A warm welcome to today’s guest blogger , Cheryl Bailey. Cheryl runs Wedding Industry Rescue (the business coaches to the wedding industry) and Yellow Umbrella Events. She has successfully built more than a couple wedding/event related businesses to more than $100K in less than a year, so she knows what the hell she’s talking about and has great advice for event planners. On a completely unrelated note, she worked as a tree trimmer as a child and just bought her first pair of skinny jeans (after making fun of everyone that wears them for the last year). Thanks for sharing, Cheryl.
Oh the proverbial sales funnel. Much talk, many articles, and a whole lot of fancy diagrams have been written (and drawn) on this magical sales funnel. Your event planning sales funnel basically refers to following a person through the entire sales process, from seeing them first as a contact through to the completion of an eventual sale. And then it starts all over again, hopefully.
At any given time in your business you will likely be juggling a number of different contact types – inquiries, referrals and leads (both genuine and not so genuine), actual paying clients, and past clients. And each one of these contact types needs to be moved towards a sale in a different way. And it’s your job to keep each area of this client funnel full so you can sell more to the types of clients that you want in your event planning business. You know, so you can STAY in business.
We could spend a half day at a seminar in some crappy hotel ballroom somewhere dissecting each one in minute detail, but as they say “ain’t nobody got time for that”. So here’s my down and dirty, fast and furious, 5 tips for keeping your event planning business client sales funnel full everyday:
1. Answer Questions With More Questions (i.e., auto-responders be damned – start a conversation!)
Email inquiries. We love them. We hate them. We love getting them but they usually look like this, “Hi, I’m getting married and need some help planning my wedding. How much is it?” And this is where most event planners lose the sale. Because you’ve been taught to save time and automate your business, you send out your canned reply that sounds like a sales job all around (and possibly reeks a little of desperation), has your bio, a list of services with full pricing, your mothers maiden name, 12 paragraphs on why you should use a planner, and a link to the questionnaire she’s required to fill out before you meet, and then you get…crickets. Gee, I wonder why she didn’t reply back.
Answer their email with a warm congratulatory greeting and some questions right back, but mimic their tone. If their message was short, keep your email short. If they mentioned a lot of details, address them. Something like,
“Oh my gosh Sara, I’m so excited that you thought of us for planning your wedding! We’d love to help. Can you tell me anything you already know about your wedding? Venue (if you’ve chosen one)? Date? Guest count?
Can’t wait to hear all the details!”
Easy. No pressure. We’re just having a conversation. And if she answers these little details I am already on my way to knowing if she’s the right client for me and I know where to go on the next correspondence. At this point in the game we’re establishing an emotional connection with the client and also accessing their suitability to be an actual client.
2. Make Referrals from Venues and Vendors a Priority
“It’s hard to get in with the venues here. They already have people that they refer.”
“My area is really cliquey. They don’t like outsiders.”
“They only refer to their friends”
I hear these very excuses from planners I consult with almost every day. (I may have even used one or two myself when I was just starting out.) And they’re all valid. But they’re all bullshit! These are excuses we tell ourselves to deal with the rejection we think we’re about to get.
Most of my business is through referral – and here’s why. I ask. End of story. Seriously – I ask all the time. Not just once, but regularly. I make a habit of asking for referrals and I make it fun. I run contests. I offer prizes. Oh, and I give really really nice gifts. Like Coach purses and trips to the spa! Isn’t a $6000 planning client worth a $400 Coach purse?! You better believe it is. I’ll make that trade all day, every day! And a funny thing happens when you give Coach purses. Everyone finds out. 🙂
3. Refer To Others!
I can not tell you enough how eagerly referring to others helps grow your business and keeps that marketing funnel full. Don’t just tell someone to call so and so. Facilitate the transaction. Call the vendor and give them the client’s info. Tell the client that the vendor will be calling them. And then step aside.
I referred $2.1 million dollars in business to others last year alone. No, I’m not kidding. And yes, that’s a hell of a lot of referrals! And people are very appreciative of your referrals. Which puts you in a position to be able to ask for (and receive) referrals from them. It’s a great little system.
4. Market to the Right Client
Part of any good sales funnel is quite simply getting the right kinds of leads into your funnel. If you are a corporate event planner and you are only getting leads for weddings, then you have a problem. If you’re a luxury wedding planner and all of your leads are for weddings with $20k budgets, then you are going to have a lot of wasted time.
The two reasons that I see most often for why planners are attracting the wrong client is that their marketing is not saying the right things and that they are not being specific with the type of referrals they’re asking for.
If you’re a corporate event planner and your website has a bunch of pretty pictures of weddings, you need to remove those and showcase your past business clients. There’s a reason people keep calling you about wedding planning. If you’re a luxury wedding planner, you should be telling your vendors, family, friends, etc that you only work with brides with $100k or more to spend. That way your neighbor won’t refer you to her cousin with the nonexistent budget that wants to cater her own wedding!
5. Reach Out to Current and Past Clients
The most overlooked place for quality leads and referrals is current and past clients. And it’s simply because planners don’t ask for them! You’ve planned their amazing corporate holiday party for 5 years in a row and they haven’t referred you once. They keep using you for your awesome work. So you think your work should speak for itself, right? Well it doesn’t. You need to ASK for that referral. Do they know the business owner next door to their office? What about that other executive you know they golf with each week. Why haven’t you gotten their holiday party too? Did you ask?
One of the times that I knew I failed at this was at a client’s wedding (that I had planned) when one of the bridesmaids was telling me that she wished she had heard of me before she booked her planner for her wedding. This bridesmaid had just gotten engaged a few months prior and was close with the bride. It was at that moment that the bride turned around and exclaimed, “Oh my gosh Cheryl, I never even thought about referring you! I’m so sorry!” But it wasn’t her fault at all. I was the one that never asked. You have to ask! Or you’ll only have yourself to blame.
There are a ton of different ways to keep your client sales funnel full. What are some of your tried and true techniques?
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