» How to Turn Your Customers into Brand Advocates

Pro to Pro Insights

Brian Lawrence, Sell the BrideThis post was written by Brian Lawrence, one of the industry’s foremost authorities on marketing in the wedding industry. Brian has consulted with many wedding professionals and wholesale suppliers at www.brianlawrence.com. Brian also owns Local Traffic Builder, a nationally-known web design, marketing and social media firm serving the wedding and event industry. He is the author of “The Wedding Expert’s Guide to Sales and Marketing” and “The Invitation Business Report” and has helped thousands of industry professionals with his marketing insights through personal consultation, books, seminars, blogs and articles, and speaking engagements at leading industry conferences.

Brand ambassador referring friendsHow can you leave such a powerfully positive impression on your customers that they’ll later recommend you to someone else?

If you have an answer, then you have the strongest sales force possible: the satisfied customer who wants everyone to know just how satisfied he or she is. So, how do you develop the kind of relationship that will turn your customers into brand advocates? Below I share some of the best ways to develop a stronger relationship with your clients.

Keep your customers on your radar – even when they are no longer your customers. Send them anniversary cards, holiday cards, birthday cards, and most importantly, keep in touch. Keep them on your radar and they will keep you on theirs.

Show your customers you genuinely care by getting to know them. For example, how can you send a former client a birthday card if you don’t actually know her birth date? Getting to know your clients on a personal level makes them feel like they know something about you (you’re friendly, genuine and personable), and that gives them something to share with others about you.

Go beyond the wedding and see them for other aspects of their lives. Engage with your customers about the ups and downs of life. If a customer mentioned that a family member was ill, keep in touch with them and check in. Investing into the personally-important matters of your customers connects you to them holistically, which means it feels natural for them to share your business with others.

Continue reading

» 5 Ways Wedding Professionals Lose the Inquiry

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

By the time you get an email inquiry about an upcoming wedding, there have been many buying signals on the part of the prospect. Think about the normal trajectory of a bride or groom when they begin vendor research:

Replying to an inquiry

  1. Visiting WeddingWire – They’re here because they need more wedding information
  2. Viewing your local directory – That means they’re looking for vendors in your area
  3. Choosing your service category – They’re interested in hiring someone for your service
  4. Clicking through to your Storefront – Something about your listing caught their attention
  5. Clicking through to your website – Good job! They like your reviews, photos and videos
  6. Submitting an inquiry – Fantastic, your website has gotten the conversion from prospect to inquiry

My feeling is that once you get the inquiry, it’s your sale to lose. Your prospect has already filtered a large number of possible choices down to your business (and possibly a few others). Whether they’ve also inquired about services with two, five, or ten other businesses, we can agree that there are way more who will never get that same inquiry, so they’re not in the game. In fact, they don’t even know there’s a game going on!

So I started thinking about things that wedding professionals do to derail the process and lose the inquiry. Some of these are obvious and some feel right on the surface, but they just don’t work. Here are a few of the most common ways I’ve seen Pros lose the inquiry:

1.  Trying to force a phone call right away. Like it or not, when someone emails you they are expecting an email reply. Consumers indicate their preferred communication method with the method they’ve used to contact you. If they call you, call them back. If they email you, email them back. If they text you, text them back. Unless their message says “Call me…” use the same method they’ve used.

Continue reading

» 4 Ways to Turn a Negative Review into a Positive

With our July review sweepstakes going on, your business is likely receiving a lot of reviews! While we hope most of them are about the wonderful experience the couple had with your business, we realize that not every event is a home run and some couples’ perceptions are not within your control. Negative reviews happen on occasion, and it’s imperative that your business be prepared to handle them in the best way possible.

4 Ways to Turn a Negative Review into a PositiveMany wedding and event professionals consider negative reviews to be devastating, but they don’t always have to be! There are many ways you can view a less than perfect review as a positive for your business. Take a deep breath, remember it’s not the end of the world, and read through our list below to find out why you should view a negative review as a positive for your business.

Give legitimacy to your other reviews

Everyone loves 5-star reviews – businesses love having them, and couples love seeing them. Having all perfect, 5-star reviews, however, may make your business appear to be less than honest. From a consumer’s perspective, think about how you would react if you saw only 5-star reviews on a business’ page. The simple truth is that while reviews from real customers are powerful, there’s also the tendency to distrust a business if they look too good to be true! Having one or a few reviews your business may consider “negative” makes all your fantastic reviews more legitimate, and it helps the potential customer understand both sides of the equation. The more they know what to expect from dealing with your business, the better they can make an informed decision. And remember: one review will not make or break your business!

Help identify areas of improvement

When working an event, a couple might not be comfortable sharing negative feedback with you in person out of fear of an awkward moment. The review is where you could learn things about your products or services that need improvement! Maybe your flowers started to wilt early, or one of your catering staff was a bit abrasive towards guests, and you weren’t aware! In this way, you should be thankful for negative reviews; you can’t fix something that could be costing you business unless you know about it. This sort of intel from clients helps you fix those problem areas so that the next client won’t have the same issues, and your business will be better for it and continue to flourish.

Continue reading

» How to Cultivate Repeat Customers

Many wedding professionals do more than just weddings – they’re also event professionals who may provide products or services for birthdays, baby showers, corporate events and more. While many wedding services are one-time-only, others can be applied to different types of events. In those cases, each time you book a client for a wedding or event lays the groundwork for a turning that person into a client for life.

Below are a few guidelines to follow to help you cultivate repeat customers who will come back to work with you again and again!

How to Cultivate Repeat CustomersBe Personable

It’s important to build a relationship with all your clients. Having a relationship with your clients will lead to them thinking of you first when planning their next event! To build that relationship, always respond to any communication (phone calls, emails) in a timely fashion to show that you are reliable and they can depend on you to exceed their expectations. Whenever possible, meet with your clients in person so that you can establish a stronger connection than just a voice on a phone call.

Pro Tip: If you’re juggling multiple clients and have a hard time remember who is who, you can upload an image to their booking using our tools in the Clients tab! This is a great way to make sure you remember each of your clients by name and face, and it will help you remember them longer.

Be Their Guide

Most of your clients have never been married before, so keep this in mind when you begin working with them. While they’re new to the engagement process, you’re not! You are a helpful resource for them, guiding them in the right direction to make their day perfect. Gain their trust by sharing your experiences with them and you’ll build a stronger relationship.

Continue reading

» Using Social Media for Customer Service

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: your business should be social in some way. Connecting with your potential clients has become harder than ever with the amount of marketing messaging being aimed at consumers, so you need to reach them in a more natural way. Reach them where they’re already spending time – social media!

If you haven’t already set up a social media presence for yourself, first evaluate your audience and check out resources like this infographic to decide which social channels to target based on your audience’s needs. You don’t have to have a presence on them all (especially if you have limited time and resources), but a little effort can go a long way.

Using Social Media for Customer ServiceMost businesses are aware that social media can help your business grow through brand awareness and brand recognition, but did you also know that social media has quickly become an important and effective customer service tool?

Find out how your business can leverage Facebook and Twitter for customer service with our tips below!

Managing Customer Care on Facebook

One of the biggest trends businesses should be aware of is the tendency of unsatisfied customers reaching out publicly through Facebook. For wedding and event professionals, many of your current and past clients will leave a review rather than reach out on Facebook, but Facebook is very easy to access, especially on the go. If you do receive a negative post or comment on your business’ Facebook page, respond quickly and try to take the issue off of the public domain by working it out through private message, email or a phone call.

Pro Tips

  • Apologize for anything you may have done to make them feel that way, or for any inconvenience they may have experienced
  • Respond quickly so that the situation does not get worse with time

Responding to Customer Issues on Twitter

Continue reading

» Choosing the Right Small Business Tech Solutions

man and plan concept on wallAs engagement season continues in full swing, many Wedding Pros are receiving an influx of inquiries and an increase in bookings! If you’re feeling inefficient and overwhelmed, it may be time to look at the technology your business is using to manage these clients.

Premium WeddingWire Pros have access to all the tools necessary to run their businesses, from client management tools to secure client websites to marketing solutions. If you’re considering upgrading your membership with WeddingWire or even looking for other small business tech solutions, consider these four factors!

Accessibility

The tool or solution you choose should be accessible by multiple people from a variety of places. Gone are the days where software had to be installed on one computer, for one person. Your technology should allow you to do what you need to do, when you need to do it, or delegate to another member of your staff. You should also consider mobile capabilities when choosing a solution, as mobile devices and tablets are quickly phasing out desktops.

Security

Related to the point of accessibility, security is a very important consideration when choosing technology for your business. Any client data, financial information, or employee information should be kept safe and secure within your platform. If you choose a platform that is through a partner (like WeddingWire!), your information is often more secure than choosing a standalone software, as those systems will take extra precaution when provided a secure system.

Customer Service

Another important consideration when deciding on your small business’ tech solutions is customer service. If you should have a problem, it’s reassuring to know that someone will be available to answer your questions. The technology you choose will be a very important part of your business and will help you tremendously to improve your productivity, so you’ll want to make sure that the relationship with the provider is strong.

Continue reading

» Introducing Education Expert Jennifer Reitmeyer

This post is by Jennifer Reitmeyer. Jennifer has worked in the wedding industry since 1997. In addition to owning MyDeejay, an award-winning wedding entertainment firm serving the Washington, D.C. market, she also maintains a wedding business blog, WeddingIQ, and a blogging and social media service for wedding businesses, Firebrand Messaging. Jennifer is available for small business coaching, speaking, and writing opportunities. Read more at jenniferreitmeyer.com.

We are pleased to introduce Jennifer Reitmeyer of WeddingIQ, a new WeddingWire Education Expert!

Jennifer will be contributing guest posts and sharing her small business expertise monthly on our blog. Check out Jennifer’s first post, Tempering Expectations and Generosity, below. Welcome, Jennifer!

Jennifer has worked in the wedding industry since 1997. In addition to owning MyDeejay, Inc., an award-winning wedding entertainment firm serving the Washington, D.C. market, she also maintains a wedding business blog, WeddingIQ, and is available for small business coaching, speaking, and writing opportunities.  Read more at http://weddingiq.com.

At some point in every Wedding Pro’s career, there comes a time when a client is less than happy with the product or service that was received. Almost inevitably, that Wedding Pro is crushed – even more so if the client writes a bad review – and the Pro immediately thinks of all the ways that he/she went above and beyond for that client:

But I upgraded their package for free!
But I threw in all these extras!
But I did three more consultations than I normally do!
But I sent them such a nice free gift after the wedding!

This kind of thinking makes sense – after all, many Wedding Pros I know are incredibly generous, thoughtful, and really put their heart and soul into their work. It stings to have someone not appreciate our extra effort.

As logical as it is, however, this thinking is also flawed. The fact is: people don’t value what they receive for free. I think this is true for several reasons:

  • Throwing in “extras” left and right calls into question the true value of a company’s product or service – if you’re trying that hard, there’s probably a reason.
  • Convincing an uncertain buyer to purchase from you by piling on the freebies may get them to sign, but it also may create resentment later if the client decides they feel manipulated or that they spent more than was intended.
  • Including tons of “off-the-books” stuff only increases the client’s expectations of you. After all, if you’re willing to override your standard packages and contracts, why shouldn’t the client think you’ll be willing to do anything else they ask, too?
  • Giving away things that the client didn’t even want doesn’t absolve you from delivering on what they do want (and paid for). Consider this: if you went to a car dealership and received a free navigation system, but the car itself didn’t run well after you drove it off the lot, would you be satisfied?

Rather than throwing in more and more upgrades, you’d be better served by focusing on your product and your customer service processes to identify any possible shortcomings. This will be much better insurance against dissatisfied clients than giving away the store.

» Why the Wait? Improve Customer Satisfaction

According to a recent study done by Harvard Business School, you can improve customer relationships and sense of value of your services by being more transparent. What they’ve deemed the “labor illusion” explains that customers  who see or understand what tasks are taking place while they weight, are typically happier with services rendered. Sometimes even happier than those who didn’t have to wait at all.

You’ve seen this concept used before though you may not have realized it, Kayak for example shows search results being aggregated as you wait to find travel deals. Rather than seeing a blank screen, you see progress being made while you wait for your final results. The study showed that in simply showing what is going on behind the scenes, customers are more willing to wait and tend to hold more value in the service provided.

Other companies have incorporated this theory into their strategies interacting with customers. Apple added a prerecorded sound of typing to their automated voice response system. The US Postal Service now shows customers each step postal workers take to help them. Even Starbucks has started requiring baristas to steam milk for each drink to show customer’s what process goes into making their cappaccino or latte.

So how can you incorporate this practice into your business? Often just touching base with your clients or explaining the process upfront can help you yield more satisfied customers. Check in to tell them where you are in the process or even share what you’ve done so far.

What strategies have you used in the past to ensure transparency and happy couples?

» You Made a Mistake, Now What?

It happens. You’re human. What defines your business is how you deal with the clean up. Especially in the day of social media, you want to make sure you turn a customer’s bad experience around before they spread the word on Facebook or Twitter.

Arguably one of the most important things is reaction time. When you first hear about an issue, make sure you get on the solution immediately. Make sure you know ahead of time what your plan of action will be if (read: when) something goes wrong.

  • Show them why they should stick with your business. Use this as an opportunity to show your customers how well taken care of they are as your customers. That way they know, even if something happens in the future, they’re in good hands.
  • Give them something. Everyone likes something free, usually consumers will focus on what they got and forget about the initial problem. Have low cost freebies on hand to help ease the blow.
  • Be honest. Rather than get defensive and try to turn things around. Apologize, explain, be human. Again, everyone makes mistakes and customers will understand an honest explanation. Just remember then to tell them what you are going to do about it.

For more details, check out this recent article on OPENForum.

» Get More Online Referrals

How do you generate new business? This is very good question to ask yourself.  Through surveys and discussions, we have found that a significant amount of vendors in the industry rely on referrals from their happy customers (“word of mouth”) and networking groups for business growth.  Relying solely on these two ways of generating new business can make it very challenging for vendors to sometimes predict and control business growth.  This is where the internet can play in.

I found a good post that highlights some key things to consider when looking to use the internet to get more referrals.  Here is a quick summary:

  • Great product and service = happy customer. Word spreads fast online so having happy and satisfied customers will help your business (subscribing to your blog, connecting with you on LinkedIn, following you on Twitter, etc.). On the other hand, unhappy customers can easily cause harm to your online reputation. So make sure to maintain a high level of your product and service!
  • Be committed! Your clients have to be willing to refer you, so you have to be committed to making sure they see success and are please with your product and service. To do this, you have to know your client and develop a level of understanding and trust. Look for ways to always maintain and improve this relationship to make sure expectations are being met.
  • Give good reason. Find ways to connect with your clients online by engaging in inbound marketing – create good, educational content on your website (that is easy to understand), blog about yourself and your business, engage in social interaction with your clients (via Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, etc.). All of these ways will help you connect with your clients and in return give them a good reason to refer you.

So I turn the question over to you, how do you generate more business?  Share in the comments section!