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.