» 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.

 

» The 4 Rules of Wedding PR During Busy Season

Photo by Tracy Shoopman Photography

The truth is, if you wait until off-season to look at your business’s PR strategy and start promoting, you’re doing your business a huge disservice. While the busy season workload takes up the bulk of your time, your PR strategy shouldn’t take a back seat. WeddingWire Education Expert and owner of OFD Consulting, Meghan Ely, gave us four rules for mastering PR during busy season with only a small time commitment each day.

Keep momentum going

It’s not a rule, but rather a guideline to help you follow the rules. Keeping up momentum is crucial if you want to maximize your time and PR strategy efficiently. Meghan says she sees it all too often: wedding professionals drop their PR strategy for busy season and pick it back up in November when the season ends. However, come November, you are going to be sitting on a pile of work that will make you more stressed than you thought handling it during the season would!

Instead of dealing with the mountain of PR work you’ve accumulated throughout the season, tackle the opportunities as they come in. Not only will this keep you sane in the long run, but it will also help eliminate competition. By neglecting your PR strategy until November, you subsequently end up competing with every other wedding professional who followed the same ‘strategy’. Suddenly, come November, the PR branch of the wedding industry is crowded with everyone playing catch-up. Ultimately, there is a lot less “noise” to compete with during busy season, and it’s in your favor to never lose momentum.

Rule 1: Stick to the low-hanging fruit

During busy season, you want to do things that will increase your brand awareness and showcase your portfolio… and this doesn’t have to be hard or take copious amounts of time! RealWeds submissions are one of those easy-to-do tasks that can have a tremendous effect on publicizing your brand. RealWeds are a great option to focus on because you already have a steady stream of content coming in from all of the weddings that you do— why not utilize that to its fullest potential?

Typically, photographers, venues, event designers, planners and florists are the ones submitting the majority of RealWeds content, however, if you don’t fall into one of these vendor categories, you aren’t excluded from submitting! Be sure to reach out to the other vendors who worked on the wedding to see if you can do a “group” submission, or have permission granted to use their photos (if they were the photographer) or photos of their work (if they are a vendor whose work is featured in pictures of your work) in your submission.

Rule 2: Stay organized

Many people neglect RealWeds submissions during busy season because they can take a lot of time to submit, however, they shouldn’t so long as you cover your bases and stay organized. Working RealWeds submissions into your client contracts is a great way to speed things up, as this way, you aren’t chasing after couples once they are married to get their permission.

Additionally, this opens up the conversation with the couple to find out what other vendors they are working with. Getting other vendor information as early as possible is going to help you track down other vendor’s whose permission you might also need in order to submit before the submission crunch. Meghan recommends connecting with the photographer and planner 30-60 days before the wedding to ensure that you can submit.

Rule 3: Create a workflow

Meghan’s best tip for managing your PR strategy during busy season? Embrace apps and programs to manage your work! Programs like Dropbox that can manage files and to-do list apps, like Basecamp, can help keep you organized and create a workflow. Another tip? Utilize block scheduling! Time might be limited during busy season, but if you schedule a fair amount of it each week to work exclusively on PR, there is no excuse for not working on it.

Rule 4: Be realistic

The last rule? You have to be realistic! If you can’t dedicate three hours a week to your PR strategy, then setting the goal to send in 10 RealWeds submissions, pitch multiple media outlets and maintain your press relationships, isn’t realistic. By setting realistic goals, you will be motivated to keep pushing forward and won’t beat yourself up about not reaching them.

You should always be asking yourself these three questions to determine if you are being realistic with your goals:

  • What got accomplished? What didn’t?
  • How can I adjust my organization/workflow?
  • Was it worth the effort?

…But not so fast!

Now that you have the rules about how to best manage your PR during busy season, don’t dive in. Building a strong PR strategy that will endure even the craziest of busy season ups-and-downs takes a considerable amount of time to plan. Before you begin, take a good look at your website, your galleries and your social feeds. What is the point of directing people to your site or branding outlets when they are not where you want them to be? Take a close look at what you are working with, evaluate where you want to go, make any adjustments that you need to to get there, and then dive in.

It can be hard managing your PR strategy during busy season. However, so long as you follow these rules and are prepared to charge into the season with a strong PR strategy in place, you should be set to see the benefits of it. Keep momentum going, set realistic goals, and dedicate the time you need to implement good plans, and there should be no doubt that your PR strategy will be a success this season. Good luck!

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Build Your Reputation by Earning Publicity (Even During Busy Season!)” with Meghan Ely, WeddingWire Education Expert and owner of wedding PR firm OFD Consulting. You can view the webinar recording through your account.

» WeddingWire Networking Night Raleigh

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at Traine for our WeddingWire Networking Night Raleigh!

Wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful venue space, fit with exposed beams and white brick walls. Guests met with other local vendors across all service categories as well as  members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned local-industry statistics and email etiquette tips to help you turn leads into bookings, presented by Industry Expert and WeddingWire Education Guru, Alan Berg!

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

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

» WeddingWire Networking Night Asheville

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at The Venue for our WeddingWire Networking Night Asheville!

Wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy a beautiful and unique setting reminiscent of a french cottage with exposed brick walls, barn ceilings, and vintage tile floors. Guests met with other local vendors across all service categories as well as  members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned local-industry statistics and email etiquette tips to help you turn leads into bookings, presented by Industry Expert and WeddingWire Education Guru, Alan Berg!

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

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

 

 

» How to Create the Ultimate Media List

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

Before launching a new PR campaign to publicize your wedding business, it is wise to research and carefully select the media that will receive your pitches and hopefully share your work and wisdom. A media wish list is more than just a collection of outlets and names in your genre; it is actually a set of goals for your campaigns, and the outline of your overall plan to gain attention and exposure. The ultimate media list takes time and research to create, but as the secret weapon behind your PR efforts, it can be pure gold.

Evaluate your goals

Every powerful media list starts with research. Use your market research to create a profile of your perfect clients. Understand who they are, what their level of education is, what they eat and read and enjoy. Know their habits – do they watch local morning television or the evening news? Do they use Facebook, Instagram or Twitter? Do they read alumni publications, special interest magazines, or popular blogs?

Understanding the behavior and psychology behind your ideal clients will help you determine which media outlets are strategically valuable, and which are not. You have limited time and effort to expend pitching media, so your list must be curated and your attempts strategic.

Craft a message

I have to emphasize how important it is that you craft an appealing message that answers your target’s needs and communicates something about your business that you want them to know. You’re creating a connection with your prospects, but your opportunity to influence with each press mention is brief, so you want your message to be clear, powerful and on point.

Consider what you have to share. Is it images of your recent work, great advice or an introduction of a product or service new to your market? Can you make relevant commentary on a current event or do you have a special connection to a popular trend? What do you have to offer that will intrigue your prospects enough to act and impress editors enough to include you?

Choose your target media

You have a profile of your ideal prospects and a message you want them to hear. Who should you pitch? At first, you’ll have a broad list of media of all kinds: blogs, magazines, local TV shows, national TV shows, radio and association publications to name just a few. Narrow the field by thinking of which ones appeal to your ideal prospects. Which match up to your profile? Put yourself in your prospects’ shoes and think of their lifestyle habits to help you determine where they receive their messages.

Reach out

It’s not always easy to predict which media will have the influence you are looking for, especially if your ideal client is different from you. When you don’t know, ask! Contact your current clients or happy past couples and ask them about their habits. Ask how they found you can how they tell their friends about you. Build on your current success.

Collect pertinent information

Once you have created a list, gather contact information to make it easy to pursue each lead when you have something to share. You’ll need the publication name, point of contact, email address, submission requirements and known deadlines which should be added to your editorial calendar. Staying organized will increase the efficiency of your efforts and yield greater results.

I know it seems like a lot of work, and may even appear to be a step that can be skipped, but curating your ultimate media list is a powerful way to focus your efforts and achieve ultimate success. Take the time now and you will reap the rewards in successful press down the road.

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding PR firm OFD Consulting, which specializes in getting wedding professionals their brides. She is a highly sought after industry speaker and serves as a Public Relations adjunct professor for Virginia Commonwealth University, specializing in PW writing and brand promotion.

» WeddingWire Networking Night San Jose

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at The GlassHouse for our WeddingWire Networking Night San Jose!

Wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy a stunning modern venue while meeting other local vendors across all service categories. Guests also had the chance to meet members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned local-industry statistics and the Six Keys to Better Your Business, presented by Business Coach and Speaker, Bethel Nathan!

Thank you to all the wonderful wedding professionals 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.

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

» How to Build Your Network and Collect More Content

Photo by Vanessa Joy Photography

This article was written by Vanessa Joy, Owner & Photographer of Vanessa Joy Photography.

I remember the first time I went to a wedding convention. It seemed like everyone knew everyone else; but the only person I knew was the bathroom attendant because my naturally introverted self would frequently hide there. I’m sure I’m not alone in being able to empathize with DJ Tanner from Full House, eating alone in the bathroom on her first day of high school. For the record, no, I didn’t eat in the bathroom – ew.

If you’re a budding industry professional, you may notice that a large part of the industry is who you know. Now, that’s not to say our livelihood is superficial in any way. It’s to draw attention to just how powerful networking is in our line of work. We’re a large industry, but a small community.

Networking may seem daunting, but building relationships within the wedding world is crucial not just to the success of your business, but to your enjoyment of it as well. After all, don’t you want to work with your friends every weekend? Here are 4 tips to up your networking game.

Read up on it

If you’re not a natural go-getter or social butterfly, it’s ok! Heck, I was homeschooled for 9 years of my life. Social graces were not on my side for most of my life. I had to learn them the good old-fashioned way: reading a book. Ok fine… listening to one on audible.

I do recommend Carnegie’s book, but another favorite of mine is Never Eat Alone. As an Italian, this is pretty much a rule for me anyway, but bringing it to business takes it to a whole new level. Read it and you’ll have breakfast, lunch and dinner dates at the next WeddingWire World no problem.

Use social

In what other century have you had direct access to someone’s personal line, without needing to get through their secretary? None. Thanks to social media, you have that power right at your fingertips.

Don’t underestimate what you can use social media for. I recently covered a HUGE part of this on a recent WeddingWire webinar Social Media: A Guide for Wedding Professionals. You should be using social media to connect with as many other wedding professionals as you can. Here’s an even bigger tip – connect with professionals before an upcoming conference by searching the conference’s hashtag. Bingo! You’ve made friends before you even stepped off the plane.

Stop reaching for the stars

Now I know your mom told you otherwise, but I’m here to bring you down to earth. As fabulous as it would be to take my advice from the previous tip and contact David Tutera and Silvia Weinstock and become besties immediately, it’s probably not going to happen. Why? Not only is everyone already barking up that tree, but they’ve been in the business for a while and already have their circle of tight friends.

Instead, make your own referral network. Befriend the next Marcy Blum or Fred Marcus (sorry to keep using NYC Wedding Vendors… it’s just where I’m from) by reaching out to people on your level of experience and clientele. Build each other up to be the next big thing.

Find photographers

It’s always funny to me when I hear that other wedding professionals have a hard time getting photos from photographers. You might not know this, but wedding planners, caterers, florists, bands, dj’s and venues are like the holy grail to us wedding photographers. To me, you’re the key to clients, and usually luxury clients that’ll spend more money on photography.

However, I know that it can be hard to get photos, so inside this last tip, I’ve got a few more for you that’ll help you get more photos of your work that you can use on social media to show off your services and connect with other vendors.

Offer Something, Anything

Now, I do not charge most vendors to use my photos on social media from weddings that I’ve worked. A lot of photographers feel the same way and are happy for the cross-promotion. However, contacting a photographer and expecting them to give you photos for free isn’t going to fly. It’s only polite to offer something in return, even if it’s not monetary.

Help Submit Weddings

You wouldn’t believe how much work is involved for a photographer after a wedding. Usually it’s where your wedding headaches end, and ours begin. Often when we’re being asked for photos, it’s another thing on our long to-do list.

However, if we give you photos, you can help us by submitting the wedding photos to popular magazines and blogs. If you have connections to some – even better! Obviously, make sure this is ok with the photographer first. But typically we’d be thrilled to have this taken off our plate and it’s a win-win when the photos get published.

Offer Future Collaboration

Us photographers need (and should want) to build relationships too. When you’re asking for photos, find ways to work with us again. Maybe you’re a makeup artist and you can offer to do hair and makeup for the photographer’s next headshot (we all need updated ones!). Or perhaps you’re an officiant that can provide some ceremony text that’ll make for a great blog post on the photographer’s blog. You could even suggest doing a styled shoot and get a whole group of vendors involved. The possibilities are endless, but if you start your intentions with serving other people, it’s amazing how much more you’ll get in return than you originally hoped for.

Use the Photos

Once you’ve snagged some photos and hopefully started a wonderful new work friendship, don’t hesitate to use the photos for LOTS of things! The more times you use them, the more the photographer will benefit from the cross-promotion. Make videos (super amazing for social posts) like these marketing and communication videos I’ve made right here. Use the photos alone in tons of social media posts like the ones I suggest here.

The Wedding Industry may ebb and flow but it’s always built on relationships. Spend time cultivating new ones and nurturing the ones you have and you’ll never be without work.

Vanessa Joy has been an influential photographer in the wedding community for a decade. Starting her photographic journey in 1998, she has since earned 5 college degrees, and has spoken at almost every major convention and platform in the industry such as CreativeLIVE, Wedding MBA, WPPI, ShutterFest, Imaging USA, WeddingWire World, and Mobile Beat. Recognized for her talent and more so her business sense, her clients love working with her and industry peers love to learn from her generous, informative and open-book style of teaching. Check out more of her resources at www.BreatheYourPassion.com

» WeddingWire World Florida 2018

The biggest ‘thank you’ goes out to everyone who joined us this year for WeddingWire World Florida!

On April 17, we brought WeddingWire World back to Florida! The event was hosted at the lovely Miramar Cultural Center, and what a success it was. From networking to educational workshops with passionate speakers, we loved spending the day with all of you. As we look back on World Florida, we can’t help but want to share our some of our favorite moments.

Nine brilliant presentations

Thank you to our incredible presenters Sonny Ganguly, Alan Berg, Jacqueline Nwobu, Meghan Ely, Kathryn Hamm, Michelle Loretta, Kyle Mihalcoe, Jeffra Trumpower and Athena Meyers. Their insightful presentations covered a range of topics, from SEO and marketing, to Gen Z and the latest industry insights.

1:1 Meetings with Customer Success Managers

We were so happy to have our WeddingWire Customer Success Managers available to meet with attendees 1:1. The team enjoyed providing personalized tips to help maximize listing value and boost storefront performance.

NetWORKing

Having a network of local wedding professionals to support you is so important. We loved seeing old friends reconnect and watching new relationships form. From a meet-and-greet over coffee to our sitdown networking lunch, we are happy that our attendees had time to meet and network— that is what World is all about!

Sunset cocktail reception

Sipping, snacking and networking was the perfect way to round out the day. Attendees enjoyed music from DJ Dro Entertainment, tasty local bites and many selfies in front of the “We Heart Weddings” wall. We loved getting down on the dance floor and snapping selfies with our attendees!

Our team was so excited to bring WeddingWire World back to Florida and we couldn’t have even imagined the amount of love we received. Florida, thank you for such a warm welcome!

Enjoy the Facebook album of some of our favorite moments, and be sure to check out #WeDoWorld on Instagram and Twitter for some other moments you may have missed!

A special thank you to our partners, the day wouldn’t have been the same without you!

5801 Wedding Cinema

Amanda Smith Photography

Cafe Ala Carte

Dj Dro Entertainment

EVoga Events

Over The Top Rental Linens

Plantation Florist-Floral Promotions, Inc

Type E Design

» 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.

» Best Apps to Reduce Stress During Busy Season

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

A career in the wedding industry has to be one of the most rewarding and simultaneously most stressful jobs around. While rarely (at least not on a good day) do wedding professionals have to save lives or put theirs in peril, they are responsible for a very important day that doesn’t come with any do-overs. Top that off with intense event logistics and the need to make it all look effortless, and you have a solid recipe for stress.

Finding ways to alleviate that stress yet still deliver incredible weddings should be a top priority to any wedding professional. One way to curb the nail-biting moments is to incorporate technology into your workday that takes some of the burden off of you.

Here are some of our favorite apps for streamlining your work:

Zipwhip for Client Comms

We use Zipwhip for all of our client texting. The beauty of this program is that you can have personalized conversations with customers through one number on your computer. You can skip the hassle of sharing personal mobile numbers and still be just as available.

Canva for Content Creation

Nothing beats the expertise of a professional designer but when you’re in a pinch, Canva is a great, free design program that allows you to create branded content for your wedding business. They have thousands of templates for nearly every need you can imagine- from Facebook covers and Instagram-friendly graphics to presentation slides.

Schedugram for Social Media

One of the best things about Facebook has been the ability to pre-schedule your posts. Unfortunately, Instagram has not had the same option but now there are third party apps like Schedugram that allow you to do just that. Schedule your posts as well as the first comment (aka #hashtagcity).

Zoom for Client Meetings

Zoom is a great high-quality option for video streaming, ideal for client meetings and group conference calls. If you use Google Calendar, you can add a Chrome extension that allows you to create a new Zoom meeting within the calendar entry. Those who offer webinars will find that it doubles as great educational software.

Dropbox for File Management

Sharing files can sometimes be a challenge if they are large and take a long time to download. Dropbox is cloud storage that allows you to upload files like documents or images from your phone, device or computer to folders that you can then easily share with your team or send to a client.

Basecamp for Projects

Project management involves a lot of moving parts, but you don’t have to get buried by the details when you use Basecamp. Quickly and easily assign tasks, monitor projects, track down overdue items and know in a glance what the status of even your most complicated endeavor is.

These are my go-to apps and programs to help relieve stress and I hope they can alleviate some for you too!

Kevin Dennis is the editor of WeddingIQ and the owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California. Dennis is the past president for Silicon Valley NACE, and national vice president for WIPA.

» 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.

» 5 Ways to Reach Couples on Social Media

Photo by Vanessa Joy Photography

With more tech-savvy millennials relying on social media platforms to research (and even book!) wedding professionals, your social media presence is critical. From sharing strong visual content to growing your following, we have five tips for mastering your wedding business’ social media pages with the help of Vanessa Joy, owner and photographer of Vanessa Joy Photography.

Innovate

While your social media platforms should act as a secondary portfolio to show off you work, your feed should feature more than just that. Diversifying your feed not only helps your page stick out amongst competition, but it also encourages viewers to stick around longer. When you think about it, one of the premises of social media is to keep viewers on your page(s) as long as possible and maintain engagement with your brand. Instead of only uploading photos of your work, try mixing in stories, videos, graphics, or different photos that relate to topics your audience would be interested in.

For example, share a photo of your workspace, or a video of your favorite hobby. Couples will love learning more about you and it will help build a stronger connection to your brand. It will also create a more dynamic feed and motivate your audience to keep coming back. Vanessa suggests weaving in content that relates to wedding trends, fashion and even home-making because these topics are relevant to most potential clients. By being innovative when it comes to exploring new post ideas you will impress viewers as an expert in the wedding industry as well as someone they can relate to.

Tags and hashtags

Using tags and hashtags is another great way to boost your pages. For those new to social media, hashtags (#) are a way of tagging specific user-generated messages or themes that other people can see, follow and track. Tags (@) are a way of tagging other user’s pages to help to engage users, give credit where credit is due and expand your network through mutual connections.

Using hashtags in your captions, whether they are unique or trending, can help raise the visibility of your post(s). When using hashtags, make sure they are relevant to the content of the photo. As an example, you shouldn’t upload a photo of a wedding dress and use #breakfast or #marchmadness in the caption. Doing so, can be misleading and will be seen by a group of people that probably aren’t looking for wedding related content.

Connect with new people

Social media is a great way to expand your network. Of course you want to use your social media to gain leads, but connecting with other wedding professionals is beneficial, too. We understand that finding new people to connect with can be challenging, so, where do you start? Where do you look? Turns out, it’s a lot easier than you might think.

Vanessa suggests keeping your connections local. We love our friends who are far away, but local connections can provide referrals to local clients that are more likely to use your services. A great way to search for local wedding professionals is through using relevant, local hashtags, such as “#LAphotography”. Then, start following other local vendors that are using that hashtag, and try commenting on one or two of their posts with a friendly compliment (don’t spam them, though!).

Another way to find local connections is by searching a nearby location, such as a popular event venue, on Instagram. Think about peak wedding times, such as a Saturday night, and then view the posts that are being tagged at that location. There, you can find many potential clients who are in the perfect target market for your services. By having a strong network of fellow vendors and potential clients in your target demographic, you can gain referrals, helpful insights and future leads.

Engage

When you think “social media”, the first word that should come to mind is “engagement”. Instagram and Facebook frequently change their algorithms that control your page and post visibility. We understand why changes to these algorithms can be frustrating, especially when they can affect your marketing strategy, but the one thing we know to always be true is that both platforms consistently favor engagement.

Facebook and Instagram are businesses. Just as you want more viewers and followers on your social pages, these major platforms want users to stay on their platform for as long as possible; it’s how they make money. One way to increase the amount of time spent on a platform is through engagement. Replying to comments, posting frequent stories, offering engaging polls and posting content often, will increase the engagement on your page and increase your favor by the algorithm.

Visualize

Lastly, social media platforms are highly visual and therefore you should aim to be a visual storyteller. These channels revolve around bite-sized, visual content – think beautiful photos, quick videos (30 seconds or less) and short captions. Do your best to select and curate strong imagery and create engaging videos that tell a story without many words. Millennials often prefer visuals to reading so if you want to hook a millennial, do your best to limit the text and keep your visual content fresh, engaging and high quality.

Social media is always adapting and we know it can feel like a full-time job keeping up. However, taking the time to market your business on social media will be rewarding when your following grows and leads and referrals are coming your way. Just remember that your social media presence is quickly becoming the determinant of your credibility as a wedding professional, especially amongst millennial couples. Keep those posts visual, engaging and make new connections!

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Social Media: A Guide for Wedding Professionals” by Vanessa Joy, Owner & Photographer of Vanessa Joy Photography. Premium Members can view the webinar recording in their accounts.