» Hot Off the Presses: Two New Guides from WeddingWire

We’re delighted to announce the release of two brand-new guides from the editors at WeddingWire. These guides aim to educate and inspire couples as they plan their weddings.

Our 2017 WeddingWire Budget Guide features brand-new statistics and data, money-saving advice from experts, and a helpful tipping section. We frequently hear that couples can’t get enough budget advice, so this guide is sure to be a must-read for anyone planning a wedding.

We all know that having plentiful and delicious food is a major part of any wedding (no one wants hangry wedding guests!), so the WeddingWire Catering Guide is essential reading material. You’ll find catering trends, budget tips, real wedding menus, and much more. One warning: Don’t attempt to read this guide on an empty stomach!

Check out all of our planning guides on WeddingWire and feel free to share them with your clients. Stay tuned for many more guides to come in 2017!

Catering Guide cover photo by Megan Clouse Photography 

» A Match Made in Heaven: Video and Social Media

february-premium-webinar-tileWebinar recap!

Videos are a great way to capture the attention of your audience. In fact, videos account for almost 70% of consumer Internet traffic! But how do you create and distribute videos to best showcase your work if you don’t have video expertise? 

During this month’s webinar for Premium members WeddingWire Education Experts Alan Berg and Andy Ebon offered their their tips to easily use video combined with social media to attract and impress your audience even if you’re a video newbie.

Here are some of the webinar highlights:

  • Try out new Instagram features. Instagram Stories and Instagram Live videos are great tools for showing ‘behind-the-scenes’ videos of your work. Posted Stories are available to your followers for 24 hours, which can drive a sense of urgency for your audience. Live videos are only available while you’re broadcasting so it can be helpful to notify your audience in advance if you plan to go live.
  • YouTube is critical to video efforts.. As the second largest search engine after Google, YouTube is a vital component of any video strategy. In fact, 80% of 18-49 year olds watch YouTube each month. Product demos make great videos — just remember to keep videos under three minutes to hold your audience’s attention.
  • Optimize your YouTube videos. In addition to posting compelling video content, make sure to use best practices when creating your YouTube video posts. The right taglines, titles, descriptions, and calls-to-action can help your videos get discovered and viewed.
  • Use Facebook Live to engage followers. Facebook Live videos are an easy way to engage your audience in real-time. Check your phone’s connection before you go live to ensure your stream isn’t interrupted, allow enough broadcast time so that followers can join your live feed, and get creative with your ‘set’ to make your video more visually engaging.

For more tips and additional details about how to leverage these recommendations, watch the full webinar! Don’t forget that past webinars are available within Premium member’s accounts to view anytime.

» WeddingWire Networking Night Los Angeles

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at Noor for WeddingWire Networking Night Los Angeles!

At the Networking Night, LA wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy a gorgeous venue space, network with other local vendors across all service categories, and meet members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned about building relationships in a business with little to no repeat customers from WeddingWire Contributor, Bethel Nathan.

Thank you to all the wonderful professionals 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 enjoyable evening below.

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 from Lisa’s Bon Appetit!

» WeddingWire Networking Night Orange County

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at the Harborside Grand Ballroom for WeddingWire Networking Night Orange County!

At the Networking Night, Orange County wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy a stunning venue space, network with other local professionals across all service categories, and meet members of the WeddingWire team.

Thank you to all the wonderful pros who joined us! We’re excited to share the slides from our video educational presentation, our latest issue of WedInsights, and photos from the fantastic evening below.

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

The elegant event space and delicious appetizers provided by the Harborside Grand Ballroom
Amazing photos from the evening captured by Jim Kennedy Photographers
Fantastic DJ services provided by SoundWave Productions DJ & Lighting
Elegant floral arrangements provided by Susan’s Floral Design
Fun photo booth provided by Omni Booth

Finally, we’re excited to announce the winner of our WeddingWire Prize Pack give away – congrats to Sara from Avenue of the Arts Hotel!

» Why You Shouldn’t Say You’re ‘The Best’

The following post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon. Andy is the Founder of Wedding University and The Wedding Marketing Blog, and is an International Public Speaker, Writer and Consultant based in Las Vegas. Andy travels across North America and beyond, presenting to Associations, Wedding Industry Conferences, Regional Gatherings, and Local Meetings.

It’s all too common to read marketing declarations from wedding professionals stating they are “the best.” I suggest this is subjective truth at the maximum and lazy copywriting at the minimum. More importantly, it isn’t helping you win couples. Here’s why. 

Best? By Whose Standard?

Ok, so you might be the top wedding venue in South Dakota. Or, the most-recognized floral designer in Hollywood. Birmingham Weekly might recognize you as the best wedding DJ.

It never surprises me when a wedding couple’s testimonial expresses that XYZ Company is the “best” in the city, and you shouldn’t hire anyone else. That endorsement—however flattering—is usually overstated. The wedding couple may be thrilled with the job XYZ performed for their wedding. However, the couple likely interviewed only a handful of companies in the same class and perhaps saw another company or two provide service at a friend’s wedding.

In other words, praise is great for your business—even necessary to score new clients—but praising yourself isn’t part of an effective marketing strategy.

Focus on What Makes You Different and Exceptional

The real reason “best” is a throwaway word is because savvy consumers have trained themselves to tune it out. It’s the language equivalent of a brightly colored “sale” sign—you just feel like you’re about to be tricked, and you ignore it.

A better way to communicate why a couple should choose your services is to put yourself in their shoes. What are they actually looking for when searching for a photographer? A caterer? An event planner? What type of service are you providing? What is key to your ideal customer? How do you do what you do? What is your passion? (Beyond love. We all love love, so that’s not helping consumers, either.)

Essentially think of what you want to tell potential customers, not just about selling them.

 

Who’s Your Ideal Customer? Now Market to That Person.

As a wedding pro, you’re not trying to grab the widest audience. Your business and your services are actually pretty niche—you want couples that appreciate your style of service and are intending to pay what you charge. So, with that in mind, rededicate your marketing power to identify ideal customers, not just by demographics, but by psychographics—personality, lifestyle, budget, wedding planning style, etc.

Find specific qualities in your company that speak of your rare and identifiable characteristics; and don’t repeat indefinable clichés such as “best,” “unique” or “perfect.”

When reaching out for reviews, encourage clients to explain, specifically, what was different or special about your product or service.

I am confident, without hesitation, if you follow such a marketing path, targeted prospects will come flocking to you. And it will feel very good.  

» Wedding MBA 2017: Special Savings for WeddingWire Members

Don’t miss three exciting days of education for wedding professionals at Wedding MBA this October 2-4th in Las Vegas!

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Did you know you can save extra on your ticket just by being a WeddingWire member? Register on the Wedding MBA website with the code WW3624 to save an extra $20 on the current price (your discount will be applied at checkout).

What will you experience at Wedding MBA?

  • Engaging education to promote your business success. Attend the event for more than 150 seminars geared toward business, technology and trends in the wedding industry. This year, there are category-specific seminars on the first day to supplement the industry relevant main presentations to attend.
  • Presentations from industry leaders and experts. Attend inspirational and informative presentations from top industry influencers including WeddingWire CEO Timothy Chi, CMO Sonny Ganguly, Education Experts Alan Berg, Kathryn Hamm, Meghan Ely, and many more. View the full list of WeddingMBA speakers and sessions here.
  • Networking and celebrating with industry peers. Make new friends while attending the daily sessions, the annual much-anticipated WeddingWire Party, the WeddingWire Happy Hour and more. Plus, meet with members of the WeddingWire team to discuss your account and see what fun surprises we have in store at our Lounge!

Check out the highlights from last year’s event for an inside look at the conference, and get your ticket before the next price increase. See you in Vegas this fall!

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» 3 Million Reviews: Are You Feeling the Love?

weddingwire 3 million reviews

Virtual hugs are in order! With three million reviews, WeddingWire is the #1 site for couples to see newlywed feedback as they build their vendor team. We hope you’re feeling the love today, because more reviews for your business means more opportunities to reach new clients.

To sweeten the pot, we’re offering a $5 gift card to newlyweds who review at least five of their vendors before March 31, 2017. Be sure to ask your former clients to put in a good word for you to win free money toward Starbucks, Amazon or Sephora purchases. <<More contest details here>>

Wondering why reviews are so important to your business? Read up!

3 Reasons Why Wedding Reviews Are Important to Couples: 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.

Your Reviews Are Working Harder for You: Couples are now able to easily find reviews related to the type of event they are planning. We’ve found through user testing that more relevant reviews can resonate even stronger with potential clients.

10 Creative Ways to Use Your Reviews: Beyond just collecting reviews, make sure you make your reviews easy to find, and consider adding them to all your marketing collateral including emails, websites, materials and more.

Thank you to all of our Pros for working so hard to collect reviews for your business!

» 5 Ways You’re Losing The Sale

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

Getting a sales inquiry is a huge buying signal. By the time you get an email—or contact form, LiveChat, text or phone call—your potential couples have already done most of their filtering. They’ve put you on their short list. They’ve started with all of the possible choices and narrowed it down to a small group of potential companies in your service category—including you. 

At any point, we can either make it to the next round or be dropped. The thing is, we rarely know that we’ve been dropped from their list, because we didn’t know we were on it, yet. It isn’t until couples reach out to us that we know we’re even in the running. Therefore, once we get that inquiry, most of our competitors have fallen off the list. When you get that inquiry, even if it says nothing more than “Are you available and how much do you charge?,”that’s a strong buying signal. As far as I’m concerned, at that point it’s your sale to lose. And, it’s a sale most others in your market and category will never get.

So, here are five ways you’re losing that sale:

Trying to force a phone call.

If they wanted to call you, you’d have a phone message, not an email (text, chat, etc.). Unless their email says “please call me,” reply via the same method by which they’ve reached out to you.

Sending auto-replies that don’t add value.

When someone emails you, whether a prospect you’ve never connected with, or a current/past client, they want a reply from a person, not an auto-reply. If you’re out of town at a wedding, a conference or for vacation, it’s perfectly fine to have an out of office message informing your clients of that. That’s information couples need to know.

However, if they email you and get something like “Thank you for your message. It’s very important to us. We’ll get back to you in 24-48 hours,” that’s a statement of the obvious. They expect a reply within 24 hours. According to WedInsights: “Over 80% of couples use emails to inquire about a vendor’s product or service and expect to hear back within 24 hours, if not sooner.” Telling them that you’ll reply within the timeframe that they expect adds no value.

How do you feel when you’re the consumer, and you receive an auto-reply like that? Do you think “Oh goody, I got an auto-reply!” Or, are you no better off than before you emailed? The only time you should use an auto-reply is when it adds value to the conversation. People want a reply from a real person.

Sending attachments and brochures in your first email.

Some of you are puzzled now. They may have even asked for you to send information, so why would I be saying not to send attachments? It’s simple. About 70% of WeddingWire consumer emails are opened on mobile devices, according to WedInsights. Your couples are reading email on their phones and your attachments aren’t formatted for their phone. Your website may be responsive and adapt to their screen, but your PDFs aren’t. Yes, they will open. But, they will open with really small print. Many of you use the file from your printed brochures, which seems like a good idea—until you see that double-page spread on a smartphone screen.

Your brochures aren’t going to close the sale. They aren’t going to create a relationship with your brides and grooms. You have to do that.

Writing way too much in your first reply.

When you get an inquiry, especially if it’s on your contact form, it’s likely to not have much information. In email, as in person, you should mirror your customer. If they write a short message, your answer should be short. If they write a long message, they’re signaling that your answer can be long. Many are planning their weddings from work, and they can’t take the time to read your long reply. When you get a long email from someone, don’t you often put it off until later? But the short ones, they get read right away, don’t they? Keep it short, until they signal otherwise with a long reply.

Not asking a question at the end of your message.

If you want to get a reply to your message, ask one question. Don’t ask everything you need to know, all at once. That’s not how a conversation goes. With real conversation, you ask a question, then wait for the answer (which is why my new sales book is called Shut Up and Sell More Weddings & Events”). If you ask a question in your email and then write another paragraph or two, you’ve buried it, so couples aren’t likely to respond. If you end your email with a period or exclamation point, that’s the end of the conversation. If you ask them five questions, they’re likely to not answer them all. Ask one question, then wait for an answer. Then, ask another question, the way you would if you were on the phone or in person.

If you’re losing many sales based on price, then you should consider putting pricing information on your site and storefront. Most couples want to see pricing before even reaching out to a vendor, according to WedInsights. A realistic price range is my favorite, but not putting anything will invite everyone to inquire. If you have something for everyone, that’s great. But if you don’t, then putting a price range will help them filter. Just remember that every time you get an inquiry you should be happy. That’s a strong buying signal, even when the couple asks about price (which couples often do, because they don’t know what else to ask). Help prospective couples continue their journey towards hiring you by being the first—and best—at replying and having a conversation.

» 3 New Instagram Updates You Should Be Using

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The wild, wacky world of social media is ever-evolving. Case in point: Instagram and its bevy of new features for marketers. While change was slow in the four years since the company was acquired by Facebook, the visual blogging site has hit the ground running in recent months to integrate with Facebook and offer similar tools for audience engagement.

Here’s a rundown of the big changes:

1. Stay Top of Mind With Instagram Stories

We’re sure you’ve seen those little circles above your Instagram timeline by now. The Stories feature is Instagram’s attempt at replicating the immediacy and fleeting nature of popular new networks like Snapchat. So far, it’s been a wild success, capturing 150 million daily users in the first 25 weeks.

How it works is pretty simple: From the home screen, click the little camera symbol on the top left corner. This will activate your phone’s camera and you’ll have the option to shoot a live video (more on that later), a normal photo, a Boomerang video or a hands-free video. You also have the option to use photos and videos taken within the last 24 hours by pressing down on the bottom of the screen and swiping up. Once you’ve taken or selected an appropriate image, you can simply add it to your story. This will stay visible to your followers for 24 hours. You can continually add an infinite number of photos and videos to your story, each adorned with text, drawings, time stamps, location stamps or accessories like crowns and sunglasses.

2. Take Advantage of Shared Facebook-Instagram Business Tools and Go “Live” on Instagram

You probably noticed last year that there were a lot more business tools for Instagram users, including the ability to add a “contact” button to your page and to see detailed analytics within the Instagram app. These tools come as Facebook finally integrates the two social media platforms, allowing businesses to reply to comments from both platforms from the Facebook Pages app, manage campaigns across both platforms through Facebook’s Business portal and employ some of the bigger network’s most popular features, including the ability to go “Live.”

Instagram Live works in a similar fashion as Facebook Live, in that followers are alerted that you’re live. However, unlike Facebook Live, the video content is not archived and disappears as soon as you stop broadcasting.

3. Encourage Engagement by Liking the Likes

Engagement is super-important to wedding pros looking to connect with couples and peers. Social media should always feel like a conversation between you and other folks—not like a rally where you’re blasting your message out through a megaphone. Which is why it’s a pretty big deal that Instagram now allows you to like comments on your posts as well as making it even easier directly reply to the user. As you grow your social media presence, it may not always be possible or make sense to reply to every comment (although you should aim to go into the comments on a regular basis!), but a simple like is a great way to show that you’ve read it and you appreciate it.

Learn more about how Instagram can fit into your overall marketing strategy

» WeddingWire Networking Night Charlotte

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at the Separk Mansion for WeddingWire Networking Night Charlotte!

At the Networking Night, Charlotte pros had the opportunity to enjoy a stunning venue space, network with other local professionals across all service categories, and meet members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned about how to better reach engaged couples through social media from 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 enjoyable evening below.

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 Tammy from Blissful Honeymoons & Destination Weddings!

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» Say Cheese! The WeddingWire Photography Guide is Here!

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The photographer is typically the second vendor a couple books (after their venue), and with so many talented professionals out there, it can be a difficult decision. The brand-new WeddingWire Photography Guide aims to assist and inspire couples as they search for the photographer who best suits their aesthetic, personality, and budget. In this online guide, we cover the logistics of selecting a pro, the details of photography packages and styles and much, much more. This is the WeddingWire Editorial Team’s first guide of 2017 and there are many more planned for the coming year—stay tuned!

Cover photo by Sam Stroud Photography

» How to Maintain a Consistent Brand Voice

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andy-ebon-squareThe following post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon. Andy is the Founder of Wedding University and The Wedding Marketing Blog, and is an International Public Speaker, Writer and Consultant based in Las Vegas. Andy travels across North America and beyond, presenting to Associations, Wedding Industry Conferences, Regional Gatherings, and Local Meetings.

Continuity and consistency are first cousins in the execution of your marketing. Continuity is using marketing tools—like your WeddingWire storefront, website, social media content, logo, etc.— in a cohesive and recognizable manner. Basically, you want to be “you” across every potential client touch point. Consistency, on the other hand, is taking action with regularity. In other words: Being consistent with the use of those tools. This can mean posting to Facebook twice a day, blogging twice weekly, being in touch with your contacts at routine intervals and being sure that your advertising is in tune with most couples’ wedding planning journey.

The combination of updating with continuity and consistency, your brand and the company message forge ahead, leaving the impression of a progressive company both with engaged couples and your peers.

Remember, marketing is everything that touches the prospect or client—not just advertising or social media. Here are a few ways to maintain a consistent brand voice:

Keep it Short and Professional Over the Phone

For some couples, your phone manners is one of the first impressions of your business. Whether you are a one-person micro business or a company with many employees, the way anyone answers the phone should sound the same.

XYZ Company, this is Andy. How can I help you?

Simple, clear, to the point. If you are not the right person to assist, do your utmost to connect the caller with the correct person.

The best example I can offer for a smaller business is a catering professional in Atlanta. She updated her voicemail every day. Her script would go something like this:

Good day and thanks for calling. This is Shelley. Today is Tuesday, March 14th. I’ll be out of the office on client appointments this morning, but you can expect a callback after lunch. If your call requires immediate attention, don’t hesitate to text me at 777-777-7777 and I will do my best to your reach you even sooner. Thanks for calling, and make it a great day!

And, of course, when she was back in the office, the message would be updated. This kind of continuity is spectacular.

Keep Your Delivery and Set-Up Crew Sharp

When your staff members or delivery crew arrive at a venue, how are they dressed? Be sure that even this aspect reflects your company’s personality. A no-fuss option is a company t-shirt or polo-style shirt, accompanied by jeans or slacks.

The moment a venue representative sees you “in uniform,” you’ve broken the ice and are part of the team. Make sure you supply your crew with two or three shirts, so the uniform is always clean and ready to go.

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Don’t Slack with Print Media

The most frequent mistake I see in print ads or flyers is poor headlines. Your company name is not a headline. Your company slogan or favorite hashtag is not a headline. A headline is a phrase, usually accompanied by a visual, crafted to encourage the prospect to read the rest of the ad.

Avoid cliche words such as perfect, dream, unique, awesome and the like. It’s not just about your ad, but the other ads in a publication. Do your utmost to avoid verbiage you recognize in other ads. Make sure the ad is specific to your business and is told in your brand voice.

Are You Wasting Time with Social Media?

It’s always a good idea to periodically evaluate your approach to social media. The first thing to ask yourself is, “Am I using this to its fullest? Should I just drop it or revive it?” You also want to be honest about whether or not your social media content is helping potential clients and peers learn more about your brand personality.

If you are not using a social media platform frequently enough, then make it go away. If you are not measuring social media success across-the-board, then start. If you are not using analytics tools, such as those provided by WeddingWire, get going. Failure to ask these questions could mean you’re spending precious time on platforms that aren’t performing for you or just aren’t enjoyable to you. Your audience can tell when you’re just going through the motions, so be sure you’re invested in whichever platforms you choose.

Speaking of choosing social media platforms, it is easy to find the shiny, new object. Over time, you can wind up with 10 or more social media accounts. It’s far wiser to review what you are really using and the delete those that you don’t update or haven’t managed to engage meaningfully. You’ll usually find that about five platforms are serving you well. If a couple are underused, get them going. Settle in with platforms that really serve you and be solid on the frequency that works for your business.

Get Visual

We live in a highly visual society, so be sure your brand visuals are consistent with your brand voice. This means featuring a diverse variety of couples on your website, storefront, social media and advertising. It also means reviewing images a couple of times a year. Delete some and replace them with newer ones. Keeping your photos current is a reflection of staying up to date with style. Aging wedding dresses and decor do not reflect well on your company.

Typeface About-Face

Don’t forget fonts in your marketing brand evaluation. If you haven’t already, select a few that complement your logo design. Your choices of typeface should be limited about two on a single page. The eye has a difficult time adjusting to more than that. Have a sense about font sizes and make sure they work on all kinds of hardware: Smart phones, tablets and computers.

What Else To Consider

Each company has other factors to consider in continuity and consistency. Add to this list and revisit your thinking. When you review and refresh, it will move your business forward. This should be a regular activity to surpass the competition.