Whether you’re a caterer, florist, photographer, or planner, you know that booking new clients is a year-round endeavour. So if you’re a wedding vendor, there’s a good chance you’re already thinking about how to get your next booking — even when it’s peak wedding season, and your hands are full.
But where to start? If you’re an experienced wedding vendor, you probably have a playbook of tried-and-true tactics. But it never hurts to revisit your current strategies, examine their success, and build for next year. If you’re new to the game, now’s the perfect time to commit a plan to paper.
To get you started, we’ve put together five thought-starters for developing a plan that attracts new clients to your wedding business.
When starting as a beginner in the wedding planning industry, many would see getting leads as a major challenge for their business. Understandably, this may be your first experience planning, and it might seem a bit difficult to do, but to get clients, you need to be ready to communicative and outgoing. To help you get started, we have put together a few points on booking your first client.
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Table of Contents
- 1 Savvy Ways to Promote Your Event Planning Business
- 2 How To Get Your First Client
- 2.1 Do your research
- 2.2 Have a mentor
- 2.3 Identify your customer hangout points.
- 2.4 Make Lots of Friends
- 2.5 Reaching out to wedding vendors.
- 2.6 Start writing a blog.
- 2.7 Establish your niche.
- 2.8 Make connections.
- 2.9 Curate your online presence.
- 2.10 Provide service that’s second to none.
- 2.11 Make your costs clear.
- 2.12 Vendor Partnerships
- 2.13 Use Modern Tools
Savvy Ways to Promote Your Event Planning Business
For most planners, networking is at the top of the list in terms of developing a strong client base. Networking can help your business in two ways. If people have met you and know what services you offer, they may refer business to you or use your service themselves. Furthermore, networking with hotels, caterers and so on will give you a chance to meet some of the people whose services you may need as you plan events.
Print advertising covers a broad range, from a free—or inexpensive—Yellow Pages advertisement to an ad in a glossy national publication costing tens of thousands of dollars. Most planners agree that an ad in the Yellow Pages makes good business sense. A line advertisement, simply listing your business name, is often provided free of charge when you connect your phone (if you have a landline). You can also opt for a display advertisement — the bigger, bordered ads in the Yellow Pages — but there’s a charge for these.
You may also want to consider advertising in your local newspaper or a regional magazine if you plan both corporate and social occasions. Because the market area for this kind of event planner can extend throughout a given county, a magazine focusing on that county can be an excellent one in which to advertise. These magazines can be geared to topics related to your service (e.g., gourmet food, floral design) or aimed at readers in a certain region. An ad in a regional magazine might be a good tool for reaching upscale consumers. A regional business magazine ad would also reach prospective corporate clients.
Don’t underestimate the power of this small but mighty marketing tool. Even in the computer age, a succinct, professionally printed business card is still critical. Consider it a diminutive brochure, especially if you opt for a tri-fold business card. Many planners opt for this business-card format because more information can be included than on a traditional business card. In contrast, the card remains small enough to be tucked inside a wallet or purse.
Include the name of your business, contact information (email, phone and website address, for instance), your name, specialisation, your logo, and some testimonials from past clients. Always carry business cards. You never know when you’ll run into a potential client. Ask vendors with whom you work (florists, caterers and photographers, for instance) if you can leave a stack of business cards in their places of business.
Like your business card, a well-designed, professional brochure can help cement your image as a professional planner. Prospective clients will make judgments about your company based on your brochure, so make sure it’s conceived and produced at the highest level possible.
The brochure should include all the information listed on your tri-fold business card and allow you to expand upon this information, in particular, by adding photographs. The photos should be of successful events you’ve designed. You may also want to include a photo of yourself.
Maximise your chances of success by making sure your company brochure matches the type of business you have. All materials should look professional, but if you are marketing to a budget-conscious group, a too-glamorous brochure can send the wrong message—and send potential budget-conscious clients running in the opposite direction.
As with your business cards, leave your brochure with caterers, florists, photographers, and other vendors with whom you’ve worked.
You may choose to distribute your brochure via direct mail. If you do, make sure your mailing list is well chosen. Event planner David Granger says that while word of mouth is his most effective advertising, he uses mailing lists of the organisations his company belongs to (International Special Events Society, Meeting Professionals International, National Association for Catering and Events, and the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau).
One of the best ways to keep customers satisfied and coming back is to be constantly on the lookout for new ideas and ways to improve the service you provide. Consider the following:
- Take a course or a series of courses in event management.
- Invest in an hour or more with an industry consultant.
- Attend other events to study how they’re produced.
- Attend as many arts-related functions as possible (e.g., art exhibits, theatrical performances) to gather ideas.
- Join trade organisations.
- Subscribe to at least one professional newsletter or journal.
Facebook is geared toward communicating with your network of friends. However, friends “like” websites they want to support or like. To create a Facebook page for your event planning business, but use it sparingly for promoting your business. Postings to your Facebook wall might include some fun tidbits you learned about a new wedding venue in the region or some behind-the-scenes anecdotes from that Rolling Stones concert you’re coordinating. Check out the Facebook pages of other event planners and other service businesses you use and admire to see how they’re using Facebook to their advantage.
With Twitter, you can tweet quick messages to your subscribers to remind them about your business. “Paul McCartney just said ‘yes’ to a special appearance at a Stones concert! Better get your ticket now!” or “Just found out about a great new event venue with full-service spa—does your corporate event need planning?” might be messages that promote your service while also offering benefit to the reader.
As your Facebook and Twitter audiences grow, stay creative. Invent new ways to engage your audience and encourage them to invite their friends. Continue to avoid hard sales pitches. People don’t forward commercials to their friends — they forward value.
How To Get Your First Client
Do your research
For many who are new to the wedding industry, figuring out what to charge your client could go wrong if you do not have any clue about your wedding local market. You can start by finding out what your competitors are already doing, what brides would be looking for in your service that has not been met yet. This way, you have a competitive advantage, and you are able to have enough demand in the market to support your business.
Have a mentor
A wedding professional will jump-start your business because by building a working relationship, they will be able to share with you the secrets that will help your business. You can browse online to identify respected wedding planners and get in touch by letting them know that you admire their work and have an interest in starting as a wedding planner.
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Identify your customer hangout points.
Knowing where to find your ideal customers is one of the most effective ways to reach them. Therefore, a place where you can reach out and connect with your ideal customer is necessary as this increases the possibility of being hired. Always be prepared and ready whenever you are around such places, as you don’t know who you might meet, or might have a sudden interest in what you do. Few places you can get leads from are exhibitions/wedding shows, churches, conferences, or any particular events or concerts. A bridal or wedding show is the best place to get not only possible leads but also meet other vendors in a similar field. Small retail stores may be worth finding out if these stores accept you are leaving your complimentary business cards somewhere around the store, near the till counter, or have a flyer which says a bit more about what you do and can provide.
Make Lots of Friends
You need friends, and you can do so through networking. Especially ladies, they are more into the whole bridal look and tend to talk more about their dream weddings, and latest wedding styles.
When you meet them, and even those who work in the wedding industry, you can exchange cards and follow up with them afterwards. It advised reflecting on the conversations you have had with new people you have met so that you are able to spot out any important piece of information that may be of good use to you and your business.
You could try ways of contacting them without being too involved in their privacy. Once in a while, you could send them a personalised message on their special occasions, and if they are newlyweds, looking out for their wedding anniversary would be a good plus for your business, because through this they will remember you and will be an effective method for referrals.
Reaching out to wedding vendors.
You may be surprised that you can also reach clients by building relationships with established businesses. These businesses would be places where newly engaged couples would most likely make as their first point of a visit towards the planning of their special day. A jewellery store is one of the first places they would visit for rings, and so it would be a great idea for a wedding planner to visit any of these local jewellery stores and see if you can promote your services to them.
Reaching out to industry partners can be a real boost to building connections such as florists, bridal shops, event rentals, venues, caterers, photographers and can form as an ideal source of referral to your business.
Start writing a blog.
Write a few blogs to engage your targeted audience. Few topics on what brides would like to know in regards to planning their wedding, or tips on why hiring a wedding planner would be ideal, honeymoon ideas etc. The purpose of writing blogs is so that capture readers who require information, and so they can also be interested to know about what service you provide. This way, you build your audience and attraction to your business.
Establish your niche.
When you’re trying to grow your wedding business, your first instinct may be to attract as many new clients as possible. But, before you start hunting down new business, take a step back and make sure you have a clear niche.
Engaged couples have an overwhelming number of vendors to choose from, so you need to set yourself apart by having a specialty. To do this, figure out what type of weddings you’re interested in and who your ideal clients are. If you’re a wedding planner, for example, do you prefer to plan nontraditional weddings or destination weddings? Or if you’re a photographer, do you like to shoot big, traditional weddings, or more intimate celebrations?
While you have your area of expertise, it’s not just what you know, and it’s who you know. Referrals are key in the wedding game — and not only from your happy clients but also from other wedding professionals. So if you’re a caterer, for instance, you want to network with florists, planners, etc. Attend local industry meetups, wedding shows, and expos, and reach out directly to wedding professionals you’ve admired online.
And, of course, weddings are an ideal opportunity to find new business. If you deliver your best, wedding-goers and fellow vendors will take note. While you’re at it, think about how you can go the extra mile. If you’re a photographer, for example, think about the extra things you might need for a shoot and put together a toolkit to have on hand. Having an extra bobby pin on hand for the bride might be the thing that snags you that next referral.
Curate your online presence.
In the multibillion-dollar wedding industry, there’s ample opportunity for entrepreneurs, but the competition is stiff. To keep up — or better yet, get ahead — carefully curate and maintain your online presence.
Regularly update your website and social accounts to showcase your work. And while you’re at it, make sure it’s easy for potential clients to find you. You can do that by:
- Creating images specifically for Pinterest that are tagged with wedding keywords
- Using niche-specific hashtags on Instagram
- Making your website easy to find through organic search by using SEO best practices
- Ensuring your website is easy to navigate and has a clear “contact me” or “book appointment” button (more on that below), so brides and grooms can easily schedule a consultation.
You’ll also want to join sites like Wedding Wire or The Knot. You will likely have to pay for your listing, but it will put you in front of a wider audience of engaged couples actively looking for vendors in their area.
Provide service that’s second to none.
Once leads have found you, you need to make a good impression. The key to this is appearing professional — everything from your business card to your website to your email should communicate that you’re someone that couples can trust to do the job.
You also want to make the process convenient for your clients. Planning a wedding is stressful, but you can help your clients rest easy by showing them that they’re in good hands.
For example, by implementing Square Appointments on your website or integrating it with your Instagram account, prospective clients can quickly book a meeting with you anywhere, anytime, without having to wait for business hours. To make sure your customer service is on point, Appointments has a customer directory so you can record every detail in one place. That way, when you follow up with potential clients, you can give them personalised attention and the premier service they’re looking for.
(Square Appointments also automatically reminds your clients about their appointments, so they’ll be sure to show up.)
Make your costs clear.
Let’s face it: Budget is a major factor in wedding decisions. Weddings are expensive, and most of your prospective clients will be budget-conscious. Be upfront with your costs early on, so clients know what to expect.
With Square Invoices, you can even send estimates, so potential clients know the value of what you’re offering. You can also attach photos and contracts to your estimates for better, more organised record keeping. (A bonus: Once the wedding is done, Invoices makes it much easier for you to collect a deposit and subsequent payments.)
If you’re clear with your costs, you’ll attract the clients you want, and they’ll appreciate your transparency.
You must be having a good relationship with several vendors whose services you use when doing different events. If you develop a good mutual understanding with them and refer regular business to them, you can expect them to refer you to people who ask them for good resources.
Wedding professional circle is close-knit; wedding vendors see one other at various weddings they are hired for. They know each other’s strength and thus can endorse you for any upcoming wedding event.
Check out our post on What makes a good wedding planner?
Use Modern Tools
Your clients want their events to look the best. This is a social status thing. If you use the modern tools and concepts in the events you organise, you create the impression of a well organised, contemporary company with a good grip on the new trends. This helps you garner more business as well as charge a decent fee for your services. You don’t have to fight for the change.
By taking these steps, you’ll be more likely to land new wedding clients. And if you deliver a best-in-class experience, your work will speak for itself, helping you to generate more new business.
Marketing your business can be fun if you create a thorough plan and systematically work on each marketing channel mentioned above. As you see progress in any of the above areas, you feel immense reward and new clients begin to appear slowly. You have to learn to promote yourself if you want your event planning business to grow. Hopefully, these marketing channels will provide some good ideas to get you started. We’ve seen them work for other event planners and we know they can work for you.