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July 23, 2009

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Ashley Baber

Thought provoking post, Sean! I wish it were as simple as it seems to eliminate packages... So often we find our busy clients who are so used to the "point-click-buy" mentality have little time or energy to "think outside the box." I think brides use the "sea of sameness" as a reference point for the way they think the wedding planning process should be (whether or not that is accurate...). I suppose there is a fear that if you are the planner with a totally new and truly FRESH approach an only offer custom services, that may put off some potential clients. Maybe those brides aren't the clients any of us really want anyways, but just a thought... And I just wonder that when that oh-so-savvy planner creates a custom proposal, if in the end, they are not offering the same services as any of the packages any other planner may offer, just in fancy wrapping paper, if you will....? I think this is such a great idea- now I just have to figure out how to make it work out here!

Bella Signature Design

I SO Agree! I haven't had 'packages' for a long time, and offer only custom planning and design proposals. This works for some of my potential clients, but some keep trying to figure out how to compare the value (price) of my work to others. How to you deal with this questions, when clients want something to compare to?

SANDRA

Although you make a valid point, it is unfortunate that ethe total elimination of the word would also eliminate the client who wants to see that as an option which is about 80% of the clientele. One could diversify their presentations to accommodate the majority of clients, because there are still clients out there but the key is to be superb in what you do and taking "ppackage" from your site presentation does not equal making you "super" or even adequate as a planner.

Meg Fish

Just wanted to thank you for all your insight into the creative market. I am a newborn photographer and I have benefited so much from your blog.. it's the little changes that end up making us set apart and so thanks!

Sean

I'm not sure who's training them, but every bride that contacts me asks for my list of packages.

Most are surprised when they see that my menu of services is ala carte first, packages second. This has turned out to be a blessing. More often than not, they end up choosing a few of the ala carte products and services which eventually lead to them getting one of the packages or a package and some add ons.

Cynthia Martyn

Sean - great post, and one that will surely create debate.

What are your thoughts on offering a "hybrid" in one's business model - "de-packaging" full-service planning into purely custom planning & design proposals, but also keeping a smaller package or two for those couples that don't have budgets for this premium level of service?

One can still stand apart with customized planning, AND keep the convenience factor for the mass population that do prefer the convenience of shopping "off the shelf"?

Kathy Speers

But you can't entirely discount the very real fact that we are a Fast Food Nation. Yes--I agree that as a creative business we offer more than "packages" imply. And yet the clients we cater to today were raised on a steady diet of Combo #3. I disagree that we taught brides that they should first look for packages. McDonald's did that. We just need to do our best to educate. So while we are "same" to the client, our differentiator is that the package is not the end all. It is a jumping off point to conversation. When they get in the door, everything is custom.

Ami @ Elizabeth Anne Designs

Agree and disagree.

I'm a firm believer in offering packages because of the complexities and time involved in pricing custom work. Speaking strictly from a business perspective, "packages" lead to economies of scale and increased throughput (ie - spending less time managing and more time creating).

However, from the consumer perspective, I would not have dealt with a vendor who offered only packages or who wasn't willing to budge on the components of the package. Flexibility is key and to Kathy's point, I see packages as a starting point for client interaction rather than hard guidelines for offerings.

Rosemary

It all depends on your market. Packages are appropriate to target a certain market. For a high-end client, I think a custom approach is fitting.

janet

I see a lot of florists offering packages right now!? Maybe I just don't get it, but I think it's crazy! I prefer to make each quote custom for my brides - even for the brides with low budgets. Each bride has really different needs as far as color, quantity and style, that it just doesn't make sense for me to try to fit them into a package. Plus, there are so many wonderful flowers out there that just wouldn't get used if I based everything on packages. I would being doing my clients, and myself, a disservice to offer packages.

Hoechstetter Interiors

I'm so glad to see someone else thinking the same way I do about this, Sean! There are so many consultants and so on touting the need to package services in this day and age, but I've resisted, precisely because of what both you and several commenters have said, that it conveys a lower end image that I just don't want to be part of.

If I start to offer packages, that will not speak well to the custom work I specialize in and do best, and it will only create client expectations that I cannot and will not want to meet later.

If you don't know your target market, and don't market appropriately for it, you will never hit it, and that is particularly true in a creative field with a high end target market.

Wendy Hoechstetter

Karla |Stylish Events|

I agree but also think that it is easier said than done. Wether it will work or not, it really depends on your target market. Most brides are used to shopping for "Packages" because it is largely offered in the Industry; for that to change it will take most Wedding professionals to change their mindset.

Now, you also have to think that while high-end brides will work with the "Custom Proposal" professional, there are budget brides who also need to be serviced. These brides want to get more bang for their buck, and Packages help them compare among vendors. These brides also make a big part of the consumer market in the Wedding Industry and specially in today's Economy. Not everyone has $100,000 to spend on their Wedding.

No doubt this is the ideal level you want to reach -to be able to "depackage" your services- and provide custom services based solely on your client's needs.

Sean Low

I am so happy that my post sparked such a great debate. The most feedback I have received by far. Stand by what I wrote wholeheartedly. What I didn't address was whether the post only applied to the high-end or to all client levels. To be clear, you may have packages and standard services as part of your business structure and operation, it just should NEVER be part of your presentation to your client. If you believe, as I do, that each creative business is completely unique, regardless of which market it plays in, then the point is to stress that individuality. Creating a "package" that makes it easy for the client to compare debases that individuality. Your job is to educate your potential clients as to who you are and what you do. To tell them that you are the BEST at what you do and what you do you do for them (as if they were your only client). To me, starting off with a "package" just sends the wrong message. Even if you overcome it once they come in, you still have to overcome it whether they are spending $10 or $10mm

Karla |Stylish Events|

Sean, thank you for touching more into this subject. I am confused, though, when you say we may have Packages not make them part of our presentation to the Client. How does that work? We would discuss our "A la Carte" services and then send them a Package based on their needs?

iMatrimony

Thank you for adressing this issue. You nailed it!!! I hope planners take your advice and change the path in the industry.

Sharon

I see your point about how in a creative industry "packaging" debases creativity. It makes your services look like everyone else's.

I am just starting out and have not set any pricing structures yet. So, you are saying that although we may have an idea of the "packages" we offer, we do not present them as "packages" to the client? Instead,we present them with a "custom" proposal based on their individual needs. The "package" is more for ourselves to set our pricing for the custom services?

Christine

I've written about this before on PhotoLoveCat - but I think every person shopping starts with looking at price, and in our fast paced society, they use that as a marker to determine if they want to know more. I feel that everyone's website should have at least a starting at point, some sort of tangible thing that I as a shopper can look at and determine if I want to go any further. If I don't have a $50,000 budget, I don't need to know any more.

It is how we shop. The first thing I do when I see an item I like in any store is look at the price. From there I determine if it is worth it, or if I can afford it, or if I'm going to shift my budget to make it happen. All in a Blink.

Since I shop that way myself, I respect my clients by giving them this information up front. From there, I create a custom commission plan for their wedding, unique to them. But the starting point is always the same, and I'm always transparent about it.

Leona Morelock

Thanks Sean for continuing to explain. I love thinking of things in a totally new light and learning from people I want to be like. I totally agree with everything you have said. We teach people to respect us and how much whether we realize it or not. That is one of the major things that I am working on right now with my business is learning how to teach my clients who I am and what I deserve.

Melissa

I really enjoyed reading your post. It is very helpful as I am setting up the structure of my business. Thank you!

"I'm not sure who's training them, but every bride that contacts me asks for my list of packages." Your competition is training them it is up to us to educate/retrain our buyers.

The best analogy that I can think of for package vs. custom is production home vs. custom home. Depending on your clientele and whom you market to they should understand the pricing structure accordingly.

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