Find your event planning niche

This excerpt is part of Entrepreneur.com’s Q2 Starter Kit which explores the fundamentals of getting started in a wide range of industries.

In Start your own event planning business, the staff of Entrepreneur Media, Inc. explains how you can get started in the event planning industry, whether you want to work part-time or full-time to plan anything from a first anniversary, bar mitzvah or wedding to political fundraisers and product launches. In this edited excerpt, the authors discuss the two types of markets you can target and explain why choosing a niche is a smart decision.

Broadly speaking, there are two main markets for event planning services: corporate and social media.

The term business includes not only companies, but also charities and non-profit organizations. All of these entities use special events to reach their target markets and increase their visibility in the community. In fact, special events have become increasingly important as competition forces organizations to look for new ways to get their messages across to consumers or contributors.

Charities and nonprofits hold fundraising galas, receptions, and athletic competitions, among other events, to broaden their base of public support and raise the funds they need. Thousands of these events take place each year, and while the larger ones require specialized event planning experience, you can find smaller local events to plan.

Companies organize trade shows, conventions, company picnics, end-of-year parties and meetings for staff members, board members or shareholders. According to the Convention Industry Council’s 2012 Economic Importance Study, 1.83 million corporate/business meetings, trade shows, conventions, etc., took place in the United States alone.

Whether you are planning meetings, fundraisers or receptions, there are many opportunities available to you in corporate event planning. Although corporate event planning can provide you with a stable and profitable volume of business, if you are a beginner event planner, industry experts recommend that you start by planning social events.

Social events include weddings, anniversaries, birthday parties, bar and bat mitzvahs, Sweet 16 parties, children’s parties, get-togethers, and more. You can decide to manage all of these events or specialize in one or more of them.

Most people who employ event planners for these types of parties are in the middle to high income levels and have disposable income but no free time. These customers are likely to live in affluent suburbs.

Experts expect the market for social events, especially birthdays, to continue to grow over the next few years as baby boomers mature. This group has children getting married, parents celebrating golden anniversaries, and their own silver wedding anniversaries to celebrate.

Choose your niche

Whether you decide to focus on corporate or social events, you should consider specializing even further, focusing your attention on children’s parties, corporate retreats, or other types of events. Why? “Without a niche market, it’s hard for the market consumer to find you,” says Dr. Joe Goldblatt, an event planning industry expert and founder of the International Special Events Society. For example, if you are known as your community’s expert on birthday parties, a client who wants to host such a party is more likely to hire you than a general party planner.

Specializing in one or two types of events will also make it easier for you. You can become an expert in one type of event faster than in multiple events. Specialization will save you time as you will soon be familiar with all the required items and vendors for the type of event you choose. And as an event professional, time is one of your most valuable resources – the more you can save, the better.

Selecting a niche will also help you save on start-up costs, as you will need to purchase supplies only relevant to your specialization. For example, if you choose planning children’s birthday parties as your niche, you won’t need to purchase complicated event planning software designed for large events.

Industry expert Sachs agrees that specialization is a good way to establish yourself in the industry. She suggests the following possible niches for social event planners:

  • Weddings
  • Hospitality suites (events held in the “party” room of a retirement home or company)
  • Parties away from home (events organized by hotel guests)
  • Surprise parties
  • Progressive parties (multi-site events, usually involving transportation from place to place, such as tours or scavenger hunts)
  • Showers for him and for her, wedding and baby
  • Birthday parties for one year olds
  • Theme nights
  • “Golden” parties (50th birthday, 50th birthday, etc.)
  • Milestone anniversaries
  • Guest services for weekend events (events to entertain out-of-town guests over the weekend, such as tours or barbecues)
  • Children’s parties
  • Children’s event spaces at adult parties

The niches listed above all have a social orientation, although your customer may also be a business. Here are some additional opportunities to find your niche in business-related events:

  • Mall events (fashion shows, store openings, department store promotions)
  • Meetings and conferences
  • Reward Events
  • Fundraisers
  • Company retreats or picnics

If you decide to focus on one type of event, make sure your market has enough demand. If you live in a rural area, building a business based on hosting corporate meetings and conferences probably doesn’t make as much sense or as profitable as building an event planning business focused on social events.

Related book: Start your own event planning business

Robert M. Larson