This article is part of our Event Planning Business Startup Guide—a curated list of articles to help you plan, start, and grow your event planning business!
While the recession of 2008 may have caused a slight downturn in the number of events held in the U.S. every year, one thing is still certain: Everyone loves a good party.
Event planners are always in demand; from weddings to corporate gatherings, there is always call for someone who can help make an event run smoothly.
However, not all event planning businesses are created equally. The discrepancy between event planners’ salaries is fairly large; for example, while top wedding planners can earn $120,000 a year, the industry average is $44,260.
So, how can you boost your business so that you are one of those top-earning event planners? Follow these strategies to help you attract more clients, keep your existing clients happy, and ultimately bring in more money for your event planning business.
1. Choose a niche and excel at it
If you’re trying to be an event planning generalist, it’s time to get specific. Even specializing in a specific type of event, such as weddings, isn’t usually enough. You need to find an even more specific niche and become an expert in that niche.
For example, take Bernadette Coveney Smith of 14 Stories. Inspired by her background as an event planner for nonprofits, she decided to go into business as a wedding planner for LGBTQ couples. Her services range from taking care of all the traditional wedding planning needs these couples face, to the more specific needs of LGBTQ couples, such as “elopement packages” for couples whose home state does not allow them to marry.
Another specialist, Helena Parker of Divine Events by Helena, chose to focus her business on day-of coordination, for couples who want minimal hands-on help planning their event. There is even a growing market for “bridal coaching,” wherein event planners bill themselves as part organizational expert and part therapist and shoulder to cry on.
How do you go about researching and picking a niche? There are plenty of strategies: consider what you most enjoy doing or who you’d ideally like to work with, conduct market and industry research, and take a good hard look at your competition to spot any voids in your local event planning marketplace. In addition to these resources, check out How to Research a Profitable Niche Market for more information.
2. Use Pinterest and Instagram to “get found”
When it comes to wedding planning, visual sites like Pinterest and Instagram reign supreme.
Of course, you probably already guessed that. But, did you know that 46 percent of brides were influenced by a vendor’s presence on social media sites, and 34 percent have contacted a vendor through social media?
This means that when it comes to getting more clients and growing your revenue, maintaining a strong presence on Pinterest and Instagram is very important. It’s potentially also a good idea to consider Facebook and Twitter as well, depending on your personal bandwidth for managing social media profiles.
However, it’s important to be aware that when it comes to social media, selling shouldn’t be your top priority. Event planner Christie Osborne of Mountainside Media recommends thinking of Pinterest and Instagram as marketing tools, rather than a way to book clients. This way, you are able to inject your personality into your pages, and increase your reach. “Think of social media as a way to get found,” she says. “It’s not a way to book brides. When you think about ROI for your social media efforts, consider it as a lead-generating tool.”
How do you cultivate a Pinterest and Instagram presence that will help get your business out there, bring people back to your website, and ultimately bring in more money? Focus on creating and sharing original visual content, whether that be shots from the last event you planned or a helpful infographic you created. Be sure to take advantage of relevant hashtags, and make sure that the images on your website are “pinnable,” with Pinterest buttons embedded for each image.
For inspiration, check out the event planners featured in this article, Insta-Faves: 10 Wedding Planners and Event Designers to Follow On Instagram. You’ll be sure to get some ideas on what kind of content to post on your own Instagram or Pinterest account.
3. Combine SEO tactics with excellent customer service
When it comes to bringing in more revenue for your event planning business, SEO is hugely important.
Half of all couples seeking wedding planning help find planners and vendors through online search, which means if you aren’t showing up online, you’re losing out on revenue.
That being said, the event planning industry still relies heavily on word of mouth to bring in new clients; 52 percent of brides turn to family and friends offline for recommendations first. Not only that, 74 percent of customers say that word of mouth influences their buying decision.
What does this mean for your event planning business? It means you’re going to have to pull off something of a balancing act. While SEO matters, so does word of mouth—combine your SEO marketing tactics with great customer service to cover all your bases.
If the idea of optimizing your website and online presence for SEO overwhelms you, don’t worry—there are plenty of resources available to help you get a handle on that process. Start with Search Engine Watch’s SEO Basics: 8 Essentials When Optimizing Your Site, and move on to Moz’s great Beginners Guide to SEO. For more on building a strong relationship with your clients in order to cultivate that precious positive word of mouth, check out Creating Strong Loyalty Through Your Client Experience.
4. Ditch the idea of the “average” bride
In the event planning industry—and especially when it comes to wedding planning—you’ll hear lots of talk about the “average” customer.
For example, wedding site The Knot published this study on average wedding expenditures, concluding that the average wedding for U.S.-based couples cost $29,858, and the average amount spent on wedding planning was $1,874.
The problem? Your target customer, as defined by your specific niche, is unique. They aren’t the national average, but rather a discrete section of the market that will have their own budget, habits, and needs.
Why does this matter? Thinking of the “average customer” is problematic when you fail to remember that they don’t actually exist. The average customer is an aggregation of buying and spending habits across the industry, which may not accurately reflect your actual customers and specific niche.
To combat this myth of the “average bride” and bring in more money for your event planning business, focus on creating a user persona based on your primary market research of your actual customers. This will help you get a clear understanding of your “ideal bride” (or customer in general) that you are targeting, which will make your marketing efforts less general and more personal.
5. Outsource wherever possible
Jennifer Gilbert, founder of event planning company Save the Date, cheekily recommends that event planners “Outsource everything but [their] soul.” The quote highlights an essential aspect of starting a business: To give yourself as much time and energy as possible, it’s necessary to delegate tasks that can be done by others, to others.
This is never truer than in the event planning business. By freeing up your time to do what you do best, you’ll be able to bring in more clients and more money, while still providing the best service possible.
What can you outsource? Well, that ultimately depends on what you’re good at, but popular tasks include website construction and design, the creation of your logo, your bookkeeping, and similar tasks that are not directly related to your work as an event planner.
For more information, be sure to check out How Event Organizers Can Use Freelancers To Boost Productivity, as well as our article on the LivePlan blog, Why You Should Consider Outsourcing, and How to Get Started. If you’re looking for more information on how to choose the best people to help take on outsourced work, I’ve written an article on finding great freelancers.
Tying it all together
When it comes to bringing in more money for your event planning business, it’s easy to see that specialization and a narrow, strategic focus is the name of the game.
By focusing in on and really getting to know your ideal target market, you can deliver services that will leave your clients happy, and encourage them to recommend you to friends and family. Combine this niche strategy with a strong social media and web presence, and you have a solid strategy that will help your business grow and bring in more money.