» How to Streamline Your PR in 2018

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

During this time of the year, most wedding professionals are enjoying the beginning of a slower season when event work eases up and the business of running a business takes priority. When you are knee-deep in busy season, it’s so easy to get excited about PR and all of the exposure you know comes with it, but it can easily fall to the backburner when one of a million more pressing issues crops up.

The downtime of the slower season is a great time to streamline your PR for the coming year and make sure it becomes part of your week-to-week workflow. Don’t miss out on opportunities to promote your business through targeted pitches to prime publishers by simply putting the time in now.

The following steps are time-tested ways to streamline your PR and get ready for the coming year:

Implement block scheduling

Block scheduling is a method of time management in which you evaluate your priority tasks and pre-schedule the amount of time you are going to devote to each one and how often (i.e. on daily, weekly or monthly basis).  I recommend committing to at least one hour per week to engage in PR-related activities, whether that means assembling a media list, creating pitches or submitting proposals for speaking engagements. Set aside the time you plan to invest in PR and during that time focus exclusively on it. Don’t get distracted by social media, your phone, email, your children or even your cat. Make your PR time power time.

Use HARO

HARO (helpareporter.com) is the go-to site for matching your amazing stories and expertise with press looking for something to report about. Commit 10 minutes every business day to scanning HARO and acting on opportunities that have potential.

Preview upcoming weddings and make predictions

Look ahead at the weddings you have in the works. Which ones have publishing potential or meet editorial requests? Start gathering what you would need if you decided to submit them now. Coordinate with your photographer, get client permission, obtain and process the backstory information from your couple and their vendors. Do the tedious tasks that normally stand in the way of completing important projects while you still have the time and are focused on the benefits.

Explore ways to make your life easier

Sounds like a pretty great step, right? Think about your pain points and then ask yourself if there are any apps, programs or changes you can make that will alleviate them. Some may take a small investment, or you may need to learn to use them, but if they perform necessary tasks and save you time that you can use to address something that really needs you, they are invaluable.

The slow season is your best opportunity to put in place procedures and systems you need to make you a superhero of PR all year long. Follow these simple steps and focus on the desired outcome. Your efforts now will most certainly yield PR rock star-level results in the not-too-distant future.

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.

» 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.

» How to Prep for 2018 Wedding Submissions

Photo by Walking Eagle Photography

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

With the end of the year upon us, it’s a great time to sit down and start mapping out your public relations efforts for 2018. For event professionals, real wedding submissions should be a big part of your strategy. It’s an effective way to get your brand in front of the audiences you’re seeking, and helps to establish you as an influencer in the industry.

Don’t know where to start? Let’s take a look at some of my top tips to follow for submitting.

Get permission

Before you do anything else, you want to make sure that you have not only the photographer’s permission but the client as well. The easiest way to do this is by including it in their contract, but we also recommend talking to them about it beforehand so you know they are on board from the beginning.

Do your homework

This may come as a surprise, but not every blog is right for every wedding. When deciding where to send a submission, sit down and do some research on which blogs are going to be the

right fit. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to send a black tie luxury wedding to a blog that heavily features rustic backyard celebrations. Be sure that you can find complementary events that are recent (within the last year) so you know what the editor is looking for.

It’s all about the details

When selecting images you’re planning to include in the submission, you want to think about it with the editor’s point of view in mind. Remember that they are trying to inspire their readers with trends and fresh ideas, so they will generally give preference to those who include lots of details. You may have adored the couple and want to see their faces all over the feature, but that isn’t what’s going to catch an editor’s eye.

Follow the rules

The biggest mistake you can make when submitting is not following the guidelines for each publication. There is no exact formula to follow, each outlet is distinct and will have different requirements. From image sizing to number of photos to sharing programs, no two are exactly the same. Be sure that you are checking the directions each time you submit a wedding to ensure that you haven’t missed anything.

Develop the story

While the photos will tell part of the story, it’s the couple themselves that editor’s want to hear about. The detail photos are important, but they want to know why the couple selected them, and what personal touches they included. For us, we have a questionnaire that is sent out to couples asking them details about their wedding like inspiration, DIY projects and how they met/got engaged. The couple will love getting involved in the process, and the editor will appreciate all of the detail you have included in the submission.

Include the team

No event is made great by just one person. It takes a team of vendors to bring everything together and make it a success. It’s important that when submitting a wedding you give credit where credit is due by including everyone that was involved. If the wedding gets published, they will appreciate the recognition, and will likely promote it themselves, increasing exposure for your business in turn.

With these tips in mind, you’re sure to kick your 2018 PR plan off with a bang!

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 Leverage the Royal Engagement for Your Business

Photo by Kensington Royal via Instagram

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

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the UK’s Prince Harry is marrying American actress, Meghan Markle in May 2018. That’s right friends: it’s another royal wedding!

If you’re anything like me, your initial reaction was probably to pull out your commemorative china, don a fascinator and toast the engagement with a cup of your best Earl Grey. Or, if you are just a little bit less obsessed, you at least had a moment of recognition that the media coverage of all things bespoke is guaranteed to be constant and overwhelming through May and beyond. Either way, as a wedding professional it’s time to celebrate because this is a major opportunity to leverage your expertise in return for some valuable publicity – even if you don’t know the first thing about making a proper fruit cake.

The fact is that from now until May, media outlets will be hungry for stories, either directly related to or inspired by the engagement. Now is the time to get your name out there and take full advantage of this gift. Kate and Will married in OFD’s second year, and I was able to turn that into national TV coverage! Good Morning America actually sent a team to film my royal wedding viewing party – one of the Crown Jewels (pardon the pun) of my own early publicity. It was, and still is, all about timing, experience and enthusiasm.

So, what can you do to get your piece of the royal publicity pie?

  • Reach out to your local media
    If you’re already seeing coverage of the royal wedding locally, even if it’s just the engagement announcement, hunt down the writers on the beat and email them now. Introduce yourself and establish your wedding expertise, along with your willingness to chime in.
  • Leverage content on your own website and social media
    One of the biggest challenges people have with blogging is coming up with content, so take advantage of the global attention and create an ongoing blog theme related to it. Include your observations, predictions and commentary.
  • Sign up for HARO
    If you haven’t done so already- keep an eye out for wedding related inquiries, which are bound to increase as the fervor builds.
  • Plan an inspiration shoot
    If you don’t feel comfortable putting yourself out there as an expert, go ahead and at least consider your own fun shoot inspired by the royal wedding. Dare to be different, but make sure it complements themes and elements predicted for the upcoming nuptials (remember that editors need to be able to connect the dots). The wedding is in May, so start submitting by March, at the latest.
  • Have fun!
    Host a local viewing party and invite all of your wedding friends. It’s a great way to ramp up the wedding season and make deeper connections.

    There is no reason to fear royal wedding madness – this is a great time to be in our industry. Prepare for an adventure, because this will definitely be one of your most entertaining wedding seasons yet.

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.

» 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!

» How to Create an Online Newsroom for Your Website

Photo by Freas Photography

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Expert, Meghan Ely.

With engagement season upon us, it’s important to set the stage and make your online presence known. You can expect an influx of media outlets producing more wedding related content since it’s the prime time of year for newly engaged couples to be searching for evergreen wedding planning topics. With that being said, the media will be on the hunt for expert resources, and having an online newsroom on your website can help get you noticed quicker and by more people.

What is an online newsroom?

The concept of online newsrooms has evolved over time from the idea of a media kit, which is typically a packet of information that gets disseminated to the media. However, in recent years they have moved away from sending a hard copy to a PDF. With research being done almost exclusively online now, it makes sense that wedding pros are ditching their traditional kits and instead creating a page on their website dedicated entirely to providing their information to the media.

What does it look like?

Your online newsroom should look a lot like your media kit did, but an online version. Include things like a high-res headshot, your bio, any affiliations you have, accreditations, and all of your contact information (if you’re represented by a publicist be sure to include their contact information as well).

You’ll also want to showcase a little bit of who you are and what you’ve done. Think recent press you’ve been featured in and press releases from the last year (if you have them). Be creative with your press. Search online for examples of how other companies are highlighting where they’ve been featured (like WeddingWire’s Press Center) and apply that inspiration to your own page.

What’s the goal?

When putting together your online newsroom, the goal you should be aiming for is that when a member of the media clicks on it, they know you’re an expert in your field within a few seconds. If they have to look around for too long they may move on to other sources with more readily available material.

An online newsroom is a great way to get members of the media to love you. They will appreciate how easy you made it to get in touch, and it could lead to future press opportunities for you and your business.

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.

» 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.

» Engagement Photography for Same-Sex Couples

photography considerations

 

 

Photo by Kat Ma Photography

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

Ten years ago, few same-sex couples were considering public ceremonies, and even fewer had access to legal partnership recognition. When couples did forge ahead into uncharted territory, most of their energy was spent finding gay-friendly vendors and worrying about whether or not family would show up. Engagement photography sessions were not yet a gleam in the collective LGBTQ eye, let alone the reality that they now are in the blogosphere.

Preparation Is Key

As same-sex weddings have become more widely accepted, more couples have begun following the traditional marriage prescriptions: engagement on a bent knee (or Jumbotron), engagement parties, bachelor and bachelorette parties, wedding showers, weddings, and big receptions. You know, the works. These changes require that photographers take a deeper look at their skillsets, and the services they offer same-sex couples.

Couples, too, should become more knowledgeable about the kinds of skills, style sense, and creative talents available to them when hiring an engagement and wedding photographer.

A Dry Run

If used well, an engagement session can provide fruitful inspiration for wedding day planning. The initial meetings and conversations offer a chance to get better acquainted with the couple, establish a connection, and build rapport, so that you and your clients can become a team working toward a shared set of goals and clear expectations.

In-person meetings with both partners offer the best opportunity to get acquainted and consider any observable differences that will impact the session, such as height, body type, or other physical differences. Equally important is the chance to learn more about how each individual expresses him/herself most comfortably (especially with regard to gender expression), how each partner relates to his or her beloved, and how their “coming out” experiences have impacted them and their family relationships.

The engagement session also offers a low-risk time to take chances, unlike the wedding day, which generally has a tight time-schedule and compulsory shot list. It’s a good time to try out new concepts, poses, or lighting scenarios, and figure out what works (and what doesn’t) with your clients.

Five open-ended questions to ask LGBTQ couples as you plan their big day:

  1. Was there a proposal? If so, who proposed to whom?
  2. What are you going to wear?
  3. Will there be a wedding party? What are they going to wear? What are you calling your attendants?
  4. Will you be getting ready together or separately?
  5. Tell me about your ceremony. What are you most excited about? Is there anything that concerns you?

This post is an excerpt from The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian & Gay Wedding Photography (by Kathryn Hamm & Thea Dodds; Amphoto Books, 2014), where you can find even more photography tips and examples for those who wish to work with LGBTQ couples.

kathryn hammThis post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Kathryn Hamm, Publisher of GayWeddings.com, the leading online resource dedicated to serving same-sex couples since 1999. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding PhotographyFollow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.