» How to Ace Client Relationships & Manage Busy Season Stress

Photo by Gawne Designs Photography

It’s important to remember that the wedding industry is all about customer service. With busy season right in front of us, managing clients and keeping them happy while under pressure can be quite difficult. But it’s a job you must do diligently and with a smile. To better prepare for the sudden 0-to-60, it’s best to acknowledge some expectations for yourself and of your clients. By thinking about how you might feel and what your clients will expect of you before busy season starts, you can ace client relationships and keep everyone happy… yourself included! Here’s how:

Communicate expectations

Most clients aren’t wedding professionals, so they probably don’t understand what exactly busy season entails for you or realize the sheer amount of other work you have. It is always best to be open with clients from the start. Discuss your workload with them to let them know what you can deliver so that they can set their expectations for your services accordingly.

However, this isn’t to say that you should spread yourself too thin, set low expectations, or overbook yourself. When the quality of your work diminishes because you are overworked or setting the bar too low, your client relationships and in turn, your business, will hurt because of it. Know how much you can handle and what you can deliver.

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 to keep the process moving forward. Send a follow-up email to recap your conversation and show them that you will always  follow-through and keep things organized.

Get to know your clients beyond their wedding

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 relationship (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. Remember: the better the connection, the more apt they will be to refer you to their friends!

You get what you put in

The “Golden Rule” for successful client communications is the old adage: treat others as you would like to be treated. When your clients only have positive interactions with you, they will likely be more understanding if you aren’t able to respond to an email right away or if you can’t suddenly accomodate a large-scale, last minute demand. Not that you should ever be putting your clients’ needs on the backburner, but we are all human.  A little kindness and flexibility goes a long way.

Budget the time to go the extra mile

Going the extra mile for clients is important because it shows your dedication to your work and will also be what clients remember the most about you. It might be hard finding time to put in a little extra work to make something special, so it’s smart to budget this extra time from the beginning. Scheduling this time as a non-negotiable will guarantee that you can give some very special attention to each client. You won’t be under the wire to outperform and your clients will be grateful for your extra work.

Keep reviews and referrals in mind at all times

Every time you deliver a service or communicate with your clients, you should be thinking about the review a client will give you for it. When you work with the mindset that a review will be written for every interaction you have with a client, it will ensure that you are providing your client with the best experience possible. Plus, keep in mind that happy clients often lead to referrals down the road, too!

Busy season might have it’s unique set of challenges, but no matter the stress, you get to do what you love – bringing couples dreams to life! It’s the special client relationships you cultivate that leave you with the feeling of success, pride, and accomplishment (and the resulting reviews and referrals) that make busy season worth all of the long, hard hours.

» How to Make the Most out of Conferences (and Better Your “Today” List)

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

I love going to conferences. There are so many opportunities for learning, not just in the sessions, but also in the hallways and at the social events. Ideas come at you from all directions, it’s often like drinking from a firehose. If you’re like me, you come away with more ideas than you can possibly use. That’s good. You just need to learn to prioritize (more on that later). The problem I see, all too often, is when we come away from a conference, with more ideas than we can use, we end up not using any of them. Those pages and pages of notes, whether on paper or digital, end up on a shelf, never to see the light of day again. So, how do you change your conference habits (and general to-do list management) from overwhelming “shelf-help” that gets lost in the mix to truly productive “self-help”?

Why do we do it?

I’m not a psychologist, but I’m sure there’s a really good reason why we don’t take action on those pages of notes and new ideas. All I know is that I’m just as guilty of it as you are. Or, at least I used to be. I take less notes than I used to, partly because I know that the more I take, the less I’m likely to look at them. It’s more intimidating to see that I have 20 pages of notes, than 3. So, I’m more selective and try to focus my notes to my needs.

Putting it into perspective

Another reason I think we don’t take action is because we get distracted. Buzzwords are flying around, shiny products are on display and other attendees are regaling us with their stories of success. The challenge there is separating the fiction from the non-fiction. Let’s just say that some people tend to exaggerate, or selectively leave out the challenges they’re facing. It’s not unlike how on social media we tend to only see the great successes, without the struggles or investments, in money and time, that led to that success. You can’t reap the rewards unless you’re willing to make the investment (or sacrifice).

How do you measure success?

The next challenge in evaluating opportunities and new ideas is that each of us defines our success in our own way. Our needs are different. Our expenses are different. Our goals are different. Just because someone else is seeing their version of success with a new idea, doesn’t mean that will work for you. Use your own compass and plot your own course. Don’t use someone else’s map to find your path.

But, we can’t do them all!

Exactly! You can’t do them all, no one can. That’s why you need to learn to prioritize your ideas and limited time. I learned to do this over 10 years ago, at my first National Speakers Association conference. We had three very full days of meetings. On the last day, at the last session, the association national president addressed the group. He told us to make a list of all of the ideas we had heard. Then, told us we should prioritize the list, in the order of how they would most benefit our businesses. And then, and here’s the hard part, to keep the top 3 things and then physically get rid of the rest of the list. You can’t focus on 20 or 30 things. You’ll just end up diluting your time between too many things, getting nothing done. When you focus your time on only 3 things, you’ll get way more accomplished. After you complete those items, make a new list. If some of the things from your original list are still important, they’ll show up again. I can tell you, from personal experience, that they rarely do. Once you have finished the things on your list, your business, and you personally, are in a different place. Things that were important before, just aren’t important now.

“To-Do List” vs. “Today List”

I’ve been living my life that way since that conference. It was hard, at first, to erase my dry-erase board, with its myriad of ideas and projects. Sure, I took a picture of it, before erasing it, but I haven’t looked at that photo… ever. And yet, I’ve accomplished more than I ever had. The things on my short list are not my daily tasks. Replying to email, marketing and writing content are a different list. I like to refer to them as my “Today List”. The big picture items are my “To-Do List”. Writing a new book is usually on my to-do list. When I finish one, I start writing the next one. Learning a new language made it onto my new list. Then presenting in that language. Next, for me, is doing the audio version of one of my books, in Spanish. A lofty goal? Sure. But what good are goals you can easily hit? Actually, my uncle once told me never to use the word “goals, ” because it’s self-limiting. Think bigger, and you can achieve more. Don’t try to just reach a goal, try to do the best you can, every day.

So, what does your shelf look like?

Have you filed away years-worth of conference or webinar ideas, without ever acting on them? How many notebooks, filled with notes, are on your shelf, or filed away? How many things are on your big-picture, to-do list? Do you really need them all? Or, can you keep the first 2 or 3, and focus all of your energy on those? It takes a little faith and a little courage to shorten your list. If you’re like me, you’ll find it liberating, like a huge weight has been lifted. And then, when you start to get more done, you’ll be encouraged to keep making short lists. Here’s to helping yourself (and not your shelf)!

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.

» 4 Steps to Manage Your Time More Effectively

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

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

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

Make a to-do list

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

Recognize common time traps

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

Eliminate email waste

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

Use apps to help manage time

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

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

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

» Top 5 Wedding Trends for 2018

With 2018 in full swing and busy season right around the corner, it’s time to dive into the top wedding trends couples will be requesting this year. We have the inside scoop from Jeffra Trumpower, WeddingWire’s Associate Director of Content and Creative Services, on the top five trends you can expect to see pop up. Many of these trends may come as a surprise, as couples begin to stray away from the “traditional” and opt for the “unconventional”.

1. Metallics, marbles and geometrics

Photo by Jennifer Weems Photography

So maybe this one doesn’t come as a total surprise, but the biggest decor trend from 2017 will be a highlight yet again for 2018 weddings. Metallics, specifically gold-toned metallics, are still in! Smaller metallic decor pieces, such as votives and charger plates, are as popular as ever because they are small enough to be understated, yet still manage to pack a huge punch overall. Not only do metallics add an extra layer of “umph” to any look, but metallics are a great way to help make everything look and feel more luxe.

Couples are also choosing metallic pieces with geometric shapes to make their wedding feel more modern. Geometric shapes provide a cool break between the ultra-softness and romance of floral elements. Stone elements, such as marble pieces, are also being utilized for the same reason. We don’t care if this is a repeat trend, we love it and are happy to see these favorites stick around!

2. Keeping it casual

Photo by Tracy Shoopman Photography

Weddings are becoming more of a casual affair, believe it or not! Younger couples have been choosing to go for a more laid-back route during their wedding festivities. In what might be the biggest departure from “traditional” style weddings, casual affairs have been trending because they are “no fuss”. Guests are able to feel more at ease and couples have less to worry about on their big day. Ultimately, comfort and simplicity are the main goal of casual weddings, and we think they look great!

Grooms and groomsmen have arguably kicked off the casual trend, as the popularity of less formal male attire started popping up more and more. However, this year, casual groom attire is set to take off. Expect to see less suit coats, more unconventional shoes, and even silly socks on grooms. Females have also begun to adopt more casual styles, too. Brides in particular have opted for more natural, effortless hairstyles for their big day as opposed to the previously popular ultra-sophisticated updo.

Formal styles aren’t the only thing to disappear in 2018. Formal traditions are also becoming less popular with millennial couples. Sorry Mom and Dad, but it looks like the Father/Daughter and Mother/Son dances are quickly fading! Revered traditions like these dances, and even couple send offs (particularly involving sparklers) are now starting to be seen as “outdated” and “cliche” by millennial couples. While it may be sad to see some old traditions go, know that couples are opting to nix certain elements in order to replace them with their own creative and new traditions.

3. Greenery

Photo by Blueflash Photography     

While floral elements have always been a huge aspect of weddings, never before has such an emphasis been placed on natural greenery. From moss decor walls to leafy table runners, greenery isn’t just for bouquet filler anymore. Dare we say it, but greens might even surpass flowers this year! Greenery provides freshness and brightness to any arrangement, and can also can provide a lot of diversity, too. Beyond looking great, greens are also a more cost-friendly option for couples to consider when compared to flowers. So where will you find the most greenery this year? Jeffra notes that our couples are loving their natural greens in large wall or hanging displays, low table centerpieces, and in cascading bouquets.

4. Outdoor space

Photo by Patrick Nied Photography

Couples love outdoor weddings! Outdoor venues have always been popular with our couples, but their popularity is only expected to grow. Garden venues, followed by barn venues, are the most popular places amongst couples for their wedding celebrations. Even though the warmer summer months still make up “prime season”, more and more couples have been hosting fall weddings. As a matter of fact, 1 in 3 couples now get married in the fall, and nearly 15% of all weddings take place in October. In many locations, Autumn weather is still perfect for an outdoor celebration, if not cozy. So too, nature’s seasonal change provides the most beautiful backdrop for photos. With the ever-increasing popularity of outdoor venues, your calendars are bound to be filled with outdoor bookings this year!

5. Food displays

Photo by Dana Lynn Photography

We saved the best for last: food! +50% more couples are choosing to eliminate plated service in favor of food displays. Food displays, different from a buffet, are highly stylized tables and offer unique, themed food options where guests can help themselves. Food displays allow for couples to customize their offerings to fit their personalities and can be much more flexible in execution when compared to a more regimented plated or buffet service. From pizza to a bacon-lovers spread, couples are picking these personalized setups over all other meal options because they are easy, fun and most importantly, delicious. Displays are also cost effective, as they can be significantly cheaper than a plated service.

We are so excited to see how these trends adapt and grow in 2018. The biggest takeaway that we have learned (other than knowing that great snacks lie ahead!) is that couples are striving to implement unique designs and traditions that are truly their own. Simply put, customization is important to couples as they plan their 2018 weddings. If you are able to offer custom services or work with your clients to provide them a unique service, you can expect your couple to be over the moon with your work. We hope that this personalization-craze allows both you and your clients the opportunity to work creatively and create incredible new experiences and content. Who knows? Maybe you will set the next big trend.

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “2018 Trends: Insights from Today’s Couples” by Jeffra Trumpower, WeddingWire Associate Director of Content and Creative Services. 

» How Strong Are Your Lead Replies?


In the vastly competitive wedding industry, everyone is striving for a large volume of high quality leads – but those leads aren’t worth much unless you know how to turn them into a sale. How you reply to each lead plays a pivotal role in the success of booking 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 their 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 some details from their message, such as wedding date, style, or venue, or add a personal comment. This small 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 therefore 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 professionals make the mistake of not responding to directly asked questions, which can frustrate couples because they’re often reaching out to a number of professionals 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 ranges, 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 – and 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. With literally thousands of methods of communication available – from Messages, to Live Chat, to email and phone calls – it’s difficult to know the best way to get in touch with a couple. At the end of the day, customer convenience is the motto to live by. Follow their lead by using their preferred communication type. If you’re making contact first, email is typically your safest bet, as most couples prefer email over all other communication methods.

As leads start to hit your inbox for the upcoming wedding season, keep these simple tips in mind to promptly and properly reply to leads and create strong connections with potential clients.

» 5 Questions Couples Should Ask Wedding Professionals (But Don’t)

As the wedding professional, each time you meet with a new couple, you’re the expert. Chances are, they haven’t hosted a wedding before, and their level of expertise with pulling off an event of this size extends only to being a member of someone else’s wedding party. With this in mind, your potential clients’ questions will likely be most focused on the aesthetics of bringing their wedding vision to life, which is great! However, it’s your job as the expert to be sure your couples are well-informed about some of the oft-forgotten aspects of hiring you.

Here are a few questions you’ll want to be sure to answer, even if your client doesn’t know or doesn’t remember to ask.

Can you describe your style?/Can I see some of your work?

This one is a bit tricky, as most likely your potential client has seen photos of your weddings on WeddingWire and may have even popped over to your Instagram profile to check out more of your aesthetic. Even with that being the case, you want to take the opportunity to describe and show your style, why you approach your work the way you do and how you help couples visions come to life. This is also an opportunity for you to tailor your portfolio to your couple. For example, if you know they’re planning a rustic wedding, pull out some examples of rustic weddings you’ve done in the past. If you know they’re going for a modern, trendy wedding look, show that you’ve created those kinds of weddings as well.

Do you have a list of preferred vendors?

Unless you’re a wedding venue, chances are you don’t have hard-and-fast lists of wedding professionals with which you strongly prefer to work. Still, if you’re a photographer who has done a dozen weddings with a great videographer, it’s worth mentioning. If you’re a wedding planner who has a couple of florists who seamlessly pull your vision to life, let your potential client know. One of the most difficult aspects of wedding planning can be sourcing a team of wedding professionals, so helping your clients by recommending great pros who work well with each other is worthwhile. You’ll need to bring this up, as your potential client may not be aware that wedding pros frequently work together.

What other fees am I expected to cover?

Most likely, your potential client is looking at the “base” price to determine how your services will fit into their wedding budget, but there might be other, smaller fees that they should be aware of. These are highly dependent on the service category, but could include overtime fees, setup and/or delivery fees, breakdown fees and any number of practical costs for your additional services, time or equipment. Once your client has chosen which service they’d like, be sure to mention fees that you know they’ll incur, as well as any optional fees that might come into effect (like overtime).

Can I review this contract with my parents, future-in-laws or anyone else who is paying for it?

Sometimes, the entire family will come for a venue tour or a cake tasting. Other times, only the couple or maybe even only one member of the couple will meet you for the initial visit. However, most weddings involve a whole team of people who are making decisions and fronting the costs. For this reason, it’s important to try to suss out who the important stakeholders might be for each client and try to be on the up-and-up with those people as well. So, if you know your couple’s flowers are being paid for by a groom’s mother, be sure she’s involved before the contract is signed. Not only will this likely make the wedding planning process easier for your clients, but you’ll be working toward a more satisfied client once the service is complete.

Who will be my 24/7 contact person?

If you’re a one-person business, this is an easy thing to mention to your new clients. If you’re a larger business with a separate team to handle sales and events, this is trickier. No matter the structure of your business, you want to be sure your client knows who will be their point person throughout the planning along with who will be the point person for other wedding professionals they will hire in the future. As the wedding approaches, you may want to offer a few different ways to get in touch — maybe a text or email after hours — so that as things pop up, your client feels comfortable letting you know about them.

» 5 Resolutions for Wedding Professionals in 2018

The beginning of a new year brings excitement about resolutions and goals, but often they can be forgotten or pushed aside, especially when busy season comes around. To make 2018 your best year yet, set business resolutions that you can actually keep and that will have a positive long-term impact on your business. It’s important that these goals are challenging, yet achievable resolutions for both you and your business.

WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg has highlighted 5 resolutions that wedding professionals can put into action:

  1. Be respectful of time.

    As a busy professional, you know that often, it can seem like there are simply not enough hours in the day. Save your own time, your clients time, and other professionals time, by simply keeping your communication direct and concise. Also work to respond to all inquiries or questions in a very timely manner (aim for 24 hours or less!), even if it is just an acknowledgement of the inquiry.

  2. Be less connected to technology.

    While we all love technology and how it can help us stay in sync and organized, it can also be a distraction from personal interaction and taking the time to live in the moment. Challenge yourself to set some specific time to disconnect completely from technology each day, and focus on connecting with people, enjoying experiences or taking time to reflect on the goals you have set.

  3. Avoid hypocrisy.

    Wedding professionals often have similar complaints when it comes to some clients. Next time you feel frustrated, take a moment to truly consider the client point of view. After all, they are planning and investing in a once in a lifetime event. Wouldn’t you have questions, expect the highest quality service, and want to save money where you could? Work on seeing their perspective, show empathy, and then use your experience to help them feel confident in their decision to do business with you.

  4. Shorten your to-do list.

    There is an easy way to shorten your to-do list without simply saying ‘no’ to more work. Make a daily ‘must-do’ list to go with your longer ‘to-do list.’ On this shortened list, prioritize a handful of key actions that you must meet that day. Then, when the list is complete, move onto the next priority round of to-dos, or catch up on emails, calls or errands. You will feel accomplished and more relaxed, while keeping focus on higher priority items.

  5. Resolve to think bigger.

    Challenge yourself this year! What is the next big business step you hope to achieve? More revenue? More bookings? A bigger team? Consider what a better business means to you. From there, set three goals you hope to reach in 2018 that will take you to that next level. Create some metrics or programs that will help you reach your goals, and get started. Don’t forget to visit them regularly to stay on track, and see how you are progressing. Checking in monthly will provide reflection and help you stay on track with these goals.

Whether your list of resolutions for 2018 is long or short and concise, adding these five actionable items is a great way to put your best foot forward in the new year.

» 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!

» 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.