Business Decisions & Understanding Consequences

Business Decisions & Understanding Consequences

Although there are a large number of specific business decisions we could spend days and days discussing, I wanted to use this blog post to talk about the process of making business decisions, more specifically, the part about the understanding of outcomes.  I hear way too often, “I didn’t expect that” or “why did that happen” and in most cases the outcome, although maybe not preferred, should be something that was factored into the decision-making process, and thus, not a surprise.    

A simple example – I recently had a couple cancel my services.  Per the contract, they owed me the final payment anyway, but I wasn’t sure, based on the initial cancellation e-mail, if they were going to actually pay it.  So, I began to think about what I was going to do if they didn’t.  Would I send them “pay or die” e-mails, would I take them to court, or would I just let it go?  All are viable courses of action and all have different costs and different sets of potential outcomes.  For example, if I sent them “pay or die” type e-mails, it would cost me the time of writing and sending the e-mails, with no guarantee I would get paid.  Also, it could have led to a bad review and/or them talking badly about me to others, including other wedding vendors.  All are negative potential outcomes to my business, even though technically, based on the contract they signed, it is pretty cut and dry, and they owe me the money.  However, as we know, it is not always so simple, especially when emotions around weddings are factored in.  I had to think about if I was willing to accept the negative potential outcomes or would it be better for my business to just let it go?  

Turns out that after a couple more e-mails in regards to the contract, they did pay me on the payment due date.  But it could have gone all sorts of ways, and I had to be ready for them all.  I am often reminded that even though our blood, sweat, and tears go into our businesses, we need to make decisions not on emotion alone or even what is technically right.  We need to evaluate each decision and make the choice that is right for the long-term health of our business and ourselves.

When Saving Your Business Money is Bad

When Saving Your Business Money is Bad

In my 1st quarter newsletter main article, I made a reference to reactionary cost-cutting and how it can hurt your business more than help it.  And in this blog post, I wanted to explore that statement a little further.  When I talk about cost-cutting, I tend to lump it into two categories: researched vs. reactionary.  To me, researched cost-cutting is where you have evaluated your systems and processes, or your marketing or some other part of your business, and based on that evaluation, you have figured out that certain things that cost you money are either not necessary and can be cut or they don’t have enough of a positive ROI to be worth continuing.   It could be that you are tracking your leads and bookings and figure out that a certain marketing vehicle is not working, or you are reviewing your systems and processes and notice that something isn’t necessary or important to your ideal client.  These are situations where you have evaluated and figured out that the cost-cutting will save your business money without hurting future income potential. 

On the other hand, reactionary cost-cutting is when you cut costs on things you shouldn’t, and because you feel you need to save money now or in the very near future.  I have seen way too often where a business owner realizes they are falling short in near-term bookings and reacts almost immediately by going into cost-cutting mode.  And don’t get me wrong, it is a natural business response, but it is one that usually is not the best decision.   Let’s look at a simple example – Disco Donnie the DJ just had two cancellations and was already lower than normal on bookings for the next few months, so he reacts, and to save money he tells his setup assistant that he is not going to need him for the next few months.  The problem is that Disco Donnie has a lot going on in his life and a few of his upcoming booked jobs will be tight on setup time (even if he had help from an assistant).  In this example, Disco Donnie will get through the few slower months and will have saved a little bit of money, but it is also possible that he may receive a few not-so-great reviews and will lose some referral business due to not being able to be set up in time and therefore not delivering on everything he promised his clients.  

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when you should cut costs, and there are times when you have to cut costs, but the goal is that in the long run, the cost-cutting you do helps your business, not hurts it.  

What a Potential Client Wants, A Potential Client Gets – But Will it be From You?

What a Potential Client Wants, A Potential Client Gets – But Will it be From You?

Imagine you offer the best teeth whitening service a vampire could ever want.  However, your business is only open during the day, and all of your wall art are wooden crosses.  How successful do you think you would be? 

Of course, the above is an exaggerated example, but I am trying to make the point that every part of your business needs to, as much as possible, match the way your ideal client wants and expects to do business when buying your product or service.  This is why it is so important to understand who your ideal clients are, how they think, and what they expect, since without knowing that, you end up developing, implementing, and managing systems and processes somewhat blindly.   It is very possible to have systems that are fancy and processes that are streamlined yet your ideal client wants and/or expects something different.  Have you wondered why you receive lots of inquiries but not lots of bookings, or why your pictures are incredible but you are only getting 4-star reviews? 

We all know that there are plenty of wedding planners, DJs, photographers, etc. who provide an incredible service on the wedding day itself, but it is those that meet or exceed their ideal client’s expectations during the entire customer journey who earn the rave reviews, and receive more referrals.   To increase your sales and to make your business shine, figure out who your ideal customers are and what they want, and then create systems and processes that will make them happy because when their happy, I guarantee you’ll be happy!

To increase your sales and to make your business shine, figure out who your ideal customers are and what they want, and then create systems and processes that will make them happy because when they are happy, I guarantee you’ll be happy!

The Ideal Client – They Do Exist

The Ideal Client – They Do Exist

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. 

What a Potential Client Wants, A Potential Client Gets – But Will it be From You?

Improve the Customer Journey, Get More Business

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.  

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.