Throughout my years in the industry, I’ve always stuck by a particular saying when I describe storytelling: “There is more truth in story than detail and fact.” When marketing to your potential, ideal client, you want to build a connection with them and evoke emotion, and incorporating storytelling can help you achieve that. Consumers generally don’t purchase a service or product that they don’t feel strongly about or believe in, and the event industry is no different.
I’m a firm believer that shaping your marketing strategy in this way can not only help your business grow tremendously, but it can change the way you perceive your own business and skills.
Be sure to build trust.
This is the No. 1 way that you can both attract new clients and secure their business and brand loyalty. For example, think about household items or clothing brands that you find yourself re-purchasing. While price is a contributing factor, we often buy things that we know have a consistently high degree of quality, and we know that we can trust the brand based on the honest, ethical marketing that we see from the company.
Past and future clients operate the same way in the event industry, especially in the case of a couple planning their wedding. They want someone who conducts business in a transparent, trustworthy way to take the reins on their big day. Tell your story, be humble about where you’ve started, be truthful about the services and products you can offer them, and show that you truly care about being a part of one of the most important, intimate days of their lives.
Practice the art of listening.
It’s one thing to put a lot of time and effort into creating a list of services that you think potential clients want to see, but it’s all for naught unless you really listen. Listen to your couples and event organizers, and take a look at industry trends. Regardless of your specialty, you have to go beyond simply producing a product or a website and assuming that the masses will flock to you. Marketing yourself is key, and it starts with listening to what your target audience wants.
Again, couples want to feel heard, and they want to see that you care. Dominating an initial conversation in emails or a consultation will show you very quickly that couples will often run in the other direction. They might ask about your services or come with a set of questions in hand, yes--but they’ll stick around only if you ask them personal questions to get a feel for their personality. As consumers, we don’t like the feeling of an impersonal transaction, or when it’s apparent that someone is trying to make the sale rather than sell us something that can actually change our lives.
I try to practice the 70/30 rule, and this strategy can help you no matter what stage you are in with a new client. Listen to them for 70 percent of the conversation, and speak only for the other 30 percent. This is the right balance, rather than the traditional 50/50.
You don’t want to overwhelm them, nor do you want them to feel as if what they’re saying is being overlooked simply because you’re waiting for your turn to talk. If you find yourself struggling with this, compile a list of questions and encourage them to use these prompts to give you a feel of what their needs and wants are.
Strive to make clients do your storytelling for you.
Perhaps the best marketing is the marketing that your past clients do for you! When you deliver a truly bespoke, unique experience that’s meaningful to your client, it strengthens your brand, both internally and externally. Internally, you’ll have it in your corner as a way to show future clients what you can do. And externally, a happy client will talk and spread the word. How often have you recommended something to a friend based on your good experience with a brand, even without the brand asking you to? We become walking ambassadors, whether we know it or not. On the flip side, a not-so-happy client will do the same.
Thus, clients will tell their own stories about their exchange with you, and this can become another stream of marketing for you when they share it with their friends and families.
In the grand scheme of things, authenticity reigns supreme. You can create some creative copy and graphics, but unless your story is authentic and in good faith, new clients won’t buy it--literally.
Take the time to outline your strengths, consider what you would want to see in an oversaturated market that you’d be willing to invest your money in, and be relatable. Following the steps of successful storytelling marketing will not only equate to more business, but you can rest assured that clients are identifying with you as a person. Trust me--they’ll like what they see!
Kylie Carlson is the owner of the International Academy of Wedding and Event Planning. With seven locations globally, the academy boasts an internationally recognized accreditation program that brings professional training to wedding planners, designers and stylists.