» Your Questions About Lead Replies, Answered

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hello Tim,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

» 5 Easy Ways to Get More Referrals

Photo by Rania Marie Photography

Throughout wedding season, you will be working with plenty of new clients and wedding professionals, many of whom will be happy to pass your name around to future engaged couples if you make a great, lasting impression.

Word of mouth recommendations and referrals, especially from other industry professionals, are great ways to gain powerful business exposure and build trust with potential clients, yet many wedding professionals are hesitant to ask for them. If you want to start seeing more referrals (and we are positive that you do!) follow some of these tips:

Set expectations early

Early in the client process, you should let your clients know that feedback, reviews and referrals are very important to you. Explain how they help you better your business and gain new clients. It also is important to indicate that you appreciate and value all feedback, and that you will be following up to ask for it after their event. Having this conversation early in the planning process and throughout will reinforce how important it is to your business. Happy couples are most likely to help you out after you make their dream day come true, so make sure that you are not only having this conversation, but doing your best work, too!

Ask for feedback

Requesting reviews as part of your standard post-event follow up routine is so important. If you are not sure you want the client to submit a review, still follow up and ask for feedback and if they would recommend you to another engaged couple. They will appreciate that you care to check in on how you did, and all feedback can be valuable as you build your business.

Consider an incentive

If you really want to encourage past clients to refer your business, consider offering an incentive. Offer a fun freebie, or a discount on a post-wedding service that you can provide (such as infant photo shoots, or a discount on a flower arrangement or cake). Offering deals on post-wedding services is a great way to keep past clients in your circle. The more contact you have with past clients, the faster you will come top of mind when a friend asks for a recommendation.

Say thank you

Always say thank you for reviews and referrals! Let the referrer know that you appreciate their feedback, and be sure to acknowledge their support of your business. They took the time to write you a recommendation or share your information with a contact, so it is important you show the same respect and address their referral to maintain the positive relationship. Consider sending a personal note or small thank you gift, it’s a small gesture that will be much appreciated and could lead to many more referrals in the future!

Network

As you know, networking in the wedding industry is crucial. Many professionals are asked by couples who they would recommend in the local area for a wide variety of service categories, making it an easy way to book more business. Join local organizations, national associations in your service category, attend local networking events and always take the time to introduce yourself to other vendors working the events you book. Creating a strong circle of fellow wedding professionals is mutually beneficial to everybody involved: you get the opportunity to recommend your top contacts and those contacts will do the same for you.  

Capturing qualified leads through referrals will boost your business and make busy season work for you all year long. Maybe your busy season will extend far beyond October! Be sure to be open with your clients about referrals and never be afraid to seek them out. Also rely on your network and always be thankful to secure referrals. Best of luck!

» Why Failure IS an Option

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

Whether it’s playing it safe, or being an overprotective parent, it’s often tempting to try to reduce the chance for failure. After all, isn’t failure bad? Actually, all failure isn’t bad, because failure meant you tried something, and just didn’t get the results you wanted. A speaker friend, Bruce Hale, once told me that “failure is just an unintended consequence.” He then went on to say that “success is often an unintended consequence as well,” because we often get a successful result, just not the one that we had originally intended. You can’t succeed, or fail, unless you try something new.

What’s the worst that can happen?

A few years back, when my friends and I went skydiving, we all got t-shirts after the jump that say: “Skydiving – what’s the worst that can happen?” Now, with skydiving, there is a pretty bad possible outcome. Sure, it’s not the one that we want, or expect to have, but it is possible. Yet we went anyway. Why? I can’t speak for my friends, but for me, that possible outcome wasn’t even on my radar. I was thinking about the exhilaration, the rush and the views. There are many more people who will never go skydiving because of the possible outcome of failure – admittedly, a bad outcome.

So, are you motivated by the possibility of success, or debilitated by the fear of failure? Are you visualizing what it means to get the positive outcome you desire? Or, are you not even getting started because of the possibility that it won’t work, and you won’t end up where you want to go? What you should be asking yourself is: “What’s the worst that can happen?” I once heard (or possibly read) that you should not only ask yourself what the worst possible outcome could be, you should also visualize that outcome. Is it really that scary? Would you be able to get through that challenge? Would you and your business, or family, be able to recover from that failure?

You get what you focus on

Knowing and visualizing the worst-case scenario is not the same as focusing on it. You can’t motivate yourself by avoiding negative outcomes. Imagine a catcher in a baseball game telling his or her pitcher: “Whatever you do, don’t pitch this next batter low and inside. Got it? Not low and inside or he’ll hit it.” Where do you think that next pitch is going? Right, low and inside. A better approach would have been to say: “For this next batter, pitch it high and outside. That’s a good pitch for him/her, high and outside.” Where do you think that pitch is going? More likely than not… high and outside, away from that batter’s sweet spot.

Where’s your focus?

Are you focusing on the positive outcomes, trying new things, and acting upon your ideas? Or, are you not getting started because you can’t stop seeing the worst-case scenarios? It’s OK to know what that worst-case scenario is, just don’t let it consume all of your attention. If he had focused on the failures, Thomas Edison wouldn’t have tried 10,000 different ways to make a light bulb. If they had focused on the failure, 3M Corporation would never have created Post-It Notes. The adhesive they used for it was originally developed for another purpose, but it was a failure. Someone over there had the foresight to see another use for it, and viola, we have Post-It Notes.

Lemons into lemonade

You may have heard how some people can take a bad situation, and see the good, and they call it turning lemons into lemonade. The thing is, you have to be willing to get lemons in the first place. It’s both our actions, and our inaction, that deliver the lemons to us. We may have been aiming for oranges, or apples, but instead we got lemons.

When I wrote my first book, the original title was going to be, “Insite”. I thought it was clever and that I could do a series, adding “Hindsite” and “Foresite” to it. Well, in my testing of the cover samples, the title fell like a lead balloon. It was either no reaction, or a negative one. However, I had also written on the cover, in small print: “If your website was an employee, would you fire it?” It was almost an afterthought, and I don’t even remember how it ended up on the cover. When people looked at the cover samples, the title didn’t move them, but that line did. So, even though I was told, by many people, that titles should be short and catchy, I went with: “If your website was an employee, would you fire it?” To this day, in its second edition, people still smile when they read or hear that title. That success was an unintended consequence.

You got this

What have you tried, that didn’t get you the outcome you originally wanted, but you made lemons out of? What was your mindset that allowed you to see the success through the failure? And how can you channel that feeling, while understanding the risks, understanding the worst-case scenarios, and still take the actions necessary to succeed? You’ve already done it, probably countless times in your life. You took the chance, took the leap of faith, or simply didn’t even consider the worst-case scenario at all. Don’t sabotage your success with the fear of failure. Instead, nourish your success with the seeds of failure, so you can reap the rewards of success.

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.

» 5 Things Couples Look for in Your Wedding Reviews

Before reaching out to a wedding professional, engaged couples like to read wedding reviews to get a better understanding of your business. In fact, our data shows that 83% of searching couples like to hear what they should expect, not from the vendors themselves, but from past customers who’ve been in their position.

We’ve compiled the top five things engaged couples are looking for in your wedding reviews to help you understand their frame of mind when evaluating your business:

Responsiveness

One of the biggest things couples look for in your past reviews is whether or not reviewers comment on your responsiveness. Since research shows that most couples expect to hear back from a vendor within 24 hours, your ability to respond quickly and effectively is a huge consideration during the planning process. On average, 13 wedding vendors are involved in a couple’s wedding, so they’re constantly communicating back and forth with multiple professionals. They need a professional who won’t make them chase him or her down to get an answer to a question or sign a contract.

Consistency

When looking at your past reviews, couples are most interested in professionals that have consistently positive reviews. They’re looking to see if most of your clients had a similar experience, and reading the comments your clients have made to see what patterns may emerge. While consistency is key, it’s okay to have a few less-than-favorable reviews scattered throughout your review history. Survey data suggests that 72% of consumers find a variety of opinions to be valuable when reading through reviews. Couples understand that feedback is subjective and having a few imperfect reviews does not necessarily prevent a couple from contacting you.

Quality of work

Obviously, the quality of your work is a huge consideration for newly engaged couples – everyone has a vision for their big day and wants to hire the right professional to turn that dream into reality. Potential clients look for reviewers commenting on how perfect the day was, and if there was anything that could be improved about the process with your business. A great way to display the quality of your work and support your positive reviews is to update the photos on your platforms regularly.

Timeliness

Because the wedding day typically requires a tight timeline with many tasks and coordinated events, your timeliness is an important factor that couples look for in reviews. A reviewer (or multiple reviewers) complaining that you or an employee were late suggests to potential clients that you may be unreliable. Again, a few complaints along these lines can often end up being isolated incidents under special circumstances, but it could be hurting your inquiries if problems with timeliness are shown to be a pattern.

Professionalism

At the end of the day – no matter what your service category is – engaged couples are looking to hire a professional. They’re looking for someone to guide them through the process, because most couples have never planned a wedding before. They want to hire someone who knows the ins and outs of the industry and can help them prepare. Potential clients scour your reviews to look for comments on your interactions with past clients as well as other professionals and wedding guests. The content of your emails and sales consultations also plays into your professionalism, so remember to be professional in all interactions with a potential client.

» 5 Big Ways LGBTQ Wedding Planning Has Changed in 5 Short Years

Photo by B. Jones Photography

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

Five years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decided that New York resident Edie Windsor’s out-of-state marriage (she married Thea Spyer in Canada in 2007) would be recognized in New York, where same-sex marriage had been legally recognized since 2011.

This landmark decision immediately opened the door for the many same-sex couples who wished to seek legal partnership recognition but could not do so in their home states, and ultimately paved the way toward SCOTUS’ Obergefell decision in 2015, which embraced marriage equality nationwide. Those legal shifts, though taking place in courtrooms, ultimately had a significant impact on the wedding market and the choices of engaged LGBTQ couples.

Time Flies

Prior to 2013, LGBTQ weddings were smaller, had older brides and grooms, were more custom than traditional in design, and the couples themselves tended to pay for the ceremony and celebration. After 2005, when Massachusetts legalized marriage and others followed, some couples were planning legal elopements to travel to jurisdictions for a marriage certificate, but many were choosing to have non-legally-recognized ceremonies and otherwise share their commitments more publicly.

Though I have a file full of instructive anecdotes and isolated data snapshots to explain what was happening in the market back in the day, it was 2013 that offered a turning point for enough data to explain how the same-sex wedding market has been changing with legal recognition. The result? With the spread of marriage equality recognition, we could see in real time how LGBTQ weddings were beginning to assimilate into the “mainstream” market and, conversely, how non-LGBTQ weddings had begun to adopt LGBTQ innovation more frequently, including trends like ‘pop up’ or micro-weddings, blended wedding parties, color variety in wedding parties, laypeople as officiants, and more.

Newlywed Report: LGBTQ Market Analysis

Over the past few years, WeddingWire’s WedInights team has issued its annual Newlywed Report, which is chock full of insights about today’s couples, gleaned from the answers from almost 18,000 participants (the most comprehensive and rigorous report in the industry). This essential tool is important to help wedding professionals stay up-to-date on the latest trends, particularly when it comes to same-sex couples because the LGBTQ market segment has been in a state of constant growth and flux for the past decade. What was true five years ago is not necessarily true today. Now that the U.S. is celebrating three years of marriage equality nationwide, however, trends within the LGBTQ market segment are beginning to stabilize, making it easier for wedding professionals to make thoughtful decisions about their marketing plans and service offerings for all couples.

‘What was true five years ago is not necessarily true today.’

Before I highlight a few key shifts in lesbian and gay wedding trends, it’s important to note that this analysis draws primarily from the WeddingWire Newlywed Reports (2015-2018) and WeddingWire Trends & Traditions Surveys, which offer a direct year-over-year comparison of questions. It also references trends revealed in the 2015 Contemporary Couples Report (by WeddingWire, GayWeddings, Community Marketing, Inc and the Gay Wedding Institute) of those who married in 2014, and a related report, Same-Sex Couples: Weddings & Engagements (by Community Marketing, Inc and the Gay Wedding Institute) of couples surveyed in 2013, but who may have celebrated a union or become engaged at any time in the previous years.

Five Big Changes for Same-Sex Couples

#1 Parents are stepping up. And in?

More than ever, same-sex couples are receiving help paying for their weddings. Five years ago, a strong majority of same-sex couples (79% in 2013) reported paying for all or most of the wedding themselves, compared to 2017 where that number has dropped significantly to 59% of couples. This shift tells us that more parents (and extended family) are participating in and supporting their kids’ LGBTQ weddings, and, as a result, the overall wedding spend is increasing as more vendors are hired, more guests are invited, and as LGBTQ couples have shifted away from practical and often quickly planned legal elopements to a more typical engagement and wedding planning process.

This also means that identifying the decision-maker in the booking process may be shifting now that a couple’s parents may have more financial investment in the wedding and, as such, an expectation around decision-making.

#2 Growth of the guestlist

The growth of the guestlist at gay and lesbian weddings is a direct result of more couples coming out, more couples choosing to marry, and more couples feeling comfortable celebrating with a broader circle of families, friends, and co-workers. It’s also a function of being able to get legally married in one’s home state and having the chance to plan accordingly. In fact, the 2015 Survey of Contemporary Couples revealed that 79% of same-sex couples were planning a wedding ceremony and reception, almost doubling the result (43%) of couples surveyed previously (Same-Sex Couples: Weddings & Engagements, 2013).

  • Prior to 2013, the size of the average guestlist was 65
  • In 2014, the average size was 80
  • In 2015 and 2016: 100
  • In 2017: 107 (which still lags behind non-LGBTQ couples average guestlist size of 127)

In sum, having both a ceremony and a reception is a relatively new development for a majority of same-sex couples and marks a major shift with clear planning and budgeting implications and has had a direct impact on the growth in size of the average guestlist.

#3 Size of wedding party

As same-sex weddings have grown in size, so, too, has the supporting cast. In 2013, 63% of same-sex couples reported that they had anywhere from 0 to 3 persons in their wedding party. Yes, you are hearing that correctly. Five years ago, same-sex couples had 3 or fewer people standing up with them as witnesses. Today, the average wedding party size for same-sex couples is 7, compared to 9 for heterosexual couples.

More moving parts, more guests and bigger wedding parties are just another indicator that same-sex couples are following the structural rules of traditional wedding planning compared to the highly personalized, more modestly-sized ceremonies from years’ past.

#4 Blended Wedding Party

There is perhaps no better example of a wedding custom than the wedding party in order to illustrate not only the difference in the willingness of same-sex couples to break with tradition, but also an impressive example of how gay weddings have influenced straight weddings.

In WeddingWire’s 2016 Trends and Traditions Report, only 14% of LGBTQ couples reported dividing their wedding parties based on gender. That is, guys on one side and gals on the other. Same-sex couples have always tended to blend their wedding parties, asking their closest supporters to stand with them, regardless of gender and often in whatever attire they choose (eg women wearing pants and dresses to suit). What’s most remarkable is to understand how this repurposed vision of a wedding party for same-sex couples has dramatically influenced the choices of opposite-sex couples in a short amount of time. Seventy-four (74%) of straight couples divided their wedding parties by gender in 2015, but the needle moved to 69% in 2016 and, more recently, dropped to 60% in 2017.

‘What’s most remarkable is to understand how this repurposed vision of a wedding party for same-sex couples has dramatically influenced the choices of opposite-sex couples in a short amount of time.’

As same-sex couples are assimilated into the mainstream market, it’s clear that there has been a two-way street of influence, which has been amplified by Millennial couples, who choose rituals and make planning choices that are highly customized to their preferences.

#5 Age of the couple

In 2014, Jennifer Senior, then a writer for the New York Magazine, noted that one third of LGBTQ newlyweds were over 50. WeddingWire’s Newlywed Report revealed that the average age of same-sex couples who had married in 2015 and 2016 was 35 (with a smidge of variation in age between gay grooms and lesbian brides). In 2017, the age dropped to 34. Today, LGBTQ couples still skew a bit older than non-LGBTQ couples (the average age for heterosexual couples in 2017 was 32), but the shrinking gap reveals not only how opposite-sex couples are getting married a few years later in life, but also how same-sex couples are getting younger.

This is just one more example of how the engagement and wedding planning trajectory for same-sex couples is assimilating to match the typical relationship trajectory for heterosexual couples: start dating, (perhaps cohabitate), get engaged, and get married. With more open acceptance of LGBTQ individuals and couples, one’s sexual orientation is no longer a factor in one’s interest in and access to marriage and wedding planning services.

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

» Marketing to Millennials: Your Questions Answered

Photo by Svetlana Photography

We love millennials, but… we can admit that this generation often has demands that can be difficult to satisfy. Millennials have shorter attention spans, ultra-high standards when it comes to social media and expect quick, seamless communication from their wedding professionals. They also make up 80% of engaged couples, which means that it’s in your best interest to meet their demands. To help you better cater to your audience, we’ve answered your top questions about marketing to millennials.

How do I reach more potential couples on Instagram instead of other industry professionals?

One way to grow your following of couples is to utilize cross-promotion on platforms where couples are already following you. For example, advertise your Instagram account on your Facebook page and include a mention of it with some photos in your emails for some free publicity.

Is it okay to have a different “Call to Action” on each page of my website?

A call to action, or a CTA, should directly relate to or build on the content presented on that particular page. As an example, on WeddingWire’s website, if a couple is on the venue page, the CTA is “book your venue”; on the website creation page, the CTA reads “get started”. In terms of your own website, if you have a reviews page, your call to action might be “read my recent reviews”.

Each individual CTA on your website, regardless of what it is, should ultimately lead someone to submit an inquiry. By building CTAs that lead to contact information submissions, you are handing yourself a qualified lead— which is the whole point of including CTAs. Having a CTA on each page creates a clear path for viewers to follow and collect information. Just remember to connect the dots if you have different CTAs on each page and be sure you are always guiding your potential customer to the most important actions.

What’s better: Instagram stories or Instagram posts?

Both! Consistency is key on Instagram. Your posts on Instagram should always be well thought out and feature the strongest pieces of visual content that you have. While you should be posting regularly, sometimes it can be difficult to have enough visually compelling content to share regularly. This is when Instagram stories can be immensely helpful. Instagram stories show that you are active on days when you might be unable to post, or only don’t have content worthy of sharing on your feed. Instead of adding a subpar photo to your feed, upload a story instead. Millennial couples love Instagram stories because they often show “behind-the-scenes” action and allow viewers to connect in a more personable way, since the content doesn’t need to be as curated as your post feed (and only lasts 24 hours).

Many millennials respond negatively to being overtly sold. Do we need to be more discrete in our tactics?

The best thing you can do in this scenario is to showcase the quality and value of your services. By expressing your value in terms of what you can offer as a service provider rather than what the cost buys a client, you will be able to sell clients without making it feel like an overt sale.

I have a lot of information to get across but my clients are shocked when I tell them we need to have a longer discussion. How do I go about telling them crucial information without losing their interest?

Keep in mind that millennials tend to err on the side of being know-it-alls— it’s part of their charm! So, when it comes to delivering a message you feel that they need to know, the best thing you can do is to keep it simple. Think of the WebMD symptom checker. When people are sick, many check their symptoms online first and then go to the doctor. Despite how wrong or right the online diagnosis was, the client did their research and “prediagnosed” themselves, then went to the expert to confirm. You are the expert in this case. It is your job to determine if the client already knows what they need to know, or if they need that longer discussion.

Some clients might scoff at the thought of a longer discussion because they may truly have the information already. If not, you need to provide your potential client with the information that you feel they need in the most concise and direct way. Even if you feel that describing key information is impossible to do in under four paragraphs without a hefty sum of attachments and charts, still attempt to reduce that information to the bare minimum. Succinctness is key!

Which word is better for your website’s SEO: pricing or investment?

If you are looking to drive up your website’s SEO (Search Engine Optimization) be sure that you are using the words “price” or “cost”– these are the common search terms. Couples are going to search “cost of wedding flowers” not “investment of wedding flowers”. For this reason, make sure any headings, tags and keywords include those words instead of  “investment”. However, when it comes to the general copy of your website’s text, it is perfectly okay to use the word “investment”, so long as price and/or cost is worked in somewhere.

Should my logo be on every page?

YES! As Sonny says, “you should always be branding!”

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

» WeddingWire Networking Night Long Island

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at The Crescent Beach Club for our WeddingWire Networking Night Long Island!

Wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy a stunning beachfront 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 tips on using social media for business, presented by WeddingWire’s Regional Manager of Customer Success, Megan Hayes!

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:

Thanks to all that came out to see us!


» What Couples Want to Hear in Your Lead Replies

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

Keep it real

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ask questions

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

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

Don’t jump the gun

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

Sympathize and relate

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

Match their tone

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

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

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

» 3 Unique Posts for Social Media

Photo by Vanessa Joy Photography

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

“I have bad news: Marketing is hard, and it keeps getting harder. But there’s no time to mourn the past or to feel sorry for ourselves, and there’s no point in self-pity anyway. It is our job as modern-day storytellers to adjust to the realities of the marketplace, because it sure as hell isn’t going to slow down for us.” Gary Vaynerchuk

This is a favorite quote of mine from Gary Vaynerchuk’s book Jab Jab Jab Right Hook. Gary Vee wrote this in the beginning to his addendum in the book. As he was getting ready to hit “print”, Instagram added the video feature, making his newly finished book completely obsolete. As a result, he had to add on a whole new section of the book on this new development. How insanely frustrating.

How often do we feel the same way in our businesses? Especially with weddings, the demographic we’re trying to target is the one that changes the most rapidly. If you’re like me, you’re in a constant marketing method flux trying to find out what works and what doesn’t.

You know what? That’s a good thing.

The truth of it is exactly how Vaynerchuk put it, “There’s no time to mourn the past or to feel sorry for ourselves.” We have to move forward. We have to keep up with what’s happening in weddings and social trends. We have to find new ways to get our names and business out there despite the ever-changing social media algorithm.

If you’re as fed up with what works and what doesn’t on social media, definitely join me for the webinar Social Media: A Guide for Wedding Professionals on March 21 at 3:00pm EST (available to Premium WeddingWire members in your account Education Center). Until then, here are three types of posts you can try on your social media to get more reach.

#1 – Video

Whenever I get annoyed by an algorithm change on Facebook or Instagram I remember just one thing. Social media companies are businesses. They have goals and one of their main goals is to get people coming back to their platform and spending more time on it. Video is always a good way to boost your reach. Why? Because video makes people watch longer, even if just by a millisecond, so social media algorithms tend to like it because it helps achieve their own goals.

If you’re not sure what kind of videos you can make or post, check out five different types of marketing and communication videos I’ve made right here. There’s also a tutorial there that will show you just how easy making videos can be – even if you’re not a photographer or videographer.

#2 – Personality

I know what you’re thinking. “Should I put my personal life on my business profile?” Yes and no. No, I don’t think you have to or should necessarily, but yes I do think it’s engaging.

I’m not telling you to post anything about your personal life at all really. Instead, I’m telling you to show off your personality. Or, the personalities of some of your team members. This can be as simple as having your team show-off their favorite work-desk personal item. Or, even just an easily relatable personal life fact, like how you always wear new clothes once before washing them because they never feel the same again.

Whatever it is, find a way to bring some life into your brand. Consumers are very wise to well put together brands these days. Thanks to visual social media, the bar has been raised for even mom-and-pop shops to kick it up a notch in the branding department. I’m not talking just about logos and packaging, although that’s part of it, but personality plays a part here as well. I could go on, but you’ll find a ton of information on this topic in my FREE ebook 9 Secret Ways to Brand Your Business.

#3 – Engage

When you first read that, I imaging you thought “but I’m trying to get engagement!” Yes, you are. But social media is just that – social. So, go be social! It’s not all about you. It’s about them.

You posting on social media does not just mean you post on your on account/wall/feed. It means that you should spend some time posting on other people’s posts. No, I do not mean you should spam your latest sale to their wall, or ask them to check out your account in their photo comments.

Go discover new people, couples and wedding industry vendors alike, and engage them. Support what they’re doing. Ask questions about their posts in the comments. Find people to direct message and offer to collaborate even. Go ahead, make friends! That’s one of the things that is so great about our little wedding community.

Speaking of, I hope you’ll you’ll join me for my WeddingWire webinar Social Media: A Guide for Wedding Professionals on March 21 at 3:00pm EST (available to Premium WeddingWire members in your account Education Center). I’ll see you there!

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

» Branding Considerations for Newly-Diversified Services

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

Diversification is one of the key ways that owners of event businesses can boost income, attract new customers and ensure longevity in our competitive and dynamic industry. Once you have decided which complementary products or services to add to your business, (or other businesses you might acquire), you’ll need to get the word out and make sure your new branding makes sense to your market and peers.

What do you need to consider when branding your newly-diversified services?

The new you

As you expand your business offerings or choose new products and services to complement your brand, it’s important to have a distinct brand identity that encompasses both brands. For example, at one time Fantasy Sound was comprised of separate companies, one for DJ services and one for AV services. The names were similar, but the branding was different and people were confused. We fused the two companies together to create Fantasy Sound Event Services with a unified brand and our business took off.

Determine how the services relate

Wondering how to fuse your services into a single cohesive brand? Go back to the market research that you did before you diversified. You determined that your clients had additional needs and you had the product, skill and talent to fulfill their needs, right? Reflect on what you discovered about your clients during that phase and try to come up with a way to project a brand that addresses all of the needs you are able to meet.

Of course, you’ll also want to identify the biggest strengths of each brand. What are you bringing to the table that is unique to your business and superior when compared to competitors? It’s very similar to the process of branding your original company – you need to know your target market and how to identify those characteristics of your business that meet their unique needs. Then make sure you’re appealing to them and reaching them with your message.

Avoid this common mistake

The biggest mistake that business owners make when taking on a new brand and merging it with their existing business is not realizing the amount of time and the scope of work that the new brand requires. More often than not, the process is not as simple as “plug and play”. You’ll have to go back to the drawing board to create a new brand image, and success will take time. Plan for this when doing projections, managing income and revenue, and preparing for a period of challenging days, weeks and months ahead. But know that your efforts will be worth it in the long run.

Measure your success

Constantly evaluate your efforts once you have established your branding and always review the numbers on a regular basis. Acquiring a new brand absorbs a lot of capital in the beginning and you may not see a return for a while, so stay mindful of the overall trend. Set goals and determine what success means to you and how long you are willing to wait for it.

Creating a cohesive brand for your original company and your acquisitions may not have been the exciting part of diversification you were waiting for, but it is critical. Done well, it will likely be the key to your success.

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

» How to Ace Client Relationships & Manage Busy Season Stress

Photo by Gawne Designs Photography

It’s important to remember that the wedding industry is all about customer service. With busy season right in front of us, managing clients and keeping them happy while under pressure can be quite difficult. But it’s a job you must do diligently and with a smile. To better prepare for the sudden 0-to-60, it’s best to acknowledge some expectations for yourself and of your clients. By thinking about how you might feel and what your clients will expect of you before busy season starts, you can ace client relationships and keep everyone happy… yourself included! Here’s how:

Communicate expectations

Most clients aren’t wedding professionals, so they probably don’t understand what exactly busy season entails for you or realize the sheer amount of other work you have. It is always best to be open with clients from the start. Discuss your workload with them to let them know what you can deliver so that they can set their expectations for your services accordingly.

However, this isn’t to say that you should spread yourself too thin, set low expectations, or overbook yourself. When the quality of your work diminishes because you are overworked or setting the bar too low, your client relationships and in turn, your business, will hurt because of it. Know how much you can handle and what you can deliver.

Clarify next steps

At the end of any conversation, be ready to articulate your plan of action and/or clearly outline next steps to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Repeat the items you are responsible for, and remind them of anything they need to provide to keep the process moving forward. Send a follow-up email to recap your conversation and show them that you will always  follow-through and keep things organized.

Get to know your clients beyond their wedding

Before you start going over the details of the couples’ wedding or event, you’ll need to establish a connection with the couple. Getting to know them a little more can inform your decisions throughout the rest of the relationship (pro tip: find out early on what communication methods they prefer, and follow suit!). You should also take the time to talk a little about yourself so they understand more about you and why your business best fits their needs. Remember: the better the connection, the more apt they will be to refer you to their friends!

You get what you put in

The “Golden Rule” for successful client communications is the old adage: treat others as you would like to be treated. When your clients only have positive interactions with you, they will likely be more understanding if you aren’t able to respond to an email right away or if you can’t suddenly accomodate a large-scale, last minute demand. Not that you should ever be putting your clients’ needs on the backburner, but we are all human.  A little kindness and flexibility goes a long way.

Budget the time to go the extra mile

Going the extra mile for clients is important because it shows your dedication to your work and will also be what clients remember the most about you. It might be hard finding time to put in a little extra work to make something special, so it’s smart to budget this extra time from the beginning. Scheduling this time as a non-negotiable will guarantee that you can give some very special attention to each client. You won’t be under the wire to outperform and your clients will be grateful for your extra work.

Keep reviews and referrals in mind at all times

Every time you deliver a service or communicate with your clients, you should be thinking about the review a client will give you for it. When you work with the mindset that a review will be written for every interaction you have with a client, it will ensure that you are providing your client with the best experience possible. Plus, keep in mind that happy clients often lead to referrals down the road, too!

Busy season might have it’s unique set of challenges, but no matter the stress, you get to do what you love – bringing couples dreams to life! It’s the special client relationships you cultivate that leave you with the feeling of success, pride, and accomplishment (and the resulting reviews and referrals) that make busy season worth all of the long, hard hours.

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

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

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

You’re taking too long to reply

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

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

You’re asking for a phone call or meeting

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

You suggest a new communication channel

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

You’re not thinking mobile

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

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

You don’t ask a single question

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

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

You’re avoiding pricing

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

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

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

You’re using automation or copy and paste

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

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

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

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