I may or may not recently have gone a bit of a rant on the whole "reasonable pricing" thing. If you want to know why that's a curse word to my ears, you can read that here. But out of all the requests we get from prospective clients to be "affordable" or "fair" in our prices, there's one clear path, as far as I'm concerned:
Educate your clients on your pricing.
Your clients are fixated on the end product or service, and rightfully so. Unless they've worked in your industry, they can't possibly understand what goes into making that product or service a reality. So it's up to us to make sure they understand the VALUE which they will be receiving.
For example, the cost of greenery garlands running down the centre of tables. In the last few years, garlands have become one of those huge Pinterest trends and somehow couples got the impression that because they were "just greenery," that they were cheap. So whenever I'm asked about garlands and I know it won't fit into a client's budget, I explain it to them: Garlands require both a lot of product (and although greenery is not typically as expensive as flowers, it still has a cost!) and take a lot of time to produce. Once I let them know that there's a ton of work involved, they typically start to understand.
Another example is when clients come to you with an overall budget but haven't stopped to think about how many times that number needs to be divided by. Maybe they're renting chairs from you and come to you with a budget of $400. $400 might seem like a lot to that client, but when you divide it by 200 people, that only comes out to $2/chair, and of course, the chair the client is looking at is pretty much guaranteed to be at least $8 each. Or maybe they have a catering budget of $3000. Again, it might sound like a lot of money but divided by 200 people, that only comes out to $15/person. Take a few bucks off for place setting rentals and staffing, and that client is trying to get a fully plated, 3 course dinner for about $7/person.
These things seem pretty obvious to us, but a lot of the time, we just need to kindly educate our clients, breaking these things down so they can process. Rather than turning a prospective client away, do them (and your colleagues!) a favour by gently explaining what a more realistic budget is and a few of the whys behind it.
Educate your clients on your processes.
Over the last 4 years of owning my own wedding industry business, I've occasionally had a client who didn't seem to understand that I actually know what I'm doing. These are the people who attempt to run the consultation, or tell me how much my products and services should cost, or decide to send me an invoice for their own wedding flowers to which they've thoughtfully applied the incorrect taxes :) Now, I don't give off a vibe of incompetence at pretty much anything other than golf or house painting and I've basically made myself the boss of every room I've ever been in, so I'm not sure why any of these people felt the need to take charge (maybe it's simply because they also like being the boss).
I'm not saying that you need to teach your clients the ins and outs of every single one of your internal processes (and I'd really rather you NOT do that, because they don't need to know everything). What I'm suggesting here is that we need to lay out the steps for them - such as what they need to know, what they need to do and at what times, what I'll be doing in the meantime, and even better, what they DON'T need to do.
This is a benefit for a few reasons: it calms the clients, while streamlining your work and communication with them.
Earlier this year, I worked with a fantastic local graphic designer, Kyla of Keeks Paper Co to create a "wedding guide" - basically, it's a pretty pdf that outlines how things work with me. I send it to my clients as soon as they've booked with me, and it outlines some practical info like when payments are due, when I need updates and confirmations from them, when my office hours are, how to hold a bridal bouquet, along with some fun, lighthearted things like a studio tour and my favourite date-nights. It's an awesome way for me to communicate with them at the same time as adding value.
Here's a couple of screenshots to give you an idea:
What should you be doing differently?
Every business has an area or two that they can tweak in order to streamline processes! For me, that education process starts from the first inquiry email (FYI email templates are your friend!). I outline what will happen in the first meeting, how they need to prepare, and in cases where I can tell that the client doesn't have a realistic budget set up, I'll send them links where they read more about what their wedding will really cost. During our appointment, I set very clear expectations as to when they can expect to receive their proposal, and how it will be laid out. They leave knowing that I've got them really well taken care of, and they can leave it in my hands. Their contract clearly outlines how payments are to be received, how changes to their order are handled, and how best to take care of their wedding flowers on the day of their wedding. Sometimes people still ask me questions, but everything else has been so streamlined!
So here's your challenge for the week: identify if there are any pain points in your client processes where it seems like you might be losing control or when you're constantly hearing, "that's out of my budget." Grab a sheet of paper and a pencil (I always get the best ideas when I write by hand) and brainstorm some ways that you can educate your clients in a positive, value-add sort of way. Plan it out so that next time you get asked those questions, you've got an answer locked and loaded.