What is a brand? If I ask 10 wedding pros, I’ll get 10 different answers. Some people think it’s their logo, or their colors, the way their store or office looks, or the way they dress. All of those are part of your branding, but they’re not your brand. Large companies have identifiable logos and colors. One look at the Nike swoosh, the Chevrolet bow tie, the Target bullseye, or the Coca Cola symbol and we immediately know whose company it is. Small companies, like ours, don’t have the kind of marketing budgets to make our brands as ubiquitous.
I was looking around online for definitions of ‘brand’ and came across this on the Forbes.com website: “Put simply, your “brand” is what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name.” While I agree with this definition, it also makes it hard for small businesses where prospects are changing every year. Many wedding pros get repeat business, but since people don’t need your service themselves, month after month, year after year, you’re relying on someone who’s connected with a former client to know about you, when they need your services. Therefore, just hearing your name isn’t likely to get enough prospects to connect with your brand, the way they do with major, national and international brands.
Marketing expert Seth Godin said in his latest book “This is Marketing”: “A brand is a shortcut for the customer’s expectations. What promise did they think you’re making? What do they expect when they buy from you, meet with you or hire you? That promise is your brand.” That’s another great way to describe a brand, but where do they get those expectations? Where do they find out the promise you’re making? It’s in your marketing, your advertising, your website and the way you communicate with them. Of course, they learn about most of those things before you get a chance to have a conversation with them. That’s why it’s important to make sure your marketing, advertising, social media, and website do the heavy lifting.
It’s already been said
The great news is that the best place to find that promise and to raise their expectations is already available to you… right here on WeddingWire. That’s right, the reviews of your past customers is where your future customers are looking to see what you can do for them. They’re reading the reviews to see what they should expect, not only in the end product of hiring you, but also in the customer experience of doing business with you. Are you responsive to their inquiries and messages? It will be clear in your reviews. Are you a pleasure to do business with and caring to their needs? It will be clear in your reviews. Did you deliver, or over-deliver on your promised services/products? It will be clear in your reviews. And did they notice your attention to detail? It will be clear in your reviews.
Create speed bumps
I was reviewing a wedding pro’s new website the other day and I saw that she had reviews on her site, but they were too long, and too far down the page. You can’t assume that people will scroll all the way down your pages. And don’t assume that just because you put a review there, anyone will take the time to read it. The longer it is, the less likely someone will invest in reading the whole thing. You need short, sound-bites, and you need to be disruptive and put them where your site visitors and people reading your marketing materials are already looking. I told my client to think of these sound-bite reviews and testimonials as speed bumps.
We don’t stop our cars when we approach a speed bump, but we do slow down, and that’s what we want our site visitors to do. That’s what we want when they’re reading our brochures, price lists, menus, and business cards. Don’t cluster all of your reviews in one place. Spread them out on every page. Start with the pages they view the most (your analytics can show you that), and then work your way to the other pages. Your analytics will likely show you, as it does for all of my clients, that a dedicated Testimonials, Reviews or Kudos page is one of the lesser viewed pages on your site. That makes sense since your site visitors have likely read reviews before getting to your site (a likely reason they came in the first place). It also makes sense that they wouldn’t want to view a page that they know you only filled with the best of the best things that have been said about you. That’s why we need to put them on the pages that they want to see (and the ones your analytics shows you they’re already visiting). Oh, and don’t put dates on them unless you plan on changing them regularly. Do add attribution (maybe first names, their city/state or their venue name and city/state) to help incrementally with SEO.
Choose which sound-bites to put based upon what’s being said at that point, on that page. For example, if you put them on your Packages or Pricing page, choose ones that talk about what a great “value” you are, or how it was “worth more than I paid.” If it’s on a page about your food (for caterers, venues, cake bakers, etc.) then use ones that talk about how delicious the food was, or how their guests can’t stop raving about the food, or how it was the best food they’ve ever had at a wedding. If you’re a band or DJ, use ones that talk about the dancing or the fun they and their guests had. If you’re a bridal shop, use testimonials that talk about the experience of buying their dress, in addition to ones that talk about how great it fit.
Use reviews in your conversations
Another place that I use reviews, and so should you, is in the email/messaging/text conversations that we have with our customers and prospects. When someone asks if you can do a particular service, don’t just say “Yes”, punctuate that with a sound bite testimonial. For example, if you’re a wedding planner and they ask if you can help them with finding a venue, answer them: “Yes, of course, that’s one of our favorite ways to help you. We helped Jenny and Steve find their venue and they wrote (insert quote from Jenny and Steve about helping find their venue).”
The big three
I have literally hundreds of reviews of my speaking, website reviews, and sales trainings, yet I keep asking for new ones from my current clients and audiences. Why? Because, in my opinion, the three things that matter when it comes to reviews are: 1) the number of reviews 2) the average score/rating and 3) the recency – they care more about what you did last month, than how long you’ve been doing it. I’ll add that, for me, it’s also that the next thing someone says, or writes could be the best thing I’ve ever received. Just when you think you’ve gotten the best review ever, someone else writes something new or says it in a different way, that is even better than what you already have.
I recommend updating the sound-bite reviews on your website and marketing only when you get something better. And for a side-note, updating the reviews on your website is a good way to add fresh text to your site, something the search engines prefer. So, use the WeddingWire Review Collector, or ask directly, so you get the new branding messaging you need.
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.