3 Quick Thoughts on Communicating with Potential and Current Couples

3 Quick Thoughts on Communicating with Potential and Current Couples

When it comes to how, and how often, to communicate with your potential and current couples, there are no absolutes when discussing right or wrong ways.  The how, and how often, can and will differ based on many things, including: your ideal couple; the customer journey you want to guide a couple through; and even based on the answers to questions asked and feedback received during the initial meeting(s) with the couple.  However, there are some pieces of advice that I thought I could provide based on my experiences with the over 800 wedding couples I have worked with, and the many conversations I have had with other wedding professionals as part of the business coaching I do at Elevate by Bethel.

1) I am sure you have read a blog post (or two), or an article, or have even been to a presentation on working with millennials.   And I would think that one of the take-aways is that phone calls are rarely the preferred method of communication with millennial couples, or even most couples of other ages, to be honest.  My advice around this one is to only call your potential, or even your current, couples when either it is absolutely necessary, when you have scheduled a call with them in advance, or when they have specifically requested that you to call them.  Phone calls can be valuable, for sure, but they are usually not the preferred method of people today, and it can often become a back and forth of voicemails, which eats up valuable time.

2) There needs to be a balance within your e-mails of making sure that you communicate what you want to communicate, while not communicating too often and, not making the e-mails that you do send too lengthy (tough for this long email gal!).  The attention span of most people, and thus most couples getting married, is not long, let’s be real.  This can make writing template e-mails both an art and a science.  But, what I find helps is to pay attention to what couples may miss in your current communications, and therefore to think about what questions do they ask later that you knew were covered in earlier emails.  You should also have colleagues in the industry help you by reviewing your templated emails and letting you know if they make sense, and if they get the information across that you are trying to communicate, while not being too lengthy.  You can then use both your observations and the feedback from others to adjust both how much and how you communicate.

3) When a couple inquires, I recommend that you get as many contact methods for them as possible, as this gives you multiple ways to communicate with them, plus the ability to use those communication options in different ways.  For example, if you have a cell phone number and email address for a couple, maybe you mostly email them, you call or Skype with them for very important or in-depth conversations, and you text them with quick reminders or easy check-ins.

I have no doubt that communicating in a way that fits your ideal couples will help the customer journey that your couples take with your business meet or exceed their expectations, thus creating higher levels of customer satisfaction, leading to better reviews and more referrals!

Customer Service and Dealing with Stupid

Customer Service and Dealing with Stupid

I am going to say with a 100% certainty that, if you own a wedding business, you have dealt with stupid people.  Does that sound harsh?  Sorry, but it’s true, right?  It can be other vendors, it can be employees, and it definitely can be couples.  Now, obviously, this is not some revelation from on high, but what is important is to discuss is how we should deal with stupid people.  The reason I decided to write this post right now is that I just read about some business owners who are creating a fake virtual assistant and then using that fake virtual assistant to respond to stupid questions/comments so that it wasn’t “coming from them.”   The people doing this were stating that it allowed them to “distance” themselves emotionally from questions/statements and the way they needed to respond.  I found this to be funny and not something I would ever think of or recommend, to be honest.

The whole point of great customer service is having the ability to be as honest and genuine as possible without being insulting.  And since we are in the very personal and love-filled business of weddings, being able to do this as the owner builds more goodwill than it tears down.  I find a few rules help me out when responding to stupid people.

1) If at all possible, don’t just immediately respond.  Have you ever been angry about something and just shot back a response and then, within a few minutes, thought… “shoot, why did I respond that way?”  By taking some time, it may not change the way you want to respond, but it probably will change the way you do respond.

2) Talk to someone you trust, or have someone that you trust read what you find to be stupid (or insulting or infuriating) in their email or conversation.  Maybe they see it a different way and can explain to you why you might be seeing/taking it wrong… maybe it is stupid but understandable… or maybe not stupid at all.

3) Own it.  Sometimes there is stupid that is indefensible and needs a response.  Put on your customer service hat, state the facts in as detailed of a way as possible, don’t place blame or make accusations, understand the range of consequences of your response, and let it fly.  When you do this, note that the more details within the response, the less room for interpretation, because the more interpretation possible, the less you can control where on the range of consequences you will end up.

Oh, and as you probably figured, the above applies to working with angry people as well as stupid.  Great customer service means being able to respond to any variety of scenarios in a reasonably genuine way and a way that makes the scenario better, or at the least doesn’t make it any worse.

3 Networking Yes-Yes’s and 3 Oh-No’s

3 Networking Yes-Yes’s and 3 Oh-No’s

Although not a necessity, most wedding industry businesses can benefit hugely from a good relationship building plan.  One of the first steps in any relationship building plan is meeting people, and one of the best ways to do that is through networking.  Having said that, I, like many of you, don’t always love networking, and often hate the stereotypical networking!  Yet, when done right, networking can increase awareness of you and your business, establish and/or improve relationships with other wedding pros, and reaffirm your legitimacy in the industry.

Although I really don’t always love doing it, and sometimes dread it, to be honest, from the very beginning of my officiant business, networking helped, and it still continues to help, my business immensely.  And, therefore, I keep doing it and encourage others to do the same.  So, here are 6 quick tips that can help.

Yes-Yes’s when it comes to networking –

1) Go to multiple styles of networking events offered by multiple different groups.  Over time, you will likely reduce down how many and which ones you go to, but by initially checking out many different events put on by many different groups can not only legitimize you and your business, but also help you to figure out which ones are your best fit.

2) Be prepared.  Are there specific people you want to meet?  Do you have business cards on you?  Do you have an elevator pitch for your business?  While you don’t need a specific memorized pitch (and I really recommend that you don’t, as it can feel fake), be sure that you are prepared to answer questions about what you do or what your business is, as that first impression of how you answer that question can be powerful.

3) Sponsor the event, or something at the event.  This builds credibility and gets people coming to talk to you vs. you having to go talk to them.

Oh-No’s when it comes to networking –

1) Don’t just hand out business cards.  I wouldn’t think I would have to continuously repeat this one, but at every event I go to, there are at least one or two people just walking around handing out their cards to everyone.  A few short conversations are going to be much more beneficial than handing out 50 cards to random people with no connection to that card and who you were.

2) Don’t get drunk.  Yes, the alcohol might be free and, yes, you might be the life of the party that everyone is talking about.  But they are not talking about your business in a positive way if that is what comes up when someone mentions you.

3) Don’t think that once is enough.  If you go to an event and it wasn’t great (or even painful), try another one, but maybe bring a “wingman” with you next time, if you really think that that group or event is likely to still be worth your effort.  If you go to an event and it is successful and you see possibility there, go to more.   Building relationships through networking is a continuous process that usually requires multiple contacts.

I hope that these tips help!  If you would like more in-depth assistance in regards to networking and creating a great relationship plan specific to you and your business, I’m happy to help with that!  Just drop me an email at bethel@elevatebybethel.com.

Here Ye, Here Ye – The Power of Reviews

Here Ye, Here Ye – The Power of Reviews

For wedding professionals, the importance of having recent and great reviews cannot be overstated. I know some of you get it – and I know some of you say that you get it – but the real questions are: do you have a plan in place to get reviews from as many couples as possible, and do you have a plan in place to use the reviews you get to increase leads/bookings?

As service focused businesses whose main mission is to rock some part of a couple’s one and only wedding day, what previous couples have to say about us and what we did for them can make a huge difference to potential couples. Doesn’t matter whether you are a planner, officiant, photographer, DJ, florist, baker or candlestick maker – it is highly likely that your reviews, or lack thereof, will factor into a couple’s decision on whether or not to hire you. They may get a referral from a past couple or another vendor, but this generation wants to get validation from multiple sources and ones that they consider unbiased or less biased, including reviews from past couples. It’s called “social proof.”

Here are some quick tips in regards to reviews:
1) Ask in your after-service thank you e-mail (you do send one of those, right?) if they could please write you a review. Explain why you are asking and give them a link to where they can review you… make it easy.
2) If a couple inquiries through your website, make sure in your response to link them to where they can read your reviews… again, make it easy.
3) When you get a great review, share it on social media.
4) Use the good stuff – the words your couples are saying about you in their reviews – in your marketing and messaging.
5) Use the bad stuff your couples are saying about you in their reviews to improve your systems and processes. Yes, actually pay attention to the bad stuff, especially if it comes up more than once.

Think about the cost of reviews (just a bit of time) vs. their value (unbiased praise for your business and unbiased free business evaluation). And if you don’t have a reviews plan in place, create and implement one today!

Systems vs. Processes – Can’t They All Just Get Along?

Systems vs. Processes – Can’t They All Just Get Along?

When discussing the customer journey, we talk a lot about the path a customer takes and the touch points along that path where your business interacts with the customer. This path and those corresponding touch points shape the quality of the customer journey and that quality, or perceived quality, is very much influenced by your systems and processes. That is why evaluating and improving your systems and processes will lead to great things for your business, including better reviews and more referrals, and time and money savings.

In simple terms, your systems are the tools you use to help manage the customer during their journey, while your processes guide the customer along the path you want them to take. Of course, the two are very intertwined in that sometimes the system you are using will dictate the processes that interact with that system, and sometimes the process will dictate the system. The ideal situation would be where you create processes that exceed your customer’s expectations and then integrate systems that fully support those processes. Unfortunately, especially at our budget level, we usually have to use already created systems that don’t necessarily do exactly what we want.

For example, let’s say that you have a good handle on your ideal couple and know that when a couple first contacts you through your online contact form, the ideal process would be to collect 10 pieces of information, which would then allow you to properly respond to their contact request. However, your contact form on your website is only set up to collect 5 pieces of information. You could alter your process so that you collect the 5 pieces of information and then follow-up with an e-mail to collect the other 5, or you could pay someone to change your system so it collects the 10 pieces of information within the initial contact (and, P.S. risk them never even getting in touch, as asking for 10 pieces of information upfront vs 5 is overwhelming to many). Which way you go is based on figuring out the value of the additional customer happiness vs. cost of making the change. Assume changing your contact form would cost you a decent amount of money, while you could just automate a follow-up e-mail easily with no cost. Without taking customer happiness into consideration, the automated e-mail would be the obvious way to go but in our service-oriented world, the customer journey is very important, so if customer would much prefer to give the 10 pieces of information in one step or, ever more importantly, if you find a decent percentage of customers contact you and give you the first 5 pieces but never respond to the follow-up e-mail, maybe it is worth the expense to change your system.

This is why understanding your ideal client and then evaluating and changing your systems and processes to match can yield such big returns for your business over the long term.

As always, if you have any questions or need help with any of this, please feel free to contact me.

Business Decisions & Understanding Consequences

Business Decisions & Understanding Consequences

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Although there are a large number of specific business decisions we could spend days and days discussing, I wanted to use this blog post to talk about the process of making business decisions, more specifically, the part about the understanding of outcomes.  I hear way too often, “I didn’t expect that” or “why did that happen” and in most cases the outcome, although maybe not preferred, should be something that was factored into the decision-making process, and thus, not a surprise.    

A simple example – I recently had a couple cancel my services.  Per the contract, they owed me the final payment anyway, but I wasn’t sure, based on the initial cancellation e-mail, if they were going to actually pay it.  So, I began to think about what I was going to do if they didn’t.  Would I send them “pay or die” e-mails, would I take them to court, or would I just let it go?  All are viable courses of action and all have different costs and different sets of potential outcomes.  For example, if I sent them “pay or die” type e-mails, it would cost me the time of writing and sending the e-mails, with no guarantee I would get paid.  Also, it could have led to a bad review and/or them talking badly about me to others, including other wedding vendors.  All are negative potential outcomes to my business, even though technically, based on the contract they signed, it is pretty cut and dry, and they owe me the money.  However, as we know, it is not always so simple, especially when emotions around weddings are factored in.  I had to think about if I was willing to accept the negative potential outcomes or would it be better for my business to just let it go?  

Turns out that after a couple more e-mails in regards to the contract, they did pay me on the payment due date.  But it could have gone all sorts of ways, and I had to be ready for them all.  I am often reminded that even though our blood, sweat, and tears go into our businesses, we need to make decisions not on emotion alone or even what is technically right.  We need to evaluate each decision and make the choice that is right for the long-term health of our business and ourselves.

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