A few days ago I posted a mock up video on my social media (@blushbotanicals) account and asked a few open ended questions about your thoughts and policies on the subject, and let me just say… IT. GOT. HEATED!
My social media has never blown up with so many questions and DMs before, and I couldn’t get enough!
I was floored by how many of you are unsure as to what your policies should be and have horror stories about being taken advantage of. In the spirit of rising together, I thought I’d put together an information-packed post about this.
In this post, I am going to detail my policies on mock ups, why these are my policies and also focus on the client experience prior and during a mock up as well as after. I will also run through why I love mock ups and what the down side is as well as potential pitfalls that we have all or will all fall prey to at some point in our career.
It important to mention that I am not only bringing my decade+ experience, but I also asked numerous other florists of all levels as well as past clients and coordinators.
Ultimately, your policy on mock ups, whether you charge or not, enjoy them or not, or do them prior to signing or not, is up to you. Only you know your business and customers, but I sure wish that I had someone giving me this sort of information when I started, so here we go!
I’ll cut to the chase and get this out of the way up front because I know that is what most people are curious about. Throughout my career, I have changed my policies on this multiple times. It is not a cut and dry topic and it deserves thought and attention when you decide what your policy will be. You may or may not know that I have 2 floral companies. One is luxury (Blush Botanicals) and one is more mainstream (Parker & Posies) and my policies at the two companies are unique for very specific reasons.
At Blush Botanicals, my contract states that I charge for mock ups (any and all). Because I am a luxury company, and because my minimums are high enough that I don’t want my clients to feel nickel-and-dime’d, I always offer my clients to see a single sample complimentary.
Great question, thanks for asking it! 🙂 . Because I am looking forward to hosting that meeting as much as they are looking forward to attending and because that meeting is a pivotal step in building a strong, lasting bond between me and my client (which not only builds trust and means a happier process, but also means a higher chance of future referrals, which is something my business depends on). Another reason is that I want to build the feeling of reciprocity and I want my clients to understand that I am not in this just for the $$$, and it’s true, I’m not! The psychology of clients at every level is unique and understanding it is vital to your continued growth. At the luxury level, it is important that my clients feel valued and understand that I am not trying to squeeze money out of them at every step. Building the trust means letting them see that I appreciate that they chose me because they had the ability to pick whichever floral designer they want to work with in the world and they chose me, and that is something I honor and appreciate. Lastly, when a client is spending at this level, some of the budget goes to misc. things such as time spent sketching and dreaming and “extras” like hotel stays for designers and also… you guessed it, comping certain things to make the client feel good. That is why…
At Parker & Posies, we charge for every mock up and we also charge a fee to host the meeting anywhere but at our studio. We service a more broad audience and we do not get as involved in the process as we do at Blush Botanicals. We are not depending on referrals from our clients per se since we already have a steady stream, although they are nice. We depend more-so on referrals from coordination teams and venues, so servicing them and ensuring they are happy with our performance is of the utmost importance to us. Because of this fact, we handle things differently and the psychology is different. I also want to mention that our budgets are much lower than what we work with at Blush, therefore we would most likely be losing money by giving away a free mock up.
When I say we “charge” for the mock up, what I mean is that we charge the retail price of what we quoted in their contract for that centerpiece. Some florists DM’d me that they are confused what to charge and have charged for the cost of the flowers in the past. I would HIGHLY advise against this. What you are paying wholesale for your product is not the business of the client, nor should you burden them with that. It is human nature to be curious, so you are also giving them the tools to calculate your markup, which is never a good idea. This also limits you by making the client feel you over purchased if you want to order some unique colors or floral types that you feel the client MAY like, as they may feel you just over-shopped on their dime. For many reasons, I say avoid this charging method.
At both of my companies, we send the flowers home with the client after the meeting, it is our gift to them and they are always very grateful for this.
WHY I LOVE MOCKUPS
Not only do I get to build trust and my relationship with my clients through this meeting (which I LOVE) but I also get to understand my client more and nail down the specification of the colors and styles he/she likes within the realm of the flower world. I always make a vision board of the flowers I see for them (letting them know that some may not be in season, of course) but this is my chance to really nail down the nitty gritty details. After this mock up, I no longer have any questions as to colors or flower styles that they like and it makes my life so much easier when I go to write my floral recipes and designs for them down the road. I never have to guess if they will like the result or not, because I have such a thorough understanding of their likes and dislikes.
If the client is unsure about color schemes, I bring in as many options as I can for them to see and play with and we have a lot of fun touching and editing together. This is also the time that we can nail down if we are doing any specialty installations and get the 100% approval so that we can move forward with purchasing, because no one wants to order things last minute to find out that they are on back order and unavailable, we’ve all been there…right? It is the worst!
Ultimately, I like making people feel good, so knowing that I made someone’s day brighter makes me happy, that is yet another reason that I love these meetings!
EXPECTATION MANAGEMENT OF A MOCK UP & THE CLIENT EXPERIENCE
It is SO IMPORTANT to set yourself up for success when planning for these meetings. Being as details as you can in advance is important. I have an automated email in my workflow that goes out to my clients about 3 months prior to their wedding letting them know ALL of the ins and outs of this process. From cost and what they will see to timelines. I let them know we need at least 2 weeks to order the flowers and that this meeting must take place before the 6 week mark. I have a list of frequently asked questions and the entire email is probably 2 pages+ in length! The more information the better and the more information you put in WRITING is best, because they can always go back to it as reference.
Remember that this is most likely their first and only time going through this experience, so make it enjoyable for all by drawing boundaries and properly preparing everyone. Sometimes surprises are good, but with our industry… surprises are normally bad. Even if your contract clearly states that you charge for mock ups, you should reiterate it in the email . Prior t having this email, I can’t tell you how many times I got an angry call or email after the meeting when the invoice arrived showing that I charged for the mock up. I have heard it all from, “had I known, I wouldn’t have chosen to see it or I would only have chosen 1 of the centerpieces” to, “that is ridiculous”. Upsetting the client right before the wedding or event is not in your best interest, or they will be knit picking your work from then on, trust me, I’ve been there!
THE DOWN SIDE OF MOCK UPS
Now that I have rambled on and on about why I love mock ups and way too much information about why our policies are the way they are, it’s time to talk about the negatives. Why mock ups can be stressful and negative.
THE RIDICULOUSLY DETAILED CRITIQUE
I don’t know about you, but I’ve certainly had more meetings than I can count where the client walks in and critiques the centerpiece to DEATH. I’m talking… “can we get this rose without the slightly yellow hue, or can we pick out the eucalyptus that is the most silver and leave out the ones that are darker?”. Ever happened to you? So frustrating, right? Does it make you feel better to know that it happens to all of us? Here is my advice on this. The more you try to be accommodating, the more you leave yourself open for negativity the day of the event or potential serious upset from the client. There are a few facts we have to deal with as florists.
- We cannot always get the flowers we want, even if they are technically in season and substitutions may have to be made.
- We cannot guarantee that a flower will come exhibiting the quality we are after and substitutions may have to be made.
- We can NEVER ever ever ever guarantee the exact COLOR of a flower, don’t make the mistake of promising this to a client, we are working with NATURE people.
The above are simple facts. This is something that should be widely understood by human being as a whole, and yet… these questions of promising certain flowers or “editing” the shade of the flower come up in so many mock up meetings.
Because during this meeting, we leave ourselves open to being completely scrutinized to a point that is ridiculous. We know that at a wedding setup, no one is walking around from centerpiece to centerpiece obsessing over whether that flower is off-white or ivory (it is so maddening it makes you want to pull your hair out!). We are showing them a stand alone centerpiece in a room far more empty than their event will be and in the light of day, which is never as kind as the soft lighting of an event. In fact, there are times where with certain lighting choices, you can’t tell the color of the flowers at all!
To this I say, don’t give in to the side of you that wants to be as accommodating as possible and promise anything to make them happy. Simply (and kindly) reiterate that you are working with a natural product and can NEVER guarantee that a flower will be available or that the color will be precisely what they see during the mock up. It is important to educate them and even help with visuals that at a setup, there are so many tables and lights, etc. that it is better to examine the centerpiece from afar than up close. Remember that you are the one setting the tone for this meeting, you are the one that should be in control and educating them. They are looking to you for this, so if they ask for something that is not possible, respectfully let them know and then their expectation will be set and they will not be upset the day of the event or when they get their images back.
LACK OF CREATIVITY
I know that a lot of florists feel that doing a mock up locks them in to that exact design with those exact flowers and they no longer have the freedom to peruse the flower markets and choose what they want or ad-lib. Unfortunately, this is true, but the up side is that their flower recipe is already completed and they don’t have to guess how many stems of each element they will need. I did a fun post about how I make flower substitutions easy in the past, click here to see that post.
THE CLIENT HATES IT
Well… this sucks. I wish I could say this has not happened to me, but it absolutely HAS! I like to say that every negative scenario can be turned into a positive one if handled correctly. In the past, when I have had mock ups not go my way, I have let the client know that this meeting is a great way to gather this information and I do my best to understand EXACTLY what it is about the centerpiece that they don’t like. I then let them know that I will be making another at my own cost and delivering it to wherever it is convenient to them to show them one that they will like. This is a very emotional and important time for them. Clients can very easily lose faith in you and your process if not handled correctly. It is important that if they are not happy to act FAST and to correct the wrong as soon as you can and with as much ease for the client as possible. I have gone as far as driving 2 hours to deliver a 2nd mock up for a client that did not love the first and it meant SO much to the client and make them so happy. It is worth it!
Now, I have to mention that if this happens over and over, this may be an issue with your information gathering process. It is important that you re-examine your initial meeting process and figure out where along the line you are misunderstanding what your clients want.
We already discussed not promising certain flowers or colors, so I won’t go over this one again 🙂
CREATING A MOCK UP PRIOR TO SIGNING A CONTRACT
I’m going to keep this one simple. I usually like to say that policies are unique to you and that only you know your business, but I feel confident enough here to say that you should NEVER DO THIS. It is such a bad idea. After posting about this on social media, I received countless DM’s detailing stories of how they showed mock ups (paid or unpaid, doesn’t matter) then never heard from the client again, or saw that they took images of their work and then went to a cheaper florist. Anyone asking for this simply doesn’t understand and needs to be educated or is looking to take advantage.
My advice here is to try to educate them and if it doesn’t work, it may not be a client that is a good fit.
THE PRIDE FACTOR
This is a touchy subject, but I’m just going to railroad through it anyway. I have had so many conversations with florists/artists that become so wrapped up in their own ego that when a client has a different vision from their own, they become very defensive or if the client wants a look that they don’t like or agree with, they get “uppity”. In my humble opinion, this process isn’t really about the designer and their ego. This process is about making your client happy and pleasing them and beyond that, giving them positive memories of a very important time in their lives that they will never forget. Don’t make it about yourself… let it be about them. If you are very against their look, just politely decline from the start, but it is not fair to make this process about you when it just, quite frankly, isn’t about you.
Ok, I said it… I’m sure some of you will not like it, but it is simply how I feel.
As always, email me with questions, I love connecting!