Ask Nancy: How to Sell Event Design to Clients?

25 February 2013

Hi Nancy!! I'm a huge fan and love love your blog!  I'm a wedding floral designer from Portland, Oregon, and my question for you is about Styling. I don't think brides in the Northwest see the value in this service - they'd much rather bounce design ideas off if their BFF than pay for this extra service. Any ideas on how to up sell this service to brides during a consult, and tips on putting together a few basic packages to offer them at different price points? 
Stylish in Portlandia 


Great question SIP!
It looks like your question has two parts to it.  First and foremost, how can you up sell EVENT design and styling services to your potential wedding clients and lastly, tips on basic packages?

Both are really good questions. Let's tackle the first question which is how to sell an event design/styling service to consumers who don't see the value.

One should strive to create a service that is 

1) innovative, unique, value added
2) that isn't easily replicated
3) hard to produce, procure, and present
4) that features unique, one of a kind, hard to find props
5) high level of service

In short, when you offer a service like styling, you have to be able to show your client a finished styled event that is something valued and worthy ---- that is done in such a way that no other personal friend, nor family member would think of.

During the consultation, you have to address why you are worth it.  Simple as that. If you choose to do a design that is generic aka wild flowers in mason jars, stacked vintage books, flea market typewriters, escort cards on a clothes line, unless you are presenting it in a new way, it's going to be hard to justice why someone should hire you for your ideas when it's already out there.

Let's take a look at a few examples of styling and event designs that benefitted the client.

Example #1 Show them how your creativity can result in beautiful creations that are affordable. This wooden wall from a local rental company is typically used as a wall divider so we tried to figure out another use for it and I think using it for an escort card display worked really well.  This is the type of value added benefit that you want to stress to your bride.
Photography by Vero Suh

It shows a level of creativity and at less than $100 to rent the wooden wall, it was cheaper than having something built from scratch.  (Trust me,  our groom was going to have a friend make this but in the end, it was so much easier having us just locate something that we knew would not fall and would fit their Rustic Garden theme.  )  It was also almost 8 feet tall and with 50 pounds of sand weighing the back, it was perfect on a windy day.  Stress your level of expertise!

Example #2  By hiring a designer, you often save the client time.  This is very important to stress to your client especially as many of these styling details are done a few hours prior to them walking down the aisle

Our clients didn't have the time to design all the details of their Rosewood Sand Hill wedding so they asked us to come up with a unique design for displaying their escort cards.  We transformed simple wooden clothes pin with washi tape details(it took me 3 hours to locate different washi tape, 2 nights(6 hours) to attach the washi table, 2 hours to adhere the cards on kraft paper).    We took their escort cards by Hello! Lucky and adhered them to pre cut brown Kraft tags that we located from Etsy

Yes, it's a simple idea but the client didn't have time to do it herself, nor could she find a wooden wall to attach a clothesline.    Our client could have figured out how to hang these but with their wedding preparation, they knew they just didn't have the manpower to procure the wall, hang it, and individually make each escort card.

Photography by Vero Suh
Example #3 Stress your merchandising and styling expertise by showing them examples.  In this case, we took a bar back from a rental company and made it into a "froyo" station.
Photography by Vero Suh

We hung the burlap then went shopping for all these lovely glass jars, hand blown perfume bottles, and ceramic ice cream bowls.  I took books and hand pressed them.  Paper banners were purchased via Etsy after a 1/2 hour search for the right style.  And we styled if in a very simple style so that it looked like it was from their own home.

Photography by Vero Suh

Example #4 Show them you are attentive to details.  One of my favorite stylist of all times is friend and event designer, Gloria Wong of Gloria Wong Designs.  She comes from a strong retail background and it shows.  Look at the attention to the details.  The boxes are precisely lined up.  Look at how organized Gloria's handiwork is.  It's in the details that makes a difference.

Photography by Lisa Lekfowitz
Photography by Lisa Lekfowitz

Gloria is so attentive, she provided the photographer(the great, Lisa Lefkowitz -- swoon) with patterned paper as a wonderful backdrop of a photo op.  These are the original details that come from a creative mind.   WTG, little G!

Lastly, emphasize Service! 

My dear friend, John Woods of Enhanced Lighting once said to me, "you have to find a way that makes your clients feel that your event design is a not a want but a need".   And the way to make it a need is through your service.  

When I see rows of chairs, I like them lined up very exactly.  When my team sets up a wedding, we notice inconsistencies in the way escort cards are set up and we fix them.  We pull out measuring tapes to make sure that each place setting are often 1 inch from the end of the table.  Why do we do this?   Because going the extra mile, these are small services in which our clients cannot do.  They put it in our hands.

Stay tuned for Part Two which I will address in a future Ask Nancy Post.

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