When most businesses land a new customer, they can often enjoy that customer’s business for years to come. Unfortunately, for most event and wedding planners who focus on social-type of event, this often isn’t the case because once you have seen a client through to their wedding day or finished up their party planning, chances are good that you may never have them as a client again.
Because of this, it is essential for wedding and event planners to keep your sales funnel full of prospects so that you don’t have to endure any dry spells. Of course, this is much easier said than done, because marketing and sales can be the most difficult task in running an event planning business. With that said, let’s take a look at some of the methods you can use to find more prospects.
Ask for referrals
For most service-based businesses, referrals are the single most important source of new customers. Although you may only have a wedding client for a short amount of time, that client certainly has friends who are getting married and hosting events, so you should make it a point to periodically ask your current and past clients for referrals.
You can go about asking for referrals in a few ways, but the most effective is a simple phone call that goes something like this:
“Hi. I’m calling for two reasons. First, I wanted to check in and see how you are doing since your big day. Second, I wanted to see if you have any friends who are getting engaged and would find my services useful. Any referrals you could give me would be much appreciated, and I promise I will reach out to them in a very tactful and respectful manner. So, who do you know who I could help?”
That’s pretty much it. Some people feel a little self-conscious about asking for a referral, but you shouldn’t. If you have a solid relationship with your client, they are almost always happy to refer you to one of their friends because they also see this act as doing their friend a favor.
Identify your ideal customer’s touchpoints
A touchpoint is any venue or locale where you can reach out and connect with your ideal customer. Take a moment to think about all the places where your ideal customer hangs out. Do they frequent certain coffee shops or restaurants? Do they shop at certain stores? Do they belong to any particular clubs, organizations or places of worship? Do they attend particular types of events or concerts?
By answering these questions, you can begin to put together a list of all the places where your potential prospects might hang out. Once you have identified at least a few places, brainstorm how you can reach out to these customers at these venues. If they belong to certain clubs or organizations, consider joining those. If they frequent certain stores, coffee shops or restaurants, find out if those establishments will allow you to post a flier (or, even better, a flier with tear-off tabs that have your phone number on them) or leave behind a stack of business cards.
Reach out to industry partners
What is one of the first things a couple on the brink of engagement does? They go engagement ring shopping, of course. So what better place for an event and wedding planner to promote their services than through a local jeweler.
Businesses catering to the wedding industry like jewelers, bridal boutiques, florists, venues, caterers, bakers, DJs and photographers/videographers all can be great mutual sources of referrals to your business. Often, such relationships work along the lines of “you scratch my back, I scratch yours,” meaning that if they are going to send prospects your way, they expect you to do the same for them.
If you have an established business, you probably already have strong relationships with multiple vendors, so it wouldn’t be any stretch to establish a more formal process of referring leads back and forth. If you have a newer business and are still forming these relationships, it’s best to test the waters with vendors until you have found them to be reliable in terms of both their services and their willingness to refer clients to you.
Note: Another great source of referrals is local clergy, so you should also look to establish good relations with these people, too.
Teach a local event planning or wedding etiquette class
Many newly engaged brides are often in panic mode about planning a wedding and are hungry to soak up any information on wedding planning. As such, quite a few would jump at the chance to attend a class on the basics of event planning and/or wedding etiquette.
Many professionals think it’s a waste of time to teach a class that instructs people to do what they would otherwise get paid for. However, if done properly, teaching such a class can be a win-win for both the planner and the attendees.
First, as a prerequisite for attending the class, you should require all attendees to provide you with their contact info (email and phone number being the most important); this way you can follow up with them after the class and put them on your marketing outreach list. Second, you should limit your class to an hour or two and cover very basic event/wedding planning topics, giving the students some helpful tips and techniques but not giving away the farm. Third, you should make it clear to the attendees that you are always available for a consult and for hire if they decide they need the assistance of an expert. If you want, you can even give attendees a special attendee discount for your services.
Another big advantage that classes provide is that they help to establish you as a wedding and event planning expert, which can go a long ways in solidifying your local reputation.
Interact with prospects online
Many women of marrying age have a Facebook account, and it would be in your best interest to be their friend on Facebook as well as get them to like you on your business Facebook Page (and if you don’t have a Facebook Page for your business yet, create it here). You should start the process by establishing social media connections between your current and former clients as well as industry partners and friends and then reach out to prospects from there.
By building relationships via Facebook and other social media apps like Twitter, you create more mentions and links to your Web site, which gives prospects more ways in which to encounter you.
In addition, ask your clients and prospects what Web sites they frequent and find a way to connect with users of those sites, whether it be through forums and social media tools or even through some well-placed online ads.