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  1. Facebook-page-deleted

    I have had a Facebook business page since they first started introducing them and I have spent alot of time making sure I am consistent with posting etc on it. Then Facebook started introducing their advertising options of boosting posts etc and the stats suddenly plummeted on how many people saw your post and how much organic reach you got just because they wanted you to spend the money!

    For the past year I have invested so much time into my Facebook page when 1.) I wasn't getting the reach 2.) I wasn't getting much conversion and 3.) I was getting more return on other platforms. I sat around 1,600 likes for over 18 months, sometimes gaining a few and sometimes losing a few but never really moving forward. 

    Then a few months ago I was running one of 'Marketing on a budget' workshops (which I have ran numerous times) and I was giving this advice to the attendees: 

    • Don't feel overwhelmed with how many social media platforms they are. Try them all for a good period of time to see if they work for you but if they don't then don't be afraid to not spend time on that one. Invest your time wisely and where you get the results from. Also, don't feel the need to do certain things just becuase your competitors are.

    I came back to the office and thought long and hard about this and I knew that deep down a Facebook page wasn't working for me and that I needed to practice what I preached so I decided to delete it. I was quite a hard decision and I did have a little 'wobble' as I pressed the button but I knew it was the right thing to do.

    What I did decide to do instead was start a Facebook group. I wanted something that was more of a community where people could ask for help and more discussion based where I could offer top tips etc. Within a week I had 200 people join and although it is still in it's infancy I have really enjoyed connecting more with people.

    Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that a Facebook page won't work for you and actually I manage alot of other Facebook pages for businesses with great results but it's about looking at your overall marketing and time and investing in what really works for you :)

    You can join my Facebook Marketing group here.

  2. Central Park Wedding Claire Cop Cot 1I am a full-time mum to a three year old and a one year old.  I am also a part-time wedding planner.  I guide couples through the process of planning a wedding in Central Park, New York.  So, I have quite a specific niche.  This is key to me in managing my precious time.  I specialise in one area and don’t diverge into things I don’t know very much about.

    I lived in New York for a little while, and I got married in Central Park myself.  That is what gave me the idea to start the business.  I have a bachelor’s degree in business and ten years experience employed in an analytical role, working out the most profitable way to schedule power plants and then to trade the power in wholesale markets.  So, I’m used to complex ideas, but my experience was in communicating data to other specialists in that field.  My past experience didn’t really give me much grounding for the major work areas of running my new business:

    1)    search engine optimisation, social media marketing and blogging

    2)    event planning and management

    3)    communicating with clients

    I read books on SEO and built my website, set up a blog, did all the things to get my business out there.  Then I started to get clients. 

    I was absolutely terrified on the day of my first wedding.  I used to be responsible for the scheduling of £multi-million assets in previous job, but a wedding is so very important to the couple.  In theory, you will get married only once in your life, so it has to be spot-on, and if I mess it up for them, I don’t get to try again. 

    My clients are from all over the world.  Because of the time differences, and the odd hours I work around my children’s schedules, the majority of my communications is done by email.  What follows are my main ideas and tips from what I have learned about email and telephone communications with wedding clients over five years of wedding planning:

    Tell them what’s coming

    Central Park Wedding Claire Ladies PavilionCouples send me their deposit money without having met me, in exchange for a promise that I will help them plan the day when they will make the biggest promise of the lives, so they need to feel comfortable from the very beginning of the process and confident that I know what I’m doing.  I have publicly shared a blog post explaining what the process will be, and I discuss with them individually what the time frames might be and answer their questions about the process.

    Go with their flow

    Some couples are super-organised and will be happy to go through all the details with a fine-tooth comb well in advance of their date.  Some won’t want to discuss it properly until it’s only a few weeks away, and I may well have to prompt them regularly to complete each stage of the planning process.  I prefer to start with the big stuff and get to the finer details a few months before the wedding date, and follow a logical course to avoid any confusion.  I will politely try to move people along, but I have to accept that everyone is different and will have varying time pressures in their lives and priorities on what they want to sort out first.

    Be clear about what you do and don’t do

    My website has a very long frequently asked questions section, and my blog is full of information about my weddings.  I am very open and honest about what I will deliver for the clients’ money.  I offer a very competitive price for my market, so there are things I do not do.  If I don’t think clients really need a service, or if it is more efficient that they do it themselves, then I explain that to them.  I do not accept a deposit until we have had a discussion about what the couple needs and what I will deliver.  If a couple ask me to do something that is not in the contract, I am not ashamed of saying no. 

    Develop a method

    I guide all my couples through a fairly similar decision-making process.  Each wedding is different, but they will all have similar aspects.  I keep thorough notes and make lists and use a detailed diary.  This is extremely important in event planning and something I have had to learn along the way.  I plan around fifty weddings each year, so I can’t afford to get confused or to get my clients confused.  Over the five years I have been doing this, I have worked out which areas to discuss first and which to leave until the end. 

    Prepare standard answers to frequently asked questions

    I have a FAQs section on my website, which I direct all new clients to, but often people miss or forget things, and need to be told some important things more than once.  I have a list of standard answers that I go to when clients request something I am often asked.  That way I can be sure that I have worked out a clear and thorough way of answering queries and each client gets a similar answer that has been tried and tested for clarity on previous clients.

    Work with the couple, not for them

    This can be a tricky one.  It is their wedding, but sometimes couples struggle to figure out what they want, and sometimes they might want me to make a decision for them.  I don’t want to tell them what to do, but I can tell them what others have done, or what I think will work, and give them options to choose from.  There are ways to help clients to make their decisions using a planner’s knowledge and experience.

    Repeat yourself.  More than once if necessary

    Often, couples are very busy thinking about lots of things and making lots of decisions when they are planning a wedding, so they might forget things.  There are certain things I tell clients repeatedly.  I sometimes remind couples of very important points at the beginning, the middle and the end of the planning process.  If they have been paying attention then I apologise for repeating myself, but there are some things that would be catastrophic if couples did not get a clear message, so it is worth being annoying from time to time.

    Work with great people

    Not all wedding planner work this way, but the way I do it is to take a booking from a client and then make bookings on their behalf with an officiant, photographer, etc.  The people I work with are excellent communicators, they are reliable and enthusiastic and they do exactly what the client has asked for, through myself.  I know this because I always ask couples for feedback after their wedding.  If I find that I am working with anyone who is not quite up to standard then I stop working with them.

    Punish them if necessary

    This one might sound harsh, but can be difficult to get a client to do what you want them to do, even if it’s for their own good.  After all, they are paying you for a service, not the other way around.  Unfortunately, people can get so stressed on their wedding day that they forget to bring important paperwork, or in some cases they can be so late that they damage the rest of the day’s schedule for someone involved in their wedding.  I have introduced small fines in case these things happen, and it has reduced their occurrence drastically.

    Repeat yourself.  All over again

    Once we have completed the planning process and I feel sure that we have a coherent plan, then I write it all down clearly as a summary and send it all back to them.  So, everything that we have discussed; the ceremony wording and timings and instructions and the contact details, is all summarised in one place.  I ask the couples to check through it all one last time before I pass it on to the vendors involved.

    Listen

    I have mentioned this one last because I’m hoping anyone reading this has been shouting it al the screen as they read this post.  You must listen to your clients.  That is the most important part of communication.  I am not planning the wedding I want, I am planning the wedding they want.  I ask lots of questions that allows me to get to the bottom of what they want, but I must listen to their answers, and to their questions.  In many cases the questions can be quite telling, too.

    I realise that most people reading this will not be a wedding or events planner.  We all have different issues and requirements from our communications.  This is a list of the major tings I have learnt from my own experience of planning over 200 weddings in Central Park.  If you are in the first stages of your own small business then take comfort from the knowledge that it took a while to learn all this, and to gain confidence that I am doing this well.  I would love to hear from others with their comments on communicating effectively with clients in their own jobs.