Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Just Say No!

To brides that are NOT the right fit for you, your wedding services and your sanity.

By Krista Chapman

Repeat after me:  I am not the right wedding vendor for every bride.

This seemingly obvious truth has eluded many vendors in my recent interviews.  While discussing their company, I make it a point to ask, what type of bride and/or couple would not be the right fit for you?  Simple enough... not every bride will have the right budget for your services, you could be booked on her date or as we so carefully stress, you don't mesh.  Instead, I am met by puzzled looks and nervous avoidance.  A cheerful response inclusive of any and all brides... our company is a great fit for them all!  Are you?  Really?

Just for added emphasis... I-am-not-the-right-wedding-vendor-for-every-bride.

No doubt a knee-jerk defense to the recession and declining sales, you need to understand one thing.  You are not the right fit for every bride.  Period.  Desperately aspiring to this lofty platform of trying to please everyone more often than not will leave you pleasing no one.  After working with a bridezilla or two, I quickly realized that particularly personality traits and planning expectations from a client did not bring out the best of my capabilities and skills.  Eager to learn from my mistakes (and never work with another bride like that again), I decided some changes needed to be made.  Having fond memories of working with some past brides, I quickly determined why these weddings had gone so smoothly, why I had had some much fun.  These brides were my ideal brides.  And when working with them, I was a better wedding vendor. 

It's funny when something so obvious dawns on you.  Quoting the great Nora Ephron from the classic romantic comedy, When Harry Met Sally: When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.  I wanted to spend the rest of my career working with my ideal bride and I wanted this to start as soon as possible.  Let me introduce you... ideal bride, meet ideal wedding vendor. 

Define your ideal bride.  When asked to define a client that is not the right fit, wedding vendors freeze, returning to a safe, albeit wrong answer that excludes no bride, no groom, no potential sale.  Over two million brides married in the US in 2009 with over 52,000 in Tennessee alone.  Riddle me this...  Are you really the right fit for every one of them?
I determined my ideal bride by making a list.  I started with my values related to business, added my strengths and weaknesses and recalled the types of brides I most enjoyed working with.  As a vendor, I am generally pretty laid back and if a bride was looking for someone to reassure her non-stop phone calls, hissy fits over service fees or rude demands as normal wedding planning behavior well... I wasn't the right wedding vendor for her.  I wanted to work with a couple that trusted in my expertise and experience, would follow my lead and saw their wedding for the fun celebration that it is.  I gravitated towards couples with a grounded perspective and similar laid-back demeanor.  And if she was quietly thankful and appreciative with a mother to match, I was hooked.

Market your services to your ideal bride.  Ideal bride now determined, it is time to market to her and her alone.  I reworked advertisements, marketing communications and targeted wedding packages and services to my ideal.  Emails to brides carefully laid out my mantra related to wedding planning and the bride that best fit me.  I would not be the right fit for everyone, validating this to couples when we met... this venue and I were not for all couples, it will feel right if it was the right fit.  If you did not like me for any reason, I told my prospects, please don't book my services for your wedding as we will be spending entirely too much time together to annoy each other from the get go.  By changing my sales pitch and making the characteristics of my planning style clearly evident to brides during initial conversations, I saw a dramatic shift.  It was not about me after all... If fated to work together, the universe would shift to make that happen.  Brides were not under pressure to book with me and could walk away without guilt.  But that's not what happened... by committing to finding and working with my ideal bride, she found me and understanding the way I worked best, the decision to book came easy. 
You can only be your best self... trying to adjust yourself and your products and/or services to better fit a bride will leave her with a second rate version of you.  Best-selling author Seth Godin has a general rule: Every person you turn away because your product or service isn’t right for them turns into three great customers down the road.  Every bad sale costs you five.  In a moment of desperation with mounting bills, you booked a bride during dead month.  I've done this against better judgment because I needed the sale.  Later as tensions mounted and the day drew near, I had to accept that I would not make this bride happy... that this wedding would not be an amazing success.  If that was not failure enough, I had to deal with the wake of disappointments and complaints that followed for months.  But I knew all this when the bride and I first talked.  Foolishly, I convinced myself that I could be everyone to everybody and paid the price.  Lesson learned.

Finally, celebrate your increasing success.  Happy vendors, soaring as their best self, produce better quality work.  These happy customers share their elation from the rooftops (or on social media feeds!).  They rave about you to all their friends, family and other brides-to-be.  Why mess up word-of-mouth advertising by trying to serve every bride?  It all starts by saying no; we are not the right fit.  Defining my ideal client or bride was about defining my purpose and role as a wedding vendor.  All vendors have a niche audience... don't be anxious about that audience feeling smaller than it should.  The key to overwhelming success is to be the very best fit for this niche... confidently attracting the very best brides to the very best version of you.    

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Images courtesy of Getty Images.

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