Monday, August 17, 2009

BIG willette show

What a fabulous idea!

We ask Kelly to tell us more about this great marketing event...

"One of my favorite clients ordered a gorgeous 20x30 portrait of her child, and after having it framed, she called me. She was nearly in tears over how beautiful the portrait was – it truly was stunning! As she was thanking me and telling me how amazing it looked in her home, she had an aha moment. She told me how fun it would be to see all the large portraits that clients had ordered over the past year in one place….a “viewing” of sorts for all to see the large portraits in one place.

Around the same time, my husband and I were trying to formulate a way to thank our clients for the most amazing year in business. We wanted to show our clients and the community just how appreciative we were for their business and support for our first official year in business.

Thus, the BIG Willette Show was born. We combined the two ideas into one fun event for clients to gather, view several large-scale Willette portraits from the past year, and feel appreciated.

The event was held at a private arts center in historic Downtown Norfolk in a beautiful artist gallery. We invited the previous year’s clients and clients who were on our calendar to be photographed this coming year, as well as community members who had been supportive of all of our efforts to be the premier children’s portrait studio in our town.

A few clients and friends helped with the planning of the event… was set up as an evening wine and cheese social. By keeping the event simple: simple food and wine, we were able to enjoy the evening and keep our costs down. We also limited the event to 1.5 hours…this gave attendees enough time to view the art, socialize, and then head out to a dinner downtown. A local florist donated floral arrangements as a congratulation to us, two local musicians offered to play music (at no charge as a thank you for our previous support of their efforts), we purchased the food and wine at local markets, and included items framed by our local framer. Another way we kept the costs down was by bartering services to secure the space at a discounted price. I have been offering volunteer graphic design services to the d’Art Center, which is where the event was held, for four years, without asking for anything in return (except recognition). When it came time to host this event, it was a no-brainer for us to host it here. They were ecstatic to help our business, and we were ecstatic to have it at such a swank venue.

We were very careful in our phrasing on the invite to indicate that this was an event for the parents. The art gallery was open for the entire weekend, so parents were able to take their children to the art gallery so their child could see his or her portrait up on the wall in a REAL art show/gallery. We even had three portraits that were painted by local artists from some of my photos taken that year.

We hung all the art in the gallery, set up the food tables, had postcards advertizing our new additions to our services for this year, and had a table for registration. On the invites, we advertized that one lucky client (in attendance) would leave winning a session and a 20x30 print. Just to say thanks! Also at the registration table were cards of our local supporters: florist, framer, musicians, children’s art camps, etc. The registration table had cards printed up that had space for the client to fill in her or her contact info. This info was later added to our mailing list. We had several prospective clients attend the event, and this was a great way to track who was there – and a quick way to secure their contact info for our database.

The response to this event was incredible! We were hoping for 50 attendees….well, we had over 125 in attendance! And it was a FUN party and celebration. Our clients felt appreciated, and this event created a HUGE buzz for our business. Our blog hits surged after the event, I was asked by two new businesses to set up displays in their shops, and I’ve been selling even more large prints and canvases. All because of this event. AND on top of all of this, I am fully booked for the rest of the year. Yes, you read that right. FULLY booked.

Another advantage to this show was that it showed clients what other clients ordered and how they had it framed. We had many beautifully framed pieces, and I’ve noticed new clients who attended the event ordering larger prints. It has almost become a Who’s Who game here – “Well, what size did Susy Jones order? I’d like to order two, and make them larger, please.” Having clients see what others have ordered has inspired them to order more (and bigger).

We began our business by supporting other local businesses, and it became evident to us when we decided to have this show just how important this has been to our success. We gave away services and volunteered for so many years, so that now we have established our stake in the community, and our business has been embraced.

Clients have already begun asking about next year’s event, which we’ve decided will be called “The BIGGER Willette Show.”

On the agenda for next year’s show includes swag bags (the woven recycled grocery bags with our logo on it) full of local business giveaways for all attendees and tons more BIG Willette portraits on the walls."

(The BIG willette show was the Grand Prize winner for Best Marketing idea in Design Aglow last summer)

Kelly gives credit to Susan Lowe, who inspired the idea for the BIG Willette show...her website is



  1. What an awesome show!! Love it! I wish I could have been there, looks like you all had fun!! Great photos!

  2. Kelly - Man, I wish I'd known about you the weekend of the 8th when we were in VA Beach to photograph a wedding. I'd love to have met you!! Virginia Beach is awesome. My husband was completely mad at me for not being helpful in getting to where we wanted to go, because I was so distracted by all the cool places around me.

  3. this show is such an awesome idea! kelly lives in my area and she really is an amazing photographer and business woman! props to her!

  4. COOLEST ever!! I would have love to have gone to get new ideas of what to do in my own home. I hope for a fab turnout next time!

  5. love this! definitely something to strive for!

  6. What an absolutely fantastic idea! Kudos to Kelly!!!

  7. What a great idea! hopefully one day I will get to that point.