» Online Tools for the Creative Entrepreneur

Online Tools for the Creative EntrepreneurAs busy wedding and event professionals, you probably don’t have a ton of free time – if any! With everything on your plate, it can be hard to find the time to be creative with your business. Whether you’re looking for emerging trends in the wedding industry, trying to stay up to date with industry leaders or just thinking about new ways to make your customers happy, you need the right tools to access all that information quickly and efficiently.

Many entrepreneurs and small business owners have the same problems; you’re expected to be in-the-know about all aspects of your business, but you rarely have the time to keep up with it all. Luckily for you, there are plenty of online tools and apps to make your life easier!

If you want to be creative but still get everything done, use these online tools to save time!

Trend Tools

Pulse – Use the Pulse app to pull all your favorite news sources into one custom stream. You’ll keep your finger on the “pulse” of what’s going on with your favorite websites, publications and news sources. It’s easy to use on your phone or tablet, so you can quickly look through your stream when you have a few extra minutes on the go.

Pinterest – Your business may already be using Pinterest to add your own business’ images to get more backlinks to your website, but you can also use Pinterest as a quick and easy trend spotting tool! Follow your friends in the industry (or even WeddingWire!) for wedding inspiration, and follow WeddingWireEDU to easily scan trends in the business and tech world.

Data Tools

Google Analytics – If you aren’t already signed up on Google Analytics, it’s time to start. Google Analytics allows you to track traffic on your website and blog and see more information about your visitors, what pages they visit, and how long they stayed on your site. You’ll see which areas are performing well and which areas need improvement so you can increase web traffic and conversions. The best part: it’s free!

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» The Results Are In: Wedding Market Awards

Yesterday, the Wedding Market Awards were announced during the community’s third anniversary #WeddingMarket Twitter Chat, featuring Julie Albaugh of Wedding Market, Meghan Ely of OFD Consulting (she’s also a WeddingWire Education Expert!) and Nicola Russill-Roy of Propose PR.

Wedding Market, an online community for engaged couples and the wedding industry, asked its social media followers to vote for their favorites in a variety of topics, from wedding celebrity of the year to the best wedding trends.

Last month we announced our nominations, and now we’re thrilled to have won awards in seven categories:

  • Favorite Wedding Industry Blog for Wedding Pros (WeddingWireEDU)
  • Best Wedding Industry Conference (WeddingWire World)
  • Must Follow Wedding Industry Expert (@SonnyG)
  • Best #WeddingMarket Chat Guest for 2013 (@SonnyG)
  • Best Wedding Industry Conference Speaker (@SonnyG)
  • Favorite Digital Wedding Magazine (WeddingWire)
  • Favorite Wedding Community in the US for Brides/Nearlyweds (WeddingWire)

Check out the announcements below, via the #WeddingMarket Twitter feed!

 

 

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» Using Social Media for Customer Service

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: your business should be social in some way. Connecting with your potential clients has become harder than ever with the amount of marketing messaging being aimed at consumers, so you need to reach them in a more natural way. Reach them where they’re already spending time – social media!

If you haven’t already set up a social media presence for yourself, first evaluate your audience and check out resources like this infographic to decide which social channels to target based on your audience’s needs. You don’t have to have a presence on them all (especially if you have limited time and resources), but a little effort can go a long way.

Using Social Media for Customer ServiceMost businesses are aware that social media can help your business grow through brand awareness and brand recognition, but did you also know that social media has quickly become an important and effective customer service tool?

Find out how your business can leverage Facebook and Twitter for customer service with our tips below!

Managing Customer Care on Facebook

One of the biggest trends businesses should be aware of is the tendency of unsatisfied customers reaching out publicly through Facebook. For wedding and event professionals, many of your current and past clients will leave a review rather than reach out on Facebook, but Facebook is very easy to access, especially on the go. If you do receive a negative post or comment on your business’ Facebook page, respond quickly and try to take the issue off of the public domain by working it out through private message, email or a phone call.

Pro Tips

  • Apologize for anything you may have done to make them feel that way, or for any inconvenience they may have experienced
  • Respond quickly so that the situation does not get worse with time

Responding to Customer Issues on Twitter

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» What’s Next in Social Media: February 2014

What's Next in Social Media

Social media is constantly changing. Each network has its own strategy and features, and it can be hard to keep up with the latest news. Never fear! We’ve got your monthly update, all in one place, so you can be prepared for what’s next in social media!

Here’s what you need to know about what’s next in social media from February 2014:

Facebook Shows Who Posts

If you have multiple users on your business’ Facebook page, you’re now in luck – Facebook’s new feature allows page admins to see which admin wrote posts! It’s easier than ever to know who has been participating the most, who posted last and other benefits depending on how your business uses your page. Don’t worry though; this feature is only visible to other admins, so none of your fans and followers will be able to see the individual admins.

Read more on AllFacebook >What's Next in Social Media: February 2014

Twitter Adds Ads to Search

Twitter will soon be taking a page out of Google’s book by including Promoted Accounts, a form of Twitter advertising, in Twitter search results. Recent research by the network indicates that users are 72% more likely to make a purchase from a brand they follow, and this new feature will attempt to foster those relationships with brands while users are searching on a topic.

Find out more from Fast Company >

Pinterest’s New Chrome Extension

Pinterest has updated its “Pin It” button for Chrome users. When the extension is enabled in Chrome, users can hover over an image and the “Pin It” button will appear, where you can save it to your Pinterest boards in a matter of a few clicks. Notably, this new function will also include the image’s URL in the description, which makes it easier to see where the image originally came from!

Learn more on The Next Web >

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» Email Signature Do’s and Don’ts

No matter what size your business is, email signatures are an important part of your business’ marketing. Think about it – every email you send and even every auto-response you trigger includes your personal or business information at the bottom of the email. This signature does more than just inform the recipient of your name, title, business name and/or contact information; it’s an opportunity to call recipients to different types of action.

As we’re rounding the corner into busy season, follow these email signature do’s and don’ts to make sure your business puts its best foot forward at the end of every email!

Email Signature Do's and Don'tsDo: Include all the basics, but keep it simple! Your name should be first, followed by your professional title if you’d like to include it, then your business’ name (linked to your business website). If you do business by phone you should also include your phone number, and re-typing your email address is a nice touch so that all your contact information is in one easy-to-find place.

Don’t: Go overboard with links and information in your email signature. Including every single possible way to contact you may seem like you’re being helpful, but all that information can be overwhelming. The more choices you offer the recipient, the more likely you are to cause confusion and the less likely it will be that they’ll use any of them!

Do: Encourage users to follow you on your most popular social networks. If your business is on Facebook or Twitter and you would like to highlight that content, include those links as your recipients are most likely to have their own accounts on those networks. You could also include other social links, but don’t include all of them! Remember the first point: keep it simple.

Don’t: Include irrelevant information in your email signature. It’s common that you’d like to drive traffic to your blog or various pages on your website, but not all of that information will be useful to your email recipient. You email both potential clients and current clients, so be sure to consider both audiences when deciding which links to include.

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» How To: Create Your SEO Keyword Checklist

How To: Create Your SEO Keyword ChecklistWith recent changes to Google’s search algorithm and other search engine optimization (SEO) concerns, it can be hard to know what to do for your SEO efforts. While SEO is made up of several moving parts, including a link strategy, your URL structure and other factors, your use of keywords is one of the most pieces.

Here’s how you can create your own SEO keyword checklist to keep your business current and compliant with the latest SEO strategies!

Situation Analysis

  1. Analyze your current business website. What keywords are you using? Does your website use meta data (title tags, descriptions)? How much text do you have on your website and does that text use keywords associated with your business type? Answering these questions can help you determine how much work you need to do to be more transparent for search engines.
  2. Analyze your competitors’ websites. Go through your biggest known competitors’ websites to see the content and keywords they’re using. You can also search the keywords you feel best represent your business to see who is using them. Check out the websites for each of the first five search results to see how they incorporate these keywords.
  3. Develop your own desired keywords. What phrases would you use to describe your business? What phrases would your customers use to describe your business? This will help guide you to understanding how you’d like potential clients to search for your business and find it.

Keyword Research

  1. Use keyword research tools like Google AdWord’s Keyword Tool to shed some light on the popularity of the keywords you’re looking to use and how many times they’re searched monthly. These factors not only help you to identify keywords that others are using, but also to identify keywords that others are not using, leaving room for your use. Additionally, if you choose to do any form of search advertising in the future, you’ll know how costly those keywords would be.
  2. Now that you have a better understanding of what you’re currently doing in terms of SEO and where you can go in the future, it’s important to set your objectives before moving forward. What are you trying to measure by taking further action – website visits? Inquiries? Appointments? Bookings? Start recording these numbers before you start optimizing so you have a baseline and can see how your actions are affecting those objectives.

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» Are You Taking Advantage of Our GayWeddings.com Partnership?

WeddingWire.com and GayWeddings.com will celebrate 3 years of partnership in March of this year! The partnership celebrates the unions of all loving couples, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity and provides LGBTQ-friendly wedding professionals with an opportunity to reach same-sex couples planning their wedding or union.

Are You Taking Advantage of Our GayWeddings.com Partnership?Together, WeddingWire and GayWeddings.com empower engaged couples and LGBTQ-friendly wedding professionals throughout the planning process. Wedding professionals listed on WeddingWire can easily opt-in to the GayWeddings.com directory, which features thousands of LGBTQ-friendly Pros across the country and abroad! Learn more about our partnership here.

Ready to share the love? Join the Wed We Can campaign designed to empower same-sex couples, their friends and family, and wedding professionals dedicated to serving the newly engaged couples with knowledge, tools and support. Download Wed We Can social media covers, access education for Wedding Pros to better serve same-sex couples and more.

All WeddingWire members have access to advertising your business on GayWeddings.com by selecting that you service LGBTQ ceremonies in the FAQ of your Storefront within your account. It’s important to remember that when you select that you service LGBTQ ceremonies you are now advertising your business to all kinds of couples, so you may want to re-examine your marketing and brand materials.

Below are three ways to maximize your exposure on GayWeddings.com and reach more same-sex couples!

Always Use Inclusive Language

No matter where you are advertising, it’s always important to practice using inclusive language – that is, don’t reference your couples as one “bride” and one “groom.” Try removing the word bride from your vocabulary and instead use the word couple. Small changes like this transform how you’re marketing yourself and who you’re marketing yourself to! Now none of your couples will feel as though they are not included in your business’ messaging.

Tweak your Advertisement on GayWeddings.com

Using inclusive language is a great start – but also keep in mind you can select a main image specifically for GayWeddings.com. If you have worked with same-sex couples in the past, use one of those photos to feature as your main image, or a more gender neutral image (not a heterosexual couple). In addition, be sure these photos are also a part of your albums on WeddingWire to alert searching couples that you are a LGBTQ-friendly Pro.

Educate Yourself

Follow headlines and be sure you are aware of the legal status of partnership recognition for same-sex couples in the states where you offer your services. We provide top education resources just for wedding professionals to better serve same-sex couples, knowledgeable expert advice about same-sex weddings and an etiquette guide, the latest news and updates on marriage equality direct from the Human Rights Campaign, and regular Education Expert posts from President of GayWeddings.com, Kathryn Hamm!

Pros who are LGBTQ-friendly can increase their business by expanding their network and making it known that their services are inclusive!

Not listed yet? Here’s how to opt in!

» WeddingWire Workshop Phoenix

Yesterday, local Phoenix Wedding Pros gathered at Grayhawk Golf Club for one of our first WeddingWire Workshop events, focused on managing your business!

At the WeddingWire Workshop, Pros gathered for a comprehensive training on the tools available within the Clients Tab of premium members’ WeddingWire account. In addition to receiving hands-on WeddingWire account training, attendees also learned more about eventOS tools, met their local WeddingWire representatives, and enjoyed light snacks and beverages while networking with other local Pros after the training session.

WeddingWire Workshops are the newest addition to our variety of educational events and networking opportunities created for Wedding Pros, which include our annual user’s conference WeddingWire World, networking events such as WeddingWire Mix & Mingles, WeddingWire Networking Nights and more. We look forward to hosting more local WeddingWire Workshops in 2014!

Thank you to all the wonderful Pros who joined us and participated in the Workshop. If you want to continue the conversation with some of the Pros you met at the event, check out the WeddingWire Workshop Phoenix board in the Pro Forums!

We’re excited to share some highlights from the event and additional resources including access to our Clients Tab Quick Start Guide, the WeddingWire Education Guide for more business tips, and great photos from the evening (as seen below).

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

Finally, congrats to Michelle Hart of Antique Wedding House, the winner of a WeddingWire prize pack!

WeddingWire Workshop Phoenix

WeddingWire Workshop Phoenix

WeddingWire Workshop Phoenix

WeddingWire Workshop Phoenix

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» 4 Steps to More Sales

4 steps to more sales Webinar recap!

Whether you like it, love it, or hate it – selling your products or services is a critical aspect to running a successful business! In the wedding and events industry, you may face a variety of challenges in establishing and closing business from client consultation meetings, calls, and emails.

In this month’s educational webinar for premium members, WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg shared the key sales tips and strategies your business needs.

What are the 4 steps to more sales? Check out the highlights!

  • Get their attention: It is important to think client first, and meet them where they are searching for their wedding team. Keep your WeddingWire Storefront fresh, post conversationally on social media networks, attend the big local bridal shows and events, and network in your community to name a few! Finally, always ask your current clients for new referrals to keep your sales funnel and potential leads full.
  • Get the inquiry: Once you capture their attention, how do you get them to submit an inquiry for a meeting, email or call for more information about your services? Make it easy to find your contact information, simple to be in touch with a quick form, and provide the basic information they would need to make a decision to reach out available on your site without giving away too much! Reviews are a great way to showcase personal testimonials, and help encourage prospects to reach out for a personalized consultation to see how you can help with their special day.
  • Get the appointment: Now that you have the inquiry, how do you solidify your appointment? First, respond to all inquires in a timely manner, and always remain professional and polite (but feel free to inject some personality in this business). Commit to a professional, client-oriented email conversation by focusing on the couple, asking their needs and collecting basic details prior to an appointment so the couple will feel that you are committed and connecting with them. Remember not all meetings have to be in person or on the phone. If a client is more comfortable with some details back and forth via email – go with it! This will help gain their trust. Just be sure to stay on top of asking for a booking when the time is right. Continue reading

» 6 Small Business Tax Season Tips

6 Small Business Tax Season TipsSpring is coming (at least we hope!), which means taxes are on everyone’s minds. While taxes can be complicated and vary greatly depending on your business type, state and other factors, we’ve compiled these universal small business tax season tips to help you save time and money this year!

  • Take a close look at the Small Business Jobs Act Tax – it has many initiatives aimed at decreasing the tax burden for small businesses and may provide you with savings in a variety of areas. Start here first to determine what your options are!
  • Be very careful with your bookkeeping. Keeping close track of all your business expenses throughout each month and year will make it easier in the long run. You’ll be able to enter all your expenses into your account system much faster and with more accuracy.
  • Many Pros find themselves traveling a lot and incurring auto expenses and mileage. If you find yourself faced with the option of deducting either your auto expenses or mileage for business-related driving, take the mileage deduction. With gas prices so high, it’s likely to be a better deal. Just make sure to keep track of your mileage diligently. Continue reading

» Featured Pro Tweets

In our Featured Pro Tweets series, we highlight great comments that we receive to @WeddingWireEDU. We love reading and sharing your insights, feedback and thoughts with other Wedding Pros! Be sure to tweet at us and you could be featured next!

If you haven’t already, follow us on Twitter for the latest WeddingWire updates, industry and technology news and small business tips.

Check out some of our favorite tweets from the last month below!


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» HR Basics Every Small Business Owner Should Know

Big Ideas for Small Business HR

The following is the first post in our new series, Big Ideas for Small Business HR! This series will provide tips and advice for small businesses who manage their own human resources. Check back soon for more!

HR Basics Every Small Business Owner Should KnowOwning your own small business is a dream come true for many wedding and event professionals. The freedom to control your schedule and play by your own rules is a huge draw for many who start their own businesses. One of the biggest challenges to owning a small business, however, is dealing with all the laws, requirements and paperwork that come with it by managing your employees and other aspects of Human Resources.

The good news is that if you’re looking to hire employees, your business is doing well! With your success comes the need for more people to share your dream, and you’ll continue down the path to growth and brand awareness.

If you’re looking to expand your business in anticipation of the upcoming busy season, make sure you know these HR basics!

Legal

The legal component of human resources is often the most complex, as you’ll need to comply with both state and federal laws. Even more complicated is the fact that many of the laws may change depending on the number of employees you have. To find out more about these laws, visit the U.S. Department of Labor website to see both federal and state requirements. Regardless of your business’ home state or size, all your employees will need to complete both tax forms and I9 forms.

Benefits

Compiling a benefits program can seem overwhelming for many small business owners. You have to choose healthcare insurance providers and select retirement benefit plans, as well as establish optional benefits such as employee incentive programs. Some benefits are required by law, and others are optional based on your own preferences. Start by finding out which benefits are required and which are optional, and then you can start creating your benefits package.

Hiring

Now is the fun part – choosing who will join your business’ family! You’ll need a clear plan for setting the requirements for each position, evaluating any applicants on those requirements, how you plan on interviewing any applicants and what you’re prepared to offer the winning applicant. You should also consider the type of personality you’re looking for, as you’ll be spending a lot of time with your new hire! Don’t rush the hiring process by hiring the first person who walks in – take your time to find the perfect fit.

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