Client Relations

Giving Clients What They Want

Several years ago I visited a new-to-me stylist for a haircut. I had decided to try a new hairstyle and after describing what I thought I wanted, she cut my hair that way. It turned out horribly.

After I voiced my concern over never being able to show my face in public again, the stylist told me that she knew what I described would not work with my hair type or face shape.

"Why didn't you tell me it wouldn't work if you knew all along?"

"Because you said that's what you wanted."

"Yes, but I am not a professional hair stylist, I did not go to school for this. If you knew something I asked for would not work, shouldn't you share your professional opinion and guide me to a style that would?"

If the stylist had explained to me that what I thought I wanted wouldn't work and why, I would have happily gone in another direction – but she didn't. She knew something wouldn't work and wouldn't look good and did it anyway because of a misguided belief that her job is to always do whatever the client says.

This experience reminded me of many conversations with wedding professionals over the years who have claimed that their job is to give their brides or grooms whatever they want. I have to disagree. If your clients are asking for something that you know will not turn out the way they imagine, as a professional you should guide them to a better option.

There will be many more haircuts in my future. Your clients will (hopefully) not have another wedding. You are getting paid for your professional opinion: speak up.

Originally published March 2011

The Number 1 Thing to Remove From Your Website's Inquiry Form (and Why)

The point of your website isn't to close the sale, it's to get potential clients to contact you so you can start a conversation.

The number one thing on most wedding professionals' inquiry forms that can shut down a conversation? Asking for a specific wedding date. 

This seems counterintuitive at first – after all if you aren't available for their date, you aren't available. That said, asking for the date up front cheats both you and the bride or groom out of a conversation that can leave a memorable impression and increase your word of mouth.

First, depending on your segment of the industry, a potential client may have a few dates in mind. Their decision could depend on when their dream venue or the photographer they've been Insta-stalking for the past year has availability. If the date they enter to get past a mandatory field on your inquiry form triggers an automated "Sorry, we're booked" email reply, you've lost out on the possibility that the date they land on is actually one you have available.

Second, and most importantly, not skipping past that conversation means you have the opportunity to make the wedding industry better. 

One of my non-negotiable company values is to always provide a referral if I can't accept a project. This can be because I'm already booked, I'm out of their budget, their project isn't in my wheelhouse, or we just may not be a good fit for whatever reason. Giving them the name of someone who may be able to better help them reach their goals is not only beneficial to them and brands me as helpful, it allows me to support the other people in the business consulting space who are the real deal. 

The importance of that last part shouldn't be underestimated. Wedding pros in every single segment of the industry complain about oversaturation. Planners joke that "anyone who walks by a wedding at a resort" opens up shop the next day, photographers complain about people with an iPhone and VSCO calling themselves pros, and caterers complain that "anyone with a kitchen and the Food Network thinks they can do what we do." Some of the new people entering the industry are truly talented. Others are . . . not.

The truth of the matter is that if you are competing at the level you want to be at, most of your competitors will also be excellent at what they do. Bad apples end up affecting everyone, and the best way to ensure that the good people stay in business is to send them business. 

Have a list of names of people you trust and respect, including competitors in your category as well as those who may be at a lower price point but still good at what they do. You can send an actual PDF list or link, but I'd recommend taking a couple minutes to send a personalized recommendation:

"Hi Sally, Your wedding ideas sound beautiful! We are previously committed for your date, but based on what you've shared with me, I'd recommend reaching out to Ann at XYZ Events. Her style is very much in sync with yours, plus I think you'll hit it off. Congratulations, again!"

A 90 second email that helps the couple, brands you as generous to both the client and the wedding pro, and earns you karma/reaping what you sow/what goes around comes around brownie points.

This particular couple may not have the budget for you, but "I couldn't afford him, but he still took the time to help me with recommendations" is great word of mouth and a kindness people remember. It also helps build a wedding community committed to excellence and weeding out the charlatans. A win-win for everyone.

A Glass By Any Other Name

Some people see the glass as half full.
Some people see it as half empty.
Some see it as twice as large as it needs to be.
Some are convinced that the problem is not the size of the glass nor its contents, but the make, insisting that if only the glass were Riedel everything would be better.

Taking the time to understand where your clients are coming from is more important than ever. Listening is perhaps the most underrated skill in the business world today.

Originally published July 2012