This week, we are discussing how to generate sales with very little financial investment. On Monday, we discussed different ways to network and I presented some ways to rethink your networking strategy. Yesterday, we talked about fostering relationships with the people who refer business to you. Today, we are specifically going to focus on the client referral.
In this industry, unfortunately, there is very little if any repeat business. Sean Low recently wrote a post about this on his blog, The Business of Being Creative. The unfortunate thing is that we are constantly seeing our clients off and trying to drum up new ones. In his post, he discussed the opportunity to create some repeat business through new product offerings beyond the wedding. I also see an opportunity to create additional business in the way of client referrals.
Why a client referral is AWESOME…
When a client refers a friend of theirs to you, they have done the following FOR you:
- Given a sales pitch that explains your service and/or product (this sales pitch is often loaded with enthusiasm for your product)
- Given a testimonial for your business
- By telling their friend about your business, your client may have removed any desire for that person to “shop around”; they have essentially removed your competitors from the equation
- If your client is a Maven, their word may hold a heavy value in his or her circle of friends. A small group may look up to this Maven and it may define what this group does. (According to Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point a Maven is someone who is an “expert” within their circle of connections and is powerful in influencing people’s spending decisions. Think of that bride who has referred all her friends to you and each one of them looked up to her as if she were a kind of trend-setting celebrity.)
When the friend comes in to meet you, your work is partly done. They know about you; they know what you do. And, you already have high marks in their book. Your client has warmed the lead. It’s your job to close the deal. Does it get any easier than that?
How to encourage those AWESOME client referrals…
You’re probably sitting there, “THIS IS AWESOME! I want more of those kinds of referrals!” 😉 Don’t we all!?! While the work may not be done in the same way as a traditional sale (market, advertise, generate lead, introduce, pitch, match need/offering, educate, offer, sale) there still needs to be a considerable effort made to ensure that clients are referring you. Here are some ways to do that:
Follow Up and Follow Through
I’m going to assume that everyone in this industry places a great value on customer service. While an engaged couple is on their way to the altar we all do everything we can to ensure that customer’s needs are being met. But, what are you doing after they’ve walked down the altar? (Or, in my case, what is done after they’ve picked up their wedding invitations?) How much follow up do you do to make sure their needs are being met after they’ve done business with you?
So, here’s an example… When a client picks up their wedding invitations from me, I always let them know I’ll follow up with them a week later. This is to ensure that they are pleased with their order and to see if they need any additional wedding stationery. But, it’s also an important time to continue building my relationship with them. It’s an opportunity to see if I can help in any other way. Maybe they have trouble with the post office? Maybe they need more envelopes? The sale continues long AFTER they’ve placed their order.
If you are a wedding planner, why not follow up with them a month after the wedding? I know that once couples are married, they are sometimes ready to move on from the wedding. But, as a planner, you have been by their side for months, maybe years. That person sees you as a resource for services and products in their community. By keeping that conversation going, you are on their mind the minute that a friend of theirs becomes engaged.
Keeping in touch
After that initial follow-up, it is going to be more difficult to keep in touch with previous clients through the years. It would certainly be awkward to continually check in with a couple that has been married for some time. (Hello, stalker!) But, they invested in your business as much as you invested in their relationships. I see this similar to the relationship you might have with a stock-holder. Why not an annual update?
In the springtime, I usually do an anniversary letter of my business. This is an opportunity to thank previous clients for supporting my business and letting them know of 5 fabulous years and what I’ve accomplished. I make sure to include something (a business card, a coupon, a sample) that they can pass along to a friend. Giving people something easy to pass along to a friend makes the referral all that much easier.
On that note, the quicker someone can pass along information, the better. And, this goes for your website too. How easy is it to share information that can be found on your website? Can someone quickly click a link and forward to a friend? Something to think about next time you re-design your website. (It’s also on my list of things to do!)
Encourage them to come to you first
As with all good things, there is also a potential down side to “word of mouth”. What if your sweet client turns into a Bridezilla. (It’s an unfortunate thing, but this does happen. 😉 And, next thing you know, there are horrible things being said about your business on every Yelp, Knot, and Wire out there.
Because people are more likely to express dissatisfaction publicly than they are to express satisfaction, you must make every attempt to prevent this from happening. It is important to EMPHASIZE to your client that if they have any problems with anything along the way that they come to you first. You want the client to come to you so that you have the opportunity to fix the problem.
We hand make all of our invitations at mmm… paper. While we review everything twice (and by two different people) there is a chance that something hand-made has an imperfection. I give people 3 reminders that I want to know if there is a problem. Their order comes with instructions on what to do if they find any flaws (Call me ASAP!). Their order also comes with a survey in which I ask them to rate the service and the quality of our work. And, one week after the sale I do a follow up email or phone call to see how they are doing with their invites. Not only will your client feel well taken care-of, he or she will have more reason to refer you to someone else.
Put your clients in your booth
I’ve heard from a few of you lately that you’ve used previous clients to sell for you at wedding shows. BRILLIANT! (Why didn’t I think of that?!) We all have previous clients that are huge fans of what we do. (Think of those Mavens that I mentioned earlier). And, these people are usually really good at talking about our business. (Sometimes they are even better than we are.) We all have those clients who’ve told us, “I love what you do. Let me know if you ever need any help.” This is referral heaven in my book. Invite those people to talk about your business, reward them with additional products or service (and a fancy dinner).
My take-away for you is that a client relationship can be a lifelong thing. We aren’t accustomed to thinking of it this way in the wedding industry. And, surely we will not have that relationship with every client. But by building the relationships with those that truly value our business we are putting a non-financial investment into something that will lead to greater sales in years to come.