Posts filed under ‘Sales’

People Lessons I’ve Learned…

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This week I’m sharing with you some of the lessons that I’ve learned in my five years as a small business owner in the wedding industry.  Yesterday, we covered “Productivity Lessons“.  Today, we’ll discuss the “People Lessons” I’ve learned.  They are lessons about communicating with, working with, and collaborating with people.

5 Lessons I’ve Learned about People

1 – Be a Mentor, not a Manager

If you have employees and/or if you plan on having them someday, my best recommendation is to mentor them, don’t manage them.  I’ve had the same message for everyone that works for me: “You may work here until you are 92.  You may move on in 3 months.  Regardless of the length of our relationship, I want to give you life lessons that you’ll use in your career.”  With that mindset you will both have a mutual relationship of support and understanding.  Communication will be much more open.  Training will be much smoother.  When you see your role as a mentor and educator, your employees will be eager to learn and become invested in everything about your business.  And, you’ve got a better chance at them working for you until they are 92 if they are invested in what they are doing and learning.

2 – When issues arise, address them immediately

One bad apple can spoil the barrel.  If someone on your team has a poor attitude or is not bringing what he or she committed to, then it is time to face the issue.  Not doing so will sour the experience of everyone who works for you.  This will ultimately lead to a decline in your business.  Confronting a problem employee is an extremely challenging thing to do.  But, it’s an important lesson to learn… and practice makes perfect.  And, if you’ve been the mentor then your job will be made easier.

In my 12 years of managing individuals the best approach has always been one of concern: “I’ve noticed a change in XYZ. I’m concerned about ABC.  What is your perception?”  The fascinating thing is that often times it is something personal and the person is completely unaware that it is affecting their work.  By having an open line of communication and by acting as a mentor to the individual, you’ll have a lot better chance at breaking through.  I always end with asking this question, “I need to know that you are committed to ABC.  Can I count on you?”  You’ve clearly communicated the expectation and it’s time for both of you to move forward in a positive direction.

3 – Collaborate don’t Compete

I recently touched upon the magic of embracing your competition, so I’m going to take a different angle here.  Those who collaborate in this industry have a team of people to support their business.  Those who fixate on competition only have themselves.  (It really does take a village to have a successful business!)  I’ve heard horror stories of vengeful-cliquey-venemous battles between wedding vendors.  Hey – there are plenty of brides to go around for all of us!  By collaborating with your competitors you are bringing a strong unified collection of wedding professionals in your segment.  You are strengthening the industry as a whole.  Everyone has something different to offer, so find out how you can work together and how the industry as a whole can rise to the top.  If you see someone who is doing something similar to you and it makes you nervous (I’m not going to lie that this doesn’t make me nervous) find out how you can work together, not apart.

4 – Communicate!

I said it in yesterday’s post and I’ll say it again: GOOD communication is 80% of getting anything done.  (No I didn’t do a study to come up with that 80% number… it just feels right. 🙂 )  If you want to be successful in this industry communicate efficiently and effectively with everyone you have contact: vendors, clients, employees.  I am blown away when I don’t get a response to a phone inquiry or an email for a week or sometimes longer.   By returning phone calls and email promptly you are already doing what many people do not.  Let people know what you are doing every step of the way.  If someone asks you a question that you cannot answer immediately (it requires some research or additional work) let that person know that you are working on it and will give them an answer by X date.  It’s that simple.

5 – Listen

If you pay attention and listen carefully, people will express their needs to you.  This is most prevalent in a sales meeting with a potential client.  It’s natural to want to be the dominant person during a sales meeting.  After all the client has come to you for your expertise.  The danger is in jumping too soon.  By exploring and really listening to what your client has to say about his or her wedding, you’ll better be able to educate them about the best match between your business and their needs, wants, desires.  The first step is to listen.  The second step is to define a need.  The third step is to educate.  The last step is to introduce a potential match.

And with that… I leave you to go off in the wedding world with so many wonderful people!

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July 22, 2009 at 6:00 am 1 comment

Networking, The New Frontier: Online Social Media

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This week, we’re discussing networking, referrals, and building relationships.  While I love meeting people for coffee to talk shop, networking has gone beyond the coffeeshop and onto the internet.  These days you can mix and mingle with people cross-country through the use of blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and so on.  I am certainly not a social media expert, but am a HUGE fan and a heavy user.  What I offer here is advice from the experts.

Your Business Blog

A blog is a powerful tool for showcasing your products and services.  It can be a great way to begin the conversation with potential clientele.  It’s a method of sharing with them more about you and what it is that you do.

If you want to learn more about blogging, you really ought to be reading Liene Steven’s Think Splendid blog.  Liene is the owner of Splendid Communications and an online media expert for the wedding and event industries.  Recently, Liene wrote about how to get brides to visit your wedding blog.  Her advice is to offer highly valuable information 3 times a week for 6 months. (This information is the type of stuff you would want to charge for.)  Brides don’t want to be sold, they want information.  That information will help them make the decision as to whether they are interested or not.  (By the way, Liene offers blogging bootcamps and I hear from people throughout the industry that they have been incredibly valuable for their businesses.)

I would also add this: write about subjects that you would like to be known for.  If you are a florist and want to be known for your artistic technique, talk about art.  Talk about the people that influence your work.  By writing about your passions and interests, people who share your passion and interest will find you.  (Think about it, if you talk about how Dali has an impact in your floral design… and if you talk about this at great length…  eventually, anyone who googles “Wedding Design Dali” is likely to find you through your blog.)

I love what Amy Beth Cupp Dragoo of ABCD Design does on her blog.  She is a wedding invitation designer, but covers all aspects of design and art on her blog.  People who like her aesthetic, will understand what her stationery is all about.  She is creating a following by speaking to the artistic flair in her clientele.  And, in turn she is most likely working with some really cool people.

Tweet Tweet

Twitter is a big party – a BIG networking party.  Everyone is just waiting to see who’ll be the next person to walk through that door.  This is how Twitter works in a nutshell: users sign up for an account and send out “headlines” of the latest and greatest information.  This can be business information or personal information:

  • Working on a Fijian wedding; invites are tropical reds and beach oranges
  • Getting sunburned in my office, really should invest in shades
  • Great article on the positive impact of the economy on weddings: http://www.bit.com

Any of your “followers” will see these updates (along with all the others of people they follow.)  At first it seems like a crazy time-consuming thing to fill your day with mundane information.  But the value is in the conversations you have with people.  Often you are networking with people in the industry across the country!  Or, you are reaching out to new customers who love learning about cool new wedding trends.

Chris Brogan advises businesses on how to use social media.  I love his tips, in general, but the advice specific to Twitter has been very valuable to me (particularly when I was getting started on Twitter.)  He has written 50 ideas on Using Twitter for Business.  Here are 5 of my favorites:

  1. Talk to people about THEIR interests.  I know this doesn’t sell more widgets, but it shows us you’re human.
  2. Be wary of always pimping your stuff. Your fans will love it. Others will tune out.
  3. When promoting a blog post, ask a question or explain what’s coming next, instead of just dumping a link.
  4. Don’t toot your own horn too much.
  5. Instead of answering the question, “What are you doing?”, answer the question, “What has your attention?”

My personal reflection is that the best twitterers are those that are “the nicest guy in the room”.  Think of a party: who do you want to talk to?  Now, be that guy.

Facebook

Most people have personal accounts set up in facebook, so I won’t get into that too much.  What I will emphasize is the need to set up a “page” for your business.  Your clients don’t care about your personal profile’s drunk facebook status updates on a Saturday night.  You shouldn’t be connecting with your clients and colleagues through your personal profile, unless you have a personal relationship with them.  By setting up a page you are building relationships with “fans” of your business and sharing with them what’s new.

Hazel Grace of Socialbees is an expert on using facebook for business.  Socialbees specializes in helping small businesses reach highly targeted audiences by optimizing their Facebook presence to drive user engagement and viral growth. Socialbees advises on having general company information, but adds that you can really add value to your facebook page (and give further details to clients) by including the following:

  • Upcoming events: This includes your own events — where you or your product might be appearing — or industry-related events you think are cool and want to support.
  • Photos: of you, your products, your store and especially your products in action.
  • Videos: YouTube links or raw files of you, your customers, your products.
  • Blogs: Do you have a blog? Add the URL. Also, add blogs or websites you love that are relevant to your industry or customers.
  • Customization: Make it unique!

The best use of facebook for networking is when you engage your fans in conversation and discussion.  Ask a question, start a forum topic, make comments on your fans’ insights.  Start the discussion!

Diversification is the key

Like with anything, you must diversify your social networking.  Try a little bit of everything and create a presence for your business in various media.  These are inexpensive ways to network (and increase your SALES)… they only require an investment of your time and attention.  Remember, this is still networking… whether its at the coffeehop or over the internet, it’s still about building relationships!

July 16, 2009 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

5 Ways to Encourage Client Referrals

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This week, we are discussing how to generate sales with very little financial investment.  On Monday, we discussed different ways to network and I presented some ways to rethink your networking strategy.  Yesterday, we talked about fostering relationships with the people who refer business to you.  Today, we are specifically going to focus on the client referral.

In this industry, unfortunately, there is very little if any repeat business.  Sean Low recently wrote a post about this on his blog, The Business of Being Creative. The unfortunate thing is that we are constantly seeing our clients off and trying to drum up new ones.  In his post, he discussed the opportunity to create some repeat business through new product offerings beyond the wedding.  I also see an opportunity to create additional business in the way of client referrals.

Why a client referral is AWESOME…

When a client refers a friend of theirs to you, they have done the following FOR you:

  • Given a sales pitch that explains your service and/or product (this sales pitch is often loaded with enthusiasm for your product)
  • Given a testimonial for your business
  • By telling their friend about your business, your client may have removed any desire for that person to “shop around”; they have essentially removed your competitors from the equation
  • If your client is a Maven, their word may hold a heavy value in his or her circle of friends.  A small group may look up to this Maven and it may define what this group does. (According to Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point a Maven is someone who is an “expert” within their circle of connections and is powerful in influencing people’s spending decisions.  Think of that bride who has referred all her friends to you and each one of them looked up to her as if she were a kind of trend-setting celebrity.)

When the friend comes in to meet you, your work is partly done.  They know about you; they know what you do.  And, you already have high marks in their book.  Your client has warmed the lead.  It’s your job to close the deal.  Does it get any easier than that?

How to encourage those AWESOME client referrals…

You’re probably sitting there, “THIS IS AWESOME!  I want more of those kinds of referrals!” 😉  Don’t we all!?!  While the work may not be done in the same way as a traditional sale (market, advertise, generate lead, introduce, pitch, match need/offering, educate, offer, sale) there still needs to be a considerable effort made to ensure that clients are referring you.  Here are some ways to do that:

Follow Up and Follow Through

I’m going to assume that everyone in this industry places a great value on customer service.  While an engaged couple is on their way to the altar we all do everything we can to ensure that customer’s needs are being met.  But, what are you doing after they’ve walked down the altar?  (Or, in my case, what is done after they’ve picked up their wedding invitations?)  How much follow up do you do to make sure their needs are being met after they’ve done business with you?

So, here’s an example… When a client picks up their wedding invitations from me, I always let them know I’ll follow up with them a week later.  This is to ensure that they are pleased with their order and to see if they need any additional wedding stationery.  But, it’s also an important time to continue building my relationship with them.  It’s an opportunity to see if I can help in any other way.  Maybe they have trouble with the post office?  Maybe they need more envelopes?  The sale continues long AFTER they’ve placed their order.

If you are a wedding planner, why not follow up with them a month after the wedding?  I know that once couples are married, they are sometimes ready to move on from the wedding.  But, as a planner, you have been by their side for months, maybe years.  That person sees you as a resource for services and products in their community.  By keeping that conversation going, you are on their mind the minute that a friend of theirs becomes engaged.

Keeping in touch

After that initial follow-up, it is going to be more difficult to keep in touch with previous clients through the years.  It would certainly be awkward to continually check in with a couple that has been married for some time.  (Hello, stalker!)  But, they invested in your business as much as you invested in their relationships.  I see this similar to the relationship you might have with a stock-holder.  Why not an annual update?

In the springtime, I usually do an anniversary letter of my business.  This is an opportunity to thank previous clients for supporting my business and letting them know of 5 fabulous years and what I’ve accomplished.  I make sure to include something (a business card, a coupon, a sample) that they can pass along to a friend.  Giving people something easy to pass along to a friend makes the referral all that much easier.

Share this…

On that note, the quicker someone can pass along information, the better.  And, this goes for your website too.  How easy is it to share information that can be found on your website?  Can someone quickly click a link and forward to a friend?  Something to think about next time you re-design your website.  (It’s also on my list of things to do!)

Encourage them to come to you first

As with all good things, there is also a potential down side to “word of mouth”.  What if your sweet client turns into a Bridezilla.  (It’s an unfortunate thing, but this does happen. 😉  And, next thing you know, there are horrible things being said about your business on every Yelp, Knot, and Wire out there.

Because people are more likely to express dissatisfaction publicly than they are to express satisfaction, you must make every attempt to prevent this from happening. It is important to EMPHASIZE to your client that if they have any problems with anything along the way that they come to you first.  You want the client to come to you so that you have the opportunity to fix the problem.

We hand make all of our invitations at mmm… paper.  While we review everything twice (and by two different people) there is a chance that something hand-made has an imperfection.  I give people 3 reminders that I want to know if there is a problem.  Their order comes with instructions on what to do if they find any flaws (Call me ASAP!).  Their order also comes with a survey in which I ask them to rate the service and the quality of our work.  And, one week after the sale I do a follow up email or phone call to see how they are doing with their invites. Not only will your client feel well taken care-of, he or she will have more reason to refer you to someone else.

Put your clients in your booth

I’ve heard from a few of you lately that you’ve used previous clients to sell for you at wedding shows.  BRILLIANT!  (Why didn’t I think of that?!)  We all have previous clients that are huge fans of what we do.  (Think of those Mavens that I mentioned earlier).  And, these people are usually really good at talking about our business.  (Sometimes they are even better than we are.)  We all have those clients who’ve told us, “I love what you do.  Let me know if you ever need any help.”  This is referral heaven in my book.  Invite those people to talk about your business, reward them with additional products or service (and a fancy dinner).

Today’s take-away…

My take-away for you is that a client relationship can be a lifelong thing.  We aren’t accustomed to thinking of it this way in the wedding industry.  And, surely we will not have that relationship with every client.  But by building the relationships with those that truly value our business we are putting a non-financial investment into something that will lead to greater sales in years to come.

July 15, 2009 at 7:00 am 3 comments

Fostering Relationships (Inexpensive Ways to Increase Sales)

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This week we are discussing inexpensive ways to increase sales. Yesterday’s post was about networking and how to rethink your networking strategy.  Today, we’re discussing how to foster those relationships.  If referrals are an important part of your sales plan, you must actively invest your time to nurture the source of those referrals.

How do you thank the people that refer you business?  Do you hand write them a note?  To me, this is a minimum requirement.  But why not take it a step further?

Make it public

A public acknowledgment of a vendor who passes business to you is a great way to give them a loud shout-out.  This gives them a little exposure in a public forum while showing others that you value referrals.  You can do this by posting something on your blog, or sending out a tweet on Twitter.

Non-contingent Thank Yous

Thank yous should be made to referrers regardless of whether the prospect ultimately does business with you or not.  You should show appreciation regardless of the end result.  It’s important to acknowledge a person’s thoughtfulness regardless of sale or no-sale.  This appreciation will result in continued referrals… and those referrals are bound to pan out.

Send a little something-something

I’m a stationery designer, so when someone refers business to mmm… paper I like to send some little paper goodie.  It’s a low cost way of saying, “I really and truly appreciate your good word about my business.”

Return the favor

If someone is good at referring you business, you should return the favor.  Sometimes, the match between client and referral doesn’t make itself immediately available.  But, remember to keep that person in mind.  They’ll appreciate the favor!  If the relationship of referral only goes one way, it is much like unrequited love and that love will soon fade.

Spend some time with them

If someone refers a lot of business to you, and you don’t feel that you’ve had an opportunity to return the favor, maybe you don’t know that person well enough.  Take the time to take them out to coffee and find out more about them.  Ask them how you can help their business.

Have a vendor and client appreciation event

This takes a little more financial investment (not the least costly of the “inexpensive ideas” of this week)… but for a few hundred dollars you can put together some bites and sips to say thank you to those that appreciate your business.  An open house at your office can be a great opportunity to thank vendors and clients who have referred business to you and it can be a great opportunity to share with them a little more about your business.  And, if you’re like me, wine and cheese is an easy way to my heart!

How do YOU show the love?

I’d love to know how YOU foster your relationships with other wedding vendors and clients.  How do you show appreciation for referred business?  (Post a comment below!)

July 14, 2009 at 6:00 am 2 comments

Networking (and other Inexpensive Ways to Increase your Sales)

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In 2009, businesses have to work smarter and harder to achieve revenue.  People are still getting married, but they are spending less on their wedding.  So, what this means for us wedding professionals is that we have to book more jobs than in previous years.  (Oh boy!  How do I do this?)  What I see happening is that small business owners have more time and less money these days – not the most favorable of things.

“I’ve got more time, but less money these days.”
So, how do we turn this into an opportunity?

This week, I am going to focus on 4 things you can do to promote your business that are inexpensive and sometimes free.  They usually require an investment of your time.  This isn’t new information to many of you, but I’m hoping to give you a new spin on these tried-n-true tips.  Today’s tip is to: Maximize your Networking

Call another wedding professional and have a cup of coffee

A few years ago, after tracking my sales results, I determined that a growing percentage of my sales were coming from vendor referrals.  In setting my forecast for the upcoming year, I wanted to increase that number.  I knew that simply increasing that number in theory was great, but that I needed to have a plan to actually achieve results.  I committed myself to meeting with one person in my industry every two weeks.  And, so began my mmm… paper Seattle vendor tour.  And, I met some GREAT people!

What I started to see was that not only did people learn about my business, but more importantly I learned about their business.  I learned what THEIR client was all about.  I went in thinking that I would sell them on my business, but learned that it was more about finding a match in our clientele and finding a connection between their business and my business.  I was further able to define my niche and I was further able to provide them value for their business.  And, this in turn led to quality client referrals.

So, call someone up and ask them to meet up for a cup of coffee.  Learn about them, learn about their business.  Ask how you can help them. By sincerely extending yourself to them, they will naturally extend themselves to you.

Organize a casual mixer

When I moved to Seattle, I met with a wedding planner who I fell in love with.  She and I became close friends.  For months, we talked about putting together a gathering of wedding professionals.  Months turned into years.  I finally got my act together and started hosting Tuesday Toast.  Tuesday Toast is a very casual and informal cocktail hour that takes place monthly – on a Tuesday.  Barbie Hull has joined forces with me on this and helped take it to great lengths.  It’s so fun to get together with wedding folk every month to talk shop and toast the industry.  I meet new people and catch up with old friends.  And, it’s EASY to do.  Set up an evite and mail it off to your wedding peeps, start a facebook group, or a meetup group.

Expand your network

It’s easy to get comfortable.  I go to networking things and end up talking to all my favorite people that I know so well.  The problem with that can be that I’m not reaching out and meeting anyone new.  This can happen at wedding industry events (such as Tuesday Toast) or even on a more general level… not branching out beyond the wedding industry.

So, reach out to someone outside of the wedding industry.  Reach out to someone who does something completely different than you.  I myself don’t do graphic design in my wedding invitation business, so I love to have great designers to whom I can refer. If you are a photographer, why not reach out to someone who solely does baby portraits?  If you are a florist, why not reach out to the flower shop down the street that doesn’t do weddings?  If you are wedding planner, why not reach out to a corporate event planner?  These are great partners to have as they can refer business to someone who is an expert in something different that what they do.

Think outside the box

You’ve heard it all before… network, network, network.  This is nothing new.  But, rethink the way you network.  Rethink your strategy.  Rethink the way you are meeting people who can send business your way.  Take the time that you have now to invest in relationships.  These relationships are worth their weight in gold!

July 13, 2009 at 6:00 am 4 comments

Writing Your Business Plan, Step 6: Marketing Plan (Niche, Strategy, and Forecasting)

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This week, we are writing the Marketing portion of the Business Plan in three parts.  On Tuesday we covered research and economics.  Yesterday, we focused on products and services, customer demographics, and competition.  Today, we are going to cover niche, marketing strategy, and sales forecasting.

Onward and upward!

Niche

What is your niche?  Where does your company fit in the market?  What is that sweet spot?  What is the best personal match between you and the customer?  Wendy Robinson, owner of Sacred Moment Weddings in Phoenix, Arizona, writes “Aspire to Plan” a valuable blog for aspiring planners.  She recently wrote that the best niche for a business is one that matches your talent and passion with the customers’ needs and wants.  By having synergy between these  three elements you can create a unique niche for your product or service.

Marketing Strategy

Last month, we discussed marketing strategy and explored the definition of marketing as the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service.  For the marketing strategy section of the business plan, we’ll have three subsections: promotion, sales, and distribution.

Promotion

What is your strategy for promoting your business?  How do you get the word out to customers?  What is the cost of these methods of promotion?  How effective are they at getting you business?

Here are the most common methods of promotion within the wedding industry.  You can elaborate on them in the marketing plan to the extent that they are applicable to your business.

  • paid print advertising
  • paid online advertising
  • blogging on your company website
  • networking within your industry and your community
  • facebook and twitter
  • exhibiting at wedding shows
  • customer referrals
  • vendor referrals

If you want to track their performance and determine how effective they are in yielding returns, I recommend the following two posts:

Sales

In this sub-section discuss your sales approach.  What is the process by which you make a sale?  When the client contacts you, what happens?  When is the sale recognized?  How do your clients make their decisions?  Here are some helpful Secrets of Selling (little unique cost-effective sales tips).

An important part of the sale equation is Pricing. Recently, we discussed why Pricing (and under-pricing) is a common mistake that people make in the wedding industry, particularly when one enters the market.  Think hard about your pricing and how under-pricing your services is not only impacting your business, but the industry on a whole.  It is better to compete on value, quality, and service as opposed to competing on price.  Write about your pricing in your plan.

Distribution

Distribution answers the question: how will you get your product or service to clients? The ability to deliver and to do so efficiently and effectively is the cornerstone of marketing your product.

Here are some questions to think about:

  • How do you distribute your product or service: online, mail-order, appointment-only, retail?
  • Where is the competition located?
  • What time frames are relevant to this distribution?
  • What personnel (if any) are required for this distribution?
  • What is the transaction process involved?
  • What sort of training of employees will be required?
  • What sort of payment is accepted?

Sales Forecast

We are at the end of the marketing plan – YAY!  The last piece we need is the sales forecast to pull of the pieces together.  A forecast is a plan that shows your future sales expectations.  You’ll need to create a month by month plan.  Start with year 1 and if you feel ready flesh it out for 2, 3, 4, or 5 years.  I find it helpful to incorporate my promotional activities in my sales forecast.  My plan looks something like this:

salesforecast

(If you need an Excel refresher/intro class, check out our classes.)

Here are some tips from SCORE:

  • Base the forecast on your historical sales, the marketing strategies that you have just described, your market research, and industry data, if available.
  • You may want to do two forecasts: 1) a “best guess,” which is what you really expect, and 2) a “worst case” low estimate that you are confident you can reach no matter what happens.
  • Remember to keep notes on your research and your assumptions as you build this sales forecast and all subsequent spreadsheets in the plan.
  • Relate the forecast to your sales history, explaining the major differences between past and projected sales. (This is critical if you are going to present it to funding sources.)

Next Step

YAY!  We’ve unearthed the marketing plan!  We’ll see you here Monday for a continuation of business plan writing: the operational plan.  Tomorrow, we’ll feature another great industry insider with her sage wedding business advice!

May 14, 2009 at 6:20 am 2 comments

How to teach our customers to hire the best and the brightest (part 2 of 3)

The wedding industry is made of some of the brightest individuals I have ever met. It pains me when I see under-appreciated talent. How do we change that? How do we teach the customer what to look for when they hire wedding vendors?  How do we teach customers to value experience and service at any cost?

One segment of the market that I think is often undervalued is the service offered by wedding planners.  I can’t believe most people think they can get away without hiring a planner.  Planners bring all of the magic of a wedding together.  Few people know how to throw a celebration quite to the scale of a wedding.  How do we teach the customer that this is a very important and valuable part of the wedding?  How do we teach customers to value wedding professionals?

Here are some ways we need to stand united as an industry:

  • Consider your pricing
    It’s common to make the rookie mistake of entering this industry with low pricing in order to compete solely based on budget.  However, this will not only have a negative impact on the profitability of your business, but also devalues the industry as a whole.  By setting your prices below market value, you are telling the customer, “I’m not worth it and everyone else in this industry is charging too much for their services.”  It’s important to consider your pricing and think of not only what your product should be valued at, but also how this pricing plays an important role in the market.  Read more about pricing, in this post I did a couple weeks ago.
  • Experience and novelty both have a place in this market
    It seems that most people are either a veteran or a novice in the wedding industry.  Veterans have years of experience and performance on which one can rely while novices have new and fresh ideas that are enticing to clientele.  How can the two work together?  Experienced vendors can do a better job of mentoring new individuals.  There is much opportunity in this market to mentor and coach more often.  Newer individuals can be proactive and take cues from experienced vendors.  There is a lot to be learned.  Ask, network, train with people in your segment that you respect and value.  If you are a newbie, make yourself more valuable by learning from the expert.  On the flip side, if you are a pro, work with others to become experts!
  • Get to know the customer and make sure they get to know you too!
    This might go without saying, but I’ll say it anyways: get to know the customer.  In the wedding business, it’s all about “a match” between vendor and client.  If you know who they are – and what their wedding is all about – chances are you’ll find a better fit for them.  But, just as important is that they know about you… and what makes your business a match for them.  Share with them, as they share with you.
  • Refer individuals that you value but that are truly a match
    It’s easy to refer someone to a friend.  But, it’s better to refer someone to a valuable individual that is a match with the couple’s personality and needs.  Before referring anyone, I always ask the the couple what they are looking for in a florist, photographer, or wedding planner.  A person who makes good referrals is like someone who is a good matchmaker.  Be a good matchmaker!
  • Be accountable
    There is no college degree or certification that is mandatory to be part of the wedding industry.  That is what makes this business a truly blended and beautiful assortment of talented and creative individuals.  But, this does not discount the fact that you need to be accountable to your profession.  Be professional and accountable for your business decisions.  By raising the bar of your business, you elevate the industry as a whole.
  • Teach the customer what they should look for in hiring their vendors
    I’ve seen some industry blogs that give their clients guidelines on questions to ask their wedding vendors.  This is awesome!  It’s important for engaged couples to ask the right questions.  These are some questions that are valuable for engaged couples (psst… you might want to post these somewhere… people should be asking these questions of their vendors!):

    • Why did you start your business?
    • How long have you been in business and how do you stand apart from the competition?
    • What sort of guarantees to you offer?
    • What is the most valuable part of your service or product?
    • Why should I hire you?

In a nutshell… in order for your product or service to be valued, the industry as a whole needs to raise the bar on it’s offering.  This begins with you.  Do what you can to elevate the wedding industry and your business will be valued for what it is worth.

April 28, 2009 at 6:00 am 4 comments

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