Begging for Business

Why begging for business in the wedding industry hurts your brand

 

Like most wedding pros, I’m a member of various groups on Facebook – wedding swap groups, vendor groups, and wedding planning groups.  Most of these groups are promotional and/or informational in nature: couples asking for advice, or looking for vendors, vendors seeking other vendors, and so on.  I typically don’t participate much unless I feel that I have something profound to say (which isn’t often, haha!) – but I DO use these groups as a way to keep a watchful eye on the market, and to get a sense of what couples are looking for and HOW they are making their buying decisions.

Here’s what I’ve observed: couples who are searching for vendors on Facebook tend to be making their selections based on one thing and one thing alone – price.  Those couples are not ideal clients for my company, and so I typically don’t respond.  However, as someone who is committed to elevating this industry, I observe these posts and the subsequent comments with great interest.

And oh, how frustrating this can be!  Both as an active wedding professional AND as an industry advocate, these posts often leave me with a bad taste in my mouth (easily remedied with wine, I’ve discovered!). Here’s a typical ISO post by a couple:

Looking for an affordable photographer for my upcoming wedding in August.  Recommendations?

Ok.  Deep breath!  Let’s talk about what’s wrong with this post, starting with the word “affordable”.

News flash!  EVERYONE offers affordable wedding services.  Affordable is a subjective term, and can absolutely mean something different from one person to another.  So straight away, this causes confusion and let’s be honest, eye-rolling by most seasoned wedding professionals.  When I first started seeing these posts pop up a few years ago, I chuckled to myself and thought “good luck with that”, thinking that wedding pros would respond with some variation of what I’ve written above.

But no. What happened – and continues to happen – much to my dismay, is a barrage of responses and comments from vendors – some posting links to their websites or FB pages with appalling comments like “I’d love to help! I can do this within your budget for sure!”

Uh, what? First of all, this poster (and most like them) didn’t mention what their budget was.  So how can you already have made a determination that you’re within this mysterious budget?  You’re basically inviting this person to give you a number – any number – and you’ll agree to work for it. Huh? #facepalm!

Second of all, notice that this poster mentioned nothing of style, or location, or date, or anything to indicate that they value the services they are asking for.  Now, I know – it’s likely they just didn’t think about articulating this at all, but in my experience, a prospective client who values your craft will take the time to do their research and seek out those wedding professionals who – based on their websites, social media, and so on – appear to align with the very things that they value.

The only thing that the above poster appears to value is money.

So why, I ask myself, are so many wedding businesses clamoring over one another to respond to these low-value posts?

I asked someone that I know who recently responded to a post like this, and she said “Well, you never know what will come of it. And what’s the harm?”

To her first point, I acquiesce.  It’s true, you never know.  Perhaps this will turn into a dream client who loves all that you do and as it turns out, is willing to pay whatever you ask and will refer you until the end of time. Perhaps… but I have my doubts.  Call me cynical.

To her second part: It ABSOLUTELY matters.  It matters because this sort of auction-style selling of services devalues our art, our passion, and our industry.  It negates all of the effort that we put into carefully crafting a brand and marketing said brand to target clients.  It robs us of our integrity and the value of what we’re selling.  It makes me think, each time, of cows at a trough – pushing and shoving one another for a small bite to sustain them until the next meal.  And – it drives down pricing because when the next couple comes along and sees that the first couple was able to find 15 photographers willing to work within whatever budget they wanted, this couple and all subsequent couples will think that this is how to do business with the wedding industry: They believe they can tell us what their budget is and make us beg for the job.

Look, if your business model is to take any business from any couple at any price, then I wish you well.   I know lots of business owners with this philosophy, and that’s absolutely their prerogative. But most wedding professionals I know desperately want to work with fewer clients at a price-point that aligns with the value of what they provide and be able to make a decent living without having to hustle 24/7.  And that’s not going to happen when you’re begging for business on every random Facebook post that pops up. It really, really isn’t.

I think we are better than this.  Maybe you’re thinking that I’m over-reacting.  It’s possible, I’ll admit – I’m a deep thinker, and a strategist. Optics and brand positioning are important to me, and are important to the wedding pros that I work with.  I care about this industry deeply, and I want it to be sustainable.   But in order to do that, we have to collectively decide how we’re going to be viewed and valued and how we’re going to stop the flow of integrity going down the drain.  This is a systemic issue that will have long-term consequences, and it’s a vicious cycle that is very difficult to get out of as an industry.

I do want to add one last thing: I also see many wedding pros utilizing these groups brilliantly by responding to questions by couples and demonstrating their expertise.  Lately I’ve seen some amazingly clever marketing strategies going down as well – I’m absolutely not saying that these groups aren’t valuable or that there aren’t possibilities within them. But if ALL you’re doing in these groups is waiting for the next couple who looking for a generic, “affordable” vendor so that you can post your link… I encourage you to re-think your strategy.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

 

 

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7 Comments

  • Reply
    Suzan McEvoy
    April 5, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    This is so bang on Mary! Thanks for taking the time to put it out there for our industry. I redid my pricing matrix last year and discovered that even my ‘1-hour’ wedding was 12 hours of work. The start to finish day, closer to 50. And I’m ‘just a photographer’ – not loading in, loading out, sourcing suppliers, holding hands (well not much anyway) etc. I’ve seen the same thing for ‘day of’ coordination posts as well. You may be on hand ‘day of’, but you’re putting in a month’s worth of work to make sure that day runs smoothly for everyone. Remember people – value yourself first!

    • Reply
      Mary
      April 5, 2017 at 4:09 pm

      Absolutely Suzan. I think this is a pricing issue, a positioning issue, a branding issue, a value issue, and an optics issue! The more we understand and appreciate the value of the services we’re offering, the better we’re able to price ourselves accordingly and elevate the industry as a whole. xo

  • Reply
    Elijah
    April 5, 2017 at 2:59 pm

    The main problem with this concept is that this type of thing happens at a certain price point, which is extremely low or free. This place honestly is for people who are new to the business, not for professionals. It doesn’t “hurt” the industry, it only hurts the over-saturated low end.

    Do yourself a favor and raise your prices, cut all your low-end marketing contacts, and make a fresh start. Yes it’s scary being one of the only ones in your circle of business friends that do it, but.. It’s better.

    • Reply
      Mary
      April 5, 2017 at 4:07 pm

      Thanks for your comment, Elijah!

      I don’t agree that this type of behaviour is limited to a certain price point. I’ve seen many, many seasoned professionals responding in a similar way. I also respectfully disagree that this type of thing doesn’t hurt our industry because it only affects people new to the industry – that’s where the potential to hurt our industry is the strongest, and can have a powerful negative impact on our industry at large.

      I’m not sure who you’re speaking to in your second paragraph 🙂

      Thanks again for joining the conversation!

  • Reply
    Kasey K.
    April 6, 2017 at 11:28 am

    I’ve been on both sides of this fence. I didnt have a budget to blow out of the water on my wedding, but I absolutely wanted the best value for my budget. Instead of asking questions like this, baiting the hook for vendor to spam me (another industry standard that has led me to actually recommend brides start separate wedding email accounts), I asked for recommended vendors based on service from OTHER brides. This provided my value, if I liked their aesthetic, I’d reach out for pricing, if that other bride didn’t already have it. No one wants to waste the other’s time in this process.

    As a wedding professional, I struggle with these posts. I want to throw my name in the pot because my brand is new. But I also don’t want to position myself right there against my competition. I think by not commenting (plus, I never have the same elevator pitch twice), I actually set myself on a higher position brand-wise, that people either hear about me through the method I mention above, seen my work and asked about it, or met me otherwise.

    It’s terrifying! Because hey, if I’m not producing work, I’m not getting referrals or pieces that showcase my brand. But once I get my client base formed and network within the industry, I think it definitely sets your brand apart from the competition.

    Great post! I hope that the businesses committing these crimes either stop this behavior, (because, as you said, it hurts the industry) or see poor results. It sounds malicious, but it kills a business before it even gets off the ground and we lose a potential superstar in the industry. I’d be interested to know the conversion rates on these types of posts.

    • Reply
      Mary
      April 6, 2017 at 4:08 pm

      Hi Kasey! Thanks so much for taking the time to comment, I really appreciate hearing everyone’s point of view and feel it’s an important discussion. I LOVE what you said about not wanting to position yourself right there against your competition – because honestly, that’s no way to stand out! It’s really like throwing yet another needle in the haystack, and hoping you get found. There are SO many other opportunities for creative marketing that will allow businesses to position themselves where their ideal clients will find them. Thanks again for reading and sharing your thoughts! xo

  • Reply
    T
    April 6, 2017 at 8:01 pm

    This is spot on and I 1000% percent agree with you! I recently adjusted my marketing strategy for wedding clients strictly on the basis of “this is my price” take it or leave it. I know the value of the service I offer. If you cannot afford it, then you are not my ideal client.

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