The Ideal Client – They Do Exist

The Ideal Client – They Do Exist

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Understanding the who and why of the ideal client is very important, especially in the very personally-focused business of weddings.  In this post, I wanted to write about what is the ideal client and to mention a few reasons why knowing who your ideal clients are is so important.  

I describe the ideal client as follows… when you create a business that is genuine to you, your ideal clients are people who are not only looking for the product and/or service you offer, but they are also looking for your style, service level, and relative price point.  Think about it as a business-to-customer matchmaking experience.  If you have a great business and a great customer yet they are not a great match, should they work together?   

Our opinion is no, and thus understanding which customers would be a great match for your business should be a first step if your business is new, and a “figure it out now” step if your business is already open.  Here are a few reasons why it is so important:

1. Working with ideal clients leads to more satisfying daily work!  How?  An ideal client’s needs, wants, and vision will match your services and customer journey, and thus result in a better experience for all – one where reality meets or even exceeds expectations!

2. Working with ideal clients leads to making more money!  How?  Your ideal client will have a higher appreciation for your services and customer journey (reality meeting or exceeding expectation), which leads to raving reviews, and to referrals, which both lead to more sales.

3. Working with ideal clients leads to a happier you!  How?  In addition to the more sales you will be making, you will have more fun working with clients who are your style and personality, which translates into longer term passion and happiness in your business and your life! 

Since every business needs to make a certain amount of money, once you have determined who your ideal clients are, you need to make sure there are enough of them in your market to support your business.  If not, this is probably a good time to step back and decide if you are willing to work with less than ideal clients or explore a different type of business. 

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Improve the Customer Journey, Get More Business

Improve the Customer Journey, Get More Business

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When wanting to increase income for our business, most of our focus is on marketing – which is a valid focus.  But what if I could show you a way to increase business, improve the ROI you get from each hour you spend in your business, and maybe even save your business some money, all at the same time… would you be interested?  

I expect to be talking quite a bit in the coming year about understanding and improving what we are referring to as the Customer Journey.  The customer journey, or the customer experience, is the path a client takes from the time they decide to contact you until either the time they either stop communicating with you (they don’t hire you) or you stop communicating with them (you have provided a product or service for them).  And, throughout a customer’s journey, it is your business’ systems and processes that guide them along the path, and shape their overall perception of your business.  

The three main benefits that come from evaluating and improving the customer journey are:

1)      A client’s expectations in their dealings with your business (their journey) are met, or exceeded, and thus they give you better reviews and more referrals.   In addition, a great overall customer journey can offset a single issue that might have arisen during that journey.

2)      You get better ROI on the time you spend per client by matching your systems and processes to your ideal client’s expectations. This allows you to remove or modify pieces that aren’t necessary and focus resources where they will make the biggest impact.

3)      Through more focused communication and better processes, you also improve the experience other vendors have with you which leads to more vendor referrals. 

With so many millennials deciding which vendors to engage with largely based on reviews and referrals, improving the customer journey will lead to consistent and long-term increases in warm leads.  

For more information and assistance, look for future blog posts on how to evaluate and how to change the customer journey.    

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Ways to Make the Most of Industry Shows or Conferences

Ways to Make the Most of Industry Shows or Conferences

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Industry shows are a great way, in a relatively short period of time, to hear multiple speakers present on a broad range of topics, and often to find other vendors or suppliers to support your business too.  The cost for the variety and amount of information presented usually make industry shows worthwhile, and most shows include a great social component to add to the fun and value. I have attended and been a speaker at multiple shows including The Special Event (TSE), Wedding MBA, WeddingWire World, and the ABC National Conference (and soon to be at the Alt Summit), and I wanted to give you some quick tips and hints on how to get the most from an industry show or conference.  

Have reasonable expectations.  By that I mean, don’t expect every session to be incredible and/or exactly what you were thinking it would be.  Shows need a lot of speakers and some of them are just going to be better, or more on target, than others.  If you are unsure about which sessions to attend, talk with others who have seen a particular speaker and get opinions on their quality and their content.   

Know your plans going into the show.  Based on your goals for the year and the corresponding plans you are implementing to achieve those goals, you should have a good idea of what business topic areas are the most important to seek out.   You should also have an idea of what specific information you are looking for within each business topic, which should help you narrow down which are the best sessions to attend.   

Try to get two or three actionable takeaways from each session and make detailed notes of those items.  Also, see if the presenter is offering any kind of after-show follow-up (slides, other worksheets, etc.).  If they are, make sure you are on the list to receive them, which usually means handing them one of your business cards.  

Find friends and colleagues to team up with.  You will get more out of the show if you have people you can count on in the same session so that you can compare notes and discuss takeaways or next action steps after the session.  And, it is also extremely helpful to have friends who are attending other sessions so that you can share notes and get even more out of the show.   

Finally, although you will have lots of ideas after a show, you most likely won’t have the time or resources to implement everything.  Pick 3 of the most immediate and important items and focus on those items first.  As you get them going, or completed, you can then start working on others as you have the time. 

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I Have More Than a Dream, I Have a Plan

I Have More Than a Dream, I Have a Plan

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For most of us who are solopreneurs or very small business owners, the idea of writing a business plan can seem useless and/or daunting.  Maybe you have thought…  Why should I write one, I already know I want to do it and so I am just going to do it?  Or, I don’t need a business plan, I am not trying to get a loan.  Or, maybe even, I didn’t write one when I started my business, why should I write one now?   Well, let me just say, a business plan helps you define what you are creating, where you want to take it, how you are going to get there, and what it is going to take, and cost, in the process… all very important to know when starting and when running a business.

I am not saying you can’t be successful without a business plan or that your business plan must be 300 pages filled with every business detail… but trust me when I say that it can help in so many ways – and done at any stage in your business – and below are just a few.  

1)      By looking at the long-term and detailing out the why you are doing this business, the who do you want as your customers, and where do you want the business to go in the long term, you will make it much easier to write yearly goals and the yearly action items to support those goals.  You will also make it much easier to evaluate your business as it grows and therefore to adjust as necessary.

2)      Writing a business plan makes you “sweat” the details.  By writing out who you think your ideal customers will be, how you plan to deliver your product or service, and how you plan to market it, you get a better handle on what you will need to start and what it will take to continue.  For example, when you start listing the things you will need daily just to operate your business, you have a much better idea of how much startup money you should have, how many bookings or clients you will need, and what you will need to charge.    

3)      A well-thought-through business plan can give you a good idea of your odds for success.   By detailing out what it will take, what it should cost, and how much you should make, a business plan can help you determine if your business could be successful – in whatever way you are defining success.  And, as you create the plan, if you don’t see the potential for the success you are looking to achieve, you can alter the plan or realize it may not work before committing too much time and capital. 

So, remember that assuming you are not trying to get a loan, your business plan does not need to be formal, it just needs to be well thought through and documented.  And, your business plan is, and should be, flexible, since what you are aiming for when you start the business may change as your business succeeds and matures.  If you don’t know where to begin on it, 

If you don’t know where to begin on it, drop me an email to bethel@elevatebybethel.com, and I’ll send over my “Nice and Simple Business Plan” template structure.  It’s easier than you think to do, and important to take the time to think these things through!

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It is Not Personal, It is Just Business… Or is It?

It is Not Personal, It is Just Business… Or is It?

Most of us in the wedding industry are soloprenuers or have only a few staff, which makes how we personally handle customer service for our business so very important.  And, when it comes to customer service, my opinion is it should be a combination of both personal and business… meaning that you need to have policies that are communicated and that apply most of the time, yet you understand that policies do not cover every situation.  For example, in my contract it says I require a retainer fee at the time of booking and the retainer fee is non-refundable should the couple decide to cancel for any reason.  Does that mean I will never refund a retainer fee?  Of course not.

I had a couple recently who met with me and later that same day signed the contract and paid the retainer fee.  I was definitely excited to work with them, so loved that they booked me so quickly after our meeting!  The next day, they contacted me and wanted to cancel because they had thought more about it and realized that while they were excited to work with me for all sorts of reasons, in the end she was worried that I wouldn’t be the right fit for them (she wanted a more religious ceremony).  They even said that they understood they would lose their retainer fee but wanted to cancel anyway.  However, I felt that it was the right thing to give it back, especially as it had only been a day and therefore hadn’t yet turned away any other business for their wedding day, nor had I don’t too much additional work on their wedding yet (other than sent them their first homework assignment and my normal booking admin tasks).  I also have had a few cases where a couple canceled months after they signed the contract and they wanted their retainer fee back, even after I explained to them why I charge a retainer (lost opportunity, time I already spent working for them, etc.), and reminded them of the section in the contract that they signed which explains that.  In some of these cases, I stuck with keeping the retainer fee, while in others I did refund it.  Although in these cases, I did not have to, or even want to, refund the retainer fee, I did so because the potential outcomes of not returning the retainer fee in those circumstances were not worth it for my business reputation, or were not what my heart was saying was right.      

Although most customer service scenarios don’t truly have a right or wrong response, so you need to evaluate each one for yourself and your own business, here are some tips I can give you – 

1)  When evaluating a customer service scenario, ask yourself some questions:

      a)  Is it possible that I am misinterpreting what I am hearing or being asked?   For example, just because someone asks for a discount doesn’t mean they don’t value your services.  (I promise you, this is a hard one for me, as I take that question/request so personally, I admit.)

      b)  Is what is being asked against the law and/or your core principles?   You need to be genuine in your business and, you are in your own business at least partially so you can control what you do.  Oh, and as I always say, I wouldn’t do well in prison.  😉

      c)  Is this one of those times that you are going to take a stand?  It is absolutely fine to take a stand if you believe you are right… just understand and be prepared for all the potential consequences.

2)  I sometimes use the, “don’t say no immediately” approach.   This is where if a couple asks for something that is not possible (or likely not possible), you say something like, “I don’t think that is possible, but let me check and get back to you.”  It is a partial no but gives the impression that you are not just dismissing it without thinking/checking further.

3)  Don’t overreact.  Think about what was said or is being asked, then ask any questions needed to clarify, then think about your response, then take into consideration all possible outcomes, and then respond politely.

4)  Apologize.  Of course, if you did do something wrong, admit it and correct it in whatever way possible. 

Just remember, the experiences a couple has with you throughout the process, not just on their wedding day, shapes their opinion of your business and thus their reviews and referrals.  And this goes double for any other vendor they are working with who might hear about how you handled it, affecting their view about you related to future events.