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?

Ella Park Bridal owner speaks about BridalLive

admin wrote this on Oct 10 |

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This week at Chicago, I met up with Mike Daniel who owns Ella Park Bridal in bridal and formal wear store Newburgh, IN. He was one of BridalLive’s first customers and has helped shape many of the features in the software. Here’s what he had to say about BridalLive.

I’ve changed the name of our blog

admin wrote this on Oct 6 |

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I’ve just returned from Chicago Market and based on the feedback received from independent bridal shop owners, I’ve decided to change the name of this blog to “Bridal Shop Meets Internet”. After the first day of speaking with shop owners is became clear that many of us are struggling to effectively use technology/internet to build their sales.

In the coming weeks and months, I’ll be posting pithy insights on how the independent bridal shop owner can utilize technology to create an experience that the internet discounters and big box chains could never provide.

Cheers,
Tom

Version 1.3 now available

admin wrote this on May 2 |

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Version 1.3 is a direct response to your feature requests. All of the enhancements and new features added in this version were a direct result of the outstanding feedback I’ve received from shops using BridalLive. In this blog post, I’ll outline some of the more notable new features.

Improved Order Tracking/Management

In version 1.2, in order to be able to see the status of a customer order, you had to open the customer’s Sales Order and click “Associated POs”. We’ve improved this in version 1.3, by adding the PO #, Est. Ship Date, and Qty Received to the contact’s purchase history tab. These new fields are available for each sales order line item listed in the purchase history. Also, you can now jump directly to the Inventory Item, Sales Order, or Purchase Order right from the from the line item!

Additionally, we’ve added the ability open the contact tab directly from the Purchase Order. For each line item on the PO, we’ve added a new icon that will open the contact’s tab. Also, we’ve added the ability to copy the Contact’s name and event date to the notes field on the PO. Simply select “Copy contact information to PO” when you are creating the PO and voila!

From the POS side, you can now enter notes for each line item and track which items have been taken home on a Sales Order. Also, for those of you who require a certain deposit percent for Sales Order (i.e. 50% down), you can now specify this percentage under Administration > POS > Default Deposit Percent.

Receipts got an upgrade as well. With version 1.3 you can now print your logo and any line item notes. To add your logo, simply go to Administration > POS > Print Logo on Receipt.

Improved Appointment Options

In version 1.2 appointments were either “Pending” or “Completed”. With version 1.3 we’ve now introduced the concept of “Re-Booked”, “No show”, and “Canceled”. Using the accompanying report titled “Appointment Status Count By Month”, you can now track how many appointment were not completed and why. With this feature, you will now have the ability to measure improvements made in Pre-Sales communication with the bride.

Also, the Quick Appointment now has a notes field where you can enter notes specific to that appointment without having to open the appointment.

Improved Inventory Management

In version 1.2, every item was unique by short description, size and color. As a result, new items for the same style were added to the inventory every time a different size or color was sold. While some prefer this technique, we added to option to manually specify color and size on the Sale and Sales Order without new items being added to the item list.

To make things even easier, we’ve added to concept of Color Groups and Size Groups that can be added to Vendors. When these color and size groups are linked to the inventory item, the color and size fields on the Sale/Sales Order use these available options. Moreover, this feature establishes a foundation needed to be able to suggest sizing based on the contact’s measurements.

For a complete listing of new features and improvements, please reference the release notes.

How to get the new version

Updating is free and simple and takes less than 30 seconds. On each computer running BridalLive, follow these 3 steps:

  1. Open the Administration Module
  2. Click “Program Settings” in the left navigation menu
  3. Click “Check For Updates” and accept the updates.

As always, if you have any questions/suggestions, please contact me.

Helping you thrive,

Tom Esposito

Version 1.2 now available!

admin wrote this on Jan 3 |

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It’s finally here and you’re going to love it.

If you’ve ever wanted to automate your prom dress registry, it’s here. If you were one of the many that requested Credit Card processing, today’s your day. With over 25 new features and improvements, version 1.2 is the next step in making your bridal business more profitable.

For a complete listing of these new features and improvements, please read the release notes.

For more information on how to use the new features, see the Online User Guide.

Updating is simple and takes less than 30 seconds. On each computer running BridalLive, follow these 3 steps:

  1. Open the Administration Module
  2. Click “Program Settings” in the left navigation menu
  3. Click “Check For Updates” and accept the updates.

Have fun with it and let me know how we can make it better.

Shameless plug follows:

Today BridalLive’s Marketing Tools are helping retailers all over the country generate more web site leads, reduce appointment cancellations and increase their closing ratio. If your shop could use improvement in these areas, I encourage you to learn more about the marketing tools. To see it in action, contact me directly at 1-888-764-2605 for an interactive live demo and case studies.

Tampa Bridal Shop Seminar Materials

admin wrote this on Dec 11 |

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This year’s Tampa Seminar was amazing. There were some excellent sales and marketing sessions led by Jim Butler of Arizona’s Bridal Warehouse and Bridal Training Systems. Jim really knows what he’s talking about and if you are serious about growing your bridal business, you need to be paying attention to what he has to offer.

Jon Saltzman (Jon’s Bridal) gave 2 talks. One was for Newbies and the other was a great contrast between Special Order and Off-The-Rack shops. Lisa (Formals Of Litchfield) and Barbara (Mary and Tux) had a great presentation on how to make bridesmaids a more profitable part of our businesses.

On Monday, I spoke about “How to use today’s technology to gain a competitive edge”. During the talk, I gave away a few prizes. Angela Ng from Bridal Image in San Francisco and Lynn Atkins from Charlotte Bridal both won books. The grand prize, a FREE COPY OF BRIDALLIVE, was won by Beth Clark of Bridal Chateau. Congratulations to all the lucky winners.

Rachel and I enjoyed meeting everyone. We’ll see you next year!

Are you ready for the Tampa Bridal Shop Conference?

admin wrote this on Dec 4 |

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The Better Bridal Group seminar starts Monday 12/7/2009. Are you ready? If you haven’t yet registered for the event, jump over to www.bridalconvention.net and get signed up already! Last year (although we couldn’t attend) there were over 50 bridal stores represented sharing their ideas and networking. This bridal seminar easily pays for itself.

This year I will be giving a talk entitled “How to use today’s technology to gain a competitive edge”. I’ll address how changes in marketing have allowed savvy bridal shops to leverage new technology products. I’ll also be demonstrating how you can turn your website into a lead generation machine. After that, we’ll do some hands on demonstrations of some excellent software products that can help streamline your marketing efforts.

There will also be some excellent sessions led by Jim Butler of Arizona’s Bridal Warehouse and Bridal Training Systems. His materials on sales and marketing are a necessity if you are an independent bridal shop looking to get ahead of the curve.

I look forward to meeting new shop owners and developing new friendships.