Whether it’s videography, floral design or entertainment, most wedding and event vendors have a primary category of services and products they offer to clients. Some specialize even further by specifying the style or type, such as "nautical vintage decor" or “farm to table cuisine." This helps clients to narrow down their choices when researching the myriad of vendors in their area. It also assures that you as the business owner are targeting - and attracting - your ideal clients.
As any owner of a business will attest, we are constantly trying to improve services, add products and generally enhance the client experience to ensure our continued relevance in the industry. One of the ways vendors can do this is by expanding into other categories that are similar or that add value to their existing offerings. As attractive as this expansion can seem from a financial standpoint, implementing it can be a tricky process: you want to maintain consistency with your brand and not unduly overburden your current business' workflow. Some categories are a natural fit, such as photography and videography or DJs and live music. When handled professionally, these types of partnerships allow a company to expand while adding convenience for the couple planning an event.
Sometimes, however, vendors may engage in unethical behaviors to garner the additional business, or unwisely choose to start selling a product or service in which they have no prior experience, just to make a few extra bucks at the client’s expense.
Here are some examples of how to avoid ruining your reputation or attracting the animosity of your fellow colleagues:
Choose wisely. When looking to expand choose a category that fits your business. A catering company that outsources all their desserts might consider hiring a pastry chef to keep that revenue in-house. A planner could invest in certain decor items to capture income from rentals or cut clients' costs. A venue providing their own linens, tables and chairs can more easily control the visual brand of their space. Certain services make great partnerships; others don’t. A good way to determine a good fit is to keep track of your client inquiries, and which services you're currently referring to other vendors. For example, I’m always asked if I offer videography and photo booths. Based on this demand, I made the decision to start offering the latter, but I outsource it to another company who specializes in this service.
Don't be a jack of all trades, master of none. You don’t need to offer everything. (DJs who offer uplighting, book bands, have a photo booth and also offer photography and videography, I'm calling you out.) You may have a package that conveniently combines half of what a couple needs for their wedding, but have you considered the level of quality of the services you offer, and who will be performing all these tasks simultaneously? I personally do not refer videographers that offer photography, and I’m more than skeptical of DJs offering it as an “add-on” to their services. I take what I do seriously and you should, too. Offering one or two related services ensures a high level of quality and builds trust with your clients and colleagues - something that diminishes quickly as you add on more and more items. Also, every service you offer should be delivered by trained professionals and not just your spouse or friend who enjoys them as a hobby.
Ensure you keep the clients you book. Possibly the worst of these behaviors is that of vendors who not only tack on unrelated services to their packages, but who then try to convince your clients to back out of their contracts with you, only to book them for less money. So how do you protect yourself against these unethical business owners? We’ve said it before but but it bears repeating: have your clients sign a contract (with a clearly outlined cancellation policy) and pay a substantial retainer. A monetary investment of a significant portion of the total fee should deter any client from jumping ship to another vendor, even if that service is offered at a severe discount.
So, next time you’re looking to improve services, expand your business or add value to your company, look beyond the immediate financial gain. Carefully consider the impact it will have not only on your existing client base, but also on your fellow colleagues and the industry as a whole. If you think your expansion fits with your brand and can bring innovation then go for it. Keep in mind, though, that sometimes, we’re better served doing what we do best.