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Kerry Lee Doehr

Asking Better Questions: When An Event Partner Competitor Undercuts You

If a newbie undercuts your pricing, do you give up? No--not if you're willing to question how and what you do.

According to some, the wedding industry as it used to be appears to have died.  R.I.P., integrity, ethics, respectful competition and more. 

This illusion of death of a beloved industry may make longtime professionals (the “Longtimers”) who have hung in there and proven their worth for decades do desperate things, such as point fingers at the newer competition (the “Newbies”) coming in who are under-bidding and taking a rather large piece of event clientele. “Traitors!” the Longtimers cry, as they fault and shame the Newbies for their ridiculously low prices and in various ways demand that they, the Newbies, raise their prices to a range more consistent with the rest of the industry to keep competition fair. I even had one vendor email me, telling me I should contact all the other professionals in their service niche and tell them not to lower their prices and to keep them in a certain range.

The reality is, incoming “Newbies” will always exist.  In fact, if we are really honest, each one of us has been a Newbie at some point, learning through The School of Hard Knocks, playing with our price point, learning about what it really takes to provide the expertise and service each of us does.

This is the creative cycle of creative business.  Some will be able to stay the course, some will fall out sooner than later for various reasons.

Pointing fingers and feeling desperate and hopeless is a natural human element of frustration as we sometimes watch business slowly slip away from us while the pile of bills mount and there is food to put on the table for our families and other survival expenses.  Due to the invaluable experience and expertise of the Longtimers, they are able to see the corners the Newbies are cutting and that the client will (sadly) get what they pay for.  And tragically, the Longtimers cannot warn the inexperienced client of the (most likely) impending doom headed their way by choosing a less-experienced service provider …

Or can they?

I think the secret of success of longevity and being a legend in this industry is not in pointing fingers and obsessing about competitor’s price points, but in asking better questions. This was the whole crux of a sold-out workshop I recently gave to wedding professionals.

Some Questions to Consider:

1.      Is each of us required to satisfy an industry and ignore our own business path?

2.      If yes, will doing so guarantee our success and profitability?

3.      Do we have a moral obligation to keep our prices in the same range as the rest of our similar service niches? (That is, is “owing it to others price-wise” even considered an issue of morality or ethics)?

4.      What if the Newbies were seen as a “gift” in prodding us to look for new avenues and sources for gaining new business and, by doing so, we are actually being forced to innovate and lead in our field?

If you are doing business the way you’ve always done it before and you think fellow vendors undercutting you is the only reason you are not booking business, it is time to ask better questions. Businesses go extinct because they failed to evolve and kept doing business the same way.

Some Other Questions:

1.      What would happen if we used every marketing effort as an opportunity to educate the potential client about what to look for and why in our unique service?  

2.      What would happen if we realized we truly don’t want every client?  Our marketing endeavors may get more creative and authentic, and therefore attract the kind of clients we truly are seeking.

And the best question of all:  What would happen if we found a new path that had not been taken yet and created innovation in our unique service field contribution to the wedding and special event industry?

Let the others scramble to catch up with you.  As long as businesses are inspired and evolving, the wedding industry will never die.  It will just evolve into something better.

Kerry Lee Doehr is CEO/founder and CEO of event planning business Santa Barbara Wine Country Weddings and Events, as well as Engaging Inspiration, a business dedicated to marketing, events and training for the special event and hospitality professional. She is committed to progress in the industry that goes beyond trend and design, saying, "Who we are and how we handle ourselves ethically is more of a barometer to business longevity and branding than all the money in the world spent on advertising."

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