» 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.

 

 

» Why You Should Never Buy Followers on Social Media

The desire to feel validated and popular, paired with the difficulty of earning followers organically leads a lot of businesses to want to buy followers – after all, a higher number of followers will make you look better to couples checking out your page… right? Not necessarily.

Having the ability to show off thousands of followers sounds nice in theory, but buying followers can be harmful to your brand in more ways than one. Here’s why:

Buying followers impacts your credibility

Nobody else may know that you bought followers, but if couples who check out your social profiles figure out that your followers are fake, it will significantly impact your credibility and trustworthiness – the two things you were hoping to build. You don’t want couples to start wondering things like, “If you are paying your way to internet popularity, what else might you not be totally upfront about?”

Fake followers are obvious

There are so many ways to spot fake followers. If someone sees your company’s Facebook or Instagram account one day and notices that you have a certain number of followers, then comes back the next day to see that you have ten times the amount of followers from the day before, they will know something is up.

Furthermore, fake followers never have realistic profiles. They often have a randomly generated username, similar profile pictures and bios, and rarely have more than one post published to their account. If someone notices that those are the types of accounts following you, they will know for sure your followers aren’t real.

People may think poorly of your content

Consider this scenario: a couple goes to your profile or company page and sees how “popular” you are with such a large following. When they start exploring your posts, they are probably expecting many likes, shares, and comments, but instead, they see almost no interactions with your content. Their first reaction will likely be that no one is interested in the content you share, and therefore it isn’t worth checking out.

SEO will take a hit

If your follower count is disproportionately higher than the number of people you follow and the number of posts you have published, Google may actually flag your account as fake and penalize your profile and website in search rankings. This is because having fewer posts with an abnormally large number of followers is a common indication of a fake account, and Google wants to show users quality search results. If links to your website are primarily being shared on what is flagged as a fake account, Google will interpret that as spam. In short, quality content gets prioritized when it comes to SEO and purchased followers can impact your quality score.

So how do you gain real followers organically?

  • Post examples of your work, behind the scenes snapshots, photos with couples, and go live on Facebook to showcase you and your business to couples
  • Interact with your followers
  • Be authentic and have personality so couples know you are genuine and real
  • Publish posts often, but don’t spam followers with promotional content
  • Run giveaways for couples – For example, if your photo gets 100 likes or comments, a participant could win a fun freebie related to your business

Growing your social media following organically is almost always the better practice. Instead of spending money on a following that will do nothing for your business, invest your time using the above tactics to create a following that will be far more likely to gain value from your posts and therefore more likely to engage with you and your business.

» WeddingWire Networking Night Seattle

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at Lake Union Cafe & Custom Bakery for WeddingWire Networking Night Seattle!

At the Networking Night, wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy an art deco event space while networking over light fare. Guests met other local vendors across all service categories as well as members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned local-industry statistics and social, mobile & tech trends for your business, presented by WeddingWire’s Chief Marketing Officer, Sonny Ganguly.

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 night, 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 Tom of Tom Ellis Photography!

» 7 Essentials of a Great Website

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» 3 Reasons Marketing in Facebook Groups Can Hurt Your Business

Have you ever joined a Facebook Group for local wedding vendors and couples, excited to find a place to connect with potential clients – only to find that every group is flooded with vendor after vendor pitching themselves, each one offering a lower price than the last?

This is a common scene in local Facebook communities, often titled “Wedding Buy/Sell/Trade” or “Yard Sale” groups. Couples will post in these groups looking for vendors, but because it is so easy for anyone to join and market in these groups, it becomes oversaturated with local vendors who fall into the trap of competing to offer the lowest price.

The tricky part is that with so many posts popping up from couples planning their weddings in Facebook groups every day, it is easy to fall into the trap yourself and start commenting on posts that ask for vendors with rates way under your standard pricing.

Here are three reasons this is hurting your business:

  1. Since there are so many vendors trying to quote their lowest rates in an effort to compete for business in these groups, the couples who join and post in local Facebook wedding groups tend to be deal seekers. Of course, this is not always the case, but if you have higher end pricing or simply do not want to discount your rates, it can become difficult to find prospects willing to pay full price. 
  2. If you spend a lot of time in these groups marketing to couples that aren’t your ideal clients, you are losing time that could be spent building your business elsewhere – like updating your WeddingWire Storefront, preparing for bridal shows, or working on a referral program. If you feel like you post and comment often in Facebook groups, but it’s getting you nowhere, try focusing your energy on other avenues that you know work for you. 
  3. Participating in lowest-bidder comment threads in these groups can devalue your work. If you find yourself commenting on every post and handing out discounts to all of the couples who contact you in these groups, it makes your discounted rates the norm – meaning it will become more and more difficult to find couples and get referrals from people who are willing to pay for your full priced packages.

So what should you do instead? Focus on your ideal client. These couples are the ones who are most likely to love the work you do and write reviews that will attract more ideal clients in the future. Think about how your ideal client researches wedding vendors and the unique qualities they are looking for in their search. Then use those things to determine how to market to them and how to convey your brand on WeddingWire, from your photos to your profile description.

Make sure to highlight the characteristics they are looking for in a wedding vendor throughout your profile so that your ideal clients will be even more interested in what you have to offer. Then when you do get inquiries, you won’t feel as pressured to give discounts or “beat” other vendors in the market – all while saving time after leaving those Facebook groups!

» 6 Ways to Optimize Your Website for Leads

With the amount of competition in the wedding industry, just getting website visits from your local market can be a big win! Once a couple makes it to your site, it’s vital that you guide them to take the next step by submitting a lead. It’s easy to get swept up in your own desires and ideas when building a website, but ultimately you need to think about how couples will view and interact with it in order to drive more conversions.

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

Reduce form fields

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

Prioritize form placement

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

Utilize your reviews

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

Show off your awards

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

Test your calls-to-action

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

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

Track and analyze changes

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

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

» Social Media Bios That Attract Couples

social bios

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

Show personality!

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

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

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

Stop focusing on yourself…

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

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

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

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

» Recovering from a Social Media Crisis

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Social media is as much a blessing as it can be a curse. While it allows us to gain widespread exposure in ways that were never possible before, it also forces our businesses onto a public stage where we may not always want to appear. Before a social media crisis derails your wedding business, make sure you develop an effective strategy for recovery.

desk workBe Prepared

One of the most effective ways to combat bad press or a crisis situation is to plan ahead for every possible scenario. Begin by listing all of the things you and your team can anticipate going wrong: bad customer feedback, unusual poor performance, weather-related cancellations, or even a competitor badmouthing your services to undermine your reputation. I know it’s hard to think of these things. It’s uncomfortable to anticipate the worst, but so necessary if you’re going to survive.

Ask trusted colleagues to give you ideas of additional scenarios you might not have considered and how they would handle them. The more you flesh out what can go wrong, the better prepared you can be if something actually happens.

Next, outline how you would respond to each crisis. Keep the scenarios and possible responses in a file that you can pull if you’re ever faced with a similar situation. You’ll have to tweak your approach, but you’ll have a bank of great ideas to draw from when you need them most.

React Calmly

When you do respond, especially to negative customer feedback or competitor badmouthing, try to do it as professionally as possible. This will require that you divorce yourself from some extremely natural emotions, but it never pays to react in the heat of the moment. Taking the high road will ultimately reflect positively on you with the people who matter.

If you’re not sure you can separate the situation from your feelings, ask a trusted team member or colleague to read anything you put in writing before you send or publish it. This should include emails and replies to online reviews – things that never really go away, so you want to look good.

Many situations are best handled in-person or via a phone call to the concerned party. Consider reaching out before becoming embroiled in a social media battle. You may be able to avoid additional public debate by going directly to the source. Continue reading

» 4 Ways to Increase Engagement on Facebook Without Paying for Ads

filming

Facebook’s ever-changing algorithm is making it feel more and more difficult to reach your followers and get high levels of engagement on your posts, but don’t worry – it’s still possible to get a big response without paying for ads! Here’s how:

Show your personality

Giving yourself a distinct personality and showing your quirks is so important online! It gives people the ability to connect with you and gain trust, which will make them gravitate towards you when it comes time to book vendors for their wedding. It will also help your audience feel more comfortable and willing to comment on your posts.

So how can you do this? Add Emojis, use exclamation points, and write posts in your own voice. A good rule of thumb is ask yourself if what you are posting feels like something you would say out loud, or if it feels inauthentic to your personality. If it feels right, post away! If it doesn’t, try saying what you want to get across out loud, then write that out.

» Top 4 Questions about LGBTQ Wedding Terminology

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gay weddings

Photo by Stephanie W Photography

For the past six years, I’ve been working closely with wedding pros in the WeddingWire family via webinars and conferences. And although the marriage equality landscape and technology available to small businesses has changed dramatically over the course of that time, the most popular questions I receive from pros who want to improve their service offerings to same-sex couples and the larger LGBTQ community have not.

This past Pride month, WeddingWire hosted our annual LGBTQ wedding-focused webinar (Premium members can access it here). As always, we hosted a lively Q&A after my presentation and, as always, I couldn’t get to everyone’s questions. Thus, I decided to take a few more minutes to answer some important – and common – questions about language for those of you who remain curious about improving your business practices to be more inclusive of and successful with LGBTQ couples.


“Do gay couples typically have a ‘Bride & Groom’ or is it ‘Bride and Bride’ or ‘Groom and Groom’? What is the correct term to use for same-sex couples?”

Some variation of this question was the most asked during our recent webinar. And, in fact, has been one of the most popular questions I’ve received over the years. Language is incredibly important in marketing materials (a proactive effort) and in speech (a receptive and service-oriented effort). One of the reasons this question persists is because there is no one-size-fits-all answer, although there are some general best practices to follow.

One of my biggest pet peeves for all couples in the wedding industry is the intensity of the heteronormative, gender-role driven expectations in planning and in the ritual itself. Truly, this limits non-LGBTQ couples as much as it limits LGBTQ couples. In my ideal world, each couple has the opportunity to participate equally in the commitment ritual that is most meaningful and reflective to them. Period.

That said, I offer this short answer to your question: the correct terms to use with a same-sex couple are the terms they themselves prefer. If you aren’t sure because, in your eyes, they appear to falling into a pattern you recognize as a ‘bride role’ and a ‘groom role,’ please ask them how they wish to be addressed and/or how they are referring to the event and their “roles” in it. Never, ever, ever, ever, never ask a couple: “Which one of you is the bride and which one of you is the groom?”

The majority of couples identify as “two brides” or “two grooms,” but this is not always the case. Sometimes couples might get creative with their language (eg, appropriating the term ‘bridegroom’ to mean something a bit more non-binary) and some might choose to go with “bride and groom” and be queer-identified. Just don’t assume.

Please also do your best not to overthink the issue. Be open. Be inclusive. Be welcoming. Be curious. Ask the couple about how they met. What they hope for in their wedding day. How you can best help and support them. And be sure to ask if they have any additional concerns about which you might not have inquired. Finally, be sure to give the couple permission to give you feedback if you’ve made a mistake in the language or approach you are using. Open communication and building relationships is everything. Continue reading

» Millennials: They’re Not All the Same

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I was recently preparing for a new presentation, and among the other interesting information I found, there were several references to articles about millennials. One of them struck a familiar chord, which was that there’s a tendency to generalize about millennials. Whether it’s their communication skills, their shopping style or their work ethic, millennials are the focus of a lot of bashing, for lack of a better word.

There are two, really good reasons why we shouldn’t be bashing millennials: 1) stereotyping an entire generation is short-sighted and prejudicial, and 2) they’re our customers and employees. Saying that all millennials are one thing, or another, is like saying that Gen-X are all the same, or all Baby Boomers are the same. It just isn’t true. Are millennials different than Gen-X or Baby Boomers? Yes, of course, in the same way that Gen-Xers are different than their parents and grandparents. Each generation grows up a product of its environment, media, technology and more.

Digital Immigrants vs. Digital Natives

I’ve said this before, but I’m a digital immigrant. I started selling wedding advertising “B.I.” – before the internet. No, I’m not a dinosaur, or tech averse. Just the opposite. I love technology, and use it throughout my business (says the guy wearing an Apple Watch, listening to music on my iPhone 7 Plus, and writing this on a new MacBook Pro). Technology doesn’t make me sell better, but it does allow me to connect with my audience in a way that wasn’t available when I started. That doesn’t make it better or worse. It just is, what it is. Things are always evolving, are you?

I know lots of millennials who are ambitious, entrepreneurial and have great attitudes. I also know lots of Gen-Xers, and Baby Boomers, who constantly complain about how lazy millennials are and how much easier it was, back in the good old days (whenever that was). The disconnect comes when we pre-judge a prospect (hence the word prejudice). Each customer is entitled to fair treatment. If we assume they’re going to judge us, only on price, we’ll likely do and say things that will attract that kind of behavior. For instance, not putting price on your website, at all, will encourage them to either ask about price, or leave without giving you a chance.

Continue reading

» WeddingWire Networking Night St. Louis

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at Randall Gallery for WeddingWire Networking Night St. Louis!

At the Networking Night, wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy a historic venue space, network with other local vendors across all service categories, and meet members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned local-industry statistics and how to better reach engaged couples through social media from WeddingWire’s Regional Manager of Customer Success, Megan Hayes.

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

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

Finally, we’re excited to announce the winner of our WeddingWire Prize Pack give away – congrats to Deb from Artistry Crowning Beauty!