Also, talk to Andy Brice from Perfect Table Plan and pump him for information on who the ultimate customers of his software are.
P.S. The fact that a particular woman is marrying a particular man on a particular day is, in itself, worth more than $25. It can also be sold to multiple people. Just throwing that out there -- lead generation often isn't held in particularly high esteem, but it is big money.
Give the PDF for ~10 guests away for free. This demonstrates that your solution will work, but nobody worth worrying has their invitation need filled by 10 invites.
Charge appropriate to value for PDFing the full guest list. Charge extraordinarily dearly for completely taking one annoying task off the overworked bride's plate and sending the invites yourself.
The free PR you get from offering the free PDFs will drive sales of the printed versions and providing some free PDFs to low value customers will be much cheaper than Google ad-words and wedding magazine adverts. If you think about it magazines / blogs are going to point to the place you get good invitations for free, ultimately a lot of the people going there will pay for them to be printed and sent out.
Let them. Your pathological customers have to go somewhere -- send them to that sucker. If they cut their prices, you raise yours. I promise you you will come out ahead on that exchange. (It even works for bingo cards, which the customer has not spent an entire lifetime envisioning as the ultimate in socially acceptable public demonstrations of lavish consumption.)
He mentions around the 3 min mark that lead generation generates more revenue than direct payments (and then goes on that topic for a bit).
Mark Pincus talks about it here - http://markpincus.typepad.com/markpincus/2009/11/my-take-on-...
Peanut Labs backs it up with independent research - http://peanutlabsmedia.net/2009/11/02/survey-finds-arrington...
i agree with this - her wedding is a special event that she will spend as much as she can - she already has a mental budget calculated by a complex process known only to her - some variables include -the cost of the wedding of her best friend -average cost of wedding in her social graph -how much she can afford to spend - then she will spend double of her budget so that she can complain about how guilty she feels for spending soo much for a wedding --but in no way-- her wedding will cost less than -and her planning process will last less than- the wedding of her best friend - she will get the most expensive of everything including invitations - she may buy groceries with coupons to look chic but this is -her- event - she will not look cheap - consider that even when she wants to -look- cheap she does not buy jeans and rip them at home herself -no- she buys -branded- jeans already ripped with style for her -also- it is a mistake to think that she is buying a -product- when she orders invitations - she is buying a -story- presented to her as -marketing- that she can share with her friends - for her to buy cheap invitations that she will spend time to create manually herself - there better be a -cool- story she can share with her frieds why she made this decision to go cheap - this story the founder must supply to her through marketing convincing her that buying cheap invitations does not make her look cheap - this is more difficult than building the site -also- maybe more important - she is -outsourcing- her wedding event - by definition she is the queen and the center of the universe and she will not do anything herself -except- giving orders - there is a lot of pride and competition involved in planning a wedding - she will not condescend to do manual work for her own invitations to save money - i think tracy in this case is thinking like the groom not the bride - but the decision to spend is made by the bride - so i believe this not to be a sound business model
It is a mistake to think that she is buying a product when she orders invitations. She is buying a story presented to her as marketing that she can share with her friends. For her to buy cheap invitations that she will spend time to create manually herself, there better be a cool story she can share with her friends why she made this decision to go cheap.
In the context of Limedaring's business. How do you make something like this happen? Unique typesetting? Outsource and arbitrage? Printing on a plotter machine?
Maybe my example is not very practical... but the question is: what in your product makes each guest feel special?
I bet she would make a great cofounder.
Tracy worked with us on http://getupandmove.me/ and handled our really tough design direction and came out with great creative solutions like a champ. More importantly, she delivered reliably and quickly, unlike many who talk and talk but never do. I would definitely bet on her.
Just food for thought. Good luck!
As far as referrals go: they matter. You won't get much repeat business so acquisition will be a concern (even with an growing divorce rate!). But people get a ton of advice from their friends when the go through the process. The same DJ that played at a friends wedding, played at ours, and now seems to show up at every wedding we go to. People ask my wife about our venue, go there and then call to find out which florists we down-selected to, etc. Point being word of mouth is probably a disproportionately large source of demand. I think that can help mitigate a low customer lifetime value.
I was disappointed this site was not live because I would have bought on the spot!
The biggest issue for me is convenience, as soon as this in-person process became a chore, my fiancee and I thought to look online (again).
Even though you will not get repeat customers, you will get repeat families, party-planners and friends. Our entire vendor list came from family and/or friends referrals..
-Be able to include more than just an invitation and RSVP. Food choices, maps, registry info would be great. Perhaps you could even have contracts with stores that have registries.
Never been married, don't know anything about the industry - what specifically did the business provide, and what was the painful part?
My first thought is bitchy customers.
But with weddings come huge expectations and issues of timing. You're usually working weekends and nights. You have to work in and around other providers, setting up at certain times and often dismantling well after midnight (because the venue has something else on the day after). Yet everyone grumbles about paying for crucial things like delivery and setup (sounds easy, but who in your wedding party needs to be setting things up amidst the dramas of the actual wedding?) and, as you suspected, tensions are high and customers are demanding (bridezilla-style).
Invitations are a tough space. Horrendously competitive and though everyone wants lovely invites, no one really wants to pay what they cost. It's rarely the design process that kills you. I bet there are loads of people who fall in love with letter press invites and then get a quote that knocks them over. Some invites might be $10 ea and for that price you can usually add another course to your reception dinner!
I married for the second time earlier this year (second time ever, not second time this year! ;)), designed the invites myself (though I'm a web designer rather than a graphic designer) and handled RSVPs and everything that goes with it through a custom designed and built site (now in post-wedding mode at http://www.march20.com.au/).
I am actually in the process of expanding my setup into a side-project (http://www.guestlist.com.au/) that actually touches on invitations. @limedaring, I would be more than happy to trade ideas and tips and even see if there's room to collaborate on a link between ventures if you wanted (email in profile).
The rest of my revenue comes from other types of shoots, which are much, much easier and a much faster turnaround. A family shoot can be redone. A wedding can't, so experience matters more than any other kind of shoot.
and a lot of the processes were painful
1) Guide the customer through creating professional-grade invites. That part is relatively straightforward.
2) Print and mail the invites
3) Provide an RSVP service available to the couple and their vendors -- the caterer needs to know who wants vegan food but, honestly, the bride and groom don't care.
Finally, if you REALLY want to provide something disruptive: take a handwriting sample from the bride and/or groom, turn it into a font, and produce the thank-you notes (they need to look hand-written). I have no idea how you would do this, but having been through a wedding myself I remember utterly loathing this part.
Just thought of this: What if they went through the service, had a "sample" of their finished invite sent to them, and once they approve, then the service could send out the individual invitations. Printing just one custom invitation for each customer might be problematic, though. But something to think about, indeed.
Target the eco-friendly, or the progressives, or the tree-huggers, and just bypass the paper market altogether, while still creating a new niche in upscale digital invitations.
Natural extensions on that theme include a digital registry, guestbook, etc.
Not to pee on your parade, but what you described is a neat idea, but it is not disruptive. Making something that would cut down the cost of a wedding by 50% and be so overwhelmingly and obviously beneficial as to become viral - that is disruptive. Otherwise it's just a noise on a market.
I agree with the fact that this is not "disruptive", when I opened the post I expected to get something that can help you cater you wedding for a fraction of the price or something, or a mechanism for to shop and rate wedding planners, something.
Now a REAL wedding disruptor would be a tool that auto-generates video/photos of you and your family at a wedding so you can send those out and skip whole wedding nonsense, and go drinking with all your combined friends for the evening.
No offense but...you've never been married, have you?
A wedding is a lot like a startup -- there's a whole lot of pain and frustration getting it launched, but launch day is a hell of a lot of fun -- not just for the bride and groom, but for the family and friends too. (The difference is that most people want a wedding.)
Besides, even if you found a customer base that would be willing to buy this, your mother would shoot you for not having her to your wedding. :>
(Disclosure: that's an affiliate link. If you want to get there without the affiliate link, here it is: http://www.yourfonts.com/ )
The world is probably not ready for that yet though.
But then, could your suggestion be cast as a couple making a statement to reduce paper usage? And if enough couples do this, what kind of dent could it make on aggregate?
- electronic invitations mean no paper, no postage.
- chances are, people will print out the invitation and directions.
...he might be a good person from whom to ask an opinion.
Also, something I noticed when we were going through all of this was the RSVP process is broke. Even if you provide a pre-addressed + stamped post card with a checkbox on it, people still don't respond. I thought about some sort of barcode that can read by smart phones, that auto magically directs to a web site (or they can go to it manually). Either way, you get the idea.
Just some thoughts, but I would most definitely look at the RSVP industry too.
I probably don't know what the hell I'm talking about, but wouldn't it be a better play to integrate (somehow) with a printing company? Or offer an export option that they can take to a local printer (as in the correct file format .eps, pantone color numbers, or what not).
Sorry if I am completely ignorant to the wedding invitations scene but I would think every girl deserves nice invitations and the convenience of a one-stop-online-shop.
Hmm maybe crowdsourced invitation designs.. ala threadless.com ?
Weddings are generally the ultimate in meet-your-hero-letdown. Everything is fussed about in minute detail, but then it's all over, and you're left thinking 'what was all that for'. The memories of the day and what comes after has zero to do with wedding stationery. I can't even remember what color ours was. I'd rather spend the money and fly in a distant relative or old friend than spend big money on invite printing. Your guests will appreciate and remember hours spent refining a speech over hours fussing about invites and place settings. There is definitely diminishing returns once you get over pre-printed and hand-written invites.
Getting back on-topic : I think you'll do well with this and the wedding industry is over-priced, but a lot of it has to do with ego-management. If I were a photographer or florist, I'd add 20% to the price to put up with all the 'it's got to be perfect' crap that goes with it. Self-serve printing removes all that, so is justified with a lower margin. As long as it looks nice, people will pay the money. You'll be able to pick the cheap paper without someone frowning down your nose saying 'if you really want it to be special...'
I didn't put in all my ideas (since I didn't want to do "this idea, and THIS idea, and THIS idea!") but I think a threadless-like crowdsourcing on invitations would be fantastic, and a great tie-in to a Moo.com like printing ability.
I was surprised how many people use kits — I used to be part of a wedding blog where people loved to build their invites and then show everyone else for critiques. And I would cringe everytime I saw someone using italic Times New Roman because they didn't have access to nicer fonts.
Without the printing I would think of this as more of toy than something that would be truly disruptive. One could charge much larger prices for this service with printing and still be competitive especially when factoring in design selection and ease of use.
Moreover, I worry that launching without a printing service would be a business-killing misfeature. It sets the wrong tone (nobody wants to have their own invites printed) from which it may be hard to recover.
I recognise the founder's desire to handle this in small chunks, but printing... I dunno, I wouldn't look twice without it.
In short, I think that home printers can work, we just got to work on the quality of the typography. Of course, when I add a professional printing option to my application, that'll be the best solution. :)
My wife created our wedding invitations, meal cards, etc... at home a couple years ago when we were getting married to save some cash. We bought our stationary items at LCI Paper company (cost around ~$120) and a HP Laser Printer on Amazon for another ~$100). We designed everything in MS Office 2007, and did some funky stuff with margins to print to the end of pages (our printer wouldn't print to the end of the page, others do). All in all it was a pretty easy process, my wife is pretty artistic and most people were pretty taken back that we created them.
My advice to those doing this is to start early, take your time (finding new fonts, looking at existing invitations, etc...) & find a printer that prints to the end of paper (although not a deal breaker I found by fudging wild margins).
Good luck. But understand that the printing industry (again, at least here in Montreal), isn't the wedding industry. And the printing industry is about as cutthroat and cost-competitive as they come.
I always get strange looks when I tell people that Chuck's Color Theory class was one of the best Art classes I took in college. I mean it, too.
It's telling that you had to teach yourself HTML/CSS. The Art department is still of little help in that regard. They're still teaching tables for layout. cringe
Anyways, good luck. I'm happily employed, so I can't offer myself up as a co-founder.
I actually went back there a year and a half ago to try to teach a lesson on correct HTML/CSS - and failed miserably. My public speaking skills were awful, I was stuck in the computer room (so everyone was surfing rather than listening), and I wasn't promoted - it was awful. I hate that Enrica still teaches Dreamweaver as the correct way to markup websites.
Thanks for the luck. <3
As are everyone's first time they lecture. At least from my experience, second time is a ton easier/better.
Although the real money is in high-dollar custom letterpress wedding announcements, there may be some money toward the lower end of the pricing spectrum.
"A do-it-yourself wedding invitation kit costs $45, while professional wedding invitations are hundreds or thousands of dollars."
How much of that "hundreds or thousands" is in the actual printing vs. the design + margin?
Quality printing doesn't scale down (the cost is making the plate).
Unless of course you go the Flash route. But this thing could demo really really well on an iPad.
Definitely the printing part is important. We printed everything ourselves and it was a lot of work and only possible because she knows our printer inside out. Making this easy is primordial, I think.
Most people want to see samples of the different colors before they choose. This is also important because it never looks as it does on the screen.
I'm also working on a wedding application. I just dropped you an email. Hope to hear from you!
We have been successful in a general sense, generating about $350k in revenue at the end of our first year. After reaching this point, we realized the marketing game was where the real successes and failures were determined. In the wedding business, your customers won't look for you until that very moment they need your product, during the planning stages of a wedding. If your ad or search listing isn't in the top X, all the creativity in the world won't matter.
We continue operating http://trulyweddingfavors.com at a healthy margin, but are focused on innovating in other markets with more viral potential.
If there's one tip I could offer: read "the e-myth" ;)
Other than your competition not having you as the designer, or appealing to the tiny budget crowd (though, several did look similarly priced) - how would you stand above the existing options?
You are not going to disrupt the industry by providing a pdf for a cheap price, you are going to be working twice as hard for half the pay.
Right now you may have 25 design templates ready to go, how many will you need next month?
How many hours will that take?
Are those billable hours?
You are making the design choices easy. Concentrate on that.
Instead of looking through a huge binder of printed samples, the bride to be can look at a website and get a design made simply, without the usual headaches to the designer.
Hopefully the pdf you provide will be easy to preflight and prepress, because a lot of your customers are going to end up taking it to a real printer after they see the results they get at home.
That can be an additional profit center for you, if you are willing to charge what your time is worth for anything other than what gets generated by the templates.
There are not huge profit margins in most printing, even though letterpress commands high prices, the process is very labor intensive, and that wonderful Crane Lettra paper is expensive.
Don't forget that part of the final price of an invitation set is how much of a bridezilla the designer and printer had to deal with.
Finally, take a look at etsy, lot of wedding invitations there for cheap prices.
Not to be self promoting, but I am in the printing industry, digital, offset, and letterpress.
Good luck, I think you have the germ of a good idea, but you will have some refining ahead of you.
But I guess you could easily expand horizontally into _other_ parts of the wedding-planning process once you get your foot in the door with the invitations thing. That's where the big money starts flowing.
I.e, if you randomly get a customer, he cannot recommend you because he may not know anyone getting married at the time, and when another person gets married, it may be too distant in time for him to remember you.
Your biggest problem is market, and you should explain it properly.
Oh, and there's a whole publishing industry devoted to bridal magazines and websites, so it's reasonably easy to reach your target market if you have an advertising budget. Difficult to bootstrap though.
I support you to build and launch the thing and then see what works! Go for it! And best of luck. The wedding industry deserves a good thumping.
I think paper invitations will start losing market share to email - it's more convenient, and spreads virally to your unmarried guests.
If you really want to disrupt the wedding industry, make a search engine for the venues. My wife and I spent weeks driving around the Bay Area looking at restaurants, wineries, and meeting halls to find out open dates, prices, menus, restrictions, etc. I would have loved a single site listing everything and searchable by all those parameters.
BTW, make sure to use non-toxic adhesive on the envelopes.
... and standard packages and plans, like what everyone else is getting, are NOT good
She didn't want to do it. That's not a princess thing, princesses let other people do the work! Just look at the people that get married in Vegas or Disney World- I just went to a wedding in Vegas last weekend. The couple did all the planning remotely with a full service provider there.
I think you could do it as a technical supplement to a wedding coordinator service too, a web application with a federated model, where people could go on there and price out all of these options from existing providers and have it all coordinated for them.
McDonald's and McMansions make a lot of money.
If not the chocolate companies would have had to stop by coca from farms with child slaves, and people would have to stop visiting trafficked prostitutes. Hint: they won't.
Thought I'd throw in my $0.02 about customer acquisition to address some other people's points about this space. While it is true that consumers in the wedding area are one-time consumers, there are plenty of ways to market besides AdWords. You could easily offer incentives to your current customers for referring friends. For example, marking up a product by 2x and giving people a 50% cut or rebate for referring a friend works wonders for many businesses.
Echoing someone else's concern though, I'd be worried about how much I would need to fight with my printer. Certain kinds of card stock would probably be a nightmare to deal with. Not knowing much about printing, are there certain things that can be done to make the DIY printing process easier? E.g. Limit to 8.5 x 11 PDFs to make printing easier or recommend certain kinds of card stock or brands of paper that would work best? (heck, that could even be another revenue stream: either affiliate or selling actual paper/card stock) Etc...
I applaud you for going for it -- it's a good idea. I signed up for your mailing list. Let's see if we can work together...
In a startup I've worked in they had a "wedding" section to the sight allowing guest lists, gift ordering, vouchers and the like. Some of the things I observed that seemed to matter included:
- reputation: nobody wants to be screwed around on 'their' one day
- reliability: as above
- customer service: tech must have a human face as that's what is expected (or if things get screwed up you need to be able to re-assure by person - somehow)
- design: high quality design (visual & user) is expected
It would be good to think of it this way. If you are building a service users expect a level of experience. When they walk into a physical store supplying a service, there is a high level of kerbside appeal.  Failure in appearing to be able to do a good job & doing a good job will quickly kill your user base. No bride wants something that appears cheap, rather something that looks & behaves greater than the value paid.
Making the experience for the user good, making money fast is one problem to overcome. I also question the "insane" profit margins assumption. Test it.
Having said that there is plenty of areas in the wedding industry to interrupt. You can try from the person angle - ie: registry and associated people (social) or the services angle (the stuff people having weddings want to do). Matching the wedding to service is something I see a lot online albeit using blogs. Having said that it's the services that are making the money - but is it what people need?
I would go a step further and outsource the printing, take for instance Indian wedding cards, they are elaborate and usually have multiple pages and cost less than a dollar.
You might save a buck. We made all our card by hand. I still hate myself for doing that. But I still don't really see what you're providing here? A design for the cards? Suggestion of text?
I have openoffice and the interweb full of fonts, and I googled much of the text.
The pdf file really has some value in it (content, layout, typography, instructions for printing?, etc.), but ultimately boils down to a scalable automated process.
How much would Moo.com charge us if we were to use them as the \to paper backend?
Our design discussions revolve a lot around what Jobs/Ive would do if he had to design it :)
My thoughts were more on the registry side of things - a $12 Billion industry => http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1541767
It's essentially what I imagine your idea is, but across many verticals, including wedding prints.
I wish you all the best.
I worry about your business model though. It seems nice to be able to safe a thousand or more dollars on wedding invitations BUT here are the problems:
1) When a wedding costs 25k, saving 50-500 bucks on an invitation is going to be looked at as stupid, and cheap. You want the one that takes the most hassle out of it.
2) A big part of the invitations is the printing/mailing. If only the design was the only factor.
3) Often catering halls (im from new york) will do everything from getting the place, getting the catering, getting the flowers, getting the invitations and sending them out, its a full-blown package.
The real way to go about this is to have people design their invitations in an awesome way quickly before their wedding, get hooked to it, and already have that in mind. Makes it less of a headache for them, and sells your product.