Posts Tagged ‘networking’
Event and wedding planning is a tough sell. You have to get noticed in order to get clients. Many new and aspiring event/wedding planners struggle with this area of the business… even more than the actual planning itself!
In this series, we’ll look at the different requirements to building a professional brand, marketing yourself to clients, and forging beneficial relationships with vendors.
Part 1: The Basics
Before you even think of marketing yourself, there’s a lot of work to be done. You wouldn’t sell a half-baked cake, would you? Nor should you rush into marketing before having all the pieces of your business squarely in place. If you fail at this first step, you’ll probably end up leaving clients with a bad taste for your business.
Before you can start selling to clients, you have to know what they want. Too many event/wedding planners try to corner a market that doesn’t exist. For example, selling beautifully elegant, extravagant and costly weddings to low-income rural communities probably doesn’t have a great chance of succeeding.
Do you work in a busy metropolitan or in a small close-knit community? Either way, you’ll want to research what your clientele wants in a wedding and event planner.
If you’re in a large city, there are probably many options for you to choose from. Your challenge will be how to stand out from your competition. Make a list of all event and wedding planners in your area, and what their marketing angles are. You might spot a gap in the market that clients would like filled. You can then survey the community and see what they think of your ideas.
Event/Wedding planners in small towns or rural areas have a different challenge. Residents in these areas probably aren’t used to the idea of hiring a wedding/event planner. In these cases, you might want to focus on a specific passion the community shares. For example, is the community particularly proud of a local sporting team? Is there an annual festival everyone participates in? Do all residents share a similar cultural or religious background? Becoming a community expert might be a fun way to break into the market and attract some outside attention as well.
What’s in a Name?
It’s amazing how much the name of your business matters. Making a mistake at this stage can alienate your clientele before they get a chance to know you.
You have two options: Market yourself as an individual (i.e. Jane Doe, IEWP™) or come up with a name for your business. Here are a few considerations:
– If you have a name that’s difficult to pronounce, you should probably come up with a business name that’s easier on the tongue. It might be unfair, but some clients will avoid names they don’t understand, for fear of insulting you by mispronouncing it.
– If you come up with a business name, make sure it resonates with your target clientele.
– Your business name shouldn’t make people think. If you have to explain what it means, you risk confusing clients before they even walk through the door.
– If the business name is too long, shorten it. There’s nothing wrong with having different business names for legal vs. marketing use. Example: QC stands for “Quality of Course, Inc.” Which is the name of the parent company. Imagine if the school were called “Quality of Course Event Planning”. Doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue!
– Do your Research! Choose a business name that isn’t easily confused with a consumer product, another business, a competitor, etc. If you make a list of 10 possible business names, odds are 5-7 of them will be thrown out at this point.
– Make sure your business name can be registered, and that you can secure a domain name (website address) that makes sense. If you’re unable to buy [your business name].com (most are pretty cheap), then you’ll probably want to go back to the drawing board.
A quick note about websites: We’ll discuss “building your website” in the following section. But when choosing your business name, consider that easy and common “Keywords” in a business name (like “event planner” or “wedding planning” for example) will help clients remember you and easily find you online.
After you’ve settled on a solid business plan and a name for your business, then you’ll be ready to move on to part 2 of this series: building your brand. Tune in on Wednesday, May 21st for more business advice!
Are you looking to start an event and wedding planning business? All of QC’s Event and Wedding Planning Courses come with our “Achieving Business Success” DVD series that offers much more detailed, step-by-step instructions on how to launch a successful business! Learn more here.
Long before I owned a business, I had heard the term “networking” hundreds of times. The value of networking was always touted as the way to get ahead; it’s a way to give your brand an identifiable face within the sea of competition. I always thought it sounded gruesome. I could just picture it, walking up to a stranger with a swagger of confidence, name badge swaying as I moved. With a firm hand shake and a warm yet professional smile I would say, “Hi, my name is Lynn Lee. I’m a wedding planner. And you are?”
Promptly after this dashing opener, I imagined the conversation becoming more and more strained as the moments passed, as we both struggled to get to know one another when neither of us really cared. The entire evening of my networking dream played out this way with dozens of empty, fake conversations until I was able to plan my escape home to bed, thankful that it was all over. It might have been a bad attitude, but it was the truth. The whole concept sent shivers down my spine. I was all about real relationships, not pretending I connected with someone just to get myself ahead.
Then came the launch of Weddings Unveiled. For the first time I was faced with establishing myself in a new market, and I don’t have to tell you what that meant: NETWORKING! I had a leg-up on some new planners in that I was already coordinating weddings for a local venue, so I already knew some people within the industry. It was imperative that I connect with these people to let them know I was now hanging my own shingle as an independent business owner.
I promptly set up meetings to chat about how I could refer their businesses to my clients. The meetings were pleasant as I connected with business owners whose work I knew and respected. These were people with whom I had come to know, chat, laugh, and share stories. I was pleased to be connecting in a very real, genuine way. Once those meetings were over however, I was faced with the daunting task of connecting with those companies with whom I had no prior relationship, but whose work I admired. I had to get to know their services so I could offer my future clients the breadth of knowledge that they deserved. What’s worse, there were so many of them!
The following weeks saw cold calls by the dozen. Every time I picked up the phone to call someone new, I dreaded it like a visit to the dentist. Were they going to be welcoming, or were they going to quickly inform me that they didn’t have time to chat with a newbie who was more of a nuisance than a benefit? I have to tell you, I was surprised how things played out. Nearly every time I was met with warmth and general interest. I spent days and days running around the city, meeting with anyone and everyone I could. The conversations were much easier than I anticipated and I made some real connections with people I still work with today. About three months into launching my business I had swallowed up all the knowledge I could about my local industry and felt that I could go out in the wedding world and represent my clients to the best of my ability. Networking wasn’t nearly as excruciating as I thought.
Today I continue to attend networking events on a regular basis. Sometimes it’s in an attempt to get to know a new service provider. Other times it’s in support or celebration of someone with whom I am already familiar. Regardless of the occasion, there is always someone at those events I haven’t yet met, and I am constantly faced with networking in its truest form.
Even today, there’s still an initial moment where my hands sweat in anxiety as I see a new face coming toward me. I still feel stressed at the thought of having to make conversation with someone I don’t know – will it be comfortable or will it be awkward? But 99.9% of the time, as soon as the other person opens their mouth and starts speaking, I realize that all is well. We always seem to find something to talk about and sometimes that relationship is one that ends up being really valuable either to my business or to me personally. I actually love going to most networking events now. In fact, there is one coming up in three weeks that I would never miss. They provide me with an opportunity to connect with suppliers away from weddings and events where we are always too busy to chat. They allow us to laugh over a glass of wine and reminisce about past clients. We pump each other up and we provide an ear when someone needs feedback. We are each other’s greatest supporters; in fact, many suppliers have become friends outside of regular work days.
Although the truest form of networking still provides me with a tinge of anxiety, I realize that I wouldn’t have the business I do today, nor have the friends that I’ve made, if it wasn’t for networking events. Networking helped me to establish my company at the outset, and today allows me to remain connected. Without it, I would be an unknown in an industry where being known for your work is everything.
So next time you’re faced with a networking opportunity, just remember that the person on the other side of the conversation is just like you. Someone whose hands are probably starting to sweat, just like yours, as you approach. Someone who, like you, just wants their business to succeed. Someone who probably doesn’t know much more than you do, and is just looking for support. Someone with their own personal demands, flaws, accomplishments, and fears. Someone who eats, sleeps, and celebrates bad days and good days, just like you. That’s why it’s simply not warranted to be intimidated by meeting someone new. Connecting with others is one of the greatest joys of being a business owner. Without it, I would be left staring at my laptop all day in a cave of loneliness. Welcome networking and all that it will provide you. I promise you won’t regret it!
Till next time, happy planning!
Written by Lynn Lee
Lynn Lee has over 10 years experience in the event and wedding planning industry. These days, she’s focusing her attention on her growing wedding planning business, Weddings Unveiled. Her weekly blog posts include business tips, wedding trends, and expert advice.