Some people call me an OG of wedding business marketing, but deep down I'm just another person wearing PJ bottoms on Zoom. I swear a lot, I share my struggles, and I don't pretend to be better than anyone else.
Do you ever wish you could take a peek behind the scenes of a successful wedding business and see how they’re doing things? Wouldn’t it be helpful to get the lowdown on what’s working for them and what isn’t? That’s what this episode is all about!
Come take a look behind the scenes of Kay Northrup Events with wedding planner Kay Northrup. She breaks down how she got started and got her first clients, how she networked intentionally, how she was able to attract her ideal clients in droves with her marketing, and some really interesting changes she’s made. We talk about what she’s learned from burning out, how she plans for her capacity, and how a unique revenue stream has totally changed her business.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a wedding planner or another type of wedding professional, you’ll come away from this episode with some ideas you can implement in your own business.
In this episode we’ll cover:
Kay Northrup started Kay Northrup Events 10 days before COVID was publicly known in the US and it has been a wild ride ever since. Kay’s company produces weddings for untraditional and out-of-the-box couples who want to celebrate their marriage their way guilt-free and with zero regrets.
At first, Kay Northrup Events planned weddings in Kay’s local area of Rhode Island but now she specializes in destination weddings all over the world which plays perfectly into Kay’s love of travel. Kay is not your mother’s wedding planner and she stresses that in her marketing. She doesn’t enjoy working on traditional weddings so she doesn’t!
Most of Kay’s couples pick a few parts of their wedding to really invest in and scrap the rest of the traditional wedding budget. As a result, the weddings in Kay’s portfolio are very different from one another. Her couples often intentionally go against tradition to create the wedding they want to have.
Kay started as a cater waiter in Newport, Rhode Island and she worked at high-end weddings at a variety of homes and venues. She joined that catering company’s sales team as an intern and started freelancing for wedding planners. She got to work as a planner for another wedding planning company out of Boston working with very high-budget weddings. She knew that celebrity clientele wasn’t her thing and that she wanted to do something more rebellious with her own planning business.
Kay quit her job cold turkey to create her planning business and her husband was also creating a financial planning business at the same time which was definitely scary. Kay spent about 6 months creating the website, the processes, and the copy and she revealed it to the world only to be met by COVID.
Kay and her husband hosted networking events in Boston and Rhode Island and the connections she had at the catering company. Both Kay and her husband share a similar ideal client so they were able to team up to meet as many people as possible in their niche. She started working on social media and SEO but those were longer plays that didn’t pay off for almost a year.
Her first clients came from the connections she made working as a cater waiter. Planners she had built a relationship with would send her clients when they were already booked for that date. Kay tapped into that network of planners and other event pros by emailing everyone she knew and letting them know that she started a business and reconnecting with coffee dates.
Kay also attended the Newport Bridal Show and networked with vendors who were exhibiting. That event resulted in some great connections and relationships for her newly formed business. She networked with such intention and it really paid off.
She had started working on social media and SEO but was wondering how to reach more of her ideal clients. After joining The Wedding Business Collective she interviewed some of her ideal clients that she had worked with using the method I teach in the Create Your Overwhelm-Squashing Marketing Plan course.
The great thing about this process is that it shows you exactly what you need to do to reach your ideal clients and for Kay, that was really committing to Instagram Reels. Kay says that her success on Instagram comes back to those initial ideal client interviews she learned to do as a member of The Wedding Business Collective. It changed everything for her. She was attracting her ideal clients regularly and in high volume.
Kay started making Instagram Reels that were educational and entertaining that really appealed to her ideal client. She showed her personality and didn’t censor herself. Once she started learning into using Instagram this way, instead of just posting pretty pictures, her ideal clients started beating down her door. They were her perfect ideal clients and many wanted to hire Kay for destination weddings which is how that arm of her business began.
So much of what we do in marketing is random and scattered and I understand why wedding pros feel frustrated by that. I would too! But if you get really laser-focused on your ideal client and your marketing plan, marketing becomes easy, and leads flow in consistently. Kay simply followed the steps laid out in The Wedding Business Collective. You can do the same when you join us in The Wedding Business Collective!
Kay has clearly nailed Instagram Reels but that’s not the only thing she’s doing to attract her ideal clients. She writes evergreen blog posts on hot topics and optimizes them for SEO so her ideal clients find her. She also shows up once a week on her Instagram Stories to answer questions while drinking wine for Ask Kay Wednesday. This allows her to solve the problem in public so her followers see how knowledgeable and helpful she is.
Kay regularly gets questions during Ask Kay Wednesday that she has already answered in blog posts so she’s able to repurpose her blog posts in her Instagram Stories. She simply links to the blog post and at the end of that blog post, there is a call to action to either book a Power Planning Session or submit a form to learn more about working with Kay.
She also has an opt-in form on her website that provides people with a guide about 5 mistakes that every couple makes when they start to plan their wedding. Those people are now on her email list so they get an automated email campaign to nurture those leads and turn them into inquiries. Kay wrote those emails 3 years ago and she periodically updates them but aside from that they just work in the background for her to generate leads. That’s the power of email marketing! We have a course inside The Wedding Business Collective called Selling With Email Marketing where you can do this for yourself and you can use our take & tweak 7-email autoresponder campaign to make it even easier.
As you can see, all of the pieces of Kay’s marketing work together like a well-oiled machine. Everything has a purpose and leads people to the next step. That’s how your marketing should work. It makes everything so much easier and it works better! Plus, it also shows consistency which builds trust and trust is important for someone who is about to spend a significant amount of money to work with you.
Ask Kay Wednesday works so well because of Kay’s consistency. She gets tons of questions and builds relationships with her followers each week but it only happens because she has committed to doing this consistently. In the beginning, she got no questions. She tried again and got 3 questions, one of which was from a fellow planner. Kay’s consistency has turned Ask Kay Wednesday into a thing her followers know about and look forward to. It’s also something that allows her potential clients to ask questions and get to know her before they inquire.
When Kay first started building her team of planners she found it difficult to sell her team members to her leads. The business was called Kay Northrup Events and people have come to know Kay from her marketing. She figured it out but she struggled with marketing her team for quite some time.
When Kay started to market her destination wedding services, she struggled at first. Wanting to be a destination wedding planner is difficult without credibility. The only destination wedding she had planned was her own but she knew she had the skills to produce incredible destination weddings for others. That’s a difficult thing to market though because there isn’t enough trust.
Kay underestimated the trust component and didn’t realize how scary planning a destination wedding can be for some people. They need to have full trust in you as a planner to feel comfortable with that.
Kay addressed this by changing her marketing to address the fears those couples felt but also highlighted the added difficulties of planning a destination wedding without a planner. She emphasized that being scared wasn’t a good enough reason to not have the wedding of their dreams. They were going to regret that decision in 20 years.
At first, Kay had to give massive discounts to be able to book destination weddings and build her portfolio. She now charges full price because she has the portfolio to back her up but it has been a big mindset shift to realize she no longer needs to discount. This was not an overnight success. It was an evolution.
Kay very intentionally discounted her destination planning services so they weren’t so low that she would resent the couples and the work. She also lives to travel so being able to roll in some vacation time after a wedding made it worthwhile for her while she built her portfolio. If you’re going to discount your prices to build your portfolio, you have to decide when you’ll stop doing that. The goal is to build a portfolio, not discount forever.
At the time of this interview, Kay was extremely busy and she knew that she would never be this busy again because she set a limit on how many weddings she would take per year in the future and she has a team. Having another planner on the team has allowed Kay to cap her year at 7 clients. Each wedding takes about 200 hours of work and she’s determined not to burn herself out each season.
Kay supplements her full planning revenue with 2 hour Power Planning Sessions that she initially designed as a lead generator. Chances are if someone works with Kay for 2 hours in a Power Planning Session and they are going to hire a planner, they’re going to want to hire her. She started off selling these for $100 and they’re currently $295.
Kay felt energized doing these sessions and decided she wanted to make them a bigger part of her business. She loved seeing couples leave these sessions with a clear blueprint they can use to plan a wedding that is aligned with their values and priorities. These sessions take her about 2.5 hours in total and they are her most profitable package based on the hourly rate she makes.
By only taking 7 full planning clients, Kay has cleared her schedule to take up to 3 of these Power Planning sessions per week if she chooses to. She is also offering follow-up sessions so people who booked a Power Planning session at the beginning of their planning process can book another session when they need one. This revenue stream allows Kay to work with ideal clients that wouldn’t have normally worked with a wedding planner because of the cost and she loves working with them in this way.
Kay knows that she needs 7 full planning clients and 75 Power Planning sessions to hit her revenue goals. I love that she has these numbers because a lot of wedding pros don’t do this math. She has done the math for her revenue but she’s also factored in what she can handle without driving herself crazy. That is key to a successful wedding business that doesn’t require you to work insane hours.
Kay says that those numbers calm her and I feel the same way. She pulls out the whiteboard with those numbers when she’s feeling overwhelmed and burnt out from her current workload so she can remember why she set those numbers. She never wants to feel that busy and stressed again and she won’t if she sticks to those numbers. It’s a path out of overwhelm.
In The Wedding Business Collective, Kay shared that she had so much on her plate and she decided to break down everything so she knew how much capacity she had left in any given future month. It’s easy to pile on when the wedding isn’t for a year but then you realize you’re doing 4 weddings in a month and it’s just unsustainable.
This capacity planning allows her to allow the numbers to make the decisions for her. She can clearly see that because of the 3 weddings in July she can’t take on anymore not just in July, but also in June and May. She has had to turn people away, which can be difficult, but this protects her from hitting burnout in the future.
If you want to develop a revenue stream like Kay’s Power Planning sessions that are a bit outside the norm for what you do, I’d love to help you! I have a VIP Day available that is designed to give you everything you need to create, launch, and market your new revenue stream, so you can start raking in the money ASAP. Oh, and we’ll get it all done in a day!
Boundaries are crucial and setting boundaries doesn’t come naturally to many of us. It’s easy to allow your clients to push you around and take more of your time than you’d like. After all, they’re paying you and you want to make them happy. You don’t want to wind up with a bad review and it’s easy to live in fear of that.
Kay has worked on this and had gotten better at setting and maintaining boundaries. She makes a good point that your weaknesses as a human being will be put to the test as an entrepreneur. If you tend to be a people pleaser, you better believe you’ll have to confront that but you can improve on those things you naturally struggle with. Therapy can be great for this. As Kay says, don’t be a Pushover Patty.
Kay is focusing on booking out her 7 full planning client spots and fully booking her employee, Niara. At the time of the interview, she had 3 on the books and can take 10-11. Kay loves that her company creates an opportunity for hardworking planners to get to travel for free and go to places they might never otherwise visit.
Kay is excited to exercise her new capacity and boundaries because both are new for her. She’s excited to see herself handle difficult situations so much better than she has in the past. She’s also looking forward to having a break and getting her CEO Days back. She’s looking forward to being able to be the CEO again, not just the lead event producer. Niara is taking over a lot of that lead event producer role which will open Kay up to new opportunities!
Kay Northrup is the Owner and Chief Event Producer of Kay Northrup Events. She spends as many waking hours on the road as her budget will allow.
Some recent highlights have been riding camels alongside the Great Pyramid, solo-backpacking through Australia and New Zealand, polar-plunging in Antarctica, rowing down the Mekong Delta, and even saying her own “I do” along the Santorini cliffside.
KNE serves untraditional couples looking for permission to celebrate their marriage THEIR way. Given Kay’s love for travel, she specializes in destination weddings and has, so far, planned weddings across 3 continents, 7 countries, and 9 US states.
Join us inside The Wedding Business Collective!
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Episode 221: Getting Out Of Overwhelm with The Machete Method
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