» Helpful Tips to Avoid Digital Disasters

The following post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon. Andy is the Founder of Wedding University and The Wedding Marketing Blog, and is an International Public Speaker, Writer and Consultant based in Las Vegas. Andy travels across North America and beyond, presenting to Associations, Wedding Industry Conferences, Regional Gatherings, and Local Meetings.

In today’s world, unfortunately there seem to be many chances for technology-related problem’s to occur – such as password compromise, information loss or spam attacks. While these issues may seem stressful, there are ways you can take simple steps to help avoid them for you and your business.

Here’s an overview of easy ways to help avoid common digital disasters:

Register Your Domain

The foundation of all-things-internet is the domain name. When you register a domain name, there are four functions associated with it.

  • Registrant – Website Owner
  • Administrator – Website Manager
  • Technical – Usually Webmaster
  • Billing – Accounting

Roles may all be held by a single person; however, it’s not recommended. It’s preferable to have at least two people with full control of your domain.

Domains are renewed annually; however, you can register them for more than one year (especially your primary domains).

Your domain registrar (GoDaddy, Network Solutions, etc.) will notify you, periodically about pending expiration of a domain. The best way to prevent expiration is to link a credit card to the domain and make calendar reminders to check in on its status every so often.

Good news — even if a domain expires, there is 30-day time period to redeem your site and get it back in business.

Pro Tip: Anytime you change webmasters or other personnel on file with your domain registrar, do not forget to update it! Failure to do so can lead to domain problems.

Protect Your Hard Drive

A typical hard drive lasts about three years. The best way to protect your business and personal files and information is to replace it at or before three years to be safe. If you don’t, here are some other pre-emptive measures to keep your business running.

First, it is mandatory to have an external hard drive wired directly to your computer. If the computer has a 500 gigabyte hard drive, it would be wise to have a 1 terabyte external drive.

Second, it is wise to have a wireless backup drive, located in a different part of your home or office. As with the first backup, make sure the capacity is larger than the original computer.

Third, have an external drive backing up by broadband to the cloud. There are several popular products, such as: BackBlaze, Carbonite, and others. This final group is extremely important, especially if you are affected by a disaster such as a fire or flood. There is nothing worse than permanently losing data. Saving key documents securely in the cloud is the best way to make certain it doesn’t happen to you.

Set Strong Passwords

Over the last few years hacking is on the rise. The more obvious hacks are big companies such as Target or Yahoo! among other high profile companies and groups.

Don’t think just because you are a one-person operation that you are somehow immune to such intrusion or danger. Whether talking about email, websites, credit cards or anything else, it’s time to take action and be cautious.

The best methods of self-protection are services such as 1Password.com or LastPass.com. These tools will help you generate different passwords for each of your accounts – which you should update often. With just a little effort, you won’t have the need to use the same password for multiple accounts. Plus, you won’t have to simply rely on commonly known information like the names of your dogs or family members!

Focus on Your SEO

Search Engine Optimization requires daily awareness and upkeep; SEO is not a one-time operation. When you build and launch a website, it will only be the first effort to create search engine optimization for your site. It should be monitored and updated often to establish the best performance for your business.

For those of you who use WordPress for your website or blog, one of the best tools is a plug-in, Yoast SEO. It is one of the simplest devices to recognize and apply good SEO practices – no high level of expertise required!

Protect Your Mobile Phones

The device we use most often is our cellular phone. Every year, companies such as Apple, Samsung and others make new versions of their phones – and they are not cheap — often with new models in the $750 range.

Of all the disasters striking a phone user, the worst is the immediate loss (or theft) of their phone. The shock of such a loss is quite jarring.

The iPhone has a feature (for iPhones, iPads, and computers) called FindMyiPhone. You can track down your phone, shut it off, or otherwise take it out of commission should it become compromised with your personal information accessible.

Remember, There’s No Need for Paranoia!

The best approach for safety is a good defense. Making sure you use these tactics will keep your business thriving, and prepared for unforeseen issues that may arise in the future.

» 6 Ways to Optimize Your Website for Leads

startup-photos-v2With all of the competition in the wedding industry, even getting website visitors in your local market can be a big win! Once they arrive on your website, however, it’s vital that you guide them to take the next step by submitting a lead to get in touch with your business. It’s easy to get swept up in your own desires and ideas when building your website, but ultimately you need to think about how your prospects will view and interact with it in order to drive more conversions.

Don’t worry; your website is a channel that can be optimized, just like any of your marketing channels! Read on for six easy ways to optimize your website for leads and inquiries.

Reduce form fields

When it comes to reducing friction for your website visitors, reducing the length or number of fields used in your form is one of the easiest ways to boost your conversion rates. The fewer fields the visitor has to fill out, the more likely they are to submit a lead. Inevitably, though, shortening your contact forms is a trade-off – shorter forms generate more leads, but longer forms generate higher quality leads. The key is to think hard about which fields you truly need and which fields you can forego until you get the chance to learn more at the next point of contact or at the appointment. At the very least, you’ll want name, email, phone number, and wedding date; the rest depends on your service category and routing needs. Just remember: Keep it simple!

Prioritize form placement

If you want your website visitors to submit a contact form to get in touch, give your form top placement on your website. While today’s web users are used to scrolling past the “fold” to learn more, placing your contact form above the “fold” guarantees that they’ll see it regardless of their next action. In fact, Education Guru Alan Berg suggests adding a contact form to each page of your website to guide visitors towards submitting an inquiry. Whichever option you choose will ultimately depend on the layout and design of your website, but whatever you do, just don’t hide your contact form by placing it too far down on your homepage or by putting too many steps between their entrance and the form.

Utilize your reviews

Your WeddingWire reviews are easy to find and evaluate on your Storefront, but if a potential client is looking at your website you want to make sure they can find them there, too. When deciding whether or not to submit a lead through your website, couples are looking for proof that your work is quality and that your past clients were happy with the results of all your efforts. If a couple is reviewing your website, you’ve already made it through several stages of consideration and offering rave reviews will help make their decision easier. Select a few of your best reviews and add them to your website to help convince prospects that your business is the best choice. Make sure you add them close to your contact form so a happy client is one of the last things they see before deciding whether to commit.

Show off your awards

Awards are one of the best ways to lend outside credibility to your business. After all, you can say how awesome your business is, but your opinion isn’t impartial until someone else also verifies it! Showcase what sets you apart from your competition by featuring your awards near your form or in the header or footer of your website. Unlike other awards in the wedding industry, the WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards® are solely based on reviews from real newlyweds and their experiences working with their wedding professionals. If your business is prestigious enough to be among the top five percent of wedding professionals on WeddingWire, we’ll provide you code so you can easily feature your award on your website for all visitors to see.

Test your calls-to-action

Could the generic text on your button or contact link on your form be the factor that’s driving down conversions? Or perhaps the color of your contact button causes it to blend in with the rest of your website? Test the color and text of your call-to-action or submit button to see if your conversion rates differ. Try changing your formal ‘Contact Us’ text to ‘Get in Touch!’, or use a contrasting accent color on the form button to attract more submissions. A word of caution, though – only change one element at a time (text or color) so that you can track which change truly had an impact.

Track and analyze changes

All of these changes will be hard to measure if you don’t have enough information to see what’s working! Tracking the number of inquiries you receive each month is easy enough to analyze, but then you’ll only be looking at one piece of the puzzle. It’s also important to use Google Analytics or other website analytics platforms (sometimes offered with your web-hosting platform) to track how many visitors you receive, how long they’re staying on your website, and how many pages they visit before submitting an inquiry or leaving your website. Keeping an eye on all of these things will help you understand the behavior of your website visitors and make changes that will improve your conversion rates and time on site.

Every website is different, and it may take some time to find the right combination to work for you. Remember to give it time – you likely won’t see changes in leads overnight, but that doesn’t mean your updates aren’t working! You can always ask for feedback from your friends and industry peers, or ask a client to explain what they did or didn’t like during their research. Happy optimizing!

» Don’t Miss the WeddingWire Guest List Guide

WeddingWire-guest-list-guideOne of the latest additions to our suite of planning guides for couples is the new WeddingWire Guest List Guide!

Creating a guest list can be one of the most challenging parts of wedding planning. Whether your clients want a big wedding with hundreds of guests or a more intimate affair with just a few loved ones, deciding whom they’ll invite can be a major source of stress.

Our new Guest List Guide provides your clients with all of the information and etiquette they’ll need to answer these and other guest list-related questions so you can make the process as stress-free as possible.

Sections include:

  • Things to know before creating the guest list, including venue and budget considerations
  • Most common guest list etiquette questions, answered – kids, coworkers, parents’ friends?
  • Save-the-date inspiration for every wedding style and taste
  • Ways to make their guests’ lives easier through hotel room blocks, transportation, and more

The earlier your clients get the answers they need for these tough logistics questions, the earlier they can start focusing on the fun part – choosing the perfect vendor team and selecting all of the fun details that will make their day truly special.

Enjoy our Guest List Guide and help your clients keep the wedding planning process moving smoothly!

» To Discount or Not to Discount? That is the Question

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP. Alan 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.

A very contentious topic among wedding pros is discounting. Both sides of the debate dig in, deeply, when this question is posed on social media or in forums. To completely understand this subject, the discussion needs to first start with defining discounting versus negotiating. I’ve discussed this at-length in my webinar on pricing so if you haven’t seen that one, you may want to watch that as well.

	To Discount or Not to Discount? That is the QuestionDiscounting versus negotiating

For me, discounting is fine when it has a structure and rules. Everyone who buys the same products or services for equivalent dates will pay the same price; the rules are applied equally to everyone. For instance, if you have three packages and your higher packages, which contain more services, also have the highest discounts, that’s great. If everyone who buys that packages pays the same price, then the rules are being applied equally.

On the other hand, negotiating means that two couples who buy the same products or services may pay different prices. Each customer’s ability to negotiate or not will determine their final price. The challenge with negotiating in today’s digitally connected world is that people can, and will, talk about their discount. If you can’t easily explain to one customer why they paid more than another customer for the same products and services – for instance, an in-season date versus an off-season date – then you’re negotiating, not discounting.

Discounting can be part of a pricing strategy. Negotiating can also be part of a pricing strategy, it’s just less structured. There are times when I’ll negotiate to get the sale, but it’s the exception, not the rule. I recommend to my consulting clients to offer added value over a discount in price, as it helps to keep integrity in their basic pricing structure. If you’re ever thrown in an extra product or service to get the sale, you’ve negotiated. Some companies do it on every sale. If you give the same or similar added value services every time, you’re really discounting, not negotiating. If the proportionate value of the added products or services changes with every customer, you’re negotiating.

Which is right for you?

There’s no one answer that’s right for every business. Personally, I prefer discounting over negotiating, as it’s easier to explain to your employees and your customers. I understand that it may not work for all businesses. In my business, as a speaker, sales trainer and consultant, there is no standard price list. Each event and client involves a different set of circumstances (travel, preparation, residual business, etc.). However, when it comes to my physical products (books, CDs, etc.), discounts make sense. For example, when I have a booth at a trade show or event, I’ll have my books and CDs, and usually offer an event discount. Many times I’ll be asked for an even lower price, and I’ll thank them and say that the listed prices are already discounted. Then I’ll ask if they want to pay with cash or credit. Asking for a discount is a buying signal, so always ask them for the sale when they you ask for a discount.

Continue reading

» 2016 Wedding Business Goals: How Are You Doing?

In our 2015 Annual Vendor Survey, six thousand of our WeddingWire Pros gave us some insight into their biggest pain points and business growth priorities in 2016. Now that the busy season is coming to a close, how are you doing in reaching those goals?

Data from our survey suggests that venues (including rehearsal dinner venues) and catering professionals tend to work in larger corporations with larger employee counts and annual revenues – so we’ve broken out the data for this group separately from the rest of the service categories available for couples to account for the difference in available budgets.

Check out our interactive graph below to see how you measure up against your peers, and read on for more context on each goal.

Continue reading

» WeddingWire Networking Night Santa Barbara

This week, wedding professionals gathered at The Riviera Mansion for WeddingWire Networking Night Santa Barbara!

At the Networking Night, Santa Barbara pros had the opportunity to enjoy a historic venue space, network with other local professionals across all service categories, meet members of the WeddingWire team, learn more about local industry statistics and how to better reach engaged couples through social media presented by WeddingWire’s Regional Manager of Customer Success, Katey McBurney.

Thank you to all the wonderful pros who joined us! We’re excited to share highlights from the event including the educational presentation, our newest issue of WedInsights, and beautiful photos from the evening. If you want to continue the conversation with some of the pros you met at the event, check out the WeddingWire Networking Night Santa Barbara board in the Pro Forums.

We would like to say a special thank you to the amazing event partners who helped make the evening possible:

And finally, we’re excited to announce the winner of our WeddingWire Prize Pack – congrats to Lynee of Pure Joy Catering!

WeddingWire Networking Night Santa Barbara
WeddingWire Networking Night Santa Barbara
WeddingWire Networking Night Santa Barbara
WeddingWire Networking Night Santa Barbara Continue reading

» Go for the Gold: How to Take Home More Industry Awards

september-premium-webinar-awardsWebinar recap!

An easy way to expand your business and stand out from the competition is through winning industry awards. Whether you’re a new business or a seasoned pro, earning accolades, collecting client reviews, and showcasing your hard work is a pivotal part of your success.

In this month’s webinar for Premium members, WeddingWire Education Expert and Owner of OFD Consulting, Meghan Ely, shared her tips for how to submit for and win more prestigious awards that build your credibility in the wedding industry.

Here are a few steps to earning more industry awards:

  • When deciding which awards to apply for, first take a close look at your business goals. Ask yourself how earning the award would help you meet these goals and then pick your top choices to actively pursue.
  • Once you decide to submit, always read and then reread the guidelines. It’s easy to overlook an element that could make or break your entry, or notice it too late in the process, simply by not paying enough attention to detail.
  • Create a plan for your submission before jumping in. Once you carefully review the guidelines and submission details, draft an outline of what you need to do and strategically plan your approach before you start writing.
  • Use facts and figures to stand out and impress the judges. By bringing your work to life with stats and examples, you can showcase the difference your business has made, and why you deserve to earn the award through a compelling story.
  • Share images that help support your story where applicable. However, it’s important to get approvals you may need from photographers to use their images. Also, make sure you do not rely on the images alone to tell your story.
  • Ask a friend to review and proofread your entry. A second set of eyes is key to making sure your story makes sense to an outside point of view, and that you are not overlooking and grammatical mistakes that could be easily avoided.
  • If you win — spread the news! Share your win on social media, and showcase your expertise by adding your award to all your marketing materials on and offline. This will impress clients and industry colleagues alike, and help you stand out in a competitive industry.

To learn more great tips from Meghan, watch the full webinar now!

Did you know that you can view all past webinars any time in your WeddingWire account? Watch recorded webinars at your convenience on a variety of topics to support your business growth from SEO to social media to sales and beyond.

» WeddingWire Networking Night Napa

Earlier this week, wedding professionals gathered at The Silverado Resort & Spa for WeddingWire Networking Night Napa!

At the Networking Night, Napa pros had the opportunity to enjoy a picturesque venue space, network with other local professionals across all service categories, meet members of the WeddingWire team, learn more about local-industry statistics and how to better reach engaged couples through social media presented by WeddingWire’s Regional Manager of Customer Success, Katey McBurney.

Thank you to all the wonderful pros who joined us! We’re excited to share highlights from the event including the educational presentation, our newest issue of WedInsights, and beautiful photos from the evening. If you want to continue the conversation with some of the pros you met at the event, check out the WeddingWire Networking Night Napa board in the Pro Forums.

We would like to say a special thank you to the amazing event partners who helped make the evening possible:

And finally, we’re excited to announce the winner of our WeddingWire Prize Pack – congrats to Sharon of Napa Valley Custom Events!

WeddingWire Networking Night Napa 2016
WeddingWire Networking Night Napa 2016
WeddingWire Networking Night Napa 2016
WeddingWire Networking Night Napa 2016 Continue reading

» 3 Key Ways Millennial Couples are Different from Past Generations

WedInsights

	3 Key Ways Millennial Couples are Different from Past GenerationsMillennials (also known as Gen Y), whose current age ranges from 16-34, account for roughly 25% of today’s US population – making them the largest living generation. By 2017, U.S. Millennials are estimated to spend roughly $200 billion annually and will make up 75% of the workplace and comprise of the majority of the consumer market within the next 10 years.

Why does this matter for your business? The Millennial generation is at the age where major life events are taking place, like graduating, buying a house, and getting married. In fact, more than 80% of WeddingWire couples are Millennials! Knowing where they are in their life stages is key for understanding how to communicate with this important group.

Below we share some critical stats from WedInsights Volume 13: Keeping Up With The Millennials to explain the habits and needs of today’s Millennial couples.

Millennials are willing to spend more to personalize their weddings

Over the past 10 years we’ve continued to see overall guest count decrease, regardless of age, whereas the total spend per guest is on the rise. Couples are willing to spend extra on each guest in order to really personalize their big day and make it memorable and unique. Millennials spend on average $31,000 on their wedding, whereas GenX spends $24,000 on fewer guests. A few other points of differentiation between Millennials and their older counterparts:

  • Engagement Length: 13 months for Millennials, 11 months for GenX
  • Number in Wedding Party: 10 for Millennials, 7 for GenX
  • Number of Vendors Hired: 11 for Millennials, 9 for GenX

87% of Millennials report having their smartphones on them at all times

Millennials are the “mobile generation”, everything they do or want to do can be done on-the-go, so a non-existent or bad mobile website can be an instant deal breaker for this group! Make mobile a priority by doing a full sweep of your online properties from your mobile website to your emails and make sure the content is easily digestible (and layout is responsive) on smartphones and tablet devices. Continue reading

» Download Our Updated App to Use Messages On the Go

clients app downloadWe’ve added our Messages feature to the refreshed Client Manager app – and it’s now available for download!

With the updated app, it’s never been easier to connect with clients while on the go. You’ll be notified when you get new leads or messages and can reply right from your phone.

Here’s how it works:

  • Receive instant notifications for new leads and client messages
  • Read and respond quickly with automatic account syncing
  • Easily view your shared attachments and important client details
  • Access your full client conversations anytime
  • Update your availability right from your phone (select categories only)

Learn more about the Client Manager app!

» How to Get Big Results with a Small Team

Pro to Pro Insights

Leila Lewis, photo by Valorie Darling PhotographyThis post was written by Leila Lewis of Be Inspired PR. As a business school graduate from Santa Clara University, Leila (Khalil) Lewis’ career began in publishing, where she worked in marketing and editorial roles for business and lifestyle publications. Since transitioning into the wedding business in 2004, Leila has over 10 years of wedding marketing experience under her belt, and is the industry’s go-to for wedding public relations services, brand development and business consulting.

Be Inspired started with just two employees, and over the years we’ve grown into a team of 12 and the majority of my employees have been with me for many years. Through all the growth, I’ve learned that having a quality team is more important than having a large team.

How to Get Big Results with a Small TeamIf you follow my tips you can make your smaller team more successful than ever.

  1. Don’t hire based on resume

With any team, especially smaller ones, you need to be extra picky when hiring new employees. If your team is small, you need hard workers who will thrive in your environment. Their resume may read perfect experience for the position, but if their personality does not fit with the rest of your team, it’s not going to work out. One person who doesn’t fit into the work environment can throw the whole thing off and negatively affect your business. Understand your business’ culture and be specific.

  1. R-E-S-P-E-C-T

With a smaller team, you are most likely sharing a space with the same people 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. To prevent burnout and frustration with each other, create a company culture based upon respect. There is a time and place to for personal conversations and the more respect within the company, the easier it will be for your employees to understand boundaries.

  1. Have Company Outings

At Be Inspired PR, we’re all about having fun outings together as a squad. We’ve gone on a whale watching trip, done sweat-dripping work out classes, and most recently had a pool party! It’s a great way to just let loose out of the office and have some fun. But company get-togethers can be in office too! Whether it’s walking to a local favorite restaurant or ordering in, group lunches are the perfect way to strengthen the feeling of being a team.

  1. Keep it simple

When you have a small team it’s crucial that everyone is clear about their tasks and responsibilities. That way nobody steps on anybody’s toes and there is a clear sense of who is leading what. Of course, there are always opportunities for collaboration, but for everyday tasks it’s more successful to keep things streamlined.

A small team can be just as successful as a big one when managed in the right way. Maintain the respect between your employees, but also treat them well. With a small team, it may seem easier to manage, but it’s crucial that everyone pulls their own weight.

» Becoming an Entrepreneur in Someone Else’s Business

Pro to Pro Insights

Jennifer Taylor, Taylor'd Events GroupThis post was written by Jennifer Taylor. Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui.

So you love the wedding industry, but aren’t so keen on the responsibilities that come with owning your business…

While it may seem like everyone in the industry is starting their own business, remember that it’s entirely acceptable if that’s not in your sights. Every professional has a different path and, just because you’re not into the idea of running the show, that’s not to say you can’t be a valuable asset in the industry. If anything, many small business owners need support so there’s certainly a place for you to put your skills to good use.

Becoming an Entrepreneur in Someone Else’s BusinessOn the other hand, some future entrepreneurs are simply not quite ready to launch their business, whether for financial or experiential reasons. Either way, finding a workplace in the industry will help you develop your local network and provide you with the experience to really make a name for yourself.

If you’re new to the industry, look for a company that will push you to grow as a professional and are eager to help with your career path. While searching for the very best fit, don’t limit yourself to a specialty. Even if you want to focus on event planning eventually, getting some experience with a catering company or at an event venue will provide you with some down-and-dirty experience that will help to expand your skill set.

Be prepared to hear from other entrepreneurs that you should start your own business or that “you’d be so good at it!” Even though you would be great at it, that doesn’t mean it’s the right venture for your career. There are many reasons to avoid starting your own business, so don’t let peer pressure make you feel like you’re missing out.

When you do find the right place to nurture your skills, be sure to settle all of the nitty-gritty before hitting the ground running. You’ll want to determine whether you’re a payroll employee or an independent contractor – this affects your taxes significantly, so be sure to understand your role. In addition, you’ll need to know how you’ll get paid – are you making a percentage of your clients’ billables or are you paid hourly?

Once everything is sorted out, it’s time to start hustling – and hard! Just because you’re not the business owner doesn’t mean you won’t play a big role in the company, so be prepared to do everything you can to push the business to its full potential. You are an equal part of the company’s successes and failures – keep that in mind!

As you learn the ropes, don’t be afraid to ask about other aspects of the business that you may not be involved in like writing a business plan or handling all of the expenditures – this will help you understand the owner’s decisions and give you an opportunity to be more helpful along the way. It’s really the best way to become a valued member of the team, so don’t shy away from immersing yourself into the company’s culture.

Sure, getting a job is important, but getting the right job is even more important – for you and the company alike. Find a place that values your skills and will help you boost your reputation within the industry. If the first or second places aren’t ideal, keep looking!