Are you tired of everything coming down to money when talking with prospective clients? Are you trying to figure out how to get them to see your value? Hint: it can’t be done in a sales pitch.
As a business, you need a unique value proposition for your event planning services and the events you plan. You must make sure that people understand what makes you different and why they should select your service or attend your event over others. Many times we make the mistake of differentiating on price. “We’re the lowest!” But that only gets you into a bidding war with the competition. So what do you do when your client or attendee is cost-savings focused and is missing the value? How can you help them to see it?
Look Over Here. Did You See That? It’s Value.
Part of the value discussion lies in understanding what your client sees value in. For instance, let’s assume you’re talking with an event client prospect. You think they want to sign with you but they’re hesitant so you throw in an hour of free service. Now instead of a 3-hour event, they can extend it to 4, without paying you anything additional. That’s a great deal if they had wanted a 4-hour event all along but if they didn’t, you’re not saving them money. You’re costing them more for an hour longer with the entertainment, the venue, the AV people, and whomever else.
So before doing anything else, find out what they consider valuable and begin the conversation there.
- Show Cause and Effect. Skimping Here, Impacts This.
If your client is feeling overwhelmed, they may be looking to control something and a budget is a good place to start. They may start whittling away this and that in the hopes of regaining control again. Know that this is just a symptom of a larger anxiety.
If you come in at this point, with a hardcore sales approach, you’ll lose them. You need to focus your energy on creating a connection. They need to be courted and you do that by showing them you have what they need. But first, you need to figure out what that is.
Get them off of the nickels and dimes and onto the larger picture. Ask about their vision for the event, their goals, and what they want. Let them bask in the “what will be” for a moment. Listen to what they’re saying. Make note of what they want and how they communicate it to you. What words do they use?
They should be telling you what they value. If you’re telling them what they value, you’ll be swimming upstream. Instead, find out what they find important and mold your event approach to that. It won’t feel like a sale. It will be a conversation. Next, mimic the language they used when talking about the event. Reiterate their vision to them so they know you’re on the same page.
Then, talk about how their desired cost-savings only add up to a few dollars. Show what it will impact. Then switch the conversation to what the event could be and what that would mean for all involved. Paint a story that the customer wants to be a part of. You can do this by basing it on what they told you. Then talk about attendee experience. Ask them which scenario provides more value for everyone involved? The cost-savings one or their ideal? The economic outlay is not that much more for the ideal version, but it yields a much larger potential for greater return on investment.
- Talk About Return on Investment and Results Not Individual Costs
For most customers, buying a car is a long-term commitment; at least from the payment side since most people finance them. Have you noticed how salespeople talk about cars? They ask about monthly payment. After all, that’s what most people care about in their budget. It doesn’t benefit them to talk about how much buyers will pay over the life of the loan. Most people would experience buying paralysis hearing that number.
With events, it’s the opposite. The larger shock is in the line item. Events are something people will pay off at one time, unlike a car. Don’t allow the conversation to turn into an analysis of line-item charges. They’ll experience the same buying paralysis that they would if they saw what they’d actually be paying for a car in the long run.
Instead, talk about return on investment. It will cost you X, but you’ll bring in Y. (Hopefully, Y will make X look teeny, tiny.) Then show them the results you’ve achieved through other events for clients. Don’t just look at ROI as money. Broaden that definition to show how your efforts have brought in more attendees, grown name recognition, and continued to increase attendance years later.
Ask the tough questions so they see the hidden costs of how they’re currently doing things. Find out about their challenges. Look for correlations and get them to open up. Ask them problem-solving prompts like, “How is that affecting this?” This allows them to start to see the challenges they may not have seen before. And since it’s them seeing it, not you directly saying “Your problem is this,” they will be more receptive to your planning solution and event expertise.
Show them what they’re missing or what could be, but make sure you do this step after you know what they value. If not, you could be offering something they are not at all interested in.
- Talk About Return on Investment and Results Not Individual Costs
Because you already know what your potential client finds value in, you can quickly structure this conversation to show what they’re getting from you over and above your traditional services. If you show them value at every meeting and in every call or if you explain they’re getting something with you that most event planners charge for, they are more likely to feel good about spending the money, which brings us to…
- Educate Them with Stories about How Your Service Has Brought Success or Solved Problems for Other Clients.
Have you ever known someone who is so wise it feels like every moment spent with them is a life lesson? You feel compelled to take notes. If you can do the same for your clients (in a humble way, of course), they will see value in simply talking to you.
This may seem disingenuous but keep track of all the times you counsel them on the phone or over email. They may not be aware how often they lean on you for support or the answers to their questions. This is not so much so that you will throw it in their face one day and say, “Look what I’ve done for you” but so that you can recognize the pattern of the type of help you provide. It may assist you in creating more valuable content or programs.
You also want to show them best practices you’ve shared with other customers and what’s worked for them. Whenever possible, use clients that are similar to the one you’re trying to win over. That way their success will feel more achievable. Using big name market examples (not your own) that other event planners have been involved with doesn’t bring value to your client. It just shows you can read articles.
This will help your prospective client place a value on your services that they won’t find with another event planner. Make sure they understand the institutional knowledge you have and the bargain that it is.
- Make Sure Your Pricing Isn’t the Problem. Options Are Only Ideal if People Upgrade Instead of Downgrade.
Nowhere in the event planner’s book does it say that you must offer pricing tiers. However, if you want to do so, make sure they are effective. You do this by avoiding these pricing traps:
- Too much choice in services offered
- Too big or little a valley between tiers
Most people worry their pricing is too expensive and so they end up slashing it and discounting it to the point that they’ve eroded their profit. If you are providing value and serving your target customer, you are generally not charging too much. Look at Macs, for instance. In some cases, those computers cost nearly double what PCs do. And yet most of their users are loyal and won’t ever switch back to PC. Their iPhones have a loyalty rate of 92%. Though Macs are expensive, should they be defined as a luxury brand or are they more of a lifestyle choice? People from all types of household budgets set aside the money for something they see value in. So while price may be a factor for some people, it’s not for everyone.
Avoid These Mistakes
Make sure that you don’t make these mistakes which undermine your unique value proposition.
Too Many Choices
When you offer too many choices, clients get lost in options and end up making the decision based on their wallets. It’s the only thing they understand.
Take a look at software and technology companies. They generally offer three options – a free, a middle, and an enterprise option, or three options in addition to the free one. Their livelihood relies on their ability to get customers to opt for something other than free. They need to provide basic service but limit it in some way that will make people buy instead of remaining free customers. If they had ten different choices, customers wouldn’t take the time to assess them and they’d just select the cheapest.
Too Big or Little Difference Between Tiers
The same can be said when there is too vast a difference between pricing options. For instance, let’s assume you have two different types of service as an event planner. The first one is standard planning, no frills. Just planning You’re on your own for the day-of management. The second plan is a personal concierge type service where you practically offer to live with the person while you’re in charge of their event.
Does it feel like something’s missing? How about the “just right” solution?
If you have services priced at either side of a giant canyon, clients will likely stay on the safe side, the one where they’re not shelling out an exorbitant amount. In order to get them to traverse the great divide with you, you need to first give them some middle ground, a pricing option that is comfortable with a slightly smaller price point but also fewer services.
Again, you don’t have to offer multiple plans but if you do, you need to take a note from how software companies price.
- Label one of your options as a “best value” option.
- Differentiate with something of value. Tech companies often use the number of accounts as a differentiator. And there’s no getting around this. For instance, if you’re looking at social media scheduling software and the free account only allows you to post to two social media accounts, guess what? You’re going to pay for the upgrade. Very few people these days are using schedulers for only 1-2 accounts.
- Use price anchoring. Having an executive level pricing structure for event planning may not get a lot of bites but it makes your less expensive options feel like a steal. Just as bright light affects the color we see, having an expensive tier on the same page with another option, sets the tone for how people perceive it.
Clients are busy. We can’t expect them to sort through all the differences in our services and those they’re comparing us to. If we wait for them to derive the value, we’ll likely be waiting a long time. It’s up to us as event professionals to point it out…and often. But to be effective at helping them to see value we have to invest the time in having conversations, not sales pitches.
(Social Coup LLC)