How to raise your pricing (for wedding suppliers).
Pricing is a major bugbear for so many wedding suppliers. It’s an industry that’s full of sole traders, who notoriously have trouble setting pricing for a whole host of reasons - not the least of which is the tendency to overestimate how much of the revenue actually ends up being profit.
If you’re in a position where you want to improve your product or service, and spend more time on each job, then it probably is also true to say that you’re looking to increase your pricing. Here’s some of our thoughts on how and when to do this, and other considerations to keep in mind.
Update: here's a succinct video version of this post, from our Wedding Marketing 101 series:
The first thing to consider is timing. Is it actually the right time for you to raise your pricing? There are obviously never any guarantees until you go for it, but here’s two very encouraging signs that the timing is right.
The first is if you’re already very busy/fully booked over a period of 12 months or so. If this is you, then you’re in a great position to experiment with higher pricing. Now is absolutely the time; you won’t get a better buffer than a year’s worth of guaranteed work. If you’re not going to take the opportunity now then it begs the question whether you’ll ever try it at all.
Another sign is if you close sales very regularly, or if a very high percentage of your enquiries ultimately convert into bookings. This is a strong indicator that people are probably expecting to pay slightly more than what you’re charging currently. In this scenario, overall volume is less important; you might still only be half-full for the year, but the point is if you have a high conversion rate then you’re maybe charging less than the market expectation. If you’re in a strange position where you don’t get a lot of enquiries, but the ones you do get ultimately turn into bookings, then you may need to invest in placing some ads (or other forms of marketing) - which is itself a good reason to raise your pricing.
If the former situation applies to you, then I’d skip section two (baby steps) and jump straight to section three. If it’s the latter, then section two outlines a great transitional step that will hopefully start to fill up the diary, offering an extra step of security before you take the plunge.
If neither of these apply to you - you’re not looking at a particularly healthy diary for the next 12 months, and you’re also not converting a particularly high volume of your enquiries - then that would point to a deeper issue. It could be an issue with presentation/marketing, or it could be a fundamental product/service issue. If you’re in a competitive market and you’re not spending anything on marketing, or you designed all your own collateral and it’s not a particularly brilliant presentation of the product, then those are two potentially obvious reasons that your marketing isn’t working. However, there’s obviously the possibility that your product or service isn’t right for the market as well. Either way, a good start might be to conduct some market research, interviewing some previous customers and some of your target audience, to try to get to the bottom of it.
A great place to start if you fall into that slippery third category, is to take a look at our Wedding Marketing 101 series (which is totally free).
The take home:
If your diary’s full for the next twelve months, then what are you waiting for? If your diary isn’t full but you do regularly convert your enquiries, then the timing is good as well (see section two). If you’re in neither situation then it’s back to the drawing board.
2. Baby steps
If you’ve decided that the time is right, then I think a really helpful first step is to make a small/incremental increase (for example, of circa 5% of the total value), and to add that straight to your deposit or booking fee. So - if your product costs £1500, and you take £200 to confirm the booking and £1300 as a balance payment, then now your product costs £1575, and you take £275 to confirm the booking and it’s still a £1300 balance payment.
And crucially, you then take that £75 that you’ve added to the deposit, and you put it straight into what is effectively a bonus marketing fund. The beauty of this is that every time you book a wedding, you can immediately spend an extra £75 running ads on Facebook - thus you book the next one a wee bit quicker, and that brings in another wee bump for the marketing kitty, and ultimately the goal is to create a bit of momentum where you’re putting proper money aside to spend on marketing.
This isn’t the end goal, this is a transitional tactic to fill the diary a bit before you push the boat out.
Nudge your price up a wee bit, but take the extra bump up front in the deposit, and invest all of it straight into ads.
3. Invest in better collateral if necessary, especially sales/closing collateral
Bookings are harder to close when you cost more money, no doubt about it. At a certain level, producing a great quality of work is only part of the equation; the presentation has to be at the same standard as the work or even better in order for you to regularly close sales at a higher price bracket.
If you’re limited in budget, then you could do what’s outlined in section two, but instead of investing in ads, save up to invest in your collateral instead. The things worth prioritising on a low budget are your overall branding/logo if it needs a tweak (this process will normally come with some typography and colour-scheme guidelines that you can self-apply to your website), and also a really strong sales or pricing brochure, for converting sales at the end of the process. Obviously the best case scenario is a beautiful and functional website that’s beautifully written as well, but that’s expensive.
The fact is that high end businesses look good. If you’re looking to shift into a higher price bracket, then your stuff just needs to look great. That might seem self-serving coming from a creative agency that offers graphic design and photography services and more, but it also happens to be a completely uncontroversial statement.
Look amazing, like everybody else who takes it really seriously.
4. Invest in ads, especially on Facebook
When your collateral is in order, the next thing to do is to make your peace with the fact that marketing costs money. Marketing should in fact cost money. We had a lovely anomaly a few years ago where you could build a business on Facebook, interrupting the news feeds of your prospective customers regularly with your marketing materials, for almost no investment at all. That wasn’t the norm, that was a beautiful accident.
Facebook now charges you money to reach your audience. That’s not an aberration, that’s not a scandal. That’s business. The truth is that it represents the most incredible ads platform ever developed, and it’s still better value than basically anything else on that scale - assuming that you can use it correctly and that it is the best platform for you. And with remarketing using the Facebook pixel - as well as the incredible potential of lookalike audiences - the ROI on the platform is actually still viable for most people who spend some time on it.
A lot of reluctance to spend money on marketing just comes down to expectations. If you’d like to generate £30k in a set period of time, then it’s absolutely fair for you to expect to spend £3k in my personal opinion. This would represent a tenfold return, which in Glaswegian vernacular is known as “printing money”. Obviously there’s no guarantee that you spending £3k will yield a £30k return - it’s all in the execution of course, and dependent upon a whole range of factors - but that’s almost a side issue for the moment, because the fact is that so many sole traders expect to make that return on significantly less marketing investment for some reason. If your entire marketing plan is to fritter away say £250 over the year on the odd boosted post, then to make £30k back would mean a 120-fold return. Which is wildly unrealistic.
So - do your homework, and really get into Facebook ads. The level of targeting options available is just immense, and the value is currently exceptional. If you’re a wedding supplier who clicked through to this blog on Facebook, then consider that you’re 100% in my target market and I was able to spend not a lot of money to get this in front of your eyeballs. A decade ago, I couldn’t get near that level of specific targeting. Over the next few years, giant global brands are going to get wise to the fact that their traditional media ads spend is increasingly wasted. The Coca Colas of the world are going to invest more and more in Facebook ads, and when that happens the price will rise massively for everyone. But that’s a problem for the next five years; right now, we’re at the tail end of the golden age of cheap, incredibly targeted marketing. Buy up as much as you can.
Loosen the purse-strings and get used to spending money on Facebook ads; the price of the ads is eventually going to go sky high (probably), so make hay while the sun shines.
5. Incrementally increase regularly after set number of bookings
Your shit is looking shit hot. You’re spending money to reach the right audience. Time to put the prices up. I recommend regular incremental increases, and a strong poker face. Don’t bottle it the minute that somebody says no; you should expect a drop in conversion rates. That is in fact part of the plan. Remember that part of the goal here is to work fewer individual jobs, but do a better job with more time spent on each one. So that means that you should ultimately book fewer weddings. To return to my example earlier - if you’re charging £1500 for a wedding, and you go up to £1575, then for every twenty weddings you do, you’ve earned an extra £1500 (basically an extra wedding at your old price). If your target is 40 a year, then boom - now you’re making very nearly the same money on 38. And that’s with a tiny increase of £75, which probably won’t put off a single client at that level.
But again, that plan was transitional; it was never the goal to bump the price up by a small amount once and then stop. The idea is to do regular incremental increases, to try and work out where the ceiling is for your services right now. So maybe that means a five percent bump initially, and then assuming that you book three weddings at that rate, bump it up by another 5 percent and try again for another three bookings, and so on. Every time you book three weddings, push it a wee bit more and eventually, you’ll land at a point that feels like a nice balance, where you’re still able to book weddings but you’re not converting everything. It’s a question of nerve as you approach that ceiling, but there’s no disaster if you push it too far and then can’t book anything; you can always come back down.
You’re trying to find the ceiling. So - bump it, and after a few bookings prove the concept, bump it again, and repeat.
6. A note on wedding supplier prices, and self-esteem
There’s a misconception held by the public that wedding suppliers are looking to overcharge. I'm sure you've heard that the price of everything doubles as soon as you mention the word wedding, etc. Well, that’s bullshit. To do great work takes lots of time. That time is worth money; that’s literally how this whole business thing works. So - it is absolutely a worthy goal to do fewer jobs and profit more from each one. That isn’t some cash grab - that allows you to do great work and to push the envelope and keep developing better products and more choice for the market. The market will always serve a range of services for a range of prices. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being in the higher end - trying to do the best work you can and investing the time to do so, and thus charging accordingly.
As sole traders, we’re vulnerable to not valuing our time appropriately. Your time and your talent is worth money.
Walnut Wasp helps small businesses in the wedding industry to present themselves and to find their audience. Check out our blogs on brand differentiation, launching a wedding fair, and boosting Facebook posts for more helpful tips, and feel free to get in touch to see what we can do for you.