This excerpt is part of Entrepreneur.com's Second-Quarter Startup Kit which explores the fundamentals of starting up in a wide range of industries.
In Start Your Own Event Planning Business, the staff of Entrepreneur Media Inc. and writer Cheryl Kimball explain how you can get started in the event planning industry, whether you want to work part- or full-time planning anything from a first-birthday party, bar mitzvah or wedding to political fundraisers and product launches. In this edited excerpt, the authors discusses eight different ways you can promote your event planning business to the right audiences.
As you develop your event planning business, it's important to market in order to grow your client base. Following are eight ideas for advertising and promoting your event planning business:
Networking. For most planners, networking is at the top of the list in terms of developing a strong client base. Networking can help your business in two ways. If people have met you and know what services you offer, they may refer business to you or use your service themselves. Furthermore, networking with hotels, caterers and so on will give you a chance to meet some of the people whose services you may need as you plan events.
Advertising. Print advertising covers a broad range, from a free—or inexpensive—Yellow Pages advertisement to an ad in a glossy national publication costing tens of thousands of dollars. Most planners agree that an ad in the Yellow Pages makes good business sense. A line advertisement, simply listing your business name, is often provided free of charge when you connect your phone (if you have a landline). You can also opt for a display advertisement -- the bigger, bordered ads in the Yellow Pages -- but there's a charge for these.
You may also want to consider advertising in your local newspaper or in a regional magazine, if you plan both corporate and social occasions. Because the market area for this kind of event planner can extend throughout a given county, a magazine focusing on that county can be an excellent one in which to advertise. These magazines can be geared to topics related to your service (e.g., gourmet food, floral design) or aimed at readers in a certain region. An ad in a regional magazine might be a good tool for reaching upscale consumers. A regional business magazine ad would also reach prospective corporate clients.
Business card. Don’t underestimate the power of this small but mighty marketing tool. Even in the computer age, a succinct, professionally printed business card is still critical. Consider it a diminutive brochure, especially if you opt for a tri-fold business card. Many planners opt for this business-card format because more information can be included than on a traditional business card, while the card remains small enough to be tucked inside a wallet or purse.
Include the name of your business, contact information (e-mail, phone and website address, for instance), your name, specialization, your logo, and some testimonials from past clients. Always carry business cards. You never know when you'll run into a potential client. Ask vendors with whom you work (florists, caterers and photographers, for instance) if you can leave a stack of business cards in their places of business.
Informative brochures. Like your business card, a well-designed, professional brochure can help cement your image as a professional planner. Prospective clients will make judgments about your company based on your brochure, so make sure it's conceived and produced at the highest level possible.
The brochure should include all the information listed on your tri-fold business card and allow you to expand upon this information, in particular, by adding photographs. The photos should be of successful events you’ve designed. You may also want to include a photo of yourself.
Maximize your chances of success by making sure your company brochure matches the type of business you have. All materials should look professional, but if you are marketing to a budget-conscious group, a too-glamorous brochure can send the wrong message—and send potential budget-conscious clients running in the opposite direction.
As with your business cards, leave your brochure with caterers, florists, photographers, and other vendors with whom you’ve worked.
Direct mail. You may choose to distribute your brochure via direct mail. If you do, make sure your mailing list is well chosen. Event planner David Granger says that while word of mouth is his most effective advertising, he uses mailing lists of the organizations his company belongs to (International Special Events Society, Meeting Professionals International, National Association for Catering and Events, and the Dallas Convention and Visitors Bureau).
Customer service. One of the best ways to keep customers satisfied and coming back is to be constantly on the lookout for new ideas and ways to improve the service you provide. Consider the following:
- Take a course or a series of courses in event management.
- Invest in an hour or more with an industry consultant.
- Attend other events to study how they're produced.
- Attend as many arts-related functions as possible (e.g., arts exhibits, theatrical performances) to gather ideas.
- Join trade organizations.
- Subscribe to at least one professional newsletter or journal.
Facebook. Facebook is geared toward communicating with your network of friends. However, friends “like” websites they want to support or really like. So create a Facebook page for your event planning business, but use it sparingly for promoting your business. Postings to your Facebook wall might include some fun tidbits you learned about a new wedding venue in the region or some behind-the-scenes anecdotes from that Rolling Stones concert you're coordinating. Check out the Facebook pages of other event planners and other service businesses you use and admire to see how they're using Facebook to their advantage.
Twitter. With Twitter, you can tweet quick messages to your subscribers to remind them about your business. “Paul McCartney just said ‘yes’ to special appearance at Stones concert! Better get your ticket now!” or “Just found out about a great new event venue with full-service spa—does your corporate event need planning?” might be messages that promote your service while also offering benefit to the reader.
As your Facebook and Twitter audiences grow, stay creative. Invent new ways to engage your audience and encourage them to invite their friends. Continue to avoid hard sales pitches. People don't forward commercials to their friends -- they forward value.
Related Book: Start Your Own Event Planning Business