Recent articles from eWedNews.com claim that the wedding industry is finally beginning to wipe the “fairy dust” from its eyes and realize that it’s time for a change.

A toe tag representing the death of a wedding business

You can read these articles here:

What is WISN Selling?  It Could Be Common Sense

A New Generation of Wedding Professionals Is Not Buying What the Older Generation Is Selling

The Facts Don’t Lie

Wedding budgets are smaller than they were before the recession hit in 2008.  But they are also slowly beginning to increase again; the average wedding cost increased 21.9% as reported by The Wedding Report in the first half of 2010.

The average wedding guest list has been shrinking and brides are increasingly cutting costs on services they perceive as “luxuries,” like flowers, décor and video.

Competition has increased with the rise of unemployment, especially for photographers, DJs and wedding planners.

The conclusion reached in these articles is that diversification is necessary for wedding businesses to survive.

An example of “diversification” might be a wedding officiant who also offers wedding planning services, sells invitations or becomes a travel agent.  Another example might be a wedding photographer who creates two separate business identities, one for the mid-range market and one for the budget bride.

The idea is that it’s better to not have all your eggs in one basket, so that when one of those baskets drops you’ll have another basket full of eggs to turn to.

Diversify or Die?

My concern is that we will hear this call to “diversify” and start chasing down every new business idea and marketing strategy that crosses our path.  That’s the “fairy dust” this post warns against.

But diversification can be fairy dust, too. 

It’s what my husband calls, “chasing rabbits.”  In this case, the rabbit is new services, marketing and strategies we can use for our business.  If we chase too many of them, we won’t catch any.

Wedding businesses with excellent reviews and good solid marketing practices are still thriving during the recession.  Sure, they noticed changes like everyone else, but they had structure in place that allowed them to respond and adapt.

Most of the wedding professionals who are suffering didn’t have this structure in place.  A lot of them weren’t actively marketing their businesses and they completely missed the changes taking place around them.

Just like the housing market, the wedding market was inflated and over-priced.  Since the recession hit, many couples and their parents are no longer willing to mortgage the house to pay for a wedding.  Just like the rest of us, they realized that they’d been living and spending beyond their means for a long time.

Warning: Don’t Change a Thing Until You Read This!

Before you start trying something new, please, please consider a few things.

  • It takes more time, energy and money to start something new than you’d expect.  Do you remember how hard it was to get your business started in the first place?  It’s going to be that hard…and then some…to make a new service succeed.
  • You only have a limited amount of time and attention available.  When you add new activities, you’ll be splitting up those precious resources.
  • What you focus on grows; what you don’t focus on whithers and dies.  The same holds true for your wedding business.  If you stop attending to your bread and butter to chase down something new, you’ll risk losing what you’ve already established.

Focus On What Already Makes You Money

Before we start diversifying all willy-nilly and find ourselves with 20 new daily activities, none of which make us a penny, ask yourself these power questions.

Of course, if NOTHING is making you money then radical change is exactly what you need…and fast!

  1. What are you doing that is already working to make money for your business?
  2. Which of your services, products or packages do your brides just eat up?
  3. Where do your very best referrals come from right now?
  4. What products and services are your brides asking for more of?

Do more of these things!

Before you spread yourself too thin, focus on what’s already working for your business and do more of it.  You’ve already put in the time and energy; you’ve already proven that it works.  Now you just need to do it better.

Don’t reinvent the wheel.  Go with your strengths; the path will be easier and much more effective for growing your business.

A few examples:

  • If your most profitable weddings come from one particular venue, build that relationship by taking the banquet manager out to lunch, sending them a gift or calling them.
  • If your best source of booking leads is visitors to your blog, do more blogging or start writing some guest blog posts.
  • If most of your couples are buying up a particular package, promote that package and make it easy and attractive for them to select it.

What do you think the wedding industry needs to bounce back from the recession?  How do wedding professionals need to change?  Leave a comment and make your voice heard!

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Stephanie Padovani

Stephanie is a Hudson Valley wedding insider, blogger, writer, and wedding business coach. Want to book more weddings at higher prices? Quit dealing with price shoppers? Transform your wedding business so that it supports the life you really want? Look her up! They don't call her the Wedding Business Cheerleader for nothing. :)

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29 thoughts on “Wedding Industry Trends 2011: Diversify or Die!”

  1. Being one who has always had a tendency to want to chase a virtual herd of rabbits, I have to approach diversification carefully. Is it in alignment with my current projects? Do I have a clear end or goal in mind and how will this effect the parts of my business that are working for me now. Still, its important to stay up on the trends and the opportunities that are always around us. You never know what that little add on in your company could grow in to.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I know some jump on the next band wagon diversifiers who have all sorts of junk siting in their storage. Chocolate Fountains, the next big thing. I gotta have one. Photobooths! How can I build one out of pvc pipe? I also know one or two savvy people who make more money off their offerings than they do from their core business. I think that brides need things not to be confusing. If that means you have it all and can make it easy for them. Go for it. If it means you do one thing well and can make it simple for them to understand. You’ve got it. Let’s not cannibalize each other in the name of diversification.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Who wants to work with a jack-of-all-trades? I certainly don’t!

    I will continue training and learning to be the best Cruise Specialist I can be. And when someone wants to work with the best, they will reap the benefit of my expertise. If not, Next!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Well the example of the wedding officiant, planner, travel agent and invitations is me. We have slowly over the years expanded little services one at a time. I have learned that if you get a solid ground on a service than you can expand. Pick another smaller service to tap into and get your feet wet and then make it blossom. But never rush and make it a focus or you loose other foundations fast. But in tough economical times diversity can save you and help couples save also.

    1. Jeanne, didn’t realize that described you, but it’s spot on!

      You have done an amazing job at diversifying your services. In fact, it’s downright unbelievable how well you’ve done it!

      As long as the services are complementary and don’t take away from your established services, it can really work for you.

      I’ve had brides ask me to be a planner for their weddings, and I just don’t feel comfortable with it. I’ll step in and help with organization and guidance, but I can’t imagine being able to fully attend to the party and worry about the details at the same time. My performance would suffer, for sure.

      But that’s me. I bet if I brought in another team member, it could be done quite well.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Great post, I do agree that one has to focus but on the other hand you cannot live in a box with blinders on. Being able to go with the flow Or trends keeps a company going. It was the dinosaur breeder that just focused on one thing and look where that busines is now.(lol)

  6. Anonymous says:

    I agree with what Mr. Goff and many others said. While I understand that diversifying is an important aspect of keeping your business alive, you can’t lose focus on what you do best. If you branch out too much, will you be giving your all to all of the things you offer or will you be giving just half of your effort?

  7. Anonymous says:

    Network, the solution to saving money in the current economy is to network. For those businesses who market heavily on making their competition look bad, as happens in my area, this can be a problem.

    A strong positive network can do more than any paid ad. The effort is worth the residuals and sometimes you need to pass on a good lead to a competitor because you are already booked, or can send a bride to someone you trust for their flowers or photography.

    Because I network, and I communicate with my network we all have not had to move our price points as all in the last couple years. The clients we service see the network as their safety net and the value it has to their confidence when there are so many other businesses going out to business or many more people operating illegally posing as a business because they need the money and think it would be cool or fun to be a DJ because they downloaded all their music or it’s easy to be a photographer because they can buy a camera at Wal-Mart.

    The network can also protect people from being scammed because we can identify those people and warn our clients. All this has value and people are glad to pay for that piece of mind and security of professional quality service.

    What I take offense too is all these wedding ‘professionals’ on these sites that have no idea what my cost of business is, telling me I need to cut my price to compete with the upstart illegal operations. So called professionals telling people that a DJ is not worth more than their flowers or invitations and I challenge anyone to find a table center piece that can entertain better than a good DJ.

    I am not sure how it is in the US. Being in Canada it is not uncommon for me to be on site at a wedding from 3pm to 3am from set up to tear down. That’s not including providing my services for the ceremony. I read many different blogs, read many bridal magazines and virtually never find articles that speak to the quality and value of a professional Quality DJ. Even the wedding shows on TV never show more than 15-30 seconds of the dance, when statistics show the DJ can attribute to 80% of the success of an event.

    I see no need or reason to diversify. If you look at a DJ like a Radio Station, I am the MC, music programmer, station manager, production manager, engineer, and content writer. I am diversified.

    So what do I think the wedding industry needs to bounce back from the recession? We need stronger networks with other professionals in the industry. There is more work out there than I can do myself and a show of solidarity, consistency and integrity. We need to work to educate clients on the needs to hire professionals and why quality has a price. People are not stopping to get married because of the recession and I need to make a living too.

    1. [quote name=”TJ the DJ”]I see no need or reason to diversify. If you look at a DJ like a Radio Station, I am the MC, music programmer, station manager, production manager, engineer, and content writer. I am diversified.[/quote]

      Amen to that! We do so much more than we most people think we do.

      I agree that power networking is one of the least expensive, most powerful and effective forms of marketing. It’s the main reason we were able to leave our corporate jobs. It’s what’s helping us build the Book More Brides community right now.

      Take those awesome wedding professionals in your network out to lunch. Help them out with their biggest challenge. That small investment will yield thousands in revenue, let you work with the best of the best, attract your ideal brides…and it will make you feel really good, too.

    2. Anonymous says:

      True words my friend! I sometimes find myself at loss trying to find someone reliable in the industry to rely upon. Vendors who’d treat clients the way I treat my clients. Sometimes it is not easy…
      And sometimes the reason you hear things is because… well… they happen unfortunately.

      Chiming in from Canada as well…

  8. Anonymous says:

    I am getting my most leads from addwords.

    It is getting very Expensive and not so affordeble. What do you think?

    Thanks,

    1. Hi, Lizette!

      Adwords is tricky to do well and can definitely get expensive. If you know how much a click is worth for you, it can still be a good investment.

      However, ads are less and less effective. Fortunately, there are many other ways to get traffic: SEO, video marketing, article marketing, blogging, podcasting, social media, and other types of media buying to name a few.

      (Can you tell I’ve been studying? ;-) )

      Just know that if Adwords isn’t cost-effective for you anymore, there are other options.

  9. Anonymous says:

    This was certainly a time to diversify, expand, & change, while focusing even more on core business essentials. Fly-by-night weekend-warrior businesses come & go. Full-time professionals have the added incentive of this being your true job. It’s hard to fail when you want to succeed. Are price-cutters your true competition? Or, are *you* your own biggest obstacle to success?

    1. Anonymous says:

      [quote name=”Bri Swatek”]This was certainly a time to diversify, expand, & change, while focusing even more on core business essentials. Fly-by-night weekend-warrior businesses come & go. Full-time professionals have the added incentive of this being your true job. It’s hard to fail when you want to succeed. Are price-cutters your true competition? Or, are *you* your own biggest obstacle to success?[/quote]
      Excellent article. I don’t like to see any more doom and gloom either!! I’m here to say that the wedding business DID suffer for a bit…but I believe you are correct in saying it has improved. (I think it has improved quite a bit!) Brides want to have their cake and eat it too, and they are a bit more savvy and cost conscious these days, which is wise. It’s up to us wedding vendors to offer them quality and affordability somewhere in our package range.
      Great job on the article!

  10. Anonymous says:

    Great article and great advice. Times are tough but people continue to get married. I’ve had conversations with many mothers-of-the-brides and they ARE mortgaging for the wedding. I feel for those parents.

  11. Anonymous says:

    Nice post! Diversification is not a bad thing, but as you say, it splits you up if time is limited. Diversification should be complimentary to what you already do as well. I know a lot of DJ companies making extra money with photo booths, up-lighting, and other forms of enhancement that fall directly under the entertainment umbrella. The suggestion of the article you refer to that an officiant expand into wedding planning is,unfortunately, typical of the plague currently in the industry of uneducated and untrained vendors getting in because they feel they are “good” at something. If I had a $100 bill for every not certified and untrained planner that I have pulled out of the fire over the last two years, I could go on a very nice cruise with my wife. If you are going to become anything, at least get some training for it.

  12. Anonymous says:

    100% agree!
    After the diversification passes by (making us to lose focus) what is next? Outsourcing? Globalization?
    More than that I have some thoughts into this on my own blog (who doesn’t get much visits… I’m a guy that doesn’t like to show off)
    I get worked up myself at times…
    Have a read if you have a few moments:

    [url]http://justaphotog.wordpress.com/2010/02/18/a-cure-for-anger/
    [/url]

    I should write more often… oh well…

    Cheers!

    Bogdan

    1. Hey, Bogdan!

      I hope it didn’t come across that I’m against diversification. Far from it. If profits are down, it’s definitely time to make some changes and diversification may be a really powerful part of that.

      I’d just hate to see us chasing the next big thing and losing sight of what’s really working. As long as we keep offering things brides are actually asking for, it will steer us true.

      1. Anonymous says:

        Most of the Next Big Things are actually things that someone else in a different marketing department tries to push us all to buy… I’m a late adopter so I’m not at all interested in things like (GASP!!!! HERESY IMMINENT!!!) fusion and all that.

        The problem I’m seeing is brides are sometimes blindsided by whatever current trends and some of those trends are simply terrible. Would I like to follow and in as little as 5 years from now have albums out there couples will rather hide as they are embarrassed by it? Heck no! I’d rather take a second job.

        I’d rather spend more time helping educate my prospective clients than waste energy trying something else. It’s immensely more lucrative than trying to break into someone else’s market and essentially steal HIS food…

        Just my two cents…

  13. Anonymous says:

    Concentrating on what I do best, give the bride and groom, their family and friends, the best reception experience I can is what I will continue to do.
    I see other Wedding Entertainers that are getting into extra lighting packages, Photo Booths, Video Packages, chocolate fountains and the like. Some are doing quite well…I also know a few that are already looking to get out.
    If you stick with what you do best…and do it just a little better every time…your business will grow no matter what the naysayers think they know!

  14. Anonymous says:

    Each year we add 2 new free items to our packages and send out e-mails to all past and future potential clients. We never pay for advertising except for pay per clicks (under $100.00 a month) and we have the Highest positive reviews in our area. We also didn’t listen to the critics and have FLASH on our site (a BIG NO NO they say) and the public always comment that this is what lures them in, The results, each year we increase our prices by 5-10% and we initially started doing 35-40 weddings each year, now we are up to 65-70 per year. We also have a 95% success rate of keeping the clients during the initial consultation. SEO is handled in house (free) and we are listed #1 in our area in 7 different keywords (organic and pay per click) If we listen to the naysayers and forget about our customers needs we will fail. Believe in your yourself and your product, never stop learning and you will succeed! Your Wedding Business Tips make a huge difference and makes us think and explore new options. Love your feedback.

    1. Daniel, that is so awesome! Thanks for sharing a bit of your story.

      I share ideas, but they may not work for everyone. We’re much better off listening to what brides want and sticking with that than blindly following the advice of anyone else. The cool thing is that all these strategies can be tested out in the real world.

      You’re booking 95% of your meetings? It might be time for another price increase, my friend. :-)

  15. Anonymous says:

    I think that the wedding industry needs to accept the fact that the economy has not recovered, that since unemployment remains high, and those employed are not certain of continued employment, that brides and their parents should be looking to cut costs, but not to necessarily eliminate them.

    If one goes to enough marketing seminars, the presenters will always claim that they are thriving, even raising their prices in a bad economy, and therefore we should be as well if we follow their lead and buy their materials we will be able to do the same. This may be true for a few whose clientele includes the rich and powerful, but not true for those whose clientele are working people by no means secure in their jobs.

    We need to realize that business as usual circa 2008 is over, more competition exists, but we can’t worry about this, competition always exists. We have to keep perfecting our craft, provide exemplary service, give exceptional value,and be open to newer marketing strategies.

    As far as diversification – if you can do other things well enough to sell them, go for it, but you don’t have to stand still in your core business.

    Finally, when the economy does recover, and confidence returns, it won’t be a return to 2008, it will be a somewhat different environment. The only thing that will be consistent is change.

    1. Bill, I have to agree with you here. Things are NOT going back to the way they were. The buying behavior of brides has changed; must like after the Great Depression, the effects may well last generations.

      The luxury bridal market isn’t the only place to make money in the wedding industry. You can make a really good living serving the mid or low budget markets, too.

      I’ve been really intrigued by Christine Boulton’s continued advice to diversify by offering products that serve both the high-end and budget markets.

      She used the example of Vera Wang creating a line for David’s Bridal. Brides can still get the brand they know and love, but a slightly less frills version with a price tag they can stomach, too.

      Creativity is key and I believe there is always a way.

      1. Anonymous says:

        Thanks for the hat tip Stephanie.

        You nailed it, diversifiying by expanding on what you already do successfully is the key. Not by branching of in wild directions.

  16. Anonymous says:

    I agree that the average wedding budget has definitely dropped over the past couple of years but think that it is re-couping.

    I’ve also found that there are also a lot more ‘out of season’ weddings happening as well, which in my opinion is great as it extends the wedding season from April pretty much through December. In a lot of cases this could be to save $ from the venue and vendors or a better venue is more available in a non-peak season.

    I think that all businesses need to be thinking about diversification, what is working for their business and what they could do differently or add that would benefit their existing business. This could be a small change in the way you market your product or service, it could be adding a new service or product or changing a service / product you offer. For example, a DJ may also want to offer Up-Wall Lighting and Video Screens / Projectors to their wedding clients that might already be considering purchasing these services anyway.

    1. Anonymous says:

      I agree that you need to focus on diversity that complements your existing business and skills set. We do no justice to anyone in the industry by trying to take business that we are not qualified to acheive. It is difficult enough to manage a succesful business with qualified competiton. We should be focused on creating exceptional service and staying focused on what we excell at not creating low price points we will all have to recover from.

  17. Anonymous says:

    In a recession, cream rises to the top. Those of us with a consistent brand, stellar reputation, and great industry relationships will continue to flourish, and in fact, do better than ever. In a highly competitive industry, refining one’s brand, and micro-targeting are key: Speak the language of your market. Reflect the image of your market. And, periodically, add excitement to your brand with something new.

  18. Anonymous says:

    Great post. I read the article a while back.. sums up the phrase jack of all trades.. master of none!!

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