One of the things that I am constantly re-evaluating in my business is the balance (or juggle) with communication and focus on couples in three (nah, make that four) stages in my wedding business:
Why? Well, in order to have a thriving business, not just in this calendar year, but for next year and beyond, I need to be focusing on all of them. And, often at the same time! Hence, a juggle…
- While wedding industry statistics from WeddingWire show that the five most popular wedding dates are in the fall (three in October, then one each in September and November), for many of us, we have a relatively year-round wedding business, with some months much busier than others, and few (if any) months with absolutely no weddings.
- Then, factor in a 13-month average engagement period, but even more so how that breaks down: according to WeddingWire’s 2018 Newlywed Report, 31% of couples had engagement lengths of 0-9 months, 41% were engaged for 10-15 months, and 28% were engaged for more than 16 months. This means that, while we know that there is certainly a busier engagement season (41% of couples get engaged between November and February), a majority of couples get engaged throughout the other eight months of the year.
- Plus, for most categories in the industry, there is definitely range of how far out from their wedding date they get in touch for your specific service or product, based largely on their personal priorities. Other than the venue, which usually comes first or close to first, all of the rest of the categories fall in all sorts of timeframes.
- Putting that all together means that you are likely handling inquiries all year long. Again, some months or weeks might see many more or much fewer, but there isn’t likely to be a period in your year where you can absolutely ignore your inquiry and booking process.
Based on how far out couples book you for your product/service before you deliver it to them, you likely have a process to manage here. Unless it is a simple purchase transaction with a simple and/or immediate delivery – and that isn’t so common in the wedding world – there is some sort of process and period of time where you need to be managing couples and thinking about their experience with you. In my case, my couples book me an average 7.5 months before their wedding – yet, that ranges between only weeks beforehand to 18 months beforehand. If they book me within four months of their wedding, they are jumping right into the ceremony creation process with me, including two homework assignments. However, if they book me further out, they don’t start that process until four months out, which means that there can be a, sometimes significant, period of time where we are working together, but not actively. Therefore, it is extremely important that I set expectations from the very beginning – both before they book me, when we meet, and after they book me, in my first communications – so that they know what to expect and when. This allows them to feel comfortable and not worried, and to, therefore, feel like they are being taken care of and not ignored. It also means that I need to think about my communication plan, to see if there are other touchpoints I should add in, purely for my longer-timeframe bookings, just so they feel taken care of.
At some point, what you are doing with and for your couples moves into an Execution stage. For me, that really does start at that four-month point, as this is when I am working actively with them and need to watch deadlines for all of us, as there can be quite a few couples at any given point in this Execution stage. Setting clear expectations here, too, is super important. Knowing what is already on their plates, usually, based on their own lives and work and other aspects of wedding prep, I sometimes need to be quite hands-on about those deadlines, plus, I need to be clear about what I need from them. So, actively managing the process from my side, and having the right systems in place to do so, is critical.
For some of us, the execution stage ends on the wedding day or very soon afterward (I file their license and send off a packet to them, maybe you pick up rental items, etc.), while others have an execution stage that continues for weeks or months after the wedding day, like photography and videography. The longer after the wedding day your process continues, the more important it is to set clear expectations, so that they know what to expect when. I cannot tell you how many of my couples are frustrated by how long it’s taking to get their pictures or video, and sometimes with no communication from that vendor along the way. Tell them when, communicate a bit in the meantime, and then deliver before you promised. Again, managing the process and having the right systems in place is critical in this stage.
This is really the business stuff that comes next, including soliciting reviews, requesting and/or sharing pictures, writing blog posts, following up or connecting with vendors you worked with, updating your online listings, etc. So, it’s after the execution stage, and largely has no clear couple or client for whom you are doing it – and you aren’t being paid directly to it either, unlike the items in the first three stages – but this plays a huge factor in how future couples come your way.
Year-Round Customer Experience
So, figuring out how to do this juggle, working on tasks and projects in all four stages at once – in the best way for your business and for your couples – with both your processes and the systems that support your processes, is extremely important for your business. I work regularly with my coaching clients on all of this for that reason, so please let me know if I can help with yours.