Fresh Eyes, The Perfect Egg and Engage!

by seanlow on January 22, 2013

I have been dying with anticipation, waiting for Rebecca Grinnals and Kathryn Arce to announce what their plans are for the Engage! conferences this year. The announcement came today – the first will be at the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina in June and the second will be at the Montelucia Resort in Scottsdale, Arizona in December.

That I am a fan (ok, lifelong fanatic) about what Engage! is and will be is beyond obvious. You need only search Engage! on this blog to see just how deep the well of loyalty and gratitude goes. No more hyperbole here though (although there can never be enough).

This post is about two things – first, how important it is if you are NOT in the wedding business to consider attending one Engage! this year. And lest you think this is to promote attendance, as those in the wedding business already know, it is not. The waitlist for the last Engage! was over 240 people, almost a person for every chair filled. Engage! is the TED of the luxury wedding market. Full stop. Both events will sell out quickly – read days, not weeks or months.

So why advise going if you are not in the wedding business? Same reason I would advise those who are event designers to attend Las Vegas Market or High Point Market in North Carolina. You will see how those in related industries operate and how you might compare yourself to them rather than to each other. For instance, I believe most wedding designers/planners are as important to a couple’s lives as an interior designer. Arguments can be made all around, but the disparity is not three to one, which is about what an interior designer earns per project relative to a wedding planner/designer. Then again, wedding planners and designers are coming dangerously close to what was only a short time ago the exclusive province of interior designers. Lifestyle is lifestyle. Either way, you both need to know about each other. So if the focus of your creative business is on the (ultra) luxury set, no better place to learn more about them than at Engage!

Now for the second part of the post. How Engage! became Engage!, how it embodies what a Perfect Egg business ought to be and some quick thoughts on what may or may not be next.

To be a viable Perfect Egg business, your “lite” creative business needs to be able to do four things. 1) Show off your core creative business and vice-versa; 2) Charge a substantial premium relative to the competition; 3) Be capable of reaching scale; and 4) Ultimately be able to stand on its own entirely without the core creative business.

Rebecca’s core business is Engaging Concepts, a consulting firm focused on advising those in the wedding market as to both the state of the market and how they can develop their wedding business to best take advantage of the market. Oh yeah, before starting Engaging Concepts, Rebecca started Disney Weddings and help build it to over $100mm in annual sales. Having a conference (congress?) of the best of the best in the luxury wedding market legitimizes her consulting business and vice-versa.

Engage! is not cheap and it is not intended to be. Engage!’s value is distinguished by content and attendees never price. The sustainable premium means Engage! will always have opportunities to distinguish itself further. If Engage! ever becomes about price, there will be no place to go. For perfect egg businesses, distinguishable value based on the core creative business is everything.

It took Rebecca and Kathryn a long time to reach scale. There were times when they questioned whether it was worth it. Putting on two conferences a year is A LOT of work. Making sure the right people were in the seats was not without cost. Compare that to getting great consulting client like Sandals Resorts, Inter-Continental Hotels or the Cayman Islands Board of Tourism and you might question whether it was worth it too. Rebecca and Kathryn believed they would tip, but neither of them knew when. Fortitude, faith, and luck allow you to persevere, but only if the first two pieces (mutual value enhancement to the core creative business and distinguishable value) are there. Anything else would be delusional.

The last part is where Engage! is now. It no longer needs Rebecca’s and Kathryn’s reputation ala Engaging Concepts to drive it forward. Engage! needs Rebecca and Kathryn no doubt, but its value is its own now. When a perfect egg business stands alone, then there is intrinsic, expandable, sellable value. Whatever Rebecca and Kathryn decide to do inside the conference is never for me to comment on, however, what they may or may not decide to do with Engage! makes for fun and happy speculation. Engage! is sellable – which luxury hotel/travel business would not be interested in having this group of attendees twice or more a year see all they have to offer? Engage! is licensable ala TEDx. What about international opportunities outside of North America? There are media plays, education off-shoots, etc. Or there is the Craigslist option. Consciously make less to keep what it is as it is. Focus solely on content of the conference and surprising and dazzling attendees and speakers alike. Maybe double the price.  Only Rebecca and Kathryn will decide. To the extent the next step is a problem, it is one I for one would most certainly like to have.

That Engage! is a case-study worthy of any business school is something I am incredibly proud to have been part of and witnessed and happier still to see what lies ahead.  The lessons for all creative businesses will be legion.

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