Posts Tagged “customer education”
You’ve all come across at least one of these frustrating scenarios: your bride comes to you with their vision in mind, a vision which MUST include dahlias. The only problem? Dahlias aren’t in season during her wedding. Scenario two: six months before the wedding, you tell them you can get X, Y or Z flower, and the week before, there’s an unexpected shortage due to something completely out of your hands, like the weather.
So we asked our panel, how do you deal with substitutions, and breaking the news to your clients that the flower they wanted so badly won’t be available for their wedding? How do you ensure that your bride is still happy?
I strongly believe that the most successful floral artists and salespeople sell an emotion; a look and a feeling, NOT a flower! The way wedding flowers are sold is VERY important, both on a retail level and a wholesale level. On the retail end of things, a bride needs to be guided in a way that provides the best possible outcome for her expectations. Sometimes honing in on clues to understand what she is expecting is one of the most important skills for wedding florists to learn. Also, pin pointing your concerns with any unreasonable flower expectations that she has right off the bat is imperative. All of this has to be done with tact and finesse in order to make her feel confident in your abilities to carry out her vision regardless of any availability issues or requests that she has her heart set on. Mother Nature plays a huge part in her plans and she needs to know that if you can’t get a peony, for instance, you are going to choose a substitute of like value, color and feeling. If her peonies aren’t available, she should understand that its not that you or your wholesaler dropped the ball…it is simply that Mother Nature and the farms that grow them have not been able to provide it at the time of her wedding. It is kind of like going to the grocery store…one week the grapes are big and fat and juicy and the next week they are small and a bit sour. We work with them though. We add a little sugar and maybe some other fruit that is sweeter to make a great combination. Flowers are kind of like that. It’s a great analogy that I have used often in the wedding consultation- especially if I think that a substitution may need to me made when her wedding rolls around.
On a wholesale level, I think it is important for wedding florists to understand the challenges that their wholesale partners face as well. Just like consumers need to be educated by their florists, retailers need to be educated by their suppliers. It is unreasonable for any florist to expect that their wholesaler can “guarantee” any highly seasonal product that is in great demand. A peony or a dahlia is a great example. Really any flower that is trending becomes highly sought after and creates a demand that makes that flower more likely to have availability issue, especially during peak wedding season. It is so important that you find a wholesaler that you can partner with. Finding a company that will educate you and that you can trust to do everything possible to find the flowers you need but to also have great substitutions in mind and on hand should your requests become an issue the week of your event.
I feel that flower trends and products change very quickly. Just because a florist has been in the business for 20+ years does not make them an expert when it comes to market availability and varieties. It is an ever-changing landscape. If I can offer one solid piece of advice as you order and purchase your flowers, it would be to keep an open mind and utilize your talents in a way that makes what Mother Nature has to offer work for your clients needs and also to trust your sales rep to make good decisions on your behalf.
I get this quite often. I find most my clients have at least one favorite flower but they just don’t know when they are in season. It’s really just a matter of educating my client on what is in season at the time that they are getting married and providing great substitutions for flowers that they may love but can’t necessarily get. I like to ask about colors they’re working with or what vision/theme they may have instead. Then we can design everything as a whole. I’ve found this helps people see the “big picture” a little clearer than to just focus on specific flowers at first.
Substitutions are great. I let my clients know that if we have to substitute something we’ll choose something with the same look or style to what we were planning. I’ve also noticed that when brides show me images of flowers they like, a lot of my brides think garden roses are peonies. This is why garden roses are great substitutions for peonies. That’s usually my first option when somebody wants peonies. If they’re looking for dahlias or ranunculus, etc. I like to substitute flowers with a similar look or feel to what they like. For example: if a bride wanted ranunculus, I might substitute it for a spray roses or some scabiosa if I’m looking to use it as a more delicate accent to flower arrangements.
Because flowers are alive and no two are ever the same, I have a clause in my agreement which states I will use substitutions on any items I either can’t get or isn’t up to par with our standards. I think this clause has been very important to have because every so often you might find that some bunches you’ve ordered just don’t look quite as fresh as you would normally like them to be. Since we florists make flowers ahead of time, I’d rather substitute a different flower that I know will look great and give me the same end result than to have that particular bunch of flowers look even worst on the day of the wedding and risk having me possibly trash those flowers anyway.
This is such a great question. I’m a pretty straight forward in person in general, but believe it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it 🙂 So i just try to break it to them gently but also keep them realistic//set expectations.
What’s nice about living in CA, is sometimes we get fluke items 🙂 Like random peonies or ranunculus off season. And so i’ll explain that to them as well and tell them I’ll do my best, but can’t guarantee they’ll get that specific bloom because it IS off season. I also try to encourage them to trust me to choose some pretty substitutions-and ALL of these stipulations are listed within my contract as well-just to make sure we are covered!
In terms of scenario two: OOF this has definitely happened. and I think it’s all about communication//expectations again. Since I usually start wedding prep much earlier in the week just before the wedding, I tend to be able to nip this in the bud. And if i can’t get the item, I’ll just let them know it! Sometimes these things just don’t come in, or they come in and they’re not their best quality. SO, I just communicate that and then send the client photos of my pull cart or some other pretty items we’ve pulled for them to try to keep them excited! It’s all about remaining flexible and positive and encouraging them to do the same!
When it comes to breaking the bad news, I tend to do it right up front without hesitation. However, if there is a slight chance that it will be possible I mention it and make sure that they understand I am not committing to it, but will make note of their wish list to surprise them the day of the wedding. Nowadays, I have learned from my past mistakes and I do not promise any specific flowers especially to brides. My commitment to each one of our brides is to stay true to the design as a whole and not the specific blooms.
Thanks to our Floral Forum for your advice on avoiding these sticky situations! To sum it up, try to be as honest & transparent as you can with your client, focus on selling a “feeling” rather than a specific flower, and if all else fails, include a clause about substitutions in your contract! And as always, if you have anything else to add to the topic, please tell us in the comments below!
As florists, we are just a small piece of the wedding industry pie. From event planners to photographers to calligraphists, there are so many other creatives that come together to create these magical days for the two lovebirds. We all know how important networking is, and as an aspiring floral designer myself, I’ve always wondered how important it is to connect with other vendors, and how to go about doing so!
So I asked the Mayesh Floral Forum: Relationships with other wedding industry vendors… how important are they? How do you establish good relationships for referrals and possible collaborations? And to get a bit more specific, we also had a customer ask about images of your work, and if most photographers are willing to give florists their images, or make them pay to use them?
I have never paid for images that photographers have given me. The photographers that I work with quite a bit don’t typically watermark their images but they do ask for credit. Which I happily give! It is important to credit the photographer on your website as well as social media. Sometimes we have to do some extra leg work and ask the photographer for images after an event. And sometimes we never get photographs. So my team and I are trying to get better at taking a few quick snaps that we can use for social media before the event.
Relationships with other wedding industry vendors are extremely important. They can be a huge source of referrals and a great support for our businesses. We typically are referred by Venues, Planners, and Photographers. If there is a vendor that you would like to work with or a venue that you have always wanted to work at, ask if they would be willing to collaborate on a styled shoot. Early on in my business, one of the first styled shoots I did, the photographer set the shoot up at one of my favorite venues. I was so excited as I had never worked there but always wanted to. The event coordinator liked my work so much she added me to their preferred vendor list. It was one of the most pivotal points in my business.
Networking with other vendors is always important. I know it can be hard and intimidating if you don’t know a lot of vendors in your area. But finding a commonality with other people is a good way to start relationships with them. One of the things that is very important to me as a florist and a small business owner is BE NICE. Be nice to other florists, other vendors, and people in your industry. Your reputation will proceed you. Do you want to be known as difficult to work with or someone who is nice to work with? That is so important when trying to collaborate with others.
Almost all photographers just allow me to use them – I’ve had one ask me to pay for them and I said no thanks 🙂 I think that’s a totally ridiculous expectation! Us using their photos is good for them as well – as long as we are crediting properly, I don’t think it should be an issue!
In terms of vendor relationships… HUGELY important. I think each wedding that you work with other vendors is also a networking event. You should be working as a team and making everyone’s job easy so that the event runs smoothly and hopefully they’ll want to work with you again. I’d say i get more referrals from other vendors than most other marketing avenues 🙂
Collaborate away, make friends, and just do your best. If other vendors feel that you’re fun to work with, dependable and talented-why wouldn’t they recommend you?
As for the best ones to “get in with”-coordinators for sure. As a coordinator also, I’m always sending referrals out for vendors i love 🙂 coordinators + venues <3
As far as photographers, they are very willing to give us images digitally as long as we make sure to credit them appropriately when we use them. Photographers that we work with often, also offer a large canvas of our work (and theirs) to display in our consultation room, usually a couple of times a year.
Helpful Hint: When using photographer’s images on Instagram or any other social media that has filters, DO NOT add another filter to their original photo. Some have unique brightness, flair and finishes that they want to represent their brand.
The most important vendor that we work closely with are wedding planners. Their power of suggestion is amazing when it comes to vendor referrals. Most of our larger weddings are brought to us by planners.
The photographers we have worked with have been tremendous. Traditionally they have given photos when we ask. One photographer does a “photo drop” two times a year where they open up their photos to their vendors. We’ve never had to pay for photos of an event that we did. There were a few times when we were a smaller company that our photographers sent photos with their branding on them. As we’ve established ourselves in the industry and grew into our target market, photographers now send us photos branding free and we ensure they get credit for their beautiful work! If photographers ever send us photos with their branding, we just ask them if they could send us specific floral photos without the branding and let them know we would give them credit.
Your “friendors” are definitely important. When we were starting our St. Louis wedding florals company, one of our Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) each week was to meet three new connections from the wedding industry. These didn’t make a huge impact immediately, but they did break the ice to further opportunities. In the last two years, 23% of our clients said they heard about us, at least in part, from another vendor. The large part of our vendors who send work our way are the venues. Many of those relationships we actually built by just doing a wedding there. Once they love the work and see Rachael and our team work efficiently and clean up after themselves, they want to work with us again. Recently, we’ve not done gratis inspiration photos shoots as much because the ROI (for us at least) is too low and that money is better invested elsewhere in the business. There are plenty of other places to build relationships with other vendors.
Photographers have long been the challenge to get the actual photos…. We have recently used the approach, “We would like to feature this wedding on our website and credit you for the photography. When can I expect to get some of the best floral shots form you?” Always get their card so you can follow up, but this approach has been most helpful!
We use this same approach on most of our partner vendors and it works great!! We offer to feature the product on our website for a special pricing partnership opportunity.
In 99.9% of instances photographers are happily willing to share images, even without a watermark, because they know I will give them credit and send business their way. From the White House to LA, that has been my experience, but that’s not to say all photographers are generous. In my neck of the woods there IS one that wants to charge me $50 per image. #NO #NiceTry
I will never recommend a vendor to a bride that I have not worked with on multiple occasions with consistent results. Sometimes vendors ask me to recommend them, but I will not do it until a track record is established.
Its a tricky balance; I see the bride once and the vendors again and again, but the bride is the client. I value my relationships with my vendors and many have become very close friends over the years. Those connections are important to me and ensure my brides have a great wedding experience.
Okay everyone, ya hear that? Credit photographers and become bff’s with ’em. Oh, and coordinators too. There was a lot of other helpful advice in there (I love Randi’s suggestion of doing styled shoots with other local vendors!) but almost everyone mentioned these two things.
And what about you guys? Any good or bad experiences with other vendors, and what you learned from the experience? Share below!
We need your help! If you’ve been following along at all with the Mayesh Floral Forum, you may have noticed it’s been a little while since we’ve posted one. We last discussed educating our clients on pricing back in July, but now that we’re just about finished with summer we’re ready to get back at it. I have one in the queue that will be going up soon, BUT we need your help in coming up with some new questions & topics!
Whether you’re new to the industry or a veteran, we all have questions and could all use helpful advice from other members of the flower community. So send ’em on in! Comment here or our social media pages and we’ll be sure to jot them down.
We look forward to seeing what you’re interested in learning, and love facilitating these important conversations within our community.
Alright flower friends, here’s a question I think most of us would love the magical answer to, but for some reason it is not talked about as much as it should be. We know money can be a touchy subject to some, but we’re opening the door to start a conversation about pricing & how to educate our lovely brides about the reality of how much that beautiful Pinterest wedding actually costs.
Day after day we hear stories about brides-to-be pulling up their stunning inspiration images, and then stopping the florist dead in their tracks when the they tell them their budget. Oh, you want ten bouquets filled with peonies & garden roses, hanging installations, and garlands on every table, for $1500? Sorry sister, ain’t happening. We can’t really blame them – $1500 is a lot of money! But the lack of transparency when it comes to discussing pricing and the reality of what flowers cost is why these brides come to us with these expectations. Nobody truly knows the blood, sweat and tears that designers put into making these magical days come to life, and it’s our job to educate the consumers so they understand the “why”, and make that conversation a little easier and a little less awkward. Luckily, our Floral Forum designers were passionate about this topic and more than happy to share their thoughts and the ways they’ve found works best for them.
But before we get this show on the road, I want to make a quick little introduction to the newest contributor to The Floral Forum! We recently connected with Ryan O’Neil during our florist app comparison when we included his app, Stemcounter.com. Ryan and his wife have owned a flower shop for years, so his experience in the floral industry paired with his experience building this app will bring a fresh perspective to the table. Welcome, Ryan!
And now back to our regularly scheduled program…
I personally like to give brides a range of some of our most common items (i.e. bridal bouquets, boutonnieres, low centerpieces, etc.) which I have in an “Investment” tab within my website in hopes to help couples determine their budgets. Even though all of our weddings are custom tailored to each couple and each event, this guide helps me educate couples so that they have a realistic idea of how much flowers may cost based on their current guest count, the number of people in their wedding party, and the different details of their wedding. This way they can determine which aspects of their wedding they are willing to sacrifice or which they would like to focus on.
Before I worked with flowers, I wouldn’t have had a clue where to even start with thinking of a budget for flowers. It wasn’t very often that I would buy flowers so I completely understand when people don’t know where to start. Personally, I think all of us in the industry should be more transparent in our pricing. It may alleviate couples running out of money in one part of their wedding because they never imagined another part was going to cost so much. Even though there is a lot of competition out there (especially in this industry), there is also plenty of work for everybody out there and I truly do believe we attract our “tribe”. A bride interested in your services may not necessarily be attracted to me and vice versa. We all have our own creativity and our own personal touch which attracts a certain couple. This is why I don’t feel like we should be afraid to put our prices up, even if it is just a range 🙂
I only take inquiries through my website contact form (unless it’s a planner I regularly work with, in that case they contact me directly). I have an auto response letter to all inquiries that states how I define my design style as well as the type of products I use. I say that I carefully source specialty product, using only what is spectacular in that season. I have a higher minimum order for my area (this eliminates people who don’t have an appropriate budget for what they want) and I state what the minimum is as well as fees for delivery, set-up, pick-up and rentals. I also have a price list if requested that shows I have minimum for certain items, like a centerpiece, which I won’t make under a certain price. I then request that if they would like to proceed in checking my availability, getting a questionnaire and setting up a consultation to reply to the auto response email. Having the higher minimum has really made this situation better in not having to educate potential clients on the wholesale cost of flowers.
During every consultation I explain how I source specialty product, and don’t use standard stock flowers because it’s their wedding and the occasion calls for amazing flowers!
If I have a client who asks about the price difference between, say, standard roses and Davis Austin roses, I have two pictures of similar centerpieces: one with only standard roses (nothing over a $1 per stem wholesale) and another with 4 – 5 David Austin Garden roses, and explain that there is a $50 difference in the price of the two arrangements because of the wholesale cost of the garden roses. Having a visual comparison has helped me in that they can see the “wow” factor David Austin’s give to an arrangement, and I have found that the client usually goes for the more expensive arrangement.
OKAY – so I love this question so much because it’s definitely something I’ve run into often. Client’s LOVE all the garden roses and peonies, etc that they see on Pinterest, but have no understanding of how much they cost. So they have a 150 person wedding, want all the good stuff, and a $1500 budget.
The issue here is, I could easily spend $1500-2000 just on the cost of flowers for a wedding that size, depending on how involved the details//floral elements of the wedding are. SO, what do you do in this situation?
First of all, I’m always very up-front with clients. I think learning how to be straight-forward while still doing your best to be kind/gracious with clients always wins.
I have a minimum now – I have to in order to spend what I want on the most magical flowers and still make a living. So upon receiving the initial inquiry, I’ll write them back and ask them about their budget, inspiration photos, etc. then, depending on their response, I’ll explain the minimum and ask if they have room for that in their budget. If they ask why we have it, or why it’s so much, I’ll do my best to clarify//explain to them. I’ll go into how much the flowers cost, and all the labor that goes in to creating arrangements like that. All the water costs we incur, oasis//chicken wire//hours on our feet, pulling flowers the week of, foraging if needed, etc.
Being a creative is hard, and I think people often have no understanding of how much time//energy and thought goes into the work we do. HOWEVER, that’s not their fault- how else would they know if we don’t explain it to them? The flowers are ALL over pinterest, and they ARE so unreal beautiful, so they must think that it’s just the norm. But it’s not, I think sometimes they just think all flowers are created equal-like the arrangements you can buy at the grocery store are comparable. But the reality is, it’s not like that, and i think it’s up to us to educate our clients and set expectations//boundaries regarding these things to help them and others understand. And just be nice about it, give them the benefit of the doubt-we can’t expect them to know better, because if we didn’t do this for work, we would probably assume the same thing 🙂
AND, last tidbit-know your own worth//value your own work as an artist, and stand firm in it. That helps too 🙂
In many ways Pinterest has done the floral industry a great service by showcasing to brides what a dream wedding can look like. I emphasize “dream” because it is not what the average bride can afford. Gigantic centerpieces dripping with Phaleonopsis are certainly not for every bride, although the pictures we see on Pinterest really make many think that they too can have centerpieces like this within their budget. I have sat in many a consultation where the bride actually ended up in tears when she realized that her vision was not in line with her budget. Sometimes it is a hard pill to swallow, but in my opinion it is up to us as professionals to educate our clients right at that moment when we realize that her $3000 budget with 20 tables and 13 bridesmaids won’t allow for much of the vision she has fallen in love with online. Of course breaking the news in a sensitive manner is important. It is also important that you do it in a way that exudes confidence, professionalism and grace. You want your client to leave feeling like you are the best person to carry out their vision realistically and beautifully, no matter what budget they fall within. It takes a true pro to break the bad news and capture them as a client all in the same breath. I attribute the ever growing luxury weddings and events to online sources like Pinterest that showcase and highlight what can be done with flowers when your budget provides for the scale and opulence. There is truly an art to finessing your words and still capturing the bride’s trust.
When doing most consultations, I always price the wedding out right in front of the customer. I believe in transparency and am quite confident in the average cost per arrangement based on the typical wedding and event flowers since I have been doing it for almost 20 years. When pricing a wedding I always estimate the cost per arrangement in a way that gives me the optimal price to create that arrangement successfully and to meet the clients’ expectation. This means pricing it out with a look in mind not necessarily a flower recipe. Many times I leave myself a little extra room for cost variances in flowers and to be able to add more to the arrangement should I need to make it more impressive than the recipe alone will afford for. I always want my brides to blown away and more than happy with all their flowers. This is a great way to price things out in order to achieve that goal. If something falls outside of my realm and I need time to do more research, I would explain to them that I would need to get back to them on some of the prices. My goal is that every bride leaves with an estimate the same day we meet.
One super important bit of info that I think helps when selling weddings is to sell a look….not a flower. I say it over and over again because it is sooo important. It is up to the you to lead the conversation and always be steering the client into a look, feel and color palette, not individual flower choices. After being on the wholesale end of things I know now more than ever that promising certain flowers should never be done. A smart designer will always leave plenty of room for subbing and educate the bride during the consult as to what flowers may be in question once her wedding rolls around. Wholesalers procure product but they don’t grow it, nor are they Mother Nature. Availability issues are a very real thing and they do happen whether we are ready for them or not. Handling this delicately keeps you from putting yourself into a corner of promises that you might not be able to keep. It also leads you down an avenue to create successfully for your bride.
Happy wedding selling everyone!
At Twisted Willow, we have a budget calculator on our website. While we have a certain niche we cater to, all brides can put in some specifics of what they want and it gives them a range of what their dream wedding will cost. This has been a tremendous way to educate St. Louis brides on what they need to plan on spending before we get into flower types. We’ve also found that having a software to calculate exact costs during the consultation has allowed clients to immediately know what the price of their desired items are. You can handle the “shock” factor when you’re in the consultation and can adjust their wants. It’s much more customer-service friendly than to send the numbers via email a few days later.
Thanks to our Floral Forum for your helpful input and giving us a peek into the way you run your businesses. And for the rest of you out there, if you have any other ideas or tips, or can think of any ways in which Mayesh could help bridge the gap, we’d love to hear your thoughts! We’re here to support all of our fabulous customers and ensure that you are able to run your businesses in the most efficient and seamless ways as possible!