Q&A: Wedding Marketing Expert Alan Berg

22 hawthorn creative hospitality marketing A QA with Wedding Marketing Expert Alan Berg feature

Alan Berg has had a long, winding career in the wedding marketing industry. Since leaving his position as the VP of Sales at The Knot seven years ago, he’s become one of the world’s leading event and wedding marketing speakers and consultants. Here, he shares a veteran perspective on a variety of tactics in the wedding marketing mix from social media to reviews to your website and also drops some truths such as the underappreciated value of each inquiry and why getting your inquiring couples on the phone may be the wrong move.

How can wedding venues drive more couples at the top of the funnel and convert at the bottom?

“So there are four steps to getting more sales. Getting noticed, getting them to take an action, having a great conversation, and making the sale. By the time you get an inquiry, there have already been several steps taken. They’ve seen your wedding advertising and/or website and social media. They’ve eliminated most of your competitors from the running. So you need to take those inquiries very, very seriously.”

Do you feel like most wedding venues are not taking those inquiries seriously enough?

“We do a lot of secret shopping in our consulting, and we find that people aren’t responding personally enough. They blame it on the fact that they’re busy. But if you’re the customer, and you’ve cut your choices down to five businesses and just want a real person to respond and take an interest – not copy and paste a reply, not a 10-page PDF, no links – just reply to me like a human being. I always think, why are you dumping this content on us? We just came from your website. If the phone rang, you wouldn’t just start reading from a price list. Why is that OK in an email? It’s not.”

What about the medium that couples use to reach out? Does that matter?

“Millennials are resistant to picking up the phone. Venues always want to get them on the phone, but it’s often the wrong move. If they inquired via email, respond to them via email. 48% of brides and grooms surveyed by WeddingWire expressed frustration when you don’t reciprocate their method of communication. The more channels of communication you give them – filling out a form, texting, live chat, Facebook message, email, phone – the more easily they’ll connect with you. Some businesses like DJs and photographers don’t need to meet with you at all before booking. Others, of course – like if you’re buying a dress or booking the venue – you do. But converse with them to begin on the channel of their choice.”

Let’s switch gears. How can wedding venues market on social media?

“They need to keep their message focused. There’s so little space and such a small sliver of time in which you have their attention. What’s the one thing? Is there a certain date available, maybe Friday or Sunday weddings? A promo giveaway? Create a sense of urgency. Considering that you can target couples by their engagement status, it’s a mistake to not take advantage. You should also cast a wider net than a narrower net. I’d rather throw back some minnows than miss out on some real prospects.”

What’s the biggest mistake you see venues commonly make?

“Venues that don’t reply to inquiries at all. The one thing I thought I’d never have to track [in our audits work for venues] is ‘will they reply?’ I think part of it is that there are so many channels where inquiries can be coming from that staff may not pay attention to all of them. For one client we had recently, a business with six different venues, that we were doing some “secret shopper” testing to see how they handled our inquiries, we received two auto-replies through The Knot – and none at all from the other four. To make it easy, all inquiries should be going to the same inbox.”

Are there any specific, newer tactics you’re seeing that are working well?

“Mobile is still a big opportunity. Venues should be looking at their Google Analytics and seeing how much of their traffic is mobile. Most are at or over 50%. Some places think that they’re OK because their website is responsive, but the experience is just bad. It shouldn’t just work on mobile – it should be great on mobile.”

Any thoughts on how to close the deal?

“If you want more sales, ask for the sale. People get buying signals all the time and they won’t directly ask for the sale. Don’t sell them anything; help them buy. You’re talking because they already like something about you.”

After the event is over, how can reviews help?

“For starters, reviews should be helping you sell from the top of the funnel. Your brand is what people say about you – so reviews really do define your brand. If you’re not paying attention to what people are saying about you on different sites, you’re doing it wrong. Reviews say what you can’t say. They can be openly glowing in a way that you can’t be. According to WeddingWire, one out of every five people will post a review if you just ask once, and one out of three will post one if you ask twice. The biggest problem is that people don’t ask. Some smart venues send a personalized gift to every couple with a handwritten note asking for a review. It sort of guilts them into it. You can’t say ‘we’ll give you a gift if you post a review.’ You give them the gift regardless. You can even give them a custom URL to make it really easy. You can even ask them to post it in the same place twice.”

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