» Surprise and Delight Ideas for the Off Season

The off season is fast approaching and, as you find more time in your schedule, consider it an opportunity to increase productivity and map out PR and marketing strategies for the year ahead. No solid marketing plan is complete without a focus on positive experiences for customers and creative partners, as they’re in an ideal position to refer business.

Surprise and delight creates opportunities to really ‘wow’ someone unexpectedly. It’s a proven strategy among Fortune 500 companies and, as wedding professionals, this is our place to shine. We specialize in hospitality and our business is designed around pleasing people — surprise and delight is simply a way to take it to the next level.

Always prepare first

Implementing surprise and delight touchpoints should be a strategic move, so don’t just dive in and start handing free things out to every client that walks in the door. Start by asking yourself the real questions: What are you hoping to accomplish? Who are you trying to reach? What are your strengths? Do you have the resources required to make it happen? The answers to these questions will guide your approach to client and partner outreach.

Start small

Don’t overwhelm yourself upfront with complicated tactics. Start out with a test group as a trial to get your feet wet. This allows you the time to work out the kinks and evaluate feedback. Focus on what will bring you the most relationships, as well as maintain the valuable ones that you already have.

Get to planning

Once your strategy is ironed out, have a brainstorming session with your team or yourself. The sky is the limit, so don’t be afraid to get creative. However, be mindful that some of the best things can be small as long as they’re thoughtful. Keep in mind that it may not be everyone’s off season — hotels, for example, are busy all year round especially during the holiday season. Consider how you can surprise and delight without causing inconvenience.

Build it into your workflow

Surprise and delight strategies should come naturally; if forced, they can lose their genuineness. Think about how to incorporate small tactics throughout your existing workflow. What is one thing that you can do for newly booked clients during the off season? If you use a project management software like Basecamp or Asana, schedule tasks to keep your plan moving. Don’t forget to track retention and referrals, as it helps determine ROI and identify what’s working and what needs tweaking.

There you have it — a starter’s guide to surprise and delight that is sure to get more business through your doors. The off season frees up some of your schedule, so it’s a great time to work on implementing ongoing strategy for client experience. Still, be sure to carve out time to rest and relax over your slow period. Marketing and PR endeavors are no good if you’re not taking care of yourself and taking the time to get re-energized.


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.

» 6 Tips for Using Hashtags

Photo by Anne-Claire Brun

Hashtags are a great tool for businesses that want to use their social media presence to grow and reach new clients. Instagram posts with at least one hashtag have 12.6% more engagement than those without. So what are some things to keep in mind when using hashtags? Read on!

A Guide to Hashtagging:

1. Stay away from generic hashtags

One of the biggest mistakes when using hashtags is sticking to popular ones. Your content can easily get lost in the sea of generic hashtags due to the number of people using it. Instead, find hashtags that are specific to your clients, your area or have industry keywords, something like #ijustsaidyes or #hejustproposed or #dcweddings as opposed to a generic #eventplanner.

2. Research your hashtags

A great way to find which hashtags work for you is by experimenting. To get started, select a variety of hashtags that are relevant to your work, some generic with high post density, and some niche with fewer posts and use them when publishing new photos. If after a few hours your photo shows up as one of the top or recent posts under the hashtag, then you’ve found a winner and you should continue testing and using it.

3. Vary what you use

Once you find the hashtags that work for you, vary their usage according to the type of content you’re posting. You want to be relevant when categorizing your content as well as reach new audiences with a variety of hashtags.

4. Don’t overcomplicate  

If you want to expand your reach to other couples, you shouldn’t use complicated hashtags that can easily be misspelled and difficult to find. With people’s ever-shortening attention span, a simple hashtag that can quickly point them towards your services is the best thing you can do. The last thing you want is a typo coming in the way of your business!

5. Use the couple’s hashtags

When posting about a specific couple, try to use their wedding hashtag to reach their immediate family and friends. Being able to interact with the couple and their guests will increase engagement on your posts — and high engagement is typically rewarded by Instagram.

6. Start your own

We love the idea of starting your own hashtag to create a community. It’s a fun way to brand yourself and monitor what people are saying/sharing about your business. The hashtag you use for Instagram can also be used across channels to promote and create conversations around your services while functioning in a way as reviews for your prospective clients to see how past clients have reacted to your work.

Hashtags can be daunting to navigate and use, but don’t be afraid because they are allies in promoting your business and reaching a wider audience!

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Are You Instagram-ing Right? Tips for Attracting Engaged Couples” with WeddingWire Education Expert, Vanessa Joy.

» Venue Insights: How to Stand Out to Couples

Photo by Metropolist

It’s official, engagement season is here and the majority of proposals are about to happen. As reported in WeddingWire’s annual Newlywed Report, December is the top month for engagements — can you guess what big decision couples will make first? Selecting their venue, of course (80% hire one).

Earlier this year, we gathered feedback from more than 900 couples about how they find and select their venue. Based on the comprehensive findings, here are 5 tips that every venue should consider:

Make sure your site clearly communicates the ceremony space (if offered)

More than half of couples (56%) held their ceremony at the same location as the reception.  A major reason for this is convenience: 7 out of 10 choose to hold the two events back to back. If your venue offers this as a feature, it’s worthwhile to review your website, social media accounts and other marketing materials to be sure it’s immediately clear to couples. Don’t make couples scroll to the bottom of your site or read through the FAQ section to determine what options you offer for the ceremony.

Include photos that give a complete view of the venue and/or ceremony space

The picture at the top of this article is a great example of what visuals couples find valuable. Having the full view makes it easier to imagine how the space could be used. When photos only show a partial view — such as a zoomed in photo of the ceremony area — it results in uncertainty about whether the space fits their needs (What will it be like to walk down the aisle? How can the tables be arranged? and so on…)

When it comes to your Storefront, prioritize images of the ceremony and main reception area over other photo types.

Include photos that show different layouts and looks for the venue

One of the top challenges couples encounter is the uncertainty around how much a venue is willing to customize (roughly 1 in 3 say they encountered this). Couples find it valuable when they can see examples of different ways that a venue could be utilized. Showcase how a space can be arranged with different lighting, table set-ups or decor. You don’t need to capture everything, but including a few examples will make it easier for couples to imagine different possibilities for their big day.

It’s also recommended to highlight any features that are particularly special, such as an interesting bar set-up, one of a kind views or special food amenities. This provides additional ideas about how a couple can customize the space that they may not have even considered.

Minimize photos that do not give couples a feel for services the venue offers

Couples will contact an average of 4 venues, so you want to do everything possible to make a strong first impression. Our research reveals images that don’t feature the space you offer are seen as less valuable. This means close up images of the first kiss or the couple getting ready (with no view of the background setting) should be minimized. You can also skip anything with no connection to what you offer, such as images of the wedding favors or the rings.

Remember to make couples feel special

Wedding planning can be very emotional so this is an important one to remember. Couples tell us that one of the things that stood out on venue tours was when the staff went out of their way to get to know them. Whether this means remembering certain details about the couple or taking extra time on the tour to understand how you can fulfill their preferences, it will stand out to couples as they evaluate their options.

Looking for more examples on how to implement this? Check out this guide.

 

WeddingWire Director of Insights, Lauren Goodson solicits opinions from thousands of couples each month to keep a pulse on wedding planning trends and changes in the wedding landscape.

» Off-Season Tips for Solidifying Vendor Relationships

Photo by Anchor & Pine Collective

We’ll never stop saying it – your success in the events industry is grounded in the relationships you form and maintain. This is a people-centric business so developing ties to like-minded professionals is a critical pillar in the foundation of every strong event company.

During the busy season, the efforts that are necessary to finesse relationships are limited by your time and energy. However, the off-season provides not only opportunities to meet new people, but also an opportunity to circle back to those you’ve wanted to get to know better and find new ways to leverage your strongest ties; it is also the perfect time of year to put into place systems that will make it look like you’re the king or queen of networking the rest of the year!

Here are just a few ways you can solidify your vendor relationships during your off-season.

Maximize your attendance and participation in associations
It’s hard to participate and be present during peak season, because you simply can’t be in two (or three, or five) places at once. So during your next lull, double-down on your commitment to attending all available networking and educational events.

Look for opportunities to attend meetings, deliver professional development as a speaker to your peers, and contribute your time, product and services whenever the opportunity arises to the organizations you support with your membership. Make a big impression now to stay on your colleagues’ radar when you can’t actually attend.

The off-season is also a great time to vet new associations or positively respond to invitations to be a guest or guest speaker at new groups. You may or may not ultimately join, but your willingness to support other professionals will someday be returned in kind.

Be strategic
Think about the ways that you can be relevant to others when you can’t actually be face-to-face with them. Do you have a blog or active social media platforms? During the off-season, work with your colleagues to exchange content and pre-schedule posts that offer valuable information to each other’s audiences. You’ll each benefit from fresh and useful entries on your feeds, and will demonstrate to others how much faith you have in your business relationship.

I always advocate for generosity, believing that paying it forward is one of our strongest business-building policies. The off-season is a great time to look for creative ways to share referrals and help nudge the professionals you trust towards their own new successes. It’s also the right time to thank those businesses that have referred you during the year for their generosity. Send handwritten thank you notes, fun tokens of appreciation, and drop in for personal visits and expressions of gratitude.

Use technology to plan for the next busy season
There are apps for everything, and we strongly believe in using them to work smarter. A good to-do list or calendar app can help you create reminders of important dates like colleague birthdays, anniversaries or business milestones. Use a drop-ship service during the off-season to pre-schedule little tokens and gifts to arrive with personal notes of appreciation. In our fast-paced industry, thoughtfulness stands out more than any ad campaign or promotion.

Whether you’re at the top of your game, or just starting out, nothing is more integral to the success of your events business than your connections. Use the gift of the slow season to find new and innovative ways to extend your network and solidify your highly valuable vendor relationships.


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

 

» Tackling Friendors: When Couples Hire Friends Instead of Wedding Professionals

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

I’m pretty handy with a set of tools, and I’ve often helped out a friend or relative with a repair or home improvement project. In other words, I’ve been a ‘friendor’, have you? A friendor is a friend or relative who performs a service that could have otherwise been provided by paying an individual or business. It happens all the time. Have you ever benefited from the services of a friend or relative? I’ll bet you have. When it works out well, you just smile and move on. When it doesn’t, you have to decide whether to pay someone to complete or fix the job or look to another friendor to do so.

Not all friendors are created equally

While most, or all of us have either been or benefited from this arrangement, not all friendors are the same. Some, like me, aren’t currently professionals in that skill. In my case, I’m not currently a general contractor, although I did work as one earlier in my life. I have the skills to do many of the jobs that a practicing professional would do. So, whether I do something in my house, or for my friend, relative, neighbor or in-law, it will get done at a level on par with at least some of the practicing professionals (maybe better than some, maybe worse).

Have you ever helped a friend or relative with services for which you would normally charge? Many of the folks I’ve met in the industry started out that way. Maybe you were an art student and you took the photos for a friend’s wedding, party, family or new baby. You were skilled in the craft, you just didn’t charge. Did it work out well for both sides (they were happy with your work, and you were happy to give them that gift)?

Learning on the job

Other times, a friendor is learning that craft of skill ‘on the job’, which is to say on the wedding or event. That’s where the trouble can come in. Giving your professional services at no charge still avails the recipient with professional services. Learning how to arrange floral centerpieces, bake and decorate a wedding cake or keep the flow going with the right music should not be happening leading up to, or during a real wedding or event… at least I wouldn’t want it happening on my wedding or event, would you?

Are friendors your competition?

We, in the industry, know all too well that it’s a slippery slope using friendors for a wedding. Being a skilled photographer doesn’t mean you know where to be looking, or what’s going to happen next at a wedding. The skills that make you the envy of your friends in the kitchen at dinner parties, aren’t the same as the ones that you need to create meals for 200 guests, and get them all out quickly, hot and plated the same way. Cooking for 2, or even 12, isn’t the same as cooking for 200.

I previously wrote an article for this blog titled “CraigsList is not your competitor.” If the couple has a very low budget, then you were never a real possibility for them. There will always be lower-priced competitors. As a matter of fact, many of you reading this were the lower-priced competitor when you started. If you were a friendor before becoming a paid professional, were you taking away a possible sale from a pro at that time? Maybe yes, maybe no. I’ve also written and spoken about how we’re all hypocrites for asking about price, or for a discount when we’re the customer, and then complaining when our customers ask first about price, or ask for a discount. We can’t have it both ways. If you’ve ever been, or used a friend/relative instead of paying a professional, you shouldn’t complain when a couple chooses to use one.

And the problem is…?

The problem is not that they use friendors. The problem is when they use friendors and it doesn’t go well: The friend who misses the important photos; the cake that doesn’t look or taste the way they wanted; the friend who stops performing their service and starts acting like a guest. Those are the problems.

There are opportunities to help prevent this. Some businesses have popped up serving the DIY couple and their friendors. Whether it’s selling them the supplies they need, with instructions, teaching courses or giving them an instruction manual/guidebook, some wedding and event pros are servicing this market, helping to minimize the nightmares. Notice I said minimize, and not eliminate. People are people, and many will bite off more than they can chew, get in over their heads and fail miserably. Let’s just hope it doesn’t happen to anyone you know.

Now what?

Just as you shouldn’t waste too much energy on trying to sell your services, at your prices, to DIY couples and those who are looking to CraigsList for cheap vendors, don’t waste too much time or energy on those who are choosing friendors. Yes, you can try to educate them. Yes, collect every article, blog and posting you can find from couples who have had horrible experiences with friendors. But you can’t make them read those things and you can’t change their minds if they believe that will never happen to them. Move on and place your efforts in marketing to your real, core audience, improving your website and increasing your sales conversions. That’s a much better use of your time and effort.

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 Website-ify Your Instagram

Photo by Justin Kunimoto Photography

Instagram’s ability to engage with its audience while having well-integrated metrics and promotion options makes it a very attractive market for those looking to promote their business. Which is why it has become one of the most popular networking sites today with about a billion users.

Many consumers today have started looking at a brand’s Instagram page before interacting with their products or services. Therefore many businesses use this platform as a portfolio to showcase their brand and product offerings. According to Instagram, 60% of people say that they discover new products on the platform and 75% of Instagrammers take action after being inspired by a post.

So what does this mean for you as a wedding professional? It means that to thrive in the highly competitive wedding industry, you must incorporate Instagram into your business strategy if you haven’t already. In Education Expert Vanessa Joy’s webinar, Are You Instagram-ing Right?, she discussed how heavily some couples are basing their decisions solely on a vendor’s Instagram. Thus, making it important that your Instagram showcases your services just like a website.

Here’s how to “Website-ify your Instagram:

Step 1: Analyze what your clients see

When someone comes to your Instagram profile, they’re getting a snapshot of your business and making judgments. The first things they will see include your followers, how many people you follow, your description, Instagram highlights and the last three photos you’ve uploaded. Since the description is high on that list, it should detail who you are, what you do, where you’re located and what you can do for them. It’s good to take a step back and think as a client, does your Instagram clearly convey those things?

Step 2: Include all information listed on your website

Since a lot of couples are discovering vendors through Instagram, adding information that may be important and traditionally listed on your website is a good idea. You can use the story highlight feature on Instagram to list your products and services, reviews, packages, and inspiration.

Step 3: Consistently showcase your brand

Posting consistently is vital for engagement. So, make sure you have a schedule set up to keep your Instagram updated. Tools like Planoly or Later are very helpful with scheduling posts ahead of time and they let you see how your Instagram grid will look like before you post so you can maintain a consistent style and visually appealing portfolio to represent your services.

You should also think about your audience and post things that are interesting and relevant to them, which means going beyond the work that you do. Try inspirational posts or fun content for couples, it doesn’t always have to be about the services you offer. Creating video content is another way to showcase your brand as they have shown higher engagement rates and keep your audience interacting with your posts longer. IGTV and Instagram stories are also great features to play with as you work on evolving your Instagram presence.

 

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Are You Instagram-ing Right? Tips for Attracting Engaged Couples” with WeddingWire Education Expert, Vanessa Joy.

» Are Your Salutations Inclusive?

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

The addition of a drop-down menu to a website’s sign up form or the collection of a prospective client’s title can offer a welcoming signal to the newcomer and be a help to your team, but it can also send messages of blind spots.

A recent case in point: I was booking a hotel room online with a global brand, and was delighted to stumble upon an inspired (optional) drop-down menu for my “Title.” From Senator to Princess to Pastor or Judge, Major, or Chef; it was tempting to pick something creative just for the purposes of my stay. I could imagine it! I would announce myself at the front desk thusly: “Hello! Ambassador Kathryn Hamm, at your service!” accompanied by a deep bow with a flourish. But, don’t worry… I won’t!

Naturally, the website’s drop-down menu also included the standard Mr., Mrs., Ms. and Dr.; and, if you would be traveling as a married heterosexual couple who follows traditional etiquette, you would have the option to choose Mr. & Mrs. — and would hopefully remember that Emily Post would expect you to use the man’s name in the first name, last name fields to follow.

What I appreciated about this company’s drop-down menu is that they were showing some creativity in terms of the titles that their customers might like to use and, as such, these titles might offer additional information about their needs or expectations. Especially on a global scale. One could, for example, choose Senor (stet.) or Madame, which could indicate something about the country of origin or what language the person might prefer upon check-in.

But just as one can go awry by using fiancé (rather than fiancée) to describe an engaged woman, it’s important to be familiar with the correct expression, accents, and meanings of various languages, especially those not native to you. In the example above, the drop-down menu referenced “Senor” rather than Señor; and while many of us recognize the limitations of some keyboards, it doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to predict the impression that the use of “Senor” vs “Señor” might make on the gentleman using that drop-down menu or generic form. Additionally, the inclusion of “Mr. & Mrs.” but the omission of “Ms. & Ms.” or “Mr. & Mr.” might send a cautionary, even if unintended, signal to the LGBTQ traveler.

In that spirit, I’d like to offer a salutation that may be new to you and can leave a strong, favorable impression on members of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) community who are inquiring about your services.

Increasingly, younger couples and especially those in the LGBTQ community are recognizing gender expression as more of a fluid construct. That is, they are more likely to appreciate that someone might not identify as exclusively male/masculine or female/feminine. Thus, rather than using a gendered title like “Ms.” or “Mr.,” they might use a third gender-neutral salutation, “Mx.” (pronounced ‘mix’).

What salutations do you use on your drop-down menus, contact and registration forms? Or do you use them at all?

The advantage of including a salutation that each member of the engaged couple can select — especially if you don’t have verbal or visual cues to help you to determine a person’s gender or gender identity — offers a great way to get more information about the couple. Do they identify as a same-sex or opposite-sex couple (if they select Mr. & Mr. or Ms. & Ms.) or can you learn a bit more about what the potential needs of the couple might be if at least one of them selects Mx. indicating a non-binary (or genderqueer) gender identity?

Beyond the direct advantages for a genderqueer couple, your use of Mx. will send an open, inclusive signal to other members of the LGBTQ community and their allies.

One final tip before I close: it’s easy enough to create a template of options that will exist on paper. But, if you’re unsure as to how to go about this in a personal intake interview or sales call, remember that one can avoid an incorrect assumption by asking directly, “What’s your preferred gender pronoun?” (i.e., he/him/his; she/her/hers; they/them/theirs; etc.).

Kathryn HammThis post was written by Kathryn Hamm WeddingWire Education Expert, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. Follow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.

» Streamlining for Efficiency, Sanity, & Profitability

Photo by Emily Keeney Photography

This article was written by Bethel Nathan, Owner & Business Coach/Speaker at Elevate by Bethel.

To me, there are really 3 main areas of focus for business improvement in our industry.

First, is getting business, which entails all the marketing you do and relationships you build. Second, is your end product or service, photos for a photographer, baked goods for a baker, etc. And third, is the one I spend a lot of time speaking, writing, and coaching about. It is the “in-between time”, the customer experience.

From the time a couple finds you until they either don’t hire you or you have provided the service they hired you for. During this time, the interaction between you and your couple is experienced in a way that is dictated by your processes, and those processes are supported by your systems.

So, you may be thinking to yourself, if they book me (focus 1) and I deliver them an expected product or service (focus 2), why do I have to worry too much about my systems and processes (focus 3)? Well, we are in a competitive industry, and you should want an edge. And that “edge” can be achieved through evaluating and, where necessary, streamlining your business processes.   

Now, many people hear “streamline your business processes” and automatically think, “automate everything,” but this is not always the case, and is rarely what I recommend, especially in an industry as personal as ours is. Although it can include automating certain pieces (for instance, I automate my invoice reminders).

The true goal of streamlining your processes is to figure out if new processes need to be added, current processes can be improved and if there are any current processes that can be removed.

You need to start with understanding which pieces are critical to your business success and important to your couple’s satisfaction, as automation is not usually the direction to go for those pieces. Rarely are the answers the same for all of us, even for two businesses doing the same thing within our industry. So, while talking to others in your category and comparing the pieces within your customer experience can be very helpful, you need to always be aiming for your business to have a customer experience that supports your vision and meets or exceeds the needs of your ideal couples.   

When to streamline-

  • When a new piece of software or hardware (or a change in one you already use) can get you an outcome that works for your business, with less time spent. Key: as long as this does not hurt the value of the outcome.  

  • When a current process can be combined with another process.

  • When the outcome you are getting from a process is more than you need and it provides little to no value.

When not to streamline-

  • When the outcome is important to the satisfaction of your couple or another vendor and changes would affect their perception and/or outcome.  This is where “customer satisfaction” is more important than having the most efficient process.

  • When the cost to streamline outweighs the cost savings of streamlining.  

  • And to echo Goldilocks, “when the process is just right” – when the cost of a current process is pretty much equal to the value of the process within your business.  After all, there is always a cost in time or money to make changes, so only do so when it’s worth it.

If you decide to streamline, I recommend following these steps:

  1. You need to document and have a good understanding of all the processes in your business (to read more about that, see this article on how to communicate effectively with couples and save your sanity). This includes communications with your couple and other vendors, any purchasing of materials you need to get the job done, all pre- or post-wedding work that you do, etc. Map it all out!Note that you can always start with one process, for example the booking process, and work on streamlining it. Just remember that most processes don’t happen in isolation, which is why I recommend having a good understanding of all your processes before you do any major changes
  2. Plan to streamline. Look at a single process and, based on what you know from your evaluation of that process and your vision for customer experience, brainstorm ways to streamline it. Can you combine it with another process? Can you reduce the steps within the process? Can you automate it, or part of it? But before you make a change, really think about the impact that change will have on your couple or another vendor. This is the most crucial step since there are pieces that you could streamline which would increase profitability and save sanity, yet doing so will negatively impact the customer experience enough that it is not worth the savings gained.
  3. Make it happen. Allow yourself the time to make this change, whether it means switching to a new software, creating new email templates, or creating a questionnaire. And then start to implement it when you are ready. Tweak as needed, as you start to see it in use.
  4. Rinse and Repeat! You are never done, and you want to re-evaluate your systems and processes periodically, always with your eyes on your customer experience and your ideal client.

Bethel Nathan is a San Diego based wedding officiant, business coach, and industry speaker.  Combining her years of corporate and small business experience with a love for marrying awesome couples, Bethel built Ceremonies by Bethel, a successful and award-winning Officiant business.  And although still officiating, Bethel now has another love… helping others turn their passions into successful and sustainable businesses. Learn more at www.elevatebybethel.com.

» 4 Ways To Respond To Questions About Price

Photo by Rusted Vase Floral Co.

About 88% of couples are looking for price before they even reach out to you. Which makes sense right? No one wants to get excited about a service to then find out it’s out of their budget. Which is why we recommend putting pricing on your website, marketing materials, and Storefront.

However, 44% of wedding professionals say that their prices depend on the individual needs of each customer, making it hard to directly advertise or quote prices. So what are some ways to handle pricing questions in these dependent situations?  

1. Tell them

Many couples bypass vendors who don’t show pricing information for those that do. If you have an exact understanding of what your services or products will cost, simply tell them and ask to move forward by ending with a question like: “Should we reserve that for you?” or “Would you like to schedule a time to visit our venue/see our services?” It might seem unconventional to ask for an appointment in the initial reply, however, if you relayed the details and pricing that was asked for by the couple, they may have all the information necessary to make that decision.

2. Don’t tell them

If you don’t have a singular price, don’t duck the question. Instead explain to them why you can’t give that information just yet by saying something like “I don’t want to leave out anything that’s important to you, or charge you for anything you don’t want or need. So, let me get a few details and then I’ll be able to give you a quote.” Moreover, end with a low commitment question like “Have you secured your venue/ other services yet?” or “Are you having the wedding and reception in the same place?”. This low commitment question can keep the conversation going.

3. Starting price

Giving the starting price of your service is another way to approach the price question. However, it is never recommended to sell from the bottom up, especially if your services or products have a wide range. If a product of yours starts at $800 and the range goes up to $10,000, with the average amount being between $3000 – $4000 you probably shouldn’t start at the low end. Giving the starting price at $800, in this case, is misleading the customer. In a situation like this, you can try responding to a price question with something like “I can’t give you a price until I have all of the details, but I can say that the service starts at $x” and then end with a low commitment question.

4. Price range

Giving a price range is perhaps one of the best options for services that depend on individual customizations for the couple. Following the above example of what to say when you have a starting price, simply add a range to it and try something like “I can’t give you a price until I have all of the details, but I can say that the service runs between $x – $x, will that work for your budget?” and then as always end with a low commitment question to keep the conversation rolling. If a couple comes back with your range being out of their budget, don’t burn the bridge! Try to offer a lower price if possible or end your conversation with “We would love to work with you if you don’t find someone else within your budget!”

Responding to pricing questions can be daunting sometimes, but being asked for the price is one of the biggest buying signals you can hear and it should be embraced!

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Replying to Leads, Part 2: From Conversation to Conversion” with WeddingWire Education Guru, Alan Berg.

» How to Balance Work Personalities

This article was written by Kevin Dennis, editor of WeddingIQ

Maintaining a positive workplace is a key to success. After all, a business runs best when employees are engaged and focused on work instead of office politics.

A comfortable work environment starts at the hiring process — qualifying candidates based on your company’s core values will ensure that your employees will form a solid team. I look for someone who is energetic, confident, eager to learn, and interested in our company. In our situation, experience isn’t necessary as we are happy to train on site, but a keen interest and knowledge of our company shows passion to be a part of our team. At the end of the day, that speaks more than job experience.

Cultivating a positive work culture starts at the top — it’s up to a business owner to create an environment where work gets done and employees feel comfortable communicating with one another. At Fantasy Sound, we have daily “Sound Off” meetings that allow us to discuss our service standards for the day and ensure that everyone is on the same page. Employees feel engaged and empowered when they feel that their voices are heard, so listen up. It only takes 15 minutes of the day, but it keeps morale high and sets our company up to continue providing excellent service.

We also have weekly department meetings that help to keep us operating efficiently. Not only do these meetings hold everyone accountable, but I’ve noticed a rise in our team productivity as well since hot issues can be addressed all at once.

In addition to open communication, every business owner wants to instill a culture where employees look forward to going to work. How do you do that, you ask? Simple: plan fun teambuilding activities to get rid of the proverbial cobwebs. For example, we host birthday lunches for every employee which is always a nice time to look forward to. We’ve also recently started an ongoing Mario Kart tournament within the office for a taste of healthy and fun competition.

Even still, internal conflict is inevitable in any office and it’s up to business owners to navigate these waters with caution. I personally try to address conflicts as they happen, as opposed to seeing if they can work out on their own. Waiting too long can cause a minor disagreement to fester into something larger, which can be detrimental to your overall work culture.

With that said, I do recommend waiting a bit if the conflict is particularly emotional. Address it once the emotions pass and everyone involved can approach it with a cool head. Letting emotions mix into the discussion can cause the problem to get even worse. Sit down with each party individually before setting a time for a group meeting. That way, you can go into the discussion with the full picture and offer ideas for solutions. When counseling employees, avoid taking sides by sticking to your company values. Appeal to their commitment to the company and work together to find a solution that keeps everyone happy. Chances are that if you hired the right people from the get-go, any internal conflicts can be overcome with open and honest communication.

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

» A 5 Step Guide To Inquiry Follow-Ups

Photo by Emily Keeney Photography

Couples often get engaged and start sending out inquiries before booking their venue or base services, which is why they may be slow, or not reply at all after sending their first inquiry. Because of this, it’s important to show sustained interest by following up. But, how many times should you follow up before you give up? Check out the 5 step follow-up method below to re-engage leads and get the responses you want.

The 5-Step Follow-Up Method:

1. Reply instantly using the same method

The first necessary step to an inquiry follow-up is a quick reply, especially when you may be on a shortlist with your competition. A fast reply establishes trust and a sense of reliability before discussing details, giving you a significant advantage over those who reply late. Apart from a quick reply, it’s also important to reciprocate communication on the same channel from which you were contacted.

2. The next day: Did you get my reply?

If your couple has yet to respond the day after your quick reply, fret not, and understand that work schedules and other priorities often get in the way. Give them a day and then follow up at the same time as your last reply with a little nudge. Try something like: “Hi, I wanted to make sure you saw my reply from yesterday, I’m very excited to help with your beautiful wedding.” and then finish with a low commitment question like “Have you already reserved a venue, and if so which one?” to keep the conversation going.

3. A few days later: Try a different method (text/phone)

So it’s been a few days and you still haven’t heard anything after your last follow up, what do you do next? Perhaps consider the fact that your message is not going through (especially if you’re communicating via email — due to spam filters). Try a different method or a new email address with a message that goes something like this: “I’m just sending this message through another channel just in case your spam filter caught the last one.”

4. A few days later: A simple message

The key to a good follow up is continuing to do so in a timely manner. After your last follow-up, it’s important to send another message within the next few days and not weeks. If there is no response to your message even after choosing a different method of communication, try sending a simple message like: “Are you still looking for [service]?” to confirm if this is a lead still worth pursuing.

5. A week later: Try a little humor

As a last attempt, if there has been no response, try a little humor to get a reaction! See these examples:

Example 1

“Hi Alan,

I know you’re busy, so I’ve prepared 3 convenient calls to action for you:

  1. Ignore this email and eventually I’ll get the picture and write terrible poetry about the deal we never did. [MOST POPULAR]

  2. Hit ‘reply’ and I’ll do the same. [RECOMMENDED]

  3. WILDCARD – Call me on (phone number). Interrupt my day like I have yours. I deserve it! [LIMITED TIME OFFER]

Option 2 is my favorite!

Have a great day,

Kerrie

Chief of “creating a profitable business out of thin air”

Example 2

“Hi Andrea,

I sent you a few emails and a text and didn’t hear back from you about your (wedding service). So, I figured one of 4 things happened to you.

Please reply with the number of the correct circumstance:

  1. You found a different (service) that was just so awesome you couldn’t resist

  2. You’ve been meaning to get back to me but you’ve just been really busy

  3. You want me to stop contacting you (just ask!)

  4. You’ve been binge-watching Game of Thrones and you need me to send more popcorn

Please let me know which number and if you prefer microwave or stovetop.”

Following up in a timely manner is an important part of converting leads to bookings. Wedding professionals often wait too long before reaching out or don’t pursue leads thoroughly. Use this 5-step follow-up method to reach and convert inquiries effectively.

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Replying to Leads, Part 2: From Conversation to Conversion” with WeddingWire Education Guru, Alan Berg.

» How to Use Headshots to Redefine Your Brand

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

Headshots are a must-have for professional purposes — it gives others a look at the face behind the brand. Now more than ever, headshots are being used as a strategy that can elevate brands to the next level. In fact, I recently invested a great deal into headshots for my entire team with the confidence that it will pay back in dividends. With that said, here’s my personal guide to incredible headshots.

Timing is everything

Acquiring new headshots amidst business changes is a smart move, be it a new website, a rebrand, or a change in your team or services — it can really add a fresh feel to a company’s brand. In other cases, you may just want to update your current photo and promote a new image.

“When you look different in your headshot than you look in person, it’s time for a new headshot,” explains Shannon Tarrant of Wedding Venue Map. “The point of a headshot is to be recognizable when people see you, so current is always best.”

Regardless of why you’re considering new headshots, it’s wise to start the search for a photographer early on. This will allow you to find the very best person for your needs, while still saving a bit so it doesn’t hit your budget hard.

Consider audience and message

Take a step back and think about your general publicity strategy. Who do you market to? Who is most likely to see your headshot: engaged couples perusing your site, press contacts, or industry peers looking to refer a creative partner? The goal is to decide what style would resonate best with your target audience — for some, an approachable and friendly look is best whereas others may prefer a more refined and upscale look.

With my recent batch of headshots, I decided it was time to deviate from the usual and do something different. I wanted our confidence and experience to show through (hello, grey hair!), while still capturing the rawness of who we are as individuals.

Think about usage

Back in the day, headshots really just lived on your website to give prospects an idea of who you are. Nowadays, they are used in a variety of different manners, be it for social media posts, print materials, or for pitching to media outlets and speaking engagements.

“Be sure to have a mix of vertical and horizontal shots taken,” shares Kevin Dennis of WeddingIQ. “Your needs will vary, whether it’s for social media or a request from someone hiring you to speak. You always want to be prepared.”

Find the right photographer

Headshots are a personal business, so it’s essential to work with a photographer that truly understands you and the look that you are going for. It may go without saying, but DIY is not the answer. “After all, we can’t get frustrated with DIY couples if we choose to DIY this ourselves,” reminds Keith Phillips of Classic Wedding Photographers. “Find someone you can feel comfortable asking for guidance when it comes to location and dress.”

Make sure they have experience with headshots — it’s not the same as capturing an engagement shoot or wedding. Don’t be afraid to spend some money on the right photographer. While you may have some generous friends offering free headshots, you’ll want to be sure that the result will help you reach your goals.

Communicate openly

When you get to the shoot, don’t be afraid to get comfortable with the photographer. Ask them for their opinion on outfits, hairstyles, and colors. Look to them for advice on best poses and feel free to ask to see some of the shots on the back of the camera — tell them if you aren’t comfortable with anything and adjust accordingly. Communication is key throughout the process and will be the surest way to get photos that exude confidence and grace.

Once you’ve received your new headshots, it’s time to share them with the world! Post them to your social media channels, add them to your website, and let the compliments roll in.


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.