Yesterday I ranted a bit about an e-book author who was simultaneously pandering to and price-gouging “budget brides.” Today, I’ve been thinking about wedding business owners who engage in practices that I call “feeding the budget beast.”
Allow me to be clear, I’m not denying the existence — and the necessity — of wedding budgets. When my husband and I got married 10 years ago, to say we were broke would be an understatement. We scraped together the best wedding we could, and pulled it off pretty damn well, if I do say so myself. Of course, there are a million things I might have done differently, and vendors I wish I could have splurged on, but the reality was, we weren’t working with much. So, I can relate to couples’ budget woes on a very personal level. On a business level, however, I don’t care to play the game of trying to accommodate every couple’s budget — it doesn’t accomplish anything.
“The budget beast,” as I define it, is the notion that (a) weddings are, as a rule, overpriced; and (b) wedding business owners are greedy used-car salesmen who can and should be talked down from their inflated prices.
Sadly, whether out of economic concerns or wishy-washiness, many business owners are feeding that beast and all wedding businesses are feeling the effect.
You might be feeding the budget beast if you:
Make cheapness a selling point. Some wedding businesses do this without even realizing it. If your website states something like we can work with any budget, or if it boasts that your rates are lower than your competitors’, then obviously you’re inviting people to shop based on price, first and foremost. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t respect, or even be willing to cater to, tighter wedding budgets, if that’s in your business plan. Just be mindful of how your own marketing affects your clients’ perception and priorities.
Diminish the value of what you do by offering coupons. Coupons, discounts, group buying incentives…it all plays into the idea that wedding prices are artificially inflated (because surely, if you have enough wiggle room to offer 30-50% off or more and to pay a premium to a group buying site, you’re doing way too well in the client’s mind), and it motivates people to use price as the primary factor in selecting their vendors.
Make every proposal “custom” even when pricing factors don’t actually vary. Of course some wedding services will always require custom proposals. Many, however, do not — they’re based on predetermined criteria such as date, number of distance, and travel hours. By implying that every rate you calculate is based on elements specific to each wedding, you’re opening the door to haggling. Florists and caterers can sometimes substitute products to adjust the final price, but for businesses with set costs, why put yourself in that position unnecessarily?
Lack confidence in your rates. If you tiptoe around your prices, dropping your voice when it’s time to say the number out loud or trying to bury it under tons of extras and incentives, then you’re planting a seed in your client’s mind that your pricing integrity is something to be doubted. If you cave to any requests for discounts or specials, then you’re promoting the notion that your original rate was jacked up to begin with. This damages the industry at large because it furthers the misconception that the “first price” is never the “final price.”
Obviously, there are some businesses for which it makes perfect sense to put their low prices front-and-center: Costco wedding gowns, for example, or print-your-own-invitation boxed kits from the craft store. I think most businesses, however, would do well to starve the budget beast and instead, focus on service, quality and value — whatever your price point.