» I Run the Company: What Does That Look Like?

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Jennifer Taylor, Taylor'd Events Group

This 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. She is also the creator of The Taylor’d Plan, a self-administered class for wedding planners who are new to the industry and looking to grow and develop their skills.

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When you start your own business, it can be a bit of an adjustment to figure out your workflow. Since you’re running the show, you have to handle a lot of the administration and business development, and it’s essential to find a happy balance in your day-to-day work.

For me, running my company means that I’m not a major part of the event planning and team management. I don’t go into the office to work on weddings, as I now have other projects that I am working on, so my time is spent working on ways to further grow the company.

One of the biggest lessons to learn when running your own business is the art of delegation. When you have a team that you can trust to handle the routine work, it makes your life that much easier, and you’ll find that you can be more productive spending on business development. It’s really difficult to grow and expand if you’re always in the trenches.

Having a solid team is the key to being a great business owner. Your goal should be to have at least several full-time employees who can handle the bulk of the work and assign additional tasks to part-time employees and/or interns.

With that said, it is still necessary to check in regularly with your team. Their work speaks to your company’s brand, so take some time to stay up-to-date on what everyone is working on and make sure that you are reachable in case of emergency. We have regular staff meetings where everyone discusses their current projects – these are a great way to ensure that we are all on the same page.

Outside the office, use your time wisely and look for resources to help maximize your time spent on business development. New projects can sometimes be overwhelming, so employ to-do lists and block scheduling to simplify your tasks and stay organized. Consider sharing your techniques with your team as well – leading by example is one of the best ways to create a cohesive and streamlined environment for all.

As a business owner, you’ll find that you have a number of new responsibilities as you leave behind some of the more routine tasks. While it can seem stressful at times, it can also be quite a fun challenge – it is your brainchild, so have fun with it!

» Announcing the 2017 WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards®!

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We’re excited to announce the winners of the ninth annual WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards®! Honorees represent the top 5% of wedding professionals nationwide for their excellence in quality, service, responsiveness, and professionalism within the wedding industry.

We are proud to honor these award-winning professionals for their exemplary work and the outstanding reputation they’ve established among newlywed couples as demonstrated through their excellent reviews. Winners are chosen based on the quality, quantity, consistency, and recency of wedding reviews they received from clients in 2016.

Engaged couples use the award as an indicator of legitimacy and reliability when selecting their team of wedding professionals. The badge demonstrates to our couples that a wedding professional is committed to providing the highest quality service throughout the planning process and on their wedding day. According to Casey Clark, Marketing Manager at Antrim 1844 Country House Hotel, a seven-time Couples’ Choice Award winner:

“Couples definitely pay attention to our awards and badges, and they know what those badges represent.”

WeddingWire hosts more than 2.5 million reviews – more than any other wedding site. We’re honored to recognize the 2017 Couples’ Choice Award winners for their accomplishments and for their dedication to excellence within the industry.

See the full list of the winners in your region or category.

Congratulations to all of the 2017 WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards winners!

 

» WedInsights Recap to Boost Your Business Success in 2017

As we enter 2017, it’s important to start planning for the upcoming wedding season and beyond. Besides preparing for upcoming events, dedicate some time to assess your business and find ways to make improvements.

For many pros, a more successful year can mean focusing on a stronger online presence through social media or an improved mobile website. For others, it’s acquiring new customers or finding ways to make their marketing dollars go furtherRegardless of your specific goals, one thing is certain: you must know your customers and understand their wants and needs during the planning process to make the best adjustments to your business — and we are here to help!

Throughout the year, our Consumer Insights & Research Team conducts studies with thousands of engaged and newlywed couples nationwide to assemble the latest in industry and consumer data. Our findings are available to download for free anytime at WedInsights.com. Each volume, one-pager, report or infographic is filled with actionable insights designed to help your business grow and succeed!

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View some of the most popular WedInsights:

Check back often for new reports as we’ll continue to add new topics each month. Do you have a topic you’d like to learn more about? Email us and let us know!

» Easy Ways to Show Appreciation in the New Year

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.

show-appreciation-giftAlmost every wedding professional is busy, and in your fast-paced world it can be easy to quickly move on to the next task or event. However, it’s important to take the time to thank the people you work with and show your appreciation for their help, referrals, support or even business and act with gratitude.

New year’s resolutions are a great opportunity to focus on sharing your gratitude more frequently. These ideas make it easy to share your appreciation daily to the people who impact your life and business.

Referrals:

The next time a potential client mentions you were referred by another professional, make sure you take a moment to say ‘thank you!’ It can be as simple as a quick text or email, and will be appreciated. For bonus points, consider sending a handwritten postcard or thank you note.

When you actually book the event, it’s a plus to send another acknowledgement, such as a written note. Finally, when the event is complete and you’ve received a review or thank you from the client, a note with a copy of client-praise shows you have earned the referral, and will help encourage them to send more clients your way! Always return the favor quickly to build a mutually beneficial relationship.

Gifts:

IRS regulations and company policies generally limit gifts to less than $25. At first blush, $25 doesn’t seem like a lot of money; however, personalizing the gift is a great way to make it special. For example, giving personalized thank you notes with the name of each client is a strong way to make your point.

On one occasion I attended a presentation by an author. Her talk was titled The Art of The Business Lunch’. The author, Robin Jay, had also attended a seminar I gave on blogging. I gave her a book on blogging, called, ‘Nobody cares what you had for lunch.’ The reaction was massive! Anyone could use a book as a thank you. Music is another interesting way to make a connection. When people fill out Facebook profiles, they often indicate their music preferences. Rather than just a gift card, pick an artist your peer or client has listed as a favorite.

Membership Awareness:

You don’t have to be the membership chair to recognize the presence or absence of people from meetings at local groups or for industry associations. If a person who you sat with was particularly interesting, then just drop them a quick note and tell them. This is great way to naturally expand your network! If a person was missing in action, let them know they were missed.

Acknowledging Staff:

When one of your employees has performed ‘above and beyond,’ it’s a great to not only tell them personally but to write a note or send a small token as an added bonus for their hard work. Meetings are a great opportunity to acknowledge staff members by telling stories about their successes. Whether it is making a sale, saving a sale, or performing other client magic, a public thank you has maximum impact on great work.

Anticipation:

A week ahead of the wedding, send the wedding couple a note explaining what a privilege it is to work for them and how you ‘can’t wait for the wedding day’. That will set an amazing tone that not only are you a quality wedding pro, but that you really care about their individual day and appreciate their business.

The same thing is true for the other wedding pros you will be working with. If you plan to work with someone closely that day, make sure you do the research to know who the person is, and express your appreciation in advance for any help they will provide for you to do your job well. This is not the norm – and will make a great impression!

Overall, remember that it doesn’t take a great deal of effort to demonstrate your appreciation, and it can make a significant difference in your likability and your business success! Aim to showcase your appreciation in 2017 to stand out among the crowd to boost your business in the New Year.

» Invest in Yourself: Attend WeddingWire World!

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As you think ahead to your business success next year, it’s important to prioritize your industry knowledge.  Whether you’re new to the wedding industry or a seasoned pro, you can always benefit from learning the latest tips for marketing your services, communicating with clients, and growing your business.

Lucky for you, WeddingWire World will bring the latest education and top speakers to both the East and West coasts in 2017. WeddingWire World will be held on May 1st-2nd in Los Angeles, CA, and on August 14th-15th in Washington, DC.

Time is running out to get your tickets before prices increase on January 1st!

Choose the location and date that works best for you, and register now to lock in our 2016 pricing! Don’t delay – the low rates of just $149 for standard tickets and $299 for VIP tickets are only available until December 31st.

Here’s what you can expect:

  • Informative Presentations: Learn from industry experts, business leaders and top performing wedding professionals, and leave with actionable ways to set up your business for more success.
  • Personalized Education: Enjoy a variety of breakout sessions based on your business needs, and meet one-on-one with an experienced Customer Success Manager for custom account support.
  • New (and Renewed) Connections: Make new contacts and reconnect with industry colleagues during structured networking opportunities over two fun-filled days.

Learn more about WeddingWire World and stay tuned for more details on speakers and conference agenda — coming soon!

» Top Wedding Trends for 2017

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2017 is shaping up to be an exciting year in the wedding industry, and as always, the Editorial Team here at WeddingWire been looking into our crystal ball to try to determine the top trends for the upcoming season. So we’re excited to share our hot-off-the-presses WeddingWire 2017 Wedding Trend Guide which highlights over 100 of the newest trends.

Just a few of the exciting wedding trends we can’t wait to see more of in 2017:

  • Sheer and sexy wedding dresses
  • Gray and burgundy suits for grooms
  • Bridesmaid jumpsuits
  • Urban Elegance = the “new Rustic”
  • Marble details
  • Giant floral wreath backdrops for ceremonies
  • Drone photography and videography
  • Instagram videos
  • Brunch weddings
  • Doughnuts
  • Creative food presentation – food “walls” and hanging food
  • Silent disco (seriously, it’s awesome)
  • Geode cakes
  • Drip cakes
  • Greenery motifs on invitations

And there’s a lot more where those came from! Be sure to check out the brand-new 2017 WeddingWire Trend Guide, out now!

Cover photo by Jeremy Chou Photography

» Focus on Your Earnings, Not Savings

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.

focus-on-earnings-not-savingsAs we approach the end of another year, it’s often time to reconcile our finances. We need to get our books in order, so we can do our taxes (I know, yuk). Then comes the scramble to find the deductions you qualified for over the year. While doing so, it becomes easy to focus on our expenses. For some of us, it’s time to re-evaluate those expenses as we prepare for the coming year.

These insights will help you get a handle on your financial planning needs and help you take control as you plan for the future!

Expenses vs. Investments

The danger in focusing only on expenses is that you can lose focus on the bigger picture. The only money you can save is the money you spend. It’s a finite amount. You can’t make all of your expenses disappear. You have to buy gas for your car, and pay for telephone service, internet connection, electricity, and more. But those are expenses, not investments. Expenses are things that you pay for, where you don’t expect any return other than what you bought (gas, electricity, phone service, food, etc.).

Investments, on the other hand, are things that may, and the operative word is ‘may’, provide a return that’s greater than the value paid. When you invest in a new employee, you would hope to get more value than what you pay them. When you invest in a new website, you would hope to get more value than the cost of the website. When you invest in advertising and marketing, you would hope to get back more than the value that you pay. When you invest in a new location, you would hope to get back more than you invest.

Opportunity Cost

What you need to focus on is getting the best return. The opportunity cost of not investing is the money you could make if you did. Sometimes, that means doing more than just paying the bill. For instance, if you buy a booth at a wedding show, and don’t take the time to design your booth correctly, and invest in great email/direct mail follow up, and actually do the follow up, you’ll never get the most return from that investment. Similarly, if you take a new office/warehouse space, build it out and decorate it properly, but don’t invest in marketing to let people know about it, you’ll never see the full return.

Go Big, or Go Home

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» Top 10 Business Tips from 2016

december-premium-webinar-tileWebinar recap!

As 2016 comes to a close, it can be helpful to look back on your business success over the past year and consider what learnings you can apply in 2017.  

During this month’s webinar hosted by WeddingWire Senior Director of Customer Experience Ashley Conway, we reviewed her seasonally-themed top 10 business tips based on conversations with numerous wedding professionals this year.

Here are some of the webinar highlights:

  • ‘Tis the Season. Update your Storefront and website with seasonal imagery to keep your photos fresh and capture newly engaged couples’ imaginations.
  • No re-gifting. Avoid showcasing duplicate content on your website, WeddingWire Storefront and other sites, as having identical content in multiple locations hurts your SEO.  Make sure to differentiate your copy, images and reviews across your online presence.
  • Pack on the #s:  Use hashtags strategically in your social media posts to increase your visibility.  Consider adding hashtags as comments on your Instagram posts to reduce clutter in your original posts.
  • Better to give than receive:  Always reply to reviews, regardless of whether they are positive or negative.  Remember that your reply will be seen by potential clients — it’s another chance to impress them.
  • Make a list, check it twice:  Put together a price list, then compare it to your competitors’.  Don’t inadvertently confuse potential customers by offering similarly named packages as other wedding pros that contain different features.

For 5 more tips and additional details about how to leverage these recommendations for success in 2017, watch the full webinar! Don’t forget that past webinars are available within Premium member’s accounts to view anytime.

» How Photography and the Wedding Industry have Evolved Since Full Marriage Equality

This post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Kathryn Hamm, Publisher of GayWeddings, the leading online resource dedicated to serving same-sex couples since 1999. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. Follow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.

The aspect I enjoy most about my work is having the chance to talk with wedding professionals about the work they do. Though we often talk about same-sex couples, trends and marketing practices, I absolutely love learning more about the specific talents and “tricks of the trade” of those who work with couples every day.

wedding-photography-marriage-equalityIn this spirit, four years ago, I fielded a phone call from New Hampshire-based photographer Thea Dodds. And that phone call turned into a coffee and a two-day exchange of ideas and professional experience. The end result was our self-published title, Capturing Love, which went on to be published as The New Art of Capturing Love by Amphoto Books in 2014.

The collaboration was meaningful for both of us and I came to understand more about wedding photography — and the challenge of producing beautiful, meaningful and personal images — than I had ever imagined I might.

I decided it was time for us to catch up — and this time on the record. I wanted to know how writing the book and being on tour teaching same-sex wedding photography in the industry has impacted her perspective.

Here’s what she had to say:

It’s been 4 years since we first sat down to produce and publish Capturing Love. How has the experience impacted your approach to wedding photography and couples portraiture?

Four years! That is hard to believe! When we first starting writing this book we could count the number of marriage equality states on one hand. So much has changed in four years.  Co-authoring Capturing Love has changed me, too, both in my business and my personal life.  I’ve learned so much from working with you, my clients, and our contributing photographers, that it’s hard to know where to start.

Overall, I’d say that Capturing Love has helped me connect with my clients more authentically. In a large part, I’m able to do this because I’m more conscious of the assumptions I bring to the table. I also have inclusive language that invites people to share who they are. And all of this blends right into my personal life because this work is really about being a better person.  

How has it impacted your thinking as a small business owner?

Capturing Love was a wake-up call to me about how important our work is. Our photographs influence opinions so we better make sure we know what the work is saying. One of the things that drove me to this project originally was that I felt my photographs of same-sex couples looked more like pictures of siblings. Once I listened to what my work was saying, I was able to change it. Now I am concerned with underlying meanings, power relationships and diversity in my portfolio. For instance, now that I know the LGBTQ population is about 5% of the US population, I want to make sure that my portfolio reflects that. Now that I know a ‘dip photo’ communicates strength and power, I’m a little more cautious about imposing that message on a couple.  It’s not that I never do it because some couples want that iconic image, but I’m just careful that they’re not doing it just because I told them to.

What changes, if any, have you seen in the photography industry?

Change is the one thing you can count on in the world, and the photo industry is no different.  I’ve been photographing weddings for 11 years and I’ve seen a lot of changes in my clientele, in industry standards and in wedding traditions, too. In the last two years, I have seen a sharp increase of interest in serving the LGBTQ community. This is truly fantastic change. It’s not every day that you get an entirely new segment of the population entering the wedding industry, so this has been a very exciting time to be a wedding photographer; but, there is still a lot of work to do.

Some photographers may have rushed into being LGBTQ-friendly while not learning how to be LGBTQ-competent. Just like we say in the book, the only way to get better at something is practice, and the one thing you never want to do at a wedding is practice. A wedding is a wedding, but there are some physical and cultural differences that impact our approach to best-serving the LGBTQ community.

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» WeddingWire Networking Night San Diego

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at the Handlery Hotel San Diego for WeddingWire Networking Night San Diego!

At the Networking Night, San Diego pros had the opportunity to enjoy a stunning venue space, network with other local professionals across all service categories, and meet members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned more about building relationships in an industry with little-to-no repeat customers during a brief presentation by WeddingWire Contributor, Bethel Nathan.

Thank you to all the wonderful pros who joined us! We’re excited to share highlights from the event including the educational presentation, our latest issue of WedInsights, and photos from the enjoyable evening below.

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

Finally, we’re excited to announce the winner of our WeddingWire Prize Pack give away – congrats to Jennifer of The Crossings at Carlsbad!

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» Having the Best Year Ever? Don’t Stop Now!

WeddingWire Education Expert

Meghan Ely

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding pr firm OFD Consulting. As a highly sought-after speaker in the wedding industry, she is the exclusive Wedding PR Education Expert for WeddingWire as well as the national Communications and Marketing Director for WIPA

Perhaps this was your year. The best year ever. The year where everything clicked. When you heard more yes’s than no’s. Maybe you bumped up your salary. Got an office off site. Upgraded your laptop as you simultaneously celebrated meeting your sales goals.

best-year-everIf that sounds like you, then we need to talk.  Because what I’m about to share with you needs to stick with you as you make your plans for 2017.

Don’t stop.

I get it — you didn’t get to this point because of luck. You advertised and stood on your feet for hours at wedding and events. You hit all the local networking events and took out the better part of your region for coffee. You blogged, you shared life behind the scenes on Instagram and even learned a little bit about Snapchat. It’s absolutely normal to feel like it’s time to pull back a little.

But don’t.

One of my best business lessons took place the summer after I graduated from college. I worked for the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. At the time, they were $13 billion (yes, billion) ahead of their next closest competitor. But they never stopped. They never put the brakes on promotion and innovation. And I’ve carried that lesson with me in the wedding industry ever since.

I see it far too often — a company enjoys the fruits of their labor and then decides to pull back. They see an uptick in the number of client referrals or plans to dedicate more time to social media. So they cut back on media buys and submissions or suddenly disappear from the networking circuit. It doesn’t take long before they see a dip in client and vendor referrals, and business in general. So they ramp up their marketing again — and around and around we go.

Because here’s the thing– your competitors want you to take a break. Those eager up-and-coming wedding pros just diving into the market? They’d do anything for you to not be such a permanent fixture at every association meeting and in every real wedding feature. That upgraded listing or fab booth spot you secured three years ago? I promise, that in this competitive market, someone else already has his or her eye on it.

Should the off-season be a time of reflection, where you take a good hard look at your promotional efforts? Absolutely.  But if you want to continue this era of good feeling, I’d encourage you to keep swimming. Check out these helpful past posts on business ideas and tips and get motivated for an even more successful year ahead in 2017!

» Mapping Out Your 2017 Business Goals

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.

Now that the year is coming to a close, think back to your 2016 business resolutions as you start to map out your 2017 business goals. How many did you stick to? How many were put on the backburner? If you’ve never been able to “cut out junk food” or “get to bed earlier,” chances are you didn’t have a system in place to keep you accountable. Forget about those resolutions – put those in the past and prepare yourself to set some realistic, achievable goals for the best year ahead of you.

The new year is the perfect time to evaluate what did and didn’t work in the past and work on actionable solutions to boost your business to the next level.

Hmapping-out-2017ere are some helpful ideas to get you started:

Perform a full 2016 review

Prior to setting your goals, it’s essential that you know what needs to be addressed in your business. There’s no point having a goal to boost your social media presence if you’re already posting regularly. Spend some time analyzing all aspects of your business – from marketing efforts to the sales process to client interaction to bookkeeping. Keep your eye out for weak spots that could use some help – these are the areas that you should set your goals.

Write out your goals

It’s fine to start out with basic ideas of what you want to improve in your company, but you will need to get specific and fully flesh out your thoughts. Do your best to quantify your goals, as it will make it easier to track your progress and determine success. For example, if you want to boost your bottom line, create a goal that reads, “To increase revenue by 10% by the end of the year.” You’ll also want to set a deadline – the end of 2017 is a great one. A lot can happen in 12 months!

Break it down, if necessary

You may need to break your goals down into smaller steps. In our example above, you may try increasing your revenue through different methods – perhaps you want to spend more time networking and building referral business, as well as put an ad in your local wedding magazine. These are smaller objectives that will help you reach your ultimate goal and, in turn, will make your endgame seem a lot more approachable.

Hold yourself accountable

Once you have all of your actionable goals and objectives in mind, set up a system that will keep you accountable. If you want to focus on your blogging in 2017, create a post calendar to help guide your writing. If you want to kick that nasty spending habit (even if they are ‘business expenses!’), set a to-do each week to review your expenditures. Make it so that you can’t simply ‘forget’ about your goals, since they are staring back at you each and every day.

If there’s one takeaway to keep in mind, it’s to stay committed. Commit to yourself and to your company that you will reach your goals. When you hit the end of 2017 and look back, you’ll be thrilled with the progress you made. What better excuse to throw an office party or treat yourself to a massage?