Not the snappiest of titles to a blog post I’m afraid (!) but it’s something that I hear A LOT and happened to me recently too. What to do when you’ve put in the leg work on a client consultation and then they don’t book you because their venue/ caterer/ mother * has told them they don’t need a planner or stylist.
* delete as appropriate
Back in the early 2000s before I started The Pink Pumpkin, which ultimately became Kim Balasubramaniam Weddings I worked in medical education. I ran the examinations and assessments for a training programme for students who wanted to become doctors, but had already done a degree. This involved pulling together content from a huge variety of places – consultants, surgeons, communications experts, GPs, physiotherapists, the list goes on. In short there were a whole lot of people with a whole load of different skills that needed to come together to ensure that these students had the broadest education possible and therefore were equipped to go out into the world after graduation and practise medicine in the way that suited the modern world.
Weddings are not dissimilar. Bear with me! Planning a wedding is a daunting prospect for most, and a skill that takes time and experience to perfect. To truly have a distinctive wedding a couple needs to work with a whole myriad of suppliers from their planner to a photographer to a stationer and everyone in between. This multidisciplinary approach is something that I have built into my business from day one – to allow each person involved in the wedding to be able to do what they do best. Everyone has a unique skillset and the planner and stylist’s key role is to bring all these people together to create the vision that they have crafted together with their client. There is no room for egos, no room for one-upmanship and definitely no room for clashes. Our role is a mixture of interior designer, project manager, counsellor and ringmaster. When it works, it works beautifully and the whole team can congratulate themselves on a job well done.
But what about when it doesn’t work – when you don’t even get the chance to carry out your vision because the client has been told, and has accepted, that they don’t need you. This is single handedly the most infuriating reason for you not to get a booking. And it needs to change.
I can bake a fairy cake, and have been known to cobble together a dodgy looking tractor for my children’s birthday cake but would I even consider attempting to create a wedding cake? No, absolutely not – which is why I work with genius bakers like Krishanthi and Melissa.
I have written some beautiful tags on my Christmas presents, and made some lovely invites for parties but would I design and print stationery for a client? No, of course not – typesetting and designing a suite of invitations is a very specific skill and one which I would’t begin to understand. Which is why I recommend Abigail Warner and Rose & Ruby among others to my clients.
I make a mean spag bol, can knock out a dinner party for ten and am never happier than dreaming up a new curry for my husband but never in a million years would I consider catering for 150 guests in a marquee in a client’s back garden. That would be madness. Which is why I love to work with talented folk like Kalm Kitchen and Rhubarb.
I could go on but I’m sure you get the drift. We all bring our own skills to the table. By a venue or a caterer or whoever insisting that a client doesn’t need a planner they’re completely undermining the skills that you have and the creative and organisational flair that you will bring. For wedding planning clients I literally do EVERYTHING for them – go gown shopping and to dress fittings, attend meetings in their absence, pick up their shoes before the wedding, I’ve even been known to change a client’s baby’s nappy for goodness sake! I go above and beyond every single time and it makes me so angry when people just don’t understand what the job entails.
So what can we do about it?
Firstly, the only way we are going to change other suppliers’ attitudes is by educating them. This may be as simple as listing out all the things that you will do for the client to the venue, so that they’re aware of the level of detail you go in to – are they going to be there the night before the wedding hand tying silk ribbon in the perfect bow around 120 bunches of freshly picked lavender? I can guarantee most will not. It may involve a phone call to them when you get an enquiry to talk through who would do what so you know what to include in your proposal. Handled in the right way, venues and caterers and other suppliers should then slowly begin to see the value in your services much more.
I’m a great believer in one-to-one contact – if there are venues that you’d particularly like to work with or are getting enquiries for and clients aren’t booking, arrange a meeting with the manager and talk through the services you offer and how it will actually make their lives much easier. Like most things in life, immediate opposition to something is often rooted in fear of the unknown – they may have had a bad experience with a planner in the past and think you’re going to take over, or they may feel threatened by your involvement. Ultimately communication and collaboration is the only way to get over the hurdle. Kill them with kindness!
Secondly, this is about alignment of your brand. Are you attracting the right clients, working with the right venues and identifying the key people you need in your network? Some venues, such as dry hire spaces or marquee plots, lend themselves perfectly to the involvement of planners and stylists. These tend to be places that take on less bookings but potentially more creative ones so you clients see the benefits from the start of hiring someone to help them. These are ultimately also more fulfilling for you, whether the challenge is logistical or creative, when we really make a difference the rewards are great.
Finally, perhaps we also need to educate our clients more. To ensure they really know what our job involves and how much added value we bring. This is going to be different for everyone, and again comes back to communication.
Sometimes though, it’s just not going to go our way, so we may need to chalk it up to experience, possibly filter enquiries for specific places you know you’re not going to work at, and try not to take it personally. It can be a lonely life, the life of a planner – we are often one person enterprises which is why it’s also really important to be able to rant to someone in real life!
Remember though that you are amazing. You get to do something that you are incredibly talented at for a living, you get to set the boundaries and you get to say what you do or do not want to do. Own your worth, stand tall and know that ultimately if someone chooses not to work with you, they will probably live to regret it the night before their wedding when they find themselves tying the 117th bunch of freshly picked lavender with their silk ribbon!