» WeddingWire Networking Night Baltimore

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at The Grand Baltimore for WeddingWire Networking Night Baltimore!

At the Networking Night, wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy an art deco event space while networking over light fare. 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 night, 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 Alison of Alison Harper & Company, LLC!


» Wedding Community Comes Together for Wedding MBA 2017

Photo by What Em Sees Photography

It has been difficult to find the words for the tragic events that took place in Las Vegas last week, but it was humbling to witness the outpouring of love and acts of kindness throughout the Las Vegas community and beyond. We are grateful for the wedding community of professionals who came together to turn a time of tragedy into a week of uplifting unity and support. Despite the unfortunate events, the community of wedding professionals at Wedding MBA came together to connect, learn and celebrate unity.

The week was filled with educational presentations, networking, and plenty of selfies (with confetti!) at the WeddingWire booth. WeddingWire Education Experts and WeddingWire CMO Sonny Ganguly held nine educational sessions covering a wide variety of topics from tech trends to social media to closing sales and more.

Photos by What Em Sees Photography

The WeddingWire booth was enjoyed by all, featuring a large LED screen displaying real-time Instagram posts from conference goers using #WeDoWMBA. Selfie and boomerang booths were set up in front of fun backdrops with bubbles and confetti galore. The hoodie and t-shirt giveaways were a hit, in addition to one-on-one meetings with Customer Success Managers, a coffee bar, a beauty bar, and so much more!

Photo by Jake Klein Photography

In the spirit of unity, WeddingWire partnered with The Knot to turn our scheduled parties into one joint fundraiser in support of the Las Vegas victims and community. The fundraiser was held on Tuesday, October 3rd at Jewel Nightclub at the ARIA Resort and Casino. WeddingWire and The Knot each donated $5 per attendee totaling $16,000 given to the Las Vegas Victims’ fund on top of the suggested $10 donation for attendees.

A very special thank you to our amazing partners: Jason Jani of SCE Event Group and DJ Brian B for DJing our party, DJ Jer Events & Lighting Design for lighting up our booth and making it pop, Montell Jordan for the throwback entertainment, Ella Gagiano Studios for the in-booth headshots, Bobbie Pin Beauty for the pre-fundraiser makeovers, and The Photo Booth Group or the selfie/boomerang stations at our booth and party.

To see more photos check out the full album here. For more event takeaways and to stay up-to-date on all the latest WeddingWire happenings for wedding professionals, be sure to follow WeddingWireEDU on Instagram.

To help the victims of the Vegas tragedy, you can donate to the Las Vegas Victims’ Fund at http://wed.li/helpvegas.

» How to Prep Your Press Page for Engagement Season

Scott Aleman Photography

Photo by: Scott Aleman Photography

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

As the holidays begin to approach you can almost feel it coming…engagement season is just around the corner. Happy couples excited about launching into their wedding planning will be discovering you daily through your online presence. So you must ask yourself: Is my press page ready?

One of the best tools at your disposal to capture press about your company and promote it long after the publish date is a press page that features links to your recent mentions and serves as testimony to the recognition you have received.

You work hard year-round to keep your PR strategy on track and your name in front of the right audience and you don’t want to let an out of date press page weaken your overall publicity strategy. So, gear up for engagement season and prep your press page now.

Audit Your Online Footprint

Before couples start to search for your services, take a long, hard look at your press page and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Is your page current? It’s easy to let things slip in the busy season, so make sure you’ve collected your press from the last year.
  • Is it easy to navigate? Your press page should be simple, yet impactful. It should showcase your top press with links to the coverage as appropriate. Don’t make couples hunt and peck to find what you want them to see.
  • Does it highlight my top press? It’s a common mistake to put the page in chronological order, but that’s not ideal. You need to include a mix of press, with the majority of features from the past year and with your very best press near the top. Prioritize highly trafficked sites and those that will impress prospects the most.
  • Is it consistent with the couples I want to attract? Another mistake is to believe that you must include every single press mention you’ve ever received. At a minimum, you need three features on your page, but you can certainly include more. When deciding what to use and what to trim, focus on the press that will attract your target prospects and help convert them to booked business.

    Do all of the links work? This is the time to test them out!

Review Your Social Media Press Promotion

You should also evaluate how you promote your press with social media. Different platforms have their own specific press pages, such as:

  • Facebook: Create an album dedicated exclusively to press about your business. Upload screenshots and scans or links to magazine features and credit the sources accordingly. Also, tag the wedding day team that helped the day come together.
  • Pinterest: Create a board dedicated to pins of your press.
  • Instagram: Consider a branded hashtag that relates to your company and press. Use your phone and take a screenshot of online features or take a photo of print pages and share them in a post.

Make sure that prospective clients can easily find an up-to-date and powerful representation of the press you’ve worked so hard to receive. Review your press page now and make any necessary updates and upgrades before engagement season begins.

Haven’t yet focused on press for your business? Here are some tips to get started.
Easy Peasy PR Tips for Small Business Professionals
Wedding PR: Crafting Your Personal Brand
What Are the Best Media Outlets for Me?

Exclusive Wedding PR Education Expert for WeddingWire Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR agency OFD Consulting. She also leads the newly launched OFD Collective, a membership based community of wedding professionals seeking PR education and publicity opportunities for their business.

» Social Media Insights: Use These 3 Platforms to Book More Couples

It’s challenging to stay on top of the latest social media sites and trends — especially while you are busy running a successful business. However, social media doesn’t need to require a ton of time to make a big impact and expand your client reach.

To start gearing up for engagement season we recommend evaluating your presence on the ‘big three’ social media sites that your clients are loving — and determining where you need to be active this engagement season.

Here are a few of our key insights:

  • Visual sharing on social is key. This is part of the reason that Instagram has risen to popularity so quickly! Billions of photos and videos are shared on social media everyday. Don’t miss an opportunity to show off your work on a regular basis!
  • Your clients love social media. The majority of today’s engaged couples are Millennials in their twenties and early thirties. 86% use social media and 56% report that they would only consider booking vendors they can find on social media.
  • How do they use social while planning their wedding? First, they turn to the virtual pinboard site Pinterest to get inspired. Next, they move to Facebook to learn more about vendors they are interested in, then they turn to Instagram to see your aesthetic and style.
  • They follow the wedding pros they’re interested in. 61% of couples ‘follow’ or ‘like’ the professionals they want to learn more about. Why? To get inspiration for their wedding, see the quality of your work and get more info about your business.
  • Where should you invest your time? The top three sites to invest your time and connect with your clients today are: Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. You can cut back time on Snapchat, Twitter, Google+ and Tumblr due to a lack of interaction with your clients or general sharing traffic on those sites this year.

For more tips on social media and how to freshen your social media sites in preparation for engagement season check out these articles:
Social Media Bios That Attract Couples
Social Media Marketing: What Not To Do

» How to Run a Facebook Contest This Engagement Season

Walking Eagle Photography

Photo by Walking Eagle Photography

Running contests and giveaways is a great way to get engagement and visibility for your Facebook page, but it’s important to be aware of the  promotional guidelines you must follow to ensure a successful promotion. Before running a Facebook contest or giveaway this engagement season, we recommend brushing up on Facebook’s guidelines in order to avoid your account being flagged or shut down. Here are three of Facebook’s rules that you may not have known about before.

You cannot ask for shares or tags as a requirement for entry

“Share this post and tag a friend in the comments to enter!” is a common line found in contest posts on Facebook, and it makes sense, right? Shares get you in front of more people and if someone tags a friend who is engaged, it can get you in front of more potential clients – plus, everyone asks for shares and tagging in the comments! It can’t be that bad…right?

As innocent as it may seem, asking for people to share your post or tag a friend violates Facebook’s guidelines. The official Facebook rule states, “Personal Timelines and friend connections must not be used to administer promotions.”

This means that you cannot ask for people to: share your post to their page, share your post to a friend’s page, tag friends in the comments, or tag friends or themselves in a photo in order to enter your contest.

However, you can ask people to like the post or comment in order to enter. You can even encourage tagging a friend in the comments or sharing the post to spread the word, as long as it is not a condition to enter the contest.

You must state the official terms and eligibility requirements for your contest

Your post should explain the rules of the contest or giveaway. Make sure to include minimum age, location, or other requirement for entry, along with how the winner will be chosen and any other terms that you would like to include. If you have longer terms and conditions, you can always link to a web page that outlines them.

For example, if you are a wedding photographer hosting a giveaway for a free engagement session, you may want to state that all eligible participants must be engaged, living within your state, and must be getting married within a certain timeframe.

You must state that Facebook is in no way affiliated with or sponsoring your contest

Facebook requires that you make it clear that they are not connected with your contest whatsoever. The easiest way to do this and cover all your bases is to pull directly from Facebook’s official contest guidelines and add a line to the end of your post stating that your promotion “is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.”

Now that you know three important Facebook contest guidelines to follow, here are some ideas for contests and giveaways:

  • Ask for couples to share their wedding date in the comments, then randomly select one couple to receive a discount off a package or a free service.
  • Post a photo that relates to the couple (photo of them, their wedding, their invitations, etc.) and state that if you get a certain number comments or likes on the post, the couple will get a discount or bonus while working with you.
  • In a post about engagements, have couples comment with their engagement story or location, encouraging photos and details. Then randomly select an engagement story from the comments to win and be shared.

» How to Get On Preferred Vendor Lists (and Stay on Them)

Photo by: Studio 616 Photography

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

The illustrious preferred vendor list is something that, as business owners, we all strive to be on. The exclusivity and third party validation is very appealing, not to mention the leg up it can give you against competition and the increased exposure to couples. So the question is, how do you get on it and stay on it?

I’m sharing some of my best practices for getting on preferred vendor lists and staying on them. With engagement season right around the corner, there’s no better time to start putting these tips into action for your business.

Never Ask Immediately

Asking a fellow vendor or venue if you can get on their preferred list right out of the gate is probably the biggest mistake you can make. Would you want someone you just met five minutes ago asking you for a favor? No, probably not. Once you have gotten to know them more on a professional (or even personal) level, bring the subject up in a more general way. For example, ask them how they choose who to put on the list, or how often they refresh the list. That way you are getting the intel you want without directly asking them to consider you.  

Get to Know the Other Vendors

Sit down and take a look at the list(s) you want to be a part of, and take note of the other vendors on it that you may already know or would like to get to know. The local events community is a small one, and your relationships with people can make all the difference. If you’re close to someone that is well connected, and they respect your reputation, they may recommend you the next time a vacancy on a preferred list comes up. This strategy has worked for me for years, and it’s another reason why networking is so important for wedding businesses.

Don’t Take It for Granted

If and when you are added to the preferred list, don’t get too comfortable. Several places will update theirs at least once a year, and if they barely remember who you are or have been in close contact with someone else, you can easily be replaced. Small gestures can be a fun and creative way to keep your business at the top of their minds. For example, we celebrate obscure national holidays (think National Miniature Golf Day) and send funny notes and trinkets to our vendor friends that will put a smile on their face.

Don’t let the idea of trying to get on a preferred vendor list scare you. With the right approach businesses will be adding you in no time.  

Kevin Dennis is the editor of WeddingIQ and 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 past national president for WIPA.

» Want More Reviews? Start Doing These 4 Things

Photo by Rhinehart Photography

With summer weddings officially wrapped up and lots of fall weddings underway, now is a great time to start gathering reviews from recent clients. This will allow you to freshen up your WeddingWire Storefront, website, and social media channels with recent reviews before the influx of newly engaged couples starts heading your way during the winter months!

Remember, 95% of couples use reviews to select their vendors and recency is the most important factor when couples are evaluating your reviews! Couples like to hear (and see!) what they should expect – not from the vendors themselves, but from past couples who’ve been in their position.

Whether you’re new to collecting reviews or an expert, here are some top tips to remember:

  1. Just ask! Most newlyweds are very busy, and might forget to write you a review without a reminder, so start by asking them directly. If the first ask doesn’t translate to a review, make sure to remind them! 1 in 3 clients will write a review if they are reminded at least once. You can remind the couple how important reviews are to your business and how much you and future couples appreciate them.
  2. Give them time. Don’t ask for a review the day after a wedding – there is an ideal gratitude period that is around 2-3 weeks for most businesses. However, photographers, videographers, and invitation designers should send a review request after the product is delivered to the couple, whether that be before or after the wedding.
  3. Automate – but keep it personal. Automate the process of requesting reviews so that you don’t forget, but remember to keep it personal to get the best response from couples. Scheduling review requests is even easier with the Review Collector tool that is available in your WeddingWire account. The tool allows you to consistently ask for reviews but always make sure to edit the automated request to include personal details about the couple’s day. This will show that you were genuinely invested in their wedding and will reinforce your bond before they write the review.
  4. Build reviews into your culture. Make reviews a priority in your business so that reviews are top of mind for your clients from the beginning. Our best advice? Mention reviews early and often. Start mentioning them in your sales process so that your clients aren’t surprised when you ask for a review later on. In addition to client communications, build them into your team culture by training your staff to talk about reviews frequently, and try incentivizing them to collect reviews.

Pro tip: Respond to ALL reviews. Whether the review is positive or negative, responding to reviews gives you the opportunity to showcase your personality to future couples, demonstrate your responsiveness, and express how much you care about each and every client. Remember to thank all reviewers for taking the time to share their opinions and feedback. If a review is negative, make sure to respond with a future couple in mind and don’t write the response while you are upset. Keep the response simple and don’t play the “he said she said” game.

These tips came from our Premium webinar, The Power of Reviews. Premium members can access the webinar here.

» Attract More Couples with Photos in Reviews – New on WeddingWire

Photo by: Patrick Nied Photography

Clients can now add photos along with their review on your WeddingWire Storefront to help you attract future bookings.

Photos bring a visual perspective to written reviews and showcase the experience of working with a vendor. When used alongside written reviews, photos are a great way to build credibility and allow couples to see a glimpse of your past work. Photos also create a unique Storefront experience and provide the opportunity to increase user engagement, helping couples solidify their decision to book you for their wedding.

Here’s a peek of how it will look on your WeddingWire Storefront:

There’s no better time to request reviews from recent clients and encourage them to share photos of your amazing work. For tips on collecting, managing and using your reviews in creative ways see these articles:

How to Stand Out Using Your Reviews
3 Reasons Reviews are Important to Couples
4 Ways to Use Reviews on Social Media
10 Creative Ways to Use Your Reviews

» How to Stand Out Using Your Reviews

Photo by: B. Jones Photography

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

I’ve seen quite a few websites that have a paragraph, or even a page, that explains why a couple should hire a professional in their field (planner, videographer, invitation designer…). But by the time someone has gotten to that website, they’re already thinking that they want, or need a professional. That’s why they’re there. People don’t accidentally get to your website. They have to go through a series of steps to get there. Instead of using that valuable real estate to sell why they need someone in your field, use that space to sell you, and only you, for their wedding or event.

Evaluate the strength of your brand

A brand is many things. It’s much more than a logo or colors. Those are just visuals, to help identify your company. Your brand goes much deeper. What does it feel like, to do business with your company? What does it mean to do business with you? When choosing between you and your company, and another in your market and category, what are the differentiating factors? It’s not your bullet point list of services. Most of your competitors have a similar list, including good reviews and being nice people. What statement does it make to their wedding or event guests, to see that you are their officiant, designer or transportation company? You can have really nice products and services, and not have a strong brand.

What are you really selling?

Unless your unique selling proposition (USP) is that you’re the cheapest price, some people are seeing a difference between what you’re offering, and other options. Can you articulate why they’re choosing you? Can you go beyond a bullet point list of what services you offer, to show them why they should choose you, and only you, for their wedding or event?

Your reviews are branding gold

Like so many seemingly difficult questions, the way to express your brand is very close at hand. By heading over to your WeddingWire account, you’re only one click away from finding your brand. Click over to the Reviews tab in your dashboard for a simple exercise. Look for phrases and sentences that come up, over and over again. The way that past customers are describing their experience with you is one of the best ways, that I know, to articulate what it means to do business with you. Your happy clients say things you can’t, or won’t. They use words and phrases that would sound funny, or strange, or egotistical, if you said them. They express emotions, that show others what it’s like to choose you, and your team, and even specific members of your team. Unless you are new, and have no reviews, you’re sitting on a gold mine. You need to find those wonderful nuggets.

Let your reviews speak for themselves

Now comes the fun part. Don’t just identify those great sentences and phrases. Sprinkle them around your website, in your marketing, in your email communications and more. Answer this question: “Why should you choose (your business) for your wedding (your service)?” and then, instead of you answering the question, say “That’s a fair question, and one you should definitely ask, before deciding. Rather than tell you about our experience and professionalism, we’d rather let our couples, people just like you, tell you their experiences having us for their weddings:” Put a few bullets with those short phrases and sentences you found above. Finish it off with a strong call to action: “If these are the kinds of results you’d like for your wedding, call, text or contact us today 747.555.1234” Always ask for the sale, or at least the next steps, when you answer a question, or objection.

I have a document where I save all of the great reviews, testimonial notes, social comments, etc. Then, when I need a quote for a web page, marketing piece, or email, they’re close at hand, and searchable. So, get out your miner’s hat, and start finding the gold in your reviews and testimonials. Then, let your happy customers express your brand, and your ‘why’ to your prospects. Many other wedding and event pros are seeing success with this, and I know you can too.

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.

 

 

» 3 Reasons Reviews Are Important to Couples

Photo by: epaga FOTO

You’ve been hearing it for years: reviews are imperative for your wedding business. We’ve seen just how important online reviews have become – and how couples are using this information throughout the entire planning process, from researching prospective vendors to making a final booking. But from the couple’s perspective, why are reviews so important?

Our WedInsights series provides wedding professionals with consumer and business insights from a variety of research and surveys conducted throughout the year. The Reviews volume is full of actionable information surrounding reviews from initial research to the actual submission of wedding reviews. Below are a few reasons your wedding reviews are important to both engaged and newlywed couples!

Couples are looking for baseline information

When couples read your wedding reviews, they’re trying to find out more about your business than you’ve provided on your Storefront or website. In fact, couples consider price and reviews to be the most important features when choosing which vendors to reach out to for their big day! Collectively, reviews provide information about your business’ personality, quality of work, and professionalism that is most likely not conveyed through your own marketing materials.

Couples want to read about the full experience

83% of searching couples like to hear what they should expect – not from the vendors themselves, but from past customers who’ve been in their position. Whether your reviews display your business in a positive or in a not-so-positive light, couples want to read about it all. Even negative reviews provide valuable information about your responsiveness, timeliness, and consistency. But don’t worry about a few unfavorable reviews: Over 50% of couples say they are more likely to consider a vendor who has a mixture of positive and negative reviews, rather than no reviews at all.

Couples want to help future couples – and vendors!

Because reviews are such a big part of the planning process, couples know that feedback is super important for other brides and grooms searching for their vendors. Furthermore, they know how important positive feedback can be for vendors. Our data shows that couples are most likely to write a review for their venue, officiant, and DJ, but that doesn’t mean your business won’t receive a review if your business doesn’t fall into one of those service categories. One in three clients will write a review if they are reminded at least once. All you have to do is ask! You can contact your previous clients using the Review Collector Tool or send them an email to request a review.

Prospective clients want to hear real stories from real couples so they can gauge whether you can help fulfill their vision and deliver quality service. The more reviews you have, the more couples can learn about your business before contacting you – meaning more qualified leads.


» Why You Should Never Buy Followers on Social Media

The desire to feel validated and popular, paired with the difficulty of earning followers organically leads a lot of businesses to want to buy followers – after all, a higher number of followers will make you look better to couples checking out your page… right? Not necessarily.

Having the ability to show off thousands of followers sounds nice in theory, but buying followers can be harmful to your brand in more ways than one. Here’s why:

Buying followers impacts your credibility

Nobody else may know that you bought followers, but if couples who check out your social profiles figure out that your followers are fake, it will significantly impact your credibility and trustworthiness – the two things you were hoping to build. You don’t want couples to start wondering things like, “If you are paying your way to internet popularity, what else might you not be totally upfront about?”

Fake followers are obvious

There are so many ways to spot fake followers. If someone sees your company’s Facebook or Instagram account one day and notices that you have a certain number of followers, then comes back the next day to see that you have ten times the amount of followers from the day before, they will know something is up.

Furthermore, fake followers never have realistic profiles. They often have a randomly generated username, similar profile pictures and bios, and rarely have more than one post published to their account. If someone notices that those are the types of accounts following you, they will know for sure your followers aren’t real.

People may think poorly of your content

Consider this scenario: a couple goes to your profile or company page and sees how “popular” you are with such a large following. When they start exploring your posts, they are probably expecting many likes, shares, and comments, but instead, they see almost no interactions with your content. Their first reaction will likely be that no one is interested in the content you share, and therefore it isn’t worth checking out.

SEO will take a hit

If your follower count is disproportionately higher than the number of people you follow and the number of posts you have published, Google may actually flag your account as fake and penalize your profile and website in search rankings. This is because having fewer posts with an abnormally large number of followers is a common indication of a fake account, and Google wants to show users quality search results. If links to your website are primarily being shared on what is flagged as a fake account, Google will interpret that as spam. In short, quality content gets prioritized when it comes to SEO and purchased followers can impact your quality score.

So how do you gain real followers organically?

  • Post examples of your work, behind the scenes snapshots, photos with couples, and go live on Facebook to showcase you and your business to couples
  • Interact with your followers
  • Be authentic and have personality so couples know you are genuine and real
  • Publish posts often, but don’t spam followers with promotional content
  • Run giveaways for couples – For example, if your photo gets 100 likes or comments, a participant could win a fun freebie related to your business

Growing your social media following organically is almost always the better practice. Instead of spending money on a following that will do nothing for your business, invest your time using the above tactics to create a following that will be far more likely to gain value from your posts and therefore more likely to engage with you and your business.

» WeddingWire at Create & Cultivate Seattle

On September 9th the WeddingWire team was thrilled to join hundreds of inspiring and entrepreneurial women as a sponsor of Create & Cultivate’s Seattle Conference. Hosted on Microsoft’s Campus, the day was filled with impactful workshops, meaningful mentor sessions, and empowering discussions, including the “Radically Creative” panel featuring WeddingWire’s own Jeffra Trumpower, Associate Director, Content + Creative Services. Attendees also enjoyed delicious cocktails, food, pop-up shops, photo booths, gift bags and of course a WeddingWire Confetti bar (where many “boomerang” videos ensued!).

If you aren’t familiar with Create & Cultivate, it is an organization for women who are “looking to create and cultivate the career of their dreams”. C&C gathers the next generation of curious creatives, entrepreneurs, and “girl bosses” to spark conversation around the topics they are passionate about including brand building, small business strategy and influencer marketing. Along with all of these talented and like-minded influencers, entrepreneurs, and event professionals, WeddingWire was joined by other influential brands such as Microsoft, Refinery29, La Croix, GoDaddy, Express, Shopstyle and more. We, along with many others, left feeling inspired and empowered to bring our learnings back to WeddingWire HQ.

To read more about Create & Cultivate head on over to their site and don’t miss the write up on how WeddingWire is Defying Tech Industry Norms!