Thursday, March 19, 2015

When Free Really Isn't Free

As I mentioned on Tuesday, I participated in a very large bridal fair last Sunday. I had looked into doing this show for a couple of years, but just couldn't justify the cost. A normal booth at this show costs $850! So when the organizers sent out a chance to win a free booth, I jumped on it right away. The first 50 people to respond got a free 5' x 10' booth.
While this is a very small space, I knew I could make it work. And hey, it was free! But then the organizers mentioned that this booth would be 5' wide and 10' deep. was I going to make that work? 5' deep and 10' wide would have worked great, but I just couldn't find a way to make the narrow booth work. So, cost #1...$300 to upgrade to a 10' x 10' booth. I did also get the bride's lead list with this upgrade as well, which will come in handy for contacting the brides.

Then I went to a meeting for all the vendors and found out that my upgrade did not include a listing on the website. So, cost #2...$100 to be added to the official website. The organizers made a good point that if someone remembers your items, but has misplaced your information, they will go looking on the show's website. If they cannot find you there, they may go with a competitor who is on the site instead. And I did have one bride tell me that she visited the website the night before the show and knew she wanted to stop by my booth. So that made me feel a little better about the extra cost.

Also at the meeting, we were giving forms for renting tables and table clothes. I normally bring my own tables and coverings to shows with me. But since I had a show the day before the bridal fair, I didn't want to have to mess with unloading the tables and reloading them for the bridal fair. Also, my tables are only 5' long and I could rent 8' tables, a tall cocktail table and white table clothes. I'm really glad I went with the white coverings as I think they helped my items stand out well. So, cost #3...$65 to rent tables and coverings.

I also saw a really cool idea online for a cupcake stand that I thought would make a really cool display for my invitations and guest books. I really thought this was something my dad and I could just throw together at a minimal cost...WRONG! Above is the inspiration for my displays. I wanted 18" tree slices with tree limbs in between. Well, come to find out, unless you kiln dry the tree slices, at the size, they will warp...a lot...and very quickly! So I went to a local saw mill to see what other options I had. They made me some really nice oak circles that I could do the same thing with. When I got the cost, they told me the board foot cost and the hourly labor cost, but never mentioned how many hours they thought they would take. We had a huge misunderstanding on the price, but in the end, I had to pay it. So, cost #4...$435 for new displays!! (Live and learn!)

I also printed special brochures for the bridal fair that had photos of my most popular wedding items and pricing for them as well. I also printed business cards to hand out with the brochures. For a giveaway item, I engraved wood wine bottle stoppers with a coupon code and my Etsy web address. I also ordered a banner for my booth as well. I realize this is all part of doing business and advertising is essential for continued business, but most of this cost was directly related to this specific show. So, cost #5...Between $400-$500 for advertising/marketing.

In the beginning, I thought $850 was way too much to pay for a booth at this show. But in the end, I spent about $1350 for this booth!!! I realize the cost of the advertising/marketing materials would have been an additional cost whether I paid for the booth or not and the cost of the displays would have been additional as well. But I wanted to break down all the special costs that went into this specific show. So next year when I'm deciding whether to participate or not, I'll know that if this year's show was a success, it won't be any problem to just pay for the full booth up front :)

Have you had to learn any lessons the hard way lately?


  1. I hope you recoup those costs in orders and referrals. Your new display items and banner will be great for other shows.

    Sometimes I think every lesson I've learned has been the hard way. One of my favorite Mary Chapin Carpenter songs is...The Hard Way.

  2. wow - good to break it down and keep track of costs so you can see if it makes sense to continue. But wow, it always amazes me how much goes into a show

  3. My goodness! that is a lot of money! But I do hope - and I am actually sure - that this will pay back. I greatly appreciate your approach to marketing and planning and I am sure you have done your best to get noticed and remembered. You will see!

  4. The first time is always a learning experience and at least some of the cost was for things you can use for other shows and events. I'm rooting for you to see a big success from this show!

  5. Well, you know what they say... if it sounds too good to be true.... :D
    I wonder how the other booth winners arranged theirs.
    That's rough that it ended up costing so much, but I'm on the side of your recouping the money, and much more! Your display looks great and the discount on the wine stoppers is very clever!

  6. At least you got that initial booth space free? But, wow, the costs really do add up fast! Your new displays look very nice, but I'm pretty surprised by their price! I'm sure you will, too. I can't believe they didn't quote you a labor time and then obviously charged for lots of it!

    I almost always learn lessons the "Hands-on Way" as I prefer to call it. Makes it sound experiential and somehow a bit nicer. =)

  7. That's a lot of money! I hope the show will bring in lots of orders. Those 'cupcake' stands are expensive, but you'll be able to use them over and over again (and they are very pretty!)

  8. Wow! That is an expensive show! The old saying is you have to spend money to make money. I really hope this show pays off for you with brides contacting you. I suppose it can take weeks after a show when a bride has narrowed things down to certain vendors. It sounds like it was a great learning experience altogether.

  9. Well, you may have learned the hard way, but at least the booth didn't cost you the entire $850 for the initial booth to begin with. That would have made it over the 1350 you did end up spending. I like your new banner and other marketing materials, though, so those are great investments.
    At least your booth looks VERY nice! I hope you did well enough to make a good profit. It all looks great. And the brides list alone might be worth the cost as well. You know what they say about the mailing lists being the most valuable list!

  10. Holy cow! That's a lot of money--but I guess brides spend a lot, if anyone does. And at least some of what you spent money on will benefit you in the future! As they say, you have to spend money to make money.

  11. I would never have that much to spend! It seems I am always on a 'shoestring' budget! You know, tying everything together with a shoestring--sorta like duck tape! :)
    At least it always feels like that! Anyway, your booth looked awesome, and I am sure you will get a return!!

  12. A few old sayings come to mind--and I hope all of them are true for you: "Nothing ventured, nothing gained." "You can't make money if you don't spend money." In any event, your display is really beautiful and professional-looking. And I love the new display pieces, banner and brochure. Really well done!

  13. Oh, I seemed to have skipped this post! I'm pretty confident that you will recoup those costs with incoming orders from brides-to-be :) Consider it a long-term investment!

  14. Yikes... The costs do add up, don't they, but I think your booth looks great. I think the crazy one was the oak stands, but at least you now have them for future shows. Hope you got lots of orders and folks have your card for future orders as well. Your work is timeless.


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