In an oversaturated market, standing out from competitors is the key to a successful and sustainable wedding business. Easier said than done, right? You can’t (and shouldn’t) change your pricing just to “fit in” with the crowd, but something must be done to set you apart.
Client experience is the first place to look when it comes to differentiating your business and bringing in more sales and referrals to grow your company’s reach. A great way to showcase the value of your work is to look towards “surprise and delight” techniques that elevate the client experience with minimal effort for maximum gain.
“Who doesn’t like to feel special?” asks Nora Sheils, co-founder of Rock Paper Coin. “There is no better way to book clients and earn their referrals than going out of your way to surprise them, delight them, and make them feel special!”
Of course, you'll need to plan to ensure that your surprise-and-delight tactics are cost-effective and timely within the planning process.
“The best way to plan for this is to create a budget line item for gifting clients,” says Michelle Loretta, founder of Sage Wedding Pros. “Think of what that surprise-and-delight gift or experience will be and plan for it ahead of time. You may find that these experiences have a greater conversion than other marketing strategies. It’s a deeper way to connect with people.”
We spoke with industry experts about their surprise-and-delight techniques before and after an event—here’s what they told us:
The planning process takes months—even years—which leaves plenty of time for multiple surprise-and-delight touchpoints along the way.
“From the initial meeting—welcoming them with bubbles or sending them home with treats, gifting surprises throughout planning with flowers, a gem pen, or a simple note sharing your excitement--truly makes a difference,” Sheils says. “This, paired with exceptional service, is memorable and remarkable.”
“A thoughtfully chosen welcome gift for a new client can set the tone for the entire process,” explains Leah Weinberg, owner and creative director of Color Pop Events. “Starting the relationship with generosity and warmth hints at a phenomenal client experience from start to finish. At the same time, keeping the welcome gift simple and thoughtful is key in my book. Think of this gift as an amuse-bouche for your clients--just a taste of the surprise and delight to come in the following months!”
Sometimes, the surprise-and-delight factor isn't a gift but instead comes in the way of a free upgrade or add-on to a client's package.
“Once our couples get closer to making a final decision for their destination wedding, they may be in between two resort venues,” notes Jen Avey, vice president of marketing for Destination Weddings Travel Group. “Oftentimes, our specialists will be able to throw in a special offer, such as a room upgrade, spa treatment, or return-stay voucher to one of the resort venues. This is a pleasant surprise for the couple and makes them feel special and rewarded, so it’s much easier for them to commit to their final choice, thus closing the sale for us.”
These pre-event surprise elements are an excellent way to get clients excited for the big day, while also instilling the idea that you care about them and their experience--a prime consideration when making referrals.
After the vows have been said and the cake has been cut, it's easy to just dive right into your next task. However, this doesn't mean that the client experience is over! This is the perfect time to stay top of mind with past clients who are in a position to refer your company to friends and family members who are planning events.
“To foster referrals, having multiple touchpoints after the wedding day is key,” Weinberg explains. “If you felt like you really connected during the planning process, friend your clients on Facebook so you can pop in every once in a while with a funny meme or post on their wall for their birthday. Sending a small gift for the couple’s anniversary or for a holiday is another great way to continue to surprise and delight.”
“Don’t forget about post-event,” Sheils says. “Say thank you with a handwritten note, flowers in the wedding’s aesthetic, or a framed wedding photo. Send an anniversary gift and reward clients for their referrals with a Sugarwish [a gift card that lets the recipient pick their favorite treat] or gift card to a local coffee or donut shop.”
“Our specialists will oftentimes send a nice newlywed present to the couple upon their return home from their destination wedding,” Avey notes. “This could be something as little as a handwritten note with a wedding registry gift card or something as elaborate as a return-stay voucher to their wedding resort for their first anniversary. We’ve seen great success when we send personalized welcome-home gifts, such as a decorative sign or pillow that says ‘Mr. and Mrs.’ with their wedding date on it.”
Remember that surprises don’t always have to be tangible; exciting experiences and happy memories are just as significant in the way of pleasing clients above and beyond expectations.
“I also encourage people to go beyond just gifting things and to think about experiences,” Loretta explains. “Sometimes a client brunch has a bigger impact than sending everyone mugs at the holidays. It reminds people why they do business with you and why they like you. Plus, it gives them something to talk about to their friends, and possibly leads to more referrals.”
Surprise and delight might be a common strategy within the wedding industry, but the way you approach it has the power to set you apart from competitors and solidify your place in the market. Get creative and consider your clients’ wants and needs when mapping out your surprise-and-delight strategy.
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.