» 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.

» Is Your Communication Cutting It With Millennials?

Photo by Justin Kunimoto Photography

Even though the average age of your target audience remains generally consistent over the years (engaged couples in their 20s and 30s), it’s important to remember that shifting generations come with shifting client expectations. Millennials have different habits and needs than those of the GenX generation — especially when it comes to communication. Is your communication approach with clients up-to-date? Review these best practices from WeddingWire’s Chief Marketing Officer Sonny Ganguly and get up to speed.

Communicate on social media

If you haven’t already, start setting up the ground work to communicate with your clients through your social media pages. Every major platform has a direct messaging service that makes it easy and convenient for clients to shoot you a message while they browse your page or feed. Messaging through these platforms is only going to become more popular, and may even become the norm for bookings. If you want to be a strong communicator in the digital age, you have to be prepared to check every digital platform that you are on frequently (at least once a day!) to see if messages from potential clients are coming in.

Being aware of incoming messages is one thing, but getting them in the first place is another. Letting clients know that you are able to chat through these mediums is crucial. A good indication that you can be contacted through social media is through frequent and consistent posting. If your last Instagram post was three weeks ago, a potential client probably won’t feel confident that you will reply in a timely manner. Post regularly to show that you have eyes on your platform(s) at all times.

Another great way to encourage messaging over social media is to be active in your posts through comments. Replying to comments and engaging with your followers is a great strategy to help boost a client’s confidence in communicating with you via social media.

Reply as quickly as possible

The majority of couples expect a vendor to reply within 24 hours. It may seem like a quick turnaround, but most bookings end up going to the vendor that replies first. Only 39% of professionals respond in 24 hours, which means there is some serious opportunity to improve and make a great impression on potential clients. If you want to maximize your bookings, not only should you be regularly active on social media, *hint hint*, but you should also be replying as soon as you can. Remember that we live in a world of instant gratification and your clients will expect quick replies.

Always request reviews (and respond!)

95% of couples use and trust reviews to book their wedding professionals. Because of that, you should always be requesting reviews from past couples. Most reviews get written 2-3 weeks post-wedding, so don’t get anxious if a couple has yet to write anything. Review timing also depends on what services you offer. If you are in a pre-wedding service, such as invitations, expect your reviews much earlier. If you are in the photography or videography business, expect your reviews 5-6 weeks after the wedding. Still no reviews after this timeframe? Reach out! It doesn’t hurt to contact a couple and ask them to provide a review.

Once you receive a review, respond to it! Replying to all reviews is a great way to to show not only the reviewer, but also potential clients reading those reviews, how much you care. Instead of a generic “Thank you!”, the best thing that you can do is write a personalized response with reinforcements on the services and skills you are capable of delivering. (Ex: “It was a joy working with you, Nora. The mini hydrangea bouquets we did for your party were some of my favorites yet!”) Perspective couples are sure to take notice of your personable replies and be able to see what you are capable of delivering. But be careful — if you reply to one review, you should to reply to every review.

When it comes to replying to a negative review, don’t pour fuel on a fire. Remember to be kind, do your best not to be defensive and apologize, even if you’re not at fault. These responses should be written with potential clients in mind.

Reciprocate channels

48% of couples report being frustrated when you don’t communicate on their preferred channel. If they direct message you through Instagram, direct message them back on Instagram. Unless they tell you to contact them through a different medium, you should reply in the same way they reached out. Remember: If a customer wanted to hear your voice, they would have called you instead of writing you an email. Once your communication and relationship has been established with a potential client and you determine that a different communication channel could lead to more productive next steps, feel free to suggest a phone call, in-person meeting, or another communication method. Just be prepared to be as flexible and accommodating as possible— your clients will appreciate it!

Communication can be frustrating, all the more so now that communication norms are ever-changing. Yet, setting up good, clear paths for communication by following our steps will allow for both you and your clients to breathe a sigh of relief. When you open up the correct channels to become a good communicator,

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.

» How to Captivate the Fleeting Attention Span of Millennials

captivate millennials

Photo by Eileen K Photography

Did you know the average adult attention span is only eight seconds? That means you have just eight seconds to make an impression on a potential client, much like we only have eight seconds to convince you to read the rest of this post. In these eight seconds, it is crucial to make a compelling statement about your brand and show off the best of what you have to offer in order to inspire a potential client to stick around and learn more.

Millennials, or Generation X, have greatly contributed to the dwindling average of our attention spans, in large part because they are the ones who have fuelled the transition from partial screen time to constant screen time. 80% of currently engaged couples are millennials, and they are spending more money on weddings than ever before. On average, millennial couples are spending $31,000 on their weddings as opposed to Generation Y, who spent an average of $24,000. Additionally, millennials are hiring more vendors and having longer engagements, giving them more time to plan their nuptials.

In order to grab the attention of a potential client, whether it’s their first WeddingWire search or their first time coming across your business Instagram, it is imperative that things look great when they land on any one of your pages. We work in a visual industry, meaning that any content you post must [subtly] scream for attention. Here’s 6 tips from WeddingWire CMO Sonny Ganguly to help you do it:

Always be branding
Ultimately, you have to pull your audience in with your brand. Potential clients – aka millennials – won’t stick around if they aren’t compelled by something. WeddingWire’s Chief Marketing Officer, Sonny Ganguly, says that your brand is “more than a logo”. Every single aspect of your company, from your logo, to the design of your website, to a picture that you upload to Facebook, is a representation of your brand. If this content isn’t captivating, consistent, and representative of you as a brand, potential clients are going to move on. Remember: Your brand is one of the best ways to stand out from your competition, so be proud to convey your “why” at every turn.

Update, update, update!
Just like you would take your car in for an oil change or upgrade your mobile device when a new model comes out, you should constantly be working on your website to keep it running and relevant. Think about how often popular platforms and websites update their formats and interfaces, or even how frequently app icons change. If you aren’t making changes and tweaks to your website often enough, visitors are going to stop coming to your site if there is nothing new to see. Some first-timers will even leave without a chance of revisiting if they feel like your website looks outdated.

But how do you make time for this in your busy schedule? The more often you take the time to make small adjustments to your website here and there, the less time you will need to spend down the road completely bulldozing and rebuilding your website when everything becomes outdated. Your website should never be something placed on the backburner – instead, dedicate 30 minutes each week to revising your site.

Think mobile
Your website must be mobile-friendly. It should look almost exactly the same on your mobile as it does on your desktop. It should also function just like the desktop version, have the same information available, lead to the same (working) links and have everything displayed in a clean and visually appealing format. The majority of couples are wedding planning on their phones, and it would be a missed opportunity not to have your mobile site up to par.

Be upfront
Every single piece of information that you can provide about your business and services should be made easily accessible to potential clients. This is a controversial one, but millennials don’t like small talk. Thus, requiring them to reach out for general pieces of information about your services is not ideal. It’s also a drain on your time when you have to respond to questions that could be easily available on an FAQ page. Let them find the information that they need and then contact you when they are already hooked.

Speaking of being upfront, not providing pricing on your website(s) is a huge turn off for couples who are looking for vendors. Seeing “Please contact for pricing” on a website is a big frustration for couples. This is because price, followed by reviews, is the number one thing couples are looking for when searching for vendors. By not listing your pricing, you are potentially losing sales instead of gaining them.

Reduce fields
Plain and simple: the less information that potential clients are required to provide on an inquiry form, the more inquiries you will get. By reducing the fields, you can see a +47% increase in the number of inquiries received. Reducing fields also helps you keep your mobile audience engaged. If you have more than three inquiry fields, consider rethinking the essential information you need at first contact versus the information you want.

Go the extra mile
When you get a new booking and client, focus on going above and beyond from day one.  Going the extra mile for your clients is what will make them remember you, especially post-wedding. If you do something special for your clients, not only will you get glowing reviews and a confidence boost, but you can bet on a couple of referrals, too! Yes, it takes a bit of time, effort and energy, but the payoff and reward can make all the difference for your business.

Get ready for Generation Z
They are coming and they will be here sooner than you think! Millennials were slowly introduced to groundbreaking technologies and dependency on tech, but Generation Z grew up with it. While Generation X prefers this newer tech-heavy lifestyle, they are still relatively familiar with the “traditional” (read: outdated) aspects of business. Gen Z won’t be.

To be prepared for tackling Generation Z, who will be having their own weddings soon enough (the oldest GenZers are currently 18), you have to master your millennial audience first. Be aware of trends and incorporate them into your brand and platforms to help you stay connected to your “younger” audiences. If you treat the millennial audience as a very serious “practice round” as you update aspects of your business, you will have an easier time adapting to fit the demands of Gen Z. when they come along.

Since millennials are making up the bulk of the current wedding market — and time is of the essence here — make sure you keep these 6 crucial tips in mind to help you hook, line, and sink as many new millennial couples as possible before their attention goes elsewhere.

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.

» 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.

» Should You Rethink Your Sales Strategy in 2018?

Photo by Lacy Ferrell Photography

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

As business owners, one of the biggest parts of our job is selling to prospective clients. We know it doesn’t always come easy, but by creating and implementing an effective sales strategy you’ll see major differences in what your clients are booking, and in turn, your business.

So how do you go from selling the basics to selling the big dream? We’ve got some of our best techniques below.

Give lots of options

When first sitting down with a prospective client, the best strategy to take is giving them lots of options. It helps to open up their minds and get the creative juices flowing, allowing them to visualize the big picture and overall vision for their wedding. Chances are, they’re going to fall in love and want to spend more money. If your business has more than one service, this is also the perfect opportunity to upsell them on those as well.

Always be honest

You want to be sure that you are striking the right balance with clients, between getting the highest price point you can without going so far out of their range that they feel intimidated or turned off. The best way to do this is with honesty. You want to make sure that their expectations are at the right level from the get-go. For my business, we are always mindful of explaining the value of what they’re getting. Clients don’t always understand that at the beginning, so seeing just numbers alone can quickly turn them off. Once we’ve walked them through the process and explained our services and products more thoroughly, it helps them to see exactly what they’re getting.

Listen to the client

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen salespeople make, is trying to sell their own vision of what the wedding should be without hearing what the client wants. You really have to listen to them and make sure that the products and/or services you put in front of them is in line with what they’re looking for. They are much more likely to spend money if their vision is being met and they’re comfortable with the end result.

You should never walk into a sales meeting without having knowledge on what you’re selling. You need to know all about the venue you’re working at, all of the variables involved in the event, logistics, and the client’s budget. It’s easier to sell a client if you already know the ins and outs of their wedding. It gives them a feeling of comfort and gives you a great jumping off point for upselling.

So what are you waiting for? Make a new sales plan for 2018 that will have you booking more clients at a higher level than you could have imagined.

Kevin Dennis is 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 past national president for WIPA.