Anyone who has created a proposal and pitched it to a potential client has struggled with the consumer mind-set.
That’s what I call it. It’s the idea that people compare costs of professional services with what they can buy themselves as a consumer. It is not entirely their fault. Whether it is a family planning a wedding for the first time or a corporation that is out of touch with pricing realities or a nonprofit organization that expects everything for free, many individuals have not “shopped” for professional event services before.
Many potential clients can only relate to their consumer experience and need to be educated by us, the event professionals. I know this can be difficult and feel like a waste of time but I have found that when I have spent the effort to inform the uninformed how pricing works in our industry, it weeds out serious clients from those who will never pay for our services.
Furthermore, I think that this exercise in explanation is imperative for the advancement of our internal sales force. (Warning: Here comes the rant.) Event planners are often the worst at pricing, explaining costs, defending budgets, supporting vendor pricing and generally side with clients and their consumer mind-sets--then wonder why they are not profitable! These planners wonder why the better vendors won’t work with them! Yikes!
WHY IT'S $125 A HEAD
Here’s an example: In our company, we are often reviving potential clients after they’ve fainted from learning the cost of catering their event. They cannot understand why it costs $125 per person to provide food for their guests. Why? Because they are looking at the cost from a consumer point of view. They say things like, “I can go to the grocery store and purchase meat and all the side dishes for less than half that cost!” or “I don’t pay that much per person at the finest restaurant including a few drinks!” Have you ever heard these arguments?
As event planners, it is our job to explain the “why” of these costs. As great event planners we should be convincing clients that our vendor’s pricing is a fair deal for the quality of the product or service they will receive. In the catering example, we would point out to the potential client that the $125 per person is a great value considering our catering partner has to create a great menu, purchase the ingredients, transport a fully functional off-site kitchen to the venue, ensure the meals are cooked appropriately meeting state standards, bring an army of staff to unpack, cook, serve, clear, clean, and pack up, include all the china, flatware, glasses, etc., and produce amazing, hot, wonderful food for each guest. Not to mention the vehicles, fuel, insurance and overhead that the catering company has to include in each job as all businesses do. We have to make them understand the difference between their consumer mind-set and the reality of event pricing and why it’s all worth it.
The consumer mind-set can also create doubt in a businessperson to the point where they are willing to make a sale at any cost. This is an epidemic among the event industry that is driving prices down across the board and making it almost impossible to be profitable. Let’s stop doing this! Instead, let’s do a better job of explaining why our pricing is fair.
WHY VOLUNTEERING ISN'T FREE
Another example I can share is from a recent experience with one of our corporate clients. One hundred executives met for a week in New Orleans and while they were there, they wanted to spend 90 minutes in their hectic schedule helping the community. Sounds great right?
We began looking into opportunities and as expected, there was nothing a group that size could do in 90 minutes. That wasn’t the only problem. The client was shocked to learn that any charitable idea we could find would cost between $50-$100 per person. They could not fathom that they would have to pay upwards of $10,000 to volunteer to paint a school building, for instance. It was our job to explain why.
One hundred people would need to be bused to and from a job site where magically paint, brushes, tools, tarps, beverages, snacks and staff to direct them would appear so they could offer their labor. They had not thought about any of the logistics--they just wanted to do something nice. Again, we had to educate and now they can plan for future events to budget more time and money toward this idea.
The consumer mind-set will probably always exist. Most people any of us deal with on a daily basis have never owned a business. Most people have never been a manager in charge of budget in a company. Most people are employees who do not have the same experience understanding all the “whys” behind a price tag. Many people are afraid that everyone is out to take advantage of them so they feel they have to fight for discounts.
However, many people will convert their mind-set from consumer to professional once a great planner helps them to see the value in the products and services we can provide them. Be that great planner!
If you have questions or want to share your experience, contact us--we’re happy to share!
Tami Forero is a strategic event planner and CEO of Colorado Springs, Colo.-based company Forté Events. With 22 years of event planning experience, she helps clients meet goals using experiential events and is a sought-after speaker across the U.S. on the subjects of sales, work-life balance and profitability.
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