Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Wedding Fair Decor... and how my day went!

Well, I have to say that this wedding fair was so very different from my first over 20 years ago! With a few years of experience behind me and a greater knowledge of what a bride is looking for, I felt much better prepared, even mildly nervous and excited all rolled into one!

Balloon Display
Sue Bowler Wedding Fair Display
Deciding how to decorate your stand at a Wedding Fair takes a little bit of thought. I decided to opt for the 6' table option with a little space each side... that's how it was described when I booked my place at the Wedding Fair. The venue was made up of a series of small rooms with an easy pedestrian flow from room to room. The ceiling was a good height and pretty neutral which made it a little easier for me to add colour to my decor.

Last year I wrote and designed a Wedding Decor Course which is made up of a series of days known as Complete Wedding 1 and Complete Wedding 2, there will hopefully be a 3rd and final part to the series... yes, you've guessed Complete Wedding 3! But this has yet to be written, so maybe it will be added to the training calendar in 2012 or 2013?
There are a number of aims and objectives to these courses, not only do I teach balloon artist how to create elegant wedding decor but also how to work with different colour palettes, some subtle others bright and bold, this for me this is where I believe brides find balloons too domineering or intrusive at weddings, and subsequently decide that balloons are not for them... so I thought that I would use some of the concepts that I have been teaching and create decor using the very same rules.

My space was limited, so I needed to ensure that whatever decor I created will look elegant within the space that I had. 

Deco Bubble Scroll Filigree All Around #23593 20"
I love the Filigree pattern, it's elegant and it is perfect for wedding decor and the venue I was exhibiting in, so using the Qualatex 24" Filigree & Hearts-A-Round and the Qualatex Deco Bubble Scroll Filigree-All-Around was an easy option for me as my main focal balloons.

I like to keep a large percentage of my wedding decor neutral and worked with Qualatex Pearl White and Qualatex Diamond Clear balloons, to continue with the filigree theme, I double stuffed some of the Pearl White balloons with 11" Filigree & Hearts-A-Round, which added visual texture to my decor.

For colour, I introduced Burgundy Organza, with Burgundy and Quartz Purple satin ribbons and a selection of small silk flower heads, all of which complimented the decor beautifully. Organza is a very light and airy fabric and although the colour was dark it really does not appear heavy or overbearing within wedding decor and it swags easily which is important to create the look that I want in my work.

Sue Bowler
You will see that I have kept my decor simple, just two columns, linked with a 'Cloud 9' cluster and the swagged organza. On the table I added an air-filled centrepiece design that complimented the columns perfectly. I swagged the front of my table and added my portfolio along with a screen that showed different wedding decor idea's and concepts on a rolling presentation, and finally adding my new brochure ready and waiting for brides to pick.

I first introduced my Bride & Groom sculpture at weddings fairs over 15 years ago, I was a little apprehensive then as to the response that they would get, but discovered very quickly that they were a huge hit and very popular. So I had no hesitation to to include them this time at the wedding fair, as I could not see why they would not have the very same reaction. This time a created an updated design, something that I have not taught as I wanted something fresh and uniquely mine, I was very happy with the result... I used the Qualatex Man's Face 5' balloon for the groom, but drew a simple face for the bride as I wanted to show both options. I used the Qualatex 5" Diamond Clear Butterflies-A-Round, double stuffed with Pearl White 5" inside in the brides dress, knowing that Butterflies are very much a wedding theme for 2011/12!

Sue Bowler
Bride & Groom designed by Sue Bowler

Once I had set up my display, I was approached by venue staff and other exhibiting vendors, "Wow, these are the nicest wedding balloons I have seen", was one of the comments, along with "what a beautiful display"! I had many compliments throughout the day for my designs, brides who were not considering balloons at their wedding previously were now interested, which is exactly the response that I was looking for!

As expected the Bride & Groom sculpture proved to be extremely popular, so I am expecting to take plenty of orders for these over the coming months and years hopefully!

My very first wedding fair was such a different experience, I really did not know how to present myself or my company. I made the fatal mistake of attempting to show every colour of balloon that was available, I had not prepared good literature to hand-out along with many many other mistakes.

Wedding fairs can be expensive, making sure that you are fully prepared is the key to success. As I started by saying, I am no expert but I hope that by reporting my experiences has given maybe some of you some valuable hints and tips to make your wedding fairs a huge success!

Good luck!

If you are interested in attending the Complete Wedding Series courses visit the courses are currently held in the UK and some European countries.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Guest Blogger Rita Tavares shares her thought's on Marketing, Ethics and Kindness in the Business World

People mistake Marketing for just a nice commercial, a sale of a product or service, or even a nice presentation. Marketing is all of the above, but it is also product research, product development, market research, branding, and customer support, among other things, all in one package.
Many professionals uses Marketing the wrong way, making the imaging of the product something totally different from what it actually is.
According to Professor Raimar Richers, one of the defenders of true Marketing and an authority in the subject says that Marketing is something totally different from what we have been taught to believe.  Marketing is an English word derived from the Latin word “Merc├ítus”, which means commercialization. Bartels, another Marketing expert, the expression was first used in the early nineteen hundreds, through early publications on commercialization. One can say that true marketing is about meeting necessities and not creating them. Marketing should be an important tool for social balance.     
For the AMA (American Marketing Association) marketing is an organization function and processes that deals with the creation, communication and the delivery of value for the client, as well as the management of the customer relationship, that benefits the organization and the public. It’s not only that creative commercial on TV, or the beautiful illustration on a magazine. Marketing is 90% behind the scenes work and 10% exposure.     
It’s safe to assume that Marketing is the central point of business. Is how you will attract your customers and keep them. To accomplish that you will have to go beyond just an image and deeply understand your market and what your customers are looking for.
Some rules to be followed are: 

·      Always plan what you want to sell
·      Be ethical
·      Market research
·      Work on the product presentation
·      Understand your customer needs
·      Well throughout product lunching plan
·      Logistics, logistics, logistics
·      Product promotions
·      Advertising
·      Post-Sale support
·      Product improvement
·      Unified communication between suppliers, manufactures and client

Marketing complements what people want to buy and not what you have to sell or like to sell. In his book “Marketing”, Professor Raimar Richers states that Marketing is the ability to understand and meet your client’s needs. Marketing should not be used to salvage a poorly designed product. It’s important that you understand that success comes with hard work and that good fortune will elude you if you try to cut corners.       
One of the most challenging things in business is to stay ethical in any situation. Many times the business environment can be so competitive that we are tempted to do “whatever it takes” to gain the edge.
Ethics is a system of moral principles, the rules of conduct that guides each one of us to do the right thing regardless of the situation. To be Ethical is to always know the difference between right and wrong. To never abandon these principles is to be willing to pay the ultimate price.
The question is: How do we stay true to these principles and when you are pressure to deliver? A good way to stay true to what is right is by always expecting to be treated the same way that you treat a person and/or a situation. You hope to never be done wrong by someone or situation. The same way you should treat others and any situation as if you were on the other end.         
Tom Peters in one of his book said:
- Be honest in any situation - is the result of the business, a credit and always mention the author's work, it is ethical kindness = = Marketing.
- Always have the courage to take decisions or mistakes - even against the advice of others, be fair to others, even though for this you have to go over a brother, does not condone unfair people.
- Be tolerant and flexible - you have to know and then judge the people, or do not judge just by listening, it is always dangerous.
- Be healthy - to act according to his principles, even if its principles are not equal to his best friend.
- Be humble in every situation - just so we can recognize individual success.
Ethics and the Internet – The Internet has changed the way we communicate. The speed in which we communicate, get informed, paid and work has forced us to be more disciplined and more careful with our actions. Let’s not use these challenges to not do the right thing. Let’s make sure we influence people “one click at a time”.
And last but not least, Kindness (Marketing= Ethics=Kindness).
Kindness sometimes is seeing as weakness and not strength. The industry expects business aggressiveness and not mild disposition and goodness. The more “in your face” attitude you have, the more result oriented you are. What we don’t realize is that being kind means a healthier emotional person. The healthier you are the more productive and creative you are. Productivity and creativity will undoubtedly put you in a better position to be successful. To have positive attitudes when life presents you challenges is what will define you as a person and a professional. Companies are looking for people that can handle adversity with grace. They are better equipped to establish healthier and productive work environments. 
Available from Amazon and other book stores.
I read a book two months ago called “In Search of Excellence”, by Tom Peters. In the book he talks about how companies can improve their sales performance. The message was that if you want to your company to excel, hire people with positive attitude, team players, instead of people that are all about themselves. In the book he lists some of the things that you may want to look for when interviewing for a position.
- Positive attitudes - An employee who speaks against or denigrates the image of another worker, even if they are "mortal enemies", creates a negative work environment;
- Happy employees will create happy and satisfied customers, increase sales;
- Always try to do the right thing no matter what the situation is. If you hear something that is wrong, do not pass it on, forget it;
- Kindness can generate profits, both in the financial and emotional sense.

-       O que e Marketing – Raimar Richers
-       American Marketing Association
-       The Little Big Things – Tom Peters
-       In Search of Excellence – Tom Peters
-       The New Rules of Marketing – David Meerman Scott
-       Be Excellent at Anything – Tony Schwartz
-       Walt Disney’s Way – New Word City

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Wedding Fairs for Event Decorators... the preparation!

Preparation - where do I start?

Last weekend I exhibited at my first Wedding Fair for more than 10 years! Wow, what a quick and huge learning curve it was, as I only decided at the last minute to do the fair, so where do I start? I only had 2 weeks to get everything ready!

Although I am a competent balloon artist and wedding decor designer, being prepared for a wedding fair is another matter!

I started by asking some very good friends of mine who run a very successful balloon business for some advise...

“You need some literature to hand out”
"Literature... like a brochure type literature, with pictures, prices and all that”? I replied

"Yes, Brides need something to take away to look at once they leave, to show their future husbands and families, a reminder of you and your services”!

Of course, they were right, I would need to have something they could take away with them and thinking back to the blog I wrote recently about business cards (Benefits of Business Cards as a  Marketing Tool- August 2011) I knew that it would need to look professional and truly reflect my business and services.

I am very lucky, I have many great quality photographs of wedding designs that I have created over the years, so finding good pictures was not difficult for me, but I know that many balloon artists struggle to get great pictures, here are a few suggestions:
Downloaded picture from the QBN Resource Center

If you are a QBN member (and if you are not a QBN member... why not, join today)! There is such a great resource area as well as many other fantastic benefits!

On the left hand side of the Qualatex home page there is a side menu with purple writing, under Qualatex Balloon Network, there is a sub-heading, QBN Resource Center, click here, once inside,  click on Marketing Resources. You’ll now need your QBN number and password to go any further. You will now see QBN Marketing Resources Search, if it’s specifically Wedding resources you are looking for then under Theme, select Wedding, but if you have never visited before leave all the options at ALL and see whats available, you’ll be amazed at how much great stuff is there! You are allowed to freely download and use these images!

Downloaded picture from Bouquet Ideas -Everyday

Another great suggestion is again on the Homepage side menu, click on Bouquet Ideas - Everyday, then click on Love, again you’ll see some great bouquets that you can freely download and use for your marketing.

There are other resource options such as attending good quality balloon courses that not only offer a days training but portfolio quality photograph images of the designs being taught, such as the Qualatex Complete Wedding 1 and Complete Wedding 2.

Complete Wedding Series 1
Complete Wedding Series 2
Please do not be tempted to ‘borrow or copy’ pictures from other balloon artists websites, or Facebook pages, there are copyright laws and you would be breaking them, so only use pictures that you have permission to use, such as those on the Qualatex website or are given as part of a course... and make sure you have the ability to recreate to the same high standard any of the designs that you use :)

With  a good range of wedding pictures, I was now ready to design my brochure.
Now, came my next hurdle, my computer abilities are limited and designing a printable brochure is a little outside of my league... again I asked my wonderful friends to help me and together we created a simple but effective brochure, just an A4 folded leaflet (A4 is slightly larger than US Letter) this would give me an A5 (half of A4) 4 page leaflet/brochure, perfect size to give away, with enough space to give all the relevant information.
You might need to pay to have yours set up in the correct format by the printer, but as long as you have a good idea of how you want your brochure to look and all the information and pictures that you want printed ready then the cost should be minimal, most printers offer this service, but it will cost you, it may pay to get quotes from different printers?

There is another fantastic option if you are unable to put your own brochure together in time, once again as a QBN member you can download from the same resource area this Magical & Memorable  flier, perfect to show brides how elegant, romantic and magical balloons can be for weddings.

I decided to keep my brochure simple, a good selection of photographs, a little information about me and my abilities and a sample guide price list, just to give an idea of my pricing structure and of course all my contact details along with my website!

I have to admit, I was so excited when they arrived, it was a momentous moment opening the box!

Sue's brochure centrefold
Sue's brochure front and back cover
With my brochure ready, I now needed to get everything else prepared for my big day...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Wedding Fairs - I am no expert but here are a few tips!

I recently exhibited at my first Wedding Fair in over 10 years! Before I tell you how I prepared myself and how the day went, I want to give a short insight into the pro's and con's of wedding fairs and how to choose the correct wedding fair for you.
Sue Bowler
Wedding arrangement with Fantasy Flowers, Hearts and Bubbles

Firstly, why exhibit at a Wedding Fair? The obvious answer is of course to take bookings for weddings!

Maybe it is not as simple as that, I know the reason I wanted to do a wedding fair after so many years was to re-establish myself as an event decorator within my area, one that would be noticed not only by the brides visiting the fair but also by the other exhibitors and the venue itself!

Other Exhibitors
This would give me the perfect opportunity to network with fellow bridal business's such as photographers, cake makers and bridal wear companies and build relationships with them, which could be great for referrals and other potential leads, and not necessarily for weddings!

 Missenden Abbey - photograph by Mark Sisley

The Venue
I was also very keen for the local venue to see my work, the venue is beautiful (see above) and very popular as a wedding venue. It was very rewarding to hear the hotel wedding coordinator say that they had never seen such beautiful balloon decor, however, they also said that they were not very keen to have balloons in their venue due to a highly sensitive ceiling alarm system and previous bad experiences with balloons being released and causing the alarm to go off! I told them that I total understood and informed them I can create beautiful event decor that is totally air-filled and that the decor that I had created for my stand was in fact 90% air-filled decor... this again was information well received by the venue and I hope that this will make my company stand out over others who may not offer the same reassurances and solutions to potential problems.

Sue Bowler
Bride created by Sue Bowler cba
The Brides
Brides visit wedding fairs for inspiration, information and to make a few key bookings. What better way to meet brides face to face and showcase your work!

Your personality will go a long way to securing business at a wedding fair. Are you bubbly and outgoing? Do you find it easy to start a conversation with a stranger? Are you confident enough to really sell your business, without being pushy? (Or do you have a friend who would come with you and help out with that side of things?!)

For a lot of wedding businesses, personality is a key selling point. If brides like you, you'll get their business. It's simple when you look at it that way! 

Which Wedding Fairs should you choose to exhibit at?
There's a massive difference between a local wedding fair in a hotel and a national wedding exhibition.

The first major difference is the cost of exhibiting. Local wedding fairs are less expensive, they can vary in price depending on the venue and location but are generally in the hundreds rather than the thousands of pounds or dollars unlike a major regional exhibition that really can cost that much!  Major exhibitions have booths of different sizes, and will charge per square foot for your stand space.
Sue Bowler
Wedding Centerpiece- design created by Sue Bowler cba

Personally, I cannot see the benefit of exhibiting at one of the major regional shows. Brides travel from far and wide to visit these events which means that many of the wedding locations will be too far for you to travel to, I know that I will only want to take bookings within a defined region, this can be determined by miles or travel time, I suggest taking a map and create a distance circle from your starting point, remember, you could get bookings on the same day at the furthest distant points, so be careful not to make your boundary too wide!
So my recommendation is to exhibit locally, it is less expensive and you will get many more bookings from local fairs, maybe selected 2 or 3 venue based wedding fairs within your defined area, this way you will really establish yourself within the area you wish to work in.
You may also find that the venue and or other exhibitors may well want you to decorate their stand or the venue, this could offset some of your costs!

Choose your wedding fairs carefully, ask lots of questions, find out who else will be exhibiting, check to see how many of any of one business type is exhibiting, too many and your opportunities to generate business reduces! Make sure that the venue holding the wedding fair is balloon friendly, they may have restrictions due to alarms, such as the venue that I exhibited at, but as long as you know you can be prepared and design your decor accordingly.

Find out how the fairs will be advertised, to ensure a good attendance the fairs need to be well promoted and advertised.

Do as much research as possible to ensure you are booking the right wedding fair for you.
I would often recommend attending a wedding fair before exhibiting at them, but if like me you are keen to get going then you may just have to speculate to accumulate!

Once you have made the decision to exhibit you need to prepare yourself to maximise your opportunities.

To find out more about my wedding fair experience watch out for my next blog where I will give you tips & hints on how to prepare yourself for a wedding fair.
Sue Bowler
I love the 4" Hearts displayed in a vase, they make great favors, gifts and show off the pastel pearl range beautifully!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Guest Blogger 'MAD' David Taylor shares his 'recession proof' concepts!

I am very pleased to welcome David Taylor of MAD Balloons, Sydney, Australia as a guest blogger on The Very Best Balloon Blog!

David has just been announced as one of the World Balloon Convention Instructors for 2012, he made his debut international appearance at WBC 2010, were his classes were extremely well received, sharing his wealth of knowledge and experience.

His classes will include: Decor With REALLY BIG Balloons & Fantastic Foil Mix-Up!

For more information regarding the World Balloon Convention click here 

Friday, September 2, 2011

It's September already, what should be we preparing for in the balloon world!

I have just changed  The Very Best Balloon Store window display, I hope that you like it?

Seriously, changing your windows on a regular basis is very important. If there is no up and coming season, such as Halloween, Christmas or Valentines for example, then use this time to show other products and services that you sell.

But with Halloween firmly on the horizon it's time to get those window's refreshed and full of Qualatex Halloween balloons!

Have you seen all the great balloons available for Halloween and Autumn? Have you seen the Qualatex Autumn Collection 2011?
Did you know that you can download these supplement's straight from the Qualatex website? You can use the link above that will take you directly to the right page... but wait a minute, finish reading the blog first!

Have you been checking out the Qualatex Business Booster section, this area is loaded with Bouquet & Decor idea's, along with Sales Tips and an exclusive QBN Members area, there are some very cool idea's for Halloween!

Anyway,  I would like to share one of my window display experiences with you.

Some time ago my sister who owned a florist store asked me to create a window display using balloons, it was during period when there were no specific season any time soon and she wanted to me to create something very different from their usual floral style displays.

I decided to create a themed display using only the Qualatex Smile Face balloons. I used every Smile Face balloon that Qualatex made... Today there are many more versions available and in so many great colours too!
I made a number of different design ideas that filled her windows, from the 5" Smile Face Latex to the 3' giants, it looked amazing, and from the outside every passer-by was greeted with the 'brightest, smiliest fun-filled display'.

Working with one theme or color can create a very strong impact compared to using many different themes.

My story has a great ending! Within 1 day of the Smile Face display being in the window, a customer asked to buy the whole window display, every last balloon that I had used! They had a christening that weekend and they thought that the balloons would be perfect... giving my sisters store a sale (a good one too) that she would never have had!

Window displays are so very important, they are your SILENT SALES Team that never stop working, so make the very best of them!

Do you have any success stories to share from your window displays?

 If you do please send them to and I'll try to feature them, if you have any pictures, that would be great too... but please keep it all Qualatex :)