The easiest way to create Landing Pages for your bridal shop

admin wrote this on Nov 13 |

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We all agree that landing pages are one of the best ways to convert qualified website visitors into bridal appointments. If you haven’t heard of landing pages? You should enroll in our free Bridal Breakthroughs Course. In this course I explain landing pages and teach you how to implement systems for turning visitors into sales.

Ok, let’s get on with the technique for creating landing pages.

As a bridal shop owner, you may not have the resources to be able to create these landing pages. Who has time to learn HTML and all the other mumbo jumbo that goes into successfully implementing a landing page? Not you. And that’s why you are going to outsource this task to those that do this all the time.

Here’s how to do it successfully.

Step #1: Create the Landing Page Wording

This step you should not outsource. You are the subject matter expert and a techie is not going to be able to create wording that speaks to brides. You know what brides want and so you will need to create the landing page wording. You can simply use a text editor of your choice (Microsoft Word, etc). Keep the word count between 300-500.

What should you say??? Well, you need to sign up for the Bridal Breakthroughs Course to learn that. It’s free, so there is no excuse.

Step #2: Design your conversion form

The conversion form is the form that the visitor fills out to send their inquiry to you. Submission of this form “converts” them from a visitor to a lead. The general consensus is that you want to keep your forms brief. The more fields that are on your form, the less likely a bride will complete it. You can do a brief write up of the form you would like to use and include it in the document you created in Step #1.

How do you build these forms if you are not a “techie”? Well, there are a bunch of form builders available online. Some are free (like Wufoo). The problem with these form builders is that the way you receive the lead is through email. This means that you will be spending time doing data entry. Is that what you signed up for? No way. There’s got to be a better way. It’s called BridalLive’s Web Forms. When you use the BridalLive Web Forms, leads (i.e appointment requests) will arrive right inside of your BridalLive app and no data entry is required.

Step #3: Outsource on oDesk.com or Elance.com

The secret weapon of the savvy entrepreneur is to use services like oDesk/Elance to outsource tasks to other that have the requisite expertise. You will be amazed at how affordable this is. And if you find someone you like, you can keep using them again and again.

However, outsourcing does not work if you do not give a detailed explanation of the task at hand. At a minimum, you must outline the task and your expected delivery timing.

Bonus Step: Rinse and Repeat

Once you’ve outlined the process for creating landing pages (yes you should document this in your process binder), you can now hand this task off to an employee. You should task this employee with thinking about each “niche” (or bride profile) that you serve and have them create the wording document and manage the outsource process.

How to Relate Web Traffic to In-Store Sales

admin wrote this on Nov 20 |

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It is very important to have an ONLINE marketing strategy that includes Search Engine Marketing and Adwords.

Many store owners have a hard time relating their web traffic to their in-store sales and therefore it doesn’t seem feasible for them to spend money on something (ie SEO, Adwords) that they cannot directly relate to their sales #s.

First, you must know the answers to these questions:

1. How many new sales do you want/can you handle?
2. What is your current appointment count?
3. What is your closing ratio?
4. How many unique web visitors to you have? (you can find this in your Google Analytics)

For the sake of our example we will look at bridal appointments only for a 1 month period and assume your customers are finding you online.
1. 20 = Local Bridal Shop wants to sell 20 more wedding dresses.
2. 150 = Local Bridal Shop typically has 150 bridal appointments in 1 month.
3. 60 or 40% = Local Bridal Shop usually sells 60 of the 150 appointments.
4. 770 unique web visitors. Given this information, we can assume that Local Bridal Shop is closing 8% of her web visitors (60 / 770 = 8%).

So…for the Local Bridal Shop to get 20 MORE bridal sales, she will have to get 50 MORE bridal appointments assuming a closing ratio of 40%.

How do we relate this to web traffic?
Currently she’s getting 770 unique visitors to her website. With a closing ratio of 40% that means she’s closing 60 web visitors or 8%.
She needs a total of 924 unique web visitors each month to get 50 more appointments per month.

How does she get 154 more (924-770=154) unique web visitors each month? What is each lead worth to you? How much are you willing to spend on each lead?

If you are willing to spend $2 per lead that’s $308 per month. If you were even able to close ONE of those new web visitors your investment would be paid for.
$300 is a great starting point (given your keyword competitiveness and geographic area) for a Google Adwords Budget.

It all starts with an awesome website and well-planned strategy!
Don’t forget to track your traffic with landing pages and conversion forms!

Let us know if we can help you increase your web traffic -> increase in-store traffic -> increase sales with our Bridal Shop Software!

BridalLive v2.7 is available!

admin wrote this on Jul 16 |

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I’m happy to announce that the next version of BridalLive is available for you to download for free (as always)!  This version introduces some powerful and exciting features that you will want to take advantage of immediately. Let’s have a look at a few highlights.

Scheduled Emails

Are you struggling with a high number of “No Shows”? Say ‘hello’ to scheduled emailing.  Perfect for automatically reminding your brides about their appointments, the new Smart Flow Setup in BridalLive allows you to schedule emails to be sent at a date in the future.

Internet Marketing Tools are now HTML-based

Bye, Bye Adobe Flash.  The Appointment Request, Leads, Registration, Feedback, and Testimonials forms are now in HTML and iPad friendly.  While we were re-doing this, Lindsey threw together a great new design for the Testimonials form.  No changes are required on your end.  All of the Website Plugins will be automatically converted to the newfangled ones.

Support for larger stores

It’s true, we had some growing pains as BridalLive became more and more popular.  With nearly 200 bridal stores using BridalLive now, we started to hear about some bugs in the system that could only be produced by stores with heavy usage of the software.  With help from a friend that works at MailChimp.com (thanks Eric!), we were able to design and implement an new component that will allow BridalLive to support stores with high volume and a large number of computers.  This new component is freely available now.  Contact BridalLive Support for assistance with setup and installation if your store is a high volume store.

More articles added to the Support Center

In an effort to make it easier to obtain support and learn how to use BridalLive to it’s fullest, we launched the Support Center back in November.  It is available at http://support.bridallive.com or inside BridalLive under Administration > Support Center.  When you need some help, just open the Support Center and search for a topic that you are interested in.  Need to learn about printing labels?  Want to learn how to access BridalLive from home?  The support center has what you need and it is constantly being updated.  If you have a suggestion for an article, simply post a question on the new Support Center and I’ll add it to the growing list of articles.

Update Now!

If you are already running BridalLive, updating is simple and takes less than 1 minute per computer. On each computer running BridalLive, follow these 3 steps:

  1. Open the Administration Module
  2. Click “Program Settings”
  3. Click “Check For Updates” and click “Yes”.

Important Note: When performing your updates please remember to update your “Master” computer first followed by each of your “Workstation” computers.

Helping you thrive,

Tom Esposito
Founder | tom@bridallive.com | 888-764-2605
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BridalLive v2.6 now available! Free Update!

admin wrote this on Nov 6 |

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I'm happy to announce that the next version of BridalLive is available for you to download for free (as always)!  This version introduces some powerful and exciting features that you will want to take advantage of immediately. Let's have a look at a few highlights.

Mobile Phone Texting
You can now send and schedule text messages from BridalLive to your contact's mobile phones.  Just in time for prom season, this feature opens up a new marketing channel to a demographic that is increasingly mobile.  This feature is free for Internet Marketing Tools subscribers and also requires a Twilio.com account. You can watch a how-to video to learn more about this feature.

New Support Center
In an effort to make it even easier to obtain support and learn more about BridalLive, we are launching a new Support Center which is available at http://support.bridallive.com.  The support center has also been embedded right inside of BridalLive under Administration > Support Center.  When you need some help, just open the Support Center and search the vast knowledge base of topics (coming soon!).  Over the next few weeks, we will be filling out the Knowledge Base with articles on various BridalLive topics.  If you have a suggestion for an article, simply post a question on the new Support Center and I'll add it to the growing list of articles.

New Reports
There are 3 new reports that will help with buying inventory and customer pickups (Sales Summary by Size, Sales Summary by Color, and Pickup Report).

Discontinue Items
BridalLive now allows you to discontinue inventory items.  You will now be warned when adding a discontinued item to a Sale or Sales Order.  This feature is evolving as I receive feedback from you.  If you have any suggestions on how you'd like this feature to work going forward, please reply to this email and let me know!

Credit Card Processing Compliance
Mastercard recently announced support for partial approvals and BridalLive now supports this as well.  If you still don't have a merchant account that is linked with BridalLive, please reply to this email for a free cost analysis.

If you are already running BridalLive, updating is simple and takes less than 1 minute per computer. On each computer running BridalLive, follow these 3 steps:

  1. Open the Administration Module
  2. Click "Program Settings"
  3. Click "Check For Updates" and click "Yes".

Important Note: When performing your updates please remember to update your "Master" computer first followed by each of your "Workstation" computers.

Helping you thrive,
Tom Esposito
Founder | tom@bridallive.com | 888-764-2605
 Join BridalLive on Facebook

Going to Atlanta Market? Join us for FREE drinks and an amazing view

admin wrote this on Aug 13 |

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This year I'm doing something fun at the Atlanta Market and I'd like you to be a part of it.  In addition to having a booth (Booth #12E111B), I'll be celebrating the launch of BridalLive version 2.5 at the bar of the Sun Dial Restaurant from 5-7pm on Saturday, August 20th.  To attend, you just need to stop by Booth #12E111B and pick up your ticket (and free drink coupon!).

The Sun Dial Restaurant is a unique Atlanta landmark that provides a magnificent view of the Atlanta skyline from it's 360-degree rotating restaurant.  And, it's just a 5 minute walk from the Merchandise Mart building.  Walking directions will be provided at the booth and can also be found by clicking here.

From the Sun Dial Restaurant website – "An exhilarating 85-second ride in one of our two scenic glass elevators will carry you 723 feet to the observatory View Level atop The Westin Peachtree Plaza, the tallest hotel in the Western Hemisphere. From this level, take in the breathtaking 360-degree panorama of the magnificent Atlanta skyline."  

I hope you can join me to celebrate this milestone release for BridalLive!

Tom Esposito

Founder, BridalLive
tom@bridallive.com
888-764-2605

How to sell 50% more bridal gowns

admin wrote this on Jul 27 |

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In this post, I’ll show how my former bridal shop increased the average bridal gown closing ratio from 27% to 40% representing a 50% improvement. Before reading on, you may want to read my other blog post on how compute bridal gown closing ratio for your store.

First, a little background. My former bridal shop is in metro Atlanta, GA, a market that has nearly 6 million people and over 40 bridal and formal wear shops. In our first 8 years of business, our Atlanta bridal shop grew at 25% year over year and we’re always looking for ways to continue our upward trajectory and prevent a plateau in sales.

This past year one of the things we focused on was improving our closing ratio. In conversations with other wedding shop owners, we learned that the most successful stores were selling gowns at an unbelievable rate. Some of these stores touted that they had consultants with a 90% close rate! That number blew us away and we wondered “How can we help our consultants become this successful?”.

Here’s how we improved
WARNING: This idea may not be right for your store. It’s an idea that took a ton of time to implement and requires buy in from your entire staff. The bottom line is that it achieved results for us and I wanted to share with the BridalLive community.

Over the years, we invested a lot of time and money in bridal sales training from BridalTrainingSystems.com with only marginal success. The quality and quantity of material is amazing, but even though our consultants ‘knew’ the material very well, they weren’t improving like we had hoped.

It was obvious that we needed to do more to help our staff put the material into practice. So we instituted a training program that did 3 things: created a standard score card, improved accountability and provided huge incentives for execution.

The Score Card
First, we distilled our mountain of training materials down to their most essential elements. We then created a Training Score Card to use as a measure of how well we were following the training materials. Each category was given a point value. As you can see in the score card, the point value was determined based on it’s significance to the overall sale. Each week, our training meetings focused on one area of the score card (i.e. asking for the sale). Once we had developed this measurement tool (score card), it was time put it into action.

Improving Accountability
We needed a way to score each consultant during their appointments. Since it’s physically impossible to shadow every consultant during every appointment, we decided to give out voice recorders for the consultants to use during their appointments.

Every week, we chose 1 random appointment from each consultant and ‘scored’ it against the Score Card. This uncertainty helped to increase the likelihood that the sales staff was using the training materials in every appointment.

Incentives
We knew that recording our consultants would seem a bit “big brother-ish” so we made the program voluntary, but put large incentives in place to encourage participation. Each point on the score card was worth $4. This meant that a consultant who scored perfect could earn an extra $120/week. That’s almost $500/month just for executing.

In retrospect, we probably went a little over the top with the incentive. However, we knew that over the long term, we would recoup the cost many times over.

The Results
Overall, the training program was a huge success for everyone involved. We all learned a lot and became better at helping brides find their dream gown. Take a look at the chart below to see how our closing ratio improved throughout the year. We started the program in June. You’ll see from graph that January – May our average closing rate was 27%. Then over the next 11 months we averaged 40%.

We haven’t reached that 90% mark, but we were able to increase our closing rate 50%. One step at a time, as they say.

How to calculate bridal gown closing ratio

admin wrote this on Jul 18 |

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Closing Ratio measures how effective your sales staff is at making the sale. There are 2 ways to calculate this number – Contact Based or Visit Based.

Contact Based
# of Sales / # of Unique Contacts

Visit Based
# of Sales / # of Visits

The contact based approach computes closing ratio by dividing the number of sales by the number of unique contacts (or brides) that you have attempted to sell to. Whereas the Visit Based approach treats each visit as another attempt to sell. This approach uses the # of Visits as it’s denominator rather than the # of unique contacts seen.

For example, on any given week let’s say that only 1 bride visited your store and she bought a bridal gown from you. Let’s also say that it took her 2 visits that week to make a purchasing decision. The Contact Based formula would compute a closing ratio of 100% while the Visit Based approach would compute 50% since there were 2 visits.

We use the Contact Based approach in my store because it allows me to estimate the number of new leads I need to meet the sales goal. With the Contact Based approach your closing percent isn’t diluted by the visit count. For example, if I close 50% of brides, I know that in order to sell 100 bridal gowns this month, I must acquire 200 new leads.

There are a few BridalLive reports you can use to help calculate this number for you. They are the Closing Ratio (Contact Based), Closing Ratio (Appointment Based), and Marketing Stage Conversion Report.

Food for thought
What’s your store’s closing ratio?
How many new leads do you need each month to meet your sales goals?
What can you be doing now to improve your closing ratio?

Don’t get screwed when your employee leaves

admin wrote this on Jul 14 |

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Have you ever had an employee leave (bridal consultant, ordering manager, etc) and since you didn’t have ‘systems’ in place it was difficult to quickly train a new employee to pick up where her predecessor left off?

If you are anything like the hundreds of bridal shops that I’ve worked with over the years, you know that having systems in place for your staff’s duties is critical. The problem is that recording or documenting these systems is not always a high priority with all of the other duties we have as bridal shop owners.

Here’s a great tip I learned from Dane Maxwell of Recruiting Ninja on how to document your ‘systems’.

Step #1: Buy a headset
You’ll want your employee to record what they do with a headset like this one.

Step #2: Setup Jing
Jing is free software that let’s you record your computer screen while you talk. Your staff will explain what they do in a video.

Step #3: Send an email to your staff
In this email tell each employee that you’d like them to show you how they rock at what they do. Give them the link to Jing (http://www.techsmith.com/jing/) and tell them to set it up on one of your computers. Also tell them that you’ll be by to give them the headset you purchased from Amazon. The final step, which is optional, is to tell them that you will give them a .25/hour raise after it is complete.

Try this out and let me know how it works. If I were you, I’d have videos as many videos as you can. Here are some ideas of videos/audio to create:

  1. Record the audio of your bridal salon’s phone greeting.
  2. Record your in person greeting when someone comes through your doors.
  3. How appointments are booked
  4. How to enter a customer
  5. How to create a purchase order
  6. What to do when a customer doesn’t show up for an appointment
  7. How to send an email
  8. How to confirm an appointment

Helping you thrive,

Tom Esposito
Founder, BridalLive

Marketing your bridal salon like David’s Bridal

admin wrote this on Apr 22 |

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There is a reason why David’s Bridal has captured more than 1/3 of the bridal market. It has little to do with the products they carry and a lot to do with the fact that they have mastered online marketing. In this article, I’ll show you 3 online marketing techniques that David’s employs. Then I’ll show you the easiest way to implement these concepts in one week or less.

David’s Online Marketing Trifecta

  1. Effective SEO – This one is simple.  If you search for “wedding dresses” on Google, David’s is #1.  The Google Keyword tool estimates that there are over 4 Million searches for phrase “wedding dresses” EACH MONTH.  A recent study by “Search Engine Watch” shows that the first search result gets 34.6% of the clicks.  This translates to David’s getting nearly 1.5 Million page visits per month on the “wedding dresses” phrase alone.
  2. Converting Online Visitors into Prospects – Having a large number of visitors is worthless unless you are converting those vistors into prospects.  David’s is great at this as well. A look at David’s website reveals at least 3 ways that they entice a visitor to “Sign Up” (i.e. convert). When a visitor signs up, they are entered into David’s marketing funnel. This is where the real magic begins.
  3. Automatic Follow Up – Once the bride has signed up, David’s computer system takes over and starts the bride on a personalized drip marketing campaign that encourages her to a) visit a local store, b) buy online, c) make a repeat purchase (bridesmaids, accessories, favors, etc).

With a multi-million dollar marketing budget, it’s no surprise that David’s has an effective online marketing strategy.  But it doesn’t take millions of dollars to accomplish this anymore.

With BridalLive, you can take the guesswork out of online marketing. Our Automated Marketing will set your business up for online success.  Once you start using these tools, your business will benefit from:

  • More leads coming from the web
  • Pre-sold and pre-qualified brides
  • Fewer appointment cancellations
  • Automatic Customer Follow Up
  • Repeat sales
  • Expert Advice and Training

Retailer Spotlight – Memories Bridal and Evening Wear

admin wrote this on Mar 24 |

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Michigan Wedding Dresses

courtesy: Memories Bridal and Evening Wear

Over the past year and a half, I’ve had the privilege of working with Derek from Memories Bridal and Evening Wear in Kalamazoo, Michigan. Memories carries fabulous Wedding Dresses and Bridal Gowns for brides in Michigan. So if you happen to be looking for wedding dresses in Michigan, Memories is THE place to go.

I caught up with Derek and asked him a few questions about BridalLive.

Tom: Tell us a little about your shop? How did you get into bridal, your location, how long in business, sq footage, etc.

Derek: Memories Bridal & Evening Wear has been in business for since 2003. We started out as a little tiny consignment shop in Stevensville Michigan selling prom and pageant gowns. We quickly moved into bridal, shed our consignment roots and moved into a larger location in Downtown Stevensville. Soon thereafter we uprooted again and moved to a larger market in Downtown Kalamazoo, MI where we have been very happy since. Our building is about 5,000 sq feet of retail space and about 8,000 total including backrooms, storage, break rooms, etc. It is a 100 year old historic building that we own and have completely restored inside and out. It is a real jewel in a vibrant downtown.

Tom: What made you choose BridalLive over the other bridal-specific software vendors?

Derek: Prior to BridalLive we were using Quickbooks Point of Sale and although it handled the financial transactions well I saw so much missing with regards to all the work that gets done BEFORE the sale. I looked at several CRM products but couldn’t find anything to meet our needs…so I started designing my own system to be custom built. Low and behold after several months of mapping out exactly what it was we wanted in a Bridal Marketing, POS, and Sales Performance program, I stumbled across BridalLive. It was exactly what I had envisioned. I downloaded it and bought it on the spot. Since then It has surpassed all my expectations.

Tom: How long did it take to learn to use BridalLive? How long to train your staff?

Derek: Bridal Live is very intuitive and hardly takes any training at all. If you know how to use a mouse and keyboard you will be able to figure this out.

Tom: Has BridalLive improved your bridal shops operations? How?

Derek: Absolutely – mainly with regards to our bridal scheduling and follow-ups. We deal with a fairly high volume of traffic and BridalLive keeps us on task and helps us make each customer feel like that matters.

Tom: What is your favorite feature of BridalLive?

Derek: There are so many, the reports are excellent, but so are the tasks, you’ll never again forget to do something, just set yourself a task and it will stay in the list until you mark it as completed! Yay, a few less sleepless nights worrying about the thing I’m sure forgotten, but can’t actually remember what it is!

Tom: How much would you estimate it has/will save you per year?

Derek: I have no idea but if I knew then what I know now about BridalLive I would have paid several times the retail price of the product.

Tom: What is your favorite feature of BridalLive?

Derek: The scheduling features…especially the on-line integration. I also really like how it keeps everything together on one platform form prospecting prospective customers to sending the congratulatory note after their wedding.

Tom: Would you recommend BridalLive to other bridal shops? Why?

Derek: The software is modern, sophisticated yet intuitive. It’s built by a software engineer who also owns a bridal shop: doesn’t get much better than that. And if you have a good suggestion for improving the product, shoot Tom an email and you’ll probably see it implemented in the next (free) upgrade to the program.

I’d like to thank Derek for taking time out of his busy schedule to share his thoughts and insights with everyone. Memories is one of the leading Bridal Shops in Michigan has an excellent selection of Wedding Dresses, Prom Dresses, and Evening Wear.