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Consumer ghosting! Please reconsider, I’ll explain how!

We've all done it! Let me give you the low-down on business ghosting, and how you can avoid it!

In the dating world, ghosting has been described as the practice of ending all communication and contact with another person without any warning and, subsequently, ignoring any attempts of communication by the other party.

Well, I’m glad to say that my dating days are over, but ghosting in the business sense is most certainly not.

You see, as a business owner, I get ghosted – all the time, ghosted by potential client’s, who, for whatever reason, take the path of no response.

I mean, I get it. It is understandable.

Why? Because awkward conversations are complicated, and more often than not, people choose to avoid them, especially when you have no emotional connection with the person you’re interacting with!

Now, I am not writing here to judge behaviours, but I am documenting some thoughts to help educate, from my perspective, the impact of ghosting in business and what you can do to lessen the awkwardness and stop ghosting in its tracks. Because here’s the thing. We business owners, we’re human too. We seek the same thing you do. To be seen, heard and acknowledged. ]In my former profession, I was a health manager in the public sector. It’s a place where politics, red tape and 1001 emails a day reign supreme. Indeed, it was expected of you to communicate professionally, politely and, in a timely manner. Ghosting in this space essentially was never a problem because, if you didn’t reply, about a bazillion follow up emails, reminders, and alerts were ongoing until the matter came to rest or the project was complete. If you did practice the abundant art of ghosting, you would have been considered unprofessional, disrespectful and your name would be tarnished, but you still got paid.

Now, running my own company, I have realised how prevalent consumer ghosting is, and the part that sucks, ghosting not only costs me money but it also has an emotional impact. Actions of the consumer, or lack thereof, hit my bottom line, as well as my heart. I won’t lie, sometimes, it stings.

To run a successful business, you must have consumers willing to exchange money for the products or services you offer.

To acquire new customers, we invest in marketing to promote said products and services. We use websites, social media, build email lists and newsletters. We create processes and procedures to give our consumers a great experience. Every quote we make, email we send, social media post we upload, it all takes time, love and dedicated attention.

For every client acquisition or sale we make, there is an inherent cost involved. And, conversely, there is a cost for every lead that does not transform into a paying client. While we understand that we won’t persuade 100% of leads to become our clients, nor would we want to, we must convert to be successful in business. It’s as simple as that. Time is money, and time is precious.

So, what does this have to do with ghosting?

Well, the act of ghosting can be time consuming and costly, not to mention disheartening to businesses. As business owners, we communicate our offerings and invest resources on every lead in the hope of welcoming them into our client tribe. We take time to respond, answer questions, meet for coffee, or hold tours at showrooms or warehouses.

Once the dialogue has commenced, the communication channels can stay open for a while. Back and forth emails, phone calls, quote submissions, then, one day, nothing. The worst ghosting is when you feel you’ve established trust with a prospective client and then they disappear, never to be heard of again.

Or perhaps the job is complete, and ghosting begins when it’s time to pay the invoice. Crickets are heard – radio silence. Contact no more. I personally, have not had this happen, as we ask for booking retainers to acquire our services, with final payments due before the job date, but imagine what that must be like. You’ve completed a project, and the client now ignores your requests for payment.

Today, the abundant use of email and social media has made it easy for people to hide behind their devices, but is that just an excuse for poor behaviour?

Unfortunately, we have to face it! The harsh reality is, being ghosted is part of doing business.

Business-savvy people know this. They weigh up ghosting as an experience and then prepare and factor these behaviours into the cost of running their business.

But, why do we ghost?

In my experience, as both a consumer, and business owner, I’ve noticed a variety of reasons that we may avoid further contact with vendors. Here’s a list of experiences I’ve encountered and some advice on why you should reconsider ghosting, and, further, what to do instead

1. You’re just not that into us.

Not everyone is going to be the right fit. We get it. After all, no money has changed hands, no commitment made, you have nothing to lose. Why not ignore the vendor communication. They don’t know me. So, who cares!!!

Well, can I say we do care! A little kindness by way of reply goes a long way. A simple one-line email telling us you’re not interested is all that it needed. Something along the lines of

“Hi there, I appreciate you responding to my enquiry, however, we have decided on taking a different approach. Thanks so much”.

2. Too much time has passed since the last communication

Ummm, insert awkward moment here.

Sometimes, ghosting is accidental. Before you know it, the months have passed, and you feel too embarrassed to reconnect. Don’t! We’d be happy to hear from you again. Perhaps include an apology to let us know that it slipped your mind, and start the conversation again. Too easy!

Use this email to get you started

“Hi (insert vendor name), 

Firstly, I want to send through my apologies. Time has gotten away from me and I have realised that I never responded to your (quote, email, etc). I’m still interested in (learning more about/booking your services), could we connect soon to discuss further?

Thanks so much, I look forward to hearing from you”.

3. The price far exceeded the budget, and you’re uncomfortable saying so

Price shock occurs often.

It’s common for consumers to underestimate the cost of services. We understand this could be a source of embarrassment, but being honest and open is a beautiful quality. Your vendor might even be able to work within your budget and suggest alternate options that will work for you. Don’t be afraid to let your vendor know how much you are willing/able to spend.

Here’s a template to help kick off the conversation;

“Hi (insert vendor name),

Thanks for sending through the pricing options. Unfortunately, the quote was above what our budget allows for, we had budgeted $….. for your services. 

Might there be any options you can recommend that will assist us to achieve our desired style within our budget? Or, alternately, would you have any recommended vendors you could refer us to?

We would be thrilled to work with you, and look forward to receiving your reply”.

Or, if you feel like the vendor is definitely out of your budget and you wish to close the conversation, use this instead;

“Hi (insert vendor name), 

Thanks for sending through the pricing options. Unfortunately, the quote was above what our budget allows for, but we hope to work with you on another special occasion in the future. 

Thank you for answering our questions and, for your time”.

4. Your engagement was cancelled

Life happens, and sometimes things don’t always work out as planned. Relationship breakdowns are hard.

Understandably, in this circumstance, you might prefer to avoid communicating the breakdown. You don’t need to tell us what happened. Simply let us know that you don’t wish to proceed. It’s none of our business if you have had a relationship end, but the good eggs in the industry will empathise with your situation and wish you nothing but all the best, with love, kindness and genuine care.

If you’re comfortable communicating use this template;

“Hi (insert vendor name), 

Thanks for answering my questions and sending through a quote. 

Unfortunately, we are no longer planning our wedding, but I will keep you in mind for other celebrations”.

Or, keep reading for a few none disclosing suggestions.

5. You’ve requested quotes from so many vendors, and you’ve lost count, or you select another vendor.

Sourcing vendors takes time, and most consumers will source multiple quotes. Heck, I know I do. I always say, follow your heart, especially for my wedding clients.

Choose vendors that are a good fit for you and your love story. But, be kind to the vendors you have engaged. Keep a list of who you have contacted. Planning an event gets busy, but it only takes a moment of your time to say, thanks, but no thanks.

Try these written responses;

Option 1

“Hey, there (insert vendor name), 

Thanks so much for sending through our wedding hire quote. We’ve decided that it’s not the right fit for us, but thanks for taking the time to answer my questions and prepare a quote for our consideration”.

Option 2

“Hi (insert vendor name),

Thank you for taking the time to prepare a hire quote. After thinking it over, I (or we) don’t think it’s the right fit on this occasion.

I appreciate your efforts in assisting our initial enquiry”.

All the best”. 

Option 3

“Hi (insert vendor name), 

Thanks for meeting with me to show me your product range and prepare a quote.

We’ve decided to follow our hearts and select another vendor, but thanks again. It’s been a pleasure to meet you.

All the best”.

6. It’s your natural communication and attachment style

Awkward conversations can be challenging for many of us, but more so if you have an anxious, or avoidant attachment style. It has been said that “the overarching reason many people ghost is avoidance of conflict. Simply disappearing side-steps any potential conversation, seeing hurt feelings or arguments”, says Dr Susan Albers, PsyD.

What I would like to say to potential clients is this. It is okay to change your mind, take another direction or realise you no longer require the service, but please, consider it courteous and respectful and let the vendors know. There is no shame in communicating your decisions. We’ve all changed our minds before. It’s perfectly normal. Yes, the communication may feel awkward, but I can honestly say that I would much rather have a potential client contact me and say, thanks, but no thanks, than be ghosted. That’s a top-notch person right there, despite what attachment style they have.

Don’t want to think about it? No problems, just cut and paste one of the templates above, and you’re done.

Offending Vendors

On a side note, as a consumer, if you have taken the virtuous path and communicated your decision to a vendor, thank you. If the vendor is offended and displays disrespectful behaviour, or worse, they ghost you; you should feel very comfortable knowing that you made a good decision. They were not the right vendor for you.

What’s the low-down

Ghosting is awkward and can be complicated, but it doesn’t have to be. I know it’s hard to find the right words to let someone down but I hope the written suggestions compiled here offers some help for how to approach vendors and respectfully inform them that the relationship will not continue. I promise you will feel better for it. Unless of course, you get a vendor who is a jerk. Because, that, my friend, is a different blog post altogether.

Happy event planning everyone.

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