By Alan Berg, Author, Speaker, Consultant, Kendall Park, N.J.

There has been a lot of talk lately about the value of wedding planning services. A January television episode of 20/20, called “Wedding Confidential,” questioned the price of all things wedding and focused on ways couples can cut costs. This piece seemed to do more damage than good. How can you respond to questions about the value of your services?

Alan Berg - Dave Lakatos PhotographyStart with fair pricing
Whether you’re a Master Bridal Consultant™ or aspiring newbie, you have to decide what services you’re going to offer and then set a price for those services. How do you set your pricing? Do you look at what others charge and then determine whether you’re worth more or less? Or, do you sit down and figure your costs, financial needs, and the time it will take to perform those services? If you look at what others are charging and base your prices on that, you’re actually using the wrong metric. Theoretically, the other business set their prices based upon their financial needs, their costs, their inventory (how many weddings they want to plan this year), and other factors. Those factors work for that company, but they don’t apply to you. If you set your pricing correctly, you’ll be ready to answer questions about it.

Know your advantage
First, however, learn how and when to address pricing. If you’ve already had a chance to hear what your clients’ needs are and explain what you can do for them, then price is a legitimate question. If it’s the first contact, move the conversation to what’s really important, the success of their wedding. It’s also important to know when clients are not a good fit. Then, refer them to someone more qualified for what they’re seeking, or if it’s Bridezilla, simply walk away.

People can always find someone who charges less than you, so why should they pay your price—especially if you’re higher than most area planners? If you don’t know why you charge more, then why should anyone pay your price? The answer is that they can’t get you and your team anywhere else. They can get services that look similar on paper, but if they really want you and your team to plan their wedding, or handle their wedding day management, they have to hire you—at your price. So, the key is not to sell the services, it’s to sell, specifically, you providing those services. That’s something they can’t get anywhere else—at any price.

The most important thing is…
A client of mine called the other day lamenting about a potential customer who said they had gotten a significantly better price with a competitor (40 percent less). On the one hand, he was angry. On the other, he wanted to get the sale. I suggested he tell the prospect that if the most important thing was price, then they should choose his competitor. However, if the most important thing was success, he could assure them of that outcome if they chose his team. As a planner, you can’t know what the other company will do. You have no control over it. You do, however, know what you can provide. This planner had a very experienced team that had earned the right to be paid more because of proven success.

Don’t price match or lower your quality
Planners also shouldn’t choose to match a lower price. Your price equals your quality. If you offer to price match at 40 percent less, you won’t give the client 40 percent less service, 40 percent less quality, or 40 percent less guest satisfaction, will you? Bring the discussion back to what’s really important to the client. Make your clients feel you’re the best solution for their wedding. In the case of my client, I also reminded him that if price was the most important factor, his client would have already booked the other company, but they didn’t. They came back to him because they would rather book him, but the price disparity made them pause. That’s understandable. No one wants to think they overpaid, especially by a lot. If price truly was the most important factor, then it wasn’t his sale to get.

Know why “it takes a village”
Another question that can arise is: Why does it cost more for some services for a wedding than for a party? Should it? Is it fair to the consumer? From the outside, it may seem that a wedding is just a party. But, as professional wedding planners know, a lot more goes into planning a wedding, DJ’ing a wedding, photographing a wedding, etc. than for a party. Much of the extra work happens out of the view of the host and guests, before the event. While the 20/20 piece suggested that some vendors increase pricing when they hear it’s a wedding, they didn’t acknowledge that there is a good reason for it.

When talking with clients, do you explain about the extra planning and prep time involved for wedding pros, including yourself, to properly execute a wedding versus a party? Do you understand the extra work that the wedding pros you recommend do? If not, learn more. It’s your job to know as much as you can about all of the different services of a wedding. I have a coaching client in Australia who’s starting a wedding planning business. I suggested she “intern” with as many different wedding pros as she can. Be an extra set of hands to the florist, band, DJ, caterer, etc. Learn, firsthand, what it takes to successfully perform those services. That way, she’ll be more prepared to explain the difference to her clients.

Give value and charge what you’re worth
The lessons here are this. Price fairly, be informed, and know the effort that goes into a wedding from all sides. And don’t sell the price. Sell you and your team providing the services and products clients need. Once they want you, they have to pay your price.

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