» Easy Ways to Improve Your Business Website

Is your business website working hard enough for you? After all, your website is often the first impression your potential clients see for your business and plays a huge role in determining if a client is interested in working with your business or learning more about your services.

As you prepare for the new year, consider taking some time to invest in refreshing your website to stand out to newly engaged couples and book more business in 2017. These seven tips from WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg provide helpful ways that you can assess your site, maximize your marketing potential, and get more leads quickly. From contact form best practices, to adding testimonials and reviews, to copy writing tips, you will want to bookmark this infographic as you prepare for your next website refresh!

7waystoimproveyourwebsitebefore2017

» Why You Shouldn’t Offer Multiple Wedding Services

Pro to Pro Insights

Leila Lewis, photo by Valorie Darling PhotographyThis post was written by Leila Lewis of Be Inspired PR. As a business school graduate from Santa Clara University, Leila (Khalil) Lewis’ career began in publishing, where she worked in marketing and editorial roles for business and lifestyle publications. Since transitioning into the wedding business in 2004, Leila has over 10 years of wedding marketing experience under her belt, and is the industry’s go-to for wedding public relations services, brand development and business consulting.

As a business consultant that specializes in collaborating with wedding industry creatives, I am consistently working with different wedding professionals who are trying to kick-off their new business or revamp their old business. Commonly wedding pros that come to me for business help are what I like to call “slashers” — pros who offer more than one wedding service.

What is a slasher?

blog-slashers-finalA slasher is someone who offers multiple services and/or products. They may be a wedding photographer, but are also a wedding planner/stationery designer/DJ/caterer. If you’re a creative person, it’s easy to fall into the trap of being a slasher and wanting to offer up a wide variety of your skills and passions to your clients. You’re already in the wedding industry and have an eye for aesthetic, so you decide to take on different hobbies that relate to the industry: calligraphy, baking, floral design, etc. While these skills can help you for all things wedding-related, tacking it on as another tab on your website can confuse your clients and can actually distract your business instead of helping to it grow if you’re not careful.

How can being a slasher affect your business?

You might think that having more service options will increase your amount of business, but that’s not always true.  Often, it can be better to pick your area of expertise, and hone your skills and offerings in that specific area to do it very well.

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» To Discount or Not to Discount? That is the Question

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.

A very contentious topic among wedding pros is discounting. Both sides of the debate dig in, deeply, when this question is posed on social media or in forums. To completely understand this subject, the discussion needs to first start with defining discounting versus negotiating. I’ve discussed this at-length in my webinar on pricing so if you haven’t seen that one, you may want to watch that as well.

	To Discount or Not to Discount? That is the QuestionDiscounting versus negotiating

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

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

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

Which is right for you?

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

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» 5 Ways to Handle Losing a Sale

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.

In the perfect world of butterflies and rainbows, we’d close every sale at the exact price we want – but we don’t live in a perfect world. There are no trophies for second place when it comes to winning a sale. You either get the sale or you don’t, so what do you do if you don’t get the sale? I’d like to give you a little perspective from my many years working in sales management and, more importantly, from working with wedding pros like you.

5 Ways to Handle Losing a SaleHere are five ways to handle losing a sale:

  1. Rejection is in the eyes of the beholder. When you don’t get a sale you might feel like you’ve been rejected, but that’s not usually the case. They just liked / trusted / believed someone else more. Isn’t that semantics? I prefer to call it optimism. When it comes to choosing the perfect pro in your category, there can only be one winner. That doesn’t make all of the others losers; they may like a few of you enough to hire you, but ultimately they have to choose one.How many weddings do you do each year? That’s how many times they’ve chosen you and not another wedding pro. Are you the winner? Yes, but you may not have been their only choice. Had you not been available they would have chosen someone else, someone who is very capable, and nice, and likely at a similar price point. So, while this isn’t like elementary where everyone seems to get a trophy just for showing up, there’s a winner and then there’s everyone else.
  1. You often lose the sale before you even had a chance. Often you lose a sale before you even knew that they were looking for someone in your category. Some couples are looking for you in places where you don’t have a presence (a certain wedding show, Instagram, Pinterest, their wedding site of choice, etc.). To them you don’t exist, but that was your choice; you chose not to be at that wedding show, or you chose to forgo an Instagram account, or you chose to take the free listing instead of paying for the more visible listing. I’ve often said that if you want others to invest in you, you have to invest in yourself first.

Other times they make it through to your website but leave without contacting you. They’re a legitimate prospect, but you lost them, often without even knowing they had shown interest (going to your website is a very big buying signal). Keeping your website’s functionality and content up to date is critical for plugging this hole.

  1. If they wanted to talk on the phone they would have called. If you’re getting most of your inquiries through email these days (and who isn’t?), then you need to make sure you’re learning to have better email conversations. If many of your email conversations stop after the first exchange, that’s your cue to change the way you communicate. Their first email is likely to ask about price, but that makes sense because they don’t know how to shop for your product or service. You also may not have pricing on your website. According to a WeddingWire survey, 88% of couples are looking for pricing information before they reach out to you. So, if you have no pricing information on your website, you’re encouraging them to ask about price. If your first response is trying to push them to a phone call you’re going to lose many of them. Why? If they wanted to talk on the phone they would have called you.

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» What to Do When They Don’t Respond

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.

If you’ve watched the webinars, read the blogs and/or have seen me present on sales at WeddingWire World, then you should be well versed in how to reply when you get an email inquiry. When it comes to the initial outreach to vendors, approximately 80% of couples use email to inquire about their products or services. It makes sense when you think about how many are doing some or most of their planning from work, or late at night. It’s not only convenient; it’s very natural for these ‘digital natives’.

	What to Do When They Don’t RespondBeing first gives you an edge

Whether it came through your WeddingWire storefront or directly through your website, replying quickly is your first step in getting them closer to a sale. They expect a reply within 24 hours of when they send it to you. Over 70% of engaged couples find vendor responsiveness to be one of the most important characteristics to look for while researching professionals. Unfortunately, 40% of couples say that they aren’t hearing back within five days! In today’s digitally-connected world, that’s an eternity.

Now consider the fact that WeddingWire’s data shows that if you respond to a client within 5 minutes, rather than 30 minutes, you’re 100 times more likely to connect with a qualified lead. If you’re worried, thinking you’re already a slave to your email and now you need to be constantly connected, I want to give you hope. Weddings pros just like you are finding a balance or solution to this reality.

What’s a wedding pro to do?

So, let’s say you do respond quickly, certainly within the 24 hours that they expect, but they still don’t respond to you. What happened? There are a few possible explanations for when they don’t respond:

  1. Someone got back to them faster. While the first one to reply certainly has an edge, if you’re the second and reply in a way that connects with them better, you’ll still be in the running. As I’ve been saying for years, reply as quickly as you can, without ignoring your family or current customers.
  2. They never received your email. Maybe it went to their spam/junk folder. Try replying the next day if you still don’t hear back. Say something like “Hi Dale, I got your inquiry yesterday and didn’t hear back, so I wanted to make sure you received it, as I know how excited you must be as excited to find out more about having [insert your outcome-based value statement here – packed dance floor, creative floral design…], as we are to hear about your wedding vision.”
  3. They did receive your message, but they can’t reply now. We know that a huge percentage of couples are doing some of their wedding planning from work. What you may not know is that many of them get in trouble for doing so. Some could even get fired! Give them a day to get back to you, then reply as suggested above and see if they reply.
  4. They received your email but it turned them off. Yes, even if you reply quickly, it still has to be a good reply. The short answer is to make it a personal reply, keep it to fit on one screen of their phone, don’t answer questions they haven’t asked and end with one question, not a statement. Saying “Let me know if you have any questions” will not get a reply. Asking “What other questions can I answer for you?” will get a reply more often.
  5. Don’t force the phone call/appointment. If they wanted to talk to you on the phone, they would have called you. If your initial reply asks them to schedule a call, or appointment, and that’s not what they had asked, you’re likely getting more not responding than you should. Let the conversation evolve so the call or appointment is the next, natural step for them.

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» Infographic: Listen Up… and Sell Even More

The ability to listen is one of the most important sales skills a pro can learn. It sounds simple (and it is!), but listening more than you talk during appointments can help you ask better questions in order to learn more about your prospects and tailor your sale to the custom needs of each couple.

Our March educational webinar for premium members hosted by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg provided key insights on how talking less, but with thoughtful intent, can help you make more sales in less time. Get Alan’s top 4 tips in our infographic, below!

Infographic: Listen Up and Sell Even More

Don’t forget that all past webinars are available in the Education Center for Premium members to view anytime right from your WeddingWire account.

» Listen Up… and Sell Even More!

Listen Up and Sell Even MoreWebinar recap: Learn how you can benefit from listening up to sell even more!

Like it or not, sales skills are an important part of every successful wedding professional’s job! Do you ever talk yourself out of a sale? When was the last time you had a couple sell themselves?

This month’s educational webinar for premium members hosted by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg provided key insights on how talking less, but with thoughtful intent, can help you make more sales in less time. After all, we all want to do business with people we know, like and trust!

Here are a few key tips:

  • If you want more sales, ask better questions – and really listen to the answers!
  • Ditch the pitch and instead focus on what details matter to the individual client to customize your sale to connect with each couple.
  • Let the potential client the majority of the talking so you can learn more about their day, and don’t answer questions they haven’t asked.
  • Don’t try to rush the decision making process, it can be a big decision to choose their wedding team that can take time!
  • Remember that listening applies not only to appointments and calls but also emails and texts, so don’t data dump or over-share without finding more about their needs and wishes first.
  • Close the sale when you see and hear buying signals (such as asking about price, or availability for a specific date), and don’t be afraid to ask for their business!

Want to learn more about these tips? Watch the full webinar! 

All past webinars are available in the Education Center for Premium members to view anytime right from your WeddingWire account.

» Stay Productive, Purposeful and Profitable During the Off-Season

Stay Productive during the Off-SeasonWebinar recap!

Many pros use the first few months of every year, often considered as the “off-season” to regroup before the upcoming wedding season begins in the Spring. While it’s great to use this time to refresh your business, it is important to maintain a sharp focus and use this time effectively to leverage your impact during the ongoing engagement season, and to set yourself up for a profitable year ahead!

In this month’s webinar for premium members, WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon shared his perspective on how to stay productive and maximize your business impact during the off-season.

Here are a few of Andy’s tips focused on improving your profitability:

  • Grow your professional network: Join or attend a local networking group or industry event, and make new industry connections with pros you admire that you can leverage to connect with more clients in 2016, and in turn recommend their services to your clientele.
  • Calculate your gross wedding income: Make sure you take the time to find out how successful your 2015 year was for your business by determining your gross income. To find this number, determine your overall wedding revenue in 2015, and divide that by the total number of weddings you serviced. That will show your overall income per wedding. Set a goal for your gross wedding income for 2016 and evaluate how you will get there— an expanded team, more booked weddings, higher prices?
  • Compute your marketing expenses: Take the time to track your marketing expenses to determine your overall spend, and apply that to your marketing plan for 2016. Expenses include association membership, online advertising, print ads, wedding shows, continued education and more. Review your overall spend, and determine how you will use it effectively in 2016 to help reach your business goals.
  • Determine your variable cost per wedding: How much do you spend per wedding on average? This amount impacts your overall revenue, and should factor into your prices. To find your variable cost per wedding, add up the cost of good, travel and delivery expenses, payroll per event, and any additional costs you may need to consider. Then, simply divide that number by your total number of weddings last year.

For more great tips on staying productive and profitable, watch the full webinar! Plus, all past webinars are available in the Education Center for Premium members to view anytime, on topics including marketing, sales, client communication and more.

» How to Position Your Professionalism (Without a Sales Pitch)

The following post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon. Andy is the Founder of Wedding University and The Wedding Marketing Blog, and is an International Public Speaker, Writer and Consultant based in Las Vegas. Andy travels across North America and beyond, presenting to Associations, Wedding Industry Conferences, Regional Gatherings, and Local Meetings.

When communicating with potential wedding clients, it’s easy to fall into the trap of giving a “pitch” to sell your services. Applying that technique may succeed from time to time, but it can easily become a crutch that is not a highly effective method of communicating or selling. Worse yet, the words “sales pitch” bring to mind the image of an unprofessional used car salesman; someone who will say anything to make the sale, whether it’s the right decision or not.

How to Position Your Professionalism (Without a Sales Pitch)The problem with a single sales pitch is that it’s a one-way pattern of providing facts and features about your business, with little or no customer input, failing to explain specific benefits. The essence of a sales pitch can be seen in a bad print ad – you’ll see cliché phrases and hyperbole, like these examples below:

  • You dream it we’ll do it
  • Perfect – i.e. Your Perfect Day Starts Here
  • Vague terms such as: Full Service
  • A Day to Remember
  • Amazing, Fabulous, Unique
  • Simply The Best

Another way that the typical sales pitch is similar to a bad print ad is that you’ll often list a bunch of features which are often mostly unclear or not relevant to the prospect, such as:

  • Square footage of a ballroom, rather than number of seats and dance floor capacity
  • Number of songs in a music collection or repertoire, rather than process of getting client input, reading the audience, and pacing the event
  • Listing of inventory items or company services, rather than understanding their needs first and making recommendations accordingly

Translated into presentation form, we find ourselves rattling off a long list of features without truly engaging the prospect. Whether at a wedding show, on the phone, or by email, this won’t be effective.

Position Your Professionalism at the Point of Sale

Instead of crafting one sales pitch and using it for every couple, I contend that these alternative, more customer-based selling approaches have the capacity to be more successful:

  • Consultative selling: Listening first, then crafting your selling strategy to address their specific needs
  • Identifying pain points: Anticipating and solving problems, insulating the client from unneeded anxiety and stress

Price questions aside, it’s far better to engage the prospective client by asking about their wants, needs, fears, and anxieties. Sometimes a couple will ask for a specific approach, which may seem strange to you, but is likely based on previous experiences that they may not fully understand. Learn what they want to accomplish, and you will be better able to connect with and serve them.

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» Objection Overruled! 4 Ways to Handle Sales Objections

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.

One of the most misunderstood parts of the sales process is objections. Those of you who are not natural salespeople hate objections; you see them as road blocks to getting the sale. I’m here to ask you to see them differently. If they tell you what they want, you give them a price, and you make the sale without them presenting any objections… you didn’t make a sale, you took an order. There was no selling involved. This is what happens in most retail stores these days: you go and pick out what you want and pay for it at the register. There may be a bit of merchandising to get you to find the items that they want you to buy, but unless someone helped you buy something other than what you came in looking for, there was no selling involved. For reference, see my top down selling webinar for ideas on how to increase your average sale.

Tips for handling sales objections in the wedding industryObjections are buying signals and opportunities

If you go through your sales pitch and give them the price, and they ask “what if…” or “but…” – that’s when the selling starts. Sales objections are buying signals and opportunities. If they weren’t interested, they wouldn’t bother asking the question, or voice the objection. When they say “what if….” or “but…” they’re really saying, “I’ll be closer to buying if you answer this well.” It’s really just a mindset shift to see these as opportunities. If they weren’t interested, you never would have gotten the inquiry or the appointment. If they aren’t still interested they would either stop replying or leave the appointment.

Even price objections are buying signals. They’re signaling that if you can show them the value, or another option, they might buy. Again, if they weren’t interested at all, the sales process would just stop. But it isn’t stopping – they’re hanging in there with you. I’m not saying you need to lower your price to get the sale. I’ve done many webinars and live presentations about value, so please don’t lower your price without getting something of value back in return.

Agree when they disagree

One of the best ways to diffuse an objection is to agree with them. If you’ve tried to close the sale and they say, “We want to go home and think about it”, you can say, “Of course you do. I wouldn’t expect you to make such an important decision at our first meeting.” However, if you hear “You’ve given us so much to think about, we need to go home and process it”, and that’s why you don’t close many sales on the first appointment… that’s your fault, not theirs. Your job is to help them reduce the choices down to only the most appropriate, not confuse them with everything you offer. No one needs everything you offer, so listen first, then pitch them.

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» Why the Easy Road to Sales is Hard on Your Business (and the Industry)

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. Her newest venture, Authentic Boss, is an online learning resource for business owners seeking to work and live more authentically. Jennifer is available for small business coaching, speaking, and writing opportunities. Read more at jenniferreitmeyer.com.

Sales tactics to avoid in the wedding industryWe’ve all been there: brand new in our businesses, eager to book as many clients as possible, and willing to do (almost) anything to make it happen. Closing sales feels good – not only does it put money in our pocket, but it validates us and reminds us that we offer a valuable service that people want to buy.

Unfortunately, many wedding pros suck all the value out of their service by throwing professionalism to the wind when it comes to making sales. This is a common practice among new business owners who haven’t yet developed their confidence and the solid reputation to back it up. However, I’ve also seen it happen among seasoned veterans who should know better. Instead of earning clients through quality work and professional service, they’re using gimmicks and tricks.

It’s understandable why wedding pros might do this, especially when they’re new. After all, it takes guts to ask for a sale, and in many cases, getting a client to sign means having some potentially uncomfortable conversations about your pricing and your policies. It means having to prove your worth. It’s tempting to avoid this altogether by taking the easy road. This is harmful not only to their own business, but to the wedding industry as a whole.

See, client perceptions matter. Especially in today’s Internet and social media era, where people are constantly sharing their opinions about everything from pop culture to politics to, yes, wedding planning. When a wedding business – or, as the case may be, hundreds or thousands of wedding businesses around the world – foregoes legitimate business protocols in an effort to make selling easier, it drags the rest of us down. Either prospective clients view the wedding industry as shady and unprofessional, or they expect every wedding vendor to break their own boundaries and do anything to earn a sale. Both of these possibilities create a ripple effect that makes doing business harder for us all.

Here are five common “easy road” tactics to avoid, for the long-term betterment of both your own business and the wedding industry:

Not requiring a contract. Using a contract is Business 101, and yet it’s shocking how many wedding vendors are willing to skip them altogether. In some cases, it’s because they just don’t have one (perhaps they can’t afford to have one drafted by an attorney, or they just haven’t yet felt the need to solidify their bookings in this way). In others, it’s because they’ve decided that using a contract is too “sales-y” and they feel it detracts from the friendly rapport they’re building with their clients. What should be obvious, though, is that a contract protects both parties, and a client should no more be willing to do business without one than you, as, the vendor, should. And believe me, when something eventually goes wrong at an event – which it will – you’ll be glad to have had your responsibilities to your client, and vice versa, spelled out in black-and-white.

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» Pro Forum Buzz: 2015 Pet Peeves, Closing Sales Emails, and More

The WeddingWire Pro Forums are a great place to meet and connect with other Wedding Pros across the country to grow your network. Every day, wedding professionals are talking about a variety of topics, from client concerns to professional advice and best practices.

Here’s what Pros are talking about this month in the WeddingWire Pro Forums!

Biggest pet peeves for wedding professionals2015 pet peeves

Pros blow off some steam by venting about their biggest pet peeves of 2015 so far. Complaints include grammar mistakes, awkward requests, and drunken bridal party members. Share your biggest pet peeves or check out what other Pros are saying!

Join the conversation >>

Tips for closing sales emails

One of WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg’s best sales closing tips is to always end your email with a question to keep the conversation going. Do you use this tip? What questions do you use at the end of your emails? Pros offer their best practices.

Share your techniques >>

Mentoring a potential competitor

Where do you draw the line between mentoring someone and potentially giving away your hard-earned industry experience and trade secrets? A photographer shares her experiences with a colleague who is new to the industry, and seeks advice for how to handle a tricky situation.

Offer your advice >>

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