How to make your mark: Retailers and suppliers give their views in response to this month’s challenging question from a bridal boutique off the beaten track. Interestingly, opinions here have much in common…
“I’d like to know how others get their message out there, apart from using the obvious social media channels, to attract in local brides, mums and bridesmaids. I am tucked away a bit, off the main high street and do not having passing traffic, so I really need to ramp up my promotional skills (lack of them, actually). I have been open for a little less than a year and I know the brides we do serve leave happily, but I need more of them. Can I, for example, incentivise brides to send their friends in and how? Should I push my suppliers to promote me as a stockist, and how? I am happy to plan after-hours parties etc but just need a steer to get started. Any suggestions would be gratefully received.”
1) Simon Ryan, Catherine Parry
Social media is increasingly key and enables retailers to promote their businesses and engage with brides easily and inexpensively.
However, there are other marketing activities that can be just as effective. When we had our boutique, our original premises were in a similar position to yours and had no passing traffic.
We overcame this by building partnerships with wedding businesses – florists, hotels, wedding venues and car hire companies – as well as local hair and beauty salons to cross promote each other’s services. We created a supplier directory on our website and gave leaflets to these ‘partners’ to promote our boutique in return.
Local wedding fairs can be a great opportunity to showcase the boutique and meet local brides-to-be, but it’s often worth speaking to other suppliers first to find out which ones offer the best value in terms of footfall versus cost.
Make sure that suppliers have you listed as a stockist on their websites and talk to their marketing coordinators to see if they can promote your events – trunk shows, new collection launches or accessory evenings – on their social media feeds too.
At Catherine Parry we’ve recently revamped our website and each stockist now has their own page, allowing them to properly showcase their boutique, plus there’s an enquiry form that allows brides to contact their nearest stockist directly from our site.
2) Sharon McPherson, Opus Ateiier and Opus Couture, West Kilbride
This is a highly appropriate question for me, as we are in a very rural area with more sheep than brides. I also have two very different salons, therefore two very different marketing strategies.
Opus Couture, my upper-middle end salon is now 15 years old and basically, I’ve used the same strategy from the beginning, although this information is now shared digitally through our website and social media channels..
It is, however, the same basic plan, based on excellence with good procedures in place, constant staff training, professional supplier relationships, extensive product knowledge, and the best customer service possible. (Our brides have once again nominated us for the VOWS awards for the 14th time; we are the only business in Scotland who have been nominated every year consecutively across
This does all take time and is constant hard work. There are no short cuts but the basis of our marketing is our Word of Mouth referrals, which is still our most effective marketing tool. Now we use the same WOM references but publicise it on our social media, showing our character and heart for our customers.
Right now, customers have lots of choice. There are so many bridal retailers on our high streets, in our shopping malls, and in industrial estates, that small independents, in off-the-beaten-track places, need to set ourselves apart, ensuring that brides have good reason to make the trip to us from further afield.
By telling brides what we can do for them, what is different about us and our service, they can then make informed choices about where they want to shop. Make your business the destination place they want to buy from.
I also take valuable time off the shop floor, to go to local events telling different groups, charity lunches, and venues about my business.
The local Chamber of Commerce, Business Groups and Associations, and Womean’s groups can all be a great support. I also give talks and do prom events or projects in local schools.
Work with your suppliers. Have trunk shows and promotional events. Invite the bloggers and wedding magazines along. Interact with your online audience; if you don’t have one, start right there and create one… there is lots of help out there.
Advertise. Brides will travel if they like you and your product, so show them why they should like you.
Offer prizes like a voucher for an afternoon tea in another local business. Team up with other local businesses like hair and beauty salons, venues, and photographers. Do a photoshoot and get it on your local news website, in your regional newspaper or town events notices. Show your passion and knowledge to your future customer.
Everyone needs to know where you are, what you do and how well you do it!
3) Maria Musgrave, The Pantiles Bride, Royal Tonbridge Wells
My first question would be: “Why isn’t your local bride buying from you?” She may already know that you’re there but you may be too cheap, too expensive, too boho, too boring, too niche, too mainstream, or you have too many one-star reviews!
One of my Irish clients is Indie cool, in a village in the middle of nowhere and isn’t interested in her local bride as she isn’t her target customer.
The next question would be: “What do you mean by local?” Is it brides who are getting married locally, live locally or both? Millennials are much more mobile and may be getting married locally but live hundreds (if not thousands) of miles away. In which case, don’t underestimate the power of social media. Having just attended the intensive and inspiring Luxe Bridal Digital School at Miss Bush, I learned that brides look to Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest before clicking on your website! So why the resistance to social media?
As well as the easy fix of collaborating with local hairdressers, make-up artists, florists, photographers and venues to organise a local event, I would invest in writing a series of blogs (yes, I learned all about them, too, at Digital School!) – selling the benefits to brides of buying locally.
My main message to you is that the bride is embarking on one of the most emotionally-invested searches of her life (apart from finding her perfect partner), so wouldn’t it make sense to find a local bridal boutique to have the most gratifying and convenient shopping experience?
4) James Waddington, Romantica of Devon
Promoting our stores is key to our success, and theirs, social media playing an integral part in this development. As we live in an instant-gratification age, the quicker you can get the word out the better – and there is no way of doing this quicker than social. Through social media we promote our boutiques, their events and new arrivals to entice brides to visit them. These events and trunk shows are the perfect way for stores to promote collections and introduce themselves to new brides; we list all store events on our Facebook page to ensure a wide audience – over 50,000 brides are aware of everything that’s going on in their region.
Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are strong B2C platforms, with Twitter being the best platform for B2B. Within Social’s evolution, Instagram is quickly becoming the most important platform for quick success; Insta-stories give you an interactive platform to highlight key products and events.
Our Social following is then channeled to our website where brides can find stockists on our dedicated page. This drives them to stores in their area with contact information and a direct link to their website.
All of our retailers have access – via our media bank at romanticamedia.co.uk – to all of our imagery, logos and video content in a variety of resolutions to meet any marketing requirements.
There are many ways in which stores can improve the way they self-promote and increase their footfall. Wedding fairs are great to showcase a store’s collections and personality, often putting brides at ease who are excited to explore without the commitment of a bridal appointment – this is often a positive way to meet potential customers.
Social media is key. Keeping brides up to date with gowns stocked, new arrivals, events, competitions, sales etc, and the frequency of posts is very important; you need to stay present on their feeds.
Getting involved with local advertising is also great; make sure you are on everyone’s radar and take the opportunity to feature in local newspapers, magazines and fairs.
Networking will also improve your presence and footfall. Think about stocking local accessories. Get in touch with photographers and florists – if you promote them they will be keen to promote you! a growing digital world don’t forget the human impact ‘word of mouth’ can have.
5) Vivien Felstein, Veromia
I know you said social media is obvious but interacting on your suppliers’ Facebook and Twitter pages will help. Having a designer weekend will also help as long as you promote this in your local press and leaflet drop.
Local wedding fairs are a must. Also, be aware of local events like fêtes, take a stall and have advertising matter on the stall and a giveaway with your details. It’s all about promoting yourself in every way you can.
Leaving your leaflets in local jewellers, travel agents, hairdressers, nail bars and even local supermarkets on their notice boards will help. Team up with a jeweller or travel agency to see if you can do a promotion together.
Your current brides are a great source of help to you as you tend to find that groups of friends get married around the same time, in clusters so to speak, so a great experience is the key to further recruitment.
I remember my daughter- in-law when she got married bemoaning that no one had made her feel special. She really wanted a glass of bubbly and a sales assistant who made her feel like a princess, so being upbeat and excited for the bride and being memorable is a good way by giving spectacular customer service. This is the approach you need to take – as people buy into those with a good vibe and upbeat positivity – and a glowing review that is passed on is worth everything.
Ask happy brides to recommend you to a friend and give a £50 voucher for any that do. Also, ask for a testimonial from them if they are really happy. Testimonials can then go on to your website – the brides themselves are the best form of advertising!