Don’t forget to set your DVR as we are getting ready to take over your TV (or you DVR) at 10PM this Thursday (July 30th) when Mayra and I appear on Extreme I Do’s! The 1 hour special follows three couples and their wedding planners trying to have the most extreme destination weddings they can imagine all across american. From a mountain top to an Alaska Glacier to, you guessed it, a Hawaiian volcano, check out our adventure this Thursday. Preview below!
We had a really fascinating conversation last week with some colleagues in the wedding business in Japan about how one trains someone to be a “great” wedding planner/ event designer when so much of what marks people who are quite good at this (let’s say, Marcy Blum or Michelle Rago or Todd Fiscus, for instance) is that they have a culmination of unique experiences that they can draw on to enhance their clients vision for what their celebration or event can be.
What emerged from the conversation though is that while that is a LARGE part of it, especially in the UBER luxury arena (Marcy’s commitment to fine dining and wines and Michelle’s travel has given them knowledge that can’t be facsimiled over to someone else), for the most part the other intangible skill is actually LISTENING to your client- not just to the things they say, but also to the things they don’t say- the non-verbal cues and visual cues. The thing that differentiates an expert planner and an outstanding designer is not always their individual vision, but their ability to pick up on what their clients says verbally and non-verbally, connect the dots that are missing for them and translate that into event success.
I worry that in the growing competitive atmosphere that this over-saturated wedding market has created that too many of us approach our sales pitch (and perhaps our businesses in general) as a need to prove something, and less as an opportunity to show your ability to listen, to hear, to understand and to translate what the client wants. Clients are TOTALLY buying you and your personality, but if we worry that customers don’t value our “skill” as wedding professionals, we can start to change that by showcasing the most important skill that we have: the ability to listen, understand and translate to the intangible desire that lives in the clients mind.
SPEAKING of Listening and Learning, we are excited to announce that Mayra and I will be heading to Dallas this November 1-3rd where we will be once again speaking at the truly awesome Be Sage Conference . We had the honor of speaking last year and were so inspired by the experience we launched Besties in Business afterwards, and started prep-work to expand Just About Married to new markets. One of the things that we’ll be talking about is what it really means to be a Bestie in your business, and how by listening you can not only help other colleagues out, but learn quite a bit yourself.
Be Sage is a unique conference in that it keeps a smaller environment and fills its roster of speakers with lots of practical matter- like financial planning or new media marketing. Each session has specific take aways and probably my favorite part of the entire conference is that you walk away with 2, 4 and 8 week plans of action towards achieving your new goals. If you are looking for some professional development this year, we hope we’ll see you down in Dallas!
And because we can’t stop making announcements, we are SUPER DUPER excited to announce that we will be making our debut on TLC on July 30th at 10PM as part of their Extreme I Do’s special. The show follows 3 couples and planners as we help plan amazing weddings in really extreme locations. Ours was on a volcanic rock beach. Check out the trailer below and set your DVR!!!!
There is a great FB group that I’m a part of (there are a few, but this is a great group of planner alums from Engage!) and a colleague started a very thoughtful thread about petitioning the Bridal Media to STOP using the misleading term, “Day-Of” Coordinator. I so think that “Day-of” is a trick phrase, I can’t stop myself from putting bunny ears around it each and every time I use it… This said, I can’t help but find this “issue” problematic, largely because I think it highlights a much larger problem in our industry in general- we are overly apologetic about what it takes to do our job well and allow our clients to suggest to us the best way to skin a cat, even though they are calling us under the complete premise of not having ever skinned a cat before (generally) and certainly, therefore being unable to know how best to do it.
From the pure perspective of semantics, there isn’t really anything wrong with the expression “Day-of Coordinator” – because you are NOT planning the wedding, you are simply organizing details and information that’s already been prepared and you ARE in fact coordinating the activities of that day. The fact that generally speaking it’s universally understood by experienced hands that it takes about 4 weeks of prep to properly coordinate that day, doesn’t change the fact that you are preparing to coordinate the wedding day.
In reality, the client who asks for less doesn’t really want a less well organized wedding, they want to pay less and so they ask/ try to shortcut the prep time you know it requires in an effort to reduce the cost. They aren’t asking for less because they mis-understood the service based on the name, they are asking for less because they desire assistance but want to dictate the cost by reducing the terms…
It’s like haggling at a flea market. It’s their right to ask, so just tell them no, it actually can’t be done in a day and we don’t even offer that and anyone who would offer that clearly doesn’t know what they are doing, so I would question someone who says they will do that… at whatever price.
But that said, the issue isn’t with their asking, the issue is, why is it that we still sell our services in such a way that clients, who don’t know what they really need, feel in command of how things are offered? Not just “Day-of” but wedding planning in general. Adjusting the way that we prefer to work because of a clients’ ideas of how your job should be done is like creating a situation where a child tells the parents how it feel it should be raised based on their lack of knowledge of what life might hold in store for them.
The bigger, bigger issue of course, is something that Marcy Blum spoke about during her Engage! chat… which is that in this age where the clients value the “aesthetic” , it can be daunting to communicate (and command) the value of something that isn’t aesthetic at all… it’s experiential. Yet we, the planners/coordinators, are the ones in the equation who know what it takes to create the experiences the client is seeking… so why are we so apologetic in the way we explain what it takes and what it costs to properly create those experiences for clients?
Fixing the understanding of what is “Day-of” or “Month-of” isn’t the responsibility of the Bridal Media (though their understanding would help…) NOR is it the responsibility of the client… it’s our responsibility as an industry and as independent business owners to ACTIVELY take a stand for what it takes to properly do our jobs and unapologetically speak up to it. Simply put, if you clearly explain on your website/ in your marketing materials and in your sales calls/emails how and WHY you define “Month-of” or “Final Planning” or “Day-of Coordination” there should be no room for questions..
I can say this relatively confidently, because Just About Married rarely, if ever, gets requests for less than one month-of coordination. Similarly at AaB Creates, we only offer one service (well, technically 2- Design and also “Full” Planning) and we rarely get requests for less than that, and if we do we say no. We explain what the service is, what the price includes and how our system works and people are either interested or they are free to go elsewhere. By explaining our system and what we require to insure our end of the agreement (a well managed event as planned by the client), it eliminates the possibility of the client attempting to direct how it can go. Here is this new, pretty nifty video we’ve added to our JAM site that explains what we offer and why…
(I’m fully prepared that this will ruffle some people’s feathers… comments, dissent and discussion highly welcomed.)
Hola ! We are freshly back from Engage!15 Nizuc *which was stunning* and where Mayra and I were delightfully given the opportunity to lead a break out session that despite the lure of the beach and giant infinity pool, somehow was still totally FULL! Throughout Engage! the topics of surviving in an increasingly competitive landscape and moving away from being “generic” or in the “middle” kept emerging from speaker to speaker, so it was fun and fitting that we were speaking about how to move past the fear of change and identify and find a niche. We got a lot of amazing feedback, but realized that the first part- how to identify that it’s time to change AND how to figure out what direction to change towards was the part that we could see was most resonating with people.
A full recap is coming soon, but I thought, in an effort to be helpful to those of you who weren’t able to come this time, I’d post up this concept from our talk about Personal Values Circles that we discussed for you to ponder at home while you are doing your mid-summer career introspection that you probably have so much time for (kidding… but maybe you can ponder it when hustling to and fro weddings…).
The first question is What did you value/prioritize when you first started your business?
Draw it out in a circle… like a pie.
How did the way you ran your business then feed the biggest pie pieces?
The next question is what do you value/prioritize NOW, today?
What pie pieces are being fed by the way you run your business now? Which ones are being neglected? What can you do to feed your bigger pie pieces?
If there were NO rules or pre-conceived ideas about WHAT your business or job is meant to be, which things would you stop doing and which aspects of your job/services would you keep providing?
For us, as you can see with Mayra’s Value Circles above, we were interested in a job where we worked together, had a lot of fun, became known within our industry and were minimally interested in business. Over time however, Mayra’s personal life changed (marriage, etc), we got older and started to really see ourselves more as business people and not just wedding professionals (and thus became more interested in profit and revenue) and being “acknowledged” felt less urgent to her. SO it made sense that for us, developing a new business model (Just About Married) that allowed us more free weekends for personal time and family, while taking less volume of our high end design/planning company (AaB Creates) was a way to change the old way of business into a new way of running the business that fed her current circles.
Obviously Rome wasn’t built in a day, and we didn’t arrive at these two solutions overnight, but over several years…. but the point is, we stopped for a bit and recognized that like a shirt that your kid might grow out of, it not only seemed silly to not change, it was increasingly uncomfortable for us to stay the same.
Have you been considering making changes in the way you do business? If so, let us know how and what motivated you to change !
Also, don’t forget you can still register for Baha Mar in November…. a different roster of speakers, an amazing educational, networking opportunity (and yes, the parties are also pretty awesome).
Ah, this strange world that we work in, where the creation of our “art” is done in the name (and fueled by the dollar) of someone else’s life event. As creators (and marketers of our own work) we are all inclined to want what we offer/do/produce/create to shine as brightly as possible. We want our lighting to look amazing, we want our band to sound fantastic, our photos to be published, our flowers to be remarked on. However, where some of us go awry is that we aren’t content with just shining, we start to try and be the star.
Years and years ago, I remember working with a photographer who was (and still is) sort of a “big deal”. We had found dealings before hand to be challenging, but tried to walk into the day with an open mind. It soon became clear that this Photog was very aware that he was a “big deal” and the day was arranged as such. He bullied vendors, and eventually bullied the bride into tears trying to get the “shot” he wanted.
This is an extreme case, of course, but it’s something to keep in mind as we make our way through wedding season and head on out there this weekend: humility is a requirement in wedding work. Sometimes we have a “big” new job that will expose us to new clients, or give us the opportunity to boost our portfolio or get published somewhere, and our excitement/anxiety can lead us to forget that we are just one part of a bigger vision. Sometimes, when we are more established and are tired and into the thick of the season, our inner Kanye Wests can start to come out and we might act like your other vendors should be honored you showed up. Quit it.
The best way to success in this business- true, long lasting success- is to remember that you’re first order of business is to collaborate your way into an amazing event for your client. Your cake is no longer your cake once you head out the door to drop it off to the person who paid you for it. Your flowers aren’t about you once they get set on this couple’s dining tables. Your food is only being prepared because this couple’s friends and family gathered around to eat it. So try and remember, no one of us is greater than the sum of our collective work. The only diva at a wedding should be standing at the altar (and not the officiant!).
When our work shines brightly, the accolades and attention inevitably come- they just needn’t come in that moment.
Just a coda to our photographer story: as he left that event he told us we were the “worst planners ever” and predicted that we’d be out of business within a year. For all he knows we did, for we certainly never worked together again.