» Why Email Templates Are Awesome

This article was written by Bethel Nathan, Owner & Business Coach/Speaker at Elevate by Bethel.

For many of us in the wedding industry, emails are the number one way we communicate with our couples. A couple’s experience with you and your business often starts with an email response to their inquiry, ends with a thank you after the wedding, and includes many, many (many!) emails in between.  Therefore, when you are determining the quality and quantity of your communications with couples, you clearly need to put a lot of focus on the quantity and quality of your emails.

As I’ve built my business (to over 850 weddings now, ranging between 75-150 most years), I realized that for the level of service I wanted to provide, and with the volume of couples I needed to work with in order to earn the living I want, I didn’t have the time to write every single email from “scratch.”  However, automated emails wouldn’t be personal enough either. This made creating a large number of templated emails the perfect solution for me. And, although the initial creation of templated emails can take some time, it is well worth it if you plan to be in business for a long time.

“Automated” vs. “templates”

Are we all on the same page on terminology? When I talk about templated emails, many people think I am referring to automated emails… emails you set up once in your system, and then the system sends them out automatically based on a date or system event (such as two weeks pre-wedding or as soon as a questionnaire is received). That’s not what I’m talking about here. Automated emails do have their purpose, but since the only personalization that can happen in an automated email is if you include merge fields within the email (like contact name or wedding date), they won’t work for any scenario in which you want the option to personalize for that couple. Therefore, the only automated emails in my entire customer journey are for invoice reminders and receipts. That is it.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you could write every single email from scratch every single time, but, based on how many emails you probably send, that could be very time-consuming. And, when you think of your process and customer journey, is every single email you send to inquiring or booked couples really 100% different based on that couple or wedding? I highly doubt that it is.

Which leads us to templated emails, an email that you send quite often, and one in which a large percentage, if not all, of the email message applies to everyone you send it to. However, unlike an automated email, a templated email is always sent manually and intentionally, which allows it to be personalized each time you send it.  

For example, my ceremony creation process includes two assignments for the couple, and the email for the second assignment includes a set of instructions and guidance that is lengthy. However, while most, if not all, of the instructions in there apply to many of my couples, not all of it does. This was the perfect scenario for a templated email. This template includes all the possible instructions and details, and then, before I send it to a specific couple, I can review it and add or remove pieces, personalizing it as needed and wanted for that specific couple. I reply personally to all emails from my couples – so I’m not saying to not be really personal as fits you – but almost every email initiated from me during my process and my customer experience comes from a template.

4 reasons email templates are great:

Thus, templated emails are a wonderful option in a business that is so email-heavy yet requires a level of personal service, or perceived personal service. Here are some great reasons for using templated emails:

  1. Saves time and money

Even if it is a short email by having it pre-written you reduce the time required to send it vs. creating that email from scratch, which can help you significantly reduce the communication hours you spend per couple. This allows you to create a communication plan that has a higher customer service ROI as you put small amounts of personalization into the more “mundane” but needed emails and larger amounts of personalization and focus on the more important pieces and methods of communication or your process (e.g. an in-person meeting or even the things they are actually hiring you for!).   

  1. Personalization is still easy

Although I could probably figure out how to edit some of my templated emails so that they could be automated, based on my ideal couples and the level of service I want to provide them, I always want to have the ability to personalize any particular email I send and to choose when it goes out for that particular couple. For example, if I remember that there was a certain reading that the couple mentioned loving during our initial meeting, I want to let them know that I remembered, and I want to include the reading in options I send them or mention which document it is in. Or, if they told me that they were both close to their families, I want to draw their attention to the family blessing ideas.  Couples want to feel like they have been heard, and this allows you to show them that, while not sacrificing your time (and sanity) to do so. Even when responding to a new inquiry, where you might think that you have certain information you are giving every inquiry, I use the chance to personalize it, based on their venue, how they found me, anything they mentioned, etc. – just so that even their first experience with me feels personal, rather than an automated email missing that chance.

  1. Allows for consistency

By templating your emails, you make sure that the message you want to get across and/or the questions you want to get answers to are consistent from couple to couple. This creates a smoother and easier process for you and for your couples.  

Have you ever hit send and then you realized you forgot a piece of information or a question, and yet this is something you send regularly? By including everything you are likely to need in your email template and then taking things out that aren’t necessary for that specific couple, you significantly reduce the chances you will forget to include something. Although it doesn’t seem like a big deal to just send the couple a follow-up, each follow-up you send costs time and can affect the couple’s perception of your business and your level of professionalism.

  1. Reduces spelling and grammar errors

Since you aren’t creating that email right then and maybe rushing to get it out, when mistakes are more likely to happen, using templated emails lets you take the time to review them (and maybe someone else review them if spelling and grammar aren’t your strongest suit) and be sure that all is appropriately said. This gives a better impression to those receiving the emails.

How and when to create templates

What’s next? If you aren’t yet using templated emails, or you are only using a few of them, the first step is to look at every email you sent to 10 of the most recent couples you worked with and determine which of those emails are the ones you sent to most, if not all, of your couples. Is the messaging within the email similar – are you giving them the same information and/or asking them the same questions?  

For each yes, you want to create a template. To create a template for emails you have already been sending, copy in the text from a recent email and build or edit from there. If doing this makes you realize that there are others that you should create and have, being even more proactive in your communications with your couples, remember that you want the template to include pretty much everything you would say if you were saying everything. I can tell you from great experience, it is easier and less time-consuming to remove something from the email that doesn’t apply than to remember to add something in.

Then, if you have a business management system that allows for templated emails to be created and uploaded, as I do, use the system. If you don’t have a business management system (let’s chat about that another time!), or your system doesn’t allow for templated emails, you can create them in Word or Evernote, or some other document system, keeping them handy, and use old-school cut-and-paste each time you need to send it out.   

For each business, the number of automated vs. templated vs. personal emails will differ, as it should.  Your ideal clients, your desired customer experience, your price point, your volume of weddings, and many other things factor into your communication plan (check out my article last month on that, if you missed it). I just don’t want you to dismiss templated emails outright because they require too much work up-front or they don’t seem personal enough. When set up and used properly, templated emails will save you time while actually improving the couple’s experience with your business… a win/win if there ever was one.  

Bethel Nathan is a San Diego based wedding officiant, business coach, and industry speaker. Combining her years of corporate and small business experience with a love for marrying awesome couples, Bethel built Ceremonies by Bethel, a successful and award-winning Officiant business. And although still officiating, Bethel now has another love… helping others turn their passions into successful and sustainable businesses. Learn more at www.elevatebybethel.com.

» Five Tips To Strengthen Your Multicultural Practices

Photo by Bakerture

This article was written by Bethel Nathan, Owner & Business Coach/Speaker at Elevate by Bethel.

Recent surveys of millennial couples have made it very clear just how much more inclusive they are in their friendships and in their romantic relationships. According to a Pew Research Center report published in 2015, 39% of Americans who have married since 2010 have a spouse who is in a different religious group (compared to just 19% of Americans who married before 1960), and there has been a 5X increase in interracial marriages since nationwide legalization in 1967. Currently, 19% of WeddingWire couples identify as having an interracial marriage, and 18% have said that they include ceremonial customs related to race/religion in their weddings, and these numbers will only continue to grow.

A large number of the 850 couples I’ve married identify as LGBTQ or interfaith or interracial or intercultural (or some combination), and the experience has offered me a good handle on how to approach, discuss, and integrate culture and religion into a ceremony. I always open a discussion on culture and religion during my initial meeting with a couple, because I want to make sure that I am the proper fit for what they want, and because the design and content of their custom ceremony starts from my understanding of WHAT they want, and WHY the couple wants it.

These exact same discussions and decisions about inclusion of culture, religion and traditions that I apply to the ceremony quite often apply to the entire wedding. Décor and design, food and drink, music and entertainment, attire, hair and makeup, even the schedule and timeline… almost every aspect of a wedding can, and usually does, have resonance related to the upbringing, traditions, and beliefs of the couple, their families, and sometimes even their friends. It is imperative that wedding professionals not only have an inclusive mindset, but also the systems and processes ready to implement a celebration that meets the desires of the couple.

Here are 5 ways that help you do both!

1. Don’t assume. I have put my foot in my mouth with assumptions plenty, I promise. Several years ago, I made the assertion that LGBTQ couples come to Officiants like me because they don’t get married in houses of worship. I was speaking with Kathryn Hamm, WeddingWire’s Diversity & Inclusion Specialist, who pointed me to research that revealed that 10% of LGBTQ couples do get married in houses of worship, and cited some personal anecdotal examples. I was a bit embarrassed, but it was a very poignant reminder that while we all have assumptions based on what we have seen, heard and experienced, personally or with previous couples, those assumptions may not tell the whole story.

This is why I recommend that you start the conversation with all your couples from as blank of a sheet as possible, with your assumptions locked away. The best way to make sure that your process is assumption-free (or relying on as few assumptions as possible) is to have an initial set of standard questions that you ask every couple, regardless of any automatic assumptions you made upon meeting them. Plus, be sure to ask open-ended questions to allow them to share what they want. Once they answer, you can ask follow-up questions based on what your experience tells you that you still need to know.

For example, a question an Officiant or DJ might ask is, “Are there any religious or cultural traditions you want to honor or include?” A follow-up question could relate to the “level” to which they want to include them – for instance, the caterer needs to distinguish between having a kosher option on the menu vs. kosher-style vs. the entire menu needing to be kosher.

2. Find out the why. The what is very important but the why is the driver. Honestly, we wedding folks tend to want to help and jump right into ideas or solutions (the “what”), without yet knowing the ‘why’. Understanding the rationale behind a client’s thoughts allows you to make more fitting suggestions. Does the couple want a certain tradition included because they desire it or because they feel they want/need it for family, or even one specific family member? I’ve had couples think that they need to have a traditional Christian wedding – even though they were non-religious themselves – when what they really wanted to do was honor their families and thought that that was the only way to do so.

By understanding the why, you can make sure that what you are suggesting or including will satisfy the couple and the people, or person, it is meant to satisfy. By providing options to your couple for the ‘what” that satisfies this ‘why,’ you increase your value to them, while at the same time making sure everyone is happy or at least satisfied by the solution.

3. Be a solutions person. We as wedding professionals need to be solution providers. And, when it comes to religious and cultural inclusion, I find that, in addition to satisfying family, there are often two points in a couple’s life where the differences in their upbringings can clash: 1) during their wedding and 2) raising their children. As wedding professionals, it’s likely that we encounter the first point regularly, which means that we might have to be mediators, not only between the couple and members of their families, but between the couple themselves, by either having solutions or knowing where to go to find solutions.

The basic rules apply here: listen to both sides, probe with follow-up questions and potential ideas (if you have them), step away and think about it, talk to others who may have dealt with this type of scenario, and then come back to the couple with solutions. The idea is to satisfy both sides as much as possible. And, please resist the “bridal bias” that I see way too often in our industry – you need to make sure to take into account the feelings and wants of both members of the couple.

4. Be a capable match. There is always the balance in our businesses between wanting to say yes and help (and the income that comes from that, too), and wanting to be sure that you are doing right by a couple and their needs. Here is my thought: if in doubt, ask yourself the following question, “Will the quality of what the couple gets from me and my business be adversely affected by my lack of skills or knowledge?” If yes, then maybe you aren’t the best fit for them.

If you reach that point, I always recommend that you be honest with a couple that you don’t have that specific experience or knowledge, and then allow them to make that decision. If you still feel that you can serve them properly, and want to, you can let them know that you are indeed willing to help and happy to do so. Allow the couple to decide if they still want to work with you.

If the couple ultimately determines you are not the right fit, you can always suggest other vendors that may specialize or have experience in their specific request(s). Or, you can look at the solution of partnering up with a colleague to service them together. For example, if you are a wedding planner and an Indian couple comes to you and wants a full Indian wedding, yet you have never done one, should you take it? Without that experience, you may not be their perfect fit, so bringing on the right partner with this expertise could be the perfect solution! You could partner with planner who has experience in Indian weddings so that the couple gets to work with a team that understands not only the what they are looking for, but also the why. And the plus side of the solution is that you get to learn and feel more confident the next time you are asked because you’ll now have that experience

5. Showcase your experience. For everyone’s sake, attracting couples from the get-go who are more your fit, and who you can service and celebrate fully and properly, is a top goal. Therefore, make sure that your service descriptions and portfolio – in places such as your website or WeddingWire Storefront or social media – show past work with a wide range of religious and/or cultural rituals, when you feel confident in your ability to professionally service those couples again.

Keep these tips in mind when engaging with potential clients — I believe it is not only the best thing for society when we are all more understanding and inclusive, but it also turns out to be the right thing for your business.

Bethel Nathan is a San Diego based wedding officiant, business coach, and industry speaker.  Combining her years of corporate and small business experience with a love for marrying awesome couples, Bethel built Ceremonies by Bethel, a successful and award-winning Officiant business.  And although still officiating, Bethel now has another love… helping others turn their passions into successful and sustainable businesses. Learn more at www.elevatebybethel.com.

 

» Open to All: Building Trust With Prospective Clients

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

There is a simple, sure-fire way to open any conversation with any prospective client and it’s not rocket science.

The time-tested formula is as follows:

  • 1 part greeting as simple as “Hello”
  • 1 part open-ended question as simple as “How may I help you?”
  • 1 part active listening

Be present and listen actively

How many times a day do you answer the phone or welcome someone into your place of business with this greeting? But how often do you mean it?

We have been taught to offer this generic greeting phrase as part of the social ritual in service and retail settings. It’s become a bit of background pleasantry, and I suspect that many of us are distracted by other pressures, assumptions and distractions, and aren’t as present to how we are introducing this question of connection and service.

What if we reinstituted intentionality into our greetings?

“Hello, how may I help you?”

What if we removed any assumptions we are making about who might be calling and what they might need?

“Hello, how may I help you?”

What if our listening was tuned to not only the words they are using, but also what their concerns or emotional state might be?

“Hello, how may I help you?”

In my experience, the next, best response includes a follow-up question that incorporates an understanding and reflection of what that prospective client has just said or revealed. In this first minute of conversation, the process of earning trust is well underway.

Wedding professionals can use this formula successfully with every single prospective client. It’s a one-size-fits-all approach, though the trust earning portion of the exchange may take more time when a wedding professional is working with an engaged couple with whom they aren’t familiar (i.e., a straight, White, Christian woman in her 40s working with a gay Black couple who are atheists in their 20s or a mixed-race Jewish couple in their 60s). One may have to listen more carefully when navigating a new relationship outside of one’s own lived experience.

Reject the cookie-cutter approach

The key to the process is that it all begins with earning trust and resisting the urge to treat every couple with a cookie-cutter approach. Couples of all stripes appreciate the customized approach and Millennials, as a rule, even when they fit the mold of the “average couple,” require it.

Once you’ve established how a couple frames the way in which they’d like your help, you can then share with them the ways in which you are best suited to help them. As much as it’s important to hear their needs, it’s also important to know your strengths (and weaknesses) and be able to articulate them in a way that advances the conversation.

An example as it pertains to same-sex couples is as follows: in 2005, a GayWeddings.com survey found that same-sex couples were willing to book any vendor who was willing to work with them. Experience didn’t matter as much as openness and customer service did. Now that marriage equality has been recognized and the competitive wedding market is prepared to serve LGBTQ couples, customer service AND expertise matter when it comes to winning business.

And, this is true for other couples who identify as something other than the young, White, straight, fit couple most often represented in blogs and magazines. There are so many types of couples in need of services and each has their own way of expressing their love and sealing their bond.

It’s up to wedding professionals to welcome all couples with grace and to be receptive to their needs; but it’s also essential for wedding professionals to have clear boundaries around what they can and can’t offer as services in order to establish a strong foundation for a fruitful working relationship.

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

» How to Communicate Effectively With Couples and Save Your Sanity

Photo by Lunalee Photography

This article was written by Bethel Nathan, Owner & Business Coach/Speaker at Elevate by Bethel.

What is “just right” communications with your couples?  My definition is having a communication plan that has my business communicating with all my couples consistently, and in a way that:

  1. Gives them the information they want and need while…
  2. Getting me the information I want and need — and it does all of that while…
  3. Meeting, or exceeding, the expectations of my couples, as well as…
  4. Fitting within a time budget developed to keep me both sane and profitable  

A bit long of a definition so let’s break it down by the main points:

Consistency

Your planned communication timing, amount, and quality are designed to be the same for every couple.  Which doesn’t mean you can’t change something based on a specific couple or wedding, it just means that every couple feels the love and attention in pretty much the same way.

Couples’ expectations

Ultimately, your communication strategy, and the tools used to apply that strategy, need to be designed based on your ideal couples.  For example, the mix of communication types and the style of communication for a high priced, low volume Wedding Planner should be very different from those used by a low priced, high volume Officiant.  No business model is “wrong” – as long as it meets your profitability and time needs. Therefore, it is very important to understand that the communication you have with your couples needs to provide a customer experience that closely matches (or exceeds) their expectations.

Time budget

Your communication plan fits your business time budget.  

By knowing how much time you have, what information you want to communicate, and your ideal client’s expectations, you can focus your communication spend on the important communication touch points, and automate or remove others.   

DEVELOPING A COMMUNICATION PLAN

Before revising or developing a communication plan, there are two other important things to remember. Although each of us gets older every year, our couples stay relatively the same age.  This means that our communication plan must match what they are expecting and not just be what we have used for ages (even if it worked well in the past).

Also, don’t forget to also think about communication with other vendors when developing your strategy and plan.  Properly communicating with those you are working with on a wedding can increase your visibility and your perceived professionalism – and, as we know so well, other vendors are often where many of our referrals come from.      

To create a communication plan that fits your business, it is easiest to separate the process into two main steps:

Step 1

Calculate the average number of hours you want to, or currently, spend communicating on that specific wedding.  The calculation should include calls, in-person meetings, creating and sending of emails, etc., and a bit of time for unscheduled communications.

Step 2

Map out a communication plan that best utilizes all the different communication tools and takes into consideration the number of hours that you want to spend per couple.  Think of each touchpoint and ask yourself, “what is the level of importance to me and/or my couples?” Remember, something that might not be that important to you could be very important to them and thus something that is very important to your business.     

Since each business is different, I can’t just provide a single communication plan that fits all.  However, we can take a look at the different communication touch points that are reasonably standard to all of us in the wedding industry.  

COMMUNICATION TOUCH POINTS

Inquiry communication

This is where communication method and the amount of time is hard to plan for, but I do have a few recommendations.  

  • Communicate back within a reasonable period of time.  If you have some information that you almost always provide back (e.g. a pricing breakdown) or some questions that you almost always need to ask (e.g. how many guests), have them handy no matter where you are.  
  • Answer all questions that were asked – and if you can’t answer them without more information, explain why you need the “more information” and request it.
  • Communicate back in the same method they used, unless otherwise instructed.  If they call, you can call. If they email or use WeddingWire messages, please email or message back and don’t try to call.

Initial meeting or consultation

Your business model will determine your initial meeting communication strategy – in-person, phone, online – but you also need to be flexible based on where the couple resides and their requested preference.  

Booking process

Please don’t make it hard for them to book you and give you money.  Truly. We live in more modern times and your couples likely have always lived in those modern times.  Electronic contracts and electronic payments are easier for you and easier and more comfortable for them.  

After-booking communication

Whether it’s an automated email or a templated email which you personalize before sending, it should give them an idea of next steps, timeline or workflow, and reiterate communication expectations.  Some wedding professionals, especially those at the higher-end and with a more complicated process, find that the creation and distribution of an “onboarding” document or packet is very helpful in setting proper expectations and fits with their brand.

Your in-process workflow

It is only a positive for your business, and your sanity, to have a standard workflow that applies to each wedding or level of service purchased – even if it is adaptable based on that specific couple’s (or wedding’s) needs.  The workflow should have set communication points, and you schedule on your calendar and/or in your system any non-automated communication point within the workflow (a two-week final reminder email, a month-out check-in call, time to schedule a venue walk-through, etc.).  

Information giving/gathering

Electronic communication usually works very well here.  Depending on your level of service, you can determine which emails you send would be automated, which would be templated, and which would be completely personal.  And, if you need to get a bunch of information, online questionnaires are a fantastic tool to use, often getting better responses than asking for those questions to be answered in an email.  If your process includes having a scheduled call or an in-person meeting with your couple, send them the discussion points beforehand so they can be prepared. This reduces the amount of back and forth after the meeting and makes sure that no one feels like the meeting was a waste of time.

Unscheduled communications

Although you can’t completely control this, set expectations early on with your couples about how you are going to communicate with them, how best they should communicate with you, and what response time to expect.  

After-event or after-service follow-up

If you work with a lot of couples and just want to congratulate them, thank them, and ask for reviews, this could be an automated email, but I don’t recommend it.  Each couple/wedding is unique and we are in a very personal business, so instead I recommend a templated email that you then personalize based on the couple. I always try to remember one or two memorable things from my time at the wedding and add it to the thank you (it was great meeting your parents, your nephew came through with the rings after all, etc.).  

EVALUATING YOUR COMMUNICATION PLAN

And don’t forget to evaluate your communication plan by:

  • Looking at your reviews. Are the couples talking up how well you communicated with them, not talking about it at all, or talking about it in the negative?  Use this to determine what is working well and what needs change.
  • Keeping track of the questions that shouldn’t be asked or missing items. Are you getting a lot of questions from your couples, yet the answers were in earlier communications?  Are you frequently getting to certain points in your process and still missing items that you requested from your couples?  Are you consistently, or somewhat consistently, forgetting to tell your couples something?

Just remember, your business, your couples, and your technology are always evolving, and thus so should your communication plan.  

Bethel Nathan is a San Diego based wedding officiant, business coach, and industry speaker.  Combining her years of corporate and small business experience with a love for marrying awesome couples, Bethel built Ceremonies by Bethel, a successful and award-winning Officiant business.  And although still officiating, Bethel now has another love… helping others turn their passions into successful and sustainable businesses. Learn more at www.elevatebybethel.com.

» The Art of Listening

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

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

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

The initial consultation

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

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

Practice the 70/30 rule

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

Avoid dead end questions

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

» Let’s Talk About Price in Your Lead Replies

Price is a difficult thing to talk about— but it shouldn’t be. WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg insists that you shouldn’t dread pricing questions but rather, you should embrace them. Why? It’s the quality of conversation in your lead replies that leads to a sale, and if a couple has to pay for your services anyway, price need not be the elephant in the room. To help open up your conversations, especially when it comes to talking about price, Alan Berg answered some of your most frequently asked questions about handling price questions in lead replies.

If my business offers multiple services, and a lead says that they are interested in my services and asks what my prices are, how do I keep that email short while answering a lot of questions buried in that “simple” question?

As it turns out, this reply isn’t as long as you might think. Instead of sending all of your prices for each service you offer, simply reply “What services were you interested in more specifically?” This reply will then not only narrow the length of your eventual price reply, but will also ensure that you are providing the exact information your client wants without overwhelming them with pricing that doesn’t apply to them.

But what if someone says they are interested in multiple services of mine and asks for pricing? How do I still keep that reply short?

Let’s say you are an entertainment business and a lead says that they are interested pricing for a DJ, dance floor and lighting. All you need to do is list the prices (or price ranges) for the three (and only the three!) they asked for, and ask a follow up question to keep the conversation going. “What venue did you have in mind for hosting your reception?”

I am totally guilty of sending too much information, specifically with price, because I feel like I have to. How do I send less?

There are four ways to handle price:

  1. You can tell them the exact price. While this is specific and can be helpful, it can be quite hard to do sometimes without the full scope of information from a potential client.
  2. You can not tell them the price and avoid questions about it at all costs… but we all know this isn’t good practice.
  3. You can give the starting price. You need to exercise this one with caution as you might have services that go far above your starting price. Thus, sometimes this tactic can be very misleading to couples who think your costs are much lower.
  4. You can give a price range (Alan’s favorite way to share pricing information), and share your average price.

Giving a price range lets you weed out people who might not be able to afford your services and sets realistic expectations with the potential client. It also allows a conversation to start as it gives a ballpark figure where you can then ask follow up questions to keep the conversation moving forward, such as “What services were you considering?.” (moving you closer to the sale!).

What if they never ask about price/don’t ask about it early on?

Hold off on mentioning price at the beginning (unless they ask outright). Maybe this potential client was referred, or heard a quote and knows your price already. If you feel worried that it has yet to be mentioned, feel free to bring up price in the second half of a new reply to calm any anxiety.

“By the way, I just wanted to let you know about our pricing since we haven’t talked about it and I wanted to make sure you were comfortable moving forward. Our range for what we have been discussing is between a and z.”

After you mention price, go back to the context of the first half of the reply to get off the price discussion and leave the ball in the client’s court as to if s/he wants to discuss price further. Remember, however, that this isn’t necessary. If they didn’t ask about price well into a discussion, they probably know what they need to know already.

If I have a beautiful document for my pricing and a lead inquires about price, can I send that attachment?

No! Even if you have a brilliant, beautiful document that outlines price, or any other detailed culmination of your business’s information, don’t send it. Alan insists that you should never reveal too much. Not only can attachments overwhelm couples and be difficult to view on mobile devices (the vast majority of WeddingWire consumers reply to emails on mobile), but an attachment doesn’t make the sale, you do! Attachments halt conversations, and remember conversation is what leads to a sale.

Every time I quote a price or give a range through email, I never get a reply back. However, when I am on the phone, my closing rate shoots up. What can I do?

Alan states that it depends on the conversation you are having. If you aren’t getting replies back, see if your reply left a dead-end or if it encouraged further communication. Again, emails should be like phone calls where a back-and-forth is created through questions. In situations like this, you are probably closing over the phone because you are good at conversation. So, utilize that strength in your emails and formulate them to read just like you would talk over the phone.

If you are a service that has a flat rate, try giving the price and then say “were you looking to do any special touches like a sand ceremony?” or “were you going to write your own vows or is that something you would like me to help with?” This way, you give a price and still follow up with a question to guarantee a reply and keep the conversation going.

Talking about price doesn’t need to be a touchy subject or something that is difficult to discuss in lead replies. We hope that by answering these questions, you have learned to welcome price questions and feel confident when covering them in your lead replies.

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Replying to Leads” with Alan Berg, WeddingWire Education Expert and CSP. Premium Members can view the webinar recording in their accounts.

» How to Communicate Clearly with Prospective Clients

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

Over 90% of today’s couples are Millennials. They have officially taken the driver’s seat, and industry professionals should recognize the need to adapt to their ways and their preferences. It’s essential, for instance, that you master their preferred form of communication, which is, as it stands, email.

Develop an email reply system

Creating and implementing an effective email reply system can save you time (and time is money!), as well as give you the opportunity to elevate your client experience from first contact. While it takes a bit of reflection, planning and effort, doing so has the potential for major payoffs in exchange.

Know how you capture inquiries

Before you dive into your email system, it’s essential to take a good, hard look at how you capture inquiries in the first place. A contact form on your site is the preferred primary method, while still allowing prospective couples to call or email you as well. A form grabs upfront logistical information like names, email, phone, event date, location and size as well as the essentials you need for marketing like “how did you hear about us.” The feedback from online forms can save you an amazing amount of back and forth by delivering the important details from the onset.

Initial inquiries

There is a fine balance between having a template to expedite response time and save effort, and personalizing your initial correspondence. You don’t want your couple to feel like they are just one of a hundred, but at the same time, it’s not the best use of your time to simply keep rewriting the same thing over and over again.

When creating a reply template for initial inquiries, keep the following in mind: share your enthusiasm, but avoid “Congratulations on your engagement” unless you want to sound exactly like everyone else. Come up with a response that incorporates your standard communications, but that leaves wiggle room for personalization as well – you don’t want it to sound like a copy-and-paste response.

Appointment confirmations

Even in this modern age, I still contend that taking the time to confirm an appointment is a nice additional step when staying in touch with prospects and clients. It also gives you control over your schedule, allowing an opportunity for plans to change with enough notice that no one is too inconvenienced.

I, myself, have been confirming appointments diligently since my hotel days, when I worked at a property that had not one, but two lobbies. Since then, I’ve had hundreds of appointments and fewer than five no-shows. It pays to extend the courtesy of a confirmation.

Be certain to confirm the location with an address and make note of any special idiosyncrasies with directions such as construction or known traffic. Give your prospects your day-of contact information, preferably a cellular phone number, and the option to reschedule if anything changes. It also never hurts to get the names of all who will be attending so you are prepared.

Out of office replies

Unless you plan on diligently staying on top of your email, it’s perfectly fine to set up an out of office email while you are out. Just remember to be clear with your availability and return time, as well as an option for event-related emergencies. If you have a team that will still be working, then be sure to note that your offices remain open. If you are a solopreneur, then you’ll need to weigh the option of providing your cell phone number to ensure that you are reachable for the most urgent of matters.

Use apps

Want to streamline the process further? Consider using a scheduling app like Acuity or Calendly, which expedite the process of setting up your first appointment. Better yet, it gives you the capability of creating an automatic email reminder about your upcoming meeting, saving you valuable workflow time.

Make the best impression on prospective clients and save yourself time and money by creating an effective email response system. Doing so will help increase bookings, revenue and job satisfaction as you reclaim control over your time.

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.

» Your Questions About Lead Replies, Answered

We often hear that lead replies are one of the most frustrating aspects in the wedding industry, and we can understand why. There are many reasons why replies don’t come in, and we want to make sure you have the tools needed to feel confident that your lead reply communication is strong. We’ve compiled the most commonly asked questions about lead replies and answered them with the help of WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg.

How do you deal with couples that don’t respond to that first reply? Do I send something again? How much time do I wait to send more follow-up?

1) Respond within 24 hours of receiving the message, and no later. Alan jokingly said that you should respond the second you receive the message… but we don’t think he’s joking. Remember that couples often don’t reply because you’ve waited too long to send them a response.

2) If you reply back in a timely manner and don’t get another reply within 24 hours, follow up and restate the same question you asked in your first email (remember, you should always be asking questions in your lead replies!).

“I am so happy that you reached out yesterday and just want to make sure that you got my earlier email. Did you give any more thought to the type of flowers you would like to use in your arrangements? I’d love to hear some of your ideas.”

3) Still no reply back? Alan recommends that you wait a few days. Following up for a second time within two days might look a little too eager and come off as bothersome. Let things simmer for two or three days after your second reply. Then, Alan suggests that you should send a one-line third reply, about a week out from your first one: “Are you still interested in our floral services?”

4) We’re not done yet! Two or three weeks after first reaching out and still no reply? Alan says there is one more thing that you can do: come up with funny (yet professional!) bullet point list of why your potential client hasn’t gotten back to you. At this point, you are showing that you are still interested, haven’t given up and that you have a sense of humor too. Alan notes that this strategy ends up working for many wedding professionals— you have nothing to lose!

“Hello Tim,

It’s been a while since I heard back from you. I assume you haven’t reached out because:

  1. You’re really busy.
  2. My emails are going to spam.
  3. Hungry bunnies attacked you.

I’d still love to work with you and will be here whenever you are ready.”

Is it ok to open your reply back with “we appreciate your response, we are so glad you are interested” or should we cut to the chase?

The one thing you should never open with is “Congratulations on your engagement!”. Alan did some undercover “shopping” and found that a majority of the professionals he reached out to opened with that line. To stand out, say “thank you” instead. “Thank you for reaching out about having me assist with your planning.” Alan notes that saying “we appreciate your interest in…” sounds bland and unnatural. Read your reply back: if it doesn’t sound conversational, it’s not!

As a florist, I have had clients that flood my inbox with different ideas. One client sent me over 100 photos in six different emails all within in a day. How do I handle this?

Don’t punish the masses for the deeds of a few. Clients like this are the outlier. Alan states that in situations like this, the best piece of advice is to take back control of that conversation. Go to the most recent email and reply “Thank you for sending me those ideas! I just want to let you know that I am in the middle of a busy week creating arrangements for this weekend but I will take the time to look at these and will get back to you once I do.”

If you don’t reply, you’re missing out on a sale. Instead, replying in this manner acknowledges that you are seeing the potential client’s correspondence and subtly hints that you need them to pause what they are doing. By insisting that you will look and get back to them later, the ball is placed back in your court. Now you can direct the conversation where you need it to go to make the sale.

I am busy so I usually just ask three questions in my replies to cut the back-and-forth down, is that ok?

No! This conversational flow and build of your discussions is crucial if you want to make a sale. Replies really don’t take a lot of time in the end. Alan acknowledges that it is a lot balancing and juggling multiple emails, and sometimes, it might even require you to go back in old threads to reread what was sent to remind you what to say. But it’s worth it. Take things slowly and don’t rush it. This strategy also won’t overwhelm your couples and will ensure that each question you ask will be answered.


Do I have to address the bride/groom every time in an email (“Hello Tim,”)?

Mirror your customer. If they fill out a form, and you don’t know how formal or informal they are, your first reply back should be a standard “Hello/Hi Tim,” to keep things safe. (If you are more casual, say “Hi.” More formal? Say “Hello.”) If you get an inquiry that opens with “Dear Alan,” you should reply “Dear Tim,” back. Always match your potential client. If they stop addressing you first, you can stop, too.

Keep in mind that if tones don’t match, it can create unnecessary friction. An example? If a couple is uber-casual in their reply and you maintain a more formal tone, the couple may assume you don’t understand them or their vibe and could be turned off.

We hope this helped clear up some of your questions regarding lead replies and provided you with some new ideas to implement. Ultimately, investing the time in creating conversations through your replies is going to give you a leg up in making the sale. Even though a potential client might take a while to respond (those hungry bunnies can be quite troublesome!) or can be quite demanding, we know that you are all up for the challenge of not giving up on meaningful replies.

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Replying to Leads” with Alan Berg, WeddingWire Education Expert and CSP. Premium Members can view the webinar recording in their accounts.

» What Couples Want to Hear in Your Lead Replies

Wedding professionals often make a few simple mistakes in their lead replies that can cost them business. While these mistakes may seem like relatively minor offenses, the truth is that modern couples have high standards and a single reply can make or break the sale. Instead of following up four times with no reply or wondering what could have happened that turned a couple off from your business, take a look at the content of your lead replies. We have some tips to help increase your response rate and help you create more engaging, meaningful conversations that will lead to more bookings.

Keep it real

Yes, being honest and authentic is necessary but what we mean by “keep it real” here is that your lead replies should be written as if they are a script for a real conversation. They should sound as if you are talking with a potential client face-to-face,

put yourself in your couple’s shoes. Would a conversation feel real and meaningful if…

…you had the exact same conversation with the next five people you see? This is precisely what copy-and-paste feels like for a couple. If you have a handful of inquiries, chances are, most of those inquiries are asking you different things. Just like it would be nearly impossible to have the same conversation with the next five people you see, because they would each have different interests, questions or replies, each reply you send out should be no different. If you have general copy-and-paste text that you include in your replies, consider removing it even if you still personalize some parts of the message. Nothing can sound more disingenuous than blanket text, so either exercise caution when using copy-and-paste, or don’t use it at all. We suggest the latter.

…you were talking to a robot? Automated replies don’t help you or your business, and we think it’s time to say goodbye to them. WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg notes that a lot of wedding professionals set up their website and email system to send potential clients an automated message that says “someone will be reaching out shortly” after an inquiry is sent. While you may assume that sending a message like this is nice because it’s an “immediate response”, it adds nothing to the conversation. People don’t want to hear from a robot— they want to hear from you, even if it is a few hours later.

…someone didn’t reply back to a question you clearly sent them? Reply time is everything and can be the biggest make or break for a sale. When you don’t reply within 24 hours, you could be missing out on business. Confirm ASAP that you heard what the couple had to say. Leaving them waiting for more than 24 hours is only going to encourage them to take their business elsewhere. It’s also why 70% of couples state that vendor responsiveness is the number one factor they consider when looking for a wedding professional to hire.

…someone you were talking to threw a bunch of different distractions into the conversation and didn’t stay on topic? This is the equivalent of how it feels when you send a handful of PDFs, links, and paragraphs to answer their one simple question. Just like in school, when we daydreamed during a lecture covering an entire textbook, providing an information overload in your reply is overwhelming, especially if the couple didn’t ask for this information. As such, it will discourage your audience from listening much longer… so keep your replies simple and to-the-point.

Besides getting rid of copy and paste text, scrapping automated messages, avoiding sending attachments and doing your best to reply quickly, there are a few more things you can do to make your lead replies that much stronger. What it comes down to? Being natural.

Ask questions

A huge part of making sure a lead reply reads like an in-person conversation is by asking questions. If you are not asking a single question in your reply, what is going to motivate the couple to reply back to you? By not asking questions in every reply, you are creating a dead-end for your conversation and not actively establishing the back-and-forth required to make a sale.

By asking a low commitment question in each of your replies, such as “how many guests will be attending?” or “do have a venue secured yet?”, you are giving the couple something to answer, rather than a nondescript “Ok, thank you!”. We all know how hard it is to carry on real-life conversations exclusively using statements, so why would we do that in our lead replies? Be sure to always keep the conversation going.

Don’t jump the gun

You wouldn’t want to be asked out on a date the minute after exchanging a few sentences with a complete stranger, right? The same goes for potential couples who are looking into your services. If you are asking them to come in for a meeting or for a phone call to discuss things in your first reply (or even the next few), it’s too soon! While it might seem like a welcomed and relatively harmless gesture, it can actually be costly. Instead, Alan suggests to do as much communicating as you can on the same channel the couple reached out to you on. Additionally, try letting the couple tell you when they might be ready to take some next steps.

Sympathize and relate

If a couple doesn’t get back quickly and starts their most recent reply with “I am so sorry for the late reply, things have been hectic here!”, do your best to relate. Saying “I completely understand! This month always gets crazy” helps you seem more personable and makes the conversation feel more realistic. Additionally, anywhere you can make a small, personal connection with a client, you should take the opportunity. If a potential client says that they will be unable to get back to you because they are going on vacation or if they were out at a sports game the other night, connect with them about it. Keeping things strictly business isn’t as impressive as one might think. Remember, a couple wants to work with a professional that they can relate to.

Match their tone

Lastly, matching a potential client’s tone can be incredibly significant in landing your lead replies. If a couple’s correspondence is ultra formal, it might insinuate the type of tone they expect back from you. Conversely, if a couple seems casual in their initial message, they probably wouldn’t want you to begin your reply with “Salutations, good sir”, either. By matching a couple’s tone, you are almost guaranteed to connect more quickly because you are on the same wavelength. Be your authentic self, whether that errs on the side of formal or casual, but be sure that you are matching your tone to vibe with the couple when you can.

There are many variables when it comes to mastering lead replies, most of which are out of your control. While it would be great to have control over how quickly a couple sees your message or the ability to keep your messages out of their spam folders, what you can control is the quality of your replies. By taking the steps to communicate with potential clients more personably and create a conversation, you can expect to see the number of replies you get back rise. Hello sales!

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Replying to Leads” with Alan Berg, WeddingWire Education Expert and CSP. Premium Members can view the webinar recording in their accounts.

» Still Waiting to Hear From a Lead? Here’s Why.

Securing responses to your lead replies is a common pain point for wedding professionals and it’s easy to understand why. When potential couples reach out to inquire about your services and you reply only to never hear back, it’s frustrating. Maybe the person was busy or forgot, or maybe your reply accidentally landed in their spam folder. But the harsher truth may be that it was your reply that cut communication short.

WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg explains that there is always room for improvement when it comes to your lead replies. If you’re not getting the responses you desire, Alan has some explanations and tips to help you turn your response success around.

You’re taking too long to reply

7 in 10 couples say that vendor responsiveness is the most important factor they consider when looking to book their wedding team. That seems totally rational, right? Our research also shows that after submitting an online inquiry, 40% of couples note that they didn’t hear back from vendors within five days. As wedding professionals, you should stay on top of your inquiries because if you aren’t, it’s probably costing you sales. Think about it: if you inquired about a product or service that you wanted to purchase and had to wait at least five days, wouldn’t you consider finding it somewhere else?

Approximately 50% of couples choose the vendor that replies first. Because time is clearly of the essence here, do your best to reply as soon as possible. Alan recommends waiting no more than 24 hours to respond.

You’re asking for a phone call or meeting

When a couple reaches out for the first time, it’s usually in reference to something specific (“What is your price for x?”, “Are you available on x date?”). Remember that they did not ask you to have a phone call or a meeting— they asked a question. Replying back “Are you available anytime to chat or come in for a meeting?” instead of answering their question could cause a missed opportunity for a reply.

You suggest a new communication channel

Along with timeliness, nearly half of all couples express frustration when their communication channels aren’t reciprocated. To better your chances at a response, use the same communication channel to respond until your back and forth exchange gets to the point where another method might be better. If a potential customer emails you, you should email back. As a matter of fact, more and more bookings are being done entirely over email, without a single phone call. Remember: “If they wanted to call you, they would have called.”

You’re not thinking mobile

If your replies aren’t crafted for mobile, you’re severely lowering the chances of securing a reply back. Approximately 80% of couples use emails to inquire about services and 70% of WeddingWire consumer emails are opened on mobile devices. To fit mobile’s demands, keep your replies short. As we mentioned, couples are usually asking you a simple question. By keeping things short, not only are you guaranteed not to overwhelm, but you are maximizing the readability of your reply, too.

Another mobile-first tip: Alan suggests that you don’t send attachments in your first few replies. Most attachments fall into the “overkill” category and can overwhelm a couple with information they don’t yet need. But, more importantly, most attachments are designed for desktop so they can be hard to both read and display on a mobile device.

You don’t ask a single question

Not asking a question in your reply can be detrimental. While it may seem that ending with a friendly “I look forward to hearing from you!” suggests to the couple that you are expecting a reply from them, this line doesn’t demand a reply from them.

Instead, Alan suggests that you should ask a “low commitment” question in every single correspondence to guarantee a reply back. Unlike “high commitment” questions such as “When would you like to come in to meet?”, low commitment questions like “How many guests are you expecting?” or “Do you have a venue secured yet?” begins the conversational back-and-forth needed to make a sale.

You’re avoiding pricing

Price questions shouldn’t be something to fear. Be upfront about price and don’t duck the question. Put yourself in their shoes: when you ask about price and someone tap dances around it, how do you feel? If you are concerned about sharing an exact price, give a price range instead. That way you are not overwhelming a couple with every price, and can leave it open ended to ask the follow up question “what services in particular were you thinking about?”

You’re starting your reply with “Congratulations on your engagement!”

It might sound nit-picky, but we promise it’s not. Most wedding professionals start their reply with some form of congratulations to the happy couple. When couples are doing their research and are beginning to contact vendors, every preview line in their inbox starts to look exactly the same. Change things up to ensure that you get noticed!

You’re using automation or copy and paste

Sounding disingenuous is not going to result in a sale. When a couple sends you an inquiry and they receive an automatic reply saying “someone will be in contact with you shortly” it doesn’t add anything to the conversation, even if you end up sending your reply within five minutes of that message going out.

Additionally, it can be really obvious when things are copy and pasted. When a couple is under the impression that the email you sent to them is also sent to everyone else, they probably won’t believe that you can offer them the personalized services they want. If you do have copy and paste text that is generalized and you just can’t part with it, consider having someone who is completely unfamiliar with your business read it. If they believe that the segment reads like it is copy and paste text, it’s time to nix it.

It is easy to get defeated when lead replies don’t turn into sales, all the more so when conversation quickly dies out. However, if a couple is reaching out to you, it’s because they are interested in you.Know that in reaching out, a couple has eliminated a huge portion of your competition. While they might also be reaching out to a few more similar wedding professionals, you are still a part of the select group that they liked and wanted to hear from because they want to book you.

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Replying to Leads” with Alan Berg, WeddingWire Education Expert and CSP. Premium Members can view the webinar recording in their accounts.

» Social Media Dos and Don’ts for Attracting Millennial Couples

As we know, millennial audiences are heavily invested in social media, spending about 5.5 hours a day on average engaging with social media. For wedding professionals marketing to millennial couples, this means that if your social media pages aren’t up to par, you may be missing out on their business. Not sure what they are looking for? We’ve put together our top social media dos and don’ts to ensure that your business’s social media pages are ready for the eyes of your millennial market.

DO’S

Do have (and maintain) social media pages. Seems simple enough, but there are still many wedding professionals out there without a social media presence! When millennial couples are beginning their initial wedding vendor search, they will look to your social media pages for a first pass impression. These pages help them visually gauge the quality of services that your business can offer. Without that visual aid, not only do you run the risk of looking outdated, they may pass you by altogether. So if you are currently missing from the social media world, it’s time to sign up!

Do prioritize Facebook and Instagram. These are the two most popular platforms among millennial audiences. While there are many other platforms to choose from, millennials truly value your presence on these two. Aim to use these platforms as regularly as possible, post only your strongest content and engage with your audience frequently through the comments. If you do those three things on each platform, your brand awareness will see positive impact and millennials are sure to be impressed with what they see.

Do favor quality over quantity. While you might use another platform, like your website, to feature all of your content, you should be incredibly selective of what you post to Facebook and Instagram. Instagram in particular should be the “trophy case” for your best and most recent visual content. Many businesses make the mistake of trying to upload too regularly or post without a direction, that they often lose sight of the quality of the content they are posting. While you should aim to post frequently, if your content isn’t strong and visually pleasing, it’s not going to impress millennials. Additionally, over posting is just as unimpressive as posting lackluster content. We suggest posting no more than twice a day and no less than once a week to keep your followers and prospective clients hooked.

Do utilize Instagram stories. We weren’t kidding when we said to focus on Instagram! Instagram’s story feature is a great way to engage potential clients in a more casual way by sharing what you are doing on the job or behind-the-scenes. This feature also allows you to stay active without always spending the time required to curate the beautiful, consistent flow of visual content on your Instagram feed. Since Instagram stories are only viewable for 24 hours, you don’t have to worry as much about posting “perfect” content. Use stories as a way to build an emotional connection with your potential clients; millennial couples will love to see your genuine personality come through and learn more about you.

 

DON’TS

Don’t focus on YouTube, Twitter or Blogs. We can’t stress Facebook and Instagram enough. They are where you want to spend most of your time because they have the best payout and visibility. YouTube and Twitter are great social media sites, but connecting with potential clients on these platforms is not as easy. Twitter is best for communicating with other businesses, or for B2B communication, and YouTube probably won’t be needed unless you are a videographer or produce a ton of video content. Blogs can also be a great way to show off your personality and share more about your business, but producing blog content can also be a major time commitment. Unless you are prepared to dedicate a lot of time to writing frequent blog posts, blogs can be nixed, too, in favor of maintaining your social media presence.

Don’t show just the end shots. The majority of photos uploaded are of beautiful end products: the finished floral centerpieces, the intricately constructed updo or the frosted cake. End shots are great to see, but sometimes upload after upload of beautiful end shots leaves us wanting more. Think about it: how many end shots like this do you see when you scroll through your feed? They are the vast majority of all uploads.

People want to see some grit, too! For the same reason we mentioned Instagram stories, millennial couples want to see behind the scenes. Even though these action or behind the scenes shots aren’t typically “polished”, there is still a way to make them look visually appealing. If you are building a bouquet, take a photo of your table with your supplies, tools and loose florals. These shots might require some staging, but couples love these posts because it shows your expertise and dedication to your craft. More importantly, it shows the sheer amount of work that you put in to get the high quality product that they see in those end shots.

Don’t post on Instagram without a direction. Your content should be cohesive and your posts should all build to tell your brand story. Having a direction in mind when you post is integral to maximize your social impact. Think about your brand. Your social media, and especially Instagram, is a highly visual representation of your brand. If you post photos aimlessly, your Instagram’s overall feed is going to look scattered and send a confusing message to couples. Try uploading pictures with a similar color palette, similar lighting, or similar subjects and themes. Uploading photos that look similar, despite the “differing” content is going to help give your feed a cohesive, clean look. Planning ahead can also help you plan out the visual story you are telling; there are some great tools out there like Planoly that can help you plan your Instagram content and preview how it will look in your feed before you post.

Don’t post just text to Facebook. Every facebook post you make should have a piece of content attached to it. Plain text posts on Facebook used to be the norm for the platform, but not in 2018. If you have text to post, attach a photo with it. If you are posting a link, Facebook automatically attaches a thumbnail from the link to add more visuals, but if that thumbnail is plain or broken, attach another photo and remove the thumbnail. From attaching videos to gifs, Facebook posts should never be just plain text! Millennials are a visual generation and you should use every opportunity to showcase your work.

Creating beautiful, cohesive and on-brand social pages take time to build and maintain. Take comfort in knowing that phenomenal Instagram pages don’t just happen overnight! Don’t be afraid to test and try different types of content to see what works best for your business.   Mastering social media might have a bit of a learning curve, but if you keep these steps in mind, you’ll be sure to impress those millennial clients. Happy posting!

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Marketing to Millennials” by Sonny Ganguly, WeddingWire’s Chief Marketing Officer. Premium Members can view the webinar recording in their accounts.

» Collecting Meaningful Reviews for Same-Sex Couples

Photo by Gawne Designs Photography

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

Hopefully you’ve spent time considering the tips and tools for collecting reviews that the WeddingWire team has outlined on the ProBlog, as well as during the live sessions at WeddingWire World. In addition to strengthening your brand presence with the potential of earning the prestigious Couples’ Choice Award® by collecting testimonials, you’ll also be offering valuable information to your prospective clients. And this is especially true for the LGBTQ couples who are researching your bonafides and readiness to receive their inquiry about your services.

By means of a quick review, first please consider WeddingWire’s basic tips for collecting reviews from the brides and grooms with whom you’ve worked:

  1. Just ask!
  2. Give them time.
  3. Automate, but keep it personal.
  4. Build reviews into your culture.  [Read more]

Now, let’s take a deeper dive into thinking about how to build on these necessary steps, and how to do so in a way that will appeal to the LGBTQ couples who are in need your services.

Just ask, but be specific

When I meet wedding professionals at conferences, I often ask them if they have worked with same-sex couples, and then, if they have asked that couple for a review. Though I’ve met many pros who tell me that they have done so and submitted a gay or lesbian wedding to a blog, magazine or other planning site to showcase their work, surprisingly, I have yet to meet a wedding professional who answers affirmatively about requesting a review from a same-sex couple.

Remember that LGBTQ couples generally review your WeddingWire Storefront  with an eye to assess not only your professional competence, but also your cultural competence and experience. Perhaps you are using inclusive language. Perhaps you do have images of same-sex couples. You are sending all of the right signals, but the couple might be wondering: but how did it really go? Reviews are your opportunity to let your past LGBTQ-identified clients tell your future LGBTQ clients about your services with respect to the particular experience of planning a same-sex or queer wedding.

This means you might consider inviting your clients to share details about their experience with you that include your LGBTQ cultural competence. For example, did you anticipate their needs and understand the planning differences and/or nuances for same-sex couples or did they have to educate you along the way? Did you have a strong set of experienced and LGBTQ competent professionals on your referral list? Was the language in your contracts appropriate?

If you aren’t sure how to open this conversation, remember that LGBTQ newlyweds know what it felt like to begin searching for vendors (and perhaps even be rejected), and they’ll appreciate a nudge to write a review that gives clear and identifiable feedback for your prospective clients to consider. Most will likely be happy to take the time to write you a review in order to help future LGBTQ couples through their planning process and vendor search.

Give them time, and respect their privacy

It’s true that finding the right time to send your review request is key. Make sure that the couple isn’t so overwhelmed that they overlook the request, but don’t wait so long that the gush-factor has worn off. And, as you are considering the space they need to write their review for you, please also remain sensitive to privacy factors.

Though same-sex marriage is legal and couples are having ceremonies, there are still some LGBTQ-identified folks who keep their personal lives private. This is especially true for folks in therapeutic and school settings; and for folks who may live in communities where being LGBTQ-identified is frowned upon.

If you aren’t already sure about how “out” the couple is, approach your request with sensitivity to gauge their comfort level (eg, “Would you be comfortable writing a public review about your experience of my services with an explicit reference to my ability to address your needs as a same-sex couple?”). If the couple does prefer to remain private, consider the ways in which they can write a review with a nom de plume to register their assessment about your work while maintaining some discretion.

Automate, but keep it personal (part 2)

Any busy wedding professional can appreciate a tool that supports easy communication with couples. Especially when it’s easy to send a gentle reminder if a couple hasn’t responded immediately with a review. But please don’t sacrifice that personal touch when leaning on a communication system. Most of us are more responsive when we are being asked a question that feels specifically directed to us an individual. And, today’s millennial couples are especially receptive to prompts that reflect personal details and needs.

Additionally, in an industry that tends to be heteronormative (that is, built around a bride-groom default), personalization is especially important for LGBTQ couples. Please make sure that you are using the terminology and salutations preferred by each individual and each couple. Make sure that you’ve proof-read any generic text to ensure that it’s inclusive. Not all forms are created equal for all couples.

The culture of reviews. and feedback

The WeddingWire team recommends mentioning reviews “early and often” from the sales process through the big day. Beyond finding a routine for you and your team to regularly mention and request reviews from every client, recognize that this is also a great place to get feedback on your cultural competence from your same-sex couples.

Find a time to connect with the newlyweds you’ve served, and ask them to offer you feedback in order to help you improve your services and offerings. This post-mortem conversation is an excellent way to deepen your connection and develop a better understanding of the professional development you may need to pursue to grow your business. It also serves as a simple springboard to ask the couple to write a brief review to help other same-sex couples who may be looking for a wedding professional with experience like yours.

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