» The Art of Listening

This article was written by Kylie Carlson, CEO of the International Academy of Wedding and Event Planning.

It is widely accepted wisdom in the business world that the best salespeople are adept at one vital skill: listening. While visions of fast-talking used car salesmen may make you think otherwise, it’s the truth. Those who can perfect the art of listening can sell just about anything to almost anyone. The odds are even more in your favor when what you’re selling is completely awesome.

I know there are those of you saying, “I’m a wedding planner” (or designer, baker, or entertainer) and insisting that you are not a salesperson. I assure you, though, that you are, in fact, in sales. No matter what your specialty is, if you have to secure paying clients to sustain your business, you are a salesperson.

The initial consultation

As a salesperson, one of the most important moments in your process is the initial consultation. Successfully converting a prospective client into a contracted one hinges on your ability at reading him or her and adjusting your pitch accordingly. The secret to this can be found in the Art of Listening.

Too many wedding professionals misunderstand the purpose of an initial consultation. They seize the opportunity to dominate the conversation by sharing every detail of their lives and careers. But the prospect simply doesn’t care. The only thing that is important to an engaged couple is their upcoming wedding.

Practice the 70/30 rule

An initial consultation is not a job interview. It is the chance for you to learn what makes a couple tick and leverage that information to secure their business. Use the “70/30 Rule” to help you strike the right balance. Listen for a full 70% of the time and talk only 30%. Some people are shy and don’t know how to express themselves well. When meeting with this type of prospective client, you need to ask open-ended questions.

Avoid dead end questions

The beauty of open-ended questions is that they yield the most valuable information about your couple. The key is to avoid those that can be answered with yes, no or a single word or phrase. Examples of open-ended questions include:

  • How did you meet?
  • What was your proposal like?
  • What kind of hobbies do you enjoy together?
  • Where do you like to go on vacation?
  • If you could shop anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Open-ended questions break the ice and demonstrate that you have a real interest in your prospective clients. They require you to listen, which makes your prospective clients feel valued and important.

Some questions make people uncomfortable and should be avoided. Asking “why?” puts people on the defensive, for example. Instead of “why do you want to get married at that venue,” you could ask, “what do you love most about the venue,” or “what appeals to you about that site?”

Practice makes perfect, so don’t give up if you find it hard to strike the right balance and ask the right questions at first. Just make note of what does and doesn’t work and remember that your primary goal is to listen more and talk less. You will soon see how it transforms the conversation and yields the sales success you desire.

Kylie Carlson is the CEO of the International Academy of Wedding and Event Planning. With six locations globally, the academy boasts an internationally recognized accreditation program that brings professional training to wedding planners, designers and stylists.

 

» The 4 Rules of Wedding PR During Busy Season

Photo by Tracy Shoopman Photography

The truth is, if you wait until off-season to look at your business’s PR strategy and start promoting, you’re doing your business a huge disservice. While the busy season workload takes up the bulk of your time, your PR strategy shouldn’t take a back seat. WeddingWire Education Expert and owner of OFD Consulting, Meghan Ely, gave us four rules for mastering PR during busy season with only a small time commitment each day.

Keep momentum going

It’s not a rule, but rather a guideline to help you follow the rules. Keeping up momentum is crucial if you want to maximize your time and PR strategy efficiently. Meghan says she sees it all too often: wedding professionals drop their PR strategy for busy season and pick it back up in November when the season ends. However, come November, you are going to be sitting on a pile of work that will make you more stressed than you thought handling it during the season would!

Instead of dealing with the mountain of PR work you’ve accumulated throughout the season, tackle the opportunities as they come in. Not only will this keep you sane in the long run, but it will also help eliminate competition. By neglecting your PR strategy until November, you subsequently end up competing with every other wedding professional who followed the same ‘strategy’. Suddenly, come November, the PR branch of the wedding industry is crowded with everyone playing catch-up. Ultimately, there is a lot less “noise” to compete with during busy season, and it’s in your favor to never lose momentum.

Rule 1: Stick to the low-hanging fruit

During busy season, you want to do things that will increase your brand awareness and showcase your portfolio… and this doesn’t have to be hard or take copious amounts of time! RealWeds submissions are one of those easy-to-do tasks that can have a tremendous effect on publicizing your brand. RealWeds are a great option to focus on because you already have a steady stream of content coming in from all of the weddings that you do— why not utilize that to its fullest potential?

Typically, photographers, venues, event designers, planners and florists are the ones submitting the majority of RealWeds content, however, if you don’t fall into one of these vendor categories, you aren’t excluded from submitting! Be sure to reach out to the other vendors who worked on the wedding to see if you can do a “group” submission, or have permission granted to use their photos (if they were the photographer) or photos of their work (if they are a vendor whose work is featured in pictures of your work) in your submission.

Rule 2: Stay organized

Many people neglect RealWeds submissions during busy season because they can take a lot of time to submit, however, they shouldn’t so long as you cover your bases and stay organized. Working RealWeds submissions into your client contracts is a great way to speed things up, as this way, you aren’t chasing after couples once they are married to get their permission.

Additionally, this opens up the conversation with the couple to find out what other vendors they are working with. Getting other vendor information as early as possible is going to help you track down other vendor’s whose permission you might also need in order to submit before the submission crunch. Meghan recommends connecting with the photographer and planner 30-60 days before the wedding to ensure that you can submit.

Rule 3: Create a workflow

Meghan’s best tip for managing your PR strategy during busy season? Embrace apps and programs to manage your work! Programs like Dropbox that can manage files and to-do list apps, like Basecamp, can help keep you organized and create a workflow. Another tip? Utilize block scheduling! Time might be limited during busy season, but if you schedule a fair amount of it each week to work exclusively on PR, there is no excuse for not working on it.

Rule 4: Be realistic

The last rule? You have to be realistic! If you can’t dedicate three hours a week to your PR strategy, then setting the goal to send in 10 RealWeds submissions, pitch multiple media outlets and maintain your press relationships, isn’t realistic. By setting realistic goals, you will be motivated to keep pushing forward and won’t beat yourself up about not reaching them.

You should always be asking yourself these three questions to determine if you are being realistic with your goals:

  • What got accomplished? What didn’t?
  • How can I adjust my organization/workflow?
  • Was it worth the effort?

…But not so fast!

Now that you have the rules about how to best manage your PR during busy season, don’t dive in. Building a strong PR strategy that will endure even the craziest of busy season ups-and-downs takes a considerable amount of time to plan. Before you begin, take a good look at your website, your galleries and your social feeds. What is the point of directing people to your site or branding outlets when they are not where you want them to be? Take a close look at what you are working with, evaluate where you want to go, make any adjustments that you need to to get there, and then dive in.

It can be hard managing your PR strategy during busy season. However, so long as you follow these rules and are prepared to charge into the season with a strong PR strategy in place, you should be set to see the benefits of it. Keep momentum going, set realistic goals, and dedicate the time you need to implement good plans, and there should be no doubt that your PR strategy will be a success this season. Good luck!

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Build Your Reputation by Earning Publicity (Even During Busy Season!)” with Meghan Ely, WeddingWire Education Expert and owner of wedding PR firm OFD Consulting. You can view the webinar recording through your account.

» How to Create the Ultimate Media List

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

Before launching a new PR campaign to publicize your wedding business, it is wise to research and carefully select the media that will receive your pitches and hopefully share your work and wisdom. A media wish list is more than just a collection of outlets and names in your genre; it is actually a set of goals for your campaigns, and the outline of your overall plan to gain attention and exposure. The ultimate media list takes time and research to create, but as the secret weapon behind your PR efforts, it can be pure gold.

Evaluate your goals

Every powerful media list starts with research. Use your market research to create a profile of your perfect clients. Understand who they are, what their level of education is, what they eat and read and enjoy. Know their habits – do they watch local morning television or the evening news? Do they use Facebook, Instagram or Twitter? Do they read alumni publications, special interest magazines, or popular blogs?

Understanding the behavior and psychology behind your ideal clients will help you determine which media outlets are strategically valuable, and which are not. You have limited time and effort to expend pitching media, so your list must be curated and your attempts strategic.

Craft a message

I have to emphasize how important it is that you craft an appealing message that answers your target’s needs and communicates something about your business that you want them to know. You’re creating a connection with your prospects, but your opportunity to influence with each press mention is brief, so you want your message to be clear, powerful and on point.

Consider what you have to share. Is it images of your recent work, great advice or an introduction of a product or service new to your market? Can you make relevant commentary on a current event or do you have a special connection to a popular trend? What do you have to offer that will intrigue your prospects enough to act and impress editors enough to include you?

Choose your target media

You have a profile of your ideal prospects and a message you want them to hear. Who should you pitch? At first, you’ll have a broad list of media of all kinds: blogs, magazines, local TV shows, national TV shows, radio and association publications to name just a few. Narrow the field by thinking of which ones appeal to your ideal prospects. Which match up to your profile? Put yourself in your prospects’ shoes and think of their lifestyle habits to help you determine where they receive their messages.

Reach out

It’s not always easy to predict which media will have the influence you are looking for, especially if your ideal client is different from you. When you don’t know, ask! Contact your current clients or happy past couples and ask them about their habits. Ask how they found you can how they tell their friends about you. Build on your current success.

Collect pertinent information

Once you have created a list, gather contact information to make it easy to pursue each lead when you have something to share. You’ll need the publication name, point of contact, email address, submission requirements and known deadlines which should be added to your editorial calendar. Staying organized will increase the efficiency of your efforts and yield greater results.

I know it seems like a lot of work, and may even appear to be a step that can be skipped, but curating your ultimate media list is a powerful way to focus your efforts and achieve ultimate success. Take the time now and you will reap the rewards in successful press down the road.

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding PR firm OFD Consulting, which specializes in getting wedding professionals their brides. She is a highly sought after industry speaker and serves as a Public Relations adjunct professor for Virginia Commonwealth University, specializing in PW writing and brand promotion.

» 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.