I believe that the core to nurturing clients is building trust. This is especially important for us as creatives, because often a client is asking for a service that they are completely unfamiliar with. When a bride contacts three wedding planners one day after work, then gets responses from them all at once, which one stands out the most? If you’ve ever sent a Thumbtack or home improvement request to multiple contractors, you know the answer to this—the person who knows their stuff the most. Or in more concrete terms, the person who taught us the most, while still being concise enough to keep our attention. Here are a few tips on how to educate your clients concisely to build trust and attract customers who are the best fit for your business:
1. Be honest.
This, above all, has helped me so much in my business. There was a time when I would tell a client with a $10,000 budget that we could make it work on that budget. But after taking a good look at past weddings, I now tell my inquiries an honest range of where our weddings fall. I don’t inflate this number, but I do give both the low and high ends to help them understand. The most interesting thing about this is that in many cases, the client increases their budget and lets me know that they picked that number because they didn’t know what weddings really cost. Not only does this help them to see my rate as reasonable, but it sets a comfortable tone for the wedding-planning journey because they won’t feel lied to later on and we can all be open about budget caps for each vendor category.
Similarly, many of my go-to photographers are open and honest with clients about how many hours it really takes to shoot getting-ready photos, do a first look and capture the ceremony and reception. Clients really are not aware of how much goes into these things. So when you give them a realistic breakdown, it actually builds trust and draws your target market closer, as opposed to the common misconception that it pushes them away.
2. Give free advice during consultations.
In the same vein as tip #1 , don’t be afraid to occasionally give free advice during phone, video, or in-person consultations. Coming up with tips on the fly really shows your expertise more than anything else! For instance, we once had a couple who was having a multi-religious wedding and knew that half of the attendees don’t believe in drinking alcohol. They told me that they planned to conceal the drinks at the wedding, but I let them know that this may not be the best idea, since they don’t want any of the abstaining attendees to accidentally drink alcohol! It was a perspective that they hadn’t thought of, and giving small tips like that—instead of saying “we can discuss more after you book”—really let them know that our team could problem-solve for them. (And they did eventually book.)
3. Provide timely responses.
One of the #1 complaints that I hear from my clients about other wedding vendors is that they don’t get prompt replies. Brides don’t want to have to email you 3-4 times before getting a response, and waiting over a week to reply really hurts trust. (And no, auto-responders do not count as a response.) This applies both to the inquiry stage and after the client has booked you, but especially before they book. After all, potential clients will wonder, “if you take weeks to respond while you’re still trying to woo me, how long will you take to get back to me once I’m already locked into a contract?”
For all of these tips, remember that the golden rules of respect and politeness still apply. You never want to make someone feel bad for not being able to afford your services or not understanding what you do. In some cases, a client has passed on our services for a cheaper alternative, but later returned to hire us—all because we left the door open and respected the client.
You can incorporate these tips all throughout your proposal process, follow-up process and consultation strategy. When used well, education and information can help you nurture clients, guide them along the journey, and line up bookings that are truly a great fit.