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  • Wedding sales are your ticket to profitability between holidays
    By Rich Salvaggio, AAF, AIFD, PFCI

    If you are waiting for brides to come to you, you are missing too many sales. Here are some proven ideas for finding prospects and converting them into satisfied wedding customers:

    Exhibit at bridal shows.

    Check with local bridal boutiques and trade magazines to find out when bridal shows or expos may be coming to your local area. As an exhibitor at one of these shows, you will have a chance to show off your work, meet with prospective customers and make contacts with other vendors who could help you increase your business.

    Watch for engagement announcements.

    Watch your local paper for engagement announcements. Send your business card to the bride-to-be with a letter of congratulations and an explanation of your services. You may even want to include a coupon or an offer for a free gift if she comes in for a consultation.

    Advertise free offers and discounts. Offer free consultations, complimentary corsages and/or throwaway bouquets.

    Network with other vendors.

    Develop referral relationships with caterers, bridal shops, photographers and reception halls. Send them complimentary flowers regularly to show off in their stores. In exchange, offer to display samples of their brochures or work in your shop. Offer their business cards to your customers and make referrals. Consider packaging their services with yours. For example, you and a photographer could agree to give a 10 percent discount if a bride uses both of your services together.

    Ensure a high level of quality.

    Many people will choose products that are guaranteed over those that are not because they feel more at ease. If a bride is unhappy with part of her order and you have to back up your guarantee, you still may win new customers when she tells others of how you made good on your promise of satisfaction.

    To ensure a consistent level of high quality, there are a number of precautions you can take:

    • Get the order right.
      Confusion about the details of the wedding order will cost you valuable design time and will leave a negative impression with your customer when you must call her at the "eleventh hour" to verify details. So from the very beginning, make sure you understand exactly what the bride wants. Ask detailed questions, take good notes and review the order with her before she leaves your shop. If the order was placed several months before the wedding date, contact the bride two to three weeks before delivery day to review the order once more. --Order early.
      Once a customer's wedding order is finalized, call your suppliers as soon as possible to ensure that you can get all the flowers and any special items required. For example, although you may regularly get Rebecca Alstroemeria, your wholesaler could run out the week of the wedding. Ordering early will give your supplier time to search out what you need and hold it for you. If your customer has ordered something that your suppliers may not be able to find, discuss alternatives and prices ahead of time. That way, you'll have realistic options to present to your customer.
    • Prepare ahead.
      You can green bouquets and arrangements three or four days ahead of the wedding day. Spritz them with a topical preservative that will enhance their longevity. If bouquets or arrangements consist of hardy flowers such as carnations or mums, you can even get these made a few days ahead of time.
    • Line up some helpers.
      Create an assembly line. Design room helpers can stem flowers for bouquets or corsages; add fillers and greenery to bouquets or arrangements; tag and bag bouquets, corsages and boutonnieres; spritz designs with preservatives and ensure that all floral items are watered.
    • Check and double-check.
      You can't afford to make a mistake like forgetting Aunt Josephine's corsage or sending the boutonnieres to the bride's house rather than to the church. Before delivery, double-check that all items are complete as ordered, ready for delivery and headed for the right destination. This is best done by two people - one to check the order list and the other to locate the item. Double-checking may seem like a trivial exercise, but it can ultimately save you time in catching mistakes before they go out the door.
    • Be prepared.
      Have your driver take along extra flowers (in case a flower shatters or a rose head pops off), greens, extra corsage and boutonniere pins and other supplies to make last minute repairs. Extra greens and flowers may also come in handy for on-site enhancements; you may find that an arrangement placed on a mantle needs more draping or that a church design needs extra width. Coach your drivers on how to perform quick fixes (such as replacing a broken flower) and advise them to return with any badly damaged arrangements for repairs.



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