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

Email Marketing Science (& special offer)

admin wrote this on Feb 10 |

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I just attended a webinar on the ‘Science of Email Marketing’ and thought I’d share some findings.  These findings are based on over 9 billion (with a B) emails that were sent to consumers and businesses.  I’ve stripped this webinar down to just the most important pieces of information for us bridal retailers.

  1. Email is not dead – Having an systematic approach to building your email marketing list (i.e. audience) is crucial.
  2. The best time to send email is on weekend mornings, when highest click through and open rates prevail.
  3. More people are reading email on their smart phones, so make sure your emails are readable on mobile devices (iPhone, Android, Blackberry).
  4. Fill your email with links. The more links there are to your targetted landing page (i.e. request an appointment), the higher your click through rate will be.
  5. Exclusivity is important.  Let your readers know that they have “special access” to something (i.e. an offer, a special report, etc) and they’ll be more likely to read your email.

I’m a firm believer in the power of email marketing.  That’s why I’ve made the next version of BridalLive an email marketing powerhouse that can completely automate most of your emailing duties, including appointment confirmations and follow up sequences (i.e. drip marketing).

In preparation for launching version 2.1 of BridalLive on February 28th, the first 10 people to purchase any one of BridalLive’s plans (Pro, Plus, Starter) will get a special Pre-Release of BridalLive v2.1, a FREE Custom HTML Email Template and 1 free hour of consulting (total value = $399).  During our time together, I’ll show you how to use BridalLive to send professional emails (including appointment confirmations, after purchase Thank Yous, Feedback Requests, etc) and how to set up a drip email marketing sequence that will entice your customers to come back and buy more from you.  If we have time remaining, I’ll show you how to leverage BridalLive to target your customers’ behaviors and respond by automating follow up sequences, scheduling tasks and much more.  As an added bonus, I’ll show you how to stop wasting time processing bridal show leads by leveraging BridalLive’s new import and bulk subscribe features.

If you are looking for a way to reduce customer acquisition and follow up costs, this is how you do it.

Call me at 888-764-2605 or buy online TODAY! This offer Expires 2/28/2011

5 characteristics of high performing websites

admin wrote this on Dec 17 |

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I recently did a ‘study’ that you’ll be interested in.  Last week, I looked at the top 10 performing web sites of retailers using BridalLive’s Internet Marketing Tools.  My analysis showed 5  characteristics that these websites share.  Where does your website rank?

Let’s get to it.

Trait #1: Use Video

Video is one of the best ways to communicate with today’s busy brides.  Including video on your web site can increase the visitor’s engagement with your brand and make you stand out from the rest.  Here are some ideas and examples of stores that are doing a great job with this:

  1. Formals of Litchfield – Meet the Staff
  2. Bel Fiore Bridal – The Experience
  3. Arizona’s Bridal Warehouse – Owner interview

Tech Tip: Don’t forget to include a call to action at the end of each video!

Trait #2: Make your contact information stand out (on every page!)

This is one of the most fundamental elements of a successful site.  Most visitors will find you through a search engine.  Therefore, if it’s not obvious to the visitor whether you serve their area, they’re likely to look else where (i.e. click ‘Back’ button).  This behavior can be measured to some degree with a good web site analytics package.  The figure to look for is ‘Bounce Rate’

Trait #3: Obvious Navigation

Each site that I reviewed had their primary site navigation menu across the top of the page.  The point here, don’t make your visitor have to think about how to get to the next page.

Trait #4: Calls To Action

Without a Call to Action, you have given the visitor no way to engage further (other than picking up the phone).  Calls to Action are a fundamental components of high performing websites.  For a brick and mortar bridal salon, good calls to action are “Request an Appointment” and “Sign up for our newsletter”.  These calls to action should be placed on your home page and stand out to the user.

Trait #5:  Takeaways

All but 1 of the top websites I reviewed had a takeaway in some form or another.  Some have “Special Reports” for the brides to download.  Others had coupons redeemable in-store.  The point here is that you want to give the visitor something to take with them, typically as a result of completing your call to action.

To learn more about these services, contact me today – 888-764-2605

Helping you thrive,

Tom Esposito