Friday, May 29, 2020

Part 1. Baby Moon Design - Step-by-Step Tutorial - How to Make the Frame

The frame is probably the most important part of any frame based design. Get it right, and your design will look amazing! But getting wrong - out of proportion, or the wrong shape, can lead to you being disappointed with the end result.

Frame Material and Equipment List:

  • 1 x 3m length - 6mm or 1/4" Aluminium Rod 
  • Pipe or Bolt Cutters
  • Gaffa or Duct Tape
  • Pipe Bender if you have one but it's not essential
  • NOT (Lamp) Base - this is an inexpensive IKEA (lamp) product that many balloon professionals use to support designs.
  • NOT (Lamp) Pole x 1 (If you don't have access to an IKEA NOT Base and Pole you will need to find a good, similar alternative.) 
  • White Floral Quick Drying Spray Paint 
  • String or ribbon to measure
  • Circular Template - such as a hoop

Balloon Material List:

Although I am not adding the balloons in Part1. here is a list of the balloons and accessories that I will be using so that you can get them prepared for when your frame is ready! 

  • 18" Baby Girl Pink Stripes Microfoil Balloon
  • 11" White - only a few for the cloud base
  • 5"  Pink or Rose 
  • 5"  Pearl Pink - optional
  • 5"  White 
  • 5"  Pearl White - optional, but it does give a slightly different textural look to the plain white
  • 5"  Diamond Clear - approximately 10
  • 7"  Chrome Gold - approximately 10
  • 260Q Chrome Gold - approximately 15
  • 260Q Pink - 4-5 

All the balloons that I am using for this design are Qualatex -

Gold Confetti - ideally a small square cut
Hi-Float - I like to use the new 148ml (5oz) bottle as the nozzle is perfect for 5" and 260Q
Castration Pliers - ideal 'Stretching Tool' for balloons - available through some balloon wholesalers, Amazon, and farming supply companies.

I will be using a Premium Twin-Air Sizer to inflate the balloons, as it will allow me to use the "10th's of a seconds" timer adjustment to give me the perfect graduated sized balloons. Using a hand pump is not so easy to get the precision for this design.

Part 2 is now available! Just click on the link below!

Happy Ballooning! 

Follow me on Instagram @suebowler

Saturday, May 23, 2020

An Inside into the Instagram Algorithm and The Importance of Understanding It

After watching a free tutorial about Instagram and how to get your 'Dream Followers' earlier this week, I realised as the instructor spoke about how to use the Instagram algorithm to get better engagement that I need to be honest, and confess that I really did not know what the algorithm actually was! Yes, of course, I had heard the term many times, but I had no real idea of how it works, and how it can influence my Instagrams account's effectiveness. 

1. The Instagram Algorithm Predicts How Much You Care About a Post

Your Instagram feed isn’t just based on who you follow, it’s also based on who and what you like. Instagram algorithm keeps tabs on posts that you like. The more photos that you double-click, the more signals you give to the Instagram algorithm that you want to see more content like this in the future.

The more the Instagram algorithm thinks you will “like” that post, the higher it will appear in your feed. Therefore it is important to get your followers to double-click on your posts so that you will always appear in their feed.

2. Instagram Algorithm watches engagement with your followers

According to Instagram, the most important engagements for feed ranking are comments, likes, shares and reposts, and for video posts, views, which is especially helpful to know when you are planning your posts, content, and captions.

It is important that you create content that your followers will enjoy engaging with. If you have the ability you should plan what you are going to post each day. Try to plan a week, or even a month in advance. 
Variety is key, you don't want to be posting the same kind of content every day, or your followers will become bored or worse, unfollow you! 

Here are a few suggestions for some more unusual types of posts from your norm.

  • Post an inspiring quote A surprisingly large proportion of successful posts are quotes/memes, so every business should share this kind of content on occasions as a part of their posting strategy.

When I posted this quote on my Instagram feed it received 100 likes and 4 comments.

  • Ask a question - These can vary greatly, here are a few ideas:
Is there a household chore you secretly enjoy? If so, which one?
What famous landmark would you love to visit?

Or the one that I have used below:

This should initiate quite a few responses. Something you really need to be hot on is responding to comments, even emoji comments. You could respond with another emoji- If someone shows a sad emoji then you can respond with a hug emoji for example. 

Questions are a fun way to interact with your audience, and a good indicator that people enjoy what you are posting.

Make your posts exciting! 
I have used CANVA to create both of the posts above. This makes them much more visual. You can either post them using a background that you feel is appropriate to the post, or you could start branding your posts so that they all have the same look and feel about them, and ultimately become instantly recognisable as one of your posts! If you are unsure how to go about branding your business, check out Creating Your Brand Image by Zoe Adam- Jones. Through a video tutorial, she shows you how to create your brand image. 

Creating Your Brand & Image - Digital Marketing with Zoe Adam- Jones CBA

Comments are the most valuable form of engagement, as a comment is a tangible indication of a follower or customer's loyalty and commitment to you and your brand. The fact that they spent the time to write a comment means your audience is highly engaged with your content. 

Each share of your posts is like a mini organic advertisement for your content, and it rates very high on the engagement scale and is therefore something you want to encourage. A simple way to get people to share or repost your post is to create a competition. This is something that I am seeing more often on Facebook, and I am sure that Facebook algorithm works in a very similar way?

This is a competition that is being run by one of our local butchers on Facebook. They are asking people to LIKE the post, Leave a COMMENT and to SHARE to their own page, all the things that will generate great algorithm. At the time of me copying this post they had already generated 996 comments and 1.2 shares! I wonder how many new followers they have attracted too!

Some while ago I shared this Instagram Social Plan - One Month of Post Ideas by Fiona Flintham -

If you are struggling to find things to post about, this plan will give you some great pointers - and have you noticed that it's not all about the products that you are selling! 

3. It's all about the timing!

Posts that are more recent are more likely to be pushed to the top of people’s feeds. This means that posting when your audience is online is crucial. How do you know when they are online? Check your insights! For example, looking at my insights, the best time for me to post is between 3pm and midnight as that is when my followers are most active on Instagram - hmm, I seem to do most of mine in the mornings, so I will look to change my timing and see if it's make a difference!

The one thing that I truly love about creating posts like this is getting to learn so much while doing the research! I have started to put some of these ideas into practise over the different social media platforms that I work on and the initial results have been amazing! If you are on the QBN Members Facebook group, you may have seen a post that I shared asking members - 

If you could have a day working with anyone in the balloon industry who would you choose and why?

This post received 27 likes but more importantly 202 comments! The responses have been amazing and I feel that this post has re-connected many of the group's members who may  have been inactive for a while! 

Understanding algorithms is not easy, but getting an idea on how to engage with and grow your followers through exciting and consistent content is definitely a solid step towards making those algorithms work for you! 

Happy Ballooning!

Follow me on Instagram @suebowler

Monday, May 18, 2020

Top Tips to Create a Successful Wedding Marketing Campaign

With so many 2019/2020/2021 weddings being re-arranged, I can only imagine 2022 will be extremely busy for weddings!

With so many displaced and new couples working on their revised wedding plans, it got me to thinking that this really is the best time to develop a strong wedding marketing campaign. 

So what does a marketing campaign involve?

It is definitely involves more than just scheduling a few posts on Facebook and Instagram! There are a number of different things that you can do to inspire potential brides! 

Create website and social media content that is appealing to Brides & Grooms.

Understanding what brides & grooms (mostly brides) want is an important piece of the puzzle. 
Create the “wow” factor on your website. If you have not updated your wedding decor galleries in a while, now would be the ideal time.
And while we're talking about websites, put some work into your website’s searchability (SEO). It is important to optimise the images on your website, and Google is like your image-blind friend. It doesn’t see all of those beautiful images on your site, and it doesn’t know what is in them. The file name, alt text and description for each image on your site tells Google what it is. If you aren’t optimising your images with keywords, it’s going to hurt your SEO.

Make an engaging video.
We recently had the opportunity to create great free marketing videos through However, this was a limited-time offer, and I am unfortunately not sure if this offer is still available. I know that many balloon companies including myself used it with great success! As I want to continue to make videos for my business, I invested in a one year subscription to Magisto - Online Video Editor. The annual subscription is very reasonable considering that it could help you generate lots of new interest in your products and services. I also really like that you get free access to IStock - by Getty Images and Videos that you can freely use in your adverts.

Check out this short video that I made using Magisto that could be used as part of an advertising campaign. I watched a few wedding marketing videos and noticed that the text was simple and small, just enough to capture the attention of the brides! 

Create a selection of good-looking social media posts

Once again, I am going to steer you towards CANVA to do this. CANVA for me has proved to be one of the best graphic design platforms there is. The basic tools are free, or you have the option to pay a small subscription to get access to more design tools and extremely easy to use. If you are unsure how to use CANVA check out this great post:

"Good Design Matters for your Business" - Zoe Adams-Jones Shows You How to Create Fabulous Social Media Posts Using CANVA.

Because the Best Weddings Are the Beautiful One's

So what else can you do as part of your marketing campaign?

Tag the location when you post a wedding on Instagram. 

When you post a photo of a wedding you've worked on, be sure to use the location tagging feature to tag the venue. That way, when couples are looking up that venue on Instagram, your photo will show up! As part of your wedding campaign, take this opportunity to repost some of your past weddings, and remember to use hashtags effectively.

#weddingvenue #weddingceremony #weddingreception #weddingplanning #weddingflowers #weddingballoons #weddingtime #weddingdecor #destinationwedding #weddingstyle #weddinginspo #easyweddings #weddingdetails #weddingparty #reception #venue 

Don't forget to hashtag your location too, as well as the areas that you will travel to.

Join and engage in relevant Facebook groups in a non-spammy way.

There are many different Facebook groups, so do your research and find all those that would potentially cater to your ideal client. 
Join them and look for ways to add value. This mindset will help steer you away from spammy activities that turn potential clients off. 
All wedding business-marketing ideas require authentic, valuable communication.

Designer name:
Sharron Parry of Blast! Balloons and Parties, Launceston, Tasmania, Australia

Create interesting and informative posts.

How about writing a post on dates to avoid in 2022/2023/2024

You could start by saying - 

Ready to set a date? Check this list of dates you might want to steer clear of when booking your wedding.
You can list all the top key holidays and public holidays in your country and the relevant dates for each of the years (all easily found on a Google search). 
Some of these might also be good dates especially when there is a holiday weekend with the Monday off.

Make sure you get your brides to consider their own personal significant dates, such as other family members and best friend's weddings, anniversaries, events happening in their area.

The top predicted wedding trends for 2021 would make a great post! 

There are some really good articles that you could research to help you to write your own great posts, or you could share interesting and informative posts that you have found on your own business page.

Here are a few very good articles that I have found:

21 of the Biggest Wedding Trends for 2021 - by Helen Pye featured in Hitched May 1st 2020 

Pinterest is also a great resource for information.

Review venues and vendors you have personally worked with.

You know that reviews matter a lot to your business, so why not review venues and vendors you’ve done business with? They’ll appreciate the gesture, and they’ll be more likely to refer you in turn for future events.

Shannon Kilford of Born to Party in Sydney, Australia

Shannon Kilford of Born to Party in Sydney, Australia

Shannon Kilford of Born to Party in Sydney, Australia

Post about a specific date you have available on social media due to a cancellation, or not having it booked despite other dates booking up.

Do you have one Saturday left in July available? Did one of your weddings cancel and you want to put the date back out there? Post about that on social media, and let people know that this date is available, and how they can book it before someone else gets it.

Add calls-to-action on your website

When someone has finished reading a blog post or your about page, what should they do next? Give them a direct call to action and a button or link they can click on to take the action you want them to take. This greatly increases the likelihood that they’ll actually take that action. 

And finally:

Network with other wedding industry professionals.

Always strive to give the best customer experience possible.
Stay positive. Remember that everything you put out there reflects you and your business.

Happy Ballooning!

Follow me on Instagram #suebowler

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Bouncing Back to Business after the COVID-19 crisis

Business as usual may look very different for many people after the coronavirus pandemic. The opportunity to restart businesses is becoming a possibility for many, and hopefully for everyone else in the very near future. Some businesses have successfully managed to continue trading throughout the COVID-19 crisis, but certainly not in their usual way.

So what will become the 'new normal' for many small businesses?

Large events and gatherings will probably be the last thing to get the green light in most countries. To be honest, in these times of haziness, I believe that it will take time for the confidence both the organisers and attendee's to grow enough to stage and attend these events.

It is very likely that the new norm will centre on keeping yourself, employees and customers safe.The majority of companies will have to implement physical distancing, which includes keeping workers and customers more than two metres apart from each other. Wearing facemasks in certain indoor workplaces may also be compulsory. 
You may be encouraged to install plastic screens at checkouts, limiting the number of shoppers allowed inside your store, and add floor markings to keep shoppers apart.

For those who work from home, their businesses will likely focus heavily on balloon deliveries. In the UK, the Government implemented rules for social distancing for delivery services, and I am sure that every country will have something similar.

Deliveries: For retailers or restaurants running a delivery service, you should advise all delivery drivers that no goods or food should be physically handed over to the customer. There should instead be a set drop-off point agreed in advance. After ringing the doorbell, the driver should maintain a safe distance from the door and oversee the delivery of the goods. The goods should not be left unattended. You should introduce a way for customers to be able to notify your business that they are in self-isolation or are unwell in advance of the delivery, in which case these guidelines should be very strictly followed. The driver should not enter the customer’s property. To minimise the risk that a customer does not answer the door, sensible steps such as setting an approximate delivery time and gaining a contact number should be taken. You should encourage drivers to wash their hands using soap and water for 20 seconds as regularly as possible, and drivers should additionally be provided with hand-sanitiser to be carried at all times and used after each delivery. To protect your staff, daily remind colleagues and drivers to come into work if they are well, and no one in their household is self-isolating.

So what challenges are businesses going to encounter?

First, there has been a great deal of discussion about countries going into a recession, which I am sure is extremely likely. Luc Bertrand recently reminded me of an article that Lois Devlin, former Managing Director of Pioneer Europe wrote. The article was aptly named "Surviving what Downturn?" I just want to share with you the opening few paragraphs

"On September 15th, 2008 the collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered a crisis that many thought would plunge the world into financial anarchy and bring about another great depression.
Christmas was certainly a depressing affair commercially, with office parties cancelled, the corporate market in tatters and consumers hanging on to their money as if their lives depended on it.
Who would have thought with such a backdrop, that 2009 could turn out to be so positive? Sure enough, some sectors had a very tough time and our corporate market has still not recovered, but the party industry has proved its resilience yet again with most customers reporting healthy year on year growth and some outstanding seasonal sales."
I started my balloon business in the early 90's, which was another period of recession. You might think why would anyone start a business under those circumstances? However it has been proven that there are many good reasons why businesses can flourish during difficult times! And if I am honest, people want to party and celebrate when times are hard - how many of us have been dreaming about seeing our friends and family and having a huge party to celebrate all the events that we have missed over the past few months! Many brides have had to cancel their lovingly planned weddings, including my daughter, rather than getting upset, plans for the "new' wedding will be even bigger and better! 

It is time to revisit your Business Model

Hopefully, many of you will have already considered this and have or are putting changes into practise. 

What does "revisiting your business model" look like?
If your main income stream is event and corporate decor, it could be quite a while before the jobs start to roll in again. So how can you put your ballooning skills into practise to create a new income stream? 

It's time to review:
  • What you sell
  • Who are you selling it to
  • How you deliver it
Move as much of your business online as possible - if you have shied away from opening an online store, now is the time to create one, and devote time to making it amazing. I would  encourage you to do research, and look at how other likeminded businesses present their products and services. This will help you as you develop your site and provide ideas and inspiration on how you would like your online store to look and work. Don't forget to refresh your SEO keywords to reflect the types of products and services that you will be offering. 

I have been looking at different balloon companies around the world to see how they have adapted their businesses during these times, and the one thing that really stands out is that everyone is raising their delivery game! 

Balloon companies known for their large-scale decor have increased their delivery options significantly, from 'Balloons in a Box' deliveries to 'Yard Art' - outside balloon decor installations! 

Chris Adamo of Balloons Online in Sydney, Australia has introduced an ingenious 'Party in a Box' concept, and what better way to promote the idea than to have an exciting adverting video to go with it! 

I spoke to Chris to see how things are going for Balloons Online in Australia, and this was his response:
"We have seen our balloon gift sales triple over the past few weeks, as the bright and cheerful nature of our product is perfect to brighten these dark times.
I would like to offer a few thoughts regarding this current situation. Everyone should expect large events to be non-existent for the rest of this year... that unfortunately means no big budget organic decor that we have all relied on so much.
Delivered gifts will be strong but that is a saturated market, customers are looking for something different and something personalised. On top of the product itself, customers want to do business with a company they can trust to follow best practice hygiene and social distancing.
If you don't have a policy for this in your business, create one and share it with your customers. 
Now is the time to also develop and exercise best customer service practice. Call/email your customer with a delivery ETA, send them a photo of the gift before or on delivery.
Follow up with a customer feedback form, ask them to review or share the experience on social media. All of these steps can be streamlined into a workflow."
Yard Art - outdoor balloon installations is another growing balloon decor service that I have seen posted on different social media platforms. These are a great way to bring decor to a home to celebrate an event or occasion without any contact with the client.

Yard Numbers by Balloons Everyday, Texas, USA
Did you watch David and Amanda Mahoney's Q Corner Convention class - Framing and Selling of Deliverable Table Numbers? During the class David and Amanda showed how to work with pliable materials and different techniques to build enchanting 4ft-tall table number frames. These are not as big as David's Yard Numbers but they are both achievable and sellable for most balloon businesses.


If you missed this great, free, online class, just click on the video below.

There are many other business challenges to consider when you restart your business. I hope the few points that I have covered in this post will help. 

Here are the closing words from Lois's article all those years ago, and they are as applicable today as they were then! 
"What is important is to maintain a positive attitude and keep investing into the things that will help your business flourish and give you the return in investment that you need and deserve.
Work on your business everyday and seek help where you have gaps in your skills and knowledge. That doesn't necessarily mean big financial outlay as there are lots of courses that can help you with a range of things like financial planning, pricing and sales, as well as the more creative side of the business.
We are lucky; we work in a business that brings smiles and we may all need some of this in the months to come! We are also lucky in that what we do is not easy to do well so good businesses will find their niche and survive recession, competition and anything else that is thrown at them."
Keep safe, positive and keep smiling, we will survive this!

Follow me on Instagram @suebowler