» 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.  

» How to Keep Your Storefront Fresh Year-Round

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Photo by Bradley Images

Even when you’re at your busiest during wedding season, your Storefront still needs a little love! Actively maintaining your Storefront will help you book business throughout the year. We’re not talking about a major time commitment or Storefront overhaul – you can build simple Storefront revisions and updates into your process to make it manageable for your busy schedule.

Here are a few easy ways to ensure your Storefront makes a strong impression for your business year-round:  

Review your main image – and make sure it still stands out!

Even though it’s small, your thumbnail image is very important! That tiny photo could make or break a couple’s decision to click to your Storefront as they are browsing the WeddingWire directory for wedding professionals in your category. Make sure that your business stands out by adding a high quality, compelling image.

Take action:

  1. Avoid using generic photos. You want to showcase your expertise in a way that will catch the eye of a couple. Be sure to use professional photography to ensure that the photo composition, lighting and focus are ideal.
  2. Test it on mobile. Couples are browsing through Storefronts on their phones, so take a moment to ensure that your thumbnail is compatible. Is it missing the detail you were trying to show? Did you turn the couple into headless horsemen? If so, fix it!
  3. Look at your competition’s thumbnail images. You’ll want your main image to stand out and make the best first impression of your business so that you will attract more engaged couples. It’s important to check this a few times per year to ensure that it still stands out.

Pro tip: Make sure your main image and photos meet WeddingWire’s Storefront content guidelines when making updates.

Verify that all information is up-to-date.

Take the time to read through your FAQs and your business description (and all of the text on your Storefront); as silly as it might feel, do it out loud! Does it mention old services that you no longer offer? Question every sentence to make sure that you are describing your business accurately.

Take action:

  1. Check out the Storefront content requirements for guidelines. We encourage you to update your Storefront regularly so that it accurately portrays your brand and your services. You want to send a consistent message to potential clients and be sure to make a strong first impression when they visit your Storefront. Keep in mind that WeddingWire’s content team will review and update your Storefront content whenever you make changes in order to help improve your ranking across top search engines and help you book more couples.
  2. Make sure pricing and FAQs are up-to-date. The couple is on your Storefront after all, so you’ve already gotten them this far! Make sure that you are providing all of the key details that they are looking for when evaluating your business and comparing you to other wedding professionals in your category. Remember that 88% of couples want to see pricing information before getting in contact with a vendor, so be sure to keep your pricing details  updated.

Captivate couples using your reviews.

After your thumbnail image and your Storefront photos, the next thing a couple will look at is your reviews. The more reviews you have, the more engaged couples will be able to see the consistency of your work and the way past couples feel about you. The more recent your reviews, the more a couple will be able to see that your business is presently providing a great service. Couples care what you did last week or last month, not so much what you did over a year ago!  

While having a ton of reviews is great, it’s not the only thing couples are considering when they are looking at your reviews. Couples are also looking at the recency, your responses and emotional keywords that can connect them to experiences you provided other couples.

Take action:

  1. Update your highlighted review. Premium members can highlight a review; choose a review that is recent, short-to-medium in length and uses great emotional words at the beginning. Don’t pick the longest review you’ve ever received. Couples are likely to skim, so you want them to quickly get the gist when reading through. This doesn’t have to be your most recent review, but it should ideally be one from the same calendar year.
  2. Respond to all reviews and make sure your responses include personal details about that couple’s day. These responses should be written with future couples in mind and show that you are engaged with the couple from start to finish.

Build these tips into your recurring to-do list to make sure that you are maximizing your leads and bookings throughout the year. Even setting aside 30 minutes a week to respond to recent reviews and look over your Storefront will benefit you in the long-run – you can do it!

» 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

instagram wedding professionals florist

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