Doing a fabulous job and having your clients spread the news about what a great wedding planner you are is by far the best way to market your business. Nothing can beat word of mouth; it’s simply the most powerful form of advertising that there is. But don’t despair if you’re just starting out, there are other methods for marketing your business that can also work very well.
In addition to your business card, a promotional tool might include a portfolio, website and brochures.
A portfolio shows examples of your work and may include the following:
Remember, a picture paints a thousand words. Try to get a photo from every wedding you have worked on, and if possible, photos of various aspects of the wedding that you helped to organize (table decorations, the cake, the flowers etc.), so that you can show off your creativity and organizational skills.
If it’s still early days for your business, and you don’t have any or many photos to include, you can show clippings from magazines or vendors brochures to paint a picture of the kind of wedding you can organize. Ask vendors (cake decorators, florists, photographers, venues, invitation engravers etc.) for permission to use their brochures in your portfolio to give couples an idea of what is possible. If you have a camera, you can take photos yourself – you can even decorate a table and photograph it yourself, in order to show your handiwork. As soon as you have organized a wedding or two, you can replace these with the ‘real thing’.
When putting your portfolio together, be selective. Your prospective clients won’t want to spend hours wading through hundreds of photographs. Choose just the best to highlight your skills and services.
The best references or letters of recommendation are those written by couples you have done wedding planning work for. However, you can also include letters of recommendation from past employers if they say good things about your skills in areas that are important to wedding planning, for example, your organizational ability, or your creative eye. You can also include appropriate thank you notes. Every time you plan a wedding, or part of a wedding, ask for a letter of recommendation.
Some people might find writing a letter of recommendation daunting, so you can offer to write it for them, and just have them sign it. Here’s a sample reference letter:
What else to include
Your portfolio should include anything else that could impress someone who is considering hiring you. For example, if your wedding planning business has been mentioned in a newspaper or magazine, you could include a clipping or photocopy of the article. Later in this guide, you will information about how to write an article for publication.
Some wedding planners mighty also include sample wedding timelines or other planning materials in their portfolios.
Putting it all together
One possibility for displaying your portfolio items is to put everything into a professional looking binder with plastic sheet covers to protect the pages. You can mount your photographs onto thin cardboard. Your local office supply store should have a range of display folders for you to choose from.
You can give brochures to prospective clients you meet at networking events and bridal shows, or who phone after seeing an ad and ask to have information mailed to them. Your brochure should have your company name and contact information (including your web address).
It can also include some of the information you have on your website, such as:
Your brochure can be ‘DL’ (a printer’s term) – which means envelope sized for easy mailing. But it can be folded in 3 (so standard A4 size when open) and printed on both sides. Or you can simply print a one-page flyer, which can be pinned up on bulletin boards.
If you are only printing a few copies of your brochure, you may be able to find some nice paper at your local office supply company, and run it through your printer at home. If you want to print hundreds of copies of your brochure, you might be faster and cheaper to get a professional printer to do it for you.
Once you have your brochures and other promotional tools ready, you will be able to give them to people when you are networking.
Networking can be a little intimidating at first but is a valuable marketing tool and one that gets easier every time you use it. So what exactly is ‘networking’? Simply put, it’s interacting with people for the purpose of finding new clients. The people you network with could either be prospective clients, or anyone who could refer you to clients.
Bridal fairs are good opportunities to network. You have the opportunity to meet prospective clients (brides-to-be) and to mingle with vendors, who might refer you to clients. You can even have your own booth at a fair – an opportunity to meet even more brides (see page 88 for more on having your own booth). Here are some other ways to network:
Family and friends
Wedding planners can follow the tried and tested method used by real estate agents who are networking experts. Family and friends are usually targeted first with the hope they will be kind enough to pass on your business card or name at a suitable opportunity.
It’s important to maintain good relations with vendors, as they are a great source of referrals. If they like what you do, if they like working with you, they are likely to refer prospective clients to you.
Arrange meetings with as many vendors as possible. At your vendor meetings, get to know what products and services they supply, but give them the opportunity to get to know you as well.
Bring your business cards and brochures, and be prepared to sell yourself and your business. Tell the vendor that you would be pleased to bring or send clients to them and that in turn you would appreciate it if they would pass on your name to their prospective clients.
Another excellent way to network is by joining associations, cultural organizations, clubs and churches that prospective clients and vendors may belong to. Pick one that interests you personally, and then get involved. Raise your profile so that members of the club really have the opportunity to get to know you – serve on a committee, write articles for the association newsletter, and do volunteer work. The more involved you are, the more likely you are to connect with prospective clients or people who can connect you with clients.
While networking and word of mouth is the ideal way of promoting your business, advertising can also help.
Advertising in magazines can be costly, and unless you advertise regularly, may not generate the results you want to see. (It has been estimated that many people need to see an advertisement three to seven times before they buy.)
Advertising in a wedding magazine can be a great way to gain exposure to a specific market- and quite often if you sign up for a full year of advertising with a publication, they will give you a discounted rate. Advertising in other print magazine and newspapers can be a waste of money. Make sure your print advertising market is specific to the wedding industry.
Google Adwords are the ads placed in Google at the top of a Google search, and on the right hand side. Many brides search for wedding services by doing a Google search, so ranking in Google can be an effective strategy for getting leads. You can pay for ‘clicks’ to your website- which can be anywhere from 50c- $1.00 per click. This can be a more effective advertising method then print ads in a magazine- as print advertising has no guarantee that people who see your ad will visit your website or make an inquiry. Whereas for Google Adwords- you only pay for the amount of clicks your ad gets, which new clients are visiting your website. To set up a Google Ads account click here
Social media is a great way to advertise and market your business, and it’s free. While you can place paid ads on Facebook, you can also do a lot of marketing for free. Pinterest and Instagram are also great mediums to advertise your business through beautiful images. Set up a business account name- using your business name- with Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram, and start posting inspiring images of weddings that can be used as inspiration, or really great links to useful resources.
Online Wedding Directories
Online wedding directories are another really great medium to advertise your wedding business. There are many wedding directories around, and they directly list wedding suppliers in a particular category for a particular service. It’s a great resource for brides, and therefore a great place to advertise and get leads.
You can find a great list of directories on this link.
Free media publicity
When a business gets publicity in a magazine article, newspaper story, radio or television talk show, or well known website, it can result in a tremendous amount of new business. Here are some ways wedding planners can get publicity.
A press release is a brief document that you submit to the media with the aim of getting publicity for your business. The ideal press release is a single page (less than 500 words) and is written like a news story. If you write something that sounds like an advertisement, it is unlikely to get published.
You can find numerous online resources to help you write a press release, including:
How to write a great press release at http://www.publicityinsider.com/release.asp
Most magazines and newspapers publish contact information for their editors. Newspapers may have dozens of editors, so make sure you send your submission to the appropriate one (for example, the Lifestyle Editor).
As an alternative to writing a press release, you could find out who the editor is, and either phone or send a brief ‘pitch letter’ by email, fax or mail to suggest an idea for a story.
In your pitch, remember to focus on something that will be interesting to readers. For example, you might suggest a story on how to save money on weddings, wedding etiquette for dealing with difficult situations, or unique locations to hold wedding ceremonies. Do some brainstorming or consider a story based on the most common kinds of questions customers ask you.
While it’s not necessary to submit photos to a newspaper (most have their own photographers) photos might catch an editor’s eye. They might also be published in a smaller magazine, newspaper or newsletter that doesn’t have a photographer on staff. If you send photos (remember you need the permission of the people in the photos and the photographer), put them in an attractive two-pocket folder with your business card and a cover letter. Then follow up a week later with a phone call.
Bridal fairs and expos
Bridal fairs and expos are held in most major US cities every year, lasting two to three days in duration. They draw large numbers of brides and grooms, and their friends and families. Exhibitors include wedding planners, cake bakers and decorators, florists, bridal fashion retailers, travel agents, jewelers, limousine rentals and more.
Exhibitors may have either a draped table with a simple backdrop, or a full-scale both with wide and back walls and racks for displaying merchandise. A booth for a wedding planner does not need to be more than a banquet sized table to hold your promotional materials.
Most expos charge hundreds of dollars for a booth. The price will vary, depending on whether the show is a large city expo or a small country fair. The size and location of your booth will also affect the price.
To book a space as an exhibitor, you will need to know how much space you require and what your needs will be. You will likely be required to sign a contract and pay a certain percentage of the cost up front. Each show will be handled differently and the show’s producers should be able to tell you exactly what you need to do to book space. Many bridal shows have their own websites and provide registration information as well as site maps and logistical information.
Setting up your booth
You should bring your business cards (make sure the information is current and that you have a large number of them), your company brochures and portfolio for display at your booth.
If you provide a service that is out of the ordinary for most planners, you should display these items prominently. Bring samples of your best work and be ready to discuss prices and options. You could also run a competition from your booth, and offer a prize to encourage brides to submit their personal details.
When you speak to a prospective client, toss in a few of the ideas you have for creating a spectacular wedding (but don’t give too much away for free). To arrange consultations and discuss possible bookings, bring an appointment book or calendar of events you already have on the books. This is very important to know if you are a one-person operation and have already been booked for full-wedding day coordination on the specific day a potential client is interested in.
Creative marketing ideas
Running your own show can be a great way to promote yourself – and you might even earn a profit! But first of all, ask around and gauge the interest from vendors in your area – you don’t want to set up a show and have no exhibitors! Businesses you might ask include businesses that pamper the bride (hair salons, beauty parlors, day spas etc.) plus the usual wedding vendors (florists, caterers, venues, cake bakers, photographers etc.).
You could suggest to each exhibitor to offer a prize or give away samples (i.e., free 10 minute massages or facials, free samples of chocolates or cake) – this will help to get the crowds in.
If you can convince enough exhibitors that a small bridal show would be valuable for their business, set up a committee of interested parties and find a venue to hold the show. You could consider a community center or a function room of a local venue.
If you keep costs low and charge the exhibitors a small fee, you may be able to have the event free to the public and attract a larger crowd than if you charge people to attend. (There are people who will not attend trade shows that demand a paid admission, as they feel they are paying to shop, which one would normally do free of charge.)
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