» Beyond the Stars – The Power of Using Your Reviews

Photo by Slavik Yasinsky Photography

When marketing a brick and mortar business before the internet, the three magic words were location, location, location! However, this has changed over the years — now reviews are what makes a business successful online.

As you know, having as many great – and recent – reviews as possible is very important to your business. It shows your work ethic and values, from the voices who have hired and experienced your services, a “social proof” that you will live up to the promise of your work. Reviews can set you apart when being compared to other wedding professionals in your category. I often hear from couples that they reached out because of my reviews, even when they didn’t come directly from a site with reviews. How about your couples?

Here are some ways you can use the power of reviews to increase the number of ideal couples who inquire with you – leading to more bookings, which leads to more great reviews, which leads to a fabulously repetitive cycle.

Use what is written in your reviews in places where your ideal couples are looking.

I cannot emphasize this enough! Words, phrases, and even entire reviews – that describe what you want to do more of with couples – should be integrated throughout your marketing materials, on all the pages of your website, on your social media, in your verbal messaging, and any other place where you are communicating with couples. This includes initial calls/meetings with couples or your elevator pitch at wedding shows to reinforce perceptions and expectations. For example, in so many places and in so many ways, I use some form of, “my couples are looking for a ceremony that is fun, personal, meaningful, and non-traditional” – because that is what I hear over and over from my ideal couples and continue to read in my reviews. It truly describes what I do and speaks to my ideal couples and, thus, I embrace it and use it everywhere. The idea is to let your couples say it for you, because it is more powerful coming from them – plus, let’s be honest, often some of the praise they say about you would sound a bit (or more than a bit!) weird or braggart coming from you. Let them say it all for you!

Use what is written in your reviews to improve your SEO.

This takes the above one step further, to not only use your reviews once a potential couple has found you, but also to help potential couples find you. The positive words, phrases, and sentences that get used over and over in your reviews should also be used as keywords on your website and in your blog articles.

Use what is said in your reviews to fix problem areas within your business.

For example, one coaching client of mine was getting high marks for her service on the wedding day itself, but lower marks for her responsiveness in the lead-up to the big day. This issue was written about in multiple reviews and needed to be addressed if the overall customer experience was to be improved. Remember, you may not think what is being reported is a problem, but if your couples think it is, you either need to fix that area or set proper expectations with new couples. 

Obviously, if you get one not-so-great review, it might require a personal response but it probably doesn’t require a process change. However, if you get multiple not-so-great (or quite bad) reviews, read them objectively looking for a pattern. Do they say your communication was lacking? Do they say you weren’t professional? Do they say your end product wasn’t what was promised? If there is a pattern, you should take corrective actions as soon as possible.

On the positive side of the above, use what is said in your reviews to help you streamline and improve your business processes.

Is there something within your process that couples always mention in a positive way? If there is, is there a way you can make it even better? Or, if you are looking at how to be more efficient, is there something you thought every couple would mention but don’t? Could you remove that from your process?  

For example, I send a wedding greeting card with a personal hand-written message to each couple after their wedding. The card itself is a few dollars plus postage, and the time to write it is at least a few minutes. If that never gets mentioned in reviews, is it a part of my process that I could remove without negatively impacting the customer experience? Yes, it is. Now, that doesn’t mean I have to remove it, as it might fit the customer experience I personally want to provide, but it provides valid justification if I decide to remove it.

Share your reviews on social media.

I know this sounds obvious, but I follow lots of local and national wedding professionals and yet, I only can name a few who seem to be consistently sharing their reviews. Facebook, Instagram, and even Pinterest are all places that your potential couples may be checking you out, and therefore you should let your previous couples speak positively for you on these platforms. A great way to share your reviews are to screenshot them right from the WeddingWire Business app and post it on your social platforms (rather that retyping the words, which can be faked or edited).

As you can see from the above, your reviews really do have superpowers that can be exploited for good– the good of your business. Spend the time and effort to make it happen!

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.

» How to Respond to a Negative Review

Reviews are key to your online reputation, and it can be frustrating to receive a review that you may not be satisfied with or feel you don’t deserve. Although you may disagree with the review, it’s important to be professional in your response. Here are some suggestions for responding to negative reviews you may receive on your WeddingWire account:

  • Never write a response while you’re still upset. Take a few hours or even a day before responding to a negative review. Your response is public, so you want to make sure you don’t say something that you will regret later. When you’re calm and ready to address the issue, then you can carefully write your response.
  • Check and re-check your response. Before posting the response, have someone else read it as well just to make sure it does not come off as defensive. Try reading your response from the perspective of a potential client– you want them to see that you are open to feedback and always professional in your communication.
  • Don’t play the “He Said, She Said” game. Remember, the customer is always right (even when they’re wrong!). Apologize for any mishaps you may have caused, or that even may have been outside your control, and point out your other great reviews as proof of your other satisfied customers. Always let them know you value their business and that ultimately your goal was to help create a fantastic event.
  • Keep it simple. Try not to post a long response; leaving a short 3-4 line response is best! Address the reviewer’s concerns, apologize and leave it at that.

What’s the best way to move on after a negative review? Keep collecting more reviews! The more recent reviews you receive, the lower that review gets pushed on your list. Use our Review Collector Tool to keep collecting positive reviews, and you’ll soon forget all about that negative review. Remember, a less than perfect review every so often also adds to credibility, after all, no one is perfect 100 percent of the time!

Pro tip: Don’t forget to respond to positive reviews, too! Let your reviewers know that you appreciate them taking the time to respond to them and return the compliments. Responding to both positive and negative reviews helps show potential clients that you listen to your clients and want to help them have the best experience. It also shows you value the time they took to write the review after their event.

» 5 Easy Ways to Get More Referrals

Photo by Rania Marie Photography

Throughout wedding season, you will be working with plenty of new clients and wedding professionals, many of whom will be happy to pass your name around to future engaged couples if you make a great, lasting impression.

Word of mouth recommendations and referrals, especially from other industry professionals, are great ways to gain powerful business exposure and build trust with potential clients, yet many wedding professionals are hesitant to ask for them. If you want to start seeing more referrals (and we are positive that you do!) follow some of these tips:

Set expectations early

Early in the client process, you should let your clients know that feedback, reviews and referrals are very important to you. Explain how they help you better your business and gain new clients. It also is important to indicate that you appreciate and value all feedback, and that you will be following up to ask for it after their event. Having this conversation early in the planning process and throughout will reinforce how important it is to your business. Happy couples are most likely to help you out after you make their dream day come true, so make sure that you are not only having this conversation, but doing your best work, too!

Ask for feedback

Requesting reviews as part of your standard post-event follow up routine is so important. If you are not sure you want the client to submit a review, still follow up and ask for feedback and if they would recommend you to another engaged couple. They will appreciate that you care to check in on how you did, and all feedback can be valuable as you build your business.

Consider an incentive

If you really want to encourage past clients to refer your business, consider offering an incentive. Offer a fun freebie, or a discount on a post-wedding service that you can provide (such as infant photo shoots, or a discount on a flower arrangement or cake). Offering deals on post-wedding services is a great way to keep past clients in your circle. The more contact you have with past clients, the faster you will come top of mind when a friend asks for a recommendation.

Say thank you

Always say thank you for reviews and referrals! Let the referrer know that you appreciate their feedback, and be sure to acknowledge their support of your business. They took the time to write you a recommendation or share your information with a contact, so it is important you show the same respect and address their referral to maintain the positive relationship. Consider sending a personal note or small thank you gift, it’s a small gesture that will be much appreciated and could lead to many more referrals in the future!

Network

As you know, networking in the wedding industry is crucial. Many professionals are asked by couples who they would recommend in the local area for a wide variety of service categories, making it an easy way to book more business. Join local organizations, national associations in your service category, attend local networking events and always take the time to introduce yourself to other vendors working the events you book. Creating a strong circle of fellow wedding professionals is mutually beneficial to everybody involved: you get the opportunity to recommend your top contacts and those contacts will do the same for you.  

Capturing qualified leads through referrals will boost your business and make busy season work for you all year long. Maybe your busy season will extend far beyond October! Be sure to be open with your clients about referrals and never be afraid to seek them out. Also rely on your network and always be thankful to secure referrals. Best of luck!

» 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.

» Want More Reviews? Start Doing These 5 Things.

Photo by Rhinehart Photography

Every wedding professional should be utilizing busy season as a time to collect reviews and other content, even if it’s far from your top priority. Building reviews into your process from the very beginning gives you a better chance at getting reviews after the event. Being on top of this process and collecting recent reviews will allow you to freshen up your WeddingWire Storefront, website, and social media channels before the influx of newly engaged couples start pouring in from engagement season.

Remember, 87% of couples use reviews to select their vendors and recency is the most important factor when couples are evaluating your reviews! Couples like to hear (and see!) what they should expect – not from the vendors themselves, but from past couples who’ve been in their position.

Whether you’re new to collecting reviews or an expert, here are some top tips to remember:

Build reviews into your culture. Make reviews a priority in your business so that they are top of mind for your clients from the very beginning. Our best advice? Mention reviews early and often. Start talking about them in your sales process so that clients aren’t surprised when you ask for a review later on. In addition to talking about reviews in client communications, you should also build them into your team culture by training your staff to talk about reviews frequently, and try incentivizing them to collect reviews. By making these two adjustments to your reviews process, you can make it a natural part of the process in no time.

Dedicate 10 minutes a day to reviews. During busy season, we know that time is a precious and limited resource. However, if you can, set aside just 10 minutes a day to send emails to past clients reminding them to leave you reviews, responding to new reviews, or updating the review section on your website. Taking time everyday to keep your review system organized will save you time in the long run and maximize the impact of your reviews. Instead of putting it off until the workload “grows” to the point of no return, tackle any “new news” as it comes.

Just ask! Most newlyweds are very busy, and might forget to write you a review without a reminder, so start by asking them directly. If the first ask doesn’t translate to a review, make sure to remind them! 1 in 3 clients will write a review if they are reminded at least once. You can remind the couple how important reviews are to your business and how much you and future couples appreciate them.

Give them time. Don’t ask for a review the day after a wedding— there is an ideal gratitude period that is around 2-3 weeks for most businesses. However, photographers, videographers, invitation designers, and any other service that happens before or after the big day, should send a review request after the product is delivered to the couple.

Respond to ALL reviews. Whether the review is positive or negative, responding to reviews gives you the opportunity to showcase your personality to future couples, demonstrate your responsiveness, and express how much you care about each and every client. Remember to thank all reviewers for taking the time to share their opinions and feedback. If a review is negative, make sure to respond with a future couple in mind and don’t write the response while you are upset. Keep the response simple and don’t play the “he said-she said” game.

Focusing on these great habits now will ensure that reviews are fully integrated into your process and culture during busy season. While reviews might not be the most ‘pressing’ task on your to-do list throughout this busy time of year, remember that they still play a huge role in your business and you’ll be thankful you have recent reviews when engagement season rolls around!

These tips came from our Premium webinar, The Power of Reviews. Premium members can access the webinar here.

» Announcing the 2018 WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards®

Drumroll please…We are so excited to announce the winners of the tenth annual WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards®! Honorees represent the top 5% of wedding professionals nationwide for their excellence in quality, service, responsiveness, and professionalism within the wedding industry.

We are so proud to recognize these award-winning professionals for their exemplary work and the outstanding reputation they’ve established among newlywed couples as demonstrated through their excellent reviews. Winners are selected solely based on their reviews and are determined by a combination of four factors: overall rating, total number of reviews, review performance from 2017, and consistency of reviews from year to year.

Engaged couples use the award as an indicator of legitimacy and reliability when selecting their team of wedding professionals. The badge demonstrates to couples that a wedding professional is committed to providing the highest quality service throughout the planning process and on their wedding day. According to Yan Volodarsky, Manager at Elite Entertainment , an eight-time Couples’ Choice Award winner:

“Awards like the WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Award bring a different level of expertise and professionalism to our brand.”

WeddingWire was the first wedding planning site to offer online wedding reviews and today leads the industry with more than 3 million reviews. Congratulations to all of our 2018 Couples’ Choice Award winners for their accomplishments and for their dedication to excellence within the industry.

Search for winners in your region or category.

» Get Ready for the 2018 WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards®!

The time is almost here — the WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards® winners will be announced in January! Each year we recognize the top 5% of WeddingWire professionals for their commitment to quality, service, responsiveness, and professionalism in the industry through the reviews of more than a million newlywed couples.

To qualify for the 2018 award, you must have received at least 5 new reviews in 2017. You have until December 31, 2017 to collect reviews from this year’s clients!

See these 3 easy tips for collecting more reviews:

Start with gratitude

Email or write a handwritten note to your past clients congratulating them on their nuptials and letting them know how thankful you are that they chose you to share a part of their special day. Your sincerity will be appreciated and will reinforce why they selected your business. Be sure to invite them to leave you a review on WeddingWire, and make it clear that their feedback matters to your business and future couples.

Showcase your reviews

You’ve earned great reviews, so let your past clients help sell your business for you! Add your reviews to your website, printed materials, and social media to help set you apart from the competition. By showcasing your reviews, your clients will notice how committed you are to producing excellent work — and will be encouraged to leave you a review when their wedding is complete since it clearly matters to your business.

Make it easy

After spending months planning a wedding, sometimes couples want a break from their to-do list. Luckily, WeddingWire makes leaving a review easy for both you and your clients! Simply share a direct link to your personalized review URL, or send an automated email from the Review Collector to request reviews from your clients. Providing them a quick and easy way to share a few words about their experience with you greatly increases the chance they will write a review. After all, 1 in 5 couples will write a review when asked, and that number increases to 1 in 3 if they are reminded at least once!

Request reviews from your 2017 clients and set yourself up for more business in 2018!

» How to Stand Out Using Your Reviews

Photo by: B. Jones Photography

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

I’ve seen quite a few websites that have a paragraph, or even a page, that explains why a couple should hire a professional in their field (planner, videographer, invitation designer…). But by the time someone has gotten to that website, they’re already thinking that they want, or need a professional. That’s why they’re there. People don’t accidentally get to your website. They have to go through a series of steps to get there. Instead of using that valuable real estate to sell why they need someone in your field, use that space to sell you, and only you, for their wedding or event.

Evaluate the strength of your brand

A brand is many things. It’s much more than a logo or colors. Those are just visuals, to help identify your company. Your brand goes much deeper. What does it feel like, to do business with your company? What does it mean to do business with you? When choosing between you and your company, and another in your market and category, what are the differentiating factors? It’s not your bullet point list of services. Most of your competitors have a similar list, including good reviews and being nice people. What statement does it make to their wedding or event guests, to see that you are their officiant, designer or transportation company? You can have really nice products and services, and not have a strong brand.

What are you really selling?

Unless your unique selling proposition (USP) is that you’re the cheapest price, some people are seeing a difference between what you’re offering, and other options. Can you articulate why they’re choosing you? Can you go beyond a bullet point list of what services you offer, to show them why they should choose you, and only you, for their wedding or event?

Your reviews are branding gold

Like so many seemingly difficult questions, the way to express your brand is very close at hand. By heading over to your WeddingWire account, you’re only one click away from finding your brand. Click over to the Reviews tab in your dashboard for a simple exercise. Look for phrases and sentences that come up, over and over again. The way that past customers are describing their experience with you is one of the best ways, that I know, to articulate what it means to do business with you. Your happy clients say things you can’t, or won’t. They use words and phrases that would sound funny, or strange, or egotistical, if you said them. They express emotions, that show others what it’s like to choose you, and your team, and even specific members of your team. Unless you are new, and have no reviews, you’re sitting on a gold mine. You need to find those wonderful nuggets.

Let your reviews speak for themselves

Now comes the fun part. Don’t just identify those great sentences and phrases. Sprinkle them around your website, in your marketing, in your email communications and more. Answer this question: “Why should you choose (your business) for your wedding (your service)?” and then, instead of you answering the question, say “That’s a fair question, and one you should definitely ask, before deciding. Rather than tell you about our experience and professionalism, we’d rather let our couples, people just like you, tell you their experiences having us for their weddings:” Put a few bullets with those short phrases and sentences you found above. Finish it off with a strong call to action: “If these are the kinds of results you’d like for your wedding, call, text or contact us today 747.555.1234” Always ask for the sale, or at least the next steps, when you answer a question, or objection.

I have a document where I save all of the great reviews, testimonial notes, social comments, etc. Then, when I need a quote for a web page, marketing piece, or email, they’re close at hand, and searchable. So, get out your miner’s hat, and start finding the gold in your reviews and testimonials. Then, let your happy customers express your brand, and your ‘why’ to your prospects. Many other wedding and event pros are seeing success with this, and I know you can too.

alan bergWeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.