Who knew that all it would take is a worldwide pandemic to push business owners to pivot their businesses?
In all reality, having diverse streams of revenue is always a good idea, and we should always be adapting to the times. Yet, COVID-19 struck the industry seemingly out of nowhere, and we’ve all had to face the music on both a collective and individual level.
We’re still in the midst of the pandemic, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and the big question is: What will the special events landscape look like on the other side?
As client needs understandably shift due to the pandemic, all event professionals must be agile and prepared to adjust their business models in order to stay relevant. In that, we are presented the opportunity (and challenge) to push our businesses in directions we may never have considered.
IDEAS FLOWING NOW “There are so many great pivoting ideas coming out of the events industry right now,” says Michelle Loretta of Sage Wedding Pros. “Some of these pivots will become permanent in how we do business. The biggest thing to consider is how to scale a pivoted service. I’m seeing a lot of people consider lower priced services: intimate gatherings, elopements, delivery of products, and so on. The challenge with something that is lower priced is that it requires a business to scale up the volume in a drastic way for that business to be profitable.”
Loretta adds: “When you increase volume, it often increases your operational expenses drastically also. This volume requires that you market the business differently than before. As a result of these changes, you may find that the new service offering fails to be profitable or may only break even. The only way to see if the pivot works is to test the business model. Examine the financial strategy behind the operational strategy and the marketing plan.”
As with most things, pivoting in a business is a matter of trial and error. You learn from your mistakes and you strive to find better solutions based on your experience. One of the biggest factors in pivoting successfully is the ability to promote your new endeavor and gain new business. We spoke with some industry leaders that have embarked on new adventures in their business and how they’ve found success through promotional efforts.
THINK SMALL “Since all of my wedding and corporate clients either cancelled or postponed, I had some extra time to bring a concept to life that I had been thinking about for a while: a micro wedding business called 'Minne Weddings,'” says Gretchen Culver of Rocket Science Events. “Minne Weddings offers high-style, low-cost, all-inclusive 90-minute weddings.”
Culver adds: “I started an entire new brand/company complete with new website, separate social media accounts, etc., as I thought that was the most effective way to get the message out there. It took a lot of work--and I sacrificed my hard earned SEO [Search Engine Optimization]--but, ultimately, having this new standalone company gives me more flexibility and reach as a business owner. I've also been working hard to educate consumers and other businesses on what small weddings are and what they can be. ‘Micro weddings’ was a term that, until recently, most people hadn't heard of. I have a series of blog posts I am writing and I created a great flow chart to help couples decide which style of small wedding is right for them.”
As for the results, “All my efforts are paying off because people are booking,” Culver says. “My Minne Weddings website analytics are off the charts--over 2,800 unique visitors in the last 30 days. I can see the search terms people are using as well, and now I'm seeing ‘small wedding’ or ‘micro wedding ideas’ or ‘Minne wedding,’ which means couples are learning how to search.”
MARVELOUS MASKS “As COVID-19 came to light, we quickly pivoted and started helping out on the front lines,” shares JoAnn Gregoli of Elegant Occasions by JoAnn Gregoli. “Once that job was completed, we are now producing custom masks for weddings, venues and caterers. We have hired seamstresses who were out of work to help us produce these masks. A portion of all proceeds go to the Front Line Sewing Angels. We have articles and TV sharing our story across all platforms.”
Gregoli and her team have seen lots of success, she says: “Our efforts have been extremely effective because our main mission is still to supply our masks for front line workers, homeless shelters and battered women shelters.”
She wraps up with a powerful call-to-action for event professionals across the industry: “Find your mission in life and try to make a change in others’ lives.”
CELEBRATE SUMMER “We have recognized that, even though large gatherings and parties are not feasible this summer, there are still so many reasons and ways to celebrate in intimate groups and to enjoy the summer to its full potential,” says Kristen Gosselin of KG Events & Design. “That being said, we are introducing a ‘Summer Reimagined,’ with intimate celebrations, concierge services, and local excursions. Intimate celebrations include elopements, beach parties, anniversary, graduation, birthday celebrations and more.”
Gosselin adds: “Since a good portion of our new services include collaborations with other local businesses and service providers, we are able to promote through all of the business channels instead of just our own. Internally, we have focused on creating visual content cohesive with the brand that will act as the content for our ‘reveal announcement’. We have also capitalized on photos and other relevant content that we have already created to use as visuals and as a testimony for our work.”
Although this project is still new, she says that she’s already seen a lot of interest: “We have only released a preliminary announcement that our new services will be revealed this week. Yet, even with a general description of what these services entail, we have already received exceptional feedback and inquiries and have a few beach parties on the books for the summer!”
Pursuing a new direction within--or separate from!--your business is an exciting yet challenging enterprise, so it needs to come from a place of passion and commitment. “Don't pivot because you are panicking,” Culver says. “Do your research and make sure that any change you make to or for your business is for the right reasons. It needs to be a sustainable shift, and a financially feasible one.”
Once you have the business idea, it’s as simple as getting the word out there through your network and reliable marketing channels.
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.