» 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.

» Is Your Communication Cutting It With Millennials?

Photo by Justin Kunimoto Photography

Even though the average age of your target audience remains generally consistent over the years (engaged couples in their 20s and 30s), it’s important to remember that shifting generations come with shifting client expectations. Millennials have different habits and needs than those of the GenX generation — especially when it comes to communication. Is your communication approach with clients up-to-date? Review these best practices from WeddingWire’s Chief Marketing Officer Sonny Ganguly and get up to speed.

Communicate on social media

If you haven’t already, start setting up the ground work to communicate with your clients through your social media pages. Every major platform has a direct messaging service that makes it easy and convenient for clients to shoot you a message while they browse your page or feed. Messaging through these platforms is only going to become more popular, and may even become the norm for bookings. If you want to be a strong communicator in the digital age, you have to be prepared to check every digital platform that you are on frequently (at least once a day!) to see if messages from potential clients are coming in.

Being aware of incoming messages is one thing, but getting them in the first place is another. Letting clients know that you are able to chat through these mediums is crucial. A good indication that you can be contacted through social media is through frequent and consistent posting. If your last Instagram post was three weeks ago, a potential client probably won’t feel confident that you will reply in a timely manner. Post regularly to show that you have eyes on your platform(s) at all times.

Another great way to encourage messaging over social media is to be active in your posts through comments. Replying to comments and engaging with your followers is a great strategy to help boost a client’s confidence in communicating with you via social media.

Reply as quickly as possible

The majority of couples expect a vendor to reply within 24 hours. It may seem like a quick turnaround, but most bookings end up going to the vendor that replies first. Only 39% of professionals respond in 24 hours, which means there is some serious opportunity to improve and make a great impression on potential clients. If you want to maximize your bookings, not only should you be regularly active on social media, *hint hint*, but you should also be replying as soon as you can. Remember that we live in a world of instant gratification and your clients will expect quick replies.

Always request reviews (and respond!)

95% of couples use and trust reviews to book their wedding professionals. Because of that, you should always be requesting reviews from past couples. Most reviews get written 2-3 weeks post-wedding, so don’t get anxious if a couple has yet to write anything. Review timing also depends on what services you offer. If you are in a pre-wedding service, such as invitations, expect your reviews much earlier. If you are in the photography or videography business, expect your reviews 5-6 weeks after the wedding. Still no reviews after this timeframe? Reach out! It doesn’t hurt to contact a couple and ask them to provide a review.

Once you receive a review, respond to it! Replying to all reviews is a great way to to show not only the reviewer, but also potential clients reading those reviews, how much you care. Instead of a generic “Thank you!”, the best thing that you can do is write a personalized response with reinforcements on the services and skills you are capable of delivering. (Ex: “It was a joy working with you, Nora. The mini hydrangea bouquets we did for your party were some of my favorites yet!”) Perspective couples are sure to take notice of your personable replies and be able to see what you are capable of delivering. But be careful — if you reply to one review, you should to reply to every review.

When it comes to replying to a negative review, don’t pour fuel on a fire. Remember to be kind, do your best not to be defensive and apologize, even if you’re not at fault. These responses should be written with potential clients in mind.

Reciprocate channels

48% of couples report being frustrated when you don’t communicate on their preferred channel. If they direct message you through Instagram, direct message them back on Instagram. Unless they tell you to contact them through a different medium, you should reply in the same way they reached out. Remember: If a customer wanted to hear your voice, they would have called you instead of writing you an email. Once your communication and relationship has been established with a potential client and you determine that a different communication channel could lead to more productive next steps, feel free to suggest a phone call, in-person meeting, or another communication method. Just be prepared to be as flexible and accommodating as possible— your clients will appreciate it!

Communication can be frustrating, all the more so now that communication norms are ever-changing. Yet, setting up good, clear paths for communication by following our steps will allow for both you and your clients to breathe a sigh of relief. When you open up the correct channels to become a good communicator,

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.

» Should You Rethink Your Sales Strategy in 2018?

Photo by Lacy Ferrell Photography

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

As business owners, one of the biggest parts of our job is selling to prospective clients. We know it doesn’t always come easy, but by creating and implementing an effective sales strategy you’ll see major differences in what your clients are booking, and in turn, your business.

So how do you go from selling the basics to selling the big dream? We’ve got some of our best techniques below.

Give lots of options

When first sitting down with a prospective client, the best strategy to take is giving them lots of options. It helps to open up their minds and get the creative juices flowing, allowing them to visualize the big picture and overall vision for their wedding. Chances are, they’re going to fall in love and want to spend more money. If your business has more than one service, this is also the perfect opportunity to upsell them on those as well.

Always be honest

You want to be sure that you are striking the right balance with clients, between getting the highest price point you can without going so far out of their range that they feel intimidated or turned off. The best way to do this is with honesty. You want to make sure that their expectations are at the right level from the get-go. For my business, we are always mindful of explaining the value of what they’re getting. Clients don’t always understand that at the beginning, so seeing just numbers alone can quickly turn them off. Once we’ve walked them through the process and explained our services and products more thoroughly, it helps them to see exactly what they’re getting.

Listen to the client

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen salespeople make, is trying to sell their own vision of what the wedding should be without hearing what the client wants. You really have to listen to them and make sure that the products and/or services you put in front of them is in line with what they’re looking for. They are much more likely to spend money if their vision is being met and they’re comfortable with the end result.

You should never walk into a sales meeting without having knowledge on what you’re selling. You need to know all about the venue you’re working at, all of the variables involved in the event, logistics, and the client’s budget. It’s easier to sell a client if you already know the ins and outs of their wedding. It gives them a feeling of comfort and gives you a great jumping off point for upselling.

So what are you waiting for? Make a new sales plan for 2018 that will have you booking more clients at a higher level than you could have imagined.

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