We founded our corporate event planning business ten years ago. The first few years were smooth sailing with predictable growth, and then…the Crash of 2008 hit! All of a sudden, our goals turned from increasing profit to cutting expenses, streamlining operations and holding tight to clients, even though some were scaling back on their events, or canceling them altogether.
Getting through that period was one of the proudest accomplishments we’ve had as business owners. And not only we did we come out stronger as a team, but we were also able to apply those lessons learned to our current business practices, and our company and brand has never been better.
One of the significant lessons we learned was the importance of diversification. So as we plan for 2015, our goals include metrics for increasing our bottom-line AND for creating a variety of sales streams as well. Diversification may seem like a strategy only intended for big businesses or your 401K portfolio, but it is truly an essential element for businesses of all sizes.
Here are a few ways to diversify your business:
1. Discover What Makes You and Your Business Different
At our core, we event planners have a lot in common. Most of us love lists, excel at Excel and get butterflies as an event comes together in those last few moments! But, at the same time, we each have specializations that make us unique.
Consider what pieces of your business you truly specialize in or have unique experience in, and make it your niche. It could be anything from a partnership with a particular venue or vendor, a specific segment of the wedding industry, or a just a unique planning style – whatever it is, embrace it and promote it! Niche businesses in developed markets are ripe for growth.
2. What Tools or Tricks of the Trade Have You Invented or Specially Refined?
We’ve all heard that necessity is the mother of invention and that is definitely true in our line of work! From customizing the perfect seating card arrangement tools, to putting together the ultimate day-of bridal kit, each of us has created new products and services to use in our day-to-day businesses.
Have a product that you can’t live without, but can’t buy either? Think about setting up an e-commerce site or Etsy page to see if other planners might need it too. The online marketplace for custom and handmade items is booming and it easily allows you to start small, test the market and quickly see how customers respond. Then tinker and retool as necessary. If in a reasonable amount of time, the product gains followers organically, you can watch it grow alongside your current business as a new and diversified revenue stream!
3. What’s Your Favorite Part of What You Do?
After years of booking tens of thousands of hotel rooms for conference clients around the country, friends and colleagues started coming to us for our industry insight as they booked hotel room blocks for their own weddings and special occasions. From advising them on ways to get free room nights to negotiating a complimentary hospitality suite, helping our friends with one of the most special times in their lives was a labor of love for us.
Fast forward to 2014, when we officially launched Where Will They Stay?, a custom hotel room block procurement service that helps planners secure custom room blocks for their clients’ events. For us, this was a winning formula: we get to expand a service that we love, we get to work with our fellow planners and we get to help them save time and increase their bottom lines through industry incentives.
Is there something you are currently doing that can benefit a new demographic or industry? If so, maybe consider diversifying into a new line of service!
4. Maximize Partnerships and Relationships
Our economy is changing, and small businesses have to both embrace this change and be on the cutting edge of it. One of the best ways to do this is to figure out how to maximize the notion of meaningful partnerships.
Meaningful partnerships can take many forms — and it depends on what is best needed for your business. Whether that means hiring a virtual assistant to help you with the “small” things so you can spend more time on business development and networking, bringing on a full-time partner who can service a different segment of clients, or trading services with a like-minded business in a different industry, there are many ways to invest big, while spending small.
Making plans to increase your bottom line is a vital step for wedding companies that want to continue to thrive, as well as remain relevant in an ever-evolving marketplace. With the above strategies in mind, you’ll be well on your way to make 2015 the best year yet.
Amy Green and Melanie Marconi are the founders of BDI Events, a full-service event planning company based in Los Angeles, with offices in Portland. They recently launched Where Will They Stay?, a free service which offers custom room block procurement for event planners and event venues.