» How to Communicate Clearly with Prospective Clients

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

Over 90% of today’s couples are Millennials. They have officially taken the driver’s seat, and industry professionals should recognize the need to adapt to their ways and their preferences. It’s essential, for instance, that you master their preferred form of communication, which is, as it stands, email.

Develop an email reply system

Creating and implementing an effective email reply system can save you time (and time is money!), as well as give you the opportunity to elevate your client experience from first contact. While it takes a bit of reflection, planning and effort, doing so has the potential for major payoffs in exchange.

Know how you capture inquiries

Before you dive into your email system, it’s essential to take a good, hard look at how you capture inquiries in the first place. A contact form on your site is the preferred primary method, while still allowing prospective couples to call or email you as well. A form grabs upfront logistical information like names, email, phone, event date, location and size as well as the essentials you need for marketing like “how did you hear about us.” The feedback from online forms can save you an amazing amount of back and forth by delivering the important details from the onset.

Initial inquiries

There is a fine balance between having a template to expedite response time and save effort, and personalizing your initial correspondence. You don’t want your couple to feel like they are just one of a hundred, but at the same time, it’s not the best use of your time to simply keep rewriting the same thing over and over again.

When creating a reply template for initial inquiries, keep the following in mind: share your enthusiasm, but avoid “Congratulations on your engagement” unless you want to sound exactly like everyone else. Come up with a response that incorporates your standard communications, but that leaves wiggle room for personalization as well – you don’t want it to sound like a copy-and-paste response.

Appointment confirmations

Even in this modern age, I still contend that taking the time to confirm an appointment is a nice additional step when staying in touch with prospects and clients. It also gives you control over your schedule, allowing an opportunity for plans to change with enough notice that no one is too inconvenienced.

I, myself, have been confirming appointments diligently since my hotel days, when I worked at a property that had not one, but two lobbies. Since then, I’ve had hundreds of appointments and fewer than five no-shows. It pays to extend the courtesy of a confirmation.

Be certain to confirm the location with an address and make note of any special idiosyncrasies with directions such as construction or known traffic. Give your prospects your day-of contact information, preferably a cellular phone number, and the option to reschedule if anything changes. It also never hurts to get the names of all who will be attending so you are prepared.

Out of office replies

Unless you plan on diligently staying on top of your email, it’s perfectly fine to set up an out of office email while you are out. Just remember to be clear with your availability and return time, as well as an option for event-related emergencies. If you have a team that will still be working, then be sure to note that your offices remain open. If you are a solopreneur, then you’ll need to weigh the option of providing your cell phone number to ensure that you are reachable for the most urgent of matters.

Use apps

Want to streamline the process further? Consider using a scheduling app like Acuity or Calendly, which expedite the process of setting up your first appointment. Better yet, it gives you the capability of creating an automatic email reminder about your upcoming meeting, saving you valuable workflow time.

Make the best impression on prospective clients and save yourself time and money by creating an effective email response system. Doing so will help increase bookings, revenue and job satisfaction as you reclaim control over your time.

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.

» How to Ace Client Relationships & Manage Busy Season Stress

Photo by Gwane 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.

» Social Media Dos and Don’ts for Attracting Millennial Couples

As we know, millennial audiences are heavily invested in social media, spending about 5.5 hours a day on average engaging with social media. For wedding professionals marketing to millennial couples, this means that if your social media pages aren’t up to par, you may be missing out on their business. Not sure what they are looking for? We’ve put together our top social media dos and don’ts to ensure that your business’s social media pages are ready for the eyes of your millennial market.

DO’S

Do have (and maintain) social media pages. Seems simple enough, but there are still many wedding professionals out there without a social media presence! When millennial couples are beginning their initial wedding vendor search, they will look to your social media pages for a first pass impression. These pages help them visually gauge the quality of services that your business can offer. Without that visual aid, not only do you run the risk of looking outdated, they may pass you by altogether. So if you are currently missing from the social media world, it’s time to sign up!

Do prioritize Facebook and Instagram. These are the two most popular platforms among millennial audiences. While there are many other platforms to choose from, millennials truly value your presence on these two. Aim to use these platforms as regularly as possible, post only your strongest content and engage with your audience frequently through the comments. If you do those three things on each platform, your brand awareness will see positive impact and millennials are sure to be impressed with what they see.

Do favor quality over quantity. While you might use another platform, like your website, to feature all of your content, you should be incredibly selective of what you post to Facebook and Instagram. Instagram in particular should be the “trophy case” for your best and most recent visual content. Many businesses make the mistake of trying to upload too regularly or post without a direction, that they often lose sight of the quality of the content they are posting. While you should aim to post frequently, if your content isn’t strong and visually pleasing, it’s not going to impress millennials. Additionally, over posting is just as unimpressive as posting lackluster content. We suggest posting no more than twice a day and no less than once a week to keep your followers and prospective clients hooked.

Do utilize Instagram stories. We weren’t kidding when we said to focus on Instagram! Instagram’s story feature is a great way to engage potential clients in a more casual way by sharing what you are doing on the job or behind-the-scenes. This feature also allows you to stay active without always spending the time required to curate the beautiful, consistent flow of visual content on your Instagram feed. Since Instagram stories are only viewable for 24 hours, you don’t have to worry as much about posting “perfect” content. Use stories as a way to build an emotional connection with your potential clients; millennial couples will love to see your genuine personality come through and learn more about you.

 

DON’TS

Don’t focus on YouTube, Twitter or Blogs. We can’t stress Facebook and Instagram enough. They are where you want to spend most of your time because they have the best payout and visibility. YouTube and Twitter are great social media sites, but connecting with potential clients on these platforms is not as easy. Twitter is best for communicating with other businesses, or for B2B communication, and YouTube probably won’t be needed unless you are a videographer or produce a ton of video content. Blogs can also be a great way to show off your personality and share more about your business, but producing blog content can also be a major time commitment. Unless you are prepared to dedicate a lot of time to writing frequent blog posts, blogs can be nixed, too, in favor of maintaining your social media presence.

Don’t show just the end shots. The majority of photos uploaded are of beautiful end products: the finished floral centerpieces, the intricately constructed updo or the frosted cake. End shots are great to see, but sometimes upload after upload of beautiful end shots leaves us wanting more. Think about it: how many end shots like this do you see when you scroll through your feed? They are the vast majority of all uploads.

People want to see some grit, too! For the same reason we mentioned Instagram stories, millennial couples want to see behind the scenes. Even though these action or behind the scenes shots aren’t typically “polished”, there is still a way to make them look visually appealing. If you are building a bouquet, take a photo of your table with your supplies, tools and loose florals. These shots might require some staging, but couples love these posts because it shows your expertise and dedication to your craft. More importantly, it shows the sheer amount of work that you put in to get the high quality product that they see in those end shots.

Don’t post on Instagram without a direction. Your content should be cohesive and your posts should all build to tell your brand story. Having a direction in mind when you post is integral to maximize your social impact. Think about your brand. Your social media, and especially Instagram, is a highly visual representation of your brand. If you post photos aimlessly, your Instagram’s overall feed is going to look scattered and send a confusing message to couples. Try uploading pictures with a similar color palette, similar lighting, or similar subjects and themes. Uploading photos that look similar, despite the “differing” content is going to help give your feed a cohesive, clean look. Planning ahead can also help you plan out the visual story you are telling; there are some great tools out there like Planoly that can help you plan your Instagram content and preview how it will look in your feed before you post.

Don’t post just text to Facebook. Every facebook post you make should have a piece of content attached to it. Plain text posts on Facebook used to be the norm for the platform, but not in 2018. If you have text to post, attach a photo with it. If you are posting a link, Facebook automatically attaches a thumbnail from the link to add more visuals, but if that thumbnail is plain or broken, attach another photo and remove the thumbnail. From attaching videos to gifs, Facebook posts should never be just plain text! Millennials are a visual generation and you should use every opportunity to showcase your work.

Creating beautiful, cohesive and on-brand social pages take time to build and maintain. Take comfort in knowing that phenomenal Instagram pages don’t just happen overnight! Don’t be afraid to test and try different types of content to see what works best for your business.   Mastering social media might have a bit of a learning curve, but if you keep these steps in mind, you’ll be sure to impress those millennial clients. Happy posting!

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.

» Worried Your Emails are Going to the Trash?

As easy as communicating via email might seem, it is also pretty easy to make email blunders without even realizing it. With so many emails hitting our inbox these days, many emails are begging to be skimmed, or even worse, ignored altogether. But that’s not what you want! You want your emails to be eye catching, read in full and replied to. So, how do you make it happen? Follow these tips to keep your emails out of the trash and generating opportunities.

Automation

If you haven’t already, sign up with a good email service, such as MailChimp, to send automated emails to large lists. If you have a set list of leads, using an email service allows you to publicize your services and keep in touch with ease. Did you upload a new blog to your website or are you running a special deal on your services? Send an automated email to your couples to keep them in the loop.

Additionally, be sure to personalize any automated emails that you send. At the very least, you can use your email service to insert each individual recipient’s first name in the subject line or email body. Including small personalizations like this can decrease the appearance of spam and increase the open rate.

CTA Overload

Overwhelming couple’s inboxes with a constant stream of emails is certainly not best practice. But on the opposite end of the spectrum, sending one timely email that has too much information and too many redirects is just as lethal. Every email should include only one  call-to-action. This “CTA” should be straightforward and drive the one action you are hoping a couple will take after opening your email.

Your subject line shoul—

Your subject line should be eye-catching. It shouldn’t be in all caps or have half a dozen explanation points. It should relate to the content within the email. But, most importantly: it should be short… and not for the reason you might suspect.

Sure, a short subject line is easy to read and fully comprehend. But a short subject line also won’t get cut off on a mobile device. You already know how important mobile is, especially when it comes to emails. Thus, constructing emails with mobile displays in mind is imperative.

As a test, look at your email inbox on your phone and then compare it to how your inbox looks on your computer. How many subject lines and characters get cut off on your phone compared to your desktop? Write every email as if it’s only going to be read on mobile and you should have no problem!

Good list hygiene

WeddingWire’s Chief Marketing Officer, Sonny Ganguly, suggests that you should clean out your email contact list quarterly, if not monthly. While Sonny loves this tip, he can admit that it’s also a bit controversial. Without fail, Sonny says that a follow-up question he always receives after revealing this tip is “but don’t you want as many people as possible to see and hear from your business?”

His answer to that? Well, yes… and no. While free publicity, in this case, emails, could be great for your business, the publicity isn’t worth much if it’s not going to qualified leads. If your emails aren’t getting opened by certain recipients and haven’t for some time, you are allowed to cut your losses. Past clients of yours who have already gotten married and potential customers who just aren’t responsive to your emails aren’t worth keeping around.

If you are a contact hoarder and are worried about purging your list, start slow. Maybe you have quite a few married couples that used your services but no longer react, or react less often to your messages. Perhaps send this group a quarterly email about what you’ve been working on, or if you are able to offer a service that isn’t wedding-exclusive.

Provide an option to unsubscribe

Be sure to give your clients the option to opt-out from your emails. Platforms like MailChimp will create an unsubscribe link that can be included in any email that you send. This link will allow viewers to unsubscribe from your messages and also ensure that you are complying with email laws.

If you aren’t using an email service but still have viewers opt-out from your messaging, be sure to remove those recipients manually. Ideally, you should do this ASAP, but they should definitely be removed within 7-10 days.

Send emails on weekends

Never send an automated email on a Tuesday! Nearly 18% of all business-sent marketing emails are sent on Tuesday, making it the most popular day for automated emails to fill your (and your clients’) inbox. The days with the least amount of sends? The weekend. Only 8.58% and 8.68% of all business-related marketing emails are sent on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

Still not sold? Most people have more time to check and, more importantly, respond to emails over the weekend. Saturday and Sunday are also the two days of the week when couples spend the most time planning their wedding. We understand that weekends might be the busiest two days of the week for you as wedding professionals, so plan ahead and schedule your emails several days in advance.

A good email can be the difference between a booking and the trash folder. So it’s important to take the time to consider your email strategy. We hope that you are already implementing some of these strategies, and if not, that you now have some ideas on how to start. Happy sending!

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.

» How Strong Are Your Lead Replies?


In the vastly competitive wedding industry, everyone is striving for a large volume of high quality leads – but those leads aren’t worth much unless you know how to turn them into a sale. How you reply to each lead plays a pivotal role in the success of booking the client. These quick tips will help you optimize your lead replies so you’re more likely to receive a positive response and ultimately win their business!

Don’t forget to be personal

Clients know you’re busy, but responding to an email inquiry with an auto response may not have the positive impact you intended. About 25% of couples don’t like generic automated responses, as they can be perceived as impersonal and often provide little added value. Take an extra minute to include some details from their message, such as wedding date, style, or venue, or add a personal comment. This small effort makes a human connection and helps you stand out in their crowded inbox.

Keep it short and simple

Many couples check emails primarily on their mobile devices, and therefore short emails are more likely to get a reply. Start with a brief subject line and get to the point quickly, since lengthy emails often go unread. Avoid long paragraphs by adding line breaks and use bullet points or numbers where possible to highlight important details. Come up with a few sample responses to keep on hand so you can quickly add in a bit of custom information based on the inquiry and hit ‘send.’

Answer any questions they asked

Many professionals make the mistake of not responding to directly asked questions, which can frustrate couples because they’re often reaching out to a number of professionals and may have specific questions or criteria they need to know to move forward. You can prepare ahead of time by coming up with a list of answers to common questions such as price ranges, packages, and availability – but be sure to address any specific questions they asked in your initial reply. These answers are important in determining if you are a good match – and will ultimately save you time!

Use their preferred contact method

Our research shows that 48% of couples express frustration when a vendor does not reciprocate their preferred communication type. With literally thousands of methods of communication available – from Messages, to Live Chat, to email and phone calls – it’s difficult to know the best way to get in touch with a couple. At the end of the day, customer convenience is the motto to live by. Follow their lead by using their preferred communication type. If you’re making contact first, email is typically your safest bet, as most couples prefer email over all other communication methods.

As leads start to hit your inbox for the upcoming wedding season, keep these simple tips in mind to promptly and properly reply to leads and create strong connections with potential clients.

» Social Media Bios That Attract Couples

social bios

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

Show personality!

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

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

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

Stop focusing on yourself…

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

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

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

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

» Millennials: They’re Not All the Same

millennials

 

 

 

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

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

Digital Immigrants vs. Digital Natives

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

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

Continue reading

» The 6 “T’s” of Client Communication

Client communication in the modern market can be very confusing. Technology has transformed everything about the way we communicate, so it’s important to be familiar with the best communication practices. Check out this infographic featuring 6 simple tips to connect more effectively and get more replies from engaged couples from WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg.

For more tips on client communication, check out this webinar for Premium members with WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg.

Client communication tips infographic