So we're all in business to make money, right? Okay...making money certainly isn't the only goal (at least for most of us), but if selling our products/services wasn't important, we'd just be doing what we do as a hobby.
With that in mind, I can't emphasize enough how important it is for you to make it easy for clients to hire you. Sounds pretty basic, doesn't it? Yet, especially for those of us who've been doing this since the dark ages, it's so easy to get stuck in low-tech, unnecessarily complicated booking processes that, as business systems and client expectations evolve, can render us unappealing to savvy couples who may choose to sign with another company rather than wait for us to get our act together.
(Full disclosure: I operate one of the leading DJ companies in the Washington, DC market, servicing about 400 events per year, and until January of this year we were still relying on hard copies of contracts and having clients fax or mail them to us. We accepted online payments, but it was still a pretty clunky process, and not at all in alignment with my brand. What can I say? It was the same system we'd used since approximately 2003, and I'd always felt that innovating in other areas was a higher priority. Learn from my mistakes, friends.)
So, what should a streamlined booking process look like? Here's what your clients need to have in order to book you in a simple, straightforward way:
1. A way to pre-qualify themselves. I've written before about the importance of giving your prospective clients enough information to determine whether they can afford you and - equally significantly - whether you're a good fit. Putting this information front and center saves you, and the client, a lot of headache down the line.
2. A clear understanding of what their cost will be. I'm a huge advocate for putting your pricing, at least a starting rate or a range, out there. Still, your clients need to know what their specific needs and wants will cost them - which means you need a way to get them a complete estimate that addresses all potential questions.
3. A binding contract that they can execute easily. Clients should be presented with a written agreement, customized for their event, and you should be ready to clearly explain all of its terms. I've become a huge fan of online contracts (I use 17Hats for contracts for all my ventures, but know people who love HelloSign, DocuSign, and similar services), but if you want to stick with hard copies, make sure it's obvious where clients should sign, how to return it, and when they can expect a countersigned copy.
4. An easy way to pay. Of all things, don't make it hard for clients to give you money! I realize some business owners consciously choose not to accept credit card payments, but I can't get on board with this - I think people today value convenience, as well as basic consumer protection, and refusing credit card payments is bound to negatively impact your sales. Make sure you have a way for clients to quickly and easily pay you, preferably with an online option.
5. A clear idea of what's next. One of the surest ways to alienate a client is to be attentive and communicative during the sales transaction, and then to drop off once you have their money in hand. Make sure you're advising your clients of what to expect throughout the remainder of their planning process, up to the event day itself. Let them know what they should be working on, when they'll meet with you again, and how to reach you with questions. Automating this information in the form of a new client welcome letter is a great, efficient way to accomplish this and ensure your clients remain satisfied and happy.
Do you have any favorite resources for making it easy for clients to book you? Any pitfalls that wedding business owners should avoid? We'd love to hear from you - leave your thoughts in the comments below, or tweet us with your ideas!