Okay. WARNING: This pun is cheap.
But the wedding industry is definitely married to the internet.
From brides finding all their inspiration on Pinterest to grooms planning-on-the-go via mobile phone (or the other way around), it's probably safe to say the entire industry relies, 100%, on screen time.
That means consumer reviews are the key to success. No reviews? Bad reviews? Your customers will be seeing other people.
If you're working in this industry you can't afford to leave reviews up to chance. You need a strategy. A way to make sure you get the great reviews you need on a regular basis.
Fortunately, it is possible to control the review process and to make it work in your favor, no matter how much it may seem like you're at the mercy of the bridezillas and groom-o-sauruses out there.
Wedding Industry Review Management: Challenges and Opportunities
Sure, the "wedding industry" isn't just one type of company, so at first it may seem silly to start talking about the challenges of the industry as a whole. After all, we're talking about:
And dozens of other companies, like limo companies and hotels, that aren't exclusive to the wedding industry, but sure profit from it.
And yet the challenges pretty much are universal to every one of these companies.
- The pool of customers is smaller than ever thanks to reduced marriage rates.
- People are spending less: an average wedding cost of $34,000 has dropped to $28,000.
- DIY weddings, backyard weddings, and other smaller, cheaper affairs are growing more popular, shrinking the customer pool even more.
- There is competition. A lot of it.
In short? Everyone in the wedding industry is fighting tooth and nail for every scrap of revenue they can get.
Online Reviews: The big stick you need to fight a hard battle
An online-obsessed but shrinking customer base all deciding to spend way less money means you've got to stand out. Not as the cheapest (you're losing enough money as it is), but as the best.
Social proof is the only way to do this.
You can fill your website with beautiful photographs, and should. But everyone's got beautiful photographs. You can offer specials, talk about your experience, and list A-list clients, and if you can, again, you should. But other people are doing that too.
And here's the thing, nobody trusts you anyway. Seriously.
They do trust their friends and family members though. And, as it happens, they trust all those strangers on the internet about as much. Or, at least, they do when it comes to reviews.
85% of customers trust an online review as much as they trust their besties, or Mom. And quite a few of your customers would probably rather curl up and read the words of internet strangers, since Mom is still driving them a bit crazy griping about the napkin choices.
So when lots and lots of internet strangers sing your praises? You win.
When you're in the wedding industry, timing is everything.
The people planning the wedding are stressed. You have to make sure your request for a review doesn't add to that stress. Follow these principles to make sure it doesn't.
1. Use a warmly-written email to make your ask.
2. Make sure your role is completely done before you ask. For most companies that will mean waiting until the wedding is done. You might even want to wait a week beyond that, when you're pretty sure the honeymoon is done too.
3. Make sure you know the customer is satisfied before you let them get to the review stage.
Get more reviews by responding to the ones you do have.
People who respond to reviews get more reviews, as long as you respond to most of them. That means thanking people for taking the time to leave a positive review, not just defending yourself against negative ones.
Watch your own stress levels when you do this. It's really easy to get irritated and defensive when reading an unfair review, especially as the paying customers aren't the only ones who feel entitled to weigh in.
Sometimes guests do too.
Here's a review response that probably would have been fine, had the owner not freaked out and started 'shouting' the words BRIDE and GUEST in all caps.
Responding to reviews offers another advantage. As long as the review isn't anonymous, you can check the reviewer against your records to see if they even used your services.
Kim? You've been busted.
This kind of information comes in handy.
In an industry this competitive, it probably shouldn't surprise you too much when one of your competitors decides to try to get the upper hand by leaving a fake review. It's a juvenile thing to do, but it happens.
What does a perfect review look like for someone in the wedding industry?
Here's what your customers are asking themselves about anyone they will deal with during the course of either their wedding planning process, or the during wedding itself.
The best reviews will address at least one of these issues, if not more, helping to put your potential customer's mind at ease about working with you.
Quality results, increased comfort level, fun to deal with...score!
By the way, your response can help communicate your ability to tackle these concerns too.
Literally the perfect review. Hits all four of the major issues on some level.
This one is fantastic, because not only does it paint this florist as an incredible problem-solver, but as one who delivers quality results while being immensely sensitive to the customer's stress levels.
Notice what a great job the florist's response does of driving this point home?
You can help customers leave you great reviews.
Getting reviews like the ones above isn't just about getting reviews. It's also about making sure you're creating conditions that help customers leave these super-helpful ones.
There are two ways to do this.
First, pay attention to the language in your review request email. You can include language which speaks directly to these issues.
Asking these questions gets customers thinking about these issues. Sure, many of them are thinking about these issues anyway, but there's nothing wrong with helping them write something a little more helpful than "great job guys!"
Second, do just what the florist above did. Reiterate these points when you're writing up your responses. Customers read those responses before they hired you. Subconsciously, they'll remember what you said when they go to write their own.
These little to-do items exercise a subtle influence, but it's still influence that's felt.
Target these major and wedding industry review sites.
Funnel the vast majority of reviews to one of these four places:
The Knot is perhaps the biggest, most important, and most influential site you could target. Since it gathers just about every kind of wedding professional any bride or groom could ever need into one convenient place, then allows guests to search by city and other criteria, a whole lot of your customers will go here and stay here. Wedding Wire is similar.
But Google continues to be Google. Some customers will continue to search each member of their list one-by-one using Google Maps. You don't want them to miss you because you're not showing up, and reviews are a major ranking factor in local search.
And Facebook? Well, there's two reasons you want to be here. First, everyone involved in the wedding planning will often share various posts and photos with one another on Facebook. It's a quick way to get ideas in front of the decision makers.
Second, "reviews" aren't reviews on Facebook anymore. They're recommendations, which means the commentary here is likely to be positive. Since you need all the positive commentary you can get, this is all you can good.
One Last Thing...Karma Plays a Role
There's one last step you need to take before launching your review strategy.
Make sure your company is doing a good job.
If you drop the ball, don't deliver, create problems, and generate stress for couples there is literally no review strategy, tool, or technique that will help you. You'll continue to rack up lousy reviews, and your portion of the ever-shrinking wedding revenue pie will slowly start to disappear.
Be the 5-star wedding company you want your customers to rave about.
Do that, and your review strategy will succeed with ease. Fail, and it just won't matter.