» Announcing the 2018 WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards®

Drumroll please…We are so excited to announce the winners of the tenth annual WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards®! Honorees represent the top 5% of wedding professionals nationwide for their excellence in quality, service, responsiveness, and professionalism within the wedding industry.

We are so proud to recognize these award-winning professionals for their exemplary work and the outstanding reputation they’ve established among newlywed couples as demonstrated through their excellent reviews. Winners are selected solely based on their reviews and are determined by a combination of four factors: overall rating, total number of reviews, review performance from 2017, and consistency of reviews from year to year.

Engaged couples use the award as an indicator of legitimacy and reliability when selecting their team of wedding professionals. The badge demonstrates to couples that a wedding professional is committed to providing the highest quality service throughout the planning process and on their wedding day. According to Yan Volodarsky, Manager at Elite Entertainment , an eight-time Couples’ Choice Award winner:

“Awards like the WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Award bring a different level of expertise and professionalism to our brand.”

WeddingWire was the first wedding planning site to offer online wedding reviews and today leads the industry with more than 3 million reviews. Congratulations to all of our 2018 Couples’ Choice Award winners for their accomplishments and for their dedication to excellence within the industry.

Search for winners in your region or category.

» Is Your SEO Up to Par for 2018?

This post was written by Mike Anderson, Associate Director of SEO at WeddingWire.

These days, most purchases start with a search.

Customers turn first to Google or Bing to find what they’re looking for, which means if you want to be found, a strong search engine presence is a must. In fact, 81% of people perform some kind of search before making a large purchase. (1)

But in order to land high in Google’s search engine results, you first have to make your website and content easy for Google and customers to understand.

As we kick off 2018, follow the steps below to make sure that your SEO is up to par to gain online visibility, increase your website traffic and ultimately, your sales.

Find relevant keywords to focus on

The first step in optimization is to figure out what keywords you want to rank for. To help find keywords, there are a number of free tools available such as Moz’s Keyword Explorer and the SERPs Keyword Research Database. If you have an account with Google AdWords, their Keyword Planner is a great option as well. Each of these tools allows you to find popular search queries and export keywords you like.

Tip: When conducting your keyword research, try to search for keywords as your customers would. If you were looking for a DJ in your town, what would you search for?

Optimize your website

Once you have a list of keywords, the next step is to incorporate them into your website. Try to be strategic. Make sure keywords are included in the following elements of your website:

  • Title tag – keep it to 50-60 characters and use your target keywords at the beginning. Treat it like a headline – your title tags should be compelling to your audience and include your brand name towards the end
  • Meta Description – these are limited to 160 characters, Make sure they give an accurate description of the page, include your target keyword(s), and are intriguing enough that users will want to click through
  • H1 – this is the heading of a page. It should be kept to about 20-30 characters, and describe the page’s topic. It will often be similar to your title tag, and likely be the title of a blog or article on the page, which means it should stand out and include the keyword that page is targeting. Use only one H1 tag per page.
  • H2s – these are your subheadings, which can be used to break up the content on a page. Don’t include your target keyword in every one, but try to use it once or twice.  

Tip: Try to optimize your homepage for 2 to 3 broad keywords and use sub pages to target more specific, service-related terms. Also, don’t forget to make sure your site is optimized for mobile use. More than half of all searches are done on mobile devices!

Make sure your content is unique and engaging

Once you have optimized your website, it is important to focus on your content. Content quality is widely regarded as one of the most important SEO signals, and speaks volumes about your website’s reputation. By posting quality photos, engaging articles, and useful resources, your clients will want to link to your website. Content freshness is also an important ranking factor, so remember to post new content every so often.

As you begin writing, keep in mind, content should be formatted in a way that keeps readers engaged.  Use short blocks of content to make it easily skimmable, and use a combination of bullet points and paragraphs. Remember to also include links where possible and natural, both to other pages on your site as well as to other relevant websites.

Tip: If you’re looking for article ideas, refer back to keyword research tools to see what things your clients are searching for. Or take a look at your competitor’s social media profiles to see what topics are most popular with similar audiences.  

Optimize your business profiles

While your website is an important asset, it’s critical to ensure that your business information and content is accurate and well represented on other sites as well. Make sure that your Google My Business listing is claimed and features accurate information. The same goes for local directories like Yelp, YP, Apple Maps. Also, if you have signed up for WeddingWire, make sure to add a thorough description of your business and high-quality photos.

As you are filling out your profiles, remember to fill in as much information as possible. The more you provide, the easier it will be for customers to find you. In addition to address and contact information, try adding a relevant category to your Google My Business profile, mention any areas your business specializes in or choosing a high quality profile photo to use in your listings.

Tip: To run a quick analysis of your local listings, try Moz Local, which offers a free scan and score.

Grow your social communities

In addition to your site and your online profiles, social media is also an important part of your online presence. Being active on social media can help grow your online audience, and more importantly, drive more leads. But it can also help your SEO. Studies have shown that social linking itself does not add much SEO benefit. But related signals – such as business reviews and links back to your site from bloggers – can make a big difference. Regular posting on social networks can also help you see what content resonates with your clients, giving you ideas on what other topics would be good to write about. The larger your audience becomes, the more likes, reviews and links you receive.  

Tip: Make sure you provide information about your business on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other sites you appear on.  

Also, consider boosting some of your posts. Because business pages have limited organic reach, boosting will gain a significant amount of exposure and visibility. When choosing which posts to boost, remember to pick ones that promote your own content and are especially helpful to your audience. Also consider boosting anything designed to collect contact information, such as free downloads and giveaways.

Take it from Google

Google offers a number of resources to webmasters interested in bettering their sites and their search engine rankings. Their official webmaster guidelines is a great resource to learn about recommended best practices and discouraged activities. The company also has multiple spokespeople that answer community questions and give updates on changes to Google’s algorithm.

Tip: Check out Google’s webmaster guidelines to learn more about SEO best practices. Also, try following John Mueller (@JohnMu) on Twitter for the latest updates.

SEO isn’t always easy, but it is worth it.

So take the time to find the best keywords. Incorporate them properly and naturally into your site and content. Optimize your online presence with the correct information, and reach out to influencers in your industry.

Once you’ve done so, the pay-off will be a higher rank in search engines, more exposure, and more leads.  

(1) Retailing Today (2014)

» Why You Should Always Think Mobile in Your Marketing

This article was written by Sonny Ganguly, CMO of WeddingWire.

In 2018, a mobile-friendly website is no longer a trend or a nice-to-have – it’s a necessity for conducting business, especially in the wedding industry. More than ever, couples are using smartphones at all hours of the day to keep the planning process moving, from searching for wedding professionals to finding inspiration for the big day. Your mobile website might be the first-and-only impression a couple sees of your business, so it’s vital that your site provides a great user experience and highlights important information that will turn prospective clients into a bookings.

The tech landscape is fast-evolving, and not so long ago simply having a great website could put you ahead of your competition. But today, it’s no longer enough to give you a competitive edge. No matter your industry, you must be aware of the new platforms and tools used by your audience. If the majority of your audience is using mobile (and they are!), you should make the investment in mobile optimization and prepare for the Google mobile-first index.

Millennials are programmed to think mobile

As we know, smartphones have significantly changed consumer behavior and their impact on the wedding industry is no exception. Roughly 90% of adults in the U.S. between the ages of 25-34 own a smartphone, meaning that the majority of engaged couples are active on mobile devices.

Today’s society is accustomed to instant gratification, and the same holds true for couples in the wedding planning process. Smartphones allow couples to search for information during their commute, while at the gym, or pretty much anywhere at anytime of the day. It’s critical to provide the content they’re searching for when you have their attention! If a couple can’t find the information they’re looking for on your site, they’ll quickly move on to the next.

Mobile optimization is essential

Gone are the days when a business could get away with displaying their desktop layout on mobile. The moment a prospect needs to magnify text on their smartphone, you’ve lost a client – and if they’re willing to stick around, you’re certainly not providing the amazing experience your brand deserves. Instead, your business should have a responsive website, meaning that the content on each page adjusts to the device being used, so you can provide the best experience no matter how visitors are viewing your site. If you just redesigned your website and it’s not responsive, no need to panic! Until you’re ready to fully optimize your website, take the following actions to improve how your site appears on mobile without a responsive template:

  • Keep your color palette and branding consistent
  • Stick with a simple layout and avoid multiple pages
  • Resize your font and images to be mobile friendly
  • Reduce the amount of text displayed
  • Use large clickable buttons for calls-to-action

Understand how customers interact with your mobile site

Each week, couples spend over 30% of their time planning their wedding from a mobile or tablet device, which is about 40 minutes a day. During this time, couples are searching for things like wedding checklists, planners, colors, themes, websites, venues, budgets and more. Couples feel that these searches are less “risky” actions to be taking on mobile.

While all businesses need to have a strong mobile presence, it’s important to recognize if the product or service you provide is better suited for a desktop or mobile interaction and adjust content accordingly. While a couple might not create their wedding invitation on a mobile device, they will certainly browse for design inspiration on mobile. Think about what is most valuable to your clients and how you can deliver a great experience, while highlighting the most meaningful content (like providing contact information or sharing inspiring imagery). A good mobile experience does not need to replicate your website but should offer content that makes prospective clients want to take the next step.

Be ready for mobile-first SEO

By optimizing for mobile, you are setting yourself up for mobile-first search engine optimization. Now that mobile searches outnumber desktop searches, Google has been working on a rollout that will create and rank search listings based on the mobile version of content rather than the desktop experience. This project is most likely to launch sometime in 2018 and could negatively impact your search rankings over time if your site is not mobile friendly. You must ensure that your mobile site is at parity to your desktop version.

Having a mobile presence for your wedding business will change the way potential customers interact with your business for the better! Keep these advantages in mind and you’ll reach more couples and keep them coming back to your business.

Sonny GangulySonny leads WeddingWire’s B2C/B2B marketing strategy, customer acquisition, and community development. Sonny is a widely acclaimed speaker, giving over 50 presentations across the globe each year on technology, marketing and strategy. Sonny holds a B.A. in Economics with a focus in Management and Marketing from The University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. from Harvard Business School.

» How to Prep for 2018 Wedding Submissions

Photo by Walking Eagle Photography

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

With the end of the year upon us, it’s a great time to sit down and start mapping out your public relations efforts for 2018. For event professionals, real wedding submissions should be a big part of your strategy. It’s an effective way to get your brand in front of the audiences you’re seeking, and helps to establish you as an influencer in the industry.

Don’t know where to start? Let’s take a look at some of my top tips to follow for submitting.

Get permission

Before you do anything else, you want to make sure that you have not only the photographer’s permission but the client as well. The easiest way to do this is by including it in their contract, but we also recommend talking to them about it beforehand so you know they are on board from the beginning.

Do your homework

This may come as a surprise, but not every blog is right for every wedding. When deciding where to send a submission, sit down and do some research on which blogs are going to be the

right fit. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to send a black tie luxury wedding to a blog that heavily features rustic backyard celebrations. Be sure that you can find complementary events that are recent (within the last year) so you know what the editor is looking for.

It’s all about the details

When selecting images you’re planning to include in the submission, you want to think about it with the editor’s point of view in mind. Remember that they are trying to inspire their readers with trends and fresh ideas, so they will generally give preference to those who include lots of details. You may have adored the couple and want to see their faces all over the feature, but that isn’t what’s going to catch an editor’s eye.

Follow the rules

The biggest mistake you can make when submitting is not following the guidelines for each publication. There is no exact formula to follow, each outlet is distinct and will have different requirements. From image sizing to number of photos to sharing programs, no two are exactly the same. Be sure that you are checking the directions each time you submit a wedding to ensure that you haven’t missed anything.

Develop the story

While the photos will tell part of the story, it’s the couple themselves that editor’s want to hear about. The detail photos are important, but they want to know why the couple selected them, and what personal touches they included. For us, we have a questionnaire that is sent out to couples asking them details about their wedding like inspiration, DIY projects and how they met/got engaged. The couple will love getting involved in the process, and the editor will appreciate all of the detail you have included in the submission.

Include the team

No event is made great by just one person. It takes a team of vendors to bring everything together and make it a success. It’s important that when submitting a wedding you give credit where credit is due by including everyone that was involved. If the wedding gets published, they will appreciate the recognition, and will likely promote it themselves, increasing exposure for your business in turn.

With these tips in mind, you’re sure to kick your 2018 PR plan off with a bang!

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.

» These Are Our Most Read Articles of 2017

Photo by epaga FOTO

Throughout the year, we’ve shared our best tips for wedding businesses, the latest industry trends and the newest WeddingWire innovations, all to help you stand out and connect with more of today’s couples. We’ve rounded up the top articles that were the most helpful and enjoyed by our community this year — have you read them all?

10. Storefront Tune-Up Tips for Engagement Season
Did you know that nearly 18% of all engagements occur in December alone? Now is the best time to optimize your online presence in preparation for newly engaged couples looking for their ideal wedding team.

9. Why You Shouldn’t Say You’re “The Best”
Making this claim is an all too common marketing declaration, and it’s not one that will help you win couples. Instead of making that overstated claim, you should focus on what makes you different and exceptional with your ideal customer in mind.

8. Want More Reviews? Start Doing These 4 Things
Remember, 95% of couples use reviews to select their vendors and recency is the most important factor when couples are evaluating your reviews! Couples like to hear (and see!) what they should expect – not from the vendors themselves, but from past couples who’ve been in their position. Whether you’re new to collecting reviews or a seasoned expert, follow these top tips to start collecting even more reviews.

7. How to Respond to a Negative Review
Reviews are key to your online reputation, and it can be frustrating to receive a review that you may not be satisfied with or feel you don’t deserve. Although you may disagree with the review, it’s important to be professional in your response.

6. How Should You Politely Tell a Client “I Don’t Do That”?
As a creative professional, sometimes your taste and unique skills just don’t line up with the trend of the moment. When a request comes in for something that you don’t feel comfortable doing, use these suggestions to politely tell that potential client, “Thanks, but that really isn’t up my alley.

5. How Are Weddings Changing?
In the 2017 Newlywed Survey, we learned things like: Couples now spend 50% of their time planning from a smartphone (up from 30% last year!) and millennials are spending a bit more on weddings: $31,000 on average. To see more of what’s changing and what’s staying put, see the full newlywed survey.

4. 6 Ways to Optimize Your Website for Leads
Once a couple makes it to your site, it’s vital that you guide them to take the next step by submitting a lead. It’s easy to get swept up in your own ideas when building a website, but ultimately you need to think about how couples will interact with it in order to drive more conversions.

3. 5 Ways You’re Losing the Sale
Getting a sales inquiry is a huge buying signal. They’ve started with all of the possible choices and narrowed it down to a small group of potential companies in your service category—including you. At any point, you can either make it to the next round or be dropped.

2. Top Wedding Trends for 2017
Keeping up with current trends allows you to show potential clients that you are in the know and prepared to help them personalize their big day. These are the top trends we saw in 2017 and we can’t wait to share what’s to come in 2018!

1. Pricing Do’s and Don’ts
Here it is – our top post of 2017! Receiving a question about pricing can be daunting and tricky to navigate, but receiving that inquiry is a definite sign of interest and it should be exciting! Instead of being filled with dread when you see a pricing question hit your inbox, cue the confetti and use these top do’s and don’ts to answer their questions.

Thanks for being a part of our community — and we look forward to continue to grow together in 2018!

» Holiday Marketing Strategies to Boost Your Bookings

If there’s one thing people love, it’s a good holiday! The United States has a number of holidays throughout the year that mean time off and joyous celebrations. While they’re an excellent time for consumers to kick back and relax, holidays provide a great opportunity for wedding professionals to get in on the excitement.

This holiday season has us thinking about capitalizing on holiday buzz – and how to leverage the goodwill of an upcoming holiday by using one of these marketing strategies.

Create holiday-themed images to use on your social networks

One of the easiest ways to promote your wedding business during a holiday is to create holiday-themed images, just like the one featured above! Ask your graphic designer to help if you have one (or know one), or use a free app like Canva to add your own text and logo to the image of your choice. Even a message as simple as “Happy Holidays” with your logo and a nice image will provide a personal touch and keep your business top of mind without much effort. Post these images on your social networks, or add them as your profile and cover photos on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter. Once the holiday has passed, don’t forget to change your photos back to your typical year round photo.

Introduce holiday deals and promotions

Another great way to capitalize on the buzz around the holidays is by offering deals or running promotions. Most retail brands run sales during holiday weekends, so couples are probably already on the hunt for a good deal. If you are approaching a holiday and still don’t have an event, run a promotion that offers a special package or additional services for a wedding on that holiday. Or, if your business serves consumers beyond weddings (florists, makeup artists, photographers), consider offering a discount to get more people in the door on a day where they might otherwise be busy.

Run a social media contest

If holidays are typically already popular dates for your calendar, you could run a social media contest in lieu of offering a discount or special deal. Run a sweepstakes, photo, or video contest and award the winner with services on the upcoming holiday. Facebook is often the preferred social network for running contests, but you can use your favorite social network to promote the contest and accept responses so that the effort required is minimal.

Incorporate charitable components

Certain holidays like Memorial Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas are popular holidays to give back to the community. Think about any local or national charities you know that are associated with those holidays or could benefit from some extra assistance and incorporate them into your promotions or contests. You could donate a portion of profits made during the holiday, or even make a donation on behalf of whoever wins your contest. No matter how you decide to promote your business around the holiday, incorporating a charitable component is sure to boost engagement!

Happy Holidays from all of us at WeddingWire!

» 2017 WeddingWire Innovations to Help You Connect With Couples

As 2017 comes to a close, we are taking a moment to look back on the new ways WeddingWire helped you reach and connect with more couples this year. Since the vast majority of today’s couples are millennials, we’re continuously working to develop new features and evolve current offerings to help you stand out and get more qualified leads in today’s market. Each innovation was developed with the success of our wedding professionals in mind and the end goal of helping you get noticed and book more couples on WeddingWire.

Here’s a roundup of some of our favorite features from 2017:

Photos in Reviews
Photos are a great way to build credibility and give couples a glimpse of your past work. Clients are now able to add photos along with their review on your WeddingWire Storefront to help you attract future bookings. Get reviews with photos from your clients today by emailing them through the Review Collector tool and using it to track your requests and send automatic reminders.

3D Tours for Venues

Transform the way couples view your venue and make a stunning first impression by providing them with a real life walkthrough of your property right from your WeddingWire Storefront. A 3D Tour lets couples view your property at any time — whether they’re across town or across the globe. Interested in a WeddingWire 3D Tour? The process is easy! Sign up here.

Storefront Highlights
We made it easier for couples to find the top information they’re looking for when searching for wedding professionals in your field by adding Highlights to your Storefront. Potential clients can now easily find key details about your business – including reviews, pricing, and availability – bringing you more qualified leads. Storefront Highlights is currently available for Photographers, Videographers, Venues, Caterers, and Planners. Haven’t seen your Highlights yet? Head to your Storefront to check them out!

WeddingWire Rewards
Designed to give couples even more of a reason to contact your business, this program rewards couples for contacting and booking you on WeddingWire! Couples can earn $25 for every vendor they contact and hire through the WeddingWire website – up to $300. Learn more about how WeddingWire Rewards works and why your participation in the program is important.

Updated Pricing Display

When you upload a Pricing PDF to your WeddingWire Storefront it now displays with a preview image alongside your other pricing details, making it easier for couples to find supplemental information about your products, services, and packages you offer. Additionally, venues now have the option to include Interactive Pricing on their Storefront. This new feature is designed to help set couples’ expectations about price by using your past wedding data to create a range of what couples can expect to pay based on their event details, like guest count and date. Watch this quick video to see how it works or log into your WeddingWire account to get started.

We look forward to continued innovation and finding new ways to help you connect with more couples and grow your business in 2018!

» How to Leverage the Royal Engagement for Your Business

Photo by Kensington Royal via Instagram

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

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the UK’s Prince Harry is marrying American actress, Meghan Markle in May 2018. That’s right friends: it’s another royal wedding!

If you’re anything like me, your initial reaction was probably to pull out your commemorative china, don a fascinator and toast the engagement with a cup of your best Earl Grey. Or, if you are just a little bit less obsessed, you at least had a moment of recognition that the media coverage of all things bespoke is guaranteed to be constant and overwhelming through May and beyond. Either way, as a wedding professional it’s time to celebrate because this is a major opportunity to leverage your expertise in return for some valuable publicity – even if you don’t know the first thing about making a proper fruit cake.

The fact is that from now until May, media outlets will be hungry for stories, either directly related to or inspired by the engagement. Now is the time to get your name out there and take full advantage of this gift. Kate and Will married in OFD’s second year, and I was able to turn that into national TV coverage! Good Morning America actually sent a team to film my royal wedding viewing party – one of the Crown Jewels (pardon the pun) of my own early publicity. It was, and still is, all about timing, experience and enthusiasm.

So, what can you do to get your piece of the royal publicity pie?

  • Reach out to your local media
    If you’re already seeing coverage of the royal wedding locally, even if it’s just the engagement announcement, hunt down the writers on the beat and email them now. Introduce yourself and establish your wedding expertise, along with your willingness to chime in.
  • Leverage content on your own website and social media
    One of the biggest challenges people have with blogging is coming up with content, so take advantage of the global attention and create an ongoing blog theme related to it. Include your observations, predictions and commentary.
  • Sign up for HARO
    If you haven’t done so already- keep an eye out for wedding related inquiries, which are bound to increase as the fervor builds.
  • Plan an inspiration shoot
    If you don’t feel comfortable putting yourself out there as an expert, go ahead and at least consider your own fun shoot inspired by the royal wedding. Dare to be different, but make sure it complements themes and elements predicted for the upcoming nuptials (remember that editors need to be able to connect the dots). The wedding is in May, so start submitting by March, at the latest.
  • Have fun!
    Host a local viewing party and invite all of your wedding friends. It’s a great way to ramp up the wedding season and make deeper connections.

    There is no reason to fear royal wedding madness – this is a great time to be in our industry. Prepare for an adventure, because this will definitely be one of your most entertaining wedding seasons yet.

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.

» Do You Want the Sale, or Not?

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

While speaking at a conference in Mexico, I overheard some wedding professionals talking, and one said:“If you don’t want to do the wedding, just give them a really high price.” I jumped into the conversation, and I said “If you don’t want to do the wedding, don’t do the wedding!” Giving them a high price doesn’t change the reasons you didn’t want to do it. Maybe it was really far away. Maybe it would be so time-consuming, that it would take away from your other clients. Or, maybe they’re just not nice people and you didn’t connect with them. If you give them a high price, and they accept it, those reasons didn’t go away. You’ll just likely end up regretting taking it, while you toil away on a wedding you didn’t want to do. The money is not going to make up for that.

I was doing an event in Ireland recently, and I asked the attendees to let me know if any of them got a new lead, during the event. A DJ, who had come over from the UK for the event, told me that he just got a new inquiry through his website. I asked him to read it to us. He didn’t sound very excited while reading it, and I asked him why. She was 2½ – hours away from him, in an area where he doesn’t usually get inquiries. He had just won a prestigious award in the UK, and figured that she had seen that, and that’s why she reached out (just conjecture on his part, of course).

Your attitude will come through

I asked how he was going to reply, and he said “I don’t really care if I get it, or not, being 2½ – hours away.” I asked him “Do you want the sale, or not?” He said he could go either way. I asked him again “Do you want the sale, or not?” He said “I’d only do it for my full fee.” I told him that he hadn’t even gotten to that point, yet. However, if he wasn’t interested, then tell her he’s not available. If he is interested, then let’s answer this together. His attitude when writing the reply is very important. If you’ve seen me present on this topic, read my books, or heard a webinar or read my articles here, you know that tone and energy comes through in written conversations.

So, he replied to her, and she replied back. He gave her a price range. She indicated that the top of the range was too high for her, and asked if he had something for less. He asked for a 5- minute phone call the following morning, which they had, and he booked her for his full fee (the bottom of the range he had given her). He was happy, and so was she. Had he written his original response, it’s possible she would have seen that he was blasé about getting the sale, and she’d find someone who was as excited as she.

Don’t rush the process, just because you’re busy

When I do sales training, I like to look at the actual digital conversations of my clients, businesses just like yours. Very often I see conversations that try to rush the process, either by asking too many questions at once, sending lots of attachments, answering questions they haven’t asked yet, and more. When I ask why they’re including so much information, the reason is often because they’re so busy with other tasks, they don’t feel they have the time to have a few, or a lot of back and forth, short conversations. Sound familiar? I’ll bet it does. What do you want, when you’re the customer?

I get it, I really do. However, when you’re the customer, and you email a business about something you need, what do you want? Don’t you want to have a conversation with a real person? A real conversation, not a data dump of information. Not lots of PDFs, or even one PDF, especially if you can’t easily read it on your phone. Don’t you want to know that someone is taking an interest in solving your problem, or getting you to the end result that you want? Of course, you do, and so do I. It’s not their problem that you’re busy. Yes, we like to do business with the popular companies, there’s a certain reassurance. However, I’d rather do business with someone who takes the time to have a conversation with me, than someone who copies and pastes the same information to me, that they do for everyone else. We all like to think that we’re unique.

Can you afford to lose one sale?

How full is your calendar? Can you afford to lose one sale? What would that cost you? It’s probably already happened. It happens to all of us, sometimes it’s our fault, sometimes it’s not. Some of the reasons are beyond our control. If they book someone who’s half your price, they didn’t see the value in hiring you. It’s going to happen. If they book someone who was referred by a friend or relative, oh well. But if they book someone else, for the same, or higher price than you, because you didn’t show them the personal attention that they wanted (and deserved), from their very first contact with you, that’s on you. If you don’t need another sale, more power to you. But that attitude can come back to bite you in the long run. So, do you want the sale, or don’t you? If you do, then treat them the way you’d want to be treated!

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.

» #JustSaidYes is Here – Share With Your Couples!

Engagement season is officially here and we are excited to launch our annual campaign for couples, #JustSaidYes! The contest, held during peak engagement season, asks couples to share their engagement moment on social media with #justsaidyes and @weddingwire for a chance to win the grand prize of $10,000 towards amazing wedding vendors like you!

Last year the #JustSaidYes campaign received over 34,000 entries, 114,000 landing page visits and over 46,000 new instagram followers – that’s a lot of newly engaged couples on the hunt for their dream wedding team! This year the campaign will be bigger than ever, and will bring more couples to your doorstep.  Want to get in on the buzz? Share these simple steps so that couples can enter to win:

  1. Get engaged and snap a photo!
  2. Share the photo via Instagram or upload a photo to the #JustSaidYes website
  3. Post the photo and tag @weddingwire and #JustSaidYes to enter

Lucky winners will be announced throughout the campaign from December 1, 2017 through February 28, 2018. One grand prize winner will receive $10,000 towards their wedding team, and three monthly winners will receive fantastic prizes for their wedding and honeymoon including: a wedding dress from Allure Bridals, two sets of luggage from AWAY and a $2,500 gift card from Blue Nile. See full terms and conditions here.

Make sure to follow along to see fun engagement posts and engagement inspiration shared on social media this engagement season using #JustSaidYes.

» A Fresh Look at the Legal Landscape for LGBTQ Couples

Photo by Hitched Photo

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Expert, Kathryn Hamm.

With the advent of marriage equality in June of 2015, the need for my “legal landscape” updates came to an almost complete stop. Gone was the need to help wedding professionals understand the nuances around the kinds of choices that same-sex couples were making when planning the weddings based on where they lived and where their unions would be legally recognized.

As 2017 comes to a close, however, there are a few important legal landscape updates to keep in mind. Highlights include: the recent same-sex marriage postal poll in Australia; the addition of legal marriage in non-U.S. locations like Finland, Malta and Germany; and the forthcoming Supreme Court hearing on December 5, 2017, Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. Colorado Civil Rights Commission.

Is Marriage Legal in Australia Or Not?

Australia has been engaged in a debate about same-sex marriage that has captured the attention of interested parties far beyond its shores. Its neighbor, New Zealand, recognized the opportunity for destination weddings and legal elopements when it recognized marriage in 2013. At last, the Aussies have begun to catch up and, in keeping with its political process, conducted a postal survey to gauge the interest of the general population. The results of that survey, after a high-profile and contentious months-long round of campaigning by those in favor of and against same-sex marriage, revealed that a majority (61%) of Australians favor same-sex marriage.

The vote-by-poll, however, is non-binding, and it is now up to the Prime Minister, Malcom Turnbull, and the Parliament to convert the majority opinion into law. He says he intends “to make their wish the law of the land by Christmas.” Presuming that this does occur as promised, wedding professionals and the hospitality industry expect to see business expand as same-sex couples, including this couple of 50 years, look to get hitched in their home country in 2018.

Germany, Finland and Malta Celebrate Marriage Equality

In 2001, the Netherlands was the first to recognize same-sex marriage, and, since then, 19 additional countries have followed suit, including Germany, Finland and Malta in 2017. Our global WeddingWire family offers inclusive resources for same-sex couples regardless of legal recognition, but proudly celebrates marriage equality with same-sex couples in most of the countries WeddingWire currently serves, including Spain (2005), Canada (2005), Argentina (2010), Colombia (2016), Brazil (2013), France (2013), and Uruguay (2013); and those jurisdictions in the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Italy where same-sex marriage is recognized.

Masterpiece Cakeshop & The Question of Service Refusal

Though the Supreme Court may have settled the question of marriage equality on June 26, 2015, it did not create a right for LGBTQ individuals and couples to be free from discrimination in other areas of their lives.  While many states have statutes that prohibit discrimination in housing, education, employment or public accommodations (hotels, restaurants, etc.) on the basis of sexual orientation, many others don’t.  An attack on one of these state statutes is being carried out in the context of the simmering debate about whether or not wedding professionals should be compelled to serve same-sex couples if they oppose same-sex marriage.

Enter the case of Jack Phillips of Masterpiece Cakeshop vs. the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, which will be heard by the Supreme Court of the United States on December 5. Richard Wolf of USA Today wrote of the long odds of the “tight-knit fraternity” of “same-sex marriage foes” in this hearing as they attempt to argue successfully that they have the right to refuse to serve same-sex couples seeking products and services for their weddings. Experts point out that the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act  is very clear that businesses cannot discriminate against a person based on sexual orientation.   And, “at issue,” says the Center for American Progress, “is whether the First Amendment’s free speech and free exercise (of religion) clauses permit a business that is open to the public to refuse service to groups of people, in violation of laws prohibiting discrimination.”  It’s worth noting that arguments regarding free exercise of religion are not new, but the free speech argument represents a new approach.  Taken to its extreme, it means many businesses who claim that their work is “expressive,” including many in the wedding industry like photographers, would not be subject to anti-discrimination laws.

Beyond the consideration of this question in a court of law (the highest court in the land, no less) is its consideration in the court of public and industry opinion. Here, there is clear evidence that a majority of Americans (60%) do not think that wedding businesses should be allowed to refuse to serve same-sex couples, including an even higher majority in the segment of wedding professionals (64%). The question, asked differently in 2016 by WeddingWire, found that the vast majority (89%) of wedding professionals said that they are ready, willing and able to serve same-sex couples.

It is not surprising, then, that WeddingWire would decide to sign on to the HRC-led amicus brief, which argues that wedding businesses must be open to all. Said Timothy Chi, CEO of WeddingWire, “I wanted to clearly communicate WeddingWire’s position and underscore, in no uncertain terms, what we stand for as a company. WeddingWire opposes discrimination of any type. Love is love, and we support the right that all couples have to marry. Our company has a long history of supporting equal rights, equal opportunity, and equal treatment, with dignity and respect that is uncompromised. As such, WeddingWire supports the arguments of the respondents, the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and Charlie Davis and David Mullins.”  WeddingWire has also expressed its support for the Equality Act, a national law that would extend the protections under the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to sexual orientation and gender identity.

Regardless of what the Supreme Court decides to offer as legal guidance to address the unfinished business of the 2015 Obergefell decision, engaged couples and wedding professionals will still have to lead the way in resolving this conversation.

And I believe it’s possible for love, compassion, and market forces to shape the resolution beyond the guidance the law offers us, and to pave the way for same-sex couples to enjoy both the freedom to marry and the freedom to be served.

kathryn hammThis post was written by Kathryn Hamm WeddingWire Education Expert, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. Follow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.

» Who’s in Your Network?

Photo by Austin Stuart Photography

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

I just got back from presenting at a local wedding association meeting. This association opened the workshop to non-members, as a gesture to help educate the industry (and I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt to try to drum up a few new members). As is the case at all meetings like this, many of the people who attended already knew each other. Many already get together, outside the meetings, either socially, or to network.

Is that a clique, or a network?

There’s a fine line between a clique and a network, but it’s often hard to see the difference from the outside. For me, the difference is whether the group is open to new members. When I say group, I don’t necessarily mean a formal association. At workshops and conferences, wedding and event professionals tend to cluster in groups. I’m sure a psychologist would tell us that this is natural, human behavior. Are those groups cliques? They can often feel impenetrable, because the body language of the group feels exclusive, as opposed to inclusive. Outsiders often don’t try to join the group, assuming, in advance, that they’re not welcome. Sometimes that’s the case, sometimes it’s not.

Who’s in your five?

Do you remember the cell phone ads, “Who’s in your five?” In this case, your ‘five’ is your inner-circle (which can certainly be more than five people). Who are the industry connections with whom you socialize? It’s been said that we do business with people we know, like and trust (credit to Bob Burg, no relation). When a couple asks for a referral to another service, or when you’re booked and want to refer a colleague, why do you refer those particular businesses? Is it just because they’re the best at what they do? Or, is it because they’re good at what they do, and you saw them recently, either at a wedding, or at a networking event, or over coffee on a Tuesday?

How can you expand your network?

First, remember that you weren’t always on the inside. Too often I see wedding professionals complaining about the new company in their market, whether they’re a lower-price, or a direct competitor. Weren’t we all the new guy (or gal) at one time? Weren’t our prices lower than many, if not most competitors, when we were new to the business? For many of us, the answer to those questions is yes. Rather than shun these newbies, why not welcome them into the fold? Wouldn’t it have been nice if you were welcomed that way when you were new? Or, maybe you were.

A rising tide raises all ships

Welcoming the new businesses, and helping them do things the right way, helps everyone. We all know that it only takes one person in your market and category, who has bad customer service, or who takes advantage of a customer, to make us all look bad. I would rather compete with someone who’s doing things well, is honest and well-respected. It makes me keep myself sharp, and keep my game up.

You can teach an old dog…

Another reason to widen your network with newcomers, is that they often have new ideas that can help you. Those of us who’ve been at our craft for a while can sometimes get set in our ways. Have you ever been caught off-guard by a newcomer who’s taking market share with their new approach? Baby-boomers and Gen Xers can learn from millennials and vice versa. You may like your way, but it’s not the only way. Regardless of age, none of us can learn anything new, if we’re not open to the possibilities. So, the next time you find yourself in a group, and you see someone you don’t know, try introducing yourself and inviting them in. You may make a great business connection, or even a new friend. Who’s in your five?

alan bergWeddingWire 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.