You know those people who try to find the positive in everything? Yeah, kind of irritating – I am not one of those.
That said, a whole lot of coaching has apparently led me to a place where my natural response to something “bad” happening is to ask myself “what can I learn from this?” And there is so much we can learn about ourselves, our world and our wedding businesses at this time.
So, what can you learn from running a wedding business during coronavirus?
1) Confidence and belief as a wedding business owner
The most interesting thing for me has been that everything I believed before, I still believe.
Let me break that down for you – I believe in my heart that my wedding photography business is a booking machine. I believe that there is huge demand for what I do (and the way I market/sell it) and that buying from me is a no-brainer.
Coronavirus didn’t change that belief. I carried on believing what I believe to be true. And I am still booking weddings (8 in the last 2 weeks).
And similarly, I was still struggling with being 100% confident in my business coaching pricing. I often thought, “the people I want to work with probably don’t have this money,” (even though I believe that it’s a small investment compared to the huge returns). And when coronavirus hit, that belief had a whole lot of new evidence. I started telling myself, “well, they definitely can’t afford me now!”
We look for evidence to support what we already believe.
If you already believed you’re too expensive, people don’t want what you sell, marketing is hard, selling is selfish, your ideal clients can’t afford you, etc.
The coronavirus will have given you a way to justify those beliefs.
Now you’ll be saying, “well, people have no money so they definitely can’t afford me,” “no one is thinking about their weddings right now so of course they don’t want what I do,” “it would be inappropriate to market and sell when terrible things are happening.”
You see what I mean?
You’ve found an external situation – one that feels so true (because I’m betting those things feel like they’re 100% undeniably true, not your opinion) – to support what you already believed or feared about your business.
Some homework – write down all the thoughts you have right now about coronavirus and your business.
Then ask yourself – “are these factually true?” – are they dispassionately, 100%, I can prove this is true in every case, facts?
2) Getting to know your wedding business finances
The second thing I’ve found interesting is the grasp my clients and I have on our numbers.
Disclaimer, I studied Economics at university – I don’t much like maths, but I love money, data and the solid facts about businesses. I’m a spreadsheet kind of girl. So, I have a very good grasp on my numbers all the time.
That said…when this started and my Facebook newsfeed became an anxiety-inducing horror-show of business owners saying they had weeks left before they would go out of business or run out of money to pay their rent, I panicked.
I got so carried away, that I even considered getting rid of my home and moving into my investment property, or in with my Mum.
And then I sat down and did the numbers.
Numbers are soothing because they’re facts. If you just do the numbers without jumping ahead to what this means for you, your business, your life…
When I calmed down, I looked at everything and realised I could run my business and my life, with no cutbacks, for 9 months without getting a single penny more in.
I created a buffer fund years ago – after a car crash that left me working with a broken hand to make ends meet – and I aim to have 6 months in there at all times. I had actually been steadily over-filling it to get up to a year.
But, that won’t be the case for a lot of wedding businesses.
For a lot of you, this might be the first time having a buffer/reserve fund has even crossed your mind.
Or it might be the first time you’ve really written everything out…I’m talking your business expenses and personal expenses, as well as what comes in.
It might be that you realise now you have been under-charging for a long time, or over-spending, or somewhere in-between.
If your business leaves you living invoice-to-invoice, if there’s no room in there for any savings, and no wiggle room for anything to go wrong. Then that was a problem long before coronavirus. Like a ticking time-bomb waiting to go off at any point – if a couple cancelled, or you got stuck abroad, or broke a bone, or got pregnant, or any number of other unexpected things that are slightly less extreme than a pandemic.
Homework – If you haven’t yet, do the numbers! Write down everything that leaves your business account, everything that leaves your personal account, and how much you would need to go 6 months without any income (on top of the money you use to get through off-peak season).
That is what you would need to put in a buffer fund. Is there space in what you make now, at your current rates and workload, to save that money? And if not, is there an expense you could easily let go of? Or do you need to charge more/work more?
3) How to market your wedding business during coronavirus
Marketing in a crisis. This is the new thing, right? We’re all “marketing (or not) in a crisis.”
Marketing in a crisis is no different to marketing any other time.
For starters, we’re all having our own crises on a regular basis, right?
Your couples can’t find their dream cutlery, or the perfect shade of bridesmaid dress, or a photographer that doesn’t make them cringe, or everyone’s getting angry about not having plus ones – that will feel like a crisis for them.
I’m not diminishing the state of affairs right now. What I’m saying is, our clients, us, we’ve always got pain points. There are are always worries, fears, problems we want to fix.
And coronavirus will mean different things to different people. It will mean something different to your clients than it does to you.
For me, I pulled out of buying my dream house a week into the coronavirus crisis (because realistically it won’t be worth what I had agreed to pay for it in a couple of months time) – writing the email to the estate agent felt like the world was ending.
That’s not a unique story, other people’s house purchases will be falling through, other people will have imagined their life in a house to have that ripped away.
But there are many more people who weren’t buying houses. Who will have zero concern about the property market. Who won’t have even considered that this might be a thing that’s happening. Or who will think that is nothing compared to the problems they’re facing.
The challenge here, is not that there’s a crisis, but knowing what that crisis means to your clients.
You know how everyone bangs on about ideal client profiles? This is why.
If you know your clients intimately, if you understand the type of people they are, the stage of wedding planning they’re at, their dreams, their fears, the way they’re likely to process disappointment…then you’ll know EXACTLY what to say to them right now. Just like you knew EXACTLY what to say to them a month ago.
Your clients always have hopes, dreams, fears. And it is always our job to know what they are. Now is no different.
Homework – what is important to your clients? How will that have been impacted by coronavirus? Talk about that – either explicitly, or, if you don’t want to talk about coronavirus, nod to those issues in other ways.
4) Selling your wedding service during coronavirus
Selling is a mindset game. It took me a long time to figure that out – but it’s pretty much always true.
The number one struggle with selling now is the same as always!
It feels gross…or you don’t know how to do it right…or you don’t want to be pushy.
There is only one thing you need to know right now – if you think you can’t sell now because it would be wrong. Because it would be self-serving or tone deaf.
You were already thinking about selling wrong. You already felt weird about it.
Selling is service.
Repeat after me…selling is service.
When you sell, you help your clients to get what they want – you help them to weigh their options, solve their problems and buy something they feel good about – that will make them excited, happy, less worried.
You are not “asking” for the sale – you’re not trying to grab their money and run – you’re “offering” them a solution to their problem.
And like we discussed, people still have problems they want solved. They still want to have an amazing wedding and they still want to enjoy looking forward to it.
5) The importance of community
Hands up, who has really valued the community they have right now. Or wish they had one?
I’m in such a wonderful position to have a great community of wedding businesses around me, both online and offline (not that anything is offline right now).
This is a chance for you to acknowledge your community – give to them generously and strengthen those relationships.
Or reflect on whether or not you wish you had a bigger community and reach out. It could be as simple as commenting on some Instagram posts, joining a Facebook group, sending an email to a supplier you admire and inviting them for a virtual coffee, or joining a group programme with a community aspect (hi, my new Double Down Bootcamp has a whole lot of community).
6) The state of your client relationships
I’ll hold my hands up – I have a lot of systems in place to look after clients and keep those relationships alive, but, I have definitely been guilty of letting those slide in the past. While sometimes I was just busy, most of the time it would be some self-doubt (what if they don’t want to hear from me? What if they don’t like their photos? All that stuff).
Right now, if you’re facing postponed and cancelled weddings, the state of the relationships with your clients will become clear.
While, of course, there will always be the outliers…what’s been the general experience? Were they really eager to continue to work with you? Were they understanding and open to compromise? Did they seem to trust you?
There is always value in having good client relationships – it makes the whole process up to the day nicer, but, it’s more than that, they’re more likely to feel positive about the whole experience, review you, refer people to you, continue to be a fan after the day is over (you know, engaging on those social posts and helping the algorithm).
Homework – reflect on how this has played out and where your client relationships might be falling down. Is there something you could do? Or are these not your ideal clients so they just haven’t connected with what you’ve been doing?
7) Has your wedding contract protected you during coronavirus?
I think we’ve all had a nervous look at our contracts and wondered how we could have protected ourselves better.
Let’s be honest, we probably weren’t planning on a lot of postponements or cancellations, right? In nearly a decade I’ve had 1 postponement and 2 cancellations. Ever.
While we all want to have a policy in place if something happens, I doubt any of us were thinking about the implications of multiple moved/cancelled weddings in such close proximity.
I’ve noticed that over the course of my career I’ve added to my contract as issues have come up. It’s a learning process, where you’ll realise that you need a policy for situations you had previously never thought about (like if the client provides the wrong address, or drunk guests get handsy).
Has your contract made this process easier? Does your cancellation/postponement policy protect you? Are your clients clear on where they stand? Do you have a complaints procedure in place?
Homework – consider what your ideal (reasonable) conclusion would have been in this situation and how close your contract has got you to that. And if you’re nowhere near, it might be time to shop around for someone to tweak your contract.
Need help booking wedding clients during coronavirus?
The great news is, people are still booking their wedding suppliers – you can book out next year and start getting those deposits in now. When you need that cash-flow.
If the above questions got you thinking about all the ways you can improve your wedding business and make sure it’s ready to weather any storm, I’ve got something for you. My group programme Double Down Bootcamp, helps wedding businesses market, sell and make money – even now – without pivoting or panicking. You can join for as little as £29. Click here for more info.