How Searching for a Stylist Made Me Look at my Business with New Eyes.
As a business owner, something I find difficult is being objective about my company and knowing what a client perceives during that all-important initial contact. However, over the last couple of weeks I’ve been looking for a stylist & this process has given me fresh eyes through which to see my business.
There are lots of similarities between the work of a planner and a stylist: clients looking for expertise and time saving; small, young industries dominated by female sole traders, a predominantly female target market; a strong expectation of stylist/planner personalities due to a media created caricature (Trinny and Susannah, Franc from Father of the Bride) I could go on. It was these similarities that made my search for a stylist so relevant.
Being someone who spends her life on the Internet, my quest began with Google. I searched ‘Stylist London’ but didn’t find what I wanted; there were a lot of hairstylists and interior designers, so after a few frustrated minutes I shut my browser and moved onto doing something else. A few days later I came back the search, this time Googling ‘Personal Shopper’. At this point, I didn’t think this was what I was looking for but now I realise this was due to my misunderstanding of the term and this search proved fruitful. However, if I made this mistake it’s probably likely that other people could do the same. Learning point: Ensure your marketing is done under the right keywords and phrases. Calling yourself a ‘wedding consultant’ sounds great but if nobody knows what that is, its likely potential customers won’t find you.
Having finally found some stylists, I was really disappointed by the quality of Google’s results. Many of the websites didn’t have all the information I wanted; missing out location, price, the history of the stylist etc, some were difficult to navigate, others didn’t have a phone number and lots were very out of date. I was amazed by how much I judged from a website and how quickly I dismissed someone if their site was poor. Learning point: It’s absolutely crucial to make sure your website projects the right image of your company, that it’s easy to navigate, up to date and has your correct contact details. In the words of Lester Gethings of No. 10 Wedding Design “Your website is your shop window and you need to invest in it accordingly”.
Once I got to the stage of contacting a couple of companies, I was dismayed to find that most only gave mobile numbers and when they answered the phone they answered with an abrupt “hello” rather than a standardised introduction. Both of these issues made me question both the professionalism and permanence of each business, would I hand over money and never hear from them again? Learning point: Make sure you can offer a landline number and always answer with the same standardised introduction. If you have an answerphone, make sure the greeting is a business one and not just a personal one. (See this post on first impressions)
On getting to speak to a couple of the stylists, I was aware that I really wanted to be given the opportunity to explain my thoughts so far, what kind of service I wanted and what my expectations are etc. However, I was disappointed when some of the stylists didn’t give me a chance to do this. One stylist cut me off mid sentence, after about 10 seconds with an “I know exactly what you want”. Unsurprisingly she didn’t. She hadn’t listened to my requirements at all and had immediately jumped to the wrong solution. Learning point: During that important initial phone call, give the client the chance to really explain their thoughts and make sure you thoroughly listen to their requirements.
On a similar note, during my conversations one stylist swore, another confessed she was driving and another called me whilst she was running down a busy High Street. All of these things were unprofessional let alone offensive (we all know better than to drive whilst on the phone). Learning Point: If you’re on the move, wait until there’s somewhere appropriate to call a client back from and keep your language professional!
Later, one stylist sent through a short questionnaire. This was a completely unbranded word document and her email didn’t have any contact details. I wanted to call her back and ask her a quick question but as I couldn’t remember her company name and couldn’t find her website, I wasn’t able to do this. This made me concerned about her professionalism and although I like her & thought she was good, I didn’t hire her. Learning point: Add a ‘signature’ to your emails and make sure that documents appear on letterhead, even if they’re electronic versions.
All in all, I didn’t hire anyone; The industry just seems too unregulated and I didn’t want to feel like I’d wasted my time and money. The experience did however, teach me lots about my own business, particularly in relation to the first time a client calls so it wasn’t a complete waste of time!
Zoë Lingard owns Weddings by Zoë Lingard operating throughout South East England.