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Regional bride wars

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Regional weddings are big business – solid management strategies are key to keeping brides from becoming Bridezillas!

Many brides who come to regional areas are out-of-towners and often unfamiliar with the area. 

Yvette is a Sydney girl set to tie the knot in the Hunter Valley come December. She’s spent many a weekend in the Valley, but strictly as a tourist. Despite the tyranny of distance, she’s been surprised by the savvy management strategies of the regional businesses she needs – so much so that services she had originally planned to source in Sydney, she’s now turned to local businesses.  

“They’re really friendly, very easy to deal with,” says Yvette. “So much more so than anyone I’ve dealt with in Sydney.” 

Local suppliers

From her cake to her celebrant, from the babysitting to bonbonnieres, Yvette is opting for local suppliers.

Sarah Hallmark, marketing manager for Peppers Retreats, says good management makes “it all pretty easy”. She should know – she’s set to step down the aisle in October in Palm Cove! 

Peppers – with two sites in the Hunter Valley – has a dedicated wedding coordinator on both properties.

“There are so many local resources,” says Hallmark. “But it’s just about having someone on the ground who can manage them for you.”  

Peppers offer a list of preferred suppliers – from here, either the coordinator can look after all the details at the bride’s direction, or the brides can do the legwork themselves.  

“Some brides are very particular,” laughs Hallmark.

The tyranny of distance

Yvette has made great use of the Pepper’s suppliers list. Thankfully, the Hunter Valley has a comprehensive online presence, perfect for any bride-to-be! 

“The only hassle, really, was having to travel,” says Yvette. “You have to make a weekend of it – an entire weekend. Which is not always such a bad thing given it’s the Hunter Valley!”  

There has only been one hitch in the otherwise perfect planning for Yvette – her flower lady was a no-show on one of their visits. Apparently, she’d written it in her online diary, but forgotten to make a note of it in her carry-around diary.  

Still, Yvette assures the supplier more than made up for it, sending her a catalogue of images of weddings she’d done in the same venue, several follow-up phone calls and emails.  

“Oh, she made up for it – she more than made up for it!” laughs Yvette. “It’s good to know though.” 

Networking is also key to good management for regional business – it allows you to give your clients solutions, not problems.  

“They all know each other,” says Yvette of her suppliers. When she told people who her florist was, they all said she was one of the best in the region.  

“They’ve all worked together, done hundreds of weddings, they know what they’re doing. This my first time – I have no idea!”  

Five tips to manage out-of-towners
  1. Online is often an out-of-towner’s first port of call. If you don’t have a strong online strategy, chances are you’re missing out on valuable business. Invest in a website (or a solid listing with reputable sites promoting your region) and develop a search engine optimisation strategy.
  2. Establish yourself as an expert in the area. Make sure you are considered an authority in your area. Competition is fierce, and more often than not you have to earn your place on the preferred suppliers lists. Network, network, network – build strong working relationships within your local community.
  3. Provide solutions, not problems. This is where networking will come in handy. What if your bride-to-be is in need of, for example, transport or additional accommodation for their guests? Make sure you have a reliable number ready for them. Remember, weddings are big business so you have to make sure your referrals are rock solid.
  4. Overcome the tyranny of distance. More often than not, your bride has to commute to meet you. Make the effort – be punctual and prepared. And where possible, value-add where you can. You need to make sure you’re a destination business.
  5. Keep the lines of communication open at all times – they can’t be there, so you have to give them confidence that you will be. This is a relationship built on trust – these don’t have to be service updates, but simple calls or emails to let them know you’ve got all the details covered.

If you’re looking to work on your business rather than being stuck in it, book in for a complimentary business assessment today with Switzer Business Coaching.

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Published on: Saturday, February 12, 2011

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