Whether you’ve been planning weddings for one month or one hundred years, you know that it takes time, talent, and passion to fully plan and execute an amazing wedding. You’ve already devoted a good amount of time in your education and you are always learning how to better serve your clients. As planners, we care deeply about meeting their needs. So much so that often we don’t think about making the client experience process more streamlined and therefore, easier for you!
By beginning to streamline repeated tasks in your wedding planning business, you’ll begin to see an increase in your productivity and will be able to manage a larger number of clients. Without a streamlined approach to your business, you’ll find yourself consistently trying to meet the expectations of the client instead of laying out the trajectory of the planning experience for your clients. Streamlining is the difference between working for the client and managing the client.
We’re going to discuss three areas of your business where you can begin to streamline the planning process. These areas of concentration will help you create the processes by which you’ll manage each and every client. Once you’ve created the plan that works best for your business, you’ll begin implementing this process into your relationships with your clients.
Onboarding is a fairly new word to the wedding industry. The concept of an onboarding system is also a fairly new approach to client care. But, its value and importance to the overall success of the client relationship is very clear. Your clients are used to a simple tap and they have all their answers in the palm of their hand.
If they want to know how many slices of cake they’re going to need, a simple trip to Pinterest will give them everything they need. This means that you need to become the most valuable resource for your client. At the onset of your relationship, provide your clients with a booklet of your policies, procedure, and what the planning process will consist of. Include the information they’ll need for using collaboration tools.
You’ll also be able to spell out the order in which you’ll be working with them as well as what to expect of your communication. This is a great way to set boundaries on your time and have a reference for what happens when a client exceeds contractual agreements.
Use this guide for figuring out what to include in your onboarding packet.
The Booking Process
Assuming you have at least some part in selecting the vendor team, you’ll need to put into place the process by which you work on securing these vendors. By creating this step-by-step process and using systems for your clients, you’ll help streamline their meetings, save them from vendor overwhelm, and keep them making decisions in the proper order. This means that when your picky bride emails about the cute little cake place or the lighting company discount she wants 18 months from the wedding day, you can kindly respond with the process by which you help them select vendors and a follow up on what you are currently working on.
So, you might move in the following order; Venue, Church, Photographer, Florist, DJ, Cake etc. By being very specific about why you’ve created this system to booking, you allow yourself a guide by which your clients follow. For example, we don’t talk about cake until we have your DJ booked. This puts you in the driver’s seat and likely cuts down the overwhelm of trying to book all the things at once.
Yes, every wedding is unique. But… the planning process is not. There are very clear steps that you, as the planner, repeat each time you work with a client. Why are you re-doing it every time? Your clients ask the same questions throughout the planning process. You solve the same problems. And you repeat the same actions over and over again. Consider creating templates that look custom but are actually generic in form.
A few places a template works in your favor might be; initial inquiries, requests for appointments, payment schedules, vendor reminders, final walkthroughs, final intake meetings, monthly check-in, and the list could go on forever.
Anything that you say to your clients can be turned into a wedding planning template and then customized to their needs and dates. Once you’ve set the wedding date, you can then sit down and customize the emails for the rest of the planning process and schedule them to go out on certain dates and time. This small time investment in the beginning of the planning process will then allow you to be sure that all of the repeated actions are taken care of without your concerted effort.
When I first began serving clients, I spent a ton of time escorting them to meetings. While I learned quite a bit about each of the companies I worked with, I didn’t consider that each appointment above and beyond my original contract was time and revenue lost. Because planners love being involved in these decisions, we often don’t consider setting boundaries and streamlining the meeting process until much later in our business. But setting boundaries and creating a strategic meeting process early on will help you to maximize the client’s experience and your revenue.
Flesh out how much time you will need with your clients in order to fulfill your contractual obligations. Decide what you’ll need to cover in each appointment at certain points in the planning process. Decide how you’ll execute appointments with your clients. Are they in person, via Skype, or on the phone? Are they weekly, monthly, bi-weekly? How long are they? What should the client have prepared for the meeting in advance? Once you’ve established a pre-set meeting process, you can then pre-schedule your client meetings for an extended timeframe. This takes away the juggle of appointment setting and puts the burden of being prepared on the client. Be aware that as the professional, you will be responsible for being prepared for the meeting as well. So be sure that you set realistic expectations for yourself and for your client.
By creating streamlined processes in how you welcome, communicate, and meet with the client, you’ll begin to create a more methodical approach to the overall planning process. Not only will this help you to free yourself from repeated tasks, it will also create a client experience that meets and exceeds expectations.
This is a guest post from Kellie Daab. Kellie is the owner of iDo Collective and a Wedding Business Architect. She is the creator of The Living Blueprint for Wedding Business Success, an author, and thought leader on client experience for wedding industry professionals. After serving 12 years in the wedding industry, owning a boutique wedding planning and consulting firm, managing high-end hospitality, and producing events for a multi-million dollar catering company, Kellie uses her skills to help other wedding professionals identify what’s not working in their business and works together with them to help fix it. Paper products are her obsession and coffee is her spirit animal.