Wedding planners vs. the competition … the DIY bride

I thought I’d offer up an interesting insight that I’ve uncovered in my two decades in marketing, one that again came up in a recent project for a client. I was doing some market research for a client of ours who runs a service-based business (in commercial real estate), and going into this research he assumed that his biggest competitor was other real estate firms. But when we asked his target audience who they used to find their last property, more people said that they found it themselves rather than using a commercial real estate firm.

This echoed what I have uncovered for dozens of other clients, and its the same for wedding consultants. Your biggest competition is not other wedding consultants … it’s the bride who chooses to plan their wedding themselves. This may come as no surprise to most planners, but what’s interesting is that many consultants feel that they are in competition with each other, when really they are essentially in competition with their own clients.

This calls for marketing yourself in a different way. People don’t necessairly want to hear how much better you are than other planners (although you do need to prove your experience, because most prospects believe that if you’ve done it for lots of other people, you can do it for them, too). But they do want to hear how you can save them the trouble and effort of doing it themselves. With that said, here are some ways to position yourself to a prospect to make them feel comfortable and confident in hiring you:

1. You know how to negotiate great prices with vendors and can keep prospects from getting ripped off – This is an argument many service providers in every industry ignore, and I’m not sure why. Because you have close relationships with vendors and have sway with them, you can negotiate for much better prices than a bride will ever get, and you have the clout to make sure the vendors deliver.

2. You think of things that wouldn’t ever occur to a bride or groom – You know which size table skirts go with what size of tables. You know when to hire an ice sculptor or when to use a fountain instead. You know what color is a great compliment to plum. You know the thousands of little things that make the difference between a successful wedding and a flop. And with you on a prospect’s side, they will get the seasoned insight and advice from someone who knows how to pull off an unforgettable wedding.

3. Your prospects hire specialists every day to help them, so why would they plan a huge event themselves when there are professionals available – Ask your prospect when was the last time they fixed their own pipes, repaired their own electrical wiring or even cleaned their own home. They hire specialists for these things because the want them done right the first time (and because they may not have the time to do them). And they won’t soon get a second crack at their wedding if the first one tanks. In fact, most brides want everything to go perfectly, and unless they’re a professional event planner, they will have to work five times as hard just because they’re not a professional event planner. You are, and you should let them know that, like a plumber or electrician or lawyer, they are in the good, capable hands of a specialist.

4. Does your client want to be a bride on her wedding day or a drill sergeant – Most DIY brides often forget that, if they don’t appoint a lieutenant to police their wedding day, they may end up playing traffic cop all day (how’s that for a plethora of military metaphors). So would they rather be inconvenienced with these duties or inconvenience one of their bridesmaids or friends (who won’t be able to fully enjoy the wedding), or would they rather have a professional on the scene who will take over and let everyone else enjoy the event? The answer is an easy one.

5. Your prospect will be paying a considerable sum already … so why not hire someone to make sure their money isn’t wasted – If the client is fixated on your fee, just remind them that, if they did it themselves, they would still be paying a lot but with noone to make sure that their money wasn’t wasted on things that didn’t work out quite right or on unnecessary items. Muhathch like insurance, you are there to protect their investment in their big day, and that is easily worth the price you charge.

These are just a few ways to position yourself when talking to a couple who is on the fence between hiring you as their wedding planner and doing it themselves. I’d love to hear more, so feel free to add your comments.
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