Floral designers Alicia and Adam Rico focus on just two ways to reach the brides who’ll love their style. They use print media as a springboard to grow their audience and a carefully curated Instagram page to nurture brides-to-be. The unintended consequence: travel opportunities.
When Alicia Rico and her husband Adam Rico first began their floral design business, Alicia had one goal – get into Martha Stewart Weddings magazine. It’s not easy. Weddings featured in Martha Stewart’s magazine have to be submitted long before they happen, and if chosen, an entire Martha Stewart design, planning and photography team help the happy couple with every facet of their big day – planning just the right look, choosing linens and lighting, even picking the perfect dress. For brides who adore Martha Stewart’s signature style of pale hues and vases overflowing with soft pink petals, it’s a dream come true.
But as Alicia’s business, Bows + Arrows Flowers was just getting off the ground, she didn’t have a bride-to-be in her back pocket. She did have photos of a recent wedding for which she’d designed floral arrangements. On a chance, she submitted them to the editors.
The editors loved them.
“It was of a wedding we did in the desert, which is a very different style than Martha Stewart magazine usually publishes. And we submitted it after it was done, and they still agreed to feature it. That was a huge moment.”
It didn’t take Alicia and Adam long to see their work from another wedding land on the cover of the magazine, checking off her next goal.
While it certainly helps to build your brand by aligning with one of the biggest wedding publications in the country, Alicia and Adam don’t rely solely on print media or even wedding blogs to get in front of their ideal audience of blossom-loving brides. Their success is a combination of understanding their ideal client really well, staying true to their brand, and building a truly impressive following on Instagram that not only lands them clients, but literally sends them around the world.
Here the Ricos share their journey from art students to Martha Stewart-approved floral designers (and occasional wedding designers), and give tips on how you can improve engagement, increase followers, and get clients on Instagram.
Both Alicia and Adam both graduated with a Bachelors in Fine Arts with a focus on painting, but as lifelong creatives, they dabbled in everything. They met in New York City where Alicia was working at a flower shop. She hadn’t done anything with flowers before, but in working there, she found her passion.
Alicia says, “My paintings were always quick and gestural and I’d paint a number of paintings at once. I work the same way with my flowers. Fast with lots of movement and working with color and texture. Knowing painting, you do a lot of color theory, mixing of color palates. Playing with naturally occurring colors in my floral arrangements is something my background in painting has helped me with.”
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Alicia and her husband tag team with their business and children, but sometimes they add other hats to the stack and make their own pottery (flower frogs and vessels) and design events (only when asked).
“We don’t advertise that we do event design, but people come to us who love our aesthetics and ask us to create something for them. There isn’t an event designer out there that would design a wedding the way we do. We don’t do ANY planning. If we’re designing for someone, we only do aesthetics, so they pull it together themselves or hire a planner.”
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How do these couples fall in love with their aesthetics? How do they even find them? It’s the same reason Alicia and Adam find themselves traveling around the world for destination weddings – brides find them on Instagram.
“Most of the time, these are people who’ve been following us for years on Instagram – even before they were engaged!”
With more than 100K followers on their Instagram account, it’s become the bedrock of their marketing. In fact, it’s almost all the marketing they do anymore, because it works that well.
Instagram with flower power
Alicia and Adam got into Instagram early, just for fun. A snapshot here and there.
“I look back at what I used to post and I can’t believe I posted that. It wasn’t seen as a portfolio then.”
But as more people began noticing those snapshots, Alicia and Adam realized they needed to up their game.
“Being featured on well-known popular Instagram pages and blogs, they’d give us a shout out and credit on our images. That’s how we grew. Martha Stewart Weddings even posted some of our work and tagged us.”
One look at the Bows + Arrows Instagram page now, and it’s clear that these are no longer snapshots. The page is a carefully, artistically curated collage of colors and textures. They treat their page like it’s art, using texture, color and composition deliberately to create a specific effect – intended for a specific audience.
“I see what people like the most and give the people what they want. They love upclose shots of flowers and bouquets, hands holding a bunch of flowers. My followers don’t really like landscapes – I just don’t get that many likes on scenic photography. They like in-your-face, close up, en masse. But I still throw in what I want also.
“I think people overthink Instagram a bit. I’m living life also, I’m not going to post or stress myself out if I want to take a few days off to be with my family.”
They may not overthink their Instagram, but they do put a lot of thought into understanding their ideal customers – or in wedding industry lingo, their brides. And that understanding informs every decision they make.
Understanding their ideal client
Dallas Texas, where Bows + Arrows Flowers is based, has a style all its own. Weddings in Texas are, well, bigger. Flashier. And not what Bows + Arrows does at all.
“I try to make my work and submissions more about the location, more natural, not look too overdone. If we are on a cliff side overlooking the ocean, I don’t want to obscure that view, I want to add to it. Maybe I make that cliff side look overgrown with wildflowers. We don’t take away from the natural beauty – we improve it. But also remaining approachable. Not too contrived.”
It’s a dichotomy that works in their favor because it allowed Alicia and Adam to carve out their own niche in a large market.
“My type of bride does lean towards a more natural, organic, gardeny approach. But I also live in Dallas Texas, where that’s not typical. Bigger is better here, things are over the top, lots of ballrooms and jewels. It’s a different market, but within it, I have a niche and a certain bride that I attract.”
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The Ricos have such a defined style that it attracts brides far outside the Dallas region – brides who find them on Instagram and ask the Ricos to travel out of state, even out of the country.
“We do a lot of destination weddings – we had 3 destination weddings in California in the month of July. We attract people all over.
“That’s what keeps our outlook so fresh too, we’re moving locations and being inspired by different seasons and geography.”
Alicia says each destination wedding is like being on the Amazing Race with her husband. Every location presents a different set of challenges, and they must meet their objectives under tight deadlines.
“We’re dropped on the ground and we have a list of things to do and accomplish, and we meet people along the way to help us with language barriers or physical work or labor.
“There was a wedding in Thailand where we never met the bride or saw the venue, or had been to Thailand before the week of the wedding. We didn’t have flowers picked out or vases. We flew into Bangkok and shopped in the flower market there, and hoped and prayed they’d get packed and shipped to the tiny island where the wedding was. We also shopped the handicraft market there too to find our vessels and vases. My husband and I love adventure. We went to India on our honeymoon. We love to explore rather than sit around and relax.”
Understanding exactly who their ideal client is and how she finds them is key to what the Ricos choose to do – and not do – when it comes to promoting their business. They don’t do Pinterest (other than to gather ideas and share them with clients and planners). And they don’t advertise in magazines.
“There’s not a magazine that I’d want to advertise with because I don’t think there’s any magazine that target the perfect client for me. A lot of magazines attract everyone, and I want to attract a very specific bride. Those brides find us on Instagram and through word of mouth.”
At this point, Alicia doesn’t need to do much to promote their business outside of Instagram and getting referrals from photographers and wedding planners they’ve worked with in the past.
“In the early days, we were all starting out – the planners I work with a lot right now and the photographers – we were all looking to grow and build our portfolios. So we decided to do a lot of photo shoots together to build up our content. We had the same aesthetic and same goals, so the relationship was so natural. We worked the same way, had the same work ethic.
“It’s finding people you love, that you believe in, that share your aesthetics and goals, and building each other up and supporting each other. That comes out when you talk to other people. It’s just natural, for me anyway – I gush about the people I love working with!”
The gushing is mutual among her wedding industry friends, and that mutual support is as much a factor of their success as anything they post on Instagram, or have featured in Martha Stewart Weddings.
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Seven tips on using Instagram to attract your ideal clients
- Have a very very well curated portfolio. Because that’s what Instagram is now – a portfolio of your work. If you want someone to follow you, you need to grab their attention with a portfolio that looks beautiful, pulled together, and aesthetically consistent.
- Post frequently. You won’t keep anyone’s attention if you’re posting once in awhile. Keep posting as frequently as possible with interesting, beautiful stuff.
- Use Instagram Stories. Instastories are like Snapchat, it’s your daily behind the scenes videos, pictures. It only lasts for 24 hours, so it’s very temporal, which allows you to post and feel more free about it. We try to do Instagram stories quite a bit. Once you’ve updated your app to see Instagram stories, you’ll see the people who post Instagram stories most frequently are up at the top. We just try to keep posting fresh stories because it gets people coming back and gets new followers to our page.
- If you want active engagement, be active yourself. The more comments and actions you get on your photos, the more likely you are to be seen by new followers. If you are commenting and active yourself, encourage your friends and people you like to be active on your page. And go be active on other people’s pages – people you admire and want to follow you back.
- Ask a friend to be your photo-approval buddy. Every photo we post has to go through two layers of approval – me and my husband! Sometimes I’ll talk him into letting me post a picture I like but he doesn’t, and he can post one I don’t like later. But have a friend you can do that with, toss pictures back and forth for approval.
- Think about color, texture and composition. I like my colors to go well together, not matchy matchy, but not a bright red thing next to a bright yellow thing. I want it to be more subtle and blend better. Color-wise, I want it to be nice and cohesive. Also, I want a photo that’s pulled back, and one up close – I want to create a mix of perspectives, colors and textures.
- You don’t need a fancy camera. I don’t post a lot of professional pics. Instagram should be a snapshot of real life, that’s my philosophy, that’s what I try to do.
When asked for a few tips for floral newbies, Alicia also had a few words of advice – advice that could, just as easily, apply to Instagram, or art, or even building a business if you tend towards metaphor.
“I don’t like my flowers to ever be too tight – to touch each other to the point they’re changing the shape of one another. Don’t squish the flowers. Layer them, but have them overlapping so they have space to breathe.”
Simple and minimal is better. One or two gorgeous flowers is really nice. You don’t have to pack them in there to make an impact.
“Start small – focus on quality and composition.”