If COVID has taught us anything in the way of owning a business, it’s that we can no longer remain stagnant with our offerings or our revenue streams. Diversification has been a lifesaver for many, particularly in an industry where our livelihood relies on weddings and events.
That said, it’s understandable that diversifying is no easy feat – it takes a lot of trial and error, market research, and identifying the needs and wants of your clients to ensure that it’s a successful, worthy investment.
Is diversifying right for you?
Unfortunately, no one can answer this question as well as you can, since you know your business and your clients better than anyone. However, there are certainly some factors that you should take into consideration before making moves to begin branching out.
Aleya Harris of Flourish Marketing says it best: “Before diversifying, you need to ask yourself two questions: ‘What is my customer’s top problem?’ and ‘Do I have the time and bandwidth to launch a solution to that problem?’ If you dive into a passion project that doesn’t resonate with the market, you will not see a return on your investment. If you cannot show up consistently and focus on creating a high-quality product, you will not stand out from your competition.”
How do you know when it’s a good time to diversify?
For business owners considering dipping their toes in for the first time, this can seem like an incredibly scary time to start experimenting with diversification. Truth be told, this is as good of a time as any. There’s never a perfect time to create a new project; it all depends on how fleshed-out your idea is and how prepared you are to launch it.
Gretchen Culver of Rocket Science Events notes, “Knowing when to diversify is tricky. You don’t want to chase every shiny new object and take your focus off your business. At the same time, you don’t want to let a great opportunity pass by. The first step is to take a look at your current business and ask yourself three questions:
- Am I achieving my financial goals?
- Is my business advancing me professionally in a direction I want to go?
- Do I feel satisfied personally?
If the answer is ‘no’ to any of those questions, it might be a good time to look at diversifying.”
Challenges that you should expect
As with any new venture or off-shoot of your business, it’s wise to weigh the pros and cons of your decision to expand your services and tack on a new revenue stream. Researching solutions to potential obstacles that you may encounter should be an integral part of the process, and you’ll only be better off once you know what you’re up against.
A common hesitation for many is the topic of profit. Naturally, we would love a passion project that will fulfill us creatively and generate extra cash flow in equal measure. So, how do you know if your idea will be profitable in the long run?
“This question doesn’t come with an easy answer, but those wishing to tread carefully can get an idea by testing the waters before fully committing to the risk. Check out a few of the high-level market research surveys (Splendid Insights is a great one) to look at the state of the market. Don’t be afraid to put some feelers out on your social media to gather information; a quick Instagram Story poll will give you a solid idea of how your audience feels about a potential extended service or offering. Don’t overcomplicate it; go to where your prospective clients are and ask them questions,” says Kinsey Roberts, owner of She Creates Business.
What to avoid
If you’re getting comfortable with the idea of diversifying, make sure you’re looking at your business through a realistic lens. Identifying your pain points isn’t always a comfortable conversation to have with yourself, but it’s crucial if it stands in the way of your new project being a success.
Jamie Chang of Mango Muse Events shares her thoughts on what to avoid: “If you can, try not to diversify your business alone. It’s really helpful to talk to a mentor, a colleague, or a marketing and sales consultant while you’re figuring things out. There are a lot of decisions you’ll have to make and in some cases, many new things you’ll have to learn in order to get your new services off the ground. Being able to talk to someone who has done it or who understands what you’re going through can be helpful to guide you (or, at the very least, support you) along the way.”
How industry pros have successfully diversified
One thing that helps when trying something new is looking at success stories from your peers. Regardless of how large-scale your next move is, it’s completely normal to be nervous about putting your creativity out there for your target audience to see.
For Chang, the idea to diversify stemmed from what clients needed but couldn’t afford. “I wanted to be able to help couples who are planning their weddings on their own, so I created Passport to Joy, a step-by-step online wedding planning course that takes couples through the process I go through with all my clients. It gives me a chance to help all the couples I couldn’t help for budgetary reasons (they couldn’t afford a planner) and it allows couples to learn and be guided through the process by a professional. The course makes the wedding planning process much more streamlined, which makes planning a wedding and all the decisions that come with it easier. It’s wedding planning on your own without being on your own.”
Jennifer Borgh of Borginvilla Wedding Venue knew that adding more options for her clients would be a no-brainer, specifically when eliminating the need for them to hire additional vendors. “A few years ago, we added some rental items to our wedding venue. The clients loved it as it removed a lot of delivery costs, and it added a new revenue to our business.”
The reality is that not every effort to expand your offerings will be sustainable, and you may not even be ready to do so. But with strategic marketing, research, and careful planning, diversification can take your business to new levels you never thought possible – even in a pandemic.
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.