Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Botanical Brouhaha Expert Discussion Panel: Session 19

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The Question:

Last year, I sat down with a bride and her planner to discuss her wedding flowers.  She was a bride with unrealistic expectations (her flower budget was about what it would cost me wholesale just to buy the flowers I'd need to pull off her vision).  But I came up with a plan that she loved, and she was ready to sign a contract.  But she also met with another florist after she met with me, and ended up deciding to use that florist instead.  That florist has fewer years of experience than I do and, apparently, charges less.  When I saw the photos from the wedding, it was obvious that the bride presented the other florist with my entire proposal.  The flowers used were almost identical to what I had proposed....and the flower varieties were numerous and unique. This was also not a case where the bride basically showed me a photo and said "I want this."  These were my ideas, my recipes.  When I send a quote, I don't list stem counts, but I do list each type and color of flower I plan to use, and include a photo collage of the flower types to help provide a visual.

All of that said, It's not so much that I'm heartbroken over losing this client. The problem I have is with the other designer who clearly, blatantly stole my ideas.  I'm wondering if anyone else has had experience with this.  If a bride tries to show me another florist's quote, I refuse to look at it.  If she wants to tell me "I have a quote from another florist for X amount," without actually showing me the design plan, that's one thing.  But I don't think it's fair to let one florist do all the work of creating a design plan and proposal, and then hand the whole thing to another florist and say "can you do this, but cheaper?"  I think it's bad business. Is there a way to communicate to clients in a way that isn't off-putting that they shouldn't be showing my quote to other florists?  I think for some of these brides, and for some other florists, it just doesn't occur to them that this could be a wrong thing to do.  Am I totally off base here?  Just being naive to think that people shouldn't do this?

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The Answers:

This has definitely happened to me before. In the future I am actually thinking of charging for my initial consult so essentially they pay for a quote and then if they book that charge is taken off the balance of the booking total. I know that another florist who I admire in my area does that very thing and I feel pretty sure it is because this happens to her a lot also. At the moment I am getting a lot of brides asking for preliminary quotes before we even meet so they can get a ballpark figure to work into their budgets. These quotes only list flowers which are in season and then list the items with an estimated cost. I don't think our prices are very high either! I think a lot of beginners don't even make a profit from these weddings and it is bad for our industry because it does set up unrealistic expectations on what a bride can get for her budget. I have never been shown another florist’s quote before but I do remember when I was first starting out that some brides would come to me with VERY definite ideas of what they wanted and unknowingly I just quoted based on what they wanted and didn't think twice about it being inexperienced. And of course my prices were low because I was only a beginner. So perhaps I have been on the other side of it as well.

-Kristy Marek (Imbue Weddings)

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I don't think you're naive but I do think its unrealistic to think that our proposals occasionally won't been seen by other designers.

Given that you weren’t upset at losing this client, it’s clear that this client was a wrong fit for you and that you knew it from the beginning.

We’ve all done it - gone to all the work and effort of creating a proposal for someone who we know isn’t right for us and whose business we either know we won’t get or don’t really want anyway.

So then the question becomes: How well or how clearly do we define who our ideal client is and what systems or processes do we put in place to attract those ideal clients (and deter non-ideal clients)?

Someone who works with budget brides might say in their communication that they "work with all budgets". Someone who works with premium or luxury brides might state a minimum, or might say they work with clients "who value a custom experience". This is just an example, you get the idea. The point is that our image galleries, our testimonials, our communication and processes for handling enquiries from prospective clients are all ways that we can position ourselves to attract our ideal clients and identify whether or not a client is a good fit for us.

Once someone makes an enquiry, you may want to consider a pre-consult questionnaire that asks them about their budget and vision. You could also consider sending enquiring brides a package with information about your business, your specialties and price ranges.

I can’t help but wonder whether if some of this had been in place (and forgive me if I'm wrong in assuming it's not), you might have discovered that this bride had a low and fixed budget with a huge vision, and realized that she wasn’t a fit for you before you even had a consult with them. Who knows, perhaps you would have referred this prospective client to a designer in your area who works with budget brides, saving yourself time and effort while at the same time supporting a designer who is a better fit to serve that client. A win for you, a win for the client, a win for your colleague.

-Clare Day (Clare Day Flowers)

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It's very frustrating to have a creative client meeting and find that they chose to go with someone else based on price but still carry on your ideas without you. I think this has happened to every designer at one point or another. As disappointing as it is to see someone else get credit for your ideas I  think the only way you can digest it is by knowing that not only do you know it was your idea but the designer who carried it out probably knows as well.  When I meet with clients and we discuss ideas I always state that if the estimate I send over does not fit their budget don't hesitate to contact me to discuss ways to scale back but maintain their vision, which can be a nice invitation for an open conversation on budget and new ideas before they choose to go elsewhere. This situation also reflects on and reminds you who you would like as your client: one who respects you as an artist and designer and hires you for your creativity, designs and ideas.  The best you can do is continue to be creative and enthusiastic and not let a few 'bad apples' break your stride!

-Elisabeth Zemetis (Blush Floral Design)

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This is so hard to deal with, and I think it has happened to all of us.  I have thought about charging for my proposals to make me feel a bit better in case that did happen. I used to have a few sentences at the beginning of my proposals stating that this was my creative property in hopes that it would guilt anyone out of sharing it with another florist in the event that they did not hire me. I took that out though, and just decided to accept that this is part of working in any creative business. Sometimes I have been shocked when I found this had happened, but I would say that 90% of the time I could tell when I was meeting with the client that they were meeting with other florists and that were shopping for the best price, not necessarily looking to hire an artist to make their wedding flowers. It sounds snobby, but some people just view our job differently than we do!

-Sarah Winward (Honey of a Thousand Flowers)

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This is a concern I have too. Each of my events is carefully designed and the brides receive a very complete inspiration document with my quotes. Fortunately what you describe has never happened to me, but it has already crossed my mind that it could. The ideal would be to get brides to sign for the project before actually creating the design... but I haven't figured out how to get there, yet...

-Laetitia Mayor (Floresie)

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I totally agree with the designer who asked this question! It's very bad business! Unfortunately, I think brides will keep doing this. I can discuss flowers and weddings in general with a bride, within reasonable time and details. But when it's time for specific details, designs and quotes, we book a meeting and I charge a deposit. This deposit won't be refunded. If the bride questions this I explain that I will design a unique look for her and that I will spend X hours on just the designing on paper. Then they usually understand. If they don't, I know that they don't value my designs and skills and there will most likely be more trouble later on. So I say firmly but politely no.

If a bride shows me another florist's quote or design, I will explain that I'm a creator not a recreator! The I will ask her what kind of design she's looking for and what budget. Whimsical, bright colours,  maybe coral peonies and drumsticks - ok, that's fine I will then create a unique look and quote just for her!

This is how I try to avoid this copy-quote-problem but I'm sure there are many other ways too.

-Emelie Ekborg (Svenska Blomsterbloggar)

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Thanks Emelie, Laetitia, Sarah, Elisabeth, Clare and Kristy!

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Let’s finish out today with a few designs by Ariel Dearie

ADF.Anemones ariel dearie

ADF.Clematis.Peony ariel dearie

ADF.LoveintheMist ariel dearie

ADF.Roses.2 ariel dearie

ADF.Thanksgiving areil dearie

Please feel free to leave a comment and add to the discussion today…

Hope you have a great Wednesday!

6 comments:

Alicia said...

I agree with Emelie.
I think you sould not give a bride a complete document with the design you propose unless she has signed a contract. You can show a bride your ideas at your place and give her a quote. But if she wants a document where you specify flower varieties and other details of your proposal, the bride should pay for it because it is your work. This way, if she goes to another florist to do her wedding flowers based on your design, at least she has paid for it.

Laurie (Fleurie) said...

You always know what to publish, just at the right time. These are valuable tips for all of us. Clare's words especially- that defining your client in the first place by how you present your business! Brilliant ideas, I need to print these out to refer to them frequently. A pre-consult questionnaire seems like a great tip.
Thank you.

Anonymous said...

I have to weigh in. . .when I was trying to create a budget for my wedding, flowers were the hardest part. I'd look at the beautiful blogs and websites, and the florist never indicates her prices. I didn't know what to budget, because I really didn't know the cost of a custom bouquet or centerpiece.

After extensive research, I found a talented florist who had posted representative price ranges on her website.. .clearly stating that during "busy season" she did not accept weddings less than $1800. . . an average bouquet would be $150-$225, corsages $20-$25. . .etc.

Be proud of your art and tell your potential customers what you'd charge for the fabulous bouquet or table that you created for a photo shoot. If they love your work, they'll create a budget specifically with you in mind.

Blooms 'n Blossoms said...

This is a very similar email I sent to a mentor of mine last August... My ideas, quote, etc was copied by another florist. The client had given me her deposit, dropped off the containers that she wanted to use for centerpieces and then 2 days later explained she found someone else to do it cheaper. I was floored...livid actually. I saw the photos weeks later and it was my designs. This is excellent info...bookmarking to my favorites! Thanks!

Great flower lady said...

To get rid of the price shopper bride you have to set a price point (I now It hurts to say) BUT it works. I ave had it on my website for about 3 years now and I does weed out that kinda bride. I also have my price points too. to she if she is a good fit for my work. I have not lost business I have GAINED the more selective bride with a bigger budget ..if I see 10 brides I may only lose one due to price.

Anonymous said...

I do a preconsult form. I have the minimum budget accepted on my website and on the form. I have learned that for a description in the quote I say, "pink and white flowers as discussed with the bride". Saves me time and problem with copy cats. Once she books, she gets a detailed quote. I agree with Great flower lady, since I put up a minimum, I have higher end brides. I was nervous at first but it has helped tremendously.