What if we all stopped for a minute, took a deep breath, and changed the way we thought about doing business? What if we changed our mentality from “me” focused to “them” focused? What if I told you that you could actually book more business by focusing less on you, and more on your client via three simple ways?
I am often asked to share my thoughts on “the latest trends in our industry” and my “top-tips for slashing budgets.” Well, I can count on one hand the number of inquiries I’ve received where the potential client said, “I’m getting married! What are the hottest trends right now? Can you tell me how to cut my budget in half?” As a matter of fact, I cannot recall a single conversation in which that happened.
Most calls start one of two ways: either with a bit of awkward silence or a few minutes of total information dump. What these introductions tell me is that (A) my potential client has absolutely no idea what they want or need, and I need to ask a lot of questions to pull that information out, or (B) they have absolutely no idea what they want or need but are willing to share everything that they do know in an effort to get there. My point is, our clients only know what they know. They look to us as the professional, to listen to them, engage with them, and ultimately help them figure out the best results for their needs.
My point in saying all of this is that the first way of doing better business is to stop selling and start listening. When we can stop talking about “us” and start listening (whether through silence or total information overload) we can provide better solutions. Instead of making your client feel like you are doing them a favor by working within their budget, shift your mentality by providing them with positive solutions, value-added options, and if you need to, ask for more time to come up with “creative ideas just for them” (i.e., figuring out how to make it all work). I promise it will make you look like the trusted advisor they need and they will likely give you the time you need to work your magic.
Alternately, if you listen to their needs and ultimately feel that the client is not a good fit for your business for whatever the reason, this is okay too. Offer them another solution rather than a dead-end. Give them recommendations to another vendor, or send them down a positive, viable road even if it doesn’t end with you.
Number two is short and sweet. Show gratitude. Send a thank you note. No, not an email. A handwritten ‘thank you’ note. I know…you have terrible penmanship, you don’t have time, postage is expensive. Get over it and don’t wait until you book the business. I send thank you notes after my initial phone call before they even see a proposal. I cannot tell you how many of my clients acknowledge this rare gesture just before they sign my contract.
Lastly, deliver what you said you were planning to deliver, on time. If you get hung up and can’t deliver on that deadline, let them know. Communication is key. Most of us are in this industry because it is a beautiful blend of creativity and business. There is passion, compassion, and human interaction. Creative can take time and isn’t always available when it is most convenient. This is okay as long we establish what that means from a deliverables standpoint.
Okay, here’s what you have all really been waiting for: trends.
What your couples want
Mixed metallics are in. Gold, silver, tin, copper, bronze, aluminum… mix them, match them, layer them, and stack them. They are all, “in.”
For 2015… the Pantone Color of the Year is “Marsala” or anything that has a brownish, reddish, maroonish, burgundyish hue, tint, or undertone. Okay, anything that looks like the color of wine (any red wine) has been dubbed “Marsala” and they are all “in.”
Food trends. Macaroons are still fun. Folks are still crushing on donuts, ‘cronuts,’ and fried dough in any shape or size with a dipping sauce or topping. And I need more s’mores! On a stick, in a glass, as a pop, topped with sprinkles, mixed with peanut butter, salted caramel…doesn’t matter. As a matter of fact, I recently had a donut hole piped with chocolate mousse, rolled in marshmallow and graham crackers, and served on a stick. Yep, a s’mores donut pop. Three trends in one!
Now, go listen to your clients, be grateful for the opportunity to work with them, and do something as simple as honoring your word. You can celebrate over a macaroon and sparkling wine pairing or picking out your new personalized stationery.
Danielle Couick is the principal | Designer & Planner, Magnolia Bluebird design & events.