» Who’s in Your Network?

Photo by Austin Stuart Photography

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP.

I just got back from presenting at a local wedding association meeting. This association opened the workshop to non-members, as a gesture to help educate the industry (and I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt to try to drum up a few new members). As is the case at all meetings like this, many of the people who attended already knew each other. Many already get together, outside the meetings, either socially, or to network.

Is that a clique, or a network?

There’s a fine line between a clique and a network, but it’s often hard to see the difference from the outside. For me, the difference is whether the group is open to new members. When I say group, I don’t necessarily mean a formal association. At workshops and conferences, wedding and event professionals tend to cluster in groups. I’m sure a psychologist would tell us that this is natural, human behavior. Are those groups cliques? They can often feel impenetrable, because the body language of the group feels exclusive, as opposed to inclusive. Outsiders often don’t try to join the group, assuming, in advance, that they’re not welcome. Sometimes that’s the case, sometimes it’s not.

Who’s in your five?

Do you remember the cell phone ads, “Who’s in your five?” In this case, your ‘five’ is your inner-circle (which can certainly be more than five people). Who are the industry connections with whom you socialize? It’s been said that we do business with people we know, like and trust (credit to Bob Burg, no relation). When a couple asks for a referral to another service, or when you’re booked and want to refer a colleague, why do you refer those particular businesses? Is it just because they’re the best at what they do? Or, is it because they’re good at what they do, and you saw them recently, either at a wedding, or at a networking event, or over coffee on a Tuesday?

How can you expand your network?

First, remember that you weren’t always on the inside. Too often I see wedding professionals complaining about the new company in their market, whether they’re a lower-price, or a direct competitor. Weren’t we all the new guy (or gal) at one time? Weren’t our prices lower than many, if not most competitors, when we were new to the business? For many of us, the answer to those questions is yes. Rather than shun these newbies, why not welcome them into the fold? Wouldn’t it have been nice if you were welcomed that way when you were new? Or, maybe you were.

A rising tide raises all ships

Welcoming the new businesses, and helping them do things the right way, helps everyone. We all know that it only takes one person in your market and category, who has bad customer service, or who takes advantage of a customer, to make us all look bad. I would rather compete with someone who’s doing things well, is honest and well-respected. It makes me keep myself sharp, and keep my game up.

You can teach an old dog…

Another reason to widen your network with newcomers, is that they often have new ideas that can help you. Those of us who’ve been at our craft for a while can sometimes get set in our ways. Have you ever been caught off-guard by a newcomer who’s taking market share with their new approach? Baby-boomers and Gen Xers can learn from millennials and vice versa. You may like your way, but it’s not the only way. Regardless of age, none of us can learn anything new, if we’re not open to the possibilities. So, the next time you find yourself in a group, and you see someone you don’t know, try introducing yourself and inviting them in. You may make a great business connection, or even a new friend. Who’s in your five?

alan bergWeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

» How to Thrive in Our Visual Industry

Photo by Bellagala Photography

This article was written by Kevin Dennis, editor of WeddingIQ.

The wedding industry is a visual business. There are few other moments in most couples’ lives when the majority of consumers will spend top dollar to have professional images taken, or hire designers to handle décor and florals for a single event. The first thing a couple does when wedding planning is turn to a source of inspiration images, whether in a print magazine or on social media. Wedding professionals have no choice than to be visually oriented in order to thrive.

The quality of your visual marketing, its reach and accessibility are all important to how well your company is received. We’ve assembled some of our top tips for selling with visuals to help you take full advantage of your opportunities.

Take top quality images

Depending on your market, this could mean many things, but ensuring that you have excellent visuals to attract prospective couples is the first step. Develop relationships with photographers so you can get access to real wedding images in a timely manner, if possible. Take advantage of inspiration shoot opportunities. You can even hone your talents and take your own awesome images to use in your marketing. Smartphone technology allows us all to be better photographers than in the past, so learn how to use that to your advantage.

Make your business space visually-oriented

Our office is saturated with visuals. We keep large canvasses of our work on our walls and even in the bathrooms! 60” TV monitors constantly show a slideshow of our best work, and we hand each client an iPad when he or she walks through the door with an album of our recent events in their venue on the screen.

Be careful as you put together your own visual playground that you are able to keep your images updated. Over time, any photo will look dated and becomes irrelevant, unable to promote your new inventory. Create easily updatable formats for promotion like slideshows so your new clients see the most current options at all times.

Take advantage of social media

Use all available channels to share your work – and make sure that the majority of what you put out is, in fact, sharing and not overly “promotional.” Tell a story with your visuals that includes your products and services, but also inspires couples to see themselves in your client’s’ shoes. Brand your images not just with watermarks, but with recognizable inventory or moments that strongly remind your market of you.

A picture may, in fact, be worth a thousand words, so what is your visual marketing telling your prospective clients about you?

Kevin Dennis is the editor of WeddingIQ and the owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California. Dennis is the current chapter president for Silicon Valley NACE, and a previous national president for WIPA.

» Set Couples’ Expectations with Interactive Storefront Pricing

This new WeddingWire Storefront feature for venues uses your past client data to create a range of what couples can expect to pay based on event details like guest count and wedding date.

As an added bonus for Premium WeddingWire members, when couples use this feature you’ll receive more information directly in the lead notification – helping you to send a more personalized response and increasing your likelihood of booking.

Watch this quick video to see how it works or log into your WeddingWire account to get started!

» How Effective Are Your Email Responses?

Photo by Gawne Design Photography

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve shared some quick actionable ways to tune-up your Storefront and website for engagement season, and now it’s time to give your digital communications some love with these tips from Education Guru Alan Berg. Newly engaged couples will be reaching out soon – so keep these tips in mind to create powerful connections with potential clients.

Don’t rush to change the format

One of the biggest mistakes that wedding professionals can make right out of the gate is responding to an inquiry from a potential client in a format that is different than how they reached out. It’s likely that they were given the opportunity to contact you in multiple ways, and then they chose what worked best for them. According to WedInsights, 48% of couples express frustration when their vendor does not reciprocate their preferred communication type! So start with their preferred method, then once you have a back and forth going, you can ask them for a phone call, appointment, or another method that is necessary.

Respond quickly

70% of couples say vendor responsiveness is one of the top qualities they consider. It makes sense right? Most couples expect to hear from you within 24 hours, but they actually want that response right now! They are obviously in the frame of mind when they reach out, so ideally you want to catch them in that same state. The first vendor to respond will grab the couple’s attention and have an edge up on the competition.

Fit the first reply on a smartphone screen

When responding to a couple’s first inquiry, make sure that your response fits nicely on a smartphone screen. You should never assume that the couple will read your response on a computer and you don’t want to lose them in a reply. So make it easy for them. Email yourself one of your standard replies and open it on your smartphone. If it all fits, great! If it doesn’t, shorten it until it does. Also, make sure that the information is easily digestible by breaking into short paragraphs.

End the reply with one question

If you want to keep the conversation going, you must ask a question. Periods stop the conversation, but question marks open up a dialogue. Make the question something very simple and easy to answer. You don’t want them to have to think too hard or long to give a sufficient answer. Some examples are: “What other questions can I answer for you?”, “Are you planning on having your ceremony here as well?”, “Have you seen us at another wedding?” etc.

Don’t send attachments

Attachments are almost impossible to open and read on phones, even if they are beautiful. If it wasn’t formatted for phones, then we don’t suggest attaching it to emails. Instead you can put that information on a hidden page on your website. Then link to that page in your reply.

Auto replies should provide value

When was the last time you received a “Thank you for your message, someone will get back to you as soon as possible” and thought, “Oh great someone is going to get back to me!”? Probably never. That’s because you already knew, or assumed, that someone would get back to you. If you are using auto replies, make sure that you include information that couldn’t be gathered otherwise to add value to the inquirer’s experience with you.

Create a bank of testimonials

One of the greatest ways to show off your value is by letting a past client do it for you. Anytime someone says something nice about you or your business, copy it and save it. Whether it’s in person, through email, WeddingWire, Facebook, Instagram – anywhere, add it to a document with their name, city and state. Then highlight or bolden the statement that you want to highlight. When replying to an inquiry, find a relevant testimonial and include it!

» WeddingWire Networking Night Dallas

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at Tower Club for WeddingWire Networking Night Dallas!

Wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy an elegant event space complete with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Dallas skyline while networking over light fare including roasted lechon, elotes and adult root beer floats! Guests met other local vendors across all service categories as well as members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned local-industry statistics and insights on working with millennial couples in the wedding industry, presented by WeddingWire’s Regional Manager of Customer Success, Katey McBurney!

Thank you to all the wonderful pros who joined us! We’re excited to share highlights from the event including the educational presentation, our latest issue of WedInsights, and photos from the lovely evening below. For additional photos from the evening, check out our gallery!

We would like to say a special thank you to the amazing event partners who helped make the evening possible:

Finally, we’re excited to announce the winner of our WeddingWire Prize Pack give away – congrats to Heather of Donnie Brown Weddings and Events!

 

» WeddingWire Networking Night Austin

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at Peached Social House for WeddingWire Networking Night Austin!

At the Networking Night, wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy a stylish event space while networking over light fare from Peached Tortilla’s food truck right outside! Guests met other local vendors across all service categories as well as members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned local-industry statistics and insights on working with millennial couples in the wedding industry, presented by WeddingWire’s Regional Manager of Customer Success, Katey McBurney!

Thank you to all the wonderful pros who joined us! We’re excited to share highlights from the event including the educational presentation, our latest issue of WedInsights, and photos from the lovely evening below. For additional photos from the evening, check out our gallery!

We would like to say a special thank you to the amazing event partners who helped make the evening possible:

Finally, we’re excited to announce the winner of our WeddingWire Prize Pack give away – congrats to Tom of Hacienda del Lago Wedding and Event Center!



» Get Ready for the 2018 WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards®!

The time is almost here — the WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards® winners will be announced in January! Each year we recognize the top 5% of WeddingWire professionals for their commitment to quality, service, responsiveness, and professionalism in the industry through the reviews of more than a million newlywed couples.

To qualify for the 2018 award, you must have received at least 5 new reviews in 2017. You have until December 31, 2017 to collect reviews from this year’s clients!

See these 3 easy tips for collecting more reviews:

Start with gratitude

Email or write a handwritten note to your past clients congratulating them on their nuptials and letting them know how thankful you are that they chose you to share a part of their special day. Your sincerity will be appreciated and will reinforce why they selected your business. Be sure to invite them to leave you a review on WeddingWire, and make it clear that their feedback matters to your business and future couples.

Showcase your reviews

You’ve earned great reviews, so let your past clients help sell your business for you! Add your reviews to your website, printed materials, and social media to help set you apart from the competition. By showcasing your reviews, your clients will notice how committed you are to producing excellent work — and will be encouraged to leave you a review when their wedding is complete since it clearly matters to your business.

Make it easy

After spending months planning a wedding, sometimes couples want a break from their to-do list. Luckily, WeddingWire makes leaving a review easy for both you and your clients! Simply share a direct link to your personalized review URL, or send an automated email from the Review Collector to request reviews from your clients. Providing them a quick and easy way to share a few words about their experience with you greatly increases the chance they will write a review. After all, 1 in 5 couples will write a review when asked, and that number increases to 1 in 3 if they are reminded at least once!

Request reviews from your 2017 clients and set yourself up for more business in 2018!

» To Discount or Not to Discount?

Photo by Tracy Shoopman Photography

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP.

An often contentious topic among wedding professionals is discounting. Both sides of the debate dig in, deeply, when this question is posed on social media or in forums. Now, as engagement season begins, is the time to dive into this subject, starting with the difference between discounting and negotiating.

Discounting versus negotiating

For me, discounting is fine when it has structure and rules. Meaning everyone who buys the same products or services for equivalent dates will pay the same price and the rules are applied equally to everyone. For instance, if you have three packages and your higher packages, which contain more services, also have the highest discounts, that’s great. If everyone who buys that package pays the same price, then the rules are being applied equally.

On the other hand, negotiating means that two couples who buy the same products or services may pay different prices. Each customer’s ability to negotiate will determine their final price. The challenge with negotiating in today’s digitally connected world is that people can, and will, talk about their discount. If you can’t easily explain to one customer why they paid more than another customer for the same products and services – for instance, an in-season date versus an off-season date – then you’re negotiating, not discounting.

Discounting and negotiating can be part of a pricing strategy, negotiating is just less structured. There are times when I’ll negotiate to get the sale, but it’s the exception, not the rule. I recommend to my consulting clients to offer added value over a discount in price, as it helps to keep integrity in their basic pricing structure. If you’ve ever thrown in an extra product or service to get the sale, you’ve negotiated. Some companies do it on every sale. If you give the same or similar added value services every time, you’re really discounting, not negotiating. If the proportionate value of the added products or services changes with every customer, you’re negotiating.

Which is right for you?

There’s no one answer that’s right for every business. Personally, I prefer discounting over negotiating, as it’s easier to explain to your employees and your customers. I understand that it may not work for all businesses. In my business, as a speaker, sales trainer and consultant, there is no standard price list. Each event and client involves a different set of circumstances (travel, preparation, residual business, etc.). However, when it comes to my physical products (books, CDs, etc.), discounts make sense. For example, when I have a booth at a trade show or event, I’ll have my books and CDs, and usually offer an event discount. Many times I’ll be asked for an even lower price, and I’ll thank them and say that the listed prices are already discounted. Then I’ll ask if they want to pay with cash or credit. Asking for a discount is a buying signal, so always ask them for the sale when they ask for a discount.

Don’t fight the power

One of the keys to having pricing power is when the customer wants you, specifically you, to do their wedding or event. You’re not available anywhere else, at any price. If they don’t perceive any difference between you and another company with a lower price, the lower price will win. If they can tell the difference and want you to be their planner, or caterer, or officiant, they have to pay your price.

Get something of value in return

If you’re going to discount or negotiate, try to get something of value in return. If you only lower your price, you’re giving away profit. The products and services will cost you the same, but you’re getting paid less for them. Whether it’s getting a bigger deposit, being paid in full now, taking away services, or a higher guaranteed minimum guest count, make them a partner. If you’re the only one giving, they’ll keep taking. When they want to stop giving, they’ll stop asking.

They’ll be back

Many customers will shop around and find a lower price, which isn’t hard to do these days. If they do find a lower price and they still come back to you, they’re signaling that they can tell a difference, whether in your products or services or in the way you’ve provided a better customer experience – or both. That’s an indication that you have pricing power.

They may ask you to match the lower price, but you shouldn’t have to in order to get the sale. If they felt the other company would provide just as good products or services and customer experience, they wouldn’t have come back to you. The fact that they’re coming back shows that they like you better. Always thank them for coming back. After all, if price was the most important factor, you’d be out of the running.

Price doesn’t determine outcome

Sure, sometimes the lower price will win. A line I often use is “If price is the most important factor when choosing your (photographer, band, dress, speaker, etc.) then I’m probably not the best choice for your event.” Change the discussion from pricing to outcomes. There are many wedding and event professionals who don’t charge enough, whether by choice or out of fear.

Do I have to offer a discount to get the sale?

Whether you decide to offer a discount or not is a personal decision and part of your personal brand. There are many very successful businesses that offer discounts. Sometimes it’s due to competitive pressures, and sometimes it’s to encourage a higher sale. Packages are a great way to display discounts and encourage a higher average sale.

What’s the right answer for your business?

I’d have to know a lot more details to answer that. But when discounting becomes the reason that couples book you instead of them wanting only you to do their wedding or event, you risk diluting your brand. When they’re choosing you mostly on price, it’s easy for someone else to come along and undercut your price. So, discount or negotiate, it’s up to you – but be careful not to get caught up selling the discount, instead of selling your brand.

alan bergWeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

» WeddingWire Networking Night Minneapolis

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at The Van Dusen Mansion & Event Center for WeddingWire Networking Night Minneapolis!

 At the Networking Night, wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy a historic event space while networking over light fare in the venue’s Mansion, Ballroom & Carriage House. Guests met other local vendors across all service categories as well as members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned local-industry statistics and insights on working with millennial couples in the wedding industry, presented by WeddingWire’s Regional Manager of Customer Success, Megan Hayes!

Thank you to all the wonderful pros who joined us! We’re excited to share highlights from the event including the educational presentation, our latest issue of WedInsights, and photos from the lovely evening below. For additional photos from the evening, check out our gallery!

We would like to say a special thank you to the amazing event partners who helped make the evening possible:

Finally, we’re excited to announce the winner of our WeddingWire Prize Pack give away – congrats to Kaytee of Ahava Creative Co.!

» How to Create an Online Newsroom for Your Website

Photo by Freas Photography

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Expert, Meghan Ely.

With engagement season upon us, it’s important to set the stage and make your online presence known. You can expect an influx of media outlets producing more wedding related content since it’s the prime time of year for newly engaged couples to be searching for evergreen wedding planning topics. With that being said, the media will be on the hunt for expert resources, and having an online newsroom on your website can help get you noticed quicker and by more people.

What is an online newsroom?

The concept of online newsrooms has evolved over time from the idea of a media kit, which is typically a packet of information that gets disseminated to the media. However, in recent years they have moved away from sending a hard copy to a PDF. With research being done almost exclusively online now, it makes sense that wedding pros are ditching their traditional kits and instead creating a page on their website dedicated entirely to providing their information to the media.

What does it look like?

Your online newsroom should look a lot like your media kit did, but an online version. Include things like a high-res headshot, your bio, any affiliations you have, accreditations, and all of your contact information (if you’re represented by a publicist be sure to include their contact information as well).

You’ll also want to showcase a little bit of who you are and what you’ve done. Think recent press you’ve been featured in and press releases from the last year (if you have them). Be creative with your press. Search online for examples of how other companies are highlighting where they’ve been featured (like WeddingWire’s Press Center) and apply that inspiration to your own page.

What’s the goal?

When putting together your online newsroom, the goal you should be aiming for is that when a member of the media clicks on it, they know you’re an expert in your field within a few seconds. If they have to look around for too long they may move on to other sources with more readily available material.

An online newsroom is a great way to get members of the media to love you. They will appreciate how easy you made it to get in touch, and it could lead to future press opportunities for you and your business.

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.

» Make a Stunning Impression with WeddingWire 3D Tours

Premium members can now showcase their venue like never before! Give potential clients a tour of your property, anywhere with a WeddingWire 3D Tour — now included with your Spotlight, Featured, or Professional venue listing in select regions.

A 3D tour transforms the way couples can view your venue by providing them with a virtual walkthrough of your property. Compared to traditional photos and videos, an interactive 3D tour gives couples the most realistic experience aside from physically visiting your venue and lets them easily view your space right on your WeddingWire Storefront, prior to contacting you. It’s a great way to attract more qualified leads.

Interested in a WeddingWire 3D Tour? The process is easy!

Step one: Fill out this form, and include available dates for the photo shoot, descriptions of interior and exterior areas, and a floor plan if available. Once submitted, we’ll contact you to confirm your photo shoot and coordinate timing and logistics.

Step two: On the day of the photo shoot we recommend preparing your venue the same way that you would for a wedding to help prospective clients visualize the space for their big day – make sure everything is clean, decorated and well-lit. Keep in mind that the camera will capture rich details of your space for users to explore and zoom. The photo shoot typically take 2 to 3 hours, but can vary based on the complexity of your floor plan and square footage. We will calculate the amount of time needed based on the details you provide in your form and schedule accordingly.

Step three: We’ll create a high-quality 3D tour of your venue and add it to your WeddingWire Storefront. This process will take approximately three weeks. After it is uploaded, you will also receive a 3D Tour icon in the vendor directory.

Have questions? Email 3DTours@weddingwire.com and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible!

» Is Your Website Turning Away Potential Clients?

Photo by Blueflash Photography

You’ve been hearing it over and over, engagement season is just around the corner! But what does that mean for you? This is the ideal time of year to strengthen your Storefront, website and communications to stand out to newly engaged couples when they start searching for their wedding team. Education Guru Alan Berg recently shared his best tips for tuning up these areas to help you connect with more couples in the coming months.

Here are the top four ways that you can take action now and strengthen your website:

Choose images that are aspirational

Using aspirational images is a top tip for Storefront improvements, but it is also equally true for your website. Your goal is to find images that invoke an emotional connection between the couple and your business. A couple’s first reaction should be, “Wow, I want to be just like that couple!” Remember: the head has a budget, the heart does not. So find photos that touch their hearts.

Take action:

  1. The key to building an emotional connection with a couple is showing them what they could look like on their big day. Assess your website images and see if you are showcasing happy couples. If you aren’t, then change your photos or add in new ones! For some categories this can be difficult, but try to show couples interacting with you or your service.
  2. If your options are limited for this type of photo, feature a mix of photos of ideal couples you have worked with and photos of you or your best work.

Make sure the text matches the aspiration of your photos

When a couple comes to your website, it’s because they are coming to learn more about you and the service you provide. If the feeling you portray in the words on your website doesn’t match that of your images, it can feel disjointed and may not inspire them to reach out.

Take action:

  1. To match the feeling that couples see when first come to your website, you need to narrate the results and outcomes of what they will receive from you. If you’re a photographer, talk about the emotion that your couples feel the first time they see their photos. If you’re a caterer, talk about how guests rave for weeks and weeks about your food. Those are the outcomes couples want, so that’s what you need to talk about.
  2. Do the “you test”. When you use the word “you” on your website you are automatically allowing the couple to visualize themselves working with you. To do this test, go to your current website then on the taskbar click edit, then find, then type the word “you” and hit search. The more times the word “you” pops up, the better! If the current number is low, reread your text and find the appropriate places to insert the word “you”. Remember: You want to talk to them about them, because that’s who they care about!
  3. Read all of the text on your website out loud. This may seem a little silly, but it’s a great way to catch yourself if you are using language that you typically wouldn’t with a couple or have outdated information on your site. Question every sentence to make sure that you are describing your business accurately and using language that connects directly with the couple reading it.

Include social proof of your capabilities

Engaged couples want to hear about you and your capabilities, not from you, but from other couples that have experienced what it’s like to work with you. The best way to incorporate social proof into your website is by utilizing testimonials and reviews. The more you are able to incorporate these things into your website, the more engaged couples will be able to see the consistency of your work and how other couples felt about working with you.

Take action:

  1. Add a reviews section to your website. Include reviews with specific praise and strong emotional keywords. Make sure this is an actual part of your website and not a widget. Those keywords are great for your SEO!
  2. Choose the best reviews to feature on your website. You should still provide a link to your WeddingWire storefront where they can read through all of your reviews, but on your website you should highlight the reviews that reflect your ideal client and convey how much you care about your clients.

Create specific calls-to-action

Once you have an interested couple on your website, your biggest mistake would be to leave them wondering what to do next! Just as you’ll guide them through the wedding planning process with your business, guide them through your website with very specific and straightforward calls-to-action.

Take action:

  1. First, if you don’t currently have any calls-to-action on your website think about the specific actions you want a couple to take. Do you want them to call you? Reach out via email? Read your reviews? Look through your photos? Each page will probably have a specific action tied to it. Make sure to think these through to ensure they are clear and not misleading.
  2. Once you’ve determined a strong call-to-action, incorporate it into each page! Whenever possible, create the call-to-action as a button rather than a “click here” in text or an arrow.

Stay tuned over the coming weeks for engagement season tune-up tips about client communication strategies. Be sure to check out Alan’s Storefront tune-up tips, too!