How to Start a New Flower Shop: Turning Leads into Clients

Ryan ONeil | | 0 Comments

You've done an excellent job at marketing your new floral shop and now have a few leads. You already have an idea of how you're going to price your events but how do you actually get those leads to become clients?

There are so many things to consider. Where should you meet them for a consultation? What do you do during a consultation anyway? How far in advance should you book a client? What do you do with those Pinterest brides with intimate budgets and caviar dreams? We're going to get into all of that and more today!

Before the Consultation
As soon as you've scheduled your consultation, you need to start collecting information about your potential client. Nowadays, we use the awesome new forms feature in Stemcounter Studio to collect information from our clients but, for now, Google Forms is a great tool to create a potential client questionnaire and we're even sharing our own questionnaire if you'd like to use it as a template.

Download Our Client Questionnaire Template

Getting this information in advance gives you the opportunity to think of potential talking points to help break the ice during the initial consultation. However, aside from the basic details of the client, the date, and the style of the wedding, probably the two most important pieces of information you need are: the budget and size of the wedding. In a moment we'll talk about what to do when the two don't quite line up but knowing this information in advance can help develop a game plan for helping client find a balance between their dreams and the reality of their budget. 

Conducting the Initial Consultation

We started our St. Louis floral shop, Twisted Willow, from our own home so doing consultations in our "studio" wasn't an option. We chose to do consultations in a coffee shops. Don't be nervous about this. Remember, you are the professional. A potential client is going to think that whatever you're doing is a standard practice unless you act like it isn't. If you show you're uncomfortable in the location you choose, they will be too. So treat the out-of-office consultation as a feature rather than a bug. Just say, "Here are a couple of options for coffee shops we normally meet at." Then leave at that.

Always start with something to break the ice. Get to know the client but also give them the opportunity to know you. Do you have kids? A crazy story about your wedding day? A funny moment from a previous wedding you did? Take a bit of time to show your client that you are also a real person. When it comes down to it, most clients will highly value a florist because of the personal connection they made in the first few moments of that initial consultation. At the same time,  you can get some very quality information about the client from these moments of chatting.

As you begin to talk about their ideas for their big day, keep in mind their realistic budget to extravagance ratio, the style they want vs the style you've developed, and the time commitment that will be required of you. Sometimes, a client may not be the right fit for you and you have to be able to turn them down. Even if you're just starting and can really use the money, it may not be worth taking on a client that you can't realistically handle. You do want to take on events that will stretch you slightly (for example, an arrangement might make you incorporate a new design technique) but you don't want to take on events that will stretch you so much that you're up in the middle of the night unnecessarily stressing out. That said, you need to have found out that they're not a fit BEFORE the consultation as best as possible. Once you're in the consult, you're wasting both of your time unless you're willing to stretch yourself to make them fit.

During the consultation, you want to find out what their overall vision is for the wedding. They may have explained this on the questionnaire, but now is the time to talk details and confirm the details. How many people are in the wedding party? How many extra corsages and boutonnieres do they need? Do they want flowers for the aisle, altar, and backdrop? A floral arch? How many centerpieces do they need? Is there a particular flower they want consistently in every arrangement? Get every as much detail from them as possible here.

Take notes on your computer. As your business develops, you may choose to use a florist app, like Stemcounter, to create your proposal during the consultation, but starting out you want to make sure that all of your notes are very legible and easily editable. Nothing is worse than being up in the middle of the night trying to decipher chicken scratch notes.

At our shop in St. Louis, we actually give them proposals in the consultation. My wife, Rachael, does all the legwork a day or two before and in the consultation, her main focus (unbeknownst to the client) is to build out exactly how many stems that each item needs. It's a quick and painless process with Stemcounter and actually helps us book more clients by having an exact proposal at the end of the consult.

If you aren't handing over a proposal in the consult, give the client a time frame for developing a proposal. You can use our old Excel Recipe Spreadsheet to help you know how many flowers are in each arrangement and create your proposal. The key here is to stick to whatever time frame you give them! Show them that you are going to make them a top priority by having a quick turnaround. 

Download the Excel Recipe Spreadsheet

Also, don't forget to outline the process for them! We do this with a client welcome packet but you can do it with a simple brochure or even a one-page print out. Just be sure that they know what to expect from working with you throughout the entire process.

Painting "Reality Pictures" for Brides

Many clients will come to you with the grandest idea of what their big day will look like. They've dreamed about it ever since they were little and have a dozen Pinterest boards that show every minute detail of floral designs from the bridal bouquet to the arch to the aisle runner to the type of flower petals they want to be thrown at the grand exit. But it's not uncommon that "Pinterest brides" will also have such intimate budgets that they could barely even afford to DIY, much less afford a professional florist. It's your job to help pull clients away from their Pinterest boards and paint "reality pictures" for clients.
 
Maybe your client wants a full floral arch that will in itself break their budget, it's your job to gently pop their bubble and recommend an alternative (maybe suggesting some green foliage that covers more space for less money). Show them that they can still have beautiful floral designs on their big day even though they may not look like the Pinterest boards. Encourage your client that their day will be special and absolutely perfect even without the elaborate king table they've been wanting.
 
At the same time, try your best to upsell when possible. If the budget allows for it, make recommendations for designs that may not be in the client's mind immediately but would do a lot to enhance the overall look of the event. Maybe they weren't thinking about doing any aisle arrangements, but you could sell them on something fairly simple that would help create a more romantic feel without breaking the bank. Or perhaps you have a different rental item that would really make the centerpieces pop. Actively look for opportunities to upsell.
 
Booking
So you've finished the consultation and have created the proposal and now it's time to book. Most wedding vendor sites recommend brides book 6 months in advance while many florist sites recommend 6-9 months. Remember that there are only 24 hours in a day and you do have a maximum work capacity. The goal is not necessarily to fill up your calendar with events, but to fill up your time so that you're profitable. You can determine about 6 months out whether or not an event will take up so much time that you will not be able to do any other events (in which case, it better be a VERY profitable event) or if it will not take up enough of your time (in which case, you'll need to have other events booked to make sure you aren't losing money). We actually have moved to a 12 month rule in our shop where we try to book clients within a 12 month period. Though, we have recently started accepting exceptional opportunities if they come prior to 12 months.
 
You’ve got to be profitable. You can tell yourself: “We aren’t going to be as profitable on our first few events.” That’s totally fine...but it’s also not a license to go lose money. If you know *exactly* how much you’re going to lose on an event, then that’s fine. It’s fine starting out to not know how much you’ll make. It’s not fine to not know how much you’ll lose and plan on it.
 
Keep an eye out for next week's blog post on creating your design space and how we started our floral shop from our home!

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Need a contract to give your new client? We're sharing ours as a template to help get you started!

Download A Free Wedding Florist Contract Template

Filed under: Tips, Floralpreneur Felicity