» 4 Ways to Optimize Your Lead Replies

In the competitive wedding industry, everyone wants lots of high quality leads – but how you reply to each lead plays a pivotal role in determining if you will successfully book the client. These quick tips will help you optimize your lead replies so you’re more likely to receive a positive response and ultimately win the business!

Don’t forget to be personal

Clients know you’re busy, but responding to an email inquiry with an auto response may not have the positive impact you intended. About 25% of couples don’t like generic automated responses, as they can be perceived as impersonal and often provide little added value. Take an extra minute to include in your reply some details from their message, such as wedding date, style, or venue, or to add a personal comment. This effort makes a human connection and helps you stand out in their crowded inbox.

Keep it short and simple

Many couples check emails primarily on their mobile devices, and short emails are more likely to get a reply. Start with a brief subject line and get to the point quickly, since lengthy emails often go unread. Avoid long paragraphs by adding line breaks and use bullet points or numbers where possible to highlight important details. Come up with a few sample responses to keep on hand so you can quickly add in a bit of custom information based on the inquiry and hit ‘send.’

Answer any questions they asked

Many pros make the mistake of not responding to directly asked questions, which can frustrate couples because they’re often reaching out to a number of pros and may have specific questions or criteria they need to know to move forward. You can prepare ahead of time by coming up with a list of answers to common questions such as price range, packages, and availability – but be sure to address any specific questions they asked in your initial reply. These answers are important in determining if you are a good match – nd will ultimately save you time!

Use their preferred contact method

Our research shows that 48% of couples express frustration when a vendor does not reciprocate their preferred communication type. Get off on the right foot with potential clients by contacting them in the way they prefer!

Couples can give you their phone number and indicate their preferred contact method for your response. The couple’s preferred method will be shared with you in their message details saved on their client information card within your account. If they choose to provide a phone number, it will also appear within their client details for easy reference.

Check out the change on your Storefront now >>

» Wedding PR: The Art of Managing Press Expectations

WeddingWire Education Expert

Meghan Ely

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. 

Between print deadlines and calls for submissions, it can seem tough to navigate the waters of media relationships. It’s exciting to begin a press campaign for your company but with that, it’s imperative to understand press expectations so you can best determine if your efforts are successful.

Below, you’ll find our top things to keep you mind (and keep you going!) when managing press expectations as you represent yourself:

Patience is a virtue

PR takes time – it’s not a one-time overnight fix; it’s a continuous process. While it may be tempting to shoot out emails to every media outlet you think of, the best approach is a carefully calculated one. Take your time to properly research the media outlets that best fit your brand and create a media list based on your findings. From there, you can craft up a pitch to send along that shows how you can be of value to each outlet. With that said, keep in mind that not every pitch will get picked up but if you offer yourself as a resource and successfully engage with the editors, you can still consider that a job well done.

Print vs. Online

With the wealth of online media outlets and blogs that are available to us, it can be easy to overlook the value in a print feature. While it may not be your primary target, magazine placements can speak volumes about your company. When it comes to print, however, the pitching process tends to be quite different than that of online press. When we submit our features to an online source, we expect to hear back within several weeks and, if picked up, we expect to see it within a few weeks. Many magazines, on the other hand, are published quarterly, bi-annually, or even annually and come with strict deadlines, meaning you may need to hold on to that gorgeous wedding or shoot if you don’t pitch by the deadline.

Continue reading

» How Big Should Your Wedding Business Get?

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.

I’ve had several conversations recently with established wedding professionals that were reconsidering their business size. Rather than looking for ways to get bigger, they were downsizing – on purpose. The most recent business was an entertainment company downsizing from a staff of 6 down to just the owner. I’ve heard this from planners and photographers, and other wedding pros. There are many reasons feeding this particular DJ’s decision, from wanting to simplify his life to being able to spend more time with his family. It’s what’s right for him and his family.

How Big Should Your Wedding Business Get?What’s right for you?

The only vision of your business that matters is yours. From however many weddings and events you do to how much money you make, the goals and targets you set should be your own. There’s no magic number that’s right for everyone in your market and category. Just as with the example above, there’s more to your decision than just money. I once had a wedding pro tell me that he wanted to do 250 weddings per year. I asked him why 250? He said that he felt it would present him as more successful to his peers. The problem with his strategy was that he was taking on lower-dollar, lower-profit business to increase his volume. While his total number of weddings was going up, his bottom line wasn’t. He’s since backed away from that and is happily doing fewer weddings.

Too many people try to model their businesses after others they see or, as with the previous example, they try to chase an arbitrary number. There’s nothing wrong with aspiring for more, just be sure to do it for the right reasons and get all of the facts. From the outside, other businesses often seem smoother and more successful than they really are. A common analogy is of a duck, gliding smoothly across the water, while it’s paddling like mad under the water. That happens a lot on social media, as we see a skewed view of people and businesses. Their triumphs are plastered for all to see, while their failures never make it to their posts and tweets.

business weddingWhat’s the right number?

If you’re currently doing 25 weddings per year and you want to get to 50, how are you going to get there? If you only want to personally do 25 weddings, who’s going to do the rest? Are you already getting so many leads that you’re turning business away? If not, then you’ll need to get more leads, which means increasing your marketing, advertising, and networking efforts. If you’re getting multiple leads for the same days, then you can’t double your number of weddings unless you staff-up. One person can’t be in two places at once.

I was consulting with a DJ company who told me he wanted to get from his current rate of 200 weddings per year up to 500. I told him that getting more equipment was easy. Getting more DJs, since he was already a multi-op, was a little harder – but still doable. The questions he needed to answer included:

  • How much could he afford to increase his marketing budget to extend his reach?
  • What were his plans for a new website?
  • How was he going to get enough leads to be able to close 500 weddings per year?
  • Who was going to handle the thousands of leads he’d need to close 500 weddings?
  • Who was going to oversee all of those new DJs and jobs?
  • What affect would that have on his family life?

Find the balance

What each of us needs to do is find the balance between size and profitability. Doubling the number of weddings you do may feed your ego, but if it doesn’t also feed your family, what’s the point? The key is to build a stable, sustainable business model, while also having time to enjoy the fruits of your labors. Don’t build someone else’s idea of your business. Build the one you can not only be proud of, but the one you’re going to want to run, day in and day out.

Now that my kids are grown, I’m grateful that this industry has afforded me the time to spend with them when they were younger. I’m also grateful that we’re in a recession-resistant industry. While things change every year, people are still choosing to get married – and if they’re choosing to have you be part of their wedding, you should be proud, and grateful, too.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in July 2016 and has been updated for freshness and accuracy.

» How to Have Better Client Conversations

In the life of a busy wedding professional, sometimes the majority of your day will be spent communicating with clients. Whether you’re responding to an initial inquiry or going back and forth on the little details of an event with an existing client, take note of your tone and approach to communication at every turn. Even though you may have a million other things to do, it’s important to make every client feel like a star through the entire process!

To help you have better client conversations from start to finish, we put together a few tips:

Connect from the get-go

While you might have many appointments during the course of a regular day, each client needs to feel a personal connection with you and your business. Before you start going over the details of the couples’ wedding or event, you’ll need to establish a connection with the couple. Getting to know them a little more can inform your decisions throughout the rest of the conversation (pro tip: find out early on what communication methods they prefer, and follow suit!). You should also take the time to talk a little about yourself so they understand more about you and why your business best fits their needs.

Take it slow

This tip goes hand in hand with the point above; don’t rush into your sales pitch or make an client feel like they’re interrupting your day. Give yourself enough buffer of time for every conversation, and allow them ample time to talk about themselves and the event. Listen carefully to what the couple says so you can remember the little details, and repeat some of those details to them in the course of conversation so they know you are paying attention.

Anticipate Indecisiveness 

We all know that couples are often indecisive when it comes to making choices about their wedding, and they have every right to be – they’re dealing with a lot of stress and pressure. Don’t take it personally if they want time after a conversation to think about it, or if they send you more questions or request a change in product or service. Take it one step at a time and remind them that you are always here to help.

Clarify next steps

At the end of any conversation, be ready to articulate your plan of action and/or clearly outline next steps to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Repeat the items you are responsible for, and remind them of anything they need to provide you to keep the process moving forward. Send a follow-up email to recap your conversation and show them that they will always be able to depend on you to follow-through and keep things organized.

The “Golden Rule”

The “Golden Rule” for successful client communications is the old adage, treat others as you would like to be treated. Most people don’t like to be hounded by a salesperson or relentlessly emailed or called. People want to do business with other real people that they can connect with. By following the tips above, you’ll be more personable in your client conversations and you’ll maintain that connection throughout the whole wedding process. Every happy client is another chance for a 5-star review, so start making your clients happy by putting your best foot forward!

 

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in July 2014 and has been updated for freshness and accuracy.

» 5 Ways to Market Your Business in the Busy Season

Now that summer is upon us, wedding professionals across the country face an extremely busy time of year: wedding season! While we know that the most popular months to get married are June, September, and October, it’s critical to remember those couples who are only just getting started planning a winter wedding. Here are a marketing strategies your business can use to keep new clients coming in despite all the rushing around you’ll be doing in the busy season.

1. Keep gathering reviews

With all your weddings and events happening in the spring, summer, and early fall, it’s important to gather as many client reviews as possible. Each review is another chance for your clients to spread the word about your business, and each review is valuable for potential clients who are researching your business and other professionals in their area. Plus, recency is still a big factor when couples are evaluating your wedding business, so it’s essential to continue collecting them even if your calendar for the next few months is full!

2. Tailor your content

Blogging is a great marketing tool no matter the time of the year! Continue creating great content about your business with an off-season twist – think about where your potential clients are in the planning process and try to appeal to them with the right content for that stage. Are there things couples should know about your business when they first start planning? Is there a particular time period couples should focus on your business category versus others in the planning process? Gain more readers by targeting them with the right message at the right time.

3. Offer off-season deals

Take advantage of those couples who are engaged but not getting married during the busier months by offering discounts or deals for the slower times on your calendar. Remember there are still a significant number of engaged couples who choose not to get married in the warmer months, and they’re still doing their wedding planning while others are taking their trips down the aisle. Think about popular off-season dates like Christmas, New Year’s or Valentine’s Day and provide special offers, discounts or free add-ons now that help make your business stand out as the perfect choice for their winter wedding needs.

4. Boost your social

One of the best ways to stay top-of-mind even when your workload is full is to continue being active on your social networks. Use social media to offer special discounts, collect reviews and testimonials, share your own content, and run contests or promotions. Your posts will appear within your followers’ social streams, and if you’re creating and posting engaging content, they’ll be more inclined to share your posts with their own networks. Plus, with all the weddings on your calendar, you’ll likely have a ton of real wedding photos and details to post! When their wedding date moves closer, you’ll be the business they remember.

5. Focus on other events

If your business works on more than just weddings – corporate events, sweet sixteen parties, baby showers – ramp up your marketing efforts for those events when the wedding season slows down. By decreasing your marketing budget for promoting weddings and compensating by increasing your budget for promoting your events services, you’ll be able to focus on events that tend to happen all year round. Balancing your efforts in this way will be easier on your budget and help you boost your conversions in your secondary lines of business.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in April 2015 and has been updated for freshness and accuracy.

» 2016 Wedding Business Goals: How Are You Doing?

In our 2015 Annual Vendor Survey, six thousand of our WeddingWire Pros gave us some insight into their biggest pain points and business growth priorities in 2016. Now that the busy season is coming to a close, how are you doing in reaching those goals?

Data from our survey suggests that venues (including rehearsal dinner venues) and catering professionals tend to work in larger corporations with larger employee counts and annual revenues – so we’ve broken out the data for this group separately from the rest of the service categories available for couples to account for the difference in available budgets.

Check out our interactive graph below to see how you measure up against your peers, and read on for more context on each goal.

Continue reading

» How to Get Big Results with a Small Team

Pro to Pro Insights

Leila Lewis, photo by Valorie Darling PhotographyThis post was written by Leila Lewis of Be Inspired PR. As a business school graduate from Santa Clara University, Leila (Khalil) Lewis’ career began in publishing, where she worked in marketing and editorial roles for business and lifestyle publications. Since transitioning into the wedding business in 2004, Leila has over 10 years of wedding marketing experience under her belt, and is the industry’s go-to for wedding public relations services, brand development and business consulting.

Be Inspired started with just two employees, and over the years we’ve grown into a team of 12 and the majority of my employees have been with me for many years. Through all the growth, I’ve learned that having a quality team is more important than having a large team.

How to Get Big Results with a Small TeamIf you follow my tips you can make your smaller team more successful than ever.

  1. Don’t hire based on resume

With any team, especially smaller ones, you need to be extra picky when hiring new employees. If your team is small, you need hard workers who will thrive in your environment. Their resume may read perfect experience for the position, but if their personality does not fit with the rest of your team, it’s not going to work out. One person who doesn’t fit into the work environment can throw the whole thing off and negatively affect your business. Understand your business’ culture and be specific.

  1. R-E-S-P-E-C-T

With a smaller team, you are most likely sharing a space with the same people 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. To prevent burnout and frustration with each other, create a company culture based upon respect. There is a time and place to for personal conversations and the more respect within the company, the easier it will be for your employees to understand boundaries.

  1. Have Company Outings

At Be Inspired PR, we’re all about having fun outings together as a squad. We’ve gone on a whale watching trip, done sweat-dripping work out classes, and most recently had a pool party! It’s a great way to just let loose out of the office and have some fun. But company get-togethers can be in office too! Whether it’s walking to a local favorite restaurant or ordering in, group lunches are the perfect way to strengthen the feeling of being a team.

  1. Keep it simple

When you have a small team it’s crucial that everyone is clear about their tasks and responsibilities. That way nobody steps on anybody’s toes and there is a clear sense of who is leading what. Of course, there are always opportunities for collaboration, but for everyday tasks it’s more successful to keep things streamlined.

A small team can be just as successful as a big one when managed in the right way. Maintain the respect between your employees, but also treat them well. With a small team, it may seem easier to manage, but it’s crucial that everyone pulls their own weight.

» Becoming an Entrepreneur in Someone Else’s Business

Pro to Pro Insights

Jennifer Taylor, Taylor'd Events GroupThis post was written by Jennifer Taylor. Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui.

So you love the wedding industry, but aren’t so keen on the responsibilities that come with owning your business…

While it may seem like everyone in the industry is starting their own business, remember that it’s entirely acceptable if that’s not in your sights. Every professional has a different path and, just because you’re not into the idea of running the show, that’s not to say you can’t be a valuable asset in the industry. If anything, many small business owners need support so there’s certainly a place for you to put your skills to good use.

Becoming an Entrepreneur in Someone Else’s BusinessOn the other hand, some future entrepreneurs are simply not quite ready to launch their business, whether for financial or experiential reasons. Either way, finding a workplace in the industry will help you develop your local network and provide you with the experience to really make a name for yourself.

If you’re new to the industry, look for a company that will push you to grow as a professional and are eager to help with your career path. While searching for the very best fit, don’t limit yourself to a specialty. Even if you want to focus on event planning eventually, getting some experience with a catering company or at an event venue will provide you with some down-and-dirty experience that will help to expand your skill set.

Be prepared to hear from other entrepreneurs that you should start your own business or that “you’d be so good at it!” Even though you would be great at it, that doesn’t mean it’s the right venture for your career. There are many reasons to avoid starting your own business, so don’t let peer pressure make you feel like you’re missing out.

When you do find the right place to nurture your skills, be sure to settle all of the nitty-gritty before hitting the ground running. You’ll want to determine whether you’re a payroll employee or an independent contractor – this affects your taxes significantly, so be sure to understand your role. In addition, you’ll need to know how you’ll get paid – are you making a percentage of your clients’ billables or are you paid hourly?

Once everything is sorted out, it’s time to start hustling – and hard! Just because you’re not the business owner doesn’t mean you won’t play a big role in the company, so be prepared to do everything you can to push the business to its full potential. You are an equal part of the company’s successes and failures – keep that in mind!

As you learn the ropes, don’t be afraid to ask about other aspects of the business that you may not be involved in like writing a business plan or handling all of the expenditures – this will help you understand the owner’s decisions and give you an opportunity to be more helpful along the way. It’s really the best way to become a valued member of the team, so don’t shy away from immersing yourself into the company’s culture.

Sure, getting a job is important, but getting the right job is even more important – for you and the company alike. Find a place that values your skills and will help you boost your reputation within the industry. If the first or second places aren’t ideal, keep looking!

» The Modern Media Pitch

WeddingWire Education Expert

Meghan Ely

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding pr firm OFD Consulting. As a highly sought-after speaker in the wedding industry, she is the exclusive Wedding PR Education Expert for WeddingWire as well as the national Communications and Marketing Director for WIPA. To learn how OFD Consulting can assist you, as well as more about our new wedding PR kits, please visit us today.

Gone are the days when media pitches are strictly limited to blasting out the same press release to your email list of reporters. Many people are missing out on opportunities to get their name out there, simply because they think that a pitch has to be about their company and they may not always have news to share.

Sure, there is plenty of company news that is worth the pitch – anything that is timely, relevant and interesting is generally well received. However, there are plenty of other ways to get press without forcing not-so-newsworthy news into editors’ inboxes.

The Modern Media PitchCreate an effective media list

First and foremost, you’ll need to determine the best media outlets that fit your brand and your niche. Of those outlets, it’s important to find the right contacts and gather their info. This may be a bit of a task upfront, as it could require some good old-fashioned Google searching and social media stalking, but it’s well worth having the right contacts on file. There are also a number of programs to introduce you to new contacts, like HARO, SourceBottle and Babbler. Once you have your list, keep them organized in a spreadsheet that is easily accessible and simple to use.

Developing the pitch

A pitch is simply a story idea, so put your thinking cap on and get creative. In our office, we have a weekly meeting to review what’s in the news regarding weddings to get an idea of what’s buzzing around. From there, we look at each major news story and how we can turn it into a softer story angle and develop pitches out of those ideas. We’re also lucky enough to have a recent bride on our team, so if you have a newlywed, don’t be afraid to dig into their experience! You can also keep an eye out on your own weddings to see if there are any stories brewing that would make for a good pitch.

Sending out the pitch

Once you know who you’re pitching and what you’re pitching, it’s time to write it up. Always address the contact by their first name when possible and be professional throughout the email. Keep it short and simple, while still getting to the point you want to cover – editors are notoriously slammed with deadlines, pitches and other work, so you want to get your message across without taking up too much of their time. Offer yourself as a resource for further questions and thank them for their consideration.

Don’t fret if your pitch isn’t picked up. You’ve made a valuable media connection, which is worth its weight in gold in the PR world. Now, on to your next pitch…

» Everything You Need to Know About Live Streaming

Pro to Pro Insights

Ashley Jones, Ashley Ann EventsThis post was written by Ashley Jones of Ashley Ann’s Events. As a talented, award-winning wedding and event designer, Ashley has made a name for herself by offering unique and professional designs and productions. Ashley is a Master Flower Builder with a knack for transforming unconventional spaces. In the business world, Ashley offers speaking engagements for entrepreneurs on a variety of topics, including social media lead generation, sales funnels, and business growth. She has been featured on CNN Money, Fox News, KATV, STAND’s 30 Under 30, and several other media outlets and publications. 

By now, you’ve probably noticed that many celebrities and businesses are leveraging live streaming apps like Facebook Live or Periscope to reach wider audiences with fresh, engaging videos. Rather than recording a video and uploading it later, live streaming allows you to instantly connect with your followers in a more organic (and less time consuming!) way. Live streaming gives everyone in the world access to you instantaneously.

	Everything You Need to Know About Live StreamingI’m a huge fan of live streaming. One of the biggest benefits I’ve noticed is how quickly you can build a wider audience of followers. Using Periscope, I’ve been able to build an audience of a little over 20,000 followers in only about 5 months. I have followers in Russia, Canada, Australia, the UK, and of course the United States. It takes much more time on other social media platforms to build an organic audience of this size.

Another reason I love live streaming is its emphasis on the visual. As wedding professionals, our livelihood is based on not only the visual appeal of our work, but also our personality and friendliness towards our clients. Because it’s instantaneous, live streaming allows potential clients to see you and get a much better view of your personality than a scripted and pre-recorded video. Plus, research shows that visuals are processed in the brain 60,000 times faster than text, so it’s a much faster and more effective way to connect.

Another recent study shows that using video on landing pages can increase conversion by 80%, and I can personally attest to this – when I post a video on my Instagram compared to a photo I consistently get 3 times the views and engagement. Periscope, in particular, is a great platform because Periscope users consume nearly 40 years of watch time every day. Continue reading

» Do You Deserve an A+? Share Our Back-To-School Reviews Sweepstakes

Do You Deserve an A+? Share Our Back-To-School Reviews SweepstakesWith the summer months winding down and students heading back to school, we’re giving your clients the chance to win $500!

As part of our Back-to-School Reviews Sweepstakes, couples who write two or more reviews on WeddingWire for at least two separate pros now through September 30, 2016, are automatically entered to win $500. For extra credit, entries double if your clients write four or more reviews.

Since 38% of engagements occurring between November and February, a whole new class of engaged couples is right around the corner! Getting reviews now from your 2016 clients will help other engaged couples decide to book your business, plus you’ll earn more reviews towards our our WeddingWire Rated® program and the WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards®, awarded each year in January.

Remember that customers look at the quality, quantity, recency and consistency of your reviews, meaning that you should be collecting at least one review each month. What better way to build your online reputation and encourage future clients to reach out than with the prospect of winning a cash reward?

We’ve added custom language to the Review Collector tool in your account so you can start spreading the word to your past clients!

Start requesting reviews now to fill out your 2016 ‘report card’ >>

If you have any additional questions regarding our latest reviews contest, please see our Official Rules.

» Are You Getting Your Money’s Worth?

This post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Kathryn Hamm, Publisher of GayWeddings, the leading online resource dedicated to serving same-sex couples since 1999. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. Follow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.

What you are probably missing in your LGBTQ marketing strategy…and what it costs you

Those of you who have been in the wedding business for a while have come to expect the steady onslaught of email invitations and phone calls inviting you to advertise on blogs, in directories or with other business tool-related services. And, as I’m sure you know by now, all offers are not created equal. That’s especially true when it comes to trying to understand where to invest your advertising dollars to let same-sex couples know that you see them and are prepared to serve them.

What you are probably missing in your LGBTQ marketing strategy…and what it costs youIs it worth it?

As you consider your ad buys at the end of each term, it’s important that you ask yourself: Was the return on investment (ROI) worth it? And, if the ROI does seem to be measuring up, it’s then important to ask a deeper question: What is the cause of the poor performance of the ad buy?

When it comes to thinking about an ad buy targeting same-sex couples as prospective clients, possible answers to the second question why is my ROI so poor? could be the fault of the media/source you chose. Or it could be a fault of your own making. So before you cast blame, take a deeper look at the cause of the breakdown.

Common failures include:

  • Making an impulsive buy when contacted by a salesperson because the pitch sounds like it fits a need, even though you haven’t reviewed your business plan and the goodness of fit of the investment;
  • Making an impulsive buy when contacted by a salesperson because the pitch sounds like it fits a need, even though you haven’t asked the salesperson the right questions to determine how that return on investment will really work for your business;
  • Signing up to advertise in a new directory or publication that purports to specialize in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) market, but doesn’t actually have the reach, relevance or readership for your services or doesn’t offer any clear reports on the effectiveness of the buy;
  • Purchasing and setting up a listing with images and text that you’ve used in the past without taking the time to learn more about what will ring as authentic and meaningful to the couples you wish to reach.

Is it worth it? How can you work it?

Here are a few key things I encourage you to consider before spending another dime on a new buy or renewing another LGBT-niche-based contract to make sure that you are making a smart decision that will produce the results you seek. Continue reading