This post was written by Brian Lawrence, one of the industry’s foremost authorities on marketing in the wedding industry. Brian has consulted with many wedding professionals and wholesale suppliers at www.brianlawrence.com. Brian also owns Local Traffic Builder, a nationally-known web design, marketing and social media firm serving the wedding and event industry. He is the author of “The Wedding Expert’s Guide to Sales and Marketing” and “The Invitation Business Report” and has helped thousands of industry professionals with his marketing insights through personal consultation, books, seminars, blogs and articles, and speaking engagements at leading industry conferences.
The wedding industry is unique in that you do not have to create the need for products and services. At a formal wedding, you can approximately forecast what and when they will buy. Most wedding professionals specialize in a particular category. While most wedding businesses may network on some level (through the exchange of business cards, for example), the majority of businesses do not focus on making the most of networking relationships or think about add-on sales.
It is natural for businesses to focus on increasing the amount of clients. Profitability, however, can be more easily gained by a continued exploration on how to make more money on each client. The most passive attempt to accomplish that would be to raise prices. However, your bottom line, what the market can bear and the bridal niche you are trying to target should motivate pricing, or raising your prices can result in you losing business.
Finding new products and services are a more creative and effective process to increasing profits. One of the most valuable outcomes that many brides and grooms are motivated by is the saving of time. If your company is an earlier rung on the planning ladder as a venue, caterer, bridal shop, photographer, video or entertainment company, often couples will have yet to order invitations, favors, bridal gifts, flowers, limousines and tuxedos, for example, and you may be able to be of assistance.
If you were to endeavor into offering these services to existing customers, you have an advantage; you already have their trust. Secondly, if a bride and groom are convinced that they can enjoy equivalent or better quality and comparable pricing that trust advantage along with the benefit of saving time and keeping track of fewer bills, can help you win business. In addition you have the advantage of exposing the couple to services at earlier stage than they may have normally began their research and can more time to pay the services on a more gradual basis (a strong benefit you can establish).
Some wedding businesses may be overwhelmed at the thought of taking on new services without understanding the craft and how to fulfill the service or merchandise the products. It’s easier than you think.
It is a common practice of photographers, videographers and entertainment companies to give venues samples of their work to share with clients. Finding a reliable professional to subcontract to, does not take much more than receiving samples and understanding the nuances and the pricing. There is very little cost associated with adding services other than updating your website and collateral material. If you have a business that does a hundred or more weddings per year, the additional revenue can be substantial. For example, if you were to branch into limousine rentals, workload can simply involve having a price list and confirming availability of particular models before booking the job. In fact limousine subcontracting is widespread between limousine companies looking for more business than their availability or current fleet can accommodate. Funneling over business to a tuxedo shop can be based on a special incentive that the formal wear shop agrees to give exclusively to wedding parties you send over. Typically the groom’s tuxedo is free anyway, so if there an additional incentive for the groom, he can be easily convinced to check out the place you recommend.
Another area for profit generation is the sale of invitations. While some couples are buying invitations online, as an early stage service provider, you can introduce the invitations early enough to inspire them to create a preference to buy from you. You can partner with local invitation Pros if you don’t internally have the materials yourself as a profit share opportunity. Giving customers the tactile experience of live samples along with face-to-face guidance cannot be replicated by any online experience. This can be explained to the customer as advantages over buying online. There are several ways to be able to approach these add-ons:
1) Invest in invitation sample albums. Prices usually range for these sample albums from $50 – $300. The retail prices are shown and your wholesale price is 40-50% of the retail price. You can access a directory of suppliers here.
2) Some of these companies also have co-branded websites that allow you to sell their products online and they do the entire fulfillment. Either you collect the money online just like any other retail transaction or the bride and groom pay the company directly and you get a healthy commission.
3) You can take a completely hands-off approach and establish an affiliate program with certain invitation providers. You simply add a section to your site offering their invitations with text, images and links. The way it works is through a detection technology. It reports where any traffic that provider receives comes from and if a sale is made from a customer that was driven from your website, you get a commission. There are many other favor and bridal accessory offers from providers that work the same way.
There is more elaborate explanation of how this works in a wedding industry manual you can download here for free. Add-on services can both bring your business more profitability and differentiate you from your competitors.