» How to Thrive in Our Visual Industry

Photo by Bellagala Photography

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

The wedding industry is a visual business. There are few other moments in most couples’ lives when the majority of consumers will spend top dollar to have professional images taken, or hire designers to handle décor and florals for a single event. The first thing a couple does when wedding planning is turn to a source of inspiration images, whether in a print magazine or on social media. Wedding professionals have no choice than to be visually oriented in order to thrive.

The quality of your visual marketing, its reach and accessibility are all important to how well your company is received. We’ve assembled some of our top tips for selling with visuals to help you take full advantage of your opportunities.

Take top quality images

Depending on your market, this could mean many things, but ensuring that you have excellent visuals to attract prospective couples is the first step. Develop relationships with photographers so you can get access to real wedding images in a timely manner, if possible. Take advantage of inspiration shoot opportunities. You can even hone your talents and take your own awesome images to use in your marketing. Smartphone technology allows us all to be better photographers than in the past, so learn how to use that to your advantage.

Make your business space visually-oriented

Our office is saturated with visuals. We keep large canvasses of our work on our walls and even in the bathrooms! 60” TV monitors constantly show a slideshow of our best work, and we hand each client an iPad when he or she walks through the door with an album of our recent events in their venue on the screen.

Be careful as you put together your own visual playground that you are able to keep your images updated. Over time, any photo will look dated and becomes irrelevant, unable to promote your new inventory. Create easily updatable formats for promotion like slideshows so your new clients see the most current options at all times.

Take advantage of social media

Use all available channels to share your work – and make sure that the majority of what you put out is, in fact, sharing and not overly “promotional.” Tell a story with your visuals that includes your products and services, but also inspires couples to see themselves in your client’s’ shoes. Brand your images not just with watermarks, but with recognizable inventory or moments that strongly remind your market of you.

A picture may, in fact, be worth a thousand words, so what is your visual marketing telling your prospective clients about you?

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

» To Discount or Not to Discount?

Photo by Tracy Shoopman Photography

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

An often contentious topic among wedding professionals is discounting. Both sides of the debate dig in, deeply, when this question is posed on social media or in forums. Now, as engagement season begins, is the time to dive into this subject, starting with the difference between discounting and negotiating.

Discounting versus negotiating

For me, discounting is fine when it has structure and rules. Meaning everyone who buys the same products or services for equivalent dates will pay the same price and the rules are applied equally to everyone. For instance, if you have three packages and your higher packages, which contain more services, also have the highest discounts, that’s great. If everyone who buys that package pays the same price, then the rules are being applied equally.

On the other hand, negotiating means that two couples who buy the same products or services may pay different prices. Each customer’s ability to negotiate will determine their final price. The challenge with negotiating in today’s digitally connected world is that people can, and will, talk about their discount. If you can’t easily explain to one customer why they paid more than another customer for the same products and services – for instance, an in-season date versus an off-season date – then you’re negotiating, not discounting.

Discounting and negotiating can be part of a pricing strategy, negotiating is just less structured. There are times when I’ll negotiate to get the sale, but it’s the exception, not the rule. I recommend to my consulting clients to offer added value over a discount in price, as it helps to keep integrity in their basic pricing structure. If you’ve ever thrown in an extra product or service to get the sale, you’ve negotiated. Some companies do it on every sale. If you give the same or similar added value services every time, you’re really discounting, not negotiating. If the proportionate value of the added products or services changes with every customer, you’re negotiating.

Which is right for you?

There’s no one answer that’s right for every business. Personally, I prefer discounting over negotiating, as it’s easier to explain to your employees and your customers. I understand that it may not work for all businesses. In my business, as a speaker, sales trainer and consultant, there is no standard price list. Each event and client involves a different set of circumstances (travel, preparation, residual business, etc.). However, when it comes to my physical products (books, CDs, etc.), discounts make sense. For example, when I have a booth at a trade show or event, I’ll have my books and CDs, and usually offer an event discount. Many times I’ll be asked for an even lower price, and I’ll thank them and say that the listed prices are already discounted. Then I’ll ask if they want to pay with cash or credit. Asking for a discount is a buying signal, so always ask them for the sale when they ask for a discount.

Don’t fight the power

One of the keys to having pricing power is when the customer wants you, specifically you, to do their wedding or event. You’re not available anywhere else, at any price. If they don’t perceive any difference between you and another company with a lower price, the lower price will win. If they can tell the difference and want you to be their planner, or caterer, or officiant, they have to pay your price.

Get something of value in return

If you’re going to discount or negotiate, try to get something of value in return. If you only lower your price, you’re giving away profit. The products and services will cost you the same, but you’re getting paid less for them. Whether it’s getting a bigger deposit, being paid in full now, taking away services, or a higher guaranteed minimum guest count, make them a partner. If you’re the only one giving, they’ll keep taking. When they want to stop giving, they’ll stop asking.

They’ll be back

Many customers will shop around and find a lower price, which isn’t hard to do these days. If they do find a lower price and they still come back to you, they’re signaling that they can tell a difference, whether in your products or services or in the way you’ve provided a better customer experience – or both. That’s an indication that you have pricing power.

They may ask you to match the lower price, but you shouldn’t have to in order to get the sale. If they felt the other company would provide just as good products or services and customer experience, they wouldn’t have come back to you. The fact that they’re coming back shows that they like you better. Always thank them for coming back. After all, if price was the most important factor, you’d be out of the running.

Price doesn’t determine outcome

Sure, sometimes the lower price will win. A line I often use is “If price is the most important factor when choosing your (photographer, band, dress, speaker, etc.) then I’m probably not the best choice for your event.” Change the discussion from pricing to outcomes. There are many wedding and event professionals who don’t charge enough, whether by choice or out of fear.

Do I have to offer a discount to get the sale?

Whether you decide to offer a discount or not is a personal decision and part of your personal brand. There are many very successful businesses that offer discounts. Sometimes it’s due to competitive pressures, and sometimes it’s to encourage a higher sale. Packages are a great way to display discounts and encourage a higher average sale.

What’s the right answer for your business?

I’d have to know a lot more details to answer that. But when discounting becomes the reason that couples book you instead of them wanting only you to do their wedding or event, you risk diluting your brand. When they’re choosing you mostly on price, it’s easy for someone else to come along and undercut your price. So, discount or negotiate, it’s up to you – but be careful not to get caught up selling the discount, instead of selling your brand.

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.

» Why You Shouldn’t Cater to Only One Type of Client

Photo by Cassie Madden Photography

This post was written by Megan Hayes, Regional Manager, Customer Success at WeddingWire.

One of the most common challenges in the wedding industry is the lack of diversity and representation of all types of couples in the media. While society has led us to think a certain way based on what’s typically portrayed in media outlets, such as magazines and television, the reality is that today’s couples come from all backgrounds and lifestyles.

Just think: How many times have you seen a young bride standing alone on the cover of a wedding magazine and thought, “Wow, she really represents all of my clients”? The short answer is you probably haven’t!

Whether it’s your business website, your social networks, or ads in wedding magazines, only catering to one type of client could mean that your website (and marketing materials) could be turning away potential clients. According to this WedInsights fact sheet, 40% of straight grooms and 50% of brides and grooms of color say it is challenging to see themselves reflected in the content and imagery of magazines and online resources. Additionally, same-sex couples and those with lower household incomes are more likely to say they also experience this lack of representation in media.

It’s important to remember that all types of couples are looking for inspiration and relevant resources to help them with their decision-making needs throughout the wedding planning process. If couples can’t relate to, or identify with your work, this might deter them from considering your services. Conversely, our data shows that representing more diverse audiences can actually benefit your business. According to our 2016 Survey of Contemporary Couples & Current Wedding Trends, 98% of same-sex couples surveyed feel positively about a company featuring same-sex imagery on their websites and marketing collateral.

In preparation for engagement season, take a second to think about the couples you’ve worked with in the past year. Now take a look at your advertising. Does your advertising display the array of body shapes, ages, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, or even personal styles of the couples you service? Are all of your recent clients reflected in your marketing materials? If your answer is no, here are some suggestions for how you can incorporate diversity into  your website, WeddingWire Storefront, and other marketing materials to make underrepresented couples feel welcome:

  • Display an assorted representation of couples you’ve worked with through visual content on your Storefront such as your main image, photo albums, and video content.
  • In your About Us section, use inclusive language (i.e. use “couples” in place of “brides” wherever possible) and convey that you embrace diversity and welcome all couples.
  • Utilize photography that showcases diversity in your blog posts, social media channels, and on your website.

Remember: Small changes can go a long way towards helping all types of couples feel comfortable reaching out to you and booking your business.

 

Megan Hayes is a Regional Manager of the Customer Success Team at WeddingWire. As a client-facing customer advocate with 7+ years of experience in both account management and online advertising, she’s now taken her experience and travels nationally speaking on topics to empower small businesses with industry trends. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies with a Public Relations concentration from James Madison University.

» 7 Essentials of a Great Website

An online presence is vital for any business, but a poor online presence could be costing your business money. As busy season starts to wind down and engagement season ramps up, you should start thinking about using the next couple of months to tune up your business, including your website. Doing so will make sure you are putting your best foot forward for all of the newly engaged couples!

Your website’s job is to provide key information about your business, showcase your best work and impress clients to drive leads. When was the last time you considered if your business website is working hard enough for you?

Here’s a roundup of seven website essentials from WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg:

  1. Personalized Content: Aim to use conversational text on your site that connects with your target audience — engaged couples. Instead of making your content all about your business, make it all about your customer and bring life to your business.

  2. Fresh Imagery: When was the last time you refreshed your website photos? If it’s been a while, it may be time to do so! Make a great first impression with high quality, modern images that will resonate with newly engaged couples who are seeking inspiration. Not only is it a great way to show off your work and service, it’s a great way to establish credibility with a couple.

  3. Relevant Information: Take a look at your site from an outside perspective, and determine what information they need to make a simple decision of whether to contact you or book your services. Then, delete everything else. Often, too much text is overwhelming and causes your site visitors to bounce. Focus on your key takeaways and make them easy to read and digest.

  4. Simple Contact Form: Long forms get in the way of more leads! The shorter the form, the less daunting it will seem to reach out. Plus, shorter forms are more mobile-friendly. For the form, only ask for the key information you need. When you respond to their inquiry you can ask them to provide more details.

  5. Narrated Photos: Consider adding captions or other narrative context to the photos you showcase on your site. Explain the photos and how your business brought a couple’s wedding day or event to life and tie in relevant keywords to boost your SEO. Keep these brief, but it can help create a personal connection.

  6. Testimonials and Reviews: Potential clients want to hear from others like them who have used – and loved your services, so make sure your reviews are easy to find! Add your WeddingWire Reviews widget to your website, and place a soundbite from an approved client testimonial on every page so they won’t be overlooked.

  7. Straight Forward Calls to Action: Make it easy to connect with your business. Consider adding a contact form or clear button to learn more about your business to every page of your website. You can also use calls-to-action to get visitors to engage with content you would like to promote such as a real wedding videos, content downloads and more.

» How to Build an Organizational Plan for Your Business

Small businesses owners often dedicate the majority of their time to managing their business and making their clients happy. In many cases, they get wrapped up in their day-to-day work and forget about themselves. After all, didn’t you go into business for you?

We explored time management and productivity techniques with Vanessa Joy of Vanessa Joy Photography in our recent Premium webinar. Vanessa shared tips for helping you run your business rather than letting it run you.

The workflow exercise below is all about finding what really matters to you and taking action to work towards your definition of success. Whether you want to create more free time to spend with your family, build a bigger client base, allow more flexibility for travel, or whatever else it may be, this organizational plan will help move you towards your goal.

“Parts of a Whole” Exercise

  1. Before anything else, you must define what success means to you in your small business. It’s probably something you thought about a lot at the beginning of your journey, so it’s a great place to start. Ask yourself why you went into this business and write a few of those things down. Are these still the things that equate to success in your mind? If not, do a bit of editing and come up with a full list of how you determine the success of your business today.
  2. Now that you’re refreshed on your why and what success means to you, grab a piece of paper and a pen. Draw a line down the middle to make two columns. On the left side write down the following things: anything you dislike doing for your business, the things you aren’t good at, the tasks that slow you down, any menial ($10 an hour) tasks, the processes you know are broken, and anything you do that you know your clients don’t notice.
  3. On the right side write down all of the things you love doing for your business, everything that defines your brand, and the things your clients do notice (for this, look to your reviews, emails from couples, etc).

Putting Your Plan in Action

And just like that you’ve outlined the priorities for your business! Everything written in the left column should be thoroughly assessed and prioritized. Set aside some time and create a potential plan of action to remove these tasks from your workflow completely. When assessing these tasks, it’s hard to visualize putting them in someone else’s hands. So, ask yourself if keeping them under your control moves you toward your definition of success. If not, it’s time to find an alternative whether that’s outsourcing, automating or hiring an intern.

For everything in the right column, these are the tasks that should continue to be in your realm and under your control. This is where you can make the most impact in your business and where you should be focusing your time. These are the tasks you went into business for.

We’ll admit, making an organizational plan for your business isn’t always easy, but we promise it will help you in the long run. Figuring out where to spend your time is the most important step – from there you can find tools for streamlining and begin to outsource some of the left column work.

Once you have made your plan, do your best to have patience and delegate. There’s no way to see results unless you wait!

» 6 Ways to Optimize Your Website for Leads

With the amount of competition in the wedding industry, just getting website visits from your local market can be a big win! 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 desires and ideas when building a website, but ultimately you need to think about how couples will view and interact with it in order to drive more conversions.

Your website is a channel that can continually be optimized, just like any of your marketing channels! Read on for six easy ways to optimize your website for generating leads and inquiries.

Reduce form fields

When it comes to creating an easy experience for website visitors, reducing the length and number of fields used is one of the easiest ways to boost conversion rates. The fewer fields the visitor has to fill out, the more likely they are to submit a lead. Inevitably, though, shortening your contact form can be a trade-off – shorter forms generate more leads, but longer forms generate higher quality leads. The key is to give a lot of thought to which fields you truly need and which fields you can forego during this initial contact. At the very least, you’ll want to acquire their name, email, phone number, and wedding date; the rest depends on your service category and routing needs. Just remember: Keep it simple!

Prioritize form placement

If you want your website visitors to submit a contact form to get in touch, give your form top placement on your website. While today’s web users are familiar with scrolling past the “fold” to learn more, placing your contact form above the “fold” guarantees that they’ll see it regardless of their next action. In fact, Education Guru Alan Berg suggests adding a contact form to each page of your website to guide visitors towards submitting an inquiry. Whichever option you choose will ultimately depend on the layout and design of your website, but whatever you do, don’t hide the contact form by placing it too far down on your homepage or creating multiple steps to get to it.

Utilize your reviews

Your WeddingWire reviews are easy to find and evaluate on your Storefront, but if a potential client is looking at your website they should be able to find them there, too. When deciding whether or not to submit a lead through your website, couples are looking for proof that you provide a high quality service and that your past clients were happy with the results. If a couple is reviewing your website, you’ve already made it through several stages of consideration and offering rave reviews from other couples will make the decision easier for them. Select a few of your best reviews and add them to your website to show couples that your service is the best choice. Make sure they are located close to your contact form so a happy client is one of the last things they see before deciding whether to contact you.

Show off your awards

Awards are one of the best ways to lend outside credibility to your business. After all, you can say how awesome your business is, but your opinion isn’t impartial until someone else verifies it! Showcase what sets you apart from your competition by featuring your awards near your form or in the header or footer of your website. Unlike other awards in the wedding industry, the WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards® are solely based on reviews from real newlyweds and their experiences with wedding professionals. If your business is prestigious enough to be among the top five percent of wedding professionals on WeddingWire, we’ll provide you code so you can easily feature the award on your website for all visitors to see.

Test your calls-to-action

Could the generic text on your button or contact link be the factor that’s driving down conversions? Or perhaps the color of your contact button blends with the rest of your website and is too hard to read? Test the color and text of your call-to-action or submit button to see if your conversion rates differ. Try changing your formal ‘Contact Us’ text to ‘Get in Touch!’, or use a contrasting accent color on the form button to attract more submissions.

*Quick Tip – only change one element at a time (text or color) so that you can track which change makes the biggest impact.

Track and analyze changes

All of these changes will be hard to measure if you don’t have enough information to see what’s working! Tracking the number of inquiries you receive each month is easy enough to analyze, but that’s only looking at one piece of the puzzle. It’s important to also use Google Analytics or another website analytics platform to track how many visitors you receive, how long they’re staying on your website, and how many pages they visit before submitting an inquiry or leaving your website. Keeping an eye on all of these things will help you understand the behavior of your website visitors to make changes that will improve conversion rates and increase time on the site.

Every website is different, and it may take some time to find the right combination that works, but just give it some time. You aren’t likely to see changes in leads overnight, but that doesn’t mean your updates aren’t working! You can always ask for feedback from friends and industry peers, or ask a client to explain what they did or didn’t like during their research. Happy optimizing!

» Social Media Bios That Attract Couples

social bios

Social media profiles tend to give you limited space when it comes to writing your bio. Facebook gives you 255 characters for your “About” section and Instagram only gives you 150 characters. In order to spark couple’s curiosity and intrigue them to learn more, you need to make every character count. Here’s how:

Show personality!

The keyword in social media is social. Couples want to see that your business is operated by people – people who have personalities that they can relate to. If they can immediately get a sense of your style and personality, they will be more likely to like and trust you. Doing this will also help you attract ideal clients, rather than couples who don’t fit your style.

If you’re stuck on how to infuse your personality into your bio, here are a few ideas:

  • Use Emojis throughout your bio.
  • Use exclamation points to show enthusiasm!
  • Write how you would speak. Say it out loud and make sure it feels natural.
  • Include quirky phrases that you regularly use out loud when talking with clients.

Stop focusing on yourself…

Most businesses go straight for the traditional approach of creating a business-focused company bio. They explain what the business does. Sounds like it would make sense, right?

A business focused bio would sound something like this: Bella Photography offers engagement and wedding photography to couples in Florida.

That absolutely describes what Bella Photography does, which is great, but there are a lot of photographers out there who shoot weddings. How are Bella Photography services any different? How would hiring Bella Photography over someone else benefit a couple?

You need to differentiate yourself quickly so that you don’t lose the attention of a potential client when they come across your social media profile. Continue reading

» WeddingWire Networking Night Westchester

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at The Davenport Mansion on the Sound for WeddingWire Networking Night Westchester!

At the Networking Night, wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy breathtaking panoramic waterfront views of the Long Island Sound while networking in the historic and recently renovated mansion. Guests met other local vendors across all service categories as well as members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned local-industry statistics and how to better reach engaged couples through social media from WeddingWire’s Associate Director of Customer Success, Kyle Mihalcoe.

Thank you to all the wonderful pros who joined us! We’re excited to share highlights from the event including the educational presentation, our latest issue of WedInsights, and photos from the enjoyable evening below.

We would like to say a special thank you to the amazing event partners who helped make the evening possible:

Finally, we’re excited to announce the winner of our WeddingWire Prize Pack give away – congrats to Rabbi Andrea Frank from Rabbi Andrea Frank – The Jewish Wedding Traveling Rabbi!

» 4 Ways to Optimize Your Lead Replies

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

Don’t forget to be personal

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

Keep it short and simple

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

Answer any questions they asked

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

Use their preferred contact method

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

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

Check out the change on your Storefront now >>

» How Big Should Your Wedding Business Get?

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

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

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

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

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

business weddingWhat’s the right number?

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

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

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

Find the balance

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

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

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

» How to Have Better Client Conversations

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

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

Connect from the get-go

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

Take it slow

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

Anticipate Indecisiveness 

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

Clarify next steps

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

The “Golden Rule”

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

 

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

» Do You Hate (The Boring Parts of) Your Wedding Pro Job?

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

I once heard a very famous speaker friend say on-stage: “I hate my job!” We, in the audience, were very surprised, until he continued that he loves speaking, he just hates all of the other things related to his work: prospecting, administration, sales, etc. Sound familiar? Do you love the creative parts of your work, but hate the business parts? Many wedding pros I meet feel that way.

Love it or hate it, those business tasks are what separate a hobby from a business. When I started selling wedding advertising many years ago, I remember visiting with a wedding photographer in his studio. His bookshelf had lots of photography books, but it also had business books. While his work was very good, there were other, more artistic photographers in his market. That said, he had a better, more viable business than many of the more artistic photographers, because he understood that he also needed business skills.

What are you good at?

Which parts of your business are you best at doing? Chances are, you didn’t say sales and marketing. If you did, good for you! If not, then what are you doing to enhance your business skills? Are you attending conferences like WeddingWire World? When I started giving presentations at conferences many years ago, the business sessions were lightly attended, compared to the sessions on improving your craft (floral arranging, video editing, etc.).

Over the years, I’m pleased to see more business content become available and more people choosing to attend. After all, you can have the best creative skills and not have a viable business. If you have great business skills, you can always hire the creative talent. When it comes to the business tasks, you can either learn to do them better or outsource them. I know how to do my accounting, but I use a CPA to do my taxes. They’re up on the latest laws and deductions, and have proven their worth to me, over and over, through their actions. I understand graphic design, but I hire a professional graphic designer, because they’re more creative than me. I understand website design, and I’ve written a book on websites, but I use a professional website designer for the more technical aspects, which are not my strength.

 

TGIF or TGIM?

In the 9-5 world, you hear TGIF from people who are looking forward to Friday, because it’s the end of their work week. In the wedding industry, Friday is the beginning of your work. Sure, you’ve been preparing for these weddings for weeks, or months, but you get to see the culmination of your work on the weekend. Yes, weddings can happen on other days, but the recent WeddingWire Newlywed Report said that, in 2016, 22 days accounted for half of all weddings. They were all Saturdays, and the 3 most popular dates were all in October. So, I can say, with confidence, that the weekend is likely when you’re performing your services.

Do you look forward to Friday, TGIF, because you’re excited about being able to bring to fruition your hard work, and to show your couples, and their guests, an amazing experience? Or, do you say TGIM, Thank Goodness It’s Monday, because your work is done? Yes, there’s a sense of relief in knowing that the wedding went off, hopefully without a hitch. Yes, there’s a sense of satisfaction in delivering your products and services, at a high-level, and having your customers pleased with the results. That said, some of you don’t get to see the faces of the guests, as they arrive at the wedding, or as they dance the night away. You deliver the tent, tables, flowers and décor, before the first guest arrives. You see brides in their dresses, in your shop, but not at the wedding (until they post or send you photos). You see grooms in their tuxes and suits, but not at the wedding. You see the invitations, but not the look on their guest’s faces when they go to their mailboxes and then open, with anticipation, the first impression of their wedding. So, do you look forward to delivering your service, or for the relief of it being over?

 

Inner pride

The most intense sense of pride comes from within. Yes, it’s nice to have others say your work is great. Yes, it’s gratifying to see their wonderful reviews. But, as I said on my recent WeddingWire EDU webinar, “Your ROI (Return on Investment) is in the WHY,” you should work the same, whether anyone sees you or not. Satisfaction of a job well done should be internal first. Know that you’ve done the absolute best you could for that customer. Take pride in that, and then look for validation from the couple and their guests.

Like it, or not, not everyone posts a photo or review. You often get little or no feedback from your customer, and rarely from the guests (unless you’re physically at the wedding). While there’s no shortage of egos in the wedding industry, your first goal is to feed your family, then feed your ego. Do what’s right, because it’s the right thing to do, not because anyone will notice. Then, get validation that you did, through their photos, social posts and reviews. So, love your job, or hate it (and outsource more of it), feel very blessed we’re in an industry that allows us to share our creativity on one of the most special days of their lives. TGIF!