Cheap Wedding Packages are NOT a Wedding Niche
I’ve been working with a business coach and one of the things she encourages her clients to do is to find our niche within the wedding industry and then market the hell out of it (I’m paraphrasing!) to people that are looking for your particular “niche-y” service.
This exercise was not new to me, but I think it’s prudent to reassess every now and then so I recently decided to do just that. One of the exercises she suggests is to look at what your competition is doing and figure out what their niche market is. No sense reinventing the wheel and there are plenty of niches to go around in the world of weddings.
Knowing what I know about offering small wedding packages (I’ve been doing this for over 15 years), it’s tough to look at wedding websites through the eyes of a couple and not the eyes of a wedding professional. Rather than looking for a niche, I tend to get bogged down in thoughts of “Wow, this website is cluttered and hard to read.” “Look at those typos!” and “Holy moly–this website sucks! How can a couple find what they’re looking for?”
But I made the effort.
Weddings with pets included is a huge trend. A niche opportunity for sure.
This post isn’t so much about discovering and refining my own niche, but rather to talk about what I found when I went looking for niche-ness on the sites of others. To be honest, I was excited to see what niches my fellow wedding package providers offer so I could refer prospective clients to them that don’t don’t fit my niche. I firmly believe there need not be a competitive attitude among wedding service providers. If everyone markets to the niche that reflects their passion and purpose, the chance of overlap is quite small indeed.
But I was destined for disappointment. Basically, most wedding vendors are clueless in the niche department.
Bear in mind that because we provide wedding packages in two fairly large states (California and Colorado) and serve a wide area in both states, I have a lot of regional competitors to check out. Even if there are only two or three other folks doing what I do in each area, that still leaves me with over 20 specific cities and towns to research.
So, I would have thought that somewhere in the process of sifting through all of these websites, I would have come up with one bonafide niche.
Instead, I came up niche-less.
Basically, every site I investigated made a massive attempt to throw the widest net possible. Big weddings, small weddings, weddings on the beach, weddings in the forest, weddings on a mountaintop, weddings in a chapel (weddings in a box? with a fox? on a train? a plane? in a house? with a mouse?). second weddings, weddings for millennials, same-sex weddings, elegant weddings, casual weddings, indoor weddings, outdoor weddings…
…Pause for massive inhale of breath…plunging on…
Spanish-speaking weddings, religious weddings, civil wedding, spiritual weddings, elopement weddings, winter weddings, summer weddings, weddings with children, weddings with pets, weddings with receptions, wedding ceremonies, adventure weddings, destination weddings, local weddings.
And those were the tip of the iceberg–and all offered by company after company. Heck! Any one of those could have been a niche.
Weddings for couples with kids
I pressed on.
Then there were folks who marketed themselves as providing “wedding packages,” but in reality they were either an officiant, a photographer or a venue and decided to tack on other services outside of their field of expertise in an effort to broaden their services and potentially reach a wider audience (translated: (“make more money”). That’s the opposite of having a niche.
Furthermore, the adjectives used to describe services did nothing to enlighten me as to their niche. According to each site, they are “high-quality,” “unique,” “affordable,” and “provide excellent services.”
Seriously, people, I could not find one niche among them. Not one.
Well, there was one. Sorta. I did find that almost every site I visited had prices posted. And in looking at the prices, I ultimately did find one “niche” that most of them had in common (which I think is contrary to the definition of niche, but I digress…).
Most of them offer cheap wedding packages. The assumption appears to be that any couple planning an intimate wedding must also be anticipating that it will carry a bottom dollar price tag.
Okay, let’s think about this for a minute…
I know what it costs to compensate professional wedding officiants, photographers, florists, videographers, DJ’s hair and makeup artists, etc. And so I wondered, “How is it possible that these vendors are compensated fairly when these packages cost so little?”
The answer is–it’s not possible.
So, of course that got me to thinking–what are the possible long-term outcomes of pricing things so cheaply? And would this ultimately impose negative consequences on the couples that book at this price?
Spanish-speaking weddings could be a huge niche in the areas we serve
I played out a couple of scenarios in my head.
Scenario #1 – The cheap prices on the website are inaccurate and once a couple requests a quote (or books the service), the true price is much higher. (Well, that’s gonna piss people off!)
Scenario #2 – The prices on the website are technically accurate. For a wedding at 9:00 AM on Tuesdays only. Between November 1st and November 15th. With no guests. In the officiant’s living room. “Photographer” is officiant’s spouse using a point and shoot camera.
Anything outside of the above parameters incurs additional fees. (See “that’s gonna piss people off” in Scenario #1.)
Scenario #3 – The prices on the website are accurate and the only way the business can make even a marginal profit is to hire/employ/contract with sub-par or amateur vendors that are content to earn below market rates. (Hellooooo, wedding officiant that doesn’t show or pictures that look like…well…crap.)
Scenario #4 – The posted prices are truly what the company charges and they have halfway decent vendors. Okay–let’s play that one out.
I’ll own it–I know a little bit about this because when I first started in the business, I, too charged far less than I currently do. My reasoning was that I was new and was trying to get my foot in the door.
That sounds great on paper, but here is what happened…
I got resentful–really resentful. I got sick of working my butt off 24/7 and having minimal profit to show for it. I was annoyed by brides that had lots of questions, or wanted services over and above what was offered in the package. Heaven forbid they delete an email and ask me to re-send it Couldn’t they see how hard I was working for such a pittance? How dare they be so self-centered/ignorant/thoughtless????!!!
I was outwardly pleasant to my couples, but inwardly I seethed. I wasn’t making enough to compensate me for my experience, expertise and resources and these brides were making me crazy!
Well, gee–that’s one helluva crappy attitude to bring to the table! (Side note: I bucked up really fast, raised my rates, hired an assistant and now I couldn’t be happier in dealing with numerous questions from my couples. I simply build that time into my pricing. What a concept! Happy couples/happy me.)
So I know what happens when you continually undercharge for any great length of time (and I should point out that none of the businesses I researched were newbies). There are only two ways things can go when one undercharges–you either sacrifice on quality or customer service.
It’s inevitable. Nobody is going to consistently deliver high quality services when they are making far less than minimum wage.
I was surprised that many of these businesses did not have any reviews showcased on either their websites or their Facebook pages. Hmmmm… why would they not want to showcase reviews from their happy couples? (I’ll let you figure that one out on your own.)
Biker dude weddings!!
Here’s the other reality (which I’d like to take credit for, but I admit, the seed was planted by my coach):
When you market your services based solely on price, it’s very difficult to come out ahead. There is always going to be someone that charges less. So basically you can’t win. And when your sales strategy is based on offering “cheap wedding packages,” how do you justify your prices when a couple asks why you’re not as cheap as the other guy that’s cheaper? You can’t fault him for charging a rock-bottom price when that is your own strategy! And you can’t claim your quality is better if you haven’t built your business model around offering a high-quality service.
Rock, meet hard place. And that’s a crummy place to be when you’re talking about someone’s wedding day.
So, what’s the bottom line lesson here for couples? You’re in luck! I have two of them.
Lesson #1 – Look for the niche. When you review a website, you should feel as through they are speaking directly to you. If you don’t feel that way, or if you feel that the words you’re reading could apply to anyone getting married, then look elsewhere. If they’re not speaking directly to you, talking about how they can solve your problem, address your specific need or offer a service that is all about what you are seeking, then they’re not going to treat your wedding day differently than any other client’s. (I don’t care how many times they use the word “unique” on their website.)
Lesson #2 – Beware the budget wedding vendor. For all of the initial enticement of saving a few bucks–as my mother used to say (looking meaningfully at me when my older brothers would tease me)–“someone’s gonna end up crying!” Better you stick to your budget by inviting fewer guests, getting married closer to home, doing some DIYing on the small things and/or prioritizing the things you want for your wedding and making some compromises on the lower-on-the-list items than by going with the cheap wedding package that promises you the moon, but in reality may fall far short of that outcome.
Full Disclosure/Disclaimer: there were some websites I checked out that did not offer ridiculously rock-bottom prices. And their websites weren’t even half bad. But they still did not exhibit a niche that I could find.