from your booth, which is not cool.”

Tiegs’ advice to DJs trying to tap into the wedding and event market? “If you’re not booked the night of the trade show, visit and walk the trade shows for networking purposes,” he says, “and take the top three to five vendor partners who are participating in the show out to dinner. Wine and dine them so that you’re at the top of their list the next day at the show, to refer some potential business your way.”

Down south in Florida, JR Silva of Silva Entertainment says his regional brides shop both online and at bridal fairs, though his participation in bridal shows nowadays is mostly just to keep his brand visible. Brides are themselves very visual, he says, and therefore need to see the difference, learn the vocabulary and meet people face to face.

“In my Orlando market, there are at least 30 shows annually, and I usually appear at eight of them,” Silva says. “On the average, I pay $400-600 for a booth, and then a minimum of $400 for materials and staffing, so it takes at least two bookings to break even with those numbers. Plus, you have to give up a Sunday with the family, so the ROI is needed or you really shouldn’t be doing them.”

“A young and technologically inclined bride-to-be can research, interview and even book her DJ from the comfort of her own home, using her computer or mobile device.”
 – Adam Moyer, Silver Sound DJs

So why does he continue to do eight shows per year? “You don’t want to not do them because they’re educational for the bride—and you can’t forget that,” he says. “Not only are you showing out for brides, but you’re also showing out for the other vendors in the room.

“Bridal shows, done well, are a tremendous amount of work, and today it seems that brides are no longer bringing their wallets. It seems they’re just attending these shows in order to get free information and to win door prizes, but not to spend money. They used to book on the spot back in the ’90s, but now there’s so much saturation and so much competition dropping down the price-points that it can become discouraging.”

Back up in the Northeast, Gregg Hollmann of Ambient DJ Service in East Windsor, N.J., reports that his company’s wedding business has been growing nicely, even though they didn’t participate in a single show in 2013 and have not budgeted to participate in any in 2014.

“Instead, we’ve been using what I call a ‘Monopoly Strategy,’ using our marketing dollars to buy up premier space on online portals like The Knot and WeddingWire.com with featured ads across multiple territories,” he explains. “These programs generate a strong pipeline of leads that we then look to convert into bookings through a variety of tools that include a content-rich website, videos that explain our packages and options, and a suite of planning resources for brides.”

While he admits bridal shows can be a great way to get in front of brides (particularly for highly-interactive DJs who can showcase their MC and dance skills), Hollmann says the Internet allows a DJ to get in front of an even greater number of brides who are searching for services 24/7/365.

DJ Carl Williams of DJCarl.com Entertainment in New York City maintains that bridal shows are still important in his region of the country, if nothing more than from a marketing media-mix perspective.

“Brides definitely want to see your content online and in print,” says DJ Carl. “They want to hear positive reviews from past clients and other wedding vendors about your services. A bridal show provides the face-to-face, seal-the-deal opportunity that can help sell one’s personality, professionalism, style and value.

“I do one bridal show at the beginning of the year to showcase my personality, demeanor and experience. Just one gig booked will typically pay the entire bridal show fee, so bridal shows will always be important to separate oneself from the competition.

“The technology is making it easier for anyone to call themselves a DJ, so the Internet and bridal shows make it possible to educate brides in volume.”

Still, even Williams is quick to add that the Internet has also become great for him when it comes to booking brides and corporate clients.

“Many brides book me without meeting face-to-face because I have so much content online,” he explains. “As the content director for DJCarl.com, I’ve been able to optimize videos, music mixes, voice-overs, animated pictures and etcetera for the website. My goal is to make the site an educational party-music portal for diverse people.”

However, a face-to-face introduction is treasured by Taz Sellers, director of sales and marketing for Silver Sound DJs in Philadelphia.
“The ability to get out and be seen is an excellent marketing tool,” he says. “Although many of today’s brides are very Internet-savvy and doing a lot of the wedding-planning legwork online, there are still a few that I think like to have that personal interaction.

“The key to maximizing beforehand is to post up the ‘what, when and where’ out to the social media outlets so that Internet-savvy brides can see that information. Posting to social media once you’re at the show is important as well, with pictures of you at the booth, the fashion show and the facility.”

Sellers adds that maximizing one’s presence at the show is also key. “Remember, most likely you’re not the only belle at the ball,” he says. “Having a neat, bright, and attractive booth area with good marketing materials is a must. We have a collapsible standup marquee with our company name and big color photos that clearly designates us as an entertainment company that can be seen from across the room, with two smaller table top marquees highlighting our DJ staff and options of uplighting, monograms and photo booths.

“We also put uplighting on a slow color fade behind our table, which lights the rear wall of the booth. Space-permitting, we will also set an additional lighting effect of a monogram and a speaker on a skirted tripod with music playing. These create excitement around our booth area, making it a place people want to stop over and see what it’s all about.”

While there’s not a lot of time at bridal shows to spend speaking with each and every prospective client, Sellers says that makes the visual experience all the more important.

“The more of a visual impression you can leave,” says Sellers, “the more likely they’ll remember you once they get home and start going through the swag bag of literature that’s been crammed upon them. And that’s when they’re more likely to do what we’d like to them to do—call!”


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