I’m the lead wedding planner and happy owner of La Vista Events. I’ve owned my business since 2014 and my background is corporate HR. I left the corporate world because I felt like I was missing something. In 2014 when I got married we had a really talented wedding planner and she really inspired me to pursue wedding planning. I was able to have some really great conversations with her and I was fascinated by what she did. She was able to do this on her own. She didn’t have to work for anyone else, she ran her own business and it was just incredible. She inspired me to get the training, the certifications, and here we are seven years later.
Well, other than my happy dance and sharing it with the world (I’m an over-sharer, because I think we, as business owners, should celebrate everything.) But, when I get inquiries I make sure I get back to them as soon as I can – within reason. I don’t want to get too overly excited and respond within minutes, but I do want to make sure I’m responding to them within a reasonable amount of time to show that I am excited and eager to support them.
I think a lot of this comes down to how we’re responding back. So, are we responding with a basic copy and paste response that is just going to be obvious that we don’t care, or are we actually taking the time to add personalisation to our responses? This is why I think my contact information questionnaire is so important. A good contact form not only helps you separate those who are price shopping from genuinely interested couples, it also allows you to customise your response in an authentic way.
It’s important to remember that technology can fail us and sometimes our emails can end up in the junk folder. On my contact form I have a required field that asks for their cell number. That way, if it’s been a few days and I haven’t heard anything back I will follow up with a text, if not on Instagram, and say “Hey so and so, I received your email and I responded back over the weekend, I hope you received it. Let me know if you have any questions.” I will say that you have to be careful not to do this in a pushy way and you have to go off the energy there. So, sometimes sending a text or reaching out over social won’t be the way to go.” You’ll have to feel your way through it.
Your initial email should end with a call to action for the client. What is it that you want them to do? Do you want them to schedule time with you for a consultation, watch your latest video, or do you just want to say thank you and leave it at that? I let couples know next steps and I’m specific. I don’t say, “Hey I’d love to schedule a consultation, let me know what time works best for you.” I say, “Let’s schedule a consultation, here is my availability, Wednesday at 2:00pm, Friday at 5:00pm, and Saturday at 11:00am, which option works best for you? That way they are prompted to choose from an option instead of you saying “I look forward to hearing from you.”
One last thing on emails: make sure you organise the information in your emails. Use headers and bullet points so couples can easily scan them and know what you want from them at a glance. This is something that will make you stand out as a vendor who is easy to work with.
I would say there are two ways: The first is I’ll run my ideas by my industry friends. And I’ll say, “I’m thinking about putting this line in my emails. What do you think? If you were a client, is this too much, is this too detailed, is this not detailed enough?” So, that’s the first way. The other way is I’ll reach out to past clients. I’ll say, “Hey, do you mind looking at this, it’s something I’m thinking of sending to new clients? You were a former bride or groom, what do you think? What would you think if you received this a few years ago?” So, I think we use our different connections and give it time to play out. Remember, just because you’ve gone with an idea doesn’t mean you can’t change it, or shift it.
Back in the day I would follow up with a phone call, just to get the conversation going and then schedule a face to face. However, now everything is virtual and I love that, I think I’m going to be keeping my consultations virtual moving forward. The one advantage face to face meetings have over virtual is that when someone shows up for a face to face meeting they are more likely to book with you, where that is not always the case with virtual meetings.
When it comes to virtual meetings you have to do video. If you’re listening to this or reading this and you’re still doing phone calls I need you to switch to video right now. There is something more genuine, and real, and raw about it. You can check out facial reactions and see if you’re explaining something and their faces just go blank, or you can tell if they’re nervous about something. You can just pick up on body language in a way you can’t on a phone call.
I don’t use a script or a checklist. I’ve been doing this for enough years now that I know what I need to do and I think our style of clients really appreciate that. I want our consultations to feel as natural and as comfortable as possible. I don’t want it to feel like they’re just another client or another inquiry. I want it to feel like a relationship and for that reason, I don’t usually even have a notebook out or take notes, because I just want to soak it all up. It should feel like a genuine conversation with a friend, and when you’re chatting with a friend you don’t bring a notebook or a checklist. I think when we can remove those barriers and genuinely ask questions, and not just about the wedding, but questions about them as humans, you’ll be able to bounce off of that and be remembered as a vendor they really connected with.
Having said all of this, I do still need to show the couple what it is I do to get them to their wedding day. Typically my consultations run for an hour to an hour and a half, and for the first forty-five minutes we’re just chit-chatting. I’m just getting to know them, and I’m casually asking them questions about their plans, or lack of plans. Toward the end of our conversation I’ll share my computer screen with them and say, “Just before we wrap up I do want to give you guys a glimpse into what I do.” At this point I’ll let them have an insider look into items such as our colour coded timelines, multi-page wedding planning workbooks, sample floor-plans that I use, or it could be some photos of a wedding we had at their venue. I’ll have all this ready to go, and I’ll share my screen with them so it’s really fluid and easy. I’m still watching them during this as well to get a sense of what they’re impressed with and what they may need more information on.
I’ll end our conversation like this so they get an overview of what we do for them. This is really important, because they don’t know my quote yet. They know my “starting from” fees, but I always let them know that I have to build them a custom proposal based on the conversation that we’ve had, based on their expectations, our capacity level, the vendors involved, etc. So, the goal is to have them leave the meeting saying, ‘Wow, well we love her, we get along and she seems really cool, and now we actually understand what she does, and that’s a lot of work – we need her.’ That way when they get my quote they’re going to appreciate it, because it’s detailed and because now they’ll understand why we charge what we charge.
I think it’s really important that after the consultation you present them with a really thorough quote that has a deadline attached. You don’t want to leave the conversation open ended and hold their date indefinitely. They need to know that your quote is only valid until this date and this time. Sometimes, if I’m feeling extra, I’ll offer them an incentive. I’ll say, ‘When you book by this date I will be happy to include access to extra inventory,’ so this gives them a little extra incentive to book us by a date. Just remember to give them time, you don’t want to rush them after the consultation, because it is a lot to digest.
We do everything electronically, and if you’re not, make sure you are. We’re all about simplifying the process. We want to make sure that when we send out a contract we have removed all of the barriers to having them sign it. We don’t just send a .pdf and hope that they know how to sign it, we send them a link to a program that will allow them to automatically sign. We want it to be as easy as possible for them to pay us.
The best piece of advice I have for anyone wanting to practice their consultations is exactly that. You have to practice. It’s not going to be perfect. You’re only going to get better with time. Just know, your first one is not going to be great, you’re second one is not going to be great, but you have to keep practicing and having these consultations. Don’t treat it as a sales meeting. Don’t feel that you have to go into it so structured and so salesy. Just be yourself, because at the end of the day you want the couple to hire you for you and not just because you’re going off of a script you found online somewhere. Lastly, if someone doesn’t hire you, you should celebrate that too, because it means it wasn’t a good fit, and you dodged a bullet.”