Thursday, January 29, 2015

Why Advertising Fails

There are many reasons advertising fails, but I believe one of the biggest reasons is because it's not purchased correctly in the first place.

Quite often, a wedding professional will hear about an advertising opportunity and the first question they ask is, "How much does it cost?" While I understand price is a consideration, I believe that being concerned about price before all else is one of the major reasons most advertising fails.

It's even more perplexing when wedding professionals focus on price because I've had many lament the fact that the first question a bride will ask is about price. They want the bride to focus on quality, or experience and they find it frustrating that the first question she asks is, "How much?"   Yet, they do the same thing when they’re presented an advertising opportunity.

We know that statistically speaking 74% of brides have never planned a wedding before, so it’s a bit more understandable that a bride would focus on price first. The average bride can’t compare the difference between a photographer with 20 years experience and professional equipment to the Craigslist amateur just starting unless it’s explained. However, for business owners that invest in advertising all the time it’s a bit more disconcerting. Just today I saw a Facebook post where a photographer took offense that a bride asked if he could do a ton of work for half his normal rate. He was mad that she didn’t realize his value, but how could she unless it’s explained to her? Or the professional DJ's who complain that the bride decided to use an amateur from Craigslist or a relative with an iPod.  The bride decided to save money and the DJ’s upset she isn’t using a professional, yet that same DJ will design their own literature, create their own website and do things for their business that are better suited for professionals.

Most of the DJ’s I’ve met are not website or literature designers, yet they want to save money so they do it themselves. They view the cost of creating literature and a website as an expense. The truth is, having a professionally designed website or sales literature is an income generator not an expense. Yet many business owners are comfortable cutting corners.

Joining other wedding professionals in a mad dash to the lowest price bridal shows has negatively affected the bridal show market across the country. From 1980 to 1999 we produced a series of shows called California Bridal Expos. By early 1990, we were generating 3800 brides and 13,000 people at our two-day events. Our flagship show was at the Disneyland Hotel and featured over 200 wedding professionals who invested $1350 for a booth in the show. The number of bridal leads participants received always overwhelmed the wedding professionals who attended the show. Our policy was to always strive to under promise and over deliver. There is a long list of wedding pros that started with us in the 1980’s, as small single operator business and grew to major wedding businesses based on their show success at the California Bridal Expos.

About 1992, the bottom dwellers started to appear. A show at a local athletic club popped up and their biggest claim to fame was booths that required a $400 investment. They only drew a couple hundred brides but it didn’t matter. Many wedding professionals focused on price and $400 was less than $1350.  Before you knew it there were three promoters producing six shows, then six prompters hosting twelve shows, and then fifteen producers trying to host sixty shows. Within a year or two, Southern California area had five shows every weekend all year round and the bridal show market in Southern California became challenging for quality wedding professionals.

Today, you can rent booths in some Southern California bridal shows for as little as $150 but the old cliché, “You get what you pay for” rings true. This same scenario has repeated itself across the nation. Wedding professionals’ keep focusing on price, not value and it’s had a very strong impact on their business. Now, in Southern California you may have to have a booth in six shows at $400 each just to see 1500 brides face-to-face and of course you have the time commitment of six shows.

We would not let the golden goose - the Disneyland Show - die a slow painful death or become anything less than perfect. We stopped producing the event in 1999.  Competitors jumped in and attempted to recreate the Disney magic but their commitment to dollars first, quality second showed. Since 2000, there hasn’t been a quality bridal show in the best place on earth to have one, the Magic Kingdom.

Advertising Focus

If it’s wrong to focus on price when buying advertising, what should you focus on?

I suggest, "How much business will this bring me?" or “What type of opportunity does this advertising offer?” 

After all, the reason we buy advertising is to increase sales, correct? We invest our dollars in exchange for an opportunity to have qualified people see our advertising and respond.

We invest in advertising to have qualified people see our message and respond, yet we sabotage ourselves by not analyzing the opportunity that each advertising medium provides. There are some advertising opportunities that give a faster ROI than others.


First we need to understand that there are only two ways to advertise, and almost all advertising fits into these two categories. The categories are PUSH and PULL.

Push advertising is any form of advertising where you broadcast your message and wait for a response. You have no control over the message or experience once it’s sent and you must wait for a response. Push advertising is the most common form of advertising. A message is crafted and then released to the world.  Magazines, radio, television, social media posts, direct mail pieces and brochures are all forms of push advertising.

Pull advertising is any form of advertising where you meet the prospect one-on-one. You completely control the message and the experience as it’s being delivered. Pull advertising is less common but by far, when done properly, will offer the fastest ROI.  Bridal shows, mixers and networking events are all forms of pull advertising.

The reason pull advertising is superior to push advertising is because you have the one-on-one experience with the prospect. A magazine may offer many hundreds of times more “impressions” of your message, but one-on-one always gives you the best opportunity to secure the sale. You don’t have to call, email or reach out to the prospect because you are standing in front of them face-to-face.  Pull advertising equals huge opportunity.

I sometimes receive questions about Bridal Shows. If “pull” advertising is so good, how come I didn’t book any business from the last show?

The answer is easy and it’s a bit like saying, “I had a car that I didn’t ever maintain. I didn’t change the oil. I didn’t clean it out and I ran the engine at 150% of capacity whenever I could, and it died after just 25,000 miles.  I’ll never buy that brand again… The truth is, you screwed it up. You did the wrong things in the wrong ways and you destroyed a good car.  It’s not the car manufacturers fault.

It’s the same for most wedding magazines. We know that over 95% of all brides buy a wedding magazine yet many wedding professionals report that they invested in a magazine add with little or no response. So the question is, if 95% of your brides buy a wedding publication and you have an advertisement in the publication, doesn’t it make sense that you would receive some response?

Every time I teach a Bridal Business Boot Camp I ask the attendees if they have ever purchased magazine advertising and not received the response they expected. At virtually every Boot Camp there are a ton of hands that shoot up and people tell me about magazine advertising that didn’t work for them. They typically say things like:

  • ·      I didn’t get any calls
  • ·      I don’t think the publisher distributed enough copies
  • ·      There were to many competitors
  • ·      The brides are only shopping for price
And while these are all real concerns, I believe the reason your magazine advertising doesn’t work is much simpler to understand. The reason most magazine advertising doesn’t work for wedding professionals is that their ads are just bad. They are horribly produced, horribly laid out and sell the wrong thing. The add looks like every other add. It says the same thing as every other add and it typically features a link to a website that the bride soon discovers is as bad as the magazine add.

It’s pretty much the same for bridal shows. You don’t get the response you expected because you screwed up and did the wrong thing. I’ll bet you took a beautiful opportunity for face-to-face interaction (pull) and replaced it with a brochure you stuck in their hand (push) and then made some type of vow, commitment, and promise to reach out to them later.

That’s a huge FAIL. In a future post I’ll explain why your bridal show and magazine experience failed. I’ll bet we can fix both and help you book a ton of wedding.

We All Struggle To Get Our Message Out

Let me give you an example of an advertising struggle we have everyday:  

We have mixers with wedding planners that we call Bridal Business Academies. I'm not going to go into the details because I want to stay focused on why your advertising fails, but as way of example, here are a few features of our Bridal Business Academies.

    Hundreds of wedding planners apply to attend free training.
    We bring in top-notch trainers and provide training, free lunch and a mixer.
    We typically have over 150 planner applications for the 60 available spots.
    At the mixer 50 wedding professionals reserve tables and meet the planners

Understanding that 72% of all high-end brides have wedding planners, it's not much of a stretch to think that if I'm a wedding photographer and I meet and get to know 60 high-end wedding planners, I'm going to book some business.

The truth is if I'm a wedding photographer and I knew 60 wedding planners at ANY LEVEL, I’ll book some business. 

We also know that:

    Wedding planners NEVER refer to people they don't know.
    Wedding Planners NEVER refer to people they don't trust.
    Access to the high-end bride almost ALWAYS comes from a qualified planner.

So, in short, meeting and getting to know 60 quality-wedding planners is a very good thing and for the most part is a “no brainer I should always want to do.”
As a wedding professional, there’s simply no good reason that I would not want to have an ongoing relationship with great wedding planners.

When we announce that we are hosting a Bridal Business Academy and solicit for wedding professionals, we receive hundreds of inquires from wedding professionals asking how they can participate AND one of the first questions they always ask is, "How Much?"

The problem is, they completely focus on the money and many miss the OPORTUNITY.  They have an opportunity to meet 60 Wedding Planners. They have the opportunity to book a ton of business. If I’m going to get 10 – 20 weddings from one source of advertising does it matter if the investment is $800 or $1800? Of course it doesn’t!

Let's think this through. I want to give you a hypothetical situation: 

I'm a wedding photographer with an average wedding package of $3800 and a high-end package of $8500. I participate in an $800 bridal show.

At the show I meet 500 brides and because I bought Chris Evans book "How to Double Your Business In 12 Months", (Kings Hill Publishing on Amazon – shameless plug) and I do everything correctly, I book 35 visits with brides and ultimately sell 26 weddings at an average of $3800.  

I understand, if you booked 26 wedding from a single show you would have heart palpitations but this is my hypothetical so let's use really high numbers and make the show a killer success.

500 brides / 35 Visits / 26 Bookings - 26 x $3800 = $98,800 gross.
$800 Investment = 1235% ROI. 

Bottom line, invest $800 and make $98,800

Now let's compare a Bridal Show against a Bridal Business Academy

I meet 60 planners but I only hit it off with 16.  Over the next year each planner ends up booking me for 1 wedding but because the bride has more money, I sell my $8500 package.

16 brides / 16 Bookings - 16 x $8500 = $136,000 gross.
$525 Investment = %2590 ROI.

Bottom line, invest $525 and make $136,000

Or we can look at Failure.

I only meet one planner and I only book one wedding and it's my lowest end package.

1 Bride / 1 Booking - 1x $3800 = $3800 gross.
$525 Investment = 732% ROI.

Bottom line, invest $525 and make $3800

Even with failure, I'm getting my investment back over seven times!

I understand that the average wedding professional doesn’t book $98,000 in business off a bridal show but the truth is, you should.  Don’t let the simple fact that most wedding professionals do the wrong thing; in the wrong way taint your opinion about the value of face-to-face communication with the brides at a bridal show. Even with multiple shows in each markets face-to-face communication offers incredible opportunity for a great ROI.

In Los Angeles we had a wedding professional that owned a chain of tuxedo shops.  Exhibitors would walk in the door of the show and always be amazed that he bought six booths at the front of every show. He had a staff of 12 people all highly trained and ready to go. He spent thousands of dollars on his display and across all our shows he invested about $58,000 in booth rental every season. The other exhibitors would say, “Look at that, he has so much money he can buy six booths up front.” 

But if you asked him he would say, “The reason I have so much money is because I buy six booths up front and staff the booth with a trained staff.” You never found him at Kinko’s at 3am making copies because the show he registered for 8 months ago some how snuck up on him.

There were many formalwear companies that exhibited at the bridal shows but there was only one that you had to pass on the way in and the way out. He had a great display and a full staff and while he invested many times what his competitors did, he made far more sales than all his competitors combined. He always knew the opportunity for success at every event and had a plan to maximize it!

When it comes to advertising many wedding professionals make three basic mistakes.
  1. They focus on the investment, not the opportunity
  2. They don’t follow-up and follow-through and make it great
  3. They follow the pack and do not lead.
I think we’ve done a fairly good job of discussing having the wrong focus of your advertising so let’s discuss poor follow-up and follow-through.

Poor follow-up and follow-through is an epidemic in the wedding industry. Sometimes reaching a wedding professional can be the hardest part of a bride’s day. Having worked in this industry for over 30 years I can say that getting wedding professionals to talk on the phone is one of the hardest things we do. I challenge you to take any list of more than 25 wedding professionals whom you do not know and do a test. Sit down some morning and call every wedding professional on the list. I will bet that 99% of the time you get an answering machine and unless you leave a message like, “Hi I’m Susan, I have $500 and I want to hand it to you,” you won’t get a call back.

If you have your business line ringing through to your cell phone and you can’t answer the phone because little Tommy is throwing a fit, at least call back within an hour or so!  Every call is an OPPORTUNITY for your business. You may not want to avail yourself of the opportunity but how do you know until you call back? You’re not going to close every bride that phones you but the truth is, you’ve invested money in advertising but if you don’t answer your phone, you’ve wasted your money.

The same goes for email and calling out to the bride.  We routinely send emails to wedding professionals and quite often we receive a return email from some spam guard company they have signed up with that requires us to submit a CAPTCH form and prove we are human.

Typically the message is something like, “Hi, I’m protecting myself from spam so please resubmit your information.”  REALLY, you think a bride is going to chase you down to get information? I think it’s more likely she will simply contact one of the other 350 florists on The Knott? You’ve spent money to get the bride to contact you, you should be available.

Did you know that the average bride makes a buying decision after seven contacts yet the average wedding professional stops following up after two contacts? That’s a statistical fact and if you want to know the wedding professionals who are following up more than twice, simply look for the busiest wedding professionals in your market.

It’s also time to stop worrying about what everyone else in your networking club says and do what’s best for your business. We continually work with wedding professionals who are part of a group or association and they want to have their advertising the same as some of their friends. The only issue is their friends are broke all the time and their advertising doesn’t work either!

I once worked with a wedding reception facility that invested a significant sum of money with us and we revamped her literature, presentation, webpage and marketing plan. The number of brides who called in each week went from 3 or 4 to 15 – 20 within a few months. She booked over 20 weddings in 90 days once her advertising took hold. Then she went to a NACE meeting and another facility owner in her group criticized her new look and said he didn’t think it was professional enough. She immediately came back from the meeting and cancelled the service. Within a few days she had the old web page posted. Within a few months she was back at the same spot she was when we started. To her, the opinion of a respected competitor was more important than growing her business. It didn’t make sense to me but we honored her wishes.

You can’t follow the pack and have more success than everyone else.

The fact is I’ll bet you can think of a competitor who’s successful and when you truly think about what they do to be successful, you will find several things they do that others don’t. It’s just the way it is. Leaders do not follow a pack - they lead it. You need to be a leader in your advertising.

Advertising Must Generate Face-To-Face Visits

The first step we need to take to start advertising correctly is to understand that we must see brides face-to-face. Now I know, there’s always a small minority of wedding pros who handle destination weddings or book online. If that’s you, God Bless You. Keep at it. Don’t change a thing. Don’t send me an email complaining…

For the other 99.8% of wedding professionals who need to meet the bride to book a wedding, your advertising and promotion MUST focus on generating visits, not selling your product. Once you have the visit, you can sell the product.

Your advertising must sell the opportunity to make their wedding dreams come true by meeting with you. It’s just that simple. It’s a bit like my latest Book “How To Turn Likes Into Sales.” (Kings Hill Publishing / Amazon)  Tons of people are furiously working to get as many likes or friends as they possible can but at the end of the day if you have 10000 friends/fans/likes and I have 5 customers, guess who has more money in the bank?

While the world goes crazy for likes on Facebook, the successful wedding professional stays focused on meeting potential customers face-to-face and telling their story. That’s why we feel the Bridal Business Academy is so great. Wedding Professionals meet 60 qualified planners face-to-face and have an opportunity to build a relationship!

How Do You Fix Your Advertising?

The fastest way to fix your advertising is to understand that; face-to-face advertising (pull) ALWAYS generates the best ROI. 92% of all brides know - and have met, EVERYONE that’s providing services for their wedding. We are in a face-to-face, belly-to-belly business as explained earlier, bridal shows, mixers and networking events will always generate the best response - if you work them properly.

To a certain extent, advertising is a state of mind but it must be based on a solid foundation of real opportunity!

Do you want your advertising to excel? Simply invest in advertising that puts you face-to-face with the people who can use your service.
  • ·      If your website doesn’t deliver a solid stream of leads EVERY week.
  • ·      If your advertising doesn’t deliver a solid stream of leads EVERY week.
  • ·      If your phone doesn’t ring with new prospects EVERYDAY.

It’s time to change your advertising so you’re not just spending money but investing in opportunities that generate face-to-face, belly-to-belly contacts with the people who need your service.

Your advertising needs to sell the visit, not the product and you have to build a solid network of quality professionals who will refer you and you can refer. When an advertising opportunity presents itself, look at the potential business it will bring. Analyze the realistic response you can achieve and decide if it fits your mission, goals and message. Then, if you have positive response for those key factors, go ahead; take a look at the price…

Chris Evans

PS.  - Is there any reason you shouldn’t jump at the opportunity to be one of 50 people in your market who can invest in advertising that puts you in front of 60 qualified planners? One-on-one relationships with high-end planners can make your business rock!

Don’t wait, call us NOW at 805-852-5384 or email Chris at