Veronica asks

How to you get clients to pay the booking fee, without sounding desperate or annoying?

I’ve always been a fan of understanding relationships. That’s why I have a service contract with each of my couples. Here’s the list of things I’ll do, here’s the list of things you’ll do, and if we ever don’t meet those expectations, here’s what we agree to do about it.

This intricate relationship building happens well before the service contract as well. Even as the couple are shopping around for their wedding vendors I’m creating a journey that they may well wish to undertake. The initial steps of that journey are mapped out by me, but initiated by them. I call this the customer journey. Other people call it a customer experience and there’s other valid descriptions, but looking at it like a celebrant, the journey idea fits best in my humble opinion.

The customer journey

So I know it feels like we’re taking the long way to get here, but people don’t use hand over money for any old reason.

When you’re on a journey, you know where you’ve been, where you are, and where you’re going.

Your clients, your couples, should always know where they are on their journey with you.

The customer journey you craft for your couples should be one that highlights your strengths, your product, your value, and how they can have an awesome wedding.

It might start with a website or social media visit, but where to from there? If there’s a “contact for availability” call to action, they may well do that – that’s not how I crafted my customer journey, but this is yours to create.

What is the deposit or booking fee for?

My customer journey involves the couple requesting an info pack, viewing the info pack, then enquiring. I let them know I’m available, and in that same breath I let them know what the next steps look like. A good tour guide would. The next steps, for me, are that if they feel comfortable locking me in now I need them to fill out this online form and then pay the deposit. If they’d like to meet first we organise that meeting and I communicate the same thing.

“When you’re ready to lock me in, fill out this online form and pay the deposit.” Their deposit, or booking fee if you like, is for locking me in – and if they’d like to do that, then they pay it.

Some couples choose to lock me in, and they follow that process. Some don’t and we don’t talk again.

I’m of the belief that they’re big enough kids to figure out how to lock me in if I’ve told them how to do it in email and when talking.

i’m not desperate for their work, in fact I hope they don’t book me if they are hesitant in any way. The last thing I need to do is to have a couple book me because there was no-one else available, or because “he’ll do” like there’s not 8000 odd other celebrants for them to choose from.

So how do I get them to pay the deposit?

I let them know that the form (digital booking form and contract) and the deposit is the key turn in the ignition on starting the car that is me being their celebrant.

Why a journey is important

Our clients don’t know what we don’t tell them. It’s highly likely they’ve never been married before, and they’ve never booked a wedding, and they’ve never booked a celebrant.

They don’t know how celebrants work, in fact many of them think they need to apply for a marriage license.

So us creating a journey, and mapping that out in clear and concise terms so everyone on the journey knows where we’re at is an important responsibility.

How a journey creates expectations

Everyone has a different set of terms and conditions on how they’ll let couples do business with them. I know when Sarah read this question she talked about how a couple had 14 days to pay their deposit, but in my business they don’t get a spot in my calendar without a deposit. Neither method is better, but each one has clearly communicated expectations, and each one has a valid journey attached to it.

When humans know what to do, and how to do it, and where they should do it, and when, and if they actually want to do the thing, you’ll find most will submit to the journey you lay out for them.

So now when I hear a story of a deposit not being paid, I just assume that there was a lack of customer journey, not a lack of funds or willingness to book you.