» 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.

» How to Make the Most out of Conferences (and Better Your “Today” List)

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

I love going to conferences. There are so many opportunities for learning, not just in the sessions, but also in the hallways and at the social events. Ideas come at you from all directions, it’s often like drinking from a firehose. If you’re like me, you come away with more ideas than you can possibly use. That’s good. You just need to learn to prioritize (more on that later). The problem I see, all too often, is when we come away from a conference, with more ideas than we can use, we end up not using any of them. Those pages and pages of notes, whether on paper or digital, end up on a shelf, never to see the light of day again. So, how do you change your conference habits (and general to-do list management) from overwhelming “shelf-help” that gets lost in the mix to truly productive “self-help”?

Why do we do it?

I’m not a psychologist, but I’m sure there’s a really good reason why we don’t take action on those pages of notes and new ideas. All I know is that I’m just as guilty of it as you are. Or, at least I used to be. I take less notes than I used to, partly because I know that the more I take, the less I’m likely to look at them. It’s more intimidating to see that I have 20 pages of notes, than 3. So, I’m more selective and try to focus my notes to my needs.

Putting it into perspective

Another reason I think we don’t take action is because we get distracted. Buzzwords are flying around, shiny products are on display and other attendees are regaling us with their stories of success. The challenge there is separating the fiction from the non-fiction. Let’s just say that some people tend to exaggerate, or selectively leave out the challenges they’re facing. It’s not unlike how on social media we tend to only see the great successes, without the struggles or investments, in money and time, that led to that success. You can’t reap the rewards unless you’re willing to make the investment (or sacrifice).

How do you measure success?

The next challenge in evaluating opportunities and new ideas is that each of us defines our success in our own way. Our needs are different. Our expenses are different. Our goals are different. Just because someone else is seeing their version of success with a new idea, doesn’t mean that will work for you. Use your own compass and plot your own course. Don’t use someone else’s map to find your path.

But, we can’t do them all!

Exactly! You can’t do them all, no one can. That’s why you need to learn to prioritize your ideas and limited time. I learned to do this over 10 years ago, at my first National Speakers Association conference. We had three very full days of meetings. On the last day, at the last session, the association national president addressed the group. He told us to make a list of all of the ideas we had heard. Then, told us we should prioritize the list, in the order of how they would most benefit our businesses. And then, and here’s the hard part, to keep the top 3 things and then physically get rid of the rest of the list. You can’t focus on 20 or 30 things. You’ll just end up diluting your time between too many things, getting nothing done. When you focus your time on only 3 things, you’ll get way more accomplished. After you complete those items, make a new list. If some of the things from your original list are still important, they’ll show up again. I can tell you, from personal experience, that they rarely do. Once you have finished the things on your list, your business, and you personally, are in a different place. Things that were important before, just aren’t important now.

“To-Do List” vs. “Today List”

I’ve been living my life that way since that conference. It was hard, at first, to erase my dry-erase board, with its myriad of ideas and projects. Sure, I took a picture of it, before erasing it, but I haven’t looked at that photo… ever. And yet, I’ve accomplished more than I ever had. The things on my short list are not my daily tasks. Replying to email, marketing and writing content are a different list. I like to refer to them as my “Today List”. The big picture items are my “To-Do List”. Writing a new book is usually on my to-do list. When I finish one, I start writing the next one. Learning a new language made it onto my new list. Then presenting in that language. Next, for me, is doing the audio version of one of my books, in Spanish. A lofty goal? Sure. But what good are goals you can easily hit? Actually, my uncle once told me never to use the word “goals, ” because it’s self-limiting. Think bigger, and you can achieve more. Don’t try to just reach a goal, try to do the best you can, every day.

So, what does your shelf look like?

Have you filed away years-worth of conference or webinar ideas, without ever acting on them? How many notebooks, filled with notes, are on your shelf, or filed away? How many things are on your big-picture, to-do list? Do you really need them all? Or, can you keep the first 2 or 3, and focus all of your energy on those? It takes a little faith and a little courage to shorten your list. If you’re like me, you’ll find it liberating, like a huge weight has been lifted. And then, when you start to get more done, you’ll be encouraged to keep making short lists. Here’s to helping yourself (and not your shelf)!

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.

» Why Price Questions Shouldn’t Worry You

Photo by Riverland Studios

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

As we enter a new year, and get into the heart of engagement season, I want to remind you that price questions are buying signals. If you know that, and you live it, then I could make this the shortest article I’ve ever written, but let me fill in the details for the rest of you.

By the time you have someone asking you what you’d charge for your services for their wedding, or event, they’ve already done a lot of filtering. Most of your competitors will never hear from this same couple, or customer. It’s very likely that they know a little, or more, about you, from your website, WeddingWire storefront, reviews and more. You only got the inquiry because they like what they’ve seen and heard so far.

Don’t blow it!

Since you’ve made it to their short-list of companies they think can do what they want, and produce the results that they want, don’t ruin your chances with them by taking the lead for granted, or worse, assuming they can’t afford you just because they’ve asked about price. Don’t you ask about price when you’re the customer? Does it mean you can’t afford it because you’ve asked about price? Of course not. It’s just one of many pieces of information you need to make a decision. The thing is, when you’re shopping for something you know, you ask about price after you find out whether it fits your technical specs.

For example, if you need a new camera, you’ll ask about resolution, features, compatibility with your lenses, etc., and then, once you’ve checked off all of your technical needs, you ask about price. If it doesn’t fit your technical needs, then price doesn’t matter. The same applies if you need a new vehicle for your business. Price will only matter after you determine that it meets your technical needs. It doesn’t mean you can’t afford that truck, it just means you have needs that are more important that price.

They don’t know, what they don’t know

The challenge for your customers is that they don’t know how to articulate their needs. They’ve likely never shopped for your product or service before, so they’re not equipped with how to shop. Or, they’ve been to your website, read your online storefront, checked out your reviews, seen your photos and videos, and they already think that you’re a good fit. So, the only questions that they have left are: Are you available? and How much do you charge?

When they ask about price…

  • It may not mean they’re looking for your lowest package/offering
  • It may not  mean they’re price shopping (only comparing on price)
  • It may not mean they can’t afford your prices

Don’t judge a book by its cover

If you treat them as if they can’t afford you, or that they’re looking for your lowest price, you’re likely to lose some legitimate prospects. How many sales have you made, for more than your lowest package/offering, to people who first asked about price? The answer is probably: a lot. We all have. Everyone needs to know the price, eventually. Some just don’t know what else to ask, so they start with the one thing they understand… money! So, instead of dreading getting the “How much does it cost…?” question, celebrate it. Relish in the fact that most of your competitors aren’t getting asked that, or anything, by this same customer. They’re not in the game, because they don’t know there’s a game going on. But you do, and you’ve just been told to suit-up, and get in the game.

The change starts with you

They’re not going to change the way they inquire with you. I’ve been in this industry for a long time, and couples have always asked about price, earlier than you, the professionals, want to hear it. I’d rather have that discussion early, than not have a chance at all. Learn how to have the same conversation you’d have in person or on the phone, via email, messenger, LiveChat or text. Whatever the technology, it’s still a real conversation. Don’t avoid their question, you’ll turn them off. Don’t try to change from a digital conversation, to a phone/in-person one, too soon. You’ll turn them off. If you reply to their inquiries about price, and they don’t reply to you, that doesn’t mean they can’t afford you. It could be the way you’re replying. I see it all the time (and it’s the subject of my next book).

The short answer is that if you reply to “How much do you charge?” with “Let’s have a phone call or schedule a meeting”, and then you don’t hear back… stop doing that! I’ve spoken about this on WeddingWire webinars, and written about it in articles, but my favorite way to answer this is to quote them a price range, so they, and you, can see if you should continue the discussion (that is, assuming you don’t have a range on your site and storefront, in which case price shouldn’t be an issue when they reach out).

So, the next time you get an email, or message through WeddingWire, that asks about price, put a smile on your face, because you’re communicating with a BUYER! It’s a mindset change that will serve you well.

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 Resolutions for Wedding Professionals in 2018

The beginning of a new year brings excitement about resolutions and goals, but often they can be forgotten or pushed aside, especially when busy season comes around. To make 2018 your best year yet, set business resolutions that you can actually keep and that will have a positive long-term impact on your business. It’s important that these goals are challenging, yet achievable resolutions for both you and your business.

WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg has highlighted 5 resolutions that wedding professionals can put into action:

  1. Be respectful of time.

    As a busy professional, you know that often, it can seem like there are simply not enough hours in the day. Save your own time, your clients time, and other professionals time, by simply keeping your communication direct and concise. Also work to respond to all inquiries or questions in a very timely manner (aim for 24 hours or less!), even if it is just an acknowledgement of the inquiry.

  2. Be less connected to technology.

    While we all love technology and how it can help us stay in sync and organized, it can also be a distraction from personal interaction and taking the time to live in the moment. Challenge yourself to set some specific time to disconnect completely from technology each day, and focus on connecting with people, enjoying experiences or taking time to reflect on the goals you have set.

  3. Avoid hypocrisy.

    Wedding professionals often have similar complaints when it comes to some clients. Next time you feel frustrated, take a moment to truly consider the client point of view. After all, they are planning and investing in a once in a lifetime event. Wouldn’t you have questions, expect the highest quality service, and want to save money where you could? Work on seeing their perspective, show empathy, and then use your experience to help them feel confident in their decision to do business with you.

  4. Shorten your to-do list.

    There is an easy way to shorten your to-do list without simply saying ‘no’ to more work. Make a daily ‘must-do’ list to go with your longer ‘to-do list.’ On this shortened list, prioritize a handful of key actions that you must meet that day. Then, when the list is complete, move onto the next priority round of to-dos, or catch up on emails, calls or errands. You will feel accomplished and more relaxed, while keeping focus on higher priority items.

  5. Resolve to think bigger.

    Challenge yourself this year! What is the next big business step you hope to achieve? More revenue? More bookings? A bigger team? Consider what a better business means to you. From there, set three goals you hope to reach in 2018 that will take you to that next level. Create some metrics or programs that will help you reach your goals, and get started. Don’t forget to visit them regularly to stay on track, and see how you are progressing. Checking in monthly will provide reflection and help you stay on track with these goals.

Whether your list of resolutions for 2018 is long or short and concise, adding these five actionable items is a great way to put your best foot forward in the new year.

» Do You Want the Sale, or Not?

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

While speaking at a conference in Mexico, I overheard some wedding professionals talking, and one said:“If you don’t want to do the wedding, just give them a really high price.” I jumped into the conversation, and I said “If you don’t want to do the wedding, don’t do the wedding!” Giving them a high price doesn’t change the reasons you didn’t want to do it. Maybe it was really far away. Maybe it would be so time-consuming, that it would take away from your other clients. Or, maybe they’re just not nice people and you didn’t connect with them. If you give them a high price, and they accept it, those reasons didn’t go away. You’ll just likely end up regretting taking it, while you toil away on a wedding you didn’t want to do. The money is not going to make up for that.

I was doing an event in Ireland recently, and I asked the attendees to let me know if any of them got a new lead, during the event. A DJ, who had come over from the UK for the event, told me that he just got a new inquiry through his website. I asked him to read it to us. He didn’t sound very excited while reading it, and I asked him why. She was 2½ – hours away from him, in an area where he doesn’t usually get inquiries. He had just won a prestigious award in the UK, and figured that she had seen that, and that’s why she reached out (just conjecture on his part, of course).

Your attitude will come through

I asked how he was going to reply, and he said “I don’t really care if I get it, or not, being 2½ – hours away.” I asked him “Do you want the sale, or not?” He said he could go either way. I asked him again “Do you want the sale, or not?” He said “I’d only do it for my full fee.” I told him that he hadn’t even gotten to that point, yet. However, if he wasn’t interested, then tell her he’s not available. If he is interested, then let’s answer this together. His attitude when writing the reply is very important. If you’ve seen me present on this topic, read my books, or heard a webinar or read my articles here, you know that tone and energy comes through in written conversations.

So, he replied to her, and she replied back. He gave her a price range. She indicated that the top of the range was too high for her, and asked if he had something for less. He asked for a 5- minute phone call the following morning, which they had, and he booked her for his full fee (the bottom of the range he had given her). He was happy, and so was she. Had he written his original response, it’s possible she would have seen that he was blasé about getting the sale, and she’d find someone who was as excited as she.

Don’t rush the process, just because you’re busy

When I do sales training, I like to look at the actual digital conversations of my clients, businesses just like yours. Very often I see conversations that try to rush the process, either by asking too many questions at once, sending lots of attachments, answering questions they haven’t asked yet, and more. When I ask why they’re including so much information, the reason is often because they’re so busy with other tasks, they don’t feel they have the time to have a few, or a lot of back and forth, short conversations. Sound familiar? I’ll bet it does. What do you want, when you’re the customer?

I get it, I really do. However, when you’re the customer, and you email a business about something you need, what do you want? Don’t you want to have a conversation with a real person? A real conversation, not a data dump of information. Not lots of PDFs, or even one PDF, especially if you can’t easily read it on your phone. Don’t you want to know that someone is taking an interest in solving your problem, or getting you to the end result that you want? Of course, you do, and so do I. It’s not their problem that you’re busy. Yes, we like to do business with the popular companies, there’s a certain reassurance. However, I’d rather do business with someone who takes the time to have a conversation with me, than someone who copies and pastes the same information to me, that they do for everyone else. We all like to think that we’re unique.

Can you afford to lose one sale?

How full is your calendar? Can you afford to lose one sale? What would that cost you? It’s probably already happened. It happens to all of us, sometimes it’s our fault, sometimes it’s not. Some of the reasons are beyond our control. If they book someone who’s half your price, they didn’t see the value in hiring you. It’s going to happen. If they book someone who was referred by a friend or relative, oh well. But if they book someone else, for the same, or higher price than you, because you didn’t show them the personal attention that they wanted (and deserved), from their very first contact with you, that’s on you. If you don’t need another sale, more power to you. But that attitude can come back to bite you in the long run. So, do you want the sale, or don’t you? If you do, then treat them the way you’d want to be treated!

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.

» Who’s in Your Network?

Photo by Austin Stuart Photography

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

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

Is that a clique, or a network?

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

Who’s in your five?

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

How can you expand your network?

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

A rising tide raises all ships

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

You can teach an old dog…

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

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

» How Effective Are Your Email Responses?

Photo by Gawne Design Photography

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

Don’t rush to change the format

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

Respond quickly

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

Fit the first reply on a smartphone screen

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

End the reply with one question

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

Don’t send attachments

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

Auto replies should provide value

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

Create a bank of testimonials

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

» To Discount or Not to Discount?

Photo by Tracy Shoopman Photography

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

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

Discounting versus negotiating

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

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

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

Which is right for you?

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

Don’t fight the power

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

Get something of value in return

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

They’ll be back

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

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

Price doesn’t determine outcome

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

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

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

What’s the right answer for your business?

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

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

» Is Your Website Turning Away Potential Clients?

Photo by Blueflash Photography

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

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

Choose images that are aspirational

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

Take action:

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

Make sure the text matches the aspiration of your photos

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

Take action:

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

Include social proof of your capabilities

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

Take action:

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

Create specific calls-to-action

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

Take action:

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

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

» Ask for the Sale and Book More Weddings

ask for the sale

Photo by BHP Imaging

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

alan berg

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

» Storefront Tune-Up Tips for Engagement Season

storefront tips

Photo by Bradley Images

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

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

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

Take action:

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

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

Take action:

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

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

Take action:

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

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

Take action:

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

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

» How to Stand Out Using Your Reviews

Photo by: B. Jones Photography

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

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

Evaluate the strength of your brand

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

What are you really selling?

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

Your reviews are branding gold

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

Let your reviews speak for themselves

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

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

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