The Fortune Five: Finding Your Planner
You've found the one and you've got the ring -- how exciting?!
All you have to do now is plan one of the biggest days of your entire life! (yikes)
Since you decided to turn to a professional, your first step is to ask for referrals, pour yourself over Wedding apps, and judge topical blogs as you see fit. Once you've sifted through all of that information and made your top vendor selections, your next step is to set up meetings with your favorite prospects and begin the process of deciding which one is the right one to hire for your Event. Before that step, preparing what to say and how to say it will equip you with the tools you need to effectively converse and ultimately, make one of the best decisions during your planning process...
ON THE REAL: You can easily find thousands of downloadable (is that a real word?) PDFs and script templates to "prep" for your consultation. However, I've easily noticed when a potential Client went down their checklist of questions to ask because those typical pre-booking inquiries are all the same! Truth be told, those inquiries never allow me to get to know the client on a deeper level -- which in return means there's no true connection.
Of course you want to know if your Vendor will have time to dedicate to your Wedding, and of COURSE they're going to say yes. Of course you're going to ask them if they can save you money and offer the best deals and of COURSE they're going to punch you with the confidence you think you have to sign on the dotted line. It's time we ditch the phony-ness, tear up the script templates, and start having a REAL conversation about your Life Celebration...
How does having a thorough and realistic discussion with your potential Planner before hiring them put you in the best position as their Client? It isn't enough to simply ask questions -- it's vital that you understand why you're asking them.
Here's a snapshot of what we're discussing this week:
- Doing your homework before you meet your Prospect
- Knowing your Planner's experience
- Jump-Starting the Negotiation Process
- Knowing if and how you are a match made in Planning-Heaven
Below are 5 topics to discuss with your Planner -- in what we call...
THE FORTUNE FIVE
1. Do Your Homework
We are only six months from the year 2020, so if your potential Planner isn't present online, be afraid -- be very afraid! Online presence is essential for convenient communication, references, and serves as a digital portfolio to access at any time.
Visit their website. Read their online reviews (the good, the bad and the ugly). Check out their social media outlets. Doing so will give you a sense of who they are, what their brand represents and if their style matches yours.
Follow Up: In order to give your potential Wedding Planner the details they need to accurately provide a quote and package that works for you, have the following logistics ready (obviously, if applicable):
- your Event Budget (be very upfront with the numbers you are working with)
- your Event Date and Location/s
- your approximate guest count, and
- what you are not looking for (any seasoned Planner will ask you what you are expecting your Planner to do -- be ready to explain what you want and also what you don't want for your Event)
2. Can You Elaborate On Your Experience?
When hiring a Lawyer or selecting a Doctor, credentials are regarded as crucial.
You'd be interested in where they've studied, which degrees are on their office walls and what awards they've accomplished during their career. I know I'd feel more comfortable with a decorated Surgeon, seasoned with ample experience, giving me open heart surgery rather than a newbie, fresh out of their Residency.
In the world of 'Event Planning', what's on paper shouldn't be your sole factor in deciding who to move forward with. Having certifications, affiliations and/or degrees are essential, and serve as a great foundation to building a successful career in the Meeting and Planning Industry. However, experience is KEY! 'Experience' is going to save the day when someone makes a mistake and spills red wine on the Bride's dress because they were dancing way too closely after drinking four signature cocktails. 'Experience' is going to find a quick solution when the table linen catches on fire after one of the votive candles topple over. 'Experience' is going to remain calm when 46 additional guests (who aren't on the final guest list) show up at the reception, inquiring where their table cards are while demanding a seat.
Getting a sense of your Planner's worse planning moments, what they'd do under a hypothetical situation and why they went into the biz in the first place will establish rapport and a better understanding of who they are as an Event Professional.
3. Money, Money, Money, Muh-nay -- MUHNAY!
Exercise WISDOM by discussing numbers early in the booking process.
Why waste your efforts and your Planner's time if the numbers don't make sense for either party? I usually laugh when I hear stories of potential clients asking, "What's your cheapest price?" or "Can you lower your price (but keep the same services of the package you just quoted that I'm suggesting is too expensive)?" after a quote is given.
What's "cheap" for one Wedding Couple isn't the same for another.
What's considered the "best package" may not be the best value for one Event as it is for another. With that being said, it's tough for a Planner to say outright what will work best for your expectations, needs and budget without discussing it in detail then finding a middle ground if negotiation is applicable.
ON THE REAL: I know ZERO professionals with 'Or Best Offer' signs on their doors, so discussing the prices of another professional during your consultation with your Planner isn't only unfair but inconsiderate. Reviewing notes at a later time (i.e. on your lay-z-boy at home, at the coffee shop around the corner, and basically anywhere away from your Planner) is a great time to compare, contrast and weigh out the pros and cons of each potential Vendor. At times, investing funds into a quality service won't only save you money (because it'll get done right the first time), but time (because your hired Vendor will handle all of the legwork)!
Instead of asking, "Can you give me the cheapest price/best deal/greatest package you can offer?", jump-start the negotiation process by inquiring, "What planning options and packages do you offer?".
Follow Up: Once your Planner explains their services, ask them to explain the differences (including price differences) between the services they offer.
Think about it -- between disclosing your event budget and Event needs (for them to know), discussing the services they provide (for you to know) and gauging differences between services (for both of you to realize which option makes sense for your specific Celebration), figuring out where to meet in the middle will be an organic next-step.
Note that other essential elements, such as deposit requirements, cancellation policies and other terms should be present within Vendor's contract. Exercise wisdom by asking for a sample and/or discussing terms thoroughly, getting everything on paper, and having a copy for yourself.
Every Couple should feel like their Big Day is just as important to their Planner as it is to them. Knowing that your Planner has the personnel and time to focus on your Event details is a crucial item to consider. A great way to decide whether their work load is something you feel comfortable with is to ask, "How many Weddings do you execute annually?".
Follow Up: "How many staff members do you have on your team?"
If your Planner executes 70 Weddings a year, on their own (a team of ONE), and double books on a single event date, beware. I've made the professional mistake of booking two events on one date: it's no easy feat if you don't have the tools you need to execute! I had two Weddings on one day and a very small team (FLEUR was just a few years old and we were just starting out). I realized we were spreading ourselves too thin. In hindsight, we weren't equipped to execute those Events as well as we could of if they were on separate dates or if our team was larger. LESSON LEARNED!
Being aware of your Planner's scheduling habits, workload and team size will meter whether or not they have the manpower to comfortably focus on your Event.
and last, but not least...
5. Are you an IDEAL client?
Asking your prospect ,"Will we work well together?" is a stretch.
No seriously -- you're reaching...
How could a Planner truthfully answer this question without having THE FORTUNE FIVE discussion with you? How can that question be answered without building rapport? Using your Planner's own experiences with previous clients is a great way for you to answer this question yourself.
You & your Planner should have a solid relationship because face it: the day of, they're the one who's solely focused on your best interest the day-of your Event. Your maid-of-honor is there, but if someone tore her dress, that hole in her dress would be of importance (even if just for a moment) because she wouldn't be prepared for that unforeseen incident. One of the groomsmen will (at some point) be more concerned with whether the Groom's cup is filled with a beverage rather than the disbursement of final payments to your Vendors. Your mother-in-law will be concerned with who's sitting where and if everyone is comfortable while the Venue Coordinator keeps a close eye on the waiting staff (focused on the Venue's best interests). These things naturally arise, and don't necessarily hinder a great Wedding. However, your investment in a Planner gives you insurance and assurance that someone is on your team specifically for you: prepared for come what may.
The true issue is finding said 'Planner'...
Any seasoned Planner with an established business isn't afraid to turn down clients. With that being said, quality is everything! A Planner-Client relationship is just that: a true relation. Building rapport and having a real connection is a sure way to ensure your Planner-Client relationship is healthy, flourishes throughout the process and trusted (especially the day-of). The best way to answer if meeting your prospect Planner is a match made in Wedding Planning-Heaven is to answer it for yourself.
Ask your prospect, "Who is your ideal client?".
In doing so, your prospect will most likely include great insight on things like budgets they typically work with, guest counts they're comfortable with, and their professional preferences. If you don't hear a specific characteristic, this is the time to bring it up and ask. Your Planner wants to answer your questions, so don't be shy in asking them (especially after you've given them room to describe their perfect client). If after they've answered, you feel apprehensive because you can't identify with any elements they described, mention that too.
Being upfront, honest and open early-on prevents building a "relationship" on sand, which will quickly crumble during the planning process.
At this point, you've got 5 topics to discuss, follow-up tasks to complete and the insider information you need to go to your first consultation! Be sure to do as much research as possible on your Planner and their company before scheduling your appointment. At FLEUR, we are huge fans of meeting face-to-face to get the most out of our meet & greets, but be sure to express if alternative methods (i.e. video-chatting, phone conferences and/or email) work better for you and your partner.
Let us know whether this article was helpful and what you'd like for us to talk about next. We'll see you next week...