I want to share a big win one of my clients had last week. Actually, it’s two, because it also happened a few weeks ago, as well, but we’ll focus on the most recent one.
He (let’s call him John) had been struggling to consistently book clients at his high prices. Sound familiar? John’s a wedding planner with rates that start at $25,000 for “full-service” planning. Clearly, not many couples in the market can afford these kinds of prices, and those who can have a sea of super-talented wedding planners to choose from.
The challenge when you’re selling services at luxury price points – whether you’re a planner, videographer, stationer, floral designer, caterer, photographer, or whatever – is that everyone else who’s in your comp set looks really, really good too. And that makes it a tough choice for the client.
Making “The List” is just the beginning
Let’s say you’re a top-tier wedding planner like John. And the couples who inquire with you are also reaching out to Michelle Rago, Bryan Rafanelli, Colin Cowie, Marcy Blum, and the dozens of other planners on the Brides, Vogue, and Harper’s Bazaar lists. How do you stand out? How do you show this couple you are the one – and NOT do it on price?
That’s the issue facing anyone who’s reading this newsletter that charges higher than the average in their market, especially if you’re in luxury.
And it’s not enough to win the awards. That’s not a differentiator. Sorry. Remember, everyone else on “the list” won that award too. Even if you’re not on the Brides “best of” list, what about those other awards and distinctions from publications, blogs, The Knot, and Wedding Wire?
Well, it’s likely everyone else in your comp set has those same badges on their website too.
If you think you’ll have it made when you “get on the list,” you’re very, very wrong. You’re just competing for business at the next level.
It’s called a “comp set,” because it’s your competition – but also because they’re comparable to your brand. To the uninitiated (ie. newly engaged couples), everyone in a comp set looks similar.
What about other criteria, like portfolio or product?
It’s not just awards and accolades that blend together in a comp set.
You might think your portfolio or style looks quite different from others. Unfortunately, most people buying your services can’t a) articulate what style they want with any accuracy, or b) explain the difference between your work and all the others they’re considering.
After scrolling through hundreds of beautiful images, they start to look the same. Imagine what happens when they see thousands.
Maybe you think your services are incredible, and that’s the difference. You have more skill? A better product? Unfortunately, no one knows that until they try out all the services, and that doesn’t happen with wedding vendors.
Believing you have a better product – and telling potential clients that on your website and in your sales process – won’t get you very many dates on the books. That’s just not how it works with marketing and sales.
It’s not the brand with the better product that wins the business. It’s the brand that makes the buyer believe they have the better product that wins the business. And those are two wildly different strategies.
“If I could just talk with the couple”
Maybe you think your personality is the differentiator. I hear this a lot from photographers, especially, those who want to build a connection with the couple as a way to stand out. This works with some couples, but not with all/many.
You tend to sell from one of four primary styles: Friend, Reporter, Advisor, Influencer. (If you want to learn more about these, check out a podcast episode I did with my friend, Megan Gillikin, on Weddings for Real.)
And couples tend to fall into one of four buyer types: Relater, Analyzer, Boss, Dreamer. (If you want to learn more about these, check out my podcast episode offering an overview.)
If your primary selling style matches the couple’s primary buying style, the conversation flows and you connect immediately. But if your selling style doesn’t match their buyer type, and you don’t stretch your natural way of communicating, you’re likely missing out on booking the other three buyer types.
Plus, if you’re a high-end photographer, videographer, stationer, or another vendor, you might not even get a chance to talk with the couple, because the planner is acting on their behalf (or blocking access, depending on which way you see it).
Beware of the 5th “P”
At the end of the day, neither personality, nor portfolio, nor product, nor prestige will win you the business consistently.
And the scary thing is, if you can’t find another way to do it, a fifth “P” becomes the differentiator: Price.
Why beware? Because in that category, it’s the best is lowest one that wins. That’s not good for you. And it’s the race to the bottom for your entire comp set.
So how can you make it easier for couples to choose you above others they’re considering?
Over the years, I’ve talked about ways you can reduce friction in the buyer’s journey.
Some are big-picture strategies, like:
Stretching your natural communication style to connect with more buyer types
Providing the right information to potential clients based on their stage of awareness
Designing a sales process around how couples naturally make decisions
Offering a custom proposal with context and competitive advantages
Others are more tactical, like:
Providing more calls-to-action on your website
Setting up a second phone call to close the deal after you’ve shared your custom proposal
Using images that trigger their primary psychological motivation(s)
Today, I want to share a set of simple tactics you can use immediately on your next proposal. It has to do with how you present pricing – and will absolutely change your 1) conversion rate and 2) average booking price.
If you are currently offering one package to a potential client, you should listen to this week’s episode of Own Your Business.
If you are currently offering a la carte options, or a base package with a la carte options to add on, you should listen to this week’s episode of Own Your Business.
End on a high note
Oh, back to the big win for my 1:1 client. John had been a staunch advocate of the single-option approach in his proposal. Afterall, he only did “full-service” planning, so there was no need (or way) to present three different options.
But the challenge was John was only thinking about what was less than he was already offering, and he didn’t want to do partial planning or event management. And I didn’t want him to do those either.
So, we broke down his current services, reconsidered others, incorporated known/likely scope creep, and then knocked out three new packages – with the “full service” option as the entry-level.
Yesterday, I got a note from him saying he booked the “decoy” package at over $40,000. Boom.