» Still Waiting to Hear From a Lead? Here’s Why.

Securing responses to your lead replies is a common pain point for wedding professionals and it’s easy to understand why. When potential couples reach out to inquire about your services and you reply only to never hear back, it’s frustrating. Maybe the person was busy or forgot, or maybe your reply accidentally landed in their spam folder. But the harsher truth may be that it was your reply that cut communication short.

WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg explains that there is always room for improvement when it comes to your lead replies. If you’re not getting the responses you desire, Alan has some explanations and tips to help you turn your response success around.

You’re taking too long to reply

7 in 10 couples say that vendor responsiveness is the most important factor they consider when looking to book their wedding team. That seems totally rational, right? Our research also shows that after submitting an online inquiry, 40% of couples note that they didn’t hear back from vendors within five days. As wedding professionals, you should stay on top of your inquiries because if you aren’t, it’s probably costing you sales. Think about it: if you inquired about a product or service that you wanted to purchase and had to wait at least five days, wouldn’t you consider finding it somewhere else?

Approximately 50% of couples choose the vendor that replies first. Because time is clearly of the essence here, do your best to reply as soon as possible. Alan recommends waiting no more than 24 hours to respond.

You’re asking for a phone call or meeting

When a couple reaches out for the first time, it’s usually in reference to something specific (“What is your price for x?”, “Are you available on x date?”). Remember that they did not ask you to have a phone call or a meeting— they asked a question. Replying back “Are you available anytime to chat or come in for a meeting?” instead of answering their question could cause a missed opportunity for a reply.

You suggest a new communication channel

Along with timeliness, nearly half of all couples express frustration when their communication channels aren’t reciprocated. To better your chances at a response, use the same communication channel to respond until your back and forth exchange gets to the point where another method might be better. If a potential customer emails you, you should email back. As a matter of fact, more and more bookings are being done entirely over email, without a single phone call. Remember: “If they wanted to call you, they would have called.”

You’re not thinking mobile

If your replies aren’t crafted for mobile, you’re severely lowering the chances of securing a reply back. Approximately 80% of couples use emails to inquire about services and 70% of WeddingWire consumer emails are opened on mobile devices. To fit mobile’s demands, keep your replies short. As we mentioned, couples are usually asking you a simple question. By keeping things short, not only are you guaranteed not to overwhelm, but you are maximizing the readability of your reply, too.

Another mobile-first tip: Alan suggests that you don’t send attachments in your first few replies. Most attachments fall into the “overkill” category and can overwhelm a couple with information they don’t yet need. But, more importantly, most attachments are designed for desktop so they can be hard to both read and display on a mobile device.

You don’t ask a single question

Not asking a question in your reply can be detrimental. While it may seem that ending with a friendly “I look forward to hearing from you!” suggests to the couple that you are expecting a reply from them, this line doesn’t demand a reply from them.

Instead, Alan suggests that you should ask a “low commitment” question in every single correspondence to guarantee a reply back. Unlike “high commitment” questions such as “When would you like to come in to meet?”, low commitment questions like “How many guests are you expecting?” or “Do you have a venue secured yet?” begins the conversational back-and-forth needed to make a sale.

You’re avoiding pricing

Price questions shouldn’t be something to fear. Be upfront about price and don’t duck the question. Put yourself in their shoes: when you ask about price and someone tap dances around it, how do you feel? If you are concerned about sharing an exact price, give a price range instead. That way you are not overwhelming a couple with every price, and can leave it open ended to ask the follow up question “what services in particular were you thinking about?”

You’re starting your reply with “Congratulations on your engagement!”

It might sound nit-picky, but we promise it’s not. Most wedding professionals start their reply with some form of congratulations to the happy couple. When couples are doing their research and are beginning to contact vendors, every preview line in their inbox starts to look exactly the same. Change things up to ensure that you get noticed!

You’re using automation or copy and paste

Sounding disingenuous is not going to result in a sale. When a couple sends you an inquiry and they receive an automatic reply saying “someone will be in contact with you shortly” it doesn’t add anything to the conversation, even if you end up sending your reply within five minutes of that message going out.

Additionally, it can be really obvious when things are copy and pasted. When a couple is under the impression that the email you sent to them is also sent to everyone else, they probably won’t believe that you can offer them the personalized services they want. If you do have copy and paste text that is generalized and you just can’t part with it, consider having someone who is completely unfamiliar with your business read it. If they believe that the segment reads like it is copy and paste text, it’s time to nix it.

It is easy to get defeated when lead replies don’t turn into sales, all the more so when conversation quickly dies out. However, if a couple is reaching out to you, it’s because they are interested in you.Know that in reaching out, a couple has eliminated a huge portion of your competition. While they might also be reaching out to a few more similar wedding professionals, you are still a part of the select group that they liked and wanted to hear from because they want to book you.

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Replying to Leads” with Alan Berg, WeddingWire Education Expert and CSP. Premium Members can view the webinar recording in their accounts.

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

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

DO’S

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

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

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

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

 

DON’TS

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

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

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

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

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

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

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Marketing to Millennials” by Sonny Ganguly, WeddingWire’s Chief Marketing Officer. Premium Members can view the webinar recording in their accounts.

» Collecting Meaningful Reviews for Same-Sex Couples

Photo by Gawne Designs Photography

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

Hopefully you’ve spent time considering the tips and tools for collecting reviews that the WeddingWire team has outlined on the ProBlog, as well as during the live sessions at WeddingWire World. In addition to strengthening your brand presence with the potential of earning the prestigious Couples’ Choice Award® by collecting testimonials, you’ll also be offering valuable information to your prospective clients. And this is especially true for the LGBTQ couples who are researching your bonafides and readiness to receive their inquiry about your services.

By means of a quick review, first please consider WeddingWire’s basic tips for collecting reviews from the brides and grooms with whom you’ve worked:

  1. Just ask!
  2. Give them time.
  3. Automate, but keep it personal.
  4. Build reviews into your culture.  [Read more]

Now, let’s take a deeper dive into thinking about how to build on these necessary steps, and how to do so in a way that will appeal to the LGBTQ couples who are in need your services.

Just ask, but be specific

When I meet wedding professionals at conferences, I often ask them if they have worked with same-sex couples, and then, if they have asked that couple for a review. Though I’ve met many pros who tell me that they have done so and submitted a gay or lesbian wedding to a blog, magazine or other planning site to showcase their work, surprisingly, I have yet to meet a wedding professional who answers affirmatively about requesting a review from a same-sex couple.

Remember that LGBTQ couples generally review your WeddingWire Storefront  with an eye to assess not only your professional competence, but also your cultural competence and experience. Perhaps you are using inclusive language. Perhaps you do have images of same-sex couples. You are sending all of the right signals, but the couple might be wondering: but how did it really go? Reviews are your opportunity to let your past LGBTQ-identified clients tell your future LGBTQ clients about your services with respect to the particular experience of planning a same-sex or queer wedding.

This means you might consider inviting your clients to share details about their experience with you that include your LGBTQ cultural competence. For example, did you anticipate their needs and understand the planning differences and/or nuances for same-sex couples or did they have to educate you along the way? Did you have a strong set of experienced and LGBTQ competent professionals on your referral list? Was the language in your contracts appropriate?

If you aren’t sure how to open this conversation, remember that LGBTQ newlyweds know what it felt like to begin searching for vendors (and perhaps even be rejected), and they’ll appreciate a nudge to write a review that gives clear and identifiable feedback for your prospective clients to consider. Most will likely be happy to take the time to write you a review in order to help future LGBTQ couples through their planning process and vendor search.

Give them time, and respect their privacy

It’s true that finding the right time to send your review request is key. Make sure that the couple isn’t so overwhelmed that they overlook the request, but don’t wait so long that the gush-factor has worn off. And, as you are considering the space they need to write their review for you, please also remain sensitive to privacy factors.

Though same-sex marriage is legal and couples are having ceremonies, there are still some LGBTQ-identified folks who keep their personal lives private. This is especially true for folks in therapeutic and school settings; and for folks who may live in communities where being LGBTQ-identified is frowned upon.

If you aren’t already sure about how “out” the couple is, approach your request with sensitivity to gauge their comfort level (eg, “Would you be comfortable writing a public review about your experience of my services with an explicit reference to my ability to address your needs as a same-sex couple?”). If the couple does prefer to remain private, consider the ways in which they can write a review with a nom de plume to register their assessment about your work while maintaining some discretion.

Automate, but keep it personal (part 2)

Any busy wedding professional can appreciate a tool that supports easy communication with couples. Especially when it’s easy to send a gentle reminder if a couple hasn’t responded immediately with a review. But please don’t sacrifice that personal touch when leaning on a communication system. Most of us are more responsive when we are being asked a question that feels specifically directed to us an individual. And, today’s millennial couples are especially receptive to prompts that reflect personal details and needs.

Additionally, in an industry that tends to be heteronormative (that is, built around a bride-groom default), personalization is especially important for LGBTQ couples. Please make sure that you are using the terminology and salutations preferred by each individual and each couple. Make sure that you’ve proof-read any generic text to ensure that it’s inclusive. Not all forms are created equal for all couples.

The culture of reviews. and feedback

The WeddingWire team recommends mentioning reviews “early and often” from the sales process through the big day. Beyond finding a routine for you and your team to regularly mention and request reviews from every client, recognize that this is also a great place to get feedback on your cultural competence from your same-sex couples.

Find a time to connect with the newlyweds you’ve served, and ask them to offer you feedback in order to help you improve your services and offerings. This post-mortem conversation is an excellent way to deepen your connection and develop a better understanding of the professional development you may need to pursue to grow your business. It also serves as a simple springboard to ask the couple to write a brief review to help other same-sex couples who may be looking for a wedding professional with experience like yours.

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.

» Is Your Communication Cutting It With Millennials?

Photo by Justin Kunimoto Photography

Even though the average age of your target audience remains generally consistent over the years (engaged couples in their 20s and 30s), it’s important to remember that shifting generations come with shifting client expectations. Millennials have different habits and needs than those of the GenX generation — especially when it comes to communication. Is your communication approach with clients up-to-date? Review these best practices from WeddingWire’s Chief Marketing Officer Sonny Ganguly and get up to speed.

Communicate on social media

If you haven’t already, start setting up the ground work to communicate with your clients through your social media pages. Every major platform has a direct messaging service that makes it easy and convenient for clients to shoot you a message while they browse your page or feed. Messaging through these platforms is only going to become more popular, and may even become the norm for bookings. If you want to be a strong communicator in the digital age, you have to be prepared to check every digital platform that you are on frequently (at least once a day!) to see if messages from potential clients are coming in.

Being aware of incoming messages is one thing, but getting them in the first place is another. Letting clients know that you are able to chat through these mediums is crucial. A good indication that you can be contacted through social media is through frequent and consistent posting. If your last Instagram post was three weeks ago, a potential client probably won’t feel confident that you will reply in a timely manner. Post regularly to show that you have eyes on your platform(s) at all times.

Another great way to encourage messaging over social media is to be active in your posts through comments. Replying to comments and engaging with your followers is a great strategy to help boost a client’s confidence in communicating with you via social media.

Reply as quickly as possible

The majority of couples expect a vendor to reply within 24 hours. It may seem like a quick turnaround, but most bookings end up going to the vendor that replies first. Only 39% of professionals respond in 24 hours, which means there is some serious opportunity to improve and make a great impression on potential clients. If you want to maximize your bookings, not only should you be regularly active on social media, *hint hint*, but you should also be replying as soon as you can. Remember that we live in a world of instant gratification and your clients will expect quick replies.

Always request reviews (and respond!)

95% of couples use and trust reviews to book their wedding professionals. Because of that, you should always be requesting reviews from past couples. Most reviews get written 2-3 weeks post-wedding, so don’t get anxious if a couple has yet to write anything. Review timing also depends on what services you offer. If you are in a pre-wedding service, such as invitations, expect your reviews much earlier. If you are in the photography or videography business, expect your reviews 5-6 weeks after the wedding. Still no reviews after this timeframe? Reach out! It doesn’t hurt to contact a couple and ask them to provide a review.

Once you receive a review, respond to it! Replying to all reviews is a great way to to show not only the reviewer, but also potential clients reading those reviews, how much you care. Instead of a generic “Thank you!”, the best thing that you can do is write a personalized response with reinforcements on the services and skills you are capable of delivering. (Ex: “It was a joy working with you, Nora. The mini hydrangea bouquets we did for your party were some of my favorites yet!”) Perspective couples are sure to take notice of your personable replies and be able to see what you are capable of delivering. But be careful — if you reply to one review, you should to reply to every review.

When it comes to replying to a negative review, don’t pour fuel on a fire. Remember to be kind, do your best not to be defensive and apologize, even if you’re not at fault. These responses should be written with potential clients in mind.

Reciprocate channels

48% of couples report being frustrated when you don’t communicate on their preferred channel. If they direct message you through Instagram, direct message them back on Instagram. Unless they tell you to contact them through a different medium, you should reply in the same way they reached out. Remember: If a customer wanted to hear your voice, they would have called you instead of writing you an email. Once your communication and relationship has been established with a potential client and you determine that a different communication channel could lead to more productive next steps, feel free to suggest a phone call, in-person meeting, or another communication method. Just be prepared to be as flexible and accommodating as possible— your clients will appreciate it!

Communication can be frustrating, all the more so now that communication norms are ever-changing. Yet, setting up good, clear paths for communication by following our steps will allow for both you and your clients to breathe a sigh of relief. When you open up the correct channels to become a good communicator,

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Marketing to Millennials” by Sonny Ganguly, WeddingWire’s Chief Marketing Officer. Premium Members can view the webinar recording in their accounts.

» How to Captivate the Fleeting Attention Span of Millennials

captivate millennials

Photo by Eileen K Photography

Did you know the average adult attention span is only eight seconds? That means you have just eight seconds to make an impression on a potential client, much like we only have eight seconds to convince you to read the rest of this post. In these eight seconds, it is crucial to make a compelling statement about your brand and show off the best of what you have to offer in order to inspire a potential client to stick around and learn more.

Millennials, or Generation X, have greatly contributed to the dwindling average of our attention spans, in large part because they are the ones who have fuelled the transition from partial screen time to constant screen time. 80% of currently engaged couples are millennials, and they are spending more money on weddings than ever before. On average, millennial couples are spending $31,000 on their weddings as opposed to Generation Y, who spent an average of $24,000. Additionally, millennials are hiring more vendors and having longer engagements, giving them more time to plan their nuptials.

In order to grab the attention of a potential client, whether it’s their first WeddingWire search or their first time coming across your business Instagram, it is imperative that things look great when they land on any one of your pages. We work in a visual industry, meaning that any content you post must [subtly] scream for attention. Here’s 6 tips from WeddingWire CMO Sonny Ganguly to help you do it:

Always be branding
Ultimately, you have to pull your audience in with your brand. Potential clients – aka millennials – won’t stick around if they aren’t compelled by something. WeddingWire’s Chief Marketing Officer, Sonny Ganguly, says that your brand is “more than a logo”. Every single aspect of your company, from your logo, to the design of your website, to a picture that you upload to Facebook, is a representation of your brand. If this content isn’t captivating, consistent, and representative of you as a brand, potential clients are going to move on. Remember: Your brand is one of the best ways to stand out from your competition, so be proud to convey your “why” at every turn.

Update, update, update!
Just like you would take your car in for an oil change or upgrade your mobile device when a new model comes out, you should constantly be working on your website to keep it running and relevant. Think about how often popular platforms and websites update their formats and interfaces, or even how frequently app icons change. If you aren’t making changes and tweaks to your website often enough, visitors are going to stop coming to your site if there is nothing new to see. Some first-timers will even leave without a chance of revisiting if they feel like your website looks outdated.

But how do you make time for this in your busy schedule? The more often you take the time to make small adjustments to your website here and there, the less time you will need to spend down the road completely bulldozing and rebuilding your website when everything becomes outdated. Your website should never be something placed on the backburner – instead, dedicate 30 minutes each week to revising your site.

Think mobile
Your website must be mobile-friendly. It should look almost exactly the same on your mobile as it does on your desktop. It should also function just like the desktop version, have the same information available, lead to the same (working) links and have everything displayed in a clean and visually appealing format. The majority of couples are wedding planning on their phones, and it would be a missed opportunity not to have your mobile site up to par.

Be upfront
Every single piece of information that you can provide about your business and services should be made easily accessible to potential clients. This is a controversial one, but millennials don’t like small talk. Thus, requiring them to reach out for general pieces of information about your services is not ideal. It’s also a drain on your time when you have to respond to questions that could be easily available on an FAQ page. Let them find the information that they need and then contact you when they are already hooked.

Speaking of being upfront, not providing pricing on your website(s) is a huge turn off for couples who are looking for vendors. Seeing “Please contact for pricing” on a website is a big frustration for couples. This is because price, followed by reviews, is the number one thing couples are looking for when searching for vendors. By not listing your pricing, you are potentially losing sales instead of gaining them.

Reduce fields
Plain and simple: the less information that potential clients are required to provide on an inquiry form, the more inquiries you will get. By reducing the fields, you can see a +47% increase in the number of inquiries received. Reducing fields also helps you keep your mobile audience engaged. If you have more than three inquiry fields, consider rethinking the essential information you need at first contact versus the information you want.

Go the extra mile
When you get a new booking and client, focus on going above and beyond from day one.  Going the extra mile for your clients is what will make them remember you, especially post-wedding. If you do something special for your clients, not only will you get glowing reviews and a confidence boost, but you can bet on a couple of referrals, too! Yes, it takes a bit of time, effort and energy, but the payoff and reward can make all the difference for your business.

Get ready for Generation Z
They are coming and they will be here sooner than you think! Millennials were slowly introduced to groundbreaking technologies and dependency on tech, but Generation Z grew up with it. While Generation X prefers this newer tech-heavy lifestyle, they are still relatively familiar with the “traditional” (read: outdated) aspects of business. Gen Z won’t be.

To be prepared for tackling Generation Z, who will be having their own weddings soon enough (the oldest GenZers are currently 18), you have to master your millennial audience first. Be aware of trends and incorporate them into your brand and platforms to help you stay connected to your “younger” audiences. If you treat the millennial audience as a very serious “practice round” as you update aspects of your business, you will have an easier time adapting to fit the demands of Gen Z. when they come along.

Since millennials are making up the bulk of the current wedding market — and time is of the essence here — make sure you keep these 6 crucial tips in mind to help you hook, line, and sink as many new millennial couples as possible before their attention goes elsewhere.

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Marketing to Millennials” by Sonny Ganguly, WeddingWire’s Chief Marketing Officer. Premium Members can view the webinar recording in their accounts.

» How Strong Are Your Lead Replies?


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

Don’t forget to be personal

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

Keep it short and simple

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

Answer any questions they asked

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

Use their preferred contact method

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

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

» Should You Rethink Your Sales Strategy in 2018?

Photo by Lacy Ferrell Photography

This article was written by Kevin Dennis, editor of WeddingIQ.

As business owners, one of the biggest parts of our job is selling to prospective clients. We know it doesn’t always come easy, but by creating and implementing an effective sales strategy you’ll see major differences in what your clients are booking, and in turn, your business.

So how do you go from selling the basics to selling the big dream? We’ve got some of our best techniques below.

Give lots of options

When first sitting down with a prospective client, the best strategy to take is giving them lots of options. It helps to open up their minds and get the creative juices flowing, allowing them to visualize the big picture and overall vision for their wedding. Chances are, they’re going to fall in love and want to spend more money. If your business has more than one service, this is also the perfect opportunity to upsell them on those as well.

Always be honest

You want to be sure that you are striking the right balance with clients, between getting the highest price point you can without going so far out of their range that they feel intimidated or turned off. The best way to do this is with honesty. You want to make sure that their expectations are at the right level from the get-go. For my business, we are always mindful of explaining the value of what they’re getting. Clients don’t always understand that at the beginning, so seeing just numbers alone can quickly turn them off. Once we’ve walked them through the process and explained our services and products more thoroughly, it helps them to see exactly what they’re getting.

Listen to the client

One of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen salespeople make, is trying to sell their own vision of what the wedding should be without hearing what the client wants. You really have to listen to them and make sure that the products and/or services you put in front of them is in line with what they’re looking for. They are much more likely to spend money if their vision is being met and they’re comfortable with the end result.

You should never walk into a sales meeting without having knowledge on what you’re selling. You need to know all about the venue you’re working at, all of the variables involved in the event, logistics, and the client’s budget. It’s easier to sell a client if you already know the ins and outs of their wedding. It gives them a feeling of comfort and gives you a great jumping off point for upselling.

So what are you waiting for? Make a new sales plan for 2018 that will have you booking more clients at a higher level than you could have imagined.

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

» 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!

» Social Media Insights: Use These 3 Platforms to Book More Couples

It’s challenging to stay on top of the latest social media sites and trends — especially while you are busy running a successful business. However, social media doesn’t need to require a ton of time to make a big impact and expand your client reach.

To start gearing up for engagement season we recommend evaluating your presence on the ‘big three’ social media sites that your clients are loving — and determining where you need to be active this engagement season.

Here are a few of our key insights:

  • Visual sharing on social is key. This is part of the reason that Instagram has risen to popularity so quickly! Billions of photos and videos are shared on social media everyday. Don’t miss an opportunity to show off your work on a regular basis!
  • Your clients love social media. The majority of today’s engaged couples are Millennials in their twenties and early thirties. 86% use social media and 56% report that they would only consider booking vendors they can find on social media.
  • How do they use social while planning their wedding? First, they turn to the virtual pinboard site Pinterest to get inspired. Next, they move to Facebook to learn more about vendors they are interested in, then they turn to Instagram to see your aesthetic and style.
  • They follow the wedding pros they’re interested in. 61% of couples ‘follow’ or ‘like’ the professionals they want to learn more about. Why? To get inspiration for their wedding, see the quality of your work and get more info about your business.
  • Where should you invest your time? The top three sites to invest your time and connect with your clients today are: Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. You can cut back time on Snapchat, Twitter, Google+ and Tumblr due to a lack of interaction with your clients or general sharing traffic on those sites this year.

For more tips on social media and how to freshen your social media sites in preparation for engagement season check out these articles:
Social Media Bios That Attract Couples
Social Media Marketing: What Not To Do

» The Value of Showcasing Inclusivity For All Couples

This post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Kathryn Hamm, Publisher of GayWeddings.

Over the course of the last 12 months, I have been surprised by the number of conversations I’ve had with wedding professionals who share stories of same-sex couples being refused service and of some who fear losing business if they openly serve the LGBTQ community. These conversations remind me a bit of those I had with pros in 2005, and I want to make sure I take the time to support every professional who has questions about serving same-sex couples, no matter where they are in their journey.

But these conversations aren’t always easy for the wedding professionals who work in areas where marriage equality came as a result of the Supreme Court decision in 2015 rather than through a majority vote on election day. It may be the case that 90% of wedding professionals we surveyed in 2015 said they plan to serve same-sex couples, but a change in law doesn’t always result in a change of heart for everyone.

At our recent WeddingWire World 2017 in Washington D.C., several wedding professionals from the Southeast explained to me that they very much want to market to same-sex couples, but they are concerned about appearing as something other than “neutral” for fear that they will lose new business from those who oppose same-sex marriage. They are seeking ways to be open but understated in their efforts. These pros understand that it’s important to let same-sex couples know that they are ready, willing and able to work with them, and they recognize that there is still work to do.

Tips for showcasing inclusivity

In the course of these conversations, we talk about the different ways wedding professionals can showcase inclusivity for all couples, such as:

  • Updating your language to be inclusive of ‘brides and grooms’
  • Adding images to your Storefront or website that offer a more diverse, multicultural representation of couples
  • Developing a local network of like-minded professionals to reduce the feeling of market isolation
  • Identifying and establishing relationships with larger corporate brands with a local presence (great examples include Marriott and Hilton) who are open advocates of the LGBTQ community

Remember: Professional allies are everywhere around you; they often just need to be identified.

» 3 Reasons Marketing in Facebook Groups Can Hurt Your Business

Have you ever joined a Facebook Group for local wedding vendors and couples, excited to find a place to connect with potential clients – only to find that every group is flooded with vendor after vendor pitching themselves, each one offering a lower price than the last?

This is a common scene in local Facebook communities, often titled “Wedding Buy/Sell/Trade” or “Yard Sale” groups. Couples will post in these groups looking for vendors, but because it is so easy for anyone to join and market in these groups, it becomes oversaturated with local vendors who fall into the trap of competing to offer the lowest price.

The tricky part is that with so many posts popping up from couples planning their weddings in Facebook groups every day, it is easy to fall into the trap yourself and start commenting on posts that ask for vendors with rates way under your standard pricing.

Here are three reasons this is hurting your business:

  1. Since there are so many vendors trying to quote their lowest rates in an effort to compete for business in these groups, the couples who join and post in local Facebook wedding groups tend to be deal seekers. Of course, this is not always the case, but if you have higher end pricing or simply do not want to discount your rates, it can become difficult to find prospects willing to pay full price. 
  2. If you spend a lot of time in these groups marketing to couples that aren’t your ideal clients, you are losing time that could be spent building your business elsewhere – like updating your WeddingWire Storefront, preparing for bridal shows, or working on a referral program. If you feel like you post and comment often in Facebook groups, but it’s getting you nowhere, try focusing your energy on other avenues that you know work for you. 
  3. Participating in lowest-bidder comment threads in these groups can devalue your work. If you find yourself commenting on every post and handing out discounts to all of the couples who contact you in these groups, it makes your discounted rates the norm – meaning it will become more and more difficult to find couples and get referrals from people who are willing to pay for your full priced packages.

So what should you do instead? Focus on your ideal client. These couples are the ones who are most likely to love the work you do and write reviews that will attract more ideal clients in the future. Think about how your ideal client researches wedding vendors and the unique qualities they are looking for in their search. Then use those things to determine how to market to them and how to convey your brand on WeddingWire, from your photos to your profile description.

Make sure to highlight the characteristics they are looking for in a wedding vendor throughout your profile so that your ideal clients will be even more interested in what you have to offer. Then when you do get inquiries, you won’t feel as pressured to give discounts or “beat” other vendors in the market – all while saving time after leaving those Facebook groups!

» WeddingWire Rewards – Bookings for You, Rewards for Your Clients

We recently rolled out a new program that rewards couples for contacting and booking you on WeddingWire! Couples can now earn $25 for every vendor they contact and hire through the WeddingWire website – up to $300.

WeddingWire Rewards is designed to give couples even more of a reason to contact your business, bringing you more leads and bookings. Here’s how it works:

  • A couple submits a lead to your business through WeddingWire Messages and lets us know they’ve hired you.
  • If the couple is not already booked in Messages or within the Clients tab of your WeddingWire account, you’ll receive an email asking you to confirm if you’ve booked them as a client.
  • If you confirm the booking, we’ll reward the couple by sending them $25.

A couple’s receipt of their reward is dependent on your participation in the program, so please try your best to keep your clients’ booking status up to date within your WeddingWire account. WeddingWire Rewards is a great way to build and strengthen relationships with your clients.

Want to let prospective clients know about WeddingWire Rewards? Share on your social channels! You can use one of the pre-drafted posts below.

Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram: Earn up to $300 with WeddingWire Rewards.

Facebook or Instagram: WeddingWire’s new rewards program makes your wedding planning even more rewarding. Earn $25 for each vendor you contact and hire through WeddingWire.