These past few months I’ve immersed myself in behavioral economics. It’s an emerging field that looks at how people make decisions based on psychology, neuroscience, and socio-cultural influences. Basically, social scientists are exploring how people in the real world make decisions rather than what logicians and philosophers think people should do if they were making “smart” choices.
Your couples aren’t looking at wedding websites and vendor proposals through rational lenses in the ivory towers of academia with paintings of Adam Smith on the wall. But they also aren’t making the kind of “emotional” decision you might think.
That’s why Dan Ariely, one of the leading minds in behavioral economics, titled his breakthrough book, Predictably Irrational. People may not make the logical best choice, but they will consistently pick “wrong” in certain situations. We just have to know what those are and build the path to our services accordingly.
All of this is particularly useful to learn more about what wedding clients are actually thinking and doing when they’re looking for vendors, for you.
There’s a lot to learn, and I’m exploring some formal programs to ensure I’m getting the best information out there. Call me a geek, but I’m genuinely excited. I’ll keep you posted.
One thing we know for sure is that couples are overwhelmed. Too many people involved in the decision. Too many recommendations from family and friends. Too many ads in their IG and Facebook feeds. Too many websites that all look and sound the same. Too many pricing guides and templated email responses from vendors. Too many wedding pros trying to educate them.
Oh, and this is on top of trying to make 100% certain that this person is the one they want to be with for the rest of their lives – to split finances with and to co-parent with – in good times and bad, knowing the stats show it’s a coin toss that the marriage will survive.
And this is what it looks like in a normal year. No biggie.
Pandemic = salt + lemon + insult
Now, they’re dealing with a pandemic on top of what is already a very stressful situation. Do they host the wedding anyway? If so, do they cut the list and who do they disinvite to make the capacity requirements? If they don’t postpone, will they get any of their deposits back? If they postpone, will they still be excited about the celebration? Even if they are, will it have to be pushed back again because the pandemic continues or recession impacts?
What was already an overwhelming set of choices with huge implications and big financial stakes is now even more difficult.
Who’s helping couples?
Let’s be clear: It’s tough being engaged right now. Really tough.
Now, this isn’t to say it’s a cake walk for you. The past six months have been awful for everyone in the events industry. Whether you own your own business or you work for someone else, every day has been a beatdown – and it looks like we’ll be in it for a while longer. We’re all seeing the devastating effects and feeling the pressure together.
Think about how hard it’s been for you to navigate the last six months as a wedding professional. Contacts, rescheduling, income loss, unexpected expenses, confusion, peer pressure, social stigmas and for many of us, depression and severe anxiety.
You’ve made this your full-time job to weather the storm with the best resources you can find in an industry chock-a-block full of mentors, consultants, coaches, membership organizations and other business leaders. Where would you be without the guidance and support you get day in, day out, week in, week out?
But that’s where most couples find themselves. No real guidance on what to do with their wedding. How to make decisions on matters of public health for their guests. How to navigate the many contracts they’ve signed. How to keep as much of the money they’ve put down as deposits. How to find meaning in the one event they knew they could get excited about.
Clear the way
One of the many things we know about how people make decisions is that they’ll almost always choose the path of least resistance.
When I consult on sales processes and coach wedding pros on how to be a better salesperson, we focus entirely on how to remove as many obstacles as possible throughout the buyer’s experience. What’ve you done to create friction in moving the deal forward – and what can you do instead to make it easier for couples to buy from you?
Right now, couples are seeing even more obstacles in their way than normal. The best thing you can do for your business is clear the way forward for them. Go through your process and eliminate the friction. Look at the sales process as a buying experience. Understanding the couple’s perspective is the key to your future success.
It always has been.
Connect with couples’ real needs
Remember, your company exists primarily to service the needs of your clients. People are only willing to part with their money when they expect to receive relief or joy from what they’re buying. As wedding pros, we do both.
It’s hard to find common ground right now. There’s this false dichotomy out there that says you’re either one or the other. Either you’re in a blue state or a red state. Either you support wearing masks or you’re out to make everyone sick. Either you believe the wild fires and hurricanes are caused by global warming or you think climate change is normal and we should deal with the new reality.
Do yourself a favor, though. Don’t pit yourself on the opposite side of your clients. Don’t look at the relationship you have with them as a zero-sum, meaning if someone wins then the other has to lose.
Because if you’re coming from a place of fear during times of scarcity that’s so easy to do. When things are in short supply we think, I’ve got to get mine before someone else takes it. We know this is one of the biggest drivers of human decision – and I’m here to tell you it’s affecting you too. Right now.
So break free from your self-preservation instinct and seek out the right thing to do for your clients. That gut feeling may point you in direction, but before you make the decision to move on it be sure you’ve thought out every angle, especially those your clients see from. They need your help more than ever.
The right thing for your clients will (almost) always get you the best things for your business.
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