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Welcome to part 3 of my ‘How to become a wedding planner’ Course. So far we have covered part 1 – Get business advice and part 2 start a wedding planning course. I hope you have found it useful so far? This week I am going to look into researching the competition and the market around you and in doing so finding your own niche.
Again I have to stress that this is how I set up my business I’m no Richard Branson, or Bill gates, but I can speak from my own experiences of how I set up my wedding planning business. Also I believe that this chapter is relevant to all business not just wedding planning.
While I was going to my business workshops and studying for my wedding planning diploma, I studied quite heavily the market around me. I needed to know that wedding planning was something that was going to be viable, and what of services other planners were offering and what they were charging for this. There was no pint me just launching myself into the market without knowing what the market value was for my services.
I didn’t want to come in and undercut anyone by offering stupidly cheap offers, but at the same time I didn’t want to price myself out of the market by offering a service that was too expensive.
I did my research in 3 different ways:
1) Internet studies
I scoured the internet for hours at a time, looking at what planners in my area were offering and what they weren’t offering. But I didn’t just look n my geographical area, I looked all over the country. What were the London planners offering and how did they market themselves? What did their websites look like? And what were they charging?
My research found, that there were indeed a lot of planners out there, but it’s hard to gage when you have just started out if all of these planners are actually still practicing and indeed how many weddings they are actually doing a year! I learned that in the Yorkshire area most peoples prices were pretty similar, there was of course a variation with all of them, but it seemed that there were some set services that all had fixed prices!
In view of the websites they all seemed to be marketed at the brides, all very pink, and pastel, with lost of images of traditional brides on them…..not particularly inspiring I have to say.
I put together a questionnaire and sent it out to future brides, people I knew getting married, their friends as well as approaching dress shops and asking their brides to fill them in for me. From this I gaged, what sort of budget people where working with for their weddings and what sort of services that I was intending to offer were going to be the most popular. It was from this research that I realised that people perceptions of a wedding planner was still that is was for the rich and famous and maybe a luxury that they couldn’t afford. However a lot of them seemed interested in on the day co-ordination and supplier searches, services that when I first started were in fact my most popular service!
3)Talking to suppliers
I will cover meeting supplier later on in this series but when I was taking to them I discovered which planners where doing what in which area of the country. I was surprised that even though my internet research had thrown up a huge amount of planners in my area, when talking to the suppliers it seemed that only a hand full were actually doing anything and it was clear that there were only 2 or 3 that were popular in each county. This made me realsie that even though the perception of planners was still a bit hazy, that there weren’t that many out there actually offering any sort of service, a few but definitely room for more!
So with this research I had learnt
• How many planners there were in my area
• What services they offered
• What prices they were charging for their services
• What there branding looked like
• What there website looked like
• Who they were marketing themselves at
So my next challenge was how to make myself different and how to stand out from them all.
Services – I decided to offer a more flexible approach to my services, I call it the ‘Pick and mix’ I didn’t want to be seen as rigid and I never say I offer packages, I still price each wedding individually, as I see that each wedding is different so it has to be priced differently! I also tried to offer services that others hadn’t all in all I offer 10 wedding planning services and then the offer of top ups and up grades
Pricing – I decided that I didn’t want to try and compete on price so I set myself above the average price in my area. I believe I offer a first class service so that warrants paying a bit more! Since I set my prices out I have changed them 3 times but each time they have gone up not down. I have also learnt that pricing is a MASSIVE subject that you learn about as you go on. It can make or break your business! You may offer discounts to begin as you may need to do this to get your initial business, but once you have built a name for yourself the discounts come off and the prices go up!
My target audience – All the planners around me seemed to be targeting themselves quite generally. For weeks I had a battle with myself, my marketing advisers and my husband that I didn’t want to do this! I wanted to be different! The name Boho said just that, so I really felt strongly that I wanted to market myself more selectively…..not to appeal to the masses but appeal to the alternative couple who were looking for something a bit different!! Well I stuck to my guns and that is what I did! And I’m bloody glad I did! Yes I still work on traditional weddings, I love working with all sorts of couples but I do seem to attract the kind of people who have a different view point! I do a lot of marquee weddings, and a lot of village hall weddings…and that’s the way I like it!
I also don’t like calling my customers brides! They are ‘couples’, as much as the bride to be may get more involved in the planning than the male the majority of the time, I never wanted to segregate the groom in my marketing…….so I Always refer to them as Couples.
I was also aware of this when I was looking at my brand and my website, something that I will cover next week, but I didn’t want to make it pink and fluffy, I wanted it to be unisex so appealing to the groom as well as the bride to be!
So all in all, I’d say that research is key! You can’t start your business without it, it will take a while for you to get to the point you want to. For example, since I started I have now taken on Ibiza weddings, not something I thought of when I first started but about 6 months down the line I added it on and now it’s nearly half my business!
You have to study what is around you to see what you want to become.
BUT!! Big But don’t get consumed by your competition, it’s always good to keep an eye on what they are doing but don’t become obsessed with them. The more you watch them the more you will end up offering similar services and inedvertedly coping them. Stay original and stay true to who you want to be. It’s your business, there is now point following a path If you don’t whole heartily be live in it, so find the niche that reflects you! then throw yourself into it whole heartily and see what happens!!
Do let me know your stories, how did you do your market research, did you do any? Are you looking into this at the moment? I would love to hear your stories.
Come back next week for Part 4 – Create your brand
(Thanks to www.andertoons.com for the use of the images.)