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southern california floral designer and educator

Mulberry & moss

Listener Q&A – Memories, Struggles, and Attracting Your Dream Clients

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May 27, 2022

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Hi there! Welcome to the Mulberry & Moss blog, the place where I share all things business, flowers, and everything in between! Stay a while and say hello!

Hi, I'm sarah w.

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Hello friends! This week on the podcast I tried something new where I answered questions from my listeners. If you follow me on instagram, you may have seen my posts inviting you to submit questions. I am specifically looking for questions that provide insight into your experience and your struggles so that possibly other florists can learn from the same experience. So if you do submit a question to be part of the Q&A episodes, the more detail you can provide that give a glimpse into your business and your journey alongside whatever question you have, that is always very helpful to myself in answering but also to our fellow listeners. 

Question 1

Nad from Dublin asked: 

I work mainly with dried and preserved flowers and I have noticed that the demand for low budget weddings is so high at the moment. I’d like to know how to achieve potential clients that I’d be able to provide with more creative and interesting florals and not only a bouquet and boutonniere. Sometimes I think of having a pre-made collection of wedding bouquets on my website like Etsy just to accommodate these low budget weddings, but I’m afraid of this having any kind of negative impact on how I’d be seen by the customers with a good potential budget. 

Answer-

I actually had several questions come in along this same topic of attracting your ideal client. 

My first piece of advice for you, Nad and anyone else who is looking to attract or speak to a particular audience is that anytime you are looking to attract a dream client, that dream client of yours needs to be able to see exactly what they are looking for the moment they arrive on your website or instagram (or wherever they are finding your business). So in other words, you should imagine that you are your dream client, let’s say in this case, someone who is looking for complete wedding design. If you were that client and you came across your business, would you hire you? Whatever type of work you are displaying on your business page is the type of work that you are going to attract. If your instagram shows a whole lot of single bouquets, you are going to get lots of inquiries from brides just wanting to order a bouquet. So if you want to attract a higher end or more luxury clientele, you need to somehow find a way to make your page show that type of work. And not just one image, but consistently, so that the primary content you post is the type of work you want to attract. Because people need to believe that that’s what you specialize in.

I would start with your instagram bio and website home page verbiage. In the words you choose, you want to make it very clear what you offer (or what you are hoping to offer.) “We are a Dublin based flower studio specializing in complete event floral design, with unique and artful, everlasting arrangements.”

The second part is in your portfolio (and your instagram feed, as I believe this is where many brides look for wedding inspiration and wedding vendors these days). If you’re still waiting to book a real wedding that really shows off your work, you can take part in styled shoots to get more impressive images of full ceremony designs or elegant tablescapes. You want these shoots to look as much like real weddings as possible, so for ceremony designs, for example, make sure to include a couple of rows of chairs so that it looks like a real wedding. Aim for creating designs that look high budget, and ones that you can see yourself doing for real live wedding clients. Include as many details as possible to showcase your different capabilities. If you can get a variety of images, sometimes photo content from one shoot can be peppepred into your instagram feed and stretched to last you several months if not years if you repurpose some images every so often. 

From 2017 to 2019 when I was really trying to refine my brand to reach more luxury clientele, I participated in 10 or 12 styled shoots and I truly believe this had a lot to do with the increase in budgets and quality of leads that I started to see in my business.  For most of these shoots, I was asked by other vendors to participate. They would reach out to me in my Dms or via e-mail. I think if there was one thing that helped me to get those first few invitations for collaboration it was probably that I was really intentional about aesthetics with my instagram feed and the images I posted. Even though I wasn’t doing a lot of very impressive work at the time, I would take the time to styled and photograph my arrangements in a creative way. I would place it in a well lit area like next to a window, against a clean backdrop, and then I would often add a fabric runner or some candles, and style it really nicely before photographing it. I think this helped to show attention to detail, and cater to those with an editorial eye. I did this not only to cater to potential clients, but also for other vendors who valued aesthetics so that they would be more likely to recognize me as someone who could contribute value to their future collaborations.

For the collaborations I was invited to be a part of, I covered all my own floral cost, which at that time in my business, I felt was a worthy investment to really level up my portfolio. What was really amazing was that once I did one shoot, and then two, more invitations for shoots continued to follow. Which goes back to my rule of showing what you want to sell. It goes the same with styled shoots for vendors. Having more editorial style photos of my work to share, made me an even more obvious candidate for other photographers to reach out and ask me to do a bouquet for a bridal shoot or engagement shoot, or a complete editorial. And that’s why in those 3 years, my portfolio was really able to grow and shine. And this ultimately began to attract planners with a high value for aesthetic who began referring me clients with higher budgets, and once I had enough of those, I was able to tone it back on the styled shoots and maybe just do one or two a year. 

High end photography is super important to attract luxury clients.

It’s a good idea to network with lots of other businesses in your area – especially photographers, through reaching out on social media, attending industry networking events, or introducing yourself to your fellow vendors on wedding setups. This is a good way to put yourself out there and open yourself up to more opportunities for things like styled shoots, and maybe those vendors might even refer you some of their clients if you form a good connection. 

If you’re not receiving a lot of interest from planners at this time, you can put yourself in front of planners or photographers that you’d want to work with. It’s a good practice to pay close attention to vendors in your wedding community and seek out ones that you really want to work with. When you’re browsing on instagram, notice where vendors are located, and if they’re near you and you’ve never met, think of them as someone you could potentially form a connection with or work with in the future. If you admire their work, drop them a DM and say, “I really love your style and I would love to collaborate in the future. If you are ever planning a styled shoot I would love to contribute florals.” Many of these messages may not result in a collaboration, and that’s just the reality because every vendor is at a different place in their business and some are not going to be as interested in a collaboration as others, but that’s why you need to do this often, and reach out to a lot of people who’s work you admire because that will increase your chance of forming an actual connection.

If after trying all of these things, you don’t see many results or haven’t received an opportunity for styled shoots, you can plan your own. This takes quite a bit of time and investment, but if you can get a planner or designer on board, and/or as many other vendors as possible to contribute pieces to the overall vision, you can have a very successful shoot to provide you with lots of beautiful content, without investing too much money. Focus on perceived value and creating high impact designs at a low cost to you. You can repurpose flowers from a previous wedding to save on cost. If you work with mainly dried/preserved flowers, you should be able to re-use all of that product so it would make a lot of sense to put together a shoot to really show your potential dream clients what you are capable of. But the more showstopping, special and unique your shoot can be, the better because this is what’s going to show everyone who comes across your page exactly what you’re capable of. 

So, to recap – in order to start attracting your ideal clients, you need to start showing them your potential by showing the most impressive work possible consistently on your feed. You should seek out opportunities to get that better photo content by networking with other vendors – especially photographers and planners with a high end aesthetic. And if you’re not getting blown up for invites for collaborations, try putting together your own shoot, capturing as many styled images you can in your own time, and see if that changes things. Your main goal should be to look like a luxury wedding florist, even if you’re not one yet.

In terms of adding a sparate offering for a la carte bouquets, I do think it’s not a bad idea to have different offerings for different types of clientele, if you can make it all make sense under one brand (or by creating a second brand for the more affordable products). Some florists do this to avoid confusing their audience of whether they offer affordable or luxury design. If you are offering everything under one brand, it should all be consistently priced and marketed. So if you decide to offer a separate a la carte bouquet offering for budget brides, make sure that you give that product or service its own name and market it as its own separate offering, so as not to confuse or take away from your luxury full service offering. If you haven’t yet listened to episode 8, I would highly recommend going back and giving that episode a listen as I share all about how to strategically structure your products and offerings. 

I want to mention too, to all of my listeners that this strategy of showing what you want to sell or what you want to attract more of is a powerful strategy that can really apply to any dream or goal you have for your business. If you want to book more destination weddings, choose destination-like venues for your styled shoots and use hashtags in your posts of cities or states that you would like to do more weddings. I know a photographer who booked her first Amalfi Coast destination wedding by planning an Amalfi Coast-inspired styled shoot. She submitted her shoot to blogs, it was featured on a popular wedding blog and a bride and groom saw it and hired her for their destination wedding. If you would like to do more floral education, start educating to your audience through stories, reels, or IGTV. You will see more opportunities for education start to reveal themselves. If there is any strategy I would highly recommend implementing, to anyone looking to grow or evolve their business to reach a different clientele, this one would be high on my list. So if you’re listening and thinking that you’d like to attract a different client or that the inquiries you are receiving are not ones that excite you, think of what you could change about the work you’re putting on display, and how you could tweak and adjust your marketing or branding strategy to attract more of the right opportunities.

Question 2

Linnéa from Stockholm, Sweden asked: 

What has been your biggest struggle throughout your business journey? Also, what was one of your greatest or dearest memories you have from when you started out?

Answer – 

So I will start with sharing with you my biggest struggle. And I will also add to that and share how I began to overcome that struggle and how I continue to overcome it. So throughout my business journey, one thing that I have found to be a continuing struggle for me is structure. 

Forming habits around any sort of structure is very difficult for me, especially when it comes to time management, like sticking to a schedule. I can schedule and show up for meetings, and when it comes to clients orders I’m very adapted to our event production schedule which is Thursday prep, Friday production and Saturday install. Even with organizing and delegating tasks to my team during production, that is something that comes easy and I can be very organized. When I am accountable to a client or to my team, structure and time management are not an issue for me. But for whatever reason, when it comes to organizing delegating tasks to myself the remainder of the week, when I am accountable to myself alone, I fail at this constantly. 

Managing my own time wisely has been a constant struggle for me throughout my business journey because 1) I have a passive personality, so I am laid back to a fault, but also, I am creatively and passionately driven and I inherently focus on tasks that I want to focus on in that moment. I have tried all kinds of systems for managing myself, and it has never worked. I don’t fully understand this characteristic or why I’m like this, but I’ve found ways to manage it. 

I realized that with tedious creative tasks, I am most productive in the mornings. So I try to knock out those items early in the day – like creating client proposals, designing educational materials and writing content for the blog or website. Then I save smaller, lighter, or less creative tasks for the second part of the day – like responding to emails, doing paperwork for events, ordering flowers, planning logistics, etc. 

I’ve also learned that if I have too many different projects on my plate for a single day, I can easily become overwhelmed and just shut off completely and procrastinate. And that giving myself a full day to work on one task is usually more successful, so I’ve begun batching my projects into categories. So on Monday I will spend the day writing content, and then on Tuesday I will focus on proposals and wedding related tasks. If I can wake up in the morning and know that I only have to focus on one thing, I’m less likely to put things off or push them to the next day because it feels much more manageable.

I also learned that I respond well to To-Do Lists, so on weeks where I am playing catch up or I have an unusually large chunk of things to get done, I will give myself a to-do list and prioritize my tasks in order, and I will shift my focus to just getting those to-do list items done before I go back to my regular schedule. Sometimes this means that other tasks on my regular calendar might get pushed back, but I just do my best and if that’s happening a lot, and let’s say content writing keeps getting pushed to the bottom of the list to the point where it’s not getting prioritized, that is usually a sign for me that I need to pump the breaks a bit on taking on new events if the content is something that I feel is important and needs to be more prioritized.

Since I can become easily overwhelmed with an excessive workload, another thing that’s helped me to tame this struggle of managing all the things is controlled growth. Knowing my personality and being a non-risk taker, I have learned that keeping the growth in my business controlled is a way for me to protect myself from overwhelm and from things getting out of hand. I am a perfectionist and I also really like to take my time with things, so I am a person who would rather take on less tasks and do them really well than take on of a Jillian tasks and do them all poorly or half assed. I can’t allow myself to present things that aren’t my best or that I am not proud of. It doesn’t sit well with meI also know that I am a person who is very protective of my environment as a means of sort of maintaining my inner peace. And so I really try not to allow myself to become too stressed or overwhelmed by taking on too much or allowing things to get out of control. I like to keep things under control and manageable and that’s how I personally maintain a sense of calm. So while other entrepreneurs tend to take on any and every opportunity that comes their way and figure out the rest later, I tend to take a more cautious approach, and it actually is easier for me, I think than most people to say no to things if I know I’m approaching a state of overwhelm. I keep my business on a short leash, if you will, and I really try not to let things get too far away from me. 

This could be seen by some as a hindrance to growth but for me, I think it’s helped my business because by having less on my plate, I’m allowed to take my time to digest what’s in front of me, and fine tune things so that I’m better prepared for whatever comes next. And I really enjoy that refining process, I think it’s helped us as a brand to perfect and to excel in a lot of areas, even though there are always others that need work.

I do think that the way I run my business is unique and I don’t think that it’s necessarily the best way or the right way to do things. It’s definitely not perfect, and as my business continues to grow and evolve I’m still figuring out how to manage my time better to be able to make room for all the things. But this is what I’ve figured out works for me, based on the way I personally operate and what I respond well to and what I don’t. 

I definitely encourage anyone listening to give yourself grace in the areas that you fall short, and to work on knowing yourself and bettering yourself but also to not be afraid to do things in your own way even if it means doing things differently than other people do. Because we all operate very differently as human beings, and we all have our own strengths and weaknesses. And I think it’s by really listening to those that we are able to become the best version of ourselves. Listening to my strengths and weaknesses has definitely made me a better business owner.

Linnea also asked me to share one of my fondest memories from when I was starting out. One that immediately comes to mind is when my then-business-partner and I put together our very first styled shoot. At the time it was 2014 and rustic style was still very much in, and both of us really love the cozy cold weather seasons, so we decided to design a winter-themed shoot. We scouted out a woodsy section of a nearby park as our backdrop, gathered some friends to photograph and model and we came up with a design. We rented furniture from a nearby rental warehouse and styled a little round table for two, with rustic chairs and a raw piece of navy blue plaid flannel fabric draped over it as a linen. Something we thought was very clever and different. We made an elevated centerpiece with peonies, queen anne’s lace and dried cotton, and we were so in love with the texture and organic look of it all. 

We had our model slash friend put on another friend’s wedding dress, with a navy peacoat (since it was a winter shoot) and wait for it… cowgirl boots. I remember both of us being so obsessed when we got the final images. We tried submitting them to blogs, none of which accepted it, but we were still very proud of our little creation and so excited about what it would mean for our growing business that we had so many big dreams for.

We had very little idea what we were doing at the time but, looking back I’m so proud of us for just getting out there and figuring it out. There were so many things that my business partner and I did that I do so differently now – like meeting with every single client in person, going to market, processing and making the entire wedding in a single day… but there are also a lot of things that have stayed the same even after all these years, and one of those things is that we were constantly learning, exploring and experimenting, creating things we wanted to create even if we weren’t quite sure how to do it. I think that creativity and that curiosity was what Mulberry was built on, and that’s still very much the same spirit that drives the business to this day.

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Welcome to my blog - where I'm serving up all the latest in weddings & design, plus (for all you solopreneurs out there) tips to grow your creative business. I'm all about sharing and keeping it real.

hey there! i'm sarah w.

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