» Infographic: Top 10 Business Tips from 2016

The start of a new year is the ideal time to evaluate your business success! Take a moment to read these insider’s tips on how businesses like yours have achieved their goals over the past twelve months.

These 10 highlights from WeddingWire’s Senior Director of Customer Success Ashley Conway include advice about how to impress more newly engaged couples and improve your marketing techniques to generate more leads and clients.  Read on and set your business up for success in the coming year.

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» 4 Easy Ways to Reduce Distractions at Appointments

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This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP. Alan has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

These days it often seems like everyone is busier than ever, with shorter attention spans.  Knowing this may be true for your clients, it’s your job to keep appointments focused and distractions to a minimum. This advice goes for everything from the physical design and décor of your meeting space, to the background and lighting.

Customize your space for your audience.

If your business has multiple audiences for weddings, corporate parties, bar/bat mitzvahs, even funerals, it’s a good idea to have a way to change the visuals when you meet with them. When a bar mitzvah parent is coming in for a meeting, they should be seeing bar mitzvah art on the walls, bar mitzvah videos playing on your TVs and bar mitzvah images on your printed collateral materials. The same goes for your other audiences. I’ve seen quite a few wedding pros’ offices that use flat screen TVs instead of printed photos, so they can change the imagery. So, unless you’re the photographer, and you’re selling large printed and framed photos, you can try this, too. You can put a nice picture frame around the TV to make it look and feel more like artwork.

How do they see it?

Sit where they will sit and see what’s in their line of sight that might be a distraction. Is there a large window behind you with distracting movement of people, or vehicles? Are there any maintenance items that need to be addressed, from dusting, to spider webs, to touching up paint and fixing broken ceiling tiles? Looking at it from their perspective is one of the things I do when I come for an on-site training. You can’t see it the way that they do, because you see it every day, another example of the Curse of Knowledge.

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Say what?

Are there sounds coming from outside or adjacent rooms that might be a distraction? Here’s another area where you don’t get credit for getting it right, but you lose points for getting it wrong. No one will thank you for reducing the distractions, but they’ll notice when it’s too noisy, dogs barking, babies crying, and when there are people talking or playing music loudly in the next room. Actually, that wasn’t totally correct. You will get thanked in the form of additional business by getting it right.

Give them your undivided attention.

While you’re in an appointment, and I know this sounds obvious, but don’t take phone calls, check your smartphone, or email. It’s rude and it shows them that they’re less important than whatever else you’re doing. When you’re the customer, you don’t like that, so, unless someone close to you is about to have a baby, or come out of surgery, silence your devices, and tell you staff (if you have a staff) not to interrupt you unless it relates to this customer. Most of our communication is non-verbal. People believe what they see more than what they hear, and your actions speak volumes. Giving them your undivided attention is key to gaining their trust. I’ve said this already, but it’s worth mentioning again; people buy from people they know, like and trust.

» How to Make the Most of Engagement Season

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While other business owners may delight in the pre-holiday or back-to-school shopping seasons, the undisputed champ of sales for wedding professionals is engagement season. WeddingWire calculates that about 40% of couples who will be engaged in the next 12 months will do so between November and February.

These quick best practices will help you maximize this crucial time and set yourself up for a productive wedding season.

Freshen up your online presence: Couples these days are accustomed to shopping for services online, so it’s uber-important to put your best foot forward across the Web. That includes your website, social media, WeddingWire storefront and even your email signature. Be sure your branding is consistent throughout and that you make it as easy as possible to contact you. Don’t force couples to hunt for your email or social networks—be sure this is on the very first page of your website. Have a couple of friends put fresh eyes on your sites and social media to be sure you don’t have any broken links, confusing wording or blurry images.

Audit your social: While we’re on the subject, now isn’t the time to neglect your social media accounts! Couples will often use your social media to not only see some of your most recent work, but also get a feel for your personality. They’re looking for partners on their wedding day, not just someone to come in, provide a service and leave. With that said, don’t be a robot on social. Share your best photos, but also share what drew you to the couple, what you loved about the day or why that particular photo is one of your favorites. Be sure to get permission from couples to share and tag them (as well as the rest of the vendor team) if they’re also on social media.

Keep your calendar up-to-date: As couples are reaching out to you for consultations, they’ll want to know that you’re available for their wedding date and location. Take a few minutes to fill in your calendar with as many details as you can about your upcoming wedding season, including building in time for site visits, travel and administrative tasks as needed. While it’s great to be busy, you don’t want to lose business because you’ve incorrectly estimated the time commitment for future clients.

Consider an auto-email feature: In a rapid response world, sometimes 24 to 48 hours just won’t do. As couples fill out your contact form during engagement season, it might be best to automate an email that instantly responds. Beyond showing that you’re responsive right away, use this email to smartly promote your social channels, work that you’re most proud of or even an awesome piece of wedding planning content you really love. Give it some personality, but be sure it’s short, sweet and helping you meet your business goals.

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Prove your credibility: It’s one thing for you to say you’re amazing, efficient and easy to work with, but it’s a whole other thing for someone else to say it. That’s why so many couples rely on business reviews before contacting potential wedding professionals. Make it a goal to amass at least five additional reviews from couples and other professionals you’ve recently worked with this engagement season. Don’t be shy about asking for them—newlyweds love to talk about their wedding and you were an important part of why it was so special!

Nail your first impression: Once you’ve set up a time to meet with a potential client, the real work of engagement season begins. Chances are, the couple’s had a chance to peruse your social media, your website and your storefront, so return the favor by learning a little about the couple as well. Check out their social media profiles if you can, and look into any information they may have included in their emails to you—the type of wedding they’d like, what they enjoyed about your work, their venue, etc. Be prepared to discuss the latest wedding trends in your industry and show a curated collection of your recent projects. So, if you know the couple will be wed at a fancy downtown hotel, don’t show up with a portfolio full of barn weddings you’ve done and vice versa.

Learn even more about how to nail engagement season with this fact sheet.