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Preventing your business from being seen as a commodity – what can you do?

I have been thinking a lot lately about the problem of commodification. In the special events industry, one of the worst things that can happen is that your clients begin to view you as a simple commodity. You know you’re more than this—but what can you do to fix the problem?

There are a lot of customers (and yes, even long time clients) who start to believe that all businesses are alike. They think that we will all deliver the same product. Rather than viewing us as unique event experts with a specialty in our own niche, they believe that we will deliver a uniform experience. As a result, they think that we should all charge the same prices.

Now, you know that your fully bespoke event services are worth more than the competitor down the street, but just try convincing a client of this if they think we are all the same. When they hear that another company is charging less, they might want that price. The solution? You need to show them that you are different and worth every penny you quote them for your services.

What does it mean for your business to be seen as a commodity?

The ‘commodification’ of businesses usually refers to companies that produce tangible goods on a mass scale. Think of textile manufacturers or electronics components—people have a pretty good idea of what they think these items should cost. The forces of commoditization have dictated prices on certain items.

Luxury goods notwithstanding, if you see a pack of men’s 100% cotton t-shirts at one store for $10, and you see a similar package at another store for $20, you are going to feel ‘ripped off’ by the second price. You are certain to go back to the initial store and purchase the comparable item for half the cost. You might even spread the word to friends and family about the ‘poor deal’ you saw at the second store.

"Obviously the quality of canapés or of wedding planning services cannot be standardized and compared, but certain clients have now been conditioned to believe that they can."

Why is commoditization happening more than ever?

Over prior decades, shopping has become globalized. Intense global markets, competition, outsourcing, and offshoring are all making margins smaller than ever. Even so, brands of all kinds are under pressure to lower their price points. This means that a customer’s price sensitivity has increased, making it harder than ever to differentiate brands on the market.

We now know how much we should pay for certain items, and this way of thinking has spread to intangible goods and services. Obviously the quality of canapés or of wedding planning services cannot be standardized and compared, but certain clients have now been conditioned to believe that they can. They are applying the forces of commoditization to event planning—and we have to nudge them away from doing this.

Showing clients that you are different

So, now that you know about this problem, what can you do to show your clients that you are indeed different than the rest?
As professionals in the event planning industry, it is our job to show our clients that we are different than our competitors. By doing so, we can show them our intrinsic value as experts and leaders in our field. Consumers will pay more for services if they understand these differences.

Here are the three main ways that you can show your clients that you are different than the rest, and why your rates are justified.

• Innovation is key – Inform your clients that your services are innovative and that you are better suited to meet their needs than any of the competition. If you can upgrade your packages, ‘one up’ your competition, and show that you have embraced new technology, you are ahead of the curve.

• Bundle your services and offer convenience – People are willing to pay a premium for convenience and peace of mind. Show your clients that your services are more reliable, convenient, and seamless than your competitors. After sales services can also help to do the trick.

• Segmentation can be your friend – Are all of your services lumped under one heading and one brand? While a strong brand reputation is nothing to overlook or minimize, it is important to offer your clients distinct areas of expertise that they can buy into and believe in. Focus on giving your clients targeted services under an umbrella of interrelated brands.

Finally, remember to stay away from tired old narratives

While the above points are important to consider and put into action, the most important factor to consider is always your marketing materials: website, brochures, print materials, and social media.
One of the main ways that you can show you are unique is by staying away from tired old tropes. We all need to stay away from phrases like—‘our service is outstanding,’ ‘we are award winning,’ ‘our product is superb,’ etc.—every business says the same old tired things.

In order to show them why you are not just another boring commodity, you need to get to the crux of why you are unique. Try something unique—take risks! Experiment with ‘off the wall’ ad copy, enticing offers, exciting color schemes, and dynamic social media campaigns.

Remember: never be afraid to be different and make waves, because after all—being different is your biggest weapon against commoditization.


Meryl Snow is the owner of Snow Storm Solutions and is a Certified Catering Consultant. She can be reached at [email protected].

Meryl Snow

Owner, Feastivities Events, Philadelphia, PA and Senior Consultant, Certified Catering Consultants

With nearly 30 years in the special event and catering industry, Meryl Snow is the co-founder of Feastivities Events and the creator of The Triangle Method.  As a Senior Consultant for Certified Catering Consultants, Meryl travels throughout North America training clients in the areas of sales, marketing, design and branding to help businesses get on their own path to success.She is the author of Booked It! and Cha-CHING!

Meryl Snow

Catersource Advisory Council Member

Founder of