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Finding the Right "Fit:" Do You, Bride, Take This Vendor?

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Have you ever shopped at a store that had more than one location, like Bloomingdale's, Brooks Brothers or Costco? You may need the very same item you purchased previously, but, here at another store location, you cannot find the same product. The reason is that each store sells items that cater to their individual demographic. They know their customer. They understand "fit."

This concept also applies to the wedding industry: When I owned my bridal salon, part of my job was figuring out who my core customers were and what I could do to better serve their needs. I stocked my store to cater exactly to those people who would walk in -- savvy, fashionable brides searching for the high-end merchandise they expected to find in a Beverly Hills salon.

Yet while my core customers sought high-end products, Southern California customers are quite diverse, in some ways more so than in other parts of the country. (This was verified often by visiting designers who came to my salon during our frequent trunk shows.) It was challenging to characterize brides because backgrounds, ethnicities and cultures played a key role in our demographic -- Los Angeles is a consumer melting pot. Therefore, my merchandise had to be unique and at the same time traditional -- not all Beverly Hills brides wanted to look like Hollywood divas.

Dividing my potential customers into three categories made it easier to strategize not only when purchasing bridal gowns for my salon, but for relating to the clientele, as well. First there were "The Trendsetters," impulsive buyers always on the lookout for what is new and hot at the moment. Then, "The Winners," brides who would typically overlook the latest and greatest popular item and reach out for a quality gown they had been giving careful, calculated thought to (since the purchase for them was perceived as a reward).

Then there were "The Connoisseurs," my premiere consumer category: These customers lived and breathed luxury. Typically, they would have more purchasing power because -- contrary to popular belief -- the more expensive the item, the easier it is to close the sale. This bride was the foundation I built my business on: She was my ideal target consumer, and the greatest profit margin category.

Over the years, I learned that determining your core customer one of the most important things a wedding vendor or company must do in order to be fruitful. A successful merchant will identify his or her clientele and cater to them specifically.

For many vendors, customer types may be divided by budget, buying habits, or cultural needs, depending on your location. So, first, you must figure out which type (or types) of bride "fits" your current profile and, second, you need to ask yourself which clientele you'd like to reach if it's different than who you're currently serving. With this understanding, a vendor will continue to build successful business and gain more referrals -- as quite often their clients' friends will be similar consumer-types.

Brides, too, can use the concept of "fit" when choosing their wedding vendors -- this idea works both ways. When various customers would ask me for vendor referrals, I always asked them, what is your priority: Price? Service? Quality? And I am sure you are already answering in your heads, all three!

Of course we want it all. Why not? But, in reality, we have to make compromises. That is not to say you'll receive less quality for less money, or poor service if you are on a budget. It means that you have different options of products and services in different price ranges and you need to find the perfect fit for your aesthetic and budget.

For each category of your wedding, you want to ask: What goals do you have for this particular aspect of the Big Day and who might be the best vendor to help you accomplish those? Your answers will help you categorize yourself and give you a clear understanding of who would be the perfect fit for you.

When it comes to service, you likely already know that you want to entertain your guests at your wedding by sharing a delicious meal together -- but how? Do you want sit down formal dining? Or do you prefer to have a buffet? Your preference may be reflected in your budget, or perhaps your budget will direct what choice you make here.

"Fit" also applies in terms of decor: Check out bridal bouquets on Pinterest. If you are not a flower maven, you will be guided by photos alone and either like or dislike a design aesthetic. So, go ahead and pick your favorites -- your priority is the visual. Now take the pictures to an expert and ask him or her to price it all out for you. You may be surprised at how the price spectrum will vary and this is where you must ask yourself: Are the flowers themselves most important or how they are arranged? Are you willing to have fewer flowers, but the ones you like? Which florist seems on-board with helping you accomplish the vision you want?

When vendors strive to create a perfect "fit" with their core consumer base and brides determine what kind of consumer they are, ideal vendor-bride matches are made in heaven!