» Who’s in Your Network?

Photo by Austin Stuart Photography

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

I just got back from presenting at a local wedding association meeting. This association opened the workshop to non-members, as a gesture to help educate the industry (and I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt to try to drum up a few new members). As is the case at all meetings like this, many of the people who attended already knew each other. Many already get together, outside the meetings, either socially, or to network.

Is that a clique, or a network?

There’s a fine line between a clique and a network, but it’s often hard to see the difference from the outside. For me, the difference is whether the group is open to new members. When I say group, I don’t necessarily mean a formal association. At workshops and conferences, wedding and event professionals tend to cluster in groups. I’m sure a psychologist would tell us that this is natural, human behavior. Are those groups cliques? They can often feel impenetrable, because the body language of the group feels exclusive, as opposed to inclusive. Outsiders often don’t try to join the group, assuming, in advance, that they’re not welcome. Sometimes that’s the case, sometimes it’s not.

Who’s in your five?

Do you remember the cell phone ads, “Who’s in your five?” In this case, your ‘five’ is your inner-circle (which can certainly be more than five people). Who are the industry connections with whom you socialize? It’s been said that we do business with people we know, like and trust (credit to Bob Burg, no relation). When a couple asks for a referral to another service, or when you’re booked and want to refer a colleague, why do you refer those particular businesses? Is it just because they’re the best at what they do? Or, is it because they’re good at what they do, and you saw them recently, either at a wedding, or at a networking event, or over coffee on a Tuesday?

How can you expand your network?

First, remember that you weren’t always on the inside. Too often I see wedding professionals complaining about the new company in their market, whether they’re a lower-price, or a direct competitor. Weren’t we all the new guy (or gal) at one time? Weren’t our prices lower than many, if not most competitors, when we were new to the business? For many of us, the answer to those questions is yes. Rather than shun these newbies, why not welcome them into the fold? Wouldn’t it have been nice if you were welcomed that way when you were new? Or, maybe you were.

A rising tide raises all ships

Welcoming the new businesses, and helping them do things the right way, helps everyone. We all know that it only takes one person in your market and category, who has bad customer service, or who takes advantage of a customer, to make us all look bad. I would rather compete with someone who’s doing things well, is honest and well-respected. It makes me keep myself sharp, and keep my game up.

You can teach an old dog…

Another reason to widen your network with newcomers, is that they often have new ideas that can help you. Those of us who’ve been at our craft for a while can sometimes get set in our ways. Have you ever been caught off-guard by a newcomer who’s taking market share with their new approach? Baby-boomers and Gen Xers can learn from millennials and vice versa. You may like your way, but it’s not the only way. Regardless of age, none of us can learn anything new, if we’re not open to the possibilities. So, the next time you find yourself in a group, and you see someone you don’t know, try introducing yourself and inviting them in. You may make a great business connection, or even a new friend. Who’s in your five?

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

» How Effective Are Your Email Responses?

Photo by Gawne Design Photography

Over the last couple of weeks we’ve shared some quick actionable ways to tune-up your Storefront and website for engagement season, and now it’s time to give your digital communications some love with these tips from Education Guru Alan Berg. Newly engaged couples will be reaching out soon – so keep these tips in mind to create powerful connections with potential clients.

Don’t rush to change the format

One of the biggest mistakes that wedding professionals can make right out of the gate is responding to an inquiry from a potential client in a format that is different than how they reached out. It’s likely that they were given the opportunity to contact you in multiple ways, and then they chose what worked best for them. According to WedInsights, 48% of couples express frustration when their vendor does not reciprocate their preferred communication type! So start with their preferred method, then once you have a back and forth going, you can ask them for a phone call, appointment, or another method that is necessary.

Respond quickly

70% of couples say vendor responsiveness is one of the top qualities they consider. It makes sense right? Most couples expect to hear from you within 24 hours, but they actually want that response right now! They are obviously in the frame of mind when they reach out, so ideally you want to catch them in that same state. The first vendor to respond will grab the couple’s attention and have an edge up on the competition.

Fit the first reply on a smartphone screen

When responding to a couple’s first inquiry, make sure that your response fits nicely on a smartphone screen. You should never assume that the couple will read your response on a computer and you don’t want to lose them in a reply. So make it easy for them. Email yourself one of your standard replies and open it on your smartphone. If it all fits, great! If it doesn’t, shorten it until it does. Also, make sure that the information is easily digestible by breaking into short paragraphs.

End the reply with one question

If you want to keep the conversation going, you must ask a question. Periods stop the conversation, but question marks open up a dialogue. Make the question something very simple and easy to answer. You don’t want them to have to think too hard or long to give a sufficient answer. Some examples are: “What other questions can I answer for you?”, “Are you planning on having your ceremony here as well?”, “Have you seen us at another wedding?” etc.

Don’t send attachments

Attachments are almost impossible to open and read on phones, even if they are beautiful. If it wasn’t formatted for phones, then we don’t suggest attaching it to emails. Instead you can put that information on a hidden page on your website. Then link to that page in your reply.

Auto replies should provide value

When was the last time you received a “Thank you for your message, someone will get back to you as soon as possible” and thought, “Oh great someone is going to get back to me!”? Probably never. That’s because you already knew, or assumed, that someone would get back to you. If you are using auto replies, make sure that you include information that couldn’t be gathered otherwise to add value to the inquirer’s experience with you.

Create a bank of testimonials

One of the greatest ways to show off your value is by letting a past client do it for you. Anytime someone says something nice about you or your business, copy it and save it. Whether it’s in person, through email, WeddingWire, Facebook, Instagram – anywhere, add it to a document with their name, city and state. Then highlight or bolden the statement that you want to highlight. When replying to an inquiry, find a relevant testimonial and include it!

» WeddingWire Networking Night Dallas

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at Tower Club for WeddingWire Networking Night Dallas!

Wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy an elegant event space complete with floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Dallas skyline while networking over light fare including roasted lechon, elotes and adult root beer floats! Guests met other local vendors across all service categories as well as members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned local-industry statistics and insights on working with millennial couples in the wedding industry, presented by WeddingWire’s Regional Manager of Customer Success, Katey McBurney!

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

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

Finally, we’re excited to announce the winner of our WeddingWire Prize Pack give away – congrats to Heather of Donnie Brown Weddings and Events!

 

» To Discount or Not to Discount?

Photo by Tracy Shoopman Photography

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

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

Discounting versus negotiating

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

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

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

Which is right for you?

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

Don’t fight the power

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

Get something of value in return

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

They’ll be back

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

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

Price doesn’t determine outcome

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

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

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

What’s the right answer for your business?

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

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

» How to Create an Online Newsroom for Your Website

Photo by Freas Photography

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Expert, Meghan Ely.

With engagement season upon us, it’s important to set the stage and make your online presence known. You can expect an influx of media outlets producing more wedding related content since it’s the prime time of year for newly engaged couples to be searching for evergreen wedding planning topics. With that being said, the media will be on the hunt for expert resources, and having an online newsroom on your website can help get you noticed quicker and by more people.

What is an online newsroom?

The concept of online newsrooms has evolved over time from the idea of a media kit, which is typically a packet of information that gets disseminated to the media. However, in recent years they have moved away from sending a hard copy to a PDF. With research being done almost exclusively online now, it makes sense that wedding pros are ditching their traditional kits and instead creating a page on their website dedicated entirely to providing their information to the media.

What does it look like?

Your online newsroom should look a lot like your media kit did, but an online version. Include things like a high-res headshot, your bio, any affiliations you have, accreditations, and all of your contact information (if you’re represented by a publicist be sure to include their contact information as well).

You’ll also want to showcase a little bit of who you are and what you’ve done. Think recent press you’ve been featured in and press releases from the last year (if you have them). Be creative with your press. Search online for examples of how other companies are highlighting where they’ve been featured (like WeddingWire’s Press Center) and apply that inspiration to your own page.

What’s the goal?

When putting together your online newsroom, the goal you should be aiming for is that when a member of the media clicks on it, they know you’re an expert in your field within a few seconds. If they have to look around for too long they may move on to other sources with more readily available material.

An online newsroom is a great way to get members of the media to love you. They will appreciate how easy you made it to get in touch, and it could lead to future press opportunities for you and your business.

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.

» Is Your Website Turning Away Potential Clients?

Photo by Blueflash Photography

You’ve been hearing it over and over, engagement season is just around the corner! But what does that mean for you? This is the ideal time of year to strengthen your Storefront, website and communications to stand out to newly engaged couples when they start searching for their wedding team. Education Guru Alan Berg recently shared his best tips for tuning up these areas to help you connect with more couples in the coming months.

Here are the top four ways that you can take action now and strengthen your website:

Choose images that are aspirational

Using aspirational images is a top tip for Storefront improvements, but it is also equally true for your website. Your goal is to find images that invoke an emotional connection between the couple and your business. A couple’s first reaction should be, “Wow, I want to be just like that couple!” Remember: the head has a budget, the heart does not. So find photos that touch their hearts.

Take action:

  1. The key to building an emotional connection with a couple is showing them what they could look like on their big day. Assess your website images and see if you are showcasing happy couples. If you aren’t, then change your photos or add in new ones! For some categories this can be difficult, but try to show couples interacting with you or your service.
  2. If your options are limited for this type of photo, feature a mix of photos of ideal couples you have worked with and photos of you or your best work.

Make sure the text matches the aspiration of your photos

When a couple comes to your website, it’s because they are coming to learn more about you and the service you provide. If the feeling you portray in the words on your website doesn’t match that of your images, it can feel disjointed and may not inspire them to reach out.

Take action:

  1. To match the feeling that couples see when first come to your website, you need to narrate the results and outcomes of what they will receive from you. If you’re a photographer, talk about the emotion that your couples feel the first time they see their photos. If you’re a caterer, talk about how guests rave for weeks and weeks about your food. Those are the outcomes couples want, so that’s what you need to talk about.
  2. Do the “you test”. When you use the word “you” on your website you are automatically allowing the couple to visualize themselves working with you. To do this test, go to your current website then on the taskbar click edit, then find, then type the word “you” and hit search. The more times the word “you” pops up, the better! If the current number is low, reread your text and find the appropriate places to insert the word “you”. Remember: You want to talk to them about them, because that’s who they care about!
  3. Read all of the text on your website out loud. This may seem a little silly, but it’s a great way to catch yourself if you are using language that you typically wouldn’t with a couple or have outdated information on your site. Question every sentence to make sure that you are describing your business accurately and using language that connects directly with the couple reading it.

Include social proof of your capabilities

Engaged couples want to hear about you and your capabilities, not from you, but from other couples that have experienced what it’s like to work with you. The best way to incorporate social proof into your website is by utilizing testimonials and reviews. The more you are able to incorporate these things into your website, the more engaged couples will be able to see the consistency of your work and how other couples felt about working with you.

Take action:

  1. Add a reviews section to your website. Include reviews with specific praise and strong emotional keywords. Make sure this is an actual part of your website and not a widget. Those keywords are great for your SEO!
  2. Choose the best reviews to feature on your website. You should still provide a link to your WeddingWire storefront where they can read through all of your reviews, but on your website you should highlight the reviews that reflect your ideal client and convey how much you care about your clients.

Create specific calls-to-action

Once you have an interested couple on your website, your biggest mistake would be to leave them wondering what to do next! Just as you’ll guide them through the wedding planning process with your business, guide them through your website with very specific and straightforward calls-to-action.

Take action:

  1. First, if you don’t currently have any calls-to-action on your website think about the specific actions you want a couple to take. Do you want them to call you? Reach out via email? Read your reviews? Look through your photos? Each page will probably have a specific action tied to it. Make sure to think these through to ensure they are clear and not misleading.
  2. Once you’ve determined a strong call-to-action, incorporate it into each page! Whenever possible, create the call-to-action as a button rather than a “click here” in text or an arrow.

Stay tuned over the coming weeks for engagement season tune-up tips about client communication strategies. Be sure to check out Alan’s Storefront tune-up tips, too!

» Ask for the Sale and Book More Weddings

ask for the sale

Photo by BHP Imaging

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

I’m just getting back from another great Wedding MBA, and my last presentation there was a WedTalk called “The Closer.” The underlying theme of this 15-minute presentation was these four words: Ask for the sale. While it seems obvious, this is the place where many, if not most, wedding and event professionals drop the ball. Even if you’re listening well, presenting the outcomes and results of choosing you, and showing the value of paying your price, you still have to finish the job. As we are approaching engagement season, there’s no better time to brush up on your sales approach.

You’re already on their short-list
By the time you get to have a conversation with them, whether digital, on the phone or in person, they already think you’re a good fit. They’ve seen your storefront, seen your photos and videos and read your reviews. These steps were all buying signals. Then they sent you a message through WeddingWire messaging, or went to your website, liked what they saw, and messaged you from there. This, too is a buying signal, and the first one you saw.

After continuing that conversation with you, at some point you need to ask for the sale. If they weren’t interested, the conversation would be over. As long as they’re still sitting in the chair, or talking on the phone, or replying to your emails and texts, they’re still interested. They need ‘what’ you do. That’s why they started their search for someone in your market and category. They did their filtering and you made the cut to get an inquiry (that’s the short-list). You should be assuming that they will buy from you.

When and how to ask for the sale
You should be asking for the sale at the points where you see, and hear, the buying signals. If they were referred to you, by another couple, or another wedding professional, that’s a great indicator of interest. However, just because their friends loved you, doesn’t mean you’ll make the same connection with them.

Ask them: “When we do the flowers (or music, ceremony, food, photos, video, etc.) for your wedding, what would you like to be the same as your friends, and what would you like us to do differently?” Notice that you should ask ‘when’, not ‘if.’ If they start to passionately describe what they want, you can continue with: “That sounds great, I can’t wait to start working on those details. Should we get your date reserved, so we can move on to choosing your (colors, menu, package, etc.)?”

Answer their objection, then ask for the sale
If they pose an objection, address it, then ask for the sale. Objections are buying signals, because if they weren’t interested, they wouldn’t present an objection, they’d just leave, or go radio-silent on you. For example, what if they say: “You’re the first one we’ve seen.” To me, that’s a statement, not an objection. Here’s what you might say:

“I totally understand. A lot of our couples make us the first stop, because of our reviews, reputation, and recommendations from friends and other wedding professionals. They, like you, already think that we’re the right fit, before even coming in. Once they see, like you have, how great we can make your wedding, many of them decide to make sure we’ll be available to do their weddings by reserving us. And, there are so many other vendors to choose, that all need to have your actual date. Should we get your date reserved so you can move on to the other decisions?”

Here’s another example: “That’s more than we wanted to spend.” You might reply with:

“I know how things can add up quickly for a wedding. We see it all the time. For the particular services/products that you want, to make your wedding everything you’ve imagined, and more, this is the best price. Should we get that reserved for you now?

Help them buy
Customers want, and need you to help them buy. As I said earlier, they need ‘what’ you do, or you would never have gotten the inquiry. You need to show them that they were right to put you on their short-list. You need to help them see the value in choosing specifically you, and your team. And then, you need to help them get the results that only you can provide, by asking for the sale.

alan berg

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

» Storefront Tune-Up Tips for Engagement Season

storefront tips

Photo by Bradley Images

Did you know that nearly 18% of all engagements occur in December alone? Now is the time to start tuning up your online presence in preparation for these couples. During our October webinar, Education Guru Alan Berg shared his best tips for tuning up your Storefront to help you connect with more couples this engagement season.

Here are the top four ways that you can take action now and strengthen your Storefront:

Make sure you have an aspirational thumbnail image that stands out.
Even though it’s small, your thumbnail image is very important! That tiny picture could make or break a couple’s decision to click to your Storefront. When a couple sees that image, you want them to feel emotionally connected and think, “Wow, I want to be just like that couple!” This can be achieved by selecting a lovely lifestyle image of a happy couple at their wedding. Remember: It’s not about the flowers, the food, the music, or any other service you provide, it’s about making couples feel like they can achieve their dream wedding with you.

Take action:

  1. Does your thumbnail image have a photo of a happy couple? If not, change it! We know this can be tricky for some categories, but be creative with it! If you’re a caterer, we know you don’t want to show a couple with a mouth full of food, but you do want to show a couple interacting with your food. If you’re a videographer, use a photo of you filming a couple with a beautiful scene in the background. The default choice should always be a happy couple, no matter your category.
  2. Test it on mobile. Couples are browsing through Storefronts on their phones, so take a moment to ensure that your thumbnail is compatible. Is it missing the detail you were trying to show? Did you turn the couple into headless horsemen? If so, fix it!
  3. Look at your competition’s thumbnail images in your category. Make sure that your image stands out and is the best reflection of your ideal client so that you will attract more of those engaged couples to click on your page.

Update your Storefront albums with lifestyle images.
Great work! Your beautiful thumbnail image has now led a couple to click on your Storefront. The first thing that they will do now is look at your photos. Remember that more is not better. Better is better! Your goal is to get them to contact you, so your job here is to guide them through the best examples of your work, with plenty of lifestyle images of happy couples that they can instantly relate to and be inspired by. Lite members can share 5 photos, while Premium members can upload up to 100 photos per album.

Take action:

  1. Review your current albums to assess the feeling that they convey to couples. Do you have a balance of inspiring lifestyle photos mixed in with designed detail shots? Similar to thumbnail selection, make sure the photos you choose to place in your album will transport a couple to envisioning their own big day.
  2. Organize your albums into relevant categories (and consider doing some editing down). Think about the best ways to sort your photos. For example, if you are a caterer, you can create albums titled “Cocktail Hour,” “Dessert Tables,” “Plated Reception,” “Buffet Reception,” “Bar & Beverages,” etc. This will help couples navigate your photos and find images that reflect the wedding they envision. Make sure you have just enough photos to give a strong first impression of your work, but not so many that a couple gets lost and overwhelmed. Focus on quality over quantity; 50 photos in one album is probably too many.  

Captivate couples using your reviews.
After your thumbnail image and your Storefront photos, the next thing a couple will look at is your reviews. The more reviews you have, the more engaged couples will be able to see the consistency of your work and the way past couples feel about you. The more recent your reviews, the more a couple will be able to see that your business is presently providing a great service. Couples care what you did last week or last month, not so much what you did over a year ago!  While having a ton of reviews is great, it’s not the only thing couples are considering when they are looking at your reviews. Couples are also looking at the recency, your responses, and emotional keywords that can connect them to experiences you provided other couples.

Take action:

  1. Update your highlighted review. Premium members can highlight a review; choose a review that is recent, short-to-medium in length and uses great emotional words at the beginning. Don’t pick the longest review you’ve ever received. Couples are likely to skim, so you want them to quickly get the gist when reading through. This doesn’t have to be your most recent review, but it should ideally be one from the same calendar year.
  2. Respond to all reviews and make sure your responses include personal details about that couple’s day. These responses should be written with future couples in mind and show that you are engaged with the couple from start to finish.
  3. Make sure you are always ASKING for reviews. To find out what you can be doing to get more reviews, see this post. And don’t forget, 5 new reviews in 2017 will make you eligible for the upcoming Couples’ Choice Awards!

Read all of the text on your Storefront out loud.
Take the time to read through your About section and FAQ (and all the text on your Storefront); as silly as it might feel, do it out loud! Does it include language you wouldn’t normally use when you are describing your business over the phone or in a meeting? Does it include old services that you no longer offer? Question every sentence to make sure that you are describing your business accurately and using language that connects directly with the couple reading it.

Take action:

  1. Change any language that doesn’t sound like you are talking to a couple! You want to send a consistent message and sound relatable. Don’t forget that couples are often looking for a vendor that they can connect with, not just someone who provides a service. You are important to them, so they want to feel that connection with you.
  2. Add a call to action. The couple is on your Storefront after all, so you’ve already gotten them this far! Tell them what they should do next (contact you!). This provides a sense of direction and urgency. Let them know that you look forward to connecting with them about their big day.

Stay tuned for more engagement season tune-up tips over the coming weeks including website tips, client communication strategies, and more.

» Engagement Photography for Same-Sex Couples

photography considerations

 

 

Photo by Kat Ma Photography

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

Ten years ago, few same-sex couples were considering public ceremonies, and even fewer had access to legal partnership recognition. When couples did forge ahead into uncharted territory, most of their energy was spent finding gay-friendly vendors and worrying about whether or not family would show up. Engagement photography sessions were not yet a gleam in the collective LGBTQ eye, let alone the reality that they now are in the blogosphere.

Preparation Is Key

As same-sex weddings have become more widely accepted, more couples have begun following the traditional marriage prescriptions: engagement on a bent knee (or Jumbotron), engagement parties, bachelor and bachelorette parties, wedding showers, weddings, and big receptions. You know, the works. These changes require that photographers take a deeper look at their skillsets, and the services they offer same-sex couples.

Couples, too, should become more knowledgeable about the kinds of skills, style sense, and creative talents available to them when hiring an engagement and wedding photographer.

A Dry Run

If used well, an engagement session can provide fruitful inspiration for wedding day planning. The initial meetings and conversations offer a chance to get better acquainted with the couple, establish a connection, and build rapport, so that you and your clients can become a team working toward a shared set of goals and clear expectations.

In-person meetings with both partners offer the best opportunity to get acquainted and consider any observable differences that will impact the session, such as height, body type, or other physical differences. Equally important is the chance to learn more about how each individual expresses him/herself most comfortably (especially with regard to gender expression), how each partner relates to his or her beloved, and how their “coming out” experiences have impacted them and their family relationships.

The engagement session also offers a low-risk time to take chances, unlike the wedding day, which generally has a tight time-schedule and compulsory shot list. It’s a good time to try out new concepts, poses, or lighting scenarios, and figure out what works (and what doesn’t) with your clients.

Five open-ended questions to ask LGBTQ couples as you plan their big day:

  1. Was there a proposal? If so, who proposed to whom?
  2. What are you going to wear?
  3. Will there be a wedding party? What are they going to wear? What are you calling your attendants?
  4. Will you be getting ready together or separately?
  5. Tell me about your ceremony. What are you most excited about? Is there anything that concerns you?

This post is an excerpt from The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian & Gay Wedding Photography (by Kathryn Hamm & Thea Dodds; Amphoto Books, 2014), where you can find even more photography tips and examples for those who wish to work with LGBTQ couples.

kathryn hammThis post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Kathryn Hamm, Publisher of GayWeddings.com, the leading online resource dedicated to serving same-sex couples since 1999. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding PhotographyFollow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.

» How to Stand Out Using Your Reviews

Photo by: B. Jones Photography

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

I’ve seen quite a few websites that have a paragraph, or even a page, that explains why a couple should hire a professional in their field (planner, videographer, invitation designer…). But by the time someone has gotten to that website, they’re already thinking that they want, or need a professional. That’s why they’re there. People don’t accidentally get to your website. They have to go through a series of steps to get there. Instead of using that valuable real estate to sell why they need someone in your field, use that space to sell you, and only you, for their wedding or event.

Evaluate the strength of your brand

A brand is many things. It’s much more than a logo or colors. Those are just visuals, to help identify your company. Your brand goes much deeper. What does it feel like, to do business with your company? What does it mean to do business with you? When choosing between you and your company, and another in your market and category, what are the differentiating factors? It’s not your bullet point list of services. Most of your competitors have a similar list, including good reviews and being nice people. What statement does it make to their wedding or event guests, to see that you are their officiant, designer or transportation company? You can have really nice products and services, and not have a strong brand.

What are you really selling?

Unless your unique selling proposition (USP) is that you’re the cheapest price, some people are seeing a difference between what you’re offering, and other options. Can you articulate why they’re choosing you? Can you go beyond a bullet point list of what services you offer, to show them why they should choose you, and only you, for their wedding or event?

Your reviews are branding gold

Like so many seemingly difficult questions, the way to express your brand is very close at hand. By heading over to your WeddingWire account, you’re only one click away from finding your brand. Click over to the Reviews tab in your dashboard for a simple exercise. Look for phrases and sentences that come up, over and over again. The way that past customers are describing their experience with you is one of the best ways, that I know, to articulate what it means to do business with you. Your happy clients say things you can’t, or won’t. They use words and phrases that would sound funny, or strange, or egotistical, if you said them. They express emotions, that show others what it’s like to choose you, and your team, and even specific members of your team. Unless you are new, and have no reviews, you’re sitting on a gold mine. You need to find those wonderful nuggets.

Let your reviews speak for themselves

Now comes the fun part. Don’t just identify those great sentences and phrases. Sprinkle them around your website, in your marketing, in your email communications and more. Answer this question: “Why should you choose (your business) for your wedding (your service)?” and then, instead of you answering the question, say “That’s a fair question, and one you should definitely ask, before deciding. Rather than tell you about our experience and professionalism, we’d rather let our couples, people just like you, tell you their experiences having us for their weddings:” Put a few bullets with those short phrases and sentences you found above. Finish it off with a strong call to action: “If these are the kinds of results you’d like for your wedding, call, text or contact us today 747.555.1234” Always ask for the sale, or at least the next steps, when you answer a question, or objection.

I have a document where I save all of the great reviews, testimonial notes, social comments, etc. Then, when I need a quote for a web page, marketing piece, or email, they’re close at hand, and searchable. So, get out your miner’s hat, and start finding the gold in your reviews and testimonials. Then, let your happy customers express your brand, and your ‘why’ to your prospects. Many other wedding and event pros are seeing success with this, and I know you can too.

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

 

 

» The Value of Showcasing Inclusivity For All Couples

This post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Kathryn Hamm, Publisher of GayWeddings.

Over the course of the last 12 months, I have been surprised by the number of conversations I’ve had with wedding professionals who share stories of same-sex couples being refused service and of some who fear losing business if they openly serve the LGBTQ community. These conversations remind me a bit of those I had with pros in 2005, and I want to make sure I take the time to support every professional who has questions about serving same-sex couples, no matter where they are in their journey.

But these conversations aren’t always easy for the wedding professionals who work in areas where marriage equality came as a result of the Supreme Court decision in 2015 rather than through a majority vote on election day. It may be the case that 90% of wedding professionals we surveyed in 2015 said they plan to serve same-sex couples, but a change in law doesn’t always result in a change of heart for everyone.

At our recent WeddingWire World 2017 in Washington D.C., several wedding professionals from the Southeast explained to me that they very much want to market to same-sex couples, but they are concerned about appearing as something other than “neutral” for fear that they will lose new business from those who oppose same-sex marriage. They are seeking ways to be open but understated in their efforts. These pros understand that it’s important to let same-sex couples know that they are ready, willing and able to work with them, and they recognize that there is still work to do.

Tips for showcasing inclusivity

In the course of these conversations, we talk about the different ways wedding professionals can showcase inclusivity for all couples, such as:

  • Updating your language to be inclusive of ‘brides and grooms’
  • Adding images to your Storefront or website that offer a more diverse, multicultural representation of couples
  • Developing a local network of like-minded professionals to reduce the feeling of market isolation
  • Identifying and establishing relationships with larger corporate brands with a local presence (great examples include Marriott and Hilton) who are open advocates of the LGBTQ community

Remember: Professional allies are everywhere around you; they often just need to be identified.

» 5 People Every Wedding Business Owner Needs on Speed Dial

As the saying goes, “It takes a village.” That sentiment rings true when it comes to owning and operating your own business. You want to surround yourself with smart and capable people that will contribute to your success and growth. Who those people are tend to be a bit different for everyone, but we’ve put together a list from fellow wedding pros on who you may want to add to your speed dial.

Website Consultant
Kylie Carlson of the International Academy of Wedding and Event Planning relies heavily on her website consultant, “Since we are an e-learning company, I speak to my Website Consultant daily for his advice on different things I need to maintain 6 websites and a Learning Management System.” Most of us can relate to running a business primarily through a website, and when emergencies pop up or you need something added quickly, having your consultant’s number at the ready is a must.

Social Media Groups
In the age of social media, sometimes a phone call isn’t needed when you belong to groups of like-minded individuals that you trust. Jenny DeMarco of Jenny DeMarco Photography shares, “I am a part of a group of about 35 peers from all over that met while attending the same workshops and conferences every year. We are diverse in age, experience, income levels, business models, photography styles and much more. We have an online Facebook group that I turn to all the time when I need advice or encouragement.”

Business Partner
When you need a second opinion, or are struggling with some of the bigger decisions, oftentimes the person you should be speaking with is your business partner. “Running a business is often a fast paced environment that needs quick decisions, creative problem solving, and innovative ideas. So I find myself regularly calling the person that I know is just as invested as I am- my business partner.” explains Audrey Isaac of 100 Candles.

Publicist
Kevin Dennis of WeddingIQ doesn’t make any marketing PR decisions without first getting on a call with his publicist, “For us, our speed dial list is really two-fold, because different people are valuable in different areas. Our publicist is the first person we call when it comes to any marketing or insider wedding industry questions, but when I am thinking on a new idea or need advice outside of PR and marketing, I turn to a few trusted veteran peers for help.”

Massage Therapist
You may read this with a confused expression, but relaxation and recharging are an absolute necessity when working in the wedding business. “After a weekend of weddings, you need that massage first thing Monday morning,” says Jennifer Taylor of Taylor’d Events. If not a masseuse, then perhaps call your tennis partner or yoga instructor- whatever you need to do to enjoy a little rest.

Now it’s your turn! Pull out your phone and create a speed dial list that’s right for you.

 

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.