So I hoped for a 1 p.m.–2 p.m. arrival. After 2 p.m. came and went, I hoped for no later than 3. After 3 gave way to 3:30, I had no illusions that he would show up before 4, and I wasn’t surprised in the least bit when he drove up closer to 5 p.m. After he performed what he agreed to perform within the time frame that he told me he would perform it, I still felt dissatisfied. In hearing a span of hours in which he could pop in, I got my hopes up that he could come sooner rather than later and that I could spend the rest of the afternoon taking care of my other responsibilities.
After the fact, I realized that I would have felt completely different if he had guaranteed me an exact time for his visitation. Our expectations would have been crystal clear, and there would be no extra emotion stirred by this simple business service.
In the same way, we do our clients a disservice when we communicate that we will deliver their film within a range of time instead of promising delivery by an exact date. If you tell a couple that they could receive their video in 4–8 months, you can bet your bottom dollar that they are going to be hopeful that it’s closer to 4. Once Month 5 rolls around, they might give you a call: “Just checkin’ in, since you said it could be done by now.”
Presenting a range of delivery dates allows the client to develop his or her own idea about when the film will be completed. Even though you had them contractually agree to the possibility of receiving their deliverables at 8 months, they still feel let down because their hopes were up for a premiere at Month 4. You do not want your clients feeling anything but anticipation and excitement, and allowing them a preventable possibility of being disappointed, no matter how slight, can begin to undermine your brand experience.
Giving a variable delivery time has become accepted practice within our industry, and not without tenable reasons. For one, certain times of the year are busier than others, and the backlog grows. The completion date for one event is entirely dependent upon how many events are in the queue ahead of it. During the slow season, it may take only 4 months. But during the busy season, it could take 8, so one contracts for delivery “within 4–8 months.”
Another reason is a bit more furtive. I believe that if we were to advertise the end of our delivery range solely as the definitive delivery date, we would fear that couples might not hire us, thinking our delivery time to be too long. In other words, our potential to sell is strengthened by the possibility of being able to deliver in the near end of the range (4 months), but we give ourselves leeway to deliver on the far end of the range (8 months).
Since this approach welcomes “check-in” calls, it distracts you from chipping away at your backlog and, ironically, from completing the client’s film. In order to prevent these intrusions, nothing short of communicating that “your video will be delivered on this date” will suffice. It is imperative that you stick with the pronoun “on.” Were you to say, “Your video will be delivered by this date,” you would open up the expectation that it could be delivered sooner. The same applies for saying “within 8 months.” Although you are not specifying a range, you are indirectly communicating that it could be done sooner, and that’s what you want to avoid entirely.
Setting a single delivery date will also save you mental capacity. For those who offer a completion range, some clients will push for a more specific deadline. When you succumb to the temptation to offer a more concrete juncture, you then have to remember all of these separate stipulations. On the other hand, in treating all clients the same, you make no special promises, you accrue no additional details, and you eliminate miscommunications before they can transpire. If you always say “8 months,” then you never have to remember saying anything else.
While I clearly highlight the delivery date in my contract, I find that the best opportunity to etch it permanently across clients’ minds occurs the week after their wedding. If you are following my suggestion from last month, you are posting a brief preview online no more than 4 days after the event. End your preview with a title card that says, “Coming on this specific date.” After the clients delight in the preview, they take note of when they get to see more. Even their friends reinforce it, telling them, “I cannot wait until that specific date.”
Who knows—once you gain the reputation as being the person who picks a tight deadline and sticks to it, your brides might call you in hopes that you can install their cable service as well!
Chris P. Jones (jones at masonjarfilms.com), an Austin, Texas-based EventDV 25 All-Star, has been shooting weddings for nearly a decade and is a co-founder of the wedding filmmaking educational gathering IN[FOCUS].