Does Out of Town Mean Out of Touch?

Do you like purchasing lemonade from the kids next door; buying produce from the farmers’ market; or having lunch at the closest burger joint because your old high school buddy just bought the local franchise?

Most of us feel good when we buy local because it gives us a sense of community. But as just pointed out – the phrase means different things to different people. Fact is there’s almost no such thing as 100% local, nor 100% foreign.

The vegetables from that farmers’ market may have grown in your county, but the field was plowed with a Japanese tractor burning fuel from Canada or the Middle East. A lot of people from around the world got their share of the $3.87 you paid for those apples!

Maybe the best way for us to buy local is to invest in a neighborhood of like-minded businesses. Our customers do! Brides today pay more attention to the choices you offer than your area code. What’s a few hundred miles when free two-day shipping’s thrown in?

That’s much the same philosophy with our Wedding Expos. Attracting exhibitors from the geographic community is important, but so is offering plenty of choices to our brides. More choices mean more brides at the Expo. And more brides mean more potential customers for you.

That’s a win-win. So, let’s hear it for the home team – all of us!

Are You a Quality or Quantity Business?

Have you ever taken time to analyze whether you're a "quality" or "quantity" business? There's nothing particularly wrong with either. Just realize that you can't be both.

Let's say you bake wedding cakes. When someone calls the shop and the first thing they ask is, "How much," do you cringe or simply give them a price?

If you give them a price, you're likely a "quantity" business. You don't want to spend time trying to upsell or woo the customer. Keep it simple and quick and sell more cake than your competitor. Again, there's nothing wrong with that approach. 

If you cringe at the price question, then wish they'd ask about the ingredients in your icing, or how quickly your fresh product goes from the oven to the table at the wedding reception, you're a "quality" business.

That's OK, too. But it takes a different and often riskier sales approach. Your potential customers can be "trained" by steering them in a direction beyond price. Respond to their question with your own question. Maybe the dialogue would go something like this:

Potential customer: How much do you charge for a three-tier wedding cake?

Baker: Congratulations on your upcoming wedding! Some couples want a cake that tastes so good that their friends talk about it the next day. Others are more interested in something that just looks good. At the last few weddings you attended, which cakes made more of an impression on you? I'm trying to get an idea of what you want so I can get you the best possible price. 

Potential customer: You can't just give me a price?

Baker: Our prices range from $xxx to $xxx, and our average price is $xxx. How about we set up a tasting appointment so you can both see AND taste the difference between the cakes?

See how the baker asked a few questions of his own to get at least a glimpse of the potential customer's preferences? If the conversation turned into an actual appointment, the baker will be all the more prepared to offer the right product at the right price.

According to customer service expert Alan Berg, don't shy away from the price question. Often, that's the only thing the couples know to ask. Help them see that there are more questions to ask than just the cost. 

Again, this "quality" approach takes more time and effort. Only you the business owner can determine whether it's a worthwhile investment.

Don't Underestimate the Power of Paper

There's no doubt the internet has dealt a huge blow to print advertising over the last decade. But did you know bridal publications are still thriving?

Head down to almost any newsstand and you'll find Brides Magazine, Martha Stewart Weddings, Bridal Guide and more; all stuffed with scores of ads in every issue.

Why? It seems that no matter how social media-savvy brides are these days, they still respond to what advertising experts call "tactile marketing." Women enjoy looking at wedding cakes, bridal gowns, engagement rings and wedding decor on pages they can touch, dog ear and show to their friends or fiánce. Think of it as scrapbooking for millennials. And face it, those beautiful images are a lot prettier in a large format compared to the tiny screen of a smartphone.

Of course, few of us can afford to plunk down tens of thousands of dollars for advertising in these giant national magazines. But there are a handful of local magazine options that are distributed around Albuquerque, Santa Fe and even farther north and south.

If and when you decide to advertise, here are a few tips from the experts that we heard at the annual Wedding MBA conference in Las Vegas last month:

• Know your competition. Surprise - it's usually not another business, but brides, grooms or their family members who think they can do the same quality of work that you can. Your ad should create in the reader a perceived need for an expert like you.

• Likewise, leave the photography and ad design to the experts. If you want to look like a professional, use a professional photographer and designer to help build your ad. Many publications will offer those services to their advertisers at little or no extra cost.

• Sell with emotion. Don't get stuck in the details, whether it's cake ingredients, sound equipment, origin of flowers or gown material. Brides will respond best to how your product or service will make them feel. Appeal to their eyes, then their hearts will follow.

• Make it easy for them to reach you. Readers may not take the time to hunt for your phone, website or email if it's in tiny type at the bottom of your ad. Make sure your contact information comes across "loud & clear" in every ad.

• Less is more. Once you've determined what text you want in your ad, go back and cut it in half. A powerful ad should leave some questions unanswered, so potential customers will contact you directly for more information.

• Don't be afraid to use fear as a motivator. Remember your DIY competition. Wedding photographers, try, "Uncle Bill takes great vacation pictures, but can you trust him on your most special day?" Cake shops, how about "Aunt Mary bakes delicious cakes, but can she feed 100 in one afternoon?"

 

Good Phone Manners Pay Off

Do you follow the Golden Rule when it comes to phone etiquette?

Whether it's cakes, flowers or venues, you're likely working the phone to land new customers. And like most of us, you're leaving voice mails that are rarely returned.

But ask yourself – do you behave any better? A photographer told me earlier this week that he strives to return every call, no matter how insignificant it may appear in the voicemail. He relayed a story about returning a bride's call some two years ago. She was asking about shooting her wedding on a particular date.

Although he already booked the date, the photographer took the time to return the call and break the bad news to her.

"You're the first photographer out of half a dozen I've called this week that even got back to me," the woman said.

He suggested another photographer new to the area that might be available. She thanked him; he wished her well and thought that was likely the end of the story.

But just recently, the woman called back asking for a quote on baby pictures. She had to remind him of their phone conversation two years earlier.

"Why didn't you call the photographer who shot your wedding," he asked. "Didn't I give you a good recommendation?"

"He was fine," she said. "But when you took the time to call me back even when you knew you couldn't make the sale – well, something tells me you might be even better."

I'm betting he's going to get another call for some graduation photos to take in about 18 years.

Some might call this karma; some will label it good manners. If you believe neither, then look at it from a strictly business/mathematical standpoint. Two minutes of effort to return a phone call grew into several hundred dollars of profit. Talk about a return on your investment!

Meet Your Newest Customers - Millennials

It’s the buzzword of the year. Many of us think of millennials as nothing more than a bunch of ego-centric, entitled people who can’t lift their heads up from their smartphones. Even if that’s true, we’d better start learning how to reach them. They are your target audience at Wedding Expo. And they shun many of the methods that businesses have used for decades to attract customers.

This 18-35-year-old demographic is so tuned into social media, reviews and internet-based research that they may already know much of what you’d tell them in your customary sales pitch.

By the time you meet them face to face, you’ll fare better by discussing meaning more than material. They’re looking for a company with the same aspirations & values as they have. Find out what makes them tick. Then, don’t be afraid to show them what makes you tick – why you love what you provide or make or sell.

Millennials love experiences, both their own and others’. And if there’s a little friendly competition involved, all the better. Last fall, Dairy Queen won critical acclaim for pitting apple capital Wenatchee WA against pumpkin festival home Caro, MI. Which Blizzard flavor is better: apple pie or pumpkin pie?

The communities’ residents got in on the good-natured gig, each touting their prized produce. And DQ’s social media fans flooded the internet with votes. The campaign transcended storytelling; it became story-living.

We couldn't fabricate a rivalry between these two towns,” the ad agency that created the campaign reported. “We had to create something real and true so that fans in these towns would take up the cause. And we needed fans across the country to relate to these towns,” to try both flavors, pick a side and crown a winner.

Instead of touting “features & benefits,” DQ and its agency chose to reach a demographic that views much of life as a game. The campaign gave millennials the opportunity to see validation for their decisions through instant rewards – by tasting Blizzards and then watching their votes affect DQ’s always changing website scoreboard.

Did the campaign work? Sales rose almost 7 percent and 700,000 votes were cast.

Think you have an idea that would reach millennials? Share it with us.

Are you providing ways for your customers to share their experience with you and other customers? Tell us about it.

And millennials, are we reaching you? Or is this blog just a bunch of psycho-babble? Let us hear from you, too.

4 Ways to Beat the Competition

1. Meet more potential customers. You’ve spent plenty of time, effort & money to bring potential customers to your business? Have you considered taking the business to them? If you’ve got a booth at one of the Wedding Expos, you’re moving in the right direction! For an even more customized experience, consider making “house calls.”

 2. Give those potential customers something your competitors can’t, or won’t. Added value doesn’t have to cost an arm & a leg. Try a gift certificate, an upgrade service or “free” financing. Today’s internet-savvy shoppers can find out in minutes whether your prices are in line your competitors’. What else can you offer to win them over?

 3. Know your target market. For most businesses, it’s bye-bye Boomers; hello Millennials. This demographic is into meaning as much or more than material. Don’t be afraid to show them what makes you tick – why you love what you provide or make or sell. Teach & show when they’re willing to learn & look.

 4. When it comes to advertising & marketing, too many businesses pay too much attention to cost-per viewer, listener or reader. Instead focus on whether you received a Return on Investment. Can you verify making more in sales than you spent on any given marketing or advertising campaign?

It’s all about return on your investment. $3,000 may be a great price if it brings you $7,000 in sales. Conversely, $300 in marketing is too expensive if it brings you $70 in sales.