Let’s face it, 2016 is a pretty hard year for South Africa and the world. South African economy is at 0% growth, rate hikes, fuel price hikes, food cost escalating, possible credit rating downgrade, terrible exchange rate, service delivery protests and strikes along with uncertain political future add up to a pretty gloomy picture. Terrorist attacks and political turmoil sweeping the world making long distance travel an unappealing option. No wonder people are not in a very festive mood. Majority of engaged couples in South Africa and the world are tightening their belts, watching every penny and reluctant to spend on luxuries, and yes weddings are luxury. Owning and running a creative business is getting harder and harder. As the costs of wedding production rises but the public unable to match the prices, what will happen to creative businesses?
We have to adjust, rethink our strategies and help couples to understand their options. It does mean getting more creative, working harder, fighting harder but only if you believe it is worth it. Call me an optimist, or someone who has been through 2008-2009 recession, I believe the tide will change. The trick is to get through it, to make it to the other side. I remember back then weddings were getting cancelled, postponed and DIY weddings dominated the scene. And yet, there was still a way to earn a decent living.
Hardships prompt change. Is there something you can change in your business, perhaps something that worked in the good old days, but not working anymore? I have four lines written on a white board in my office: “Problem | Listen | Analyse | Adjust”. Our world is fast paced, change is inevitable. Listening is the best thing we can do right now.
There seems to be a general apathy coming from wedding suppliers who are tired of high expectations and low budgets. Staying positive and motivated is a tall order when time spent consulting is high and booking rate is low. Phrases like “too expensive”, “outside of our budget”, “we want simple”, “is there a cheaper option”, ‘what is your cheapest package” are familiar to most wedding professionals. And whilst they can be disheartening, if you take all emotion out it and reflect on what is being said, you will hear that general public is trying to find a way to make their budget work. I am guilty of being frustrated by these statements. Not addressing this issue is equivalent to being a proverbial ostrich with a head buried in a sand and butt wide open for some serious kicking.
Winter his a great time for analysing and reflecting. Spring is coming, and you still have some time to get creative business ready for success.
Potential shortfalls in any creative business:
- Unclear communication around your services, offers, pricing. For example, “Styling” may make sense to you, but it might not be a clear indication of the scope of your services. Go over your email communication with all potential clients who did not book you, and analyse your communication. Recall your initial consultations and reflect on what could have gone wrong. Deep down, every single one of us knows where we failed. Now is the time to fix those gaps
- We all used phrases like “People don’t have a clue”, “clients don’t understand” – then make them understand. It is our role as professionals to educate engaged couples. It is our responsibility to give them options and solutions. It is up to us to make a sale and then provide service to our clients. Only you have the power to convince potential clients of your value, expertise and professional approach
- Your are not urgent enough. Have you heard of ABC strategy in sales? ABC stands for always be closing. Can you close a sale at your initial consultation? What happens after your initial consultation? Do you follow up? How soon? Should you wait longer or not – analyse and adjust.
- Do you really need that initial consultation? Everyone is busy. We have technology, let’s use it. Skype calls and FaceTime consultations save time and if conducted correctly are as effective as a face to face consultation minus the traffic.
- You are not networking. Supplier recommendations are the strongest recommendations
- Is your process too complicated? Are clients finding it hard to get clarification? Make everything as simple and easy as possible
- Be firm but gentle. If you are taking on a budget client, set boundaries and operate within those boundaries. If you find the client is pushing an envelope and trying to get you to do tasks outside of your agreement, let your client know what you would be happy to sort out x,y,z if this service is added to invoice. Then make sure you provide costs associated with added service.
- What is your response rate? Work on 24 hour frame, or less, if you want to get clients excited about working with you
- Rethink budgets, implement creative solutions, search for awesome deals, find new venues and be on a look out for up and coming talent
- You are not using your Instagram enough. Instagram is a magnificent marketing tool, research on how you can drive traffic to your website with your Instagram account.
- Stay positive, motivated and inspired. Your energy will be contegeous and your clients will thank you for your enthusiasm
Asking yourself hard questions is not meant to be a negative exercise. It will help you grow, help your clients and ultimately leads to planning more weddings.