» 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.

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» 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.

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» 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

» 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!

» 4 Tips to Optimize Your Lead Replies

4 Tips to Optimize Your Lead RepliesIn the competitive wedding industry, everyone wants lots of high quality leads – but how you reply to each lead plays a pivotal role in determining if you will successfully book the client. These quick tips will help you optimize your lead replies so you’re more likely to receive a positive response and ultimately win the business!

Don’t forget to be personal

Clients know you’re busy, but responding to an email inquiry with an auto response may not have the positive impact you intended. About 25% of couples don’t like generic automated responses, as they can be perceived as impersonal and often provide little added value. Take an extra minute to include in your reply some details from their message, such as wedding date, style, or venue, or to add a personal comment. This effort makes a human connection and helps you stand out in their crowded inbox.

Keep it short and simple

Many couples check emails primarily on their mobile devices, and short emails are more likely to get a reply. Start with a brief subject line and get to the point quickly, since lengthy emails often go unread. Avoid long paragraphs by adding line breaks and use bullet points or numbers where possible to highlight important details. Come up with a few sample responses to keep on hand so you can quickly add in a bit of custom information based on the inquiry and hit ‘send.’

Answer any questions they asked

Many pros make the mistake of not responding to directly asked questions, which can frustrate couples because they’re often reaching out to a number of pros and may have specific questions or criteria they need to know to move forward. You can prepare ahead of time by coming up with a list of answers to common questions such as price range, packages, and availability – but be sure to address any specific questions they asked in your initial reply. These answers are important in determining if you are a good match – nd will ultimately save you time!

NEW – Use their preferred contact method

Our research shows that 48% of couples express frustration when a vendor does not reciprocate their preferred communication type. Get off on the right foot with potential clients by contacting them in the way they prefer!

As of September 2016, couples can now give you their phone number and indicate their preferred contact method for your response. The couple’s preferred method will be shared with you in their message details saved on their client information card within your account. If they choose to provide a phone number, it will also appear within their client details for easy reference.

Check out the change on your Storefront now >>

What other tips do you have that have helped your response and conversion rates? Let us know in the comments!

» The Modern Media Pitch

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. To learn how OFD Consulting can assist you, as well as more about our new wedding PR kits, please visit us today.

Gone are the days when media pitches are strictly limited to blasting out the same press release to your email list of reporters. Many people are missing out on opportunities to get their name out there, simply because they think that a pitch has to be about their company and they may not always have news to share.

Sure, there is plenty of company news that is worth the pitch – anything that is timely, relevant and interesting is generally well received. However, there are plenty of other ways to get press without forcing not-so-newsworthy news into editors’ inboxes.

The Modern Media PitchCreate an effective media list

First and foremost, you’ll need to determine the best media outlets that fit your brand and your niche. Of those outlets, it’s important to find the right contacts and gather their info. This may be a bit of a task upfront, as it could require some good old-fashioned Google searching and social media stalking, but it’s well worth having the right contacts on file. There are also a number of programs to introduce you to new contacts, like HARO, SourceBottle and Babbler. Once you have your list, keep them organized in a spreadsheet that is easily accessible and simple to use.

Developing the pitch

A pitch is simply a story idea, so put your thinking cap on and get creative. In our office, we have a weekly meeting to review what’s in the news regarding weddings to get an idea of what’s buzzing around. From there, we look at each major news story and how we can turn it into a softer story angle and develop pitches out of those ideas. We’re also lucky enough to have a recent bride on our team, so if you have a newlywed, don’t be afraid to dig into their experience! You can also keep an eye out on your own weddings to see if there are any stories brewing that would make for a good pitch.

Sending out the pitch

Once you know who you’re pitching and what you’re pitching, it’s time to write it up. Always address the contact by their first name when possible and be professional throughout the email. Keep it short and simple, while still getting to the point you want to cover – editors are notoriously slammed with deadlines, pitches and other work, so you want to get your message across without taking up too much of their time. Offer yourself as a resource for further questions and thank them for their consideration.

Don’t fret if your pitch isn’t picked up. You’ve made a valuable media connection, which is worth its weight in gold in the PR world. Now, on to your next pitch…

» Everything You Need to Know About Live Streaming

Pro to Pro Insights

Ashley Jones, Ashley Ann EventsThis post was written by Ashley Jones of Ashley Ann’s Events. As a talented, award-winning wedding and event designer, Ashley has made a name for herself by offering unique and professional designs and productions. Ashley is a Master Flower Builder with a knack for transforming unconventional spaces. In the business world, Ashley offers speaking engagements for entrepreneurs on a variety of topics, including social media lead generation, sales funnels, and business growth. She has been featured on CNN Money, Fox News, KATV, STAND’s 30 Under 30, and several other media outlets and publications. 

By now, you’ve probably noticed that many celebrities and businesses are leveraging live streaming apps like Facebook Live or Periscope to reach wider audiences with fresh, engaging videos. Rather than recording a video and uploading it later, live streaming allows you to instantly connect with your followers in a more organic (and less time consuming!) way. Live streaming gives everyone in the world access to you instantaneously.

	Everything You Need to Know About Live StreamingI’m a huge fan of live streaming. One of the biggest benefits I’ve noticed is how quickly you can build a wider audience of followers. Using Periscope, I’ve been able to build an audience of a little over 20,000 followers in only about 5 months. I have followers in Russia, Canada, Australia, the UK, and of course the United States. It takes much more time on other social media platforms to build an organic audience of this size.

Another reason I love live streaming is its emphasis on the visual. As wedding professionals, our livelihood is based on not only the visual appeal of our work, but also our personality and friendliness towards our clients. Because it’s instantaneous, live streaming allows potential clients to see you and get a much better view of your personality than a scripted and pre-recorded video. Plus, research shows that visuals are processed in the brain 60,000 times faster than text, so it’s a much faster and more effective way to connect.

Another recent study shows that using video on landing pages can increase conversion by 80%, and I can personally attest to this – when I post a video on my Instagram compared to a photo I consistently get 3 times the views and engagement. Periscope, in particular, is a great platform because Periscope users consume nearly 40 years of watch time every day. Continue reading

» Do You Deserve an A+? Share Our Back-To-School Reviews Sweepstakes

Do You Deserve an A+? Share Our Back-To-School Reviews SweepstakesWith the summer months winding down and students heading back to school, we’re giving your clients the chance to win $500!

As part of our Back-to-School Reviews Sweepstakes, couples who write two or more reviews on WeddingWire for at least two separate pros now through September 30, 2016, are automatically entered to win $500. For extra credit, entries double if your clients write four or more reviews.

Since 38% of engagements occurring between November and February, a whole new class of engaged couples is right around the corner! Getting reviews now from your 2016 clients will help other engaged couples decide to book your business, plus you’ll earn more reviews towards our our WeddingWire Rated® program and the WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards®, awarded each year in January.

Remember that customers look at the quality, quantity, recency and consistency of your reviews, meaning that you should be collecting at least one review each month. What better way to build your online reputation and encourage future clients to reach out than with the prospect of winning a cash reward?

We’ve added custom language to the Review Collector tool in your account so you can start spreading the word to your past clients!

Start requesting reviews now to fill out your 2016 ‘report card’ >>

If you have any additional questions regarding our latest reviews contest, please see our Official Rules.

» Are You Getting Your Money’s Worth?

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.

What you are probably missing in your LGBTQ marketing strategy…and what it costs you

Those of you who have been in the wedding business for a while have come to expect the steady onslaught of email invitations and phone calls inviting you to advertise on blogs, in directories or with other business tool-related services. And, as I’m sure you know by now, all offers are not created equal. That’s especially true when it comes to trying to understand where to invest your advertising dollars to let same-sex couples know that you see them and are prepared to serve them.

What you are probably missing in your LGBTQ marketing strategy…and what it costs youIs it worth it?

As you consider your ad buys at the end of each term, it’s important that you ask yourself: Was the return on investment (ROI) worth it? And, if the ROI does seem to be measuring up, it’s then important to ask a deeper question: What is the cause of the poor performance of the ad buy?

When it comes to thinking about an ad buy targeting same-sex couples as prospective clients, possible answers to the second question why is my ROI so poor? could be the fault of the media/source you chose. Or it could be a fault of your own making. So before you cast blame, take a deeper look at the cause of the breakdown.

Common failures include:

  • Making an impulsive buy when contacted by a salesperson because the pitch sounds like it fits a need, even though you haven’t reviewed your business plan and the goodness of fit of the investment;
  • Making an impulsive buy when contacted by a salesperson because the pitch sounds like it fits a need, even though you haven’t asked the salesperson the right questions to determine how that return on investment will really work for your business;
  • Signing up to advertise in a new directory or publication that purports to specialize in the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) market, but doesn’t actually have the reach, relevance or readership for your services or doesn’t offer any clear reports on the effectiveness of the buy;
  • Purchasing and setting up a listing with images and text that you’ve used in the past without taking the time to learn more about what will ring as authentic and meaningful to the couples you wish to reach.

Is it worth it? How can you work it?

Here are a few key things I encourage you to consider before spending another dime on a new buy or renewing another LGBT-niche-based contract to make sure that you are making a smart decision that will produce the results you seek. Continue reading

» The Key to Staying Motivated as a Wedding Professional

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.

Working in the wedding industry can be a fun and exciting experience, especially if you are passionate about the work. However, as great as it can be to put together a couple’s dream celebration, that’s not to say the job doesn’t come with its stresses.

Most people outside of the industry assume that our professions involve setting up a lot of pretty details and taking gorgeous shots of a couple – and it does! But it also involves client meetings, venue walkthroughs, contract negotiations and tons of paperwork that can get tedious pretty quickly.

The Key to Staying Motivated as a Wedding ProfessionalAs weary as it may be to keep up with the behind-the-scenes side of things, it’s essential to stay motivated throughout the wedding season to ensure that you’re on your game to provide clients with their dream wedding. Easier said than done, right? Let’s look at a few ways to stay motivated when everything seems to be piling up around you.

Just get it done

Ah, the old-fashioned approach. There is really nothing more motivating than checking something off of your to-do list. Start by knocking out a few smaller to-dos to get yourself going in the right direction. The feeling of accomplishment will push you to tackle some of the bigger tasks and you’ll be well on your way to a completed checklist!

Take a break

Sometimes, sitting at your desk and staring at your computer or piles of paperwork is the least motivating thing you can do. If you find yourself wasting time in the office because the inspiration just isn’t there, it’s time to unplug and take a break. It could mean walking around the block, reading a chapter of your current book or heading over to catch the afternoon yoga class – find something that helps your mind unwind and use it to your advantage. Once you get back with a clear head, the work will seem much less daunting than it did just an hour before.

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» Wedding Trend Differences in Gay Men Versus Lesbians

WeddingWire Contributor

Bernadette Smith

Bernadette Smith is the founder and president of 14 Stories and the Gay Wedding Institute (GWI), and award-winning author of three books, including The Business of Gay Weddings: A Guide for Wedding Professionals. Through the GWI, Bernadette has trained thousands of wedding and hospitality professionals on sales and marketing best practices to same-sex couples. Bernadette’s expertise has been sought after by the Today Show, National Public Radio, the BBC, the New York Times, CNN, among many others.

In general, I think it’s dangerous to generalize and foolish to put people in boxes. That said, there are some striking differences in the wedding planning activities of gay men versus lesbians. I’ve seen this over time in my wedding planning career, and in your role as a wedding professional I think it’s important to be aware of some of these differences/trends in order to best serve your clients.

Lesbians are female, and most of them identify as brides, are therefore much more “bridal” – and they are also more traditional as a result. If you think about it, since a very young age, many girls have been indoctrinated into the idea of having a wedding; their fairytale princess fantasy. It’s just been something that’s been expected of young girls for decades – lesbian girls included!

Wedding Trend Differences in Gay Men Versus LesbiansGay men, on the other hand, were unlikely to have been raised dreaming about their wedding. It’s just not something that parents talk to sons much about during their childhood, the way those same parents might talk to their daughters about it. As a result of this, plus the wedding industry’s focus on “the bride”, and the gender roles that play a part in most wedding traditions, gay men are far less traditional on their wedding days.

The survey of contemporary couples that my company conducted with WeddingWire, GayWeddings.com and Community Marketing validates my experiences as a wedding planner. For example, we found that gay men are far less likely to want to follow wedding traditions such as something borrowed, something blue (35% of lesbians adhere to this tradition vs. 7% of gay men), doing a first dance (43% of lesbians vs. 18% of gay men), changing their name (42% vs. 7%), having a wedding shower (23% vs. 4%), and many other traditions. You can take a look at the full report here.

You may also find that gay men are less likely to even have a sit down dinner and instead choose a cocktail reception. You may find that gay men are interested in hiring a DJ with experience in clubs as opposed to a DJ whose experience is primarily limited to weddings. You may find that gay men are interested in a fashion photographer rather than a traditional wedding photographer. Gay men may even be interested in picking out the attire of their waitstaff, and may ask for model bartenders/servers! I once had a gay client ask for a cute young male wedding officiant! Is that discriminatory? No, because someone’s appearance is not a protected class… but there’s no doubt that it’s shallow.

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