» How to Build Your Network and Collect More Content

Photo by Vanessa Joy Photography

This article was written by Vanessa Joy, Owner & Photographer of Vanessa Joy Photography.

I remember the first time I went to a wedding convention. It seemed like everyone knew everyone else; but the only person I knew was the bathroom attendant because my naturally introverted self would frequently hide there. I’m sure I’m not alone in being able to empathize with DJ Tanner from Full House, eating alone in the bathroom on her first day of high school. For the record, no, I didn’t eat in the bathroom – ew.

If you’re a budding industry professional, you may notice that a large part of the industry is who you know. Now, that’s not to say our livelihood is superficial in any way. It’s to draw attention to just how powerful networking is in our line of work. We’re a large industry, but a small community.

Networking may seem daunting, but building relationships within the wedding world is crucial not just to the success of your business, but to your enjoyment of it as well. After all, don’t you want to work with your friends every weekend? Here are 4 tips to up your networking game.

Read up on it

If you’re not a natural go-getter or social butterfly, it’s ok! Heck, I was homeschooled for 9 years of my life. Social graces were not on my side for most of my life. I had to learn them the good old-fashioned way: reading a book. Ok fine… listening to one on audible.

I do recommend Carnegie’s book, but another favorite of mine is Never Eat Alone. As an Italian, this is pretty much a rule for me anyway, but bringing it to business takes it to a whole new level. Read it and you’ll have breakfast, lunch and dinner dates at the next WeddingWire World no problem.

Use social

In what other century have you had direct access to someone’s personal line, without needing to get through their secretary? None. Thanks to social media, you have that power right at your fingertips.

Don’t underestimate what you can use social media for. I recently covered a HUGE part of this on a recent WeddingWire webinar Social Media: A Guide for Wedding Professionals. You should be using social media to connect with as many other wedding professionals as you can. Here’s an even bigger tip – connect with professionals before an upcoming conference by searching the conference’s hashtag. Bingo! You’ve made friends before you even stepped off the plane.

Stop reaching for the stars

Now I know your mom told you otherwise, but I’m here to bring you down to earth. As fabulous as it would be to take my advice from the previous tip and contact David Tutera and Silvia Weinstock and become besties immediately, it’s probably not going to happen. Why? Not only is everyone already barking up that tree, but they’ve been in the business for a while and already have their circle of tight friends.

Instead, make your own referral network. Befriend the next Marcy Blum or Fred Marcus (sorry to keep using NYC Wedding Vendors… it’s just where I’m from) by reaching out to people on your level of experience and clientele. Build each other up to be the next big thing.

Find photographers

It’s always funny to me when I hear that other wedding professionals have a hard time getting photos from photographers. You might not know this, but wedding planners, caterers, florists, bands, dj’s and venues are like the holy grail to us wedding photographers. To me, you’re the key to clients, and usually luxury clients that’ll spend more money on photography.

However, I know that it can be hard to get photos, so inside this last tip, I’ve got a few more for you that’ll help you get more photos of your work that you can use on social media to show off your services and connect with other vendors.

Offer Something, Anything

Now, I do not charge most vendors to use my photos on social media from weddings that I’ve worked. A lot of photographers feel the same way and are happy for the cross-promotion. However, contacting a photographer and expecting them to give you photos for free isn’t going to fly. It’s only polite to offer something in return, even if it’s not monetary.

Help Submit Weddings

You wouldn’t believe how much work is involved for a photographer after a wedding. Usually it’s where your wedding headaches end, and ours begin. Often when we’re being asked for photos, it’s another thing on our long to-do list.

However, if we give you photos, you can help us by submitting the wedding photos to popular magazines and blogs. If you have connections to some – even better! Obviously, make sure this is ok with the photographer first. But typically we’d be thrilled to have this taken off our plate and it’s a win-win when the photos get published.

Offer Future Collaboration

Us photographers need (and should want) to build relationships too. When you’re asking for photos, find ways to work with us again. Maybe you’re a makeup artist and you can offer to do hair and makeup for the photographer’s next headshot (we all need updated ones!). Or perhaps you’re an officiant that can provide some ceremony text that’ll make for a great blog post on the photographer’s blog. You could even suggest doing a styled shoot and get a whole group of vendors involved. The possibilities are endless, but if you start your intentions with serving other people, it’s amazing how much more you’ll get in return than you originally hoped for.

Use the Photos

Once you’ve snagged some photos and hopefully started a wonderful new work friendship, don’t hesitate to use the photos for LOTS of things! The more times you use them, the more the photographer will benefit from the cross-promotion. Make videos (super amazing for social posts) like these marketing and communication videos I’ve made right here. Use the photos alone in tons of social media posts like the ones I suggest here.

The Wedding Industry may ebb and flow but it’s always built on relationships. Spend time cultivating new ones and nurturing the ones you have and you’ll never be without work.

Vanessa Joy has been an influential photographer in the wedding community for a decade. Starting her photographic journey in 1998, she has since earned 5 college degrees, and has spoken at almost every major convention and platform in the industry such as CreativeLIVE, Wedding MBA, WPPI, ShutterFest, Imaging USA, WeddingWire World, and Mobile Beat. Recognized for her talent and more so her business sense, her clients love working with her and industry peers love to learn from her generous, informative and open-book style of teaching. Check out more of her resources at www.BreatheYourPassion.com

» WeddingWire World Florida 2018

The biggest ‘thank you’ goes out to everyone who joined us this year for WeddingWire World Florida!

On April 17, we brought WeddingWire World back to Florida! The event was hosted at the lovely Miramar Cultural Center, and what a success it was. From networking to educational workshops with passionate speakers, we loved spending the day with all of you. As we look back on World Florida, we can’t help but want to share our some of our favorite moments.

Nine brilliant presentations

Thank you to our incredible presenters Sonny Ganguly, Alan Berg, Jacqueline Nwobu, Meghan Ely, Kathryn Hamm, Michelle Loretta, Kyle Mihalcoe, Jeffra Trumpower and Athena Meyers. Their insightful presentations covered a range of topics, from SEO and marketing, to Gen Z and the latest industry insights.

1:1 Meetings with Customer Success Managers

We were so happy to have our WeddingWire Customer Success Managers available to meet with attendees 1:1. The team enjoyed providing personalized tips to help maximize listing value and boost storefront performance.

NetWORKing

Having a network of local wedding professionals to support you is so important. We loved seeing old friends reconnect and watching new relationships form. From a meet-and-greet over coffee to our sitdown networking lunch, we are happy that our attendees had time to meet and network— that is what World is all about!

Sunset cocktail reception

Sipping, snacking and networking was the perfect way to round out the day. Attendees enjoyed music from DJ Dro Entertainment, tasty local bites and many selfies in front of the “We Heart Weddings” wall. We loved getting down on the dance floor and snapping selfies with our attendees!

Our team was so excited to bring WeddingWire World back to Florida and we couldn’t have even imagined the amount of love we received. Florida, thank you for such a warm welcome!

Enjoy the Facebook album of some of our favorite moments, and be sure to check out #WeDoWorld on Instagram and Twitter for some other moments you may have missed!

A special thank you to our partners, the day wouldn’t have been the same without you!

5801 Wedding Cinema

Amanda Smith Photography

Cafe Ala Carte

Dj Dro Entertainment

EVoga Events

Over The Top Rental Linens

Plantation Florist-Floral Promotions, Inc

Type E Design

» Let’s Talk About Price in Your Lead Replies

Price is a difficult thing to talk about— but it shouldn’t be. WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg insists that you shouldn’t dread pricing questions but rather, you should embrace them. Why? It’s the quality of conversation in your lead replies that leads to a sale, and if a couple has to pay for your services anyway, price need not be the elephant in the room. To help open up your conversations, especially when it comes to talking about price, Alan Berg answered some of your most frequently asked questions about handling price questions in lead replies.

If my business offers multiple services, and a lead says that they are interested in my services and asks what my prices are, how do I keep that email short while answering a lot of questions buried in that “simple” question?

As it turns out, this reply isn’t as long as you might think. Instead of sending all of your prices for each service you offer, simply reply “What services were you interested in more specifically?” This reply will then not only narrow the length of your eventual price reply, but will also ensure that you are providing the exact information your client wants without overwhelming them with pricing that doesn’t apply to them.

But what if someone says they are interested in multiple services of mine and asks for pricing? How do I still keep that reply short?

Let’s say you are an entertainment business and a lead says that they are interested pricing for a DJ, dance floor and lighting. All you need to do is list the prices (or price ranges) for the three (and only the three!) they asked for, and ask a follow up question to keep the conversation going. “What venue did you have in mind for hosting your reception?”

I am totally guilty of sending too much information, specifically with price, because I feel like I have to. How do I send less?

There are four ways to handle price:

  1. You can tell them the exact price. While this is specific and can be helpful, it can be quite hard to do sometimes without the full scope of information from a potential client.
  2. You can not tell them the price and avoid questions about it at all costs… but we all know this isn’t good practice.
  3. You can give the starting price. You need to exercise this one with caution as you might have services that go far above your starting price. Thus, sometimes this tactic can be very misleading to couples who think your costs are much lower.
  4. You can give a price range (Alan’s favorite way to share pricing information), and share your average price.

Giving a price range lets you weed out people who might not be able to afford your services and sets realistic expectations with the potential client. It also allows a conversation to start as it gives a ballpark figure where you can then ask follow up questions to keep the conversation moving forward, such as “What services were you considering?.” (moving you closer to the sale!).

What if they never ask about price/don’t ask about it early on?

Hold off on mentioning price at the beginning (unless they ask outright). Maybe this potential client was referred, or heard a quote and knows your price already. If you feel worried that it has yet to be mentioned, feel free to bring up price in the second half of a new reply to calm any anxiety.

“By the way, I just wanted to let you know about our pricing since we haven’t talked about it and I wanted to make sure you were comfortable moving forward. Our range for what we have been discussing is between a and z.”

After you mention price, go back to the context of the first half of the reply to get off the price discussion and leave the ball in the client’s court as to if s/he wants to discuss price further. Remember, however, that this isn’t necessary. If they didn’t ask about price well into a discussion, they probably know what they need to know already.

If I have a beautiful document for my pricing and a lead inquires about price, can I send that attachment?

No! Even if you have a brilliant, beautiful document that outlines price, or any other detailed culmination of your business’s information, don’t send it. Alan insists that you should never reveal too much. Not only can attachments overwhelm couples and be difficult to view on mobile devices (the vast majority of WeddingWire consumers reply to emails on mobile), but an attachment doesn’t make the sale, you do! Attachments halt conversations, and remember conversation is what leads to a sale.

Every time I quote a price or give a range through email, I never get a reply back. However, when I am on the phone, my closing rate shoots up. What can I do?

Alan states that it depends on the conversation you are having. If you aren’t getting replies back, see if your reply left a dead-end or if it encouraged further communication. Again, emails should be like phone calls where a back-and-forth is created through questions. In situations like this, you are probably closing over the phone because you are good at conversation. So, utilize that strength in your emails and formulate them to read just like you would talk over the phone.

If you are a service that has a flat rate, try giving the price and then say “were you looking to do any special touches like a sand ceremony?” or “were you going to write your own vows or is that something you would like me to help with?” This way, you give a price and still follow up with a question to guarantee a reply and keep the conversation going.

Talking about price doesn’t need to be a touchy subject or something that is difficult to discuss in lead replies. We hope that by answering these questions, you have learned to welcome price questions and feel confident when covering them in your lead replies.

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Replying to Leads” with Alan Berg, WeddingWire Education Expert and CSP. Premium Members can view the webinar recording in their accounts.

» How to Communicate Clearly with Prospective Clients

This article was written by Education Expert, Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting

Over 90% of today’s couples are Millennials. They have officially taken the driver’s seat, and industry professionals should recognize the need to adapt to their ways and their preferences. It’s essential, for instance, that you master their preferred form of communication, which is, as it stands, email.

Develop an email reply system

Creating and implementing an effective email reply system can save you time (and time is money!), as well as give you the opportunity to elevate your client experience from first contact. While it takes a bit of reflection, planning and effort, doing so has the potential for major payoffs in exchange.

Know how you capture inquiries

Before you dive into your email system, it’s essential to take a good, hard look at how you capture inquiries in the first place. A contact form on your site is the preferred primary method, while still allowing prospective couples to call or email you as well. A form grabs upfront logistical information like names, email, phone, event date, location and size as well as the essentials you need for marketing like “how did you hear about us.” The feedback from online forms can save you an amazing amount of back and forth by delivering the important details from the onset.

Initial inquiries

There is a fine balance between having a template to expedite response time and save effort, and personalizing your initial correspondence. You don’t want your couple to feel like they are just one of a hundred, but at the same time, it’s not the best use of your time to simply keep rewriting the same thing over and over again.

When creating a reply template for initial inquiries, keep the following in mind: share your enthusiasm, but avoid “Congratulations on your engagement” unless you want to sound exactly like everyone else. Come up with a response that incorporates your standard communications, but that leaves wiggle room for personalization as well – you don’t want it to sound like a copy-and-paste response.

Appointment confirmations

Even in this modern age, I still contend that taking the time to confirm an appointment is a nice additional step when staying in touch with prospects and clients. It also gives you control over your schedule, allowing an opportunity for plans to change with enough notice that no one is too inconvenienced.

I, myself, have been confirming appointments diligently since my hotel days, when I worked at a property that had not one, but two lobbies. Since then, I’ve had hundreds of appointments and fewer than five no-shows. It pays to extend the courtesy of a confirmation.

Be certain to confirm the location with an address and make note of any special idiosyncrasies with directions such as construction or known traffic. Give your prospects your day-of contact information, preferably a cellular phone number, and the option to reschedule if anything changes. It also never hurts to get the names of all who will be attending so you are prepared.

Out of office replies

Unless you plan on diligently staying on top of your email, it’s perfectly fine to set up an out of office email while you are out. Just remember to be clear with your availability and return time, as well as an option for event-related emergencies. If you have a team that will still be working, then be sure to note that your offices remain open. If you are a solopreneur, then you’ll need to weigh the option of providing your cell phone number to ensure that you are reachable for the most urgent of matters.

Use apps

Want to streamline the process further? Consider using a scheduling app like Acuity or Calendly, which expedite the process of setting up your first appointment. Better yet, it gives you the capability of creating an automatic email reminder about your upcoming meeting, saving you valuable workflow time.

Make the best impression on prospective clients and save yourself time and money by creating an effective email response system. Doing so will help increase bookings, revenue and job satisfaction as you reclaim control over your time.

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.

» 5 Ways to Reach Couples on Social Media

Photo by Vanessa Joy Photography

With more tech-savvy millennials relying on social media platforms to research (and even book!) wedding professionals, your social media presence is critical. From sharing strong visual content to growing your following, we have five tips for mastering your wedding business’ social media pages with the help of Vanessa Joy, owner and photographer of Vanessa Joy Photography.

Innovate

While your social media platforms should act as a secondary portfolio to show off you work, your feed should feature more than just that. Diversifying your feed not only helps your page stick out amongst competition, but it also encourages viewers to stick around longer. When you think about it, one of the premises of social media is to keep viewers on your page(s) as long as possible and maintain engagement with your brand. Instead of only uploading photos of your work, try mixing in stories, videos, graphics, or different photos that relate to topics your audience would be interested in.

For example, share a photo of your workspace, or a video of your favorite hobby. Couples will love learning more about you and it will help build a stronger connection to your brand. It will also create a more dynamic feed and motivate your audience to keep coming back. Vanessa suggests weaving in content that relates to wedding trends, fashion and even home-making because these topics are relevant to most potential clients. By being innovative when it comes to exploring new post ideas you will impress viewers as an expert in the wedding industry as well as someone they can relate to.

Tags and hashtags

Using tags and hashtags is another great way to boost your pages. For those new to social media, hashtags (#) are a way of tagging specific user-generated messages or themes that other people can see, follow and track. Tags (@) are a way of tagging other user’s pages to help to engage users, give credit where credit is due and expand your network through mutual connections.

Using hashtags in your captions, whether they are unique or trending, can help raise the visibility of your post(s). When using hashtags, make sure they are relevant to the content of the photo. As an example, you shouldn’t upload a photo of a wedding dress and use #breakfast or #marchmadness in the caption. Doing so, can be misleading and will be seen by a group of people that probably aren’t looking for wedding related content.

Connect with new people

Social media is a great way to expand your network. Of course you want to use your social media to gain leads, but connecting with other wedding professionals is beneficial, too. We understand that finding new people to connect with can be challenging, so, where do you start? Where do you look? Turns out, it’s a lot easier than you might think.

Vanessa suggests keeping your connections local. We love our friends who are far away, but local connections can provide referrals to local clients that are more likely to use your services. A great way to search for local wedding professionals is through using relevant, local hashtags, such as “#LAphotography”. Then, start following other local vendors that are using that hashtag, and try commenting on one or two of their posts with a friendly compliment (don’t spam them, though!).

Another way to find local connections is by searching a nearby location, such as a popular event venue, on Instagram. Think about peak wedding times, such as a Saturday night, and then view the posts that are being tagged at that location. There, you can find many potential clients who are in the perfect target market for your services. By having a strong network of fellow vendors and potential clients in your target demographic, you can gain referrals, helpful insights and future leads.

Engage

When you think “social media”, the first word that should come to mind is “engagement”. Instagram and Facebook frequently change their algorithms that control your page and post visibility. We understand why changes to these algorithms can be frustrating, especially when they can affect your marketing strategy, but the one thing we know to always be true is that both platforms consistently favor engagement.

Facebook and Instagram are businesses. Just as you want more viewers and followers on your social pages, these major platforms want users to stay on their platform for as long as possible; it’s how they make money. One way to increase the amount of time spent on a platform is through engagement. Replying to comments, posting frequent stories, offering engaging polls and posting content often, will increase the engagement on your page and increase your favor by the algorithm.

Visualize

Lastly, social media platforms are highly visual and therefore you should aim to be a visual storyteller. These channels revolve around bite-sized, visual content – think beautiful photos, quick videos (30 seconds or less) and short captions. Do your best to select and curate strong imagery and create engaging videos that tell a story without many words. Millennials often prefer visuals to reading so if you want to hook a millennial, do your best to limit the text and keep your visual content fresh, engaging and high quality.

Social media is always adapting and we know it can feel like a full-time job keeping up. However, taking the time to market your business on social media will be rewarding when your following grows and leads and referrals are coming your way. Just remember that your social media presence is quickly becoming the determinant of your credibility as a wedding professional, especially amongst millennial couples. Keep those posts visual, engaging and make new connections!

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Social Media: A Guide for Wedding Professionals” by Vanessa Joy, Owner & Photographer of Vanessa Joy Photography. Premium Members can view the webinar recording in their accounts.

» Your Questions About Lead Replies, Answered

We often hear that lead replies are one of the most frustrating aspects in the wedding industry, and we can understand why. There are many reasons why replies don’t come in, and we want to make sure you have the tools needed to feel confident that your lead reply communication is strong. We’ve compiled the most commonly asked questions about lead replies and answered them with the help of WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg.

How do you deal with couples that don’t respond to that first reply? Do I send something again? How much time do I wait to send more follow-up?

1) Respond within 24 hours of receiving the message, and no later. Alan jokingly said that you should respond the second you receive the message… but we don’t think he’s joking. Remember that couples often don’t reply because you’ve waited too long to send them a response.

2) If you reply back in a timely manner and don’t get another reply within 24 hours, follow up and restate the same question you asked in your first email (remember, you should always be asking questions in your lead replies!).

“I am so happy that you reached out yesterday and just want to make sure that you got my earlier email. Did you give any more thought to the type of flowers you would like to use in your arrangements? I’d love to hear some of your ideas.”

3) Still no reply back? Alan recommends that you wait a few days. Following up for a second time within two days might look a little too eager and come off as bothersome. Let things simmer for two or three days after your second reply. Then, Alan suggests that you should send a one-line third reply, about a week out from your first one: “Are you still interested in our floral services?”

4) We’re not done yet! Two or three weeks after first reaching out and still no reply? Alan says there is one more thing that you can do: come up with funny (yet professional!) bullet point list of why your potential client hasn’t gotten back to you. At this point, you are showing that you are still interested, haven’t given up and that you have a sense of humor too. Alan notes that this strategy ends up working for many wedding professionals— you have nothing to lose!

“Hello Tim,

It’s been a while since I heard back from you. I assume you haven’t reached out because:

  1. You’re really busy.
  2. My emails are going to spam.
  3. Hungry bunnies attacked you.

I’d still love to work with you and will be here whenever you are ready.”

Is it ok to open your reply back with “we appreciate your response, we are so glad you are interested” or should we cut to the chase?

The one thing you should never open with is “Congratulations on your engagement!”. Alan did some undercover “shopping” and found that a majority of the professionals he reached out to opened with that line. To stand out, say “thank you” instead. “Thank you for reaching out about having me assist with your planning.” Alan notes that saying “we appreciate your interest in…” sounds bland and unnatural. Read your reply back: if it doesn’t sound conversational, it’s not!

As a florist, I have had clients that flood my inbox with different ideas. One client sent me over 100 photos in six different emails all within in a day. How do I handle this?

Don’t punish the masses for the deeds of a few. Clients like this are the outlier. Alan states that in situations like this, the best piece of advice is to take back control of that conversation. Go to the most recent email and reply “Thank you for sending me those ideas! I just want to let you know that I am in the middle of a busy week creating arrangements for this weekend but I will take the time to look at these and will get back to you once I do.”

If you don’t reply, you’re missing out on a sale. Instead, replying in this manner acknowledges that you are seeing the potential client’s correspondence and subtly hints that you need them to pause what they are doing. By insisting that you will look and get back to them later, the ball is placed back in your court. Now you can direct the conversation where you need it to go to make the sale.

I am busy so I usually just ask three questions in my replies to cut the back-and-forth down, is that ok?

No! This conversational flow and build of your discussions is crucial if you want to make a sale. Replies really don’t take a lot of time in the end. Alan acknowledges that it is a lot balancing and juggling multiple emails, and sometimes, it might even require you to go back in old threads to reread what was sent to remind you what to say. But it’s worth it. Take things slowly and don’t rush it. This strategy also won’t overwhelm your couples and will ensure that each question you ask will be answered.


Do I have to address the bride/groom every time in an email (“Hello Tim,”)?

Mirror your customer. If they fill out a form, and you don’t know how formal or informal they are, your first reply back should be a standard “Hello/Hi Tim,” to keep things safe. (If you are more casual, say “Hi.” More formal? Say “Hello.”) If you get an inquiry that opens with “Dear Alan,” you should reply “Dear Tim,” back. Always match your potential client. If they stop addressing you first, you can stop, too.

Keep in mind that if tones don’t match, it can create unnecessary friction. An example? If a couple is uber-casual in their reply and you maintain a more formal tone, the couple may assume you don’t understand them or their vibe and could be turned off.

We hope this helped clear up some of your questions regarding lead replies and provided you with some new ideas to implement. Ultimately, investing the time in creating conversations through your replies is going to give you a leg up in making the sale. Even though a potential client might take a while to respond (those hungry bunnies can be quite troublesome!) or can be quite demanding, we know that you are all up for the challenge of not giving up on meaningful replies.

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Replying to Leads” with Alan Berg, WeddingWire Education Expert and CSP. Premium Members can view the webinar recording in their accounts.

» Why Failure IS an Option

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

Whether it’s playing it safe, or being an overprotective parent, it’s often tempting to try to reduce the chance for failure. After all, isn’t failure bad? Actually, all failure isn’t bad, because failure meant you tried something, and just didn’t get the results you wanted. A speaker friend, Bruce Hale, once told me that “failure is just an unintended consequence.” He then went on to say that “success is often an unintended consequence as well,” because we often get a successful result, just not the one that we had originally intended. You can’t succeed, or fail, unless you try something new.

What’s the worst that can happen?

A few years back, when my friends and I went skydiving, we all got t-shirts after the jump that say: “Skydiving – what’s the worst that can happen?” Now, with skydiving, there is a pretty bad possible outcome. Sure, it’s not the one that we want, or expect to have, but it is possible. Yet we went anyway. Why? I can’t speak for my friends, but for me, that possible outcome wasn’t even on my radar. I was thinking about the exhilaration, the rush and the views. There are many more people who will never go skydiving because of the possible outcome of failure – admittedly, a bad outcome.

So, are you motivated by the possibility of success, or debilitated by the fear of failure? Are you visualizing what it means to get the positive outcome you desire? Or, are you not even getting started because of the possibility that it won’t work, and you won’t end up where you want to go? What you should be asking yourself is: “What’s the worst that can happen?” I once heard (or possibly read) that you should not only ask yourself what the worst possible outcome could be, you should also visualize that outcome. Is it really that scary? Would you be able to get through that challenge? Would you and your business, or family, be able to recover from that failure?

You get what you focus on

Knowing and visualizing the worst-case scenario is not the same as focusing on it. You can’t motivate yourself by avoiding negative outcomes. Imagine a catcher in a baseball game telling his or her pitcher: “Whatever you do, don’t pitch this next batter low and inside. Got it? Not low and inside or he’ll hit it.” Where do you think that next pitch is going? Right, low and inside. A better approach would have been to say: “For this next batter, pitch it high and outside. That’s a good pitch for him/her, high and outside.” Where do you think that pitch is going? More likely than not… high and outside, away from that batter’s sweet spot.

Where’s your focus?

Are you focusing on the positive outcomes, trying new things, and acting upon your ideas? Or, are you not getting started because you can’t stop seeing the worst-case scenarios? It’s OK to know what that worst-case scenario is, just don’t let it consume all of your attention. If he had focused on the failures, Thomas Edison wouldn’t have tried 10,000 different ways to make a light bulb. If they had focused on the failure, 3M Corporation would never have created Post-It Notes. The adhesive they used for it was originally developed for another purpose, but it was a failure. Someone over there had the foresight to see another use for it, and viola, we have Post-It Notes.

Lemons into lemonade

You may have heard how some people can take a bad situation, and see the good, and they call it turning lemons into lemonade. The thing is, you have to be willing to get lemons in the first place. It’s both our actions, and our inaction, that deliver the lemons to us. We may have been aiming for oranges, or apples, but instead we got lemons.

When I wrote my first book, the original title was going to be, “Insite”. I thought it was clever and that I could do a series, adding “Hindsite” and “Foresite” to it. Well, in my testing of the cover samples, the title fell like a lead balloon. It was either no reaction, or a negative one. However, I had also written on the cover, in small print: “If your website was an employee, would you fire it?” It was almost an afterthought, and I don’t even remember how it ended up on the cover. When people looked at the cover samples, the title didn’t move them, but that line did. So, even though I was told, by many people, that titles should be short and catchy, I went with: “If your website was an employee, would you fire it?” To this day, in its second edition, people still smile when they read or hear that title. That success was an unintended consequence.

You got this

What have you tried, that didn’t get you the outcome you originally wanted, but you made lemons out of? What was your mindset that allowed you to see the success through the failure? And how can you channel that feeling, while understanding the risks, understanding the worst-case scenarios, and still take the actions necessary to succeed? You’ve already done it, probably countless times in your life. You took the chance, took the leap of faith, or simply didn’t even consider the worst-case scenario at all. Don’t sabotage your success with the fear of failure. Instead, nourish your success with the seeds of failure, so you can reap the rewards of success.

WeddingWire 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.

» Branding Considerations for Newly-Diversified Services

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

Diversification is one of the key ways that owners of event businesses can boost income, attract new customers and ensure longevity in our competitive and dynamic industry. Once you have decided which complementary products or services to add to your business, (or other businesses you might acquire), you’ll need to get the word out and make sure your new branding makes sense to your market and peers.

What do you need to consider when branding your newly-diversified services?

The new you

As you expand your business offerings or choose new products and services to complement your brand, it’s important to have a distinct brand identity that encompasses both brands. For example, at one time Fantasy Sound was comprised of separate companies, one for DJ services and one for AV services. The names were similar, but the branding was different and people were confused. We fused the two companies together to create Fantasy Sound Event Services with a unified brand and our business took off.

Determine how the services relate

Wondering how to fuse your services into a single cohesive brand? Go back to the market research that you did before you diversified. You determined that your clients had additional needs and you had the product, skill and talent to fulfill their needs, right? Reflect on what you discovered about your clients during that phase and try to come up with a way to project a brand that addresses all of the needs you are able to meet.

Of course, you’ll also want to identify the biggest strengths of each brand. What are you bringing to the table that is unique to your business and superior when compared to competitors? It’s very similar to the process of branding your original company – you need to know your target market and how to identify those characteristics of your business that meet their unique needs. Then make sure you’re appealing to them and reaching them with your message.

Avoid this common mistake

The biggest mistake that business owners make when taking on a new brand and merging it with their existing business is not realizing the amount of time and the scope of work that the new brand requires. More often than not, the process is not as simple as “plug and play”. You’ll have to go back to the drawing board to create a new brand image, and success will take time. Plan for this when doing projections, managing income and revenue, and preparing for a period of challenging days, weeks and months ahead. But know that your efforts will be worth it in the long run.

Measure your success

Constantly evaluate your efforts once you have established your branding and always review the numbers on a regular basis. Acquiring a new brand absorbs a lot of capital in the beginning and you may not see a return for a while, so stay mindful of the overall trend. Set goals and determine what success means to you and how long you are willing to wait for it.

Creating a cohesive brand for your original company and your acquisitions may not have been the exciting part of diversification you were waiting for, but it is critical. Done well, it will likely be the key to your success.

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

» Social Media Dos and Don’ts for Attracting Millennial Couples

As we know, millennial audiences are heavily invested in social media, spending about 5.5 hours a day on average engaging with social media. For wedding professionals marketing to millennial couples, this means that if your social media pages aren’t up to par, you may be missing out on their business. Not sure what they are looking for? We’ve put together our top social media dos and don’ts to ensure that your business’s social media pages are ready for the eyes of your millennial market.

DO’S

Do have (and maintain) social media pages. Seems simple enough, but there are still many wedding professionals out there without a social media presence! When millennial couples are beginning their initial wedding vendor search, they will look to your social media pages for a first pass impression. These pages help them visually gauge the quality of services that your business can offer. Without that visual aid, not only do you run the risk of looking outdated, they may pass you by altogether. So if you are currently missing from the social media world, it’s time to sign up!

Do prioritize Facebook and Instagram. These are the two most popular platforms among millennial audiences. While there are many other platforms to choose from, millennials truly value your presence on these two. Aim to use these platforms as regularly as possible, post only your strongest content and engage with your audience frequently through the comments. If you do those three things on each platform, your brand awareness will see positive impact and millennials are sure to be impressed with what they see.

Do favor quality over quantity. While you might use another platform, like your website, to feature all of your content, you should be incredibly selective of what you post to Facebook and Instagram. Instagram in particular should be the “trophy case” for your best and most recent visual content. Many businesses make the mistake of trying to upload too regularly or post without a direction, that they often lose sight of the quality of the content they are posting. While you should aim to post frequently, if your content isn’t strong and visually pleasing, it’s not going to impress millennials. Additionally, over posting is just as unimpressive as posting lackluster content. We suggest posting no more than twice a day and no less than once a week to keep your followers and prospective clients hooked.

Do utilize Instagram stories. We weren’t kidding when we said to focus on Instagram! Instagram’s story feature is a great way to engage potential clients in a more casual way by sharing what you are doing on the job or behind-the-scenes. This feature also allows you to stay active without always spending the time required to curate the beautiful, consistent flow of visual content on your Instagram feed. Since Instagram stories are only viewable for 24 hours, you don’t have to worry as much about posting “perfect” content. Use stories as a way to build an emotional connection with your potential clients; millennial couples will love to see your genuine personality come through and learn more about you.

 

DON’TS

Don’t focus on YouTube, Twitter or Blogs. We can’t stress Facebook and Instagram enough. They are where you want to spend most of your time because they have the best payout and visibility. YouTube and Twitter are great social media sites, but connecting with potential clients on these platforms is not as easy. Twitter is best for communicating with other businesses, or for B2B communication, and YouTube probably won’t be needed unless you are a videographer or produce a ton of video content. Blogs can also be a great way to show off your personality and share more about your business, but producing blog content can also be a major time commitment. Unless you are prepared to dedicate a lot of time to writing frequent blog posts, blogs can be nixed, too, in favor of maintaining your social media presence.

Don’t show just the end shots. The majority of photos uploaded are of beautiful end products: the finished floral centerpieces, the intricately constructed updo or the frosted cake. End shots are great to see, but sometimes upload after upload of beautiful end shots leaves us wanting more. Think about it: how many end shots like this do you see when you scroll through your feed? They are the vast majority of all uploads.

People want to see some grit, too! For the same reason we mentioned Instagram stories, millennial couples want to see behind the scenes. Even though these action or behind the scenes shots aren’t typically “polished”, there is still a way to make them look visually appealing. If you are building a bouquet, take a photo of your table with your supplies, tools and loose florals. These shots might require some staging, but couples love these posts because it shows your expertise and dedication to your craft. More importantly, it shows the sheer amount of work that you put in to get the high quality product that they see in those end shots.

Don’t post on Instagram without a direction. Your content should be cohesive and your posts should all build to tell your brand story. Having a direction in mind when you post is integral to maximize your social impact. Think about your brand. Your social media, and especially Instagram, is a highly visual representation of your brand. If you post photos aimlessly, your Instagram’s overall feed is going to look scattered and send a confusing message to couples. Try uploading pictures with a similar color palette, similar lighting, or similar subjects and themes. Uploading photos that look similar, despite the “differing” content is going to help give your feed a cohesive, clean look. Planning ahead can also help you plan out the visual story you are telling; there are some great tools out there like Planoly that can help you plan your Instagram content and preview how it will look in your feed before you post.

Don’t post just text to Facebook. Every facebook post you make should have a piece of content attached to it. Plain text posts on Facebook used to be the norm for the platform, but not in 2018. If you have text to post, attach a photo with it. If you are posting a link, Facebook automatically attaches a thumbnail from the link to add more visuals, but if that thumbnail is plain or broken, attach another photo and remove the thumbnail. From attaching videos to gifs, Facebook posts should never be just plain text! Millennials are a visual generation and you should use every opportunity to showcase your work.

Creating beautiful, cohesive and on-brand social pages take time to build and maintain. Take comfort in knowing that phenomenal Instagram pages don’t just happen overnight! Don’t be afraid to test and try different types of content to see what works best for your business.   Mastering social media might have a bit of a learning curve, but if you keep these steps in mind, you’ll be sure to impress those millennial clients. Happy posting!

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Marketing to Millennials” by Sonny Ganguly, WeddingWire’s Chief Marketing Officer. Premium Members can view the webinar recording in their accounts.

» Is Your Communication Cutting It With Millennials?

Photo by Justin Kunimoto Photography

Even though the average age of your target audience remains generally consistent over the years (engaged couples in their 20s and 30s), it’s important to remember that shifting generations come with shifting client expectations. Millennials have different habits and needs than those of the GenX generation — especially when it comes to communication. Is your communication approach with clients up-to-date? Review these best practices from WeddingWire’s Chief Marketing Officer Sonny Ganguly and get up to speed.

Communicate on social media

If you haven’t already, start setting up the ground work to communicate with your clients through your social media pages. Every major platform has a direct messaging service that makes it easy and convenient for clients to shoot you a message while they browse your page or feed. Messaging through these platforms is only going to become more popular, and may even become the norm for bookings. If you want to be a strong communicator in the digital age, you have to be prepared to check every digital platform that you are on frequently (at least once a day!) to see if messages from potential clients are coming in.

Being aware of incoming messages is one thing, but getting them in the first place is another. Letting clients know that you are able to chat through these mediums is crucial. A good indication that you can be contacted through social media is through frequent and consistent posting. If your last Instagram post was three weeks ago, a potential client probably won’t feel confident that you will reply in a timely manner. Post regularly to show that you have eyes on your platform(s) at all times.

Another great way to encourage messaging over social media is to be active in your posts through comments. Replying to comments and engaging with your followers is a great strategy to help boost a client’s confidence in communicating with you via social media.

Reply as quickly as possible

The majority of couples expect a vendor to reply within 24 hours. It may seem like a quick turnaround, but most bookings end up going to the vendor that replies first. Only 39% of professionals respond in 24 hours, which means there is some serious opportunity to improve and make a great impression on potential clients. If you want to maximize your bookings, not only should you be regularly active on social media, *hint hint*, but you should also be replying as soon as you can. Remember that we live in a world of instant gratification and your clients will expect quick replies.

Always request reviews (and respond!)

95% of couples use and trust reviews to book their wedding professionals. Because of that, you should always be requesting reviews from past couples. Most reviews get written 2-3 weeks post-wedding, so don’t get anxious if a couple has yet to write anything. Review timing also depends on what services you offer. If you are in a pre-wedding service, such as invitations, expect your reviews much earlier. If you are in the photography or videography business, expect your reviews 5-6 weeks after the wedding. Still no reviews after this timeframe? Reach out! It doesn’t hurt to contact a couple and ask them to provide a review.

Once you receive a review, respond to it! Replying to all reviews is a great way to to show not only the reviewer, but also potential clients reading those reviews, how much you care. Instead of a generic “Thank you!”, the best thing that you can do is write a personalized response with reinforcements on the services and skills you are capable of delivering. (Ex: “It was a joy working with you, Nora. The mini hydrangea bouquets we did for your party were some of my favorites yet!”) Perspective couples are sure to take notice of your personable replies and be able to see what you are capable of delivering. But be careful — if you reply to one review, you should to reply to every review.

When it comes to replying to a negative review, don’t pour fuel on a fire. Remember to be kind, do your best not to be defensive and apologize, even if you’re not at fault. These responses should be written with potential clients in mind.

Reciprocate channels

48% of couples report being frustrated when you don’t communicate on their preferred channel. If they direct message you through Instagram, direct message them back on Instagram. Unless they tell you to contact them through a different medium, you should reply in the same way they reached out. Remember: If a customer wanted to hear your voice, they would have called you instead of writing you an email. Once your communication and relationship has been established with a potential client and you determine that a different communication channel could lead to more productive next steps, feel free to suggest a phone call, in-person meeting, or another communication method. Just be prepared to be as flexible and accommodating as possible— your clients will appreciate it!

Communication can be frustrating, all the more so now that communication norms are ever-changing. Yet, setting up good, clear paths for communication by following our steps will allow for both you and your clients to breathe a sigh of relief. When you open up the correct channels to become a good communicator,

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Marketing to Millennials” by Sonny Ganguly, WeddingWire’s Chief Marketing Officer. Premium Members can view the webinar recording in their accounts.

» 4 Steps to Manage Your Time More Effectively

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

Time is one of the most valuable assets any business can possibly have – time to build infrastructure, attract new clients, serve current clients and stay in touch with past clients. Time is a limited resource, however, and way too often we waste it when we could be maximizing it and experiencing growth.

Understanding the impact that wasting time and properly managing it can have on your business is critical to your success. Achieving maximum success requires maximum time efficiency. So how do you manage it?

Make a to-do list

We might think we’re the ultimate multitaskers, but our brains can really only focus on one thing at a time. Making a to-do list allows you to prioritize tasks that need to be done and keep track of how much you’ve accomplished and how much is left. It is a simple way to make your use of time more efficient. If you don’t like paper lists, try going high-tech and keeping yours on your phone or tablet.

Recognize common time traps

In order to fix a problem, you need to clearly define what the problem is, right? Time issues tend to sneak up on people because we think we’re working hard. Email is a prime example. Checking it all day and at home simply diverts you from doing actual work. Busy is not the same thing as productive. What other functions take too long and drain the life from your business?

Eliminate email waste

First, leave your email for the office. Use your time at home to take care of yourself, your health, your family and those non-work affairs that need addressing so you can be your best self at work. Turn off your notifications so incoming mail does not interrupt your workflow. Set aside 15-minute periods to address what needs to be done in your inbox, generally not more than three times each day, unless your email volume requires additional time. Maximize the efficiency of your email management by setting reminders to act on waiting emails, using templates for responses to frequently asked questions and inquiries and using software or an app that allows you to schedule emails in advance.

Use apps to help manage time

Instead of trying to keep up on your own, leverage technology and research and select apps that take over the functions you’re currently trying to manage by hand. There are social media apps that you can use to pre-schedule content and monitor your presence. Financial apps that can help with payroll, accept payments from your customers and assist in preparing your taxes each year. Event software apps take all of the work out of seating arrangements for your clients and creating all important timelines. You can win back so much time you are currently wasting in your business by simply identifying helpful apps.

Good time management essentially boils down to identifying areas of weakness and addressing them with best practices and great technology. You can take your wedding business to a whole new level by taking control of your time management. Don’t wait – start today!

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

» Worried Your Emails are Going to the Trash?

As easy as communicating via email might seem, it is also pretty easy to make email blunders without even realizing it. With so many emails hitting our inbox these days, many emails are begging to be skimmed, or even worse, ignored altogether. But that’s not what you want! You want your emails to be eye catching, read in full and replied to. So, how do you make it happen? Follow these tips to keep your emails out of the trash and generating opportunities.

Automation

If you haven’t already, sign up with a good email service, such as MailChimp, to send automated emails to large lists. If you have a set list of leads, using an email service allows you to publicize your services and keep in touch with ease. Did you upload a new blog to your website or are you running a special deal on your services? Send an automated email to your couples to keep them in the loop.

Additionally, be sure to personalize any automated emails that you send. At the very least, you can use your email service to insert each individual recipient’s first name in the subject line or email body. Including small personalizations like this can decrease the appearance of spam and increase the open rate.

CTA Overload

Overwhelming couple’s inboxes with a constant stream of emails is certainly not best practice. But on the opposite end of the spectrum, sending one timely email that has too much information and too many redirects is just as lethal. Every email should include only one  call-to-action. This “CTA” should be straightforward and drive the one action you are hoping a couple will take after opening your email.

Your subject line shoul—

Your subject line should be eye-catching. It shouldn’t be in all caps or have half a dozen explanation points. It should relate to the content within the email. But, most importantly: it should be short… and not for the reason you might suspect.

Sure, a short subject line is easy to read and fully comprehend. But a short subject line also won’t get cut off on a mobile device. You already know how important mobile is, especially when it comes to emails. Thus, constructing emails with mobile displays in mind is imperative.

As a test, look at your email inbox on your phone and then compare it to how your inbox looks on your computer. How many subject lines and characters get cut off on your phone compared to your desktop? Write every email as if it’s only going to be read on mobile and you should have no problem!

Good list hygiene

WeddingWire’s Chief Marketing Officer, Sonny Ganguly, suggests that you should clean out your email contact list quarterly, if not monthly. While Sonny loves this tip, he can admit that it’s also a bit controversial. Without fail, Sonny says that a follow-up question he always receives after revealing this tip is “but don’t you want as many people as possible to see and hear from your business?”

His answer to that? Well, yes… and no. While free publicity, in this case, emails, could be great for your business, the publicity isn’t worth much if it’s not going to qualified leads. If your emails aren’t getting opened by certain recipients and haven’t for some time, you are allowed to cut your losses. Past clients of yours who have already gotten married and potential customers who just aren’t responsive to your emails aren’t worth keeping around.

If you are a contact hoarder and are worried about purging your list, start slow. Maybe you have quite a few married couples that used your services but no longer react, or react less often to your messages. Perhaps send this group a quarterly email about what you’ve been working on, or if you are able to offer a service that isn’t wedding-exclusive.

Provide an option to unsubscribe

Be sure to give your clients the option to opt-out from your emails. Platforms like MailChimp will create an unsubscribe link that can be included in any email that you send. This link will allow viewers to unsubscribe from your messages and also ensure that you are complying with email laws.

If you aren’t using an email service but still have viewers opt-out from your messaging, be sure to remove those recipients manually. Ideally, you should do this ASAP, but they should definitely be removed within 7-10 days.

Send emails on weekends

Never send an automated email on a Tuesday! Nearly 18% of all business-sent marketing emails are sent on Tuesday, making it the most popular day for automated emails to fill your (and your clients’) inbox. The days with the least amount of sends? The weekend. Only 8.58% and 8.68% of all business-related marketing emails are sent on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

Still not sold? Most people have more time to check and, more importantly, respond to emails over the weekend. Saturday and Sunday are also the two days of the week when couples spend the most time planning their wedding. We understand that weekends might be the busiest two days of the week for you as wedding professionals, so plan ahead and schedule your emails several days in advance.

A good email can be the difference between a booking and the trash folder. So it’s important to take the time to consider your email strategy. We hope that you are already implementing some of these strategies, and if not, that you now have some ideas on how to start. Happy sending!

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Marketing to Millennials” by Sonny Ganguly, WeddingWire’s Chief Marketing Officer. Premium Members can view the webinar recording in their accounts.