The concept of branding elicits thoughts of logos, websites and marketing brochures. But in this day and age, it’s imperative to think beyond your event company’s initial “look” to understand that branding also focuses on how you make your clients feel.
For most, the client experience begins with the intake of the prospect--it begins with a prompt, warm welcome and carries through to the initial consultation and booking. For Emily Sullivan of Get Polished Events, these extra details set the tone for client/planner relationship.
“We like for our clients to feel as if they are being taken care of and thought of every step of the way,” Sullivan says. “This includes a welcome gift for each client upon signing the contract with us. We also have a bottle of custom Fleur de Lis champagne with a note waiting for our clients upon arrival to the city.”
Kevin Dennis of Fantasy Sound Event Services likes to establish expectations early on in the process. “Upon booking, all clients receive our ‘Fantasy Sound Experience’ packet,” Dennis explains. “It outlines what the next steps are, the schedule for meetings, time line for payments, etc. This keeps our clients organized while also establishing that our extensive experience allows us to better anticipate their needs and questions.”
BEATING EXPECTATIONS Oftentimes, the client experience goes above and beyond simply assisting with one’s products or services.
Igal Sapir, CTO of online candle retail and wholesale company 100Candles.com, recalls a time recently when his company put its tech savvy to great use. After a brief exchange of emails with a customer, it was clear the client had a virus-type adware on her computer, of which she was unaware. The team promptly went into action by investigating the matter and assisting her with removing it.
“I’d like to think we’re in the business of making people happy, and sometimes this means extending the client experience beyond assisting with an order,” Sapir explains. “This extra step leaves a lasting impression, and potentially even helps boost our referral rate.”
DON'T YOU FORGET ABOUT ME Packaging should also be a consideration for event professionals such as photographers and videographers, who deliver products after the event has taken place and have the opportunity to thoughtfully connect one last time.
Destination wedding photographer Mark Winder of Mark Winder Photography finds himself in the unique position of connecting with clients from afar. For his DVD album and packing, he includes some cured coconut-tree husk and sand from the beach where the client couple had their wedding.
Winder advises, “You can add sentimental value to an album by selecting a ‘wedding day item’ to include--such as a chip of wood from the ceremony arch, dried petals from the bride’s floral arrangement or even the sand they actually stood on as they said their 'I do’s.' They’ll never throw it away, and they’ll never forget you for it.
Keep in mind that the client experience should also be extended to your fellow event professionals, who are oftentimes in a position to refer business for you.
Dennis and his team recently put this notion to practice when a scorching heat wave hit their hometown of Livermore, Calif. He says, “We brought Popsicles to our favorite venues to keep them cool with little notes that said, ‘Thank you for being so chill to work with!’”
Focusing on the client experience for your event business reaffirms your brand, allows you to stand out among your competition, and can potentially lead to an increase in sales. Take time this season to better understand your own process and how you can improve on it as you set your sights on 2016.
Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting, based in Henrico, Va. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and self-professed royal wedding enthusiast. Photo by Aaron Watson Photography.