We are in such a personal business, doing weddings. Each event is so very personal for our clients. There are more emotions and higher expectations involved in weddings than with many other types of events. And, yet, we are still running businesses where efficiency and consistent results matter, as we want to be both profitable and sustainable. Therefore, we need to give real thought and attention to both personalization and standardization. How do we do this, and how do we balance these?
Client Communication Plan
It's essential that you create (and regularly evaluate and update) a client communication plan. This plan will tell you when you'll be communicating with your clients and, at each point, what you will be communicating and how. Will it be an email, an online questionnaire, a call, or an in-person or virtual meeting? And what is your communication telling or asking? This is what you design, intentionally, to fit your business, your ideal clients, and you.
Each one of us should have our own version of a client communication plan. This is because we work with different ideal clients and have offerings and markets that are different from each other. Plus, it's critical to have different versions of your communication plan for each of your specific offerings. For planners, for instance, a client paying you for partial or month-of management is not (and shouldn’t be) communicated with the same way as one paying for full service. In this case, you would likely have one more robust plan, and two progressively leaner versions.
Why Does This Matter?
Keep in mind this is likely the first time our clients have done anything like this. Therefore, you need to be their expert throughout this whole experience. Our communication largely falls into two categories: something that your couples need to know or have in order to have the best experience with you, or something that makes sure your couples provide you the information that you need to know in order to give them that best experience. You’re either communicating something to them or you're asking for them to communicate something to you. Since they haven’t done this before, how can they know what you need unless you tell them?
Create a Plan for You
- Consistency is important—especially if you hope for referrals from your couples and fellow vendors. You want to be sure that a couple six months from now doesn’t have a dramatically different experience than your couple right now. You want to exceed the expectations of every client. And, many of those expectations are being set by how they see you servicing another couple or how a vendor sees you working with your shared client.
- Efficiency is important because this is a business, not a hobby. Even if what you're doing in this industry is a side hustle, it should still be run as a business. This is for your sake as well as for your couples'. You need efficiencies throughout your processes in order to save time. The same time that could be spent elsewhere on your business or, dun-dun-dunnn... yourself!
- If you want to grow and scale your business, having consistent plans and processes in place is key. More opportunities become possible when you allow for your efforts to be both replicated and taught.
- Last but certainly not least, your sanity. This cannot be ignored nor minimized. It’s so important that we not burn ourselves out. This is the gift that keeps on giving to us and our clients. This is their one event, and a very personal one, so they deserve to get the “you” that they hired. My husband jokes that in the middle of the busiest part of the wedding season, he’s not sure if I love my systems and processes more than I love him! But, I can tell you, they help keep me sane, just as he does, and I’m so grateful to them all for it.
Don’t forget personalization in all of this! I absolutely live for online questionnaires and email templates. Nothing, however, is sent out automatically (other than a final invoice reminder). I personalize absolutely everything. Think of email templates as your prep work - blueprints in a way - but not your final product. Everything from responses to an initial inquiry through my entire planning process and after the wedding itself are templates I’ve created for consistency and efficiency. They are, however, all personalized for that specific couple and their event before they're sent. Use templates ahead of time to ensure you miss nothing. As you create your personalized drafts, be intentional and thoughtful. Don't write in the heat of the moment when you have to get something out. Personalizing them in that moment allows your couples to feel heard, important, and like they matter to you.
Don't Forget Your Vendors
Don't forget about vendor-to-vendor communication in your plan. We know that events run more smoothly when we’re all on the same page for our couple. It makes you look like a solid professional with attention to detail and, hence, worthy of referrals to couples in the future. Think about what information you can offer to other vendors on the team that would be helpful to them. Also think about what information you need to get from them for you to do your best work. I’m often amazed by how frequently I don't receive a timeline from the planner—sometimes not hearing from them at all before the day of. It certainly doesn't make me want to recommend them in the future. Set yourself apart by including this into your communication plan too.
Re-Evaluate Your Plan
Be sure to add each piece of your communication plan into your workflows and checklists. Constantly re-evaluate your plan and the specific pieces so that nothing falls through the cracks. Should you add some new emails along the way? Could breaking your long-winded single email into three shorter ones be more effective? I recently did this in my own process, and to great reception from my couples! Would an online questionnaire to gather needed information rather than a long email or a meeting/call be more efficient? Should you add a hidden page on your website to provide information you are regularly giving to couples? Think about how best you can communicate with this generation’s couples and what you can do better for them, and for you.
Being personal for them, and standard for you, will contribute greatly toward a rave-worthy business. One that is worthy of referrals but also profitable, sustainable, and enjoyable!