Event Management
May 31, 2017  •  by Sean Burke

Ticketbud Tidbits Episode 6 – Nicole Marie Events

Nicole Marie Hughes is an events master. She owns her own event company (Nicole Marie Events) and is branching out to create Rebel Weddings (https://rebelwed.com) for clients that want a more “epic” wedding experience. Today on Ticketbud Tidbits we talk about her experiences in weddings, how to make money as an event planner with your own ideas, how to keep clients, and other unique tips for wedding planners in particular. You can listen to the podcast below, and as always, we have the transcript underneath.

Sean: Hi and Welcome to Tidbits at Ticketbud. I’m your host, Sean Burke, Director of Marketing at Ticketbud. And, today with me is Nicole Marie of Nicole Marie Events. She plans different types of events, owns her own event company and she specializes in weddings. Nicole, thanks for coming onto the show with us today.

Nicole: Of course, great to be here.

Sean: Awesome. So, Nicole, you own your own event company, Nicole Marie Events, could you tell us more about it and tell us more about what you specialize in?

Nicole: Of course. So, my company has two specialties. The first of course is weddings, that’s how I started and how I grew my company. We’re venturing into what I like to call Rebel Weddings. But, it basically we started in Beverly Hills, we did the elegant, big beautiful weddings but now we’re getting into crazier and interesting and more unique types of weddings. And then, our second specialty is strategic events. So, events that have a very clear purpose like fundraisers, PR events, and mixers.

Sean: That’s really cool. So, could you tell us about … I mean, you’re focusing on this new thing Rebel Weddings and you also have these strategic events, what is your company’s value proposition? For example, why would someone want to produce an event over another production firm?

Nicole: Yeah. Well, I always like to say with Nicole Marie events, every dollar that you’re spending on your event or your wedding will go to a specific purpose. And, for weddings and events those purposes can be very different of course. But, for our company we like to focus on getting really big impact. So, if you think about it in a business sense even for wedding couples it’s the ROI, return of investment for every dollar you spend. So, and something that makes basically me as a planner very different is I’m not the wedding planner that you saw in the J-Lo movie who will sit there and tell you all the different types of flowers and the different types of shades of pink or whatever. I really specialize in logistics and tactical planning. So, more like functional design and that’s kind of what we offer that a lot of other wedding planners don’t.

Sean: Yeah, I was going to say, I sometimes had to watch those bridezilla shows and it seems like they’re all so concerned about all this stuff but not the actual practical things so I’m sure that’s very refreshing.

Nicole: Yeah, and there’s so many places that couples and clients can go to look for inspiration for what look they want and things like that but I like to focus on the things that actually make the experience great for your attendees and guests.

Sean: Awesome. So, when it comes to planning your strategic events in particular, and also you could say for your weddings, do you have a typical staff? How many people do you bring on? Do you have any best practices for hiring staff for these events?

Nicole: Yeah, definitely. It really depends on the event. I do such a wide scope of events with my company. So, for example a bridal shower, it will probably just be me, maybe one person to help set up. And, one thing that I’m huge on is cueing and getting things in real-time. So, I always hire people for the day of the event and think of all the areas where I’m going to need someone who needs to give me an answer right away.

So, if I’m backstage with talent or something at an awards show and I need to know in real-time how many people are coming for the door or where a specific person is, I think about how many areas I’m going to need those answers from. So, if it’s just me backstage and someone out in the front of the house, I’ll hire one person who has a headset that I can get answers very, very quickly. Same with weddings, cueing music, things like that. So, the bigger the scope of the event … I did the Geekie Awards that was a video game type of award show in Los Angeles a few years ago and we had probably a team of 15. So, I’d say anywhere …

Sean: Wow.

Nicole: I mean that was a small event so anywhere from one to 10 typically, depending on the scope of the event.

Sean: Nice. And, for the Geekie Awards in particular, how is the staff … what were … what was the makeup of the staff? Did you have people who were handling the floor and some people are at the gate? Could you describe that a little bit more?

Nicole: Yes, definitely. Basically there was a bunch of different areas. There was green room, there was backstage, there was onstage, there was different holding areas for different people who were presenting and different people who needed specific areas for the television crew as well as a check-in and seating the main floor. So, you can think about all those different areas, that’s how many different types of staff we needed. So, we needed hosts, we needed people who really knew and understood television timing, people who really specialized more on the PR side with handling talent, and getting people through a red carpet, kind of escorting celebrities and different influencers where they need to go. So, it really … we really hire from a bunch of different areas for that event. And, along with all the staff that came with the TV crew and everything. So, that was a huge event.

Sean: Oh yeah, I can imagine, I mean with 15 people that is pretty massive.

Nicole: That was just my staff. That wasn’t even … there were probably 100 people actually working the event.

Sean: Wow, that’s intense. I mean, I’ve heard of that and it’s a pretty big awards show. Anyway, so could you tell us for Nicole Marie Events, do you have clients come back to you and if so what have you felt is the best way of actually, not only growing your client list, but how do you maintain the clients that you already have?

Nicole: Yeah. Well, people will tell you on my staff and just my friends in general, I don’t go anywhere without talking about what I do and just kind of throwing it in, best guerrilla marketing you can. If you’ve seen that movie Freaky Friday in the Chinese restaurant there’s this woman who’s always being like, “Oh, you have that. I’ll cater it.” Like, think of me, always throwing in what they do and say, “Hey, I cater, I can do this.” But, that’s what I do. Everywhere I go, I tell people I’m an event planner. I tell people I do weddings and I ask. So, that’s one of my key things is I always let people know what I do and I ask, “Hey, if you’re planning an event, I’d love to plan it. I’d love to be your go-to event planner.” Especially for big corporations and that’s really worked. Yes like you said, I do have some repeat clients coming from the wedding planning side, that’s not really good to say. But, I plan their wedding, their second wedding, and then a third wedding. But, I’ll plan their wedding and then they’ll need something for their work so I’ll plan a mixer for them and then they have a friend has a bridal shower and I’ll plan that. So, I get a lot of repeat business that way.

Sean: That’s really cool.

Nicole: For maintaining my clients, my key thing is constant and quick communication. If they need something, I’ll text them right away even though I may not know the answer. I would never tell them that, I’d say, “Let me see what I can do.” That’s always my go-to phrase. But yeah, it’s just managing your expectations along with mine as a planner. Setting the appropriate expectations. I’ll get back to you as soon as I can. You can always reach me. I may not be able to give you the answer you want right away but I’m not avoiding you. I’m not one of those businesses that’s so huge you get an auto-reply and then 24 hours later someone will attend to your request. I’m always within reach.

Sean: Awesome. So, you definitely are taking the proactive approach which makes sense cause you said you want to be very practical and make sure that every dollar goes towards something that actually makes sense. So, it sounds like you have a pretty strong handle of your business. You definitely talk to a lot of clients, just by getting them. Have you had any … do you have any marketing efforts for your company or do you have clients come in from referrals?

Nicole: Definitely. I have a lot of clients from referrals from weddings to events and kind of events back to people’s weddings. So, I get a lot of crossover business that way. But, I also do a lot of bridal shows just thinking about the industry of weddings and different events, there are so many qualified people in this industry and it’s really about finding the people who fit with you. And so much of that is meeting them face to face so you can get a sense of what they’re really looking for.

Something that I found doesn’t really work is marketing your packages and products and what you give because so many people in this industry can give the same thing but it’s really about are you going to be a good fit with your client and are you actually going to deliver on what their goals are for the event or … I say wedding but weddings have goals too. Some people want to have a crazy fun wedding. Some people want to have a very solemn and subdued wedding. So, just matching the expectations both ways, that goes a long way in person. So, I find my marketing efforts are best served that way.

Sean: Nice. Can you talk a little bit more about … so you go to these bridal shows. Do you have a booth there? Do you do any … I know you do some speaking too.

Nicole: Yeah.

Sean: Do you get clients that way?

Nicole: Yeah. So, bridal shows basically, yes, it’s basically like a trade show instead of business to business, it’s basically like you’re exhibiting to potential clients. And, they range anywhere from 400 attendees to 4,000 attendees. So, you really have a bunch of … a huge opportunity to meet people there. I do also do speaking engagements where I speak on different topics of huge in this market right now is millennial marketing and I’m lucky to be one. So, I can provide some valuable insight there and getting people to wrap their head around, “Hey, it’s not so much an option anymore if you can text people. You need to be texting people. If you don’t text, you’re missing a huge segment of your target market.”

But, I speak on a variety of topics. Different types of ways to have areas of engagement in your events, whether that’s weddings or actual corporate fundraisers, things like that. Different things you can do … yeah. I speak a lot. I am starting some online courses to teach other wedding planners. I do some small business coaching. So there’s a lot of things that I have touched on in my business. But yeah …

Sean: No, that’s really cool. So, it seems like … when we talked before, you mentioned … this seems to segway perfectly, you talked about different ways to make income with original event ideas. Could you talk a little bit more about that?

Nicole: Absolutely. One project that I’ve been working on, like you mentioned before, is relaunching https://rebelwed.com this summer. And, what that entails is not only specialized packages towards specific group of my clients, the people who want to … say that I was jumping out of an airplane or underwater or the bride that wants to come in on a boat and have a custom stage built so she can take that boat right up until the ceremony and just step off the boat and then she’s in front of everyone. So, things like that.

But, the way that we can monetize that in different ways is thinking about okay in this industry, it’s a very active income. The hours you put in are the hours you’re paid for, especially with coordinating weddings and events. So, a lot of people in this field also need a passive income whether that’s designing merchandise, developing courses that you record once and you can sell, doing speaking engagements or having certain products that are very much aligned with your target market.

So for example, Rebe we have sort of like a blog but not really, it’s more of like a style guide on different things to do, different ways to incorporate your ideas, but also yeah we sell different things that say rebel bride on it or rebel groom. Just basically providing a complete solution for these people and thinking about all the different ways you can do that. But, aside from that I also have … I’m blessed that I’m a duel citizen so I can actually work in Canada as well so I’ve started creating travel experiences. So, selling basically birthday parties and mini-events but in Vancouver and that’s where my family is from. So, I’ve created sort of like a side line to travel events and events abroad.

Sean: Wow, that’s amazing especially with the rebel weddings, I definitely notice there seem to be a lot more emphasis on the extreme experiences and I don’t know if this goes hand in hand with the whole … there seems to be this millennial mantra where it’s like experiences not things. So, have you noticed … it seems like you built rebel weddings because you noticed a lot more people wanted this. What was the impetus for actually beginning that?

Nicole: Well, I mean I mentioned the bride that came in on the boat and that was me actually.

Sean: Oh wow.

Nicole: I had a custom stage built in Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands for my wedding. That’s something that I wanted and I realized that a lot of people now … they’re being told what they want but Pinterest, by all these wedding blogs and everything when that may or may not be their personality and they have to find these little subtle ways to throw their personality in. Plus, weddings are huge expense and it’s become this thing where you’re expected to invite a 100 people and pay for their dinner. And I don’t know about you but I can’t think of 100 people that I would pay for their dinner. Even my friends and sorority sisters and I have a huge family but that’s a huge expense.

So, why not do something smaller that really shows who you are not only as a bride or groom but as a couple? If that’s something that you bonded over … I did a wedding where the couple, the bride and groom, were dive masters. They owned dive shop in [inaudible 00:16:39] and that was a huge part of showing their personality. They wanted … they had a big wedding but they wanted to make sure that everything was sourced right. All the fish had to be sourced from renewable sources. The glass had to all be recycled. Every little touch showed exactly who they are and that’s really what it’s about.

It’s not about this okay here’s the white dress, here’s the ring, here’s the shoes, here’s the cake, it’s really about the client that you’re serving. And, it’s not like I have a lot of clients riding around on motorcycles in leather jackets and jumping out of planes, although I do and they’re awesome. It’s really about showing who you are as a couple and that’s, like you said, very much millennial, very much this new wave of personalization and customization.

It’s like, “Oh, what color are your fabrics going to be? Are you going to have a summer wedding? Are you going to have a June wedding?” It’s so much more beyond that. It’s not even where you’re going to get your dress, it’s “Are you going to wear a dress? Is it even going to be white? Are you even going to walk down an isle? Are you going to … even for our Indian weddings, there is a tradition where you come in on a horse or an elephant and nowadays they’re coming in in Bugatti’s and Lamborghini’s instead. Just showing the flare of their personality.

Sean: Yeah, wow. I’ve heard of the coming in on an elephant but I’ve never heard of coming in on a Lamborghini. That’s pretty cool.

Nicole: Yeah, or a helicopter which is actually … from the event side, so much easier to get a permit for than bringing an elephant in.

Sean: Oh, I’m sure. I’m sure, no kidding. That’s so cool. One thing actually I wanted to mention was there was an event on Ticketbud where it was people selling tickets to their wedding. So, instead of giving gifts and stuff, you just paid … it was essentially like a crowd funded wedding. So, it definitely seems like that speaks to the millennial spirit too.

Nicole: Yeah, I’ve even heard of people getting sponsors for their wedding. You know, if they work for a company and I’ve heard mostly about an alcohol sponsors, people who work for Anheuser-Busch and they get them to sponsor their wedding. They have huge elaborate displays which are really awesome and all they had to do was work out a partnership and they got the stuff for free and it was amazing.

Sean: I bet. I mean, plus you save so much money on alcohol in particular. That’s a great idea.

Nicole: Yeah.

Sean: Awesome. Well, thank you so much Nicole for coming onto the show. You had some really valuable insights, not just for weddings in particular, but just for running events and for event organizers too to really make the most out of their knowledge. So, thank you again so much for coming on.

Nicole: Definitely, anytime.

Sean: Awesome. Well you have a great rest of your day and thank you all to our listeners. We’ll have another show next week. Bye.

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