» How and When to Expand Your Niche

This article was written by Kevin Dennis, editor of WeddingIQ.

Choosing a niche can elevate your brand to the next level—just ask any successful business owner. Niches allow you to focus your talents on a corner of the market, effectively increasing overall brand recognition as well as carving out your role as an expert in your field

However, in some cases, it’s wise to think outside your niche and look for ways to expand your services while still sticking to what sets you apart in the market.

Do clients ask about services you don’t offer? Are creative partners hinting at something they’d love help with? Take a hard look at your market to see if there is room for that service and whether it fits in with your current offerings.

Don’t jump ahead without doing your due diligence—dig into your market and get a better understanding of who may consider this new venture of yours as a competing gesture. Ask yourself if this move may affect your existing industry relationships and whether the risk is worth it.

At the same time, you’ll need to evaluate your company internally. Expanding your business will only be successful if your company is already secure and running smoothly. As a business owner, you need to prepare to invest some money up front knowing it will be worth it down the road. If your brand is still a work in progress, give it some time to flesh out and become established before considering growth opportunities.

Next, consider how your new venture will fit into your brand. I’m a firm believer that new services should develop within your existing brand. If you try to add new businesses for every service, your brand will become watered down and confusing for prospective clients. Keep it simple and stick to the same marketing styles, colors, tone of voice, and overall branding techniques.

When it comes down to it, client experience is priority and a consistent brand is a major factor for happy returning clients. After I started my career as a DJ, Fantasy Sound naturally developed into a drapery and lighting company, maintaining a consistent brand throughout. On the other hand, when I acquired WeddingIQ, an educational hub for wedding professionals, it came with a brand that made sense to continue—it was a living thing that readers had grown to love.

In both cases, I’m fortunate to have had help from advisors—insight from others is a valuable resource when making major business decisions. Trust your gut, but also consider perspectives that others can offer. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for advice from trusted business associates.

Lastly, give it three years before you consider discontinuing a new venture. It can take time to make a profit, so don’t panic if you’re losing money after a year. However, if you’re not seeing a return at three years, it may be time to look into other options. Don’t fret, though—consider it a learning experience and use your knowledge to make your next endeavor a success.

Kevin Dennis is the editor of WeddingIQ and the owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California. Dennis is the past president for Silicon Valley NACE, and national vice president for WIPA.

» 3 Ways to Improve Your Mobile Website

The verdict is here: mobile marketing is the new normal and if you haven’t already, it’s time to catch up. The first step to becoming a mobile-friendly business is ensuring that visitors accessing your website through mobile devices have a great experience. 60% of all searches are done through a mobile device, which is causing Google to shift towards ranking websites based on their mobile sites (mobile first SEO). So if you want to show up in couples’ search results on  Google, mobile optimization is more important than ever.

To be ready for this shift to mobile-first SEO, it’s important to understand how Google ranks mobile friendliness and what you can do to be in Google’s good books.

3 tips for optimizing your mobile site:

  1. Test each page separately

In order to optimize your mobile site, you need think deeper than the landing page. Just because your homepage is mobile friendly, doesn’t mean all pages of your website are mobile friendly. Your site needs to be optimized from start to finish, which means making sure that users have a good experience when they are directed to any part of your website. Moreover, each page should be treated as an entry point since most visits on websites don’t begin with the landing page. Google’s new algorithm is more granular, compared to the past, and will be looking at each page separately to determine how your site will rank in search results.

  1. Page speed matters (a lot)

Google wants to ensure a good experience when people click on a website, so they look at your page speed to decide if you are offering a good mobile experience for visitors. The average load time for a mobile page is currently 22 seconds, but research shows that people will click out if it takes more than 3 seconds to load, indicating an imbalance in user expectations. Google offers the free tool PageSpeed Insights which reports on the real-world performance of a page and provides suggestions on how that page may be improved — check it out to put your website to the test.

  1. Remember: Google operates in real time

Previously, every few months, Google would crawl through web pages and collect data that would deem websites either up to standards or spam, which would then determine the search rankings for these pages. Prior to Google’s latest update, even if you improved your website you would still have to wait a few months until Google re-indexed in order to have any penalties on your website lifted.

But with the new update, Google’s systems are operating in real time. With its latest release Google crawls and re-indexes pages as changes are made. This means you can make improvements to your website and see results in your search rankings quickly.

With Google’s mobile-first indexing rolling out, mobile optimization is the biggest and most critical topic in SEO. It is now easier to understand where your website stands and how to improve it, and as competition increases, differentiating yourself with a well functioning website can help boost you to the top of search results. So get out there and improve your mobile optimization!

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Master Mobile Marketing” with Sonny Ganguly, WeddingWire’s Chief Marketing Officer.

» 4 Ways to Update Your Social Media Strategy

Photo by Vanessa Joy Photography

This article was written by Education Expert Vanessa Joy, Owner & Photographer of Vanessa Joy Photography.

“This is SO exciting!!!!”

That’s what I thought when I first heard about Instagram’s release of Instagram TV, or IGTV. But then I thought of what this really meant. More work. More algorithm changes. More hours of me trying to figure out what they heck I should be doing on social media now.

As a wedding professional, social media is one of the strongest marketing and branding tools we have at our disposal. It’s also the most time-consuming task that takes us away from our true passion of running our own creative business. Right now Instagram is the top priority for wedding businesses in the social media world because that’s where most engaged couples are hanging out digitally these days. So how can you make sure that you’re doing it right when everything keeps changing?

1. Never stop learning

At some point or another I’ve felt the desire to give up. Not on wedding photography altogether, but on little pieces here and there. It’s tempting to feel that way about social media and want to kiss it goodbye because you just don’t want to learn something new that came along. Fight that urge my friends. I’m not saying you have to be a master at social media, but you do need to continue to educate yourself and stay relevant.

2. Don’t believe the lies

It’s tempting to try and find shortcuts when social media gets overwhelming.  Believe me, that won’t end well. From buying followers, likes and other things you’ve heard “work”, how can you discern truth?

Take a look at this video for some quick social media myth debunking.

3. Understand the truth

When it comes to social media the root of it is exactly as it says: social. Every time you see a change come along just remember that each of these platforms is just a corporation trying to make money by engaging users on their platform. If you remember that concept, then you can weather any change by coming back to it. Before you post simply ask yourself “will my audience engage with this?”. It doesn’t matter how they engage with it (like, comment, watch, click, etc), just that they do.

4. Get help

You likely didn’t enter the wonderful world of weddings because you wanted to be glued to social media all day every day. So, streamline the process with a social media scheduling service like Planoly, Buffer, Later, Hootsuite or Meet Edgar (and I’m sure there are many others). If you can, don’t feel ashamed to hire personnel to handle posting or interacting with others. Virtual assistants and office assistants can be great for this and will take a lot of the weight off of your shoulders so you can focus more on your clients and what you do best.

5. BONUS: Know what to fix

For this one, I’m personally going to help you. WeddingWire and I are hosting a webinar for Premium members that’ll help you discover any Instagram faux pas that you may be making. Best part: we’ll be hosting a LIVE critique where you can submit your Instagram account for me to chat about on the webinar! Premium members should check their email to register for “Are You Instagram-ing Right?” on Wednesday, August 22nd at 3pm EDT. I’ll see you there!

Vanessa Joy has been an influential photographer in the wedding community for a decade. Starting her photographic journey in 1998, she has since earned 5 college degrees, and has spoken at almost every major convention and platform in the industry such as CreativeLIVE, Wedding MBA, WPPI, ShutterFest, Imaging USA, WeddingWire World, and Mobile Beat. Recognized for her talent and more so her business sense, her clients love working with her and industry peers love to learn from her generous, informative and open-book style of teaching. Check out more of her resources at www.BreatheYourPassion.com

» Why Email Templates Are Awesome

This article was written by Bethel Nathan, Owner & Business Coach/Speaker at Elevate by Bethel.

For many of us in the wedding industry, emails are the number one way we communicate with our couples. A couple’s experience with you and your business often starts with an email response to their inquiry, ends with a thank you after the wedding, and includes many, many (many!) emails in between.  Therefore, when you are determining the quality and quantity of your communications with couples, you clearly need to put a lot of focus on the quantity and quality of your emails.

As I’ve built my business (to over 850 weddings now, ranging between 75-150 most years), I realized that for the level of service I wanted to provide, and with the volume of couples I needed to work with in order to earn the living I want, I didn’t have the time to write every single email from “scratch.”  However, automated emails wouldn’t be personal enough either. This made creating a large number of templated emails the perfect solution for me. And, although the initial creation of templated emails can take some time, it is well worth it if you plan to be in business for a long time.

“Automated” vs. “templates”

Are we all on the same page on terminology? When I talk about templated emails, many people think I am referring to automated emails… emails you set up once in your system, and then the system sends them out automatically based on a date or system event (such as two weeks pre-wedding or as soon as a questionnaire is received). That’s not what I’m talking about here. Automated emails do have their purpose, but since the only personalization that can happen in an automated email is if you include merge fields within the email (like contact name or wedding date), they won’t work for any scenario in which you want the option to personalize for that couple. Therefore, the only automated emails in my entire customer journey are for invoice reminders and receipts. That is it.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you could write every single email from scratch every single time, but, based on how many emails you probably send, that could be very time-consuming. And, when you think of your process and customer journey, is every single email you send to inquiring or booked couples really 100% different based on that couple or wedding? I highly doubt that it is.

Which leads us to templated emails, an email that you send quite often, and one in which a large percentage, if not all, of the email message applies to everyone you send it to. However, unlike an automated email, a templated email is always sent manually and intentionally, which allows it to be personalized each time you send it.  

For example, my ceremony creation process includes two assignments for the couple, and the email for the second assignment includes a set of instructions and guidance that is lengthy. However, while most, if not all, of the instructions in there apply to many of my couples, not all of it does. This was the perfect scenario for a templated email. This template includes all the possible instructions and details, and then, before I send it to a specific couple, I can review it and add or remove pieces, personalizing it as needed and wanted for that specific couple. I reply personally to all emails from my couples – so I’m not saying to not be really personal as fits you – but almost every email initiated from me during my process and my customer experience comes from a template.

4 reasons email templates are great:

Thus, templated emails are a wonderful option in a business that is so email-heavy yet requires a level of personal service, or perceived personal service. Here are some great reasons for using templated emails:

  1. Saves time and money

Even if it is a short email by having it pre-written you reduce the time required to send it vs. creating that email from scratch, which can help you significantly reduce the communication hours you spend per couple. This allows you to create a communication plan that has a higher customer service ROI as you put small amounts of personalization into the more “mundane” but needed emails and larger amounts of personalization and focus on the more important pieces and methods of communication or your process (e.g. an in-person meeting or even the things they are actually hiring you for!).   

  1. Personalization is still easy

Although I could probably figure out how to edit some of my templated emails so that they could be automated, based on my ideal couples and the level of service I want to provide them, I always want to have the ability to personalize any particular email I send and to choose when it goes out for that particular couple. For example, if I remember that there was a certain reading that the couple mentioned loving during our initial meeting, I want to let them know that I remembered, and I want to include the reading in options I send them or mention which document it is in. Or, if they told me that they were both close to their families, I want to draw their attention to the family blessing ideas.  Couples want to feel like they have been heard, and this allows you to show them that, while not sacrificing your time (and sanity) to do so. Even when responding to a new inquiry, where you might think that you have certain information you are giving every inquiry, I use the chance to personalize it, based on their venue, how they found me, anything they mentioned, etc. – just so that even their first experience with me feels personal, rather than an automated email missing that chance.

  1. Allows for consistency

By templating your emails, you make sure that the message you want to get across and/or the questions you want to get answers to are consistent from couple to couple. This creates a smoother and easier process for you and for your couples.  

Have you ever hit send and then you realized you forgot a piece of information or a question, and yet this is something you send regularly? By including everything you are likely to need in your email template and then taking things out that aren’t necessary for that specific couple, you significantly reduce the chances you will forget to include something. Although it doesn’t seem like a big deal to just send the couple a follow-up, each follow-up you send costs time and can affect the couple’s perception of your business and your level of professionalism.

  1. Reduces spelling and grammar errors

Since you aren’t creating that email right then and maybe rushing to get it out, when mistakes are more likely to happen, using templated emails lets you take the time to review them (and maybe someone else review them if spelling and grammar aren’t your strongest suit) and be sure that all is appropriately said. This gives a better impression to those receiving the emails.

How and when to create templates

What’s next? If you aren’t yet using templated emails, or you are only using a few of them, the first step is to look at every email you sent to 10 of the most recent couples you worked with and determine which of those emails are the ones you sent to most, if not all, of your couples. Is the messaging within the email similar – are you giving them the same information and/or asking them the same questions?  

For each yes, you want to create a template. To create a template for emails you have already been sending, copy in the text from a recent email and build or edit from there. If doing this makes you realize that there are others that you should create and have, being even more proactive in your communications with your couples, remember that you want the template to include pretty much everything you would say if you were saying everything. I can tell you from great experience, it is easier and less time-consuming to remove something from the email that doesn’t apply than to remember to add something in.

Then, if you have a business management system that allows for templated emails to be created and uploaded, as I do, use the system. If you don’t have a business management system (let’s chat about that another time!), or your system doesn’t allow for templated emails, you can create them in Word or Evernote, or some other document system, keeping them handy, and use old-school cut-and-paste each time you need to send it out.   

For each business, the number of automated vs. templated vs. personal emails will differ, as it should.  Your ideal clients, your desired customer experience, your price point, your volume of weddings, and many other things factor into your communication plan (check out my article last month on that, if you missed it). I just don’t want you to dismiss templated emails outright because they require too much work up-front or they don’t seem personal enough. When set up and used properly, templated emails will save you time while actually improving the couple’s experience with your business… a win/win if there ever was one.  

Bethel Nathan is a San Diego based wedding officiant, business coach, and industry speaker. Combining her years of corporate and small business experience with a love for marrying awesome couples, Bethel built Ceremonies by Bethel, a successful and award-winning Officiant business. And although still officiating, Bethel now has another love… helping others turn their passions into successful and sustainable businesses. Learn more at www.elevatebybethel.com.

» Are Your Business Goals Right for You?

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

I love speaking with wedding pros about their businesses, because the business of weddings and events is what my business is all about. Each wedding pro should have their own goals and it’s perfectly acceptable to have different goals at different stages of business — as a matter of fact, your goals should evolve with your business.

How do you measure your business?

New businesses are often just trying to survive, while well-established businesses may be trying to stay current and relevant. What are the benchmarks you’re using to see how you’re doing? Is it the number of weddings and events you do each year? Or is it the total revenue (top-line)? Or maybe it’s the bottom line (net profit). Each of you has to decide what’s important, and then decide how you’re going to achieve that target. Just make sure it’s the right target.

What’s in a number?

I was consulting with an entertainment company who told me that he wanted to do 250 weddings the next year. When I asked him why, he said that he felt he would be seen as a major player in his market. I asked why that was important to him and he replied that he felt it would solidify his standing, and how he was viewed by the other wedding pros. When we looked at how he was planning to get there, it was to go after lower-dollar weddings that he wasn’t getting now. He was currently more of a boutique business, towards the higher end of his market. As I went through with him how to get to the 250, it occurred to me that he wasn’t going to be making much profit on those additional weddings. Once we considered the additional costs: DJs, equipment, insurance, marketing/advertising, admin, etc., most of the money was going to others, not to him. In my words, he was trying to feed his ego, when I prefer that he was trying to feed his family.

Biggest or most profitable?

Another client of mine, a rental company, told me that their goal was to be the biggest rental company in their market. I suggested that a goal of being the most profitable rental company in their market was a better plan. It’s often easier to grow your top-line than your bottom line. You can sell more weddings and more services, at or close to your cost, and increase your total sales. Figuring out how to sell more profitable services, or raising your rates and increasing your average sale, is a better plan. You’ve probably heard the phrase “Work smarter, not harder” and in my opinion, that’s a better way to go. When you figure out how to make more profit per wedding, you’re on your way to working smarter.

Which comes first – more weddings or more profit?

If you have the choice to either do more weddings, or increase your average profit per wedding, I’d focus on the latter. When you start making more per wedding, then you can decide if you want to do more events per year, or just make more from doing the same number of events. Many of the wedding pros I meet, and consult with each year, aren’t trying to do more weddings. Many have already maxed out the number of events, so the only way to increase their sales, and profit, is to increase their average sale. It’s the same for my business. In the early days I was all about increasing my total sales. And while I achieved that, I also realized that I wasn’t profiting enough for the amount of sales I was bringing in.

Diversify, or double-down?

As you look for ways to increase your profits, one possible way is to diversify, and offer new services, or go into new geographic markets. You may see a competitor doing some of these things and decide to follow along. Just make sure that you know why you’re doing it, because it’s likely you don’t know why your competitor is. If you don’t know if they’re profiting from that expansion, you might be chasing a losing proposition. It’s easy to spread yourself too thin, too fast, so think before you follow.

Is smaller better?

In the lifecycle of many of my clients, they start small, get big (sometimes slowly, sometimes fast) and then, many of them decide to scale back and get smaller again. Maybe it’s a venue owner who goes from one, to three, to six venues, and then decides to focus on one or two of the most profitable ones. Or it could be a DJ, photographer or officiant, who goes from being a single-op (just her or him) to multi-op (many employees/contractors, and possibly many services) back to being just her or him and fewer services.

There’s no one answer as to which is better. It’s about which is better for you, at this time. One thing is for certain, you need to decide how you’re measuring your success, right now, and then work to achieve that. Don’t follow someone else’s idea of success, or you’re likely to be like the dog chasing a car. If the dog actually gets to catch the car, then what will it do? If you achieve someone else’s idea of success, will you be satisfied? I suggest you choose your own destination, chart your own course, and then enjoy your success when you get there.

WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP 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.

» Networking Etiquette for Conference Season

Photo by Catherine Lea Photography

This article was written by Education Expert, Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting

We’re in the business of people. I know I’m preaching to the choir when I say this. Conference season is no different – from speaking to spectating to traveling and anything in between, we’re constantly sharing our expertise, chit-chatting with the flight attendant (maybe even calling down to the hotel desk to ask for another sleep mask?), and networking with all of the pros we get to reunite with from across the country.

Networking itself is an amazing way to maintain professional relationships and market yourself in the industry, especially when a rare in-person opportunity comes along in the midst of exchanging emails on top of emails. Putting in that face time is crucial! That being said, let’s dig into the etiquette of networking, namely during conference season.

Be mindful of investment

While this is an amazing time to introduce yourself in person rather than e-meet a fellow industry pro, remember that you’ll probably encounter a lot of jet-lagged faces and some potentially overwhelmed if they have upcoming topics or panels they’ll be speaking on. Don’t let this deter you by any means, just remember that they’re eager to meet people as well, so don’t monopolize anyone’s time.

Kylie Carlson of International Academy of Wedding and Event Planning says, “You definitely want to incorporate continuing education into your trip. But while you’re there, be mindful of the fact that people have paid to attend the conference and want to learn. Take note of their investment.”

Continuing professional relationships (the right way)

This goes for jumping back into professional relationships you might be currently cultivating as well. Kevin Dennis of WeddingIQ notes that if you’re looking to take it the extra mile by being referral-worthy, you’ll want to put in the legwork without being pushy. “Directly asking to be on the preferred vendor list will have the opposite desired outcome. You must give to receive, so boost fellow creative partners with whom you would love to work, and give out their names whenever you have the opportunity. The more you refer, the more referrals you will ultimately receive. That partnership will flourish faster than you think.”

Follow up!

Bill Tzizik, CEO of Classic Photographers, knows that following up (and following through) is the best thing you can do to set yourself up for success. “Everyone says that they’re going to follow up, but few do so in a timely manner. Have a system that works for you for collecting information on site – not just grabbing business cards.”

Do yourself this favor during the conference you’re attending – take note of those speaking on topics relative to your business and the goals you’re pursuing. This builds up for a wonderful segue into a conversation, especially if you’re growing a professional relationship and looking for a topic opening, especially for your follow-up.

Note that while they seem like great people to flock to during networking time in between sessions, the event organizers themselves are going to be the busiest people at the event. It’s better to say a quick hello to them (and any other panelists who may have tight schedules) and follow-up after. I promise they’ll be much happier you did and that phone call or email will be more memorable to them after a whirlwind conference.

The key to etiquette is to simply be respectful of time and money. Even speakers invest their own money into travel and accommodations, so you don’t want to crowd them in their downtime.

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.

» The Art of Listening

This article was written by Kylie Carlson, CEO of the International Academy of Wedding and Event Planning.

It is widely accepted wisdom in the business world that the best salespeople are adept at one vital skill: listening. While visions of fast-talking used car salesmen may make you think otherwise, it’s the truth. Those who can perfect the art of listening can sell just about anything to almost anyone. The odds are even more in your favor when what you’re selling is completely awesome.

I know there are those of you saying, “I’m a wedding planner” (or designer, baker, or entertainer) and insisting that you are not a salesperson. I assure you, though, that you are, in fact, in sales. No matter what your specialty is, if you have to secure paying clients to sustain your business, you are a salesperson.

The initial consultation

As a salesperson, one of the most important moments in your process is the initial consultation. Successfully converting a prospective client into a contracted one hinges on your ability at reading him or her and adjusting your pitch accordingly. The secret to this can be found in the Art of Listening.

Too many wedding professionals misunderstand the purpose of an initial consultation. They seize the opportunity to dominate the conversation by sharing every detail of their lives and careers. But the prospect simply doesn’t care. The only thing that is important to an engaged couple is their upcoming wedding.

Practice the 70/30 rule

An initial consultation is not a job interview. It is the chance for you to learn what makes a couple tick and leverage that information to secure their business. Use the “70/30 Rule” to help you strike the right balance. Listen for a full 70% of the time and talk only 30%. Some people are shy and don’t know how to express themselves well. When meeting with this type of prospective client, you need to ask open-ended questions.

Avoid dead end questions

The beauty of open-ended questions is that they yield the most valuable information about your couple. The key is to avoid those that can be answered with yes, no or a single word or phrase. Examples of open-ended questions include:

  • How did you meet?
  • What was your proposal like?
  • What kind of hobbies do you enjoy together?
  • Where do you like to go on vacation?
  • If you could shop anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Open-ended questions break the ice and demonstrate that you have a real interest in your prospective clients. They require you to listen, which makes your prospective clients feel valued and important.

Some questions make people uncomfortable and should be avoided. Asking “why?” puts people on the defensive, for example. Instead of “why do you want to get married at that venue,” you could ask, “what do you love most about the venue,” or “what appeals to you about that site?”

Practice makes perfect, so don’t give up if you find it hard to strike the right balance and ask the right questions at first. Just make note of what does and doesn’t work and remember that your primary goal is to listen more and talk less. You will soon see how it transforms the conversation and yields the sales success you desire.

Kylie Carlson is the CEO of the International Academy of Wedding and Event Planning. With six locations globally, the academy boasts an internationally recognized accreditation program that brings professional training to wedding planners, designers and stylists.

 

» The 4 Rules of Wedding PR During Busy Season

Photo by Tracy Shoopman Photography

The truth is, if you wait until off-season to look at your business’s PR strategy and start promoting, you’re doing your business a huge disservice. While the busy season workload takes up the bulk of your time, your PR strategy shouldn’t take a back seat. WeddingWire Education Expert and owner of OFD Consulting, Meghan Ely, gave us four rules for mastering PR during busy season with only a small time commitment each day.

Keep momentum going

It’s not a rule, but rather a guideline to help you follow the rules. Keeping up momentum is crucial if you want to maximize your time and PR strategy efficiently. Meghan says she sees it all too often: wedding professionals drop their PR strategy for busy season and pick it back up in November when the season ends. However, come November, you are going to be sitting on a pile of work that will make you more stressed than you thought handling it during the season would!

Instead of dealing with the mountain of PR work you’ve accumulated throughout the season, tackle the opportunities as they come in. Not only will this keep you sane in the long run, but it will also help eliminate competition. By neglecting your PR strategy until November, you subsequently end up competing with every other wedding professional who followed the same ‘strategy’. Suddenly, come November, the PR branch of the wedding industry is crowded with everyone playing catch-up. Ultimately, there is a lot less “noise” to compete with during busy season, and it’s in your favor to never lose momentum.

Rule 1: Stick to the low-hanging fruit

During busy season, you want to do things that will increase your brand awareness and showcase your portfolio… and this doesn’t have to be hard or take copious amounts of time! RealWeds submissions are one of those easy-to-do tasks that can have a tremendous effect on publicizing your brand. RealWeds are a great option to focus on because you already have a steady stream of content coming in from all of the weddings that you do— why not utilize that to its fullest potential?

Typically, photographers, venues, event designers, planners and florists are the ones submitting the majority of RealWeds content, however, if you don’t fall into one of these vendor categories, you aren’t excluded from submitting! Be sure to reach out to the other vendors who worked on the wedding to see if you can do a “group” submission, or have permission granted to use their photos (if they were the photographer) or photos of their work (if they are a vendor whose work is featured in pictures of your work) in your submission.

Rule 2: Stay organized

Many people neglect RealWeds submissions during busy season because they can take a lot of time to submit, however, they shouldn’t so long as you cover your bases and stay organized. Working RealWeds submissions into your client contracts is a great way to speed things up, as this way, you aren’t chasing after couples once they are married to get their permission.

Additionally, this opens up the conversation with the couple to find out what other vendors they are working with. Getting other vendor information as early as possible is going to help you track down other vendor’s whose permission you might also need in order to submit before the submission crunch. Meghan recommends connecting with the photographer and planner 30-60 days before the wedding to ensure that you can submit.

Rule 3: Create a workflow

Meghan’s best tip for managing your PR strategy during busy season? Embrace apps and programs to manage your work! Programs like Dropbox that can manage files and to-do list apps, like Basecamp, can help keep you organized and create a workflow. Another tip? Utilize block scheduling! Time might be limited during busy season, but if you schedule a fair amount of it each week to work exclusively on PR, there is no excuse for not working on it.

Rule 4: Be realistic

The last rule? You have to be realistic! If you can’t dedicate three hours a week to your PR strategy, then setting the goal to send in 10 RealWeds submissions, pitch multiple media outlets and maintain your press relationships, isn’t realistic. By setting realistic goals, you will be motivated to keep pushing forward and won’t beat yourself up about not reaching them.

You should always be asking yourself these three questions to determine if you are being realistic with your goals:

  • What got accomplished? What didn’t?
  • How can I adjust my organization/workflow?
  • Was it worth the effort?

…But not so fast!

Now that you have the rules about how to best manage your PR during busy season, don’t dive in. Building a strong PR strategy that will endure even the craziest of busy season ups-and-downs takes a considerable amount of time to plan. Before you begin, take a good look at your website, your galleries and your social feeds. What is the point of directing people to your site or branding outlets when they are not where you want them to be? Take a close look at what you are working with, evaluate where you want to go, make any adjustments that you need to to get there, and then dive in.

It can be hard managing your PR strategy during busy season. However, so long as you follow these rules and are prepared to charge into the season with a strong PR strategy in place, you should be set to see the benefits of it. Keep momentum going, set realistic goals, and dedicate the time you need to implement good plans, and there should be no doubt that your PR strategy will be a success this season. Good luck!

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Build Your Reputation by Earning Publicity (Even During Busy Season!)” with Meghan Ely, WeddingWire Education Expert and owner of wedding PR firm OFD Consulting. You can view the webinar recording through your account.

» How to Create the Ultimate Media List

This article was written by Education Expert, Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting

Before launching a new PR campaign to publicize your wedding business, it is wise to research and carefully select the media that will receive your pitches and hopefully share your work and wisdom. A media wish list is more than just a collection of outlets and names in your genre; it is actually a set of goals for your campaigns, and the outline of your overall plan to gain attention and exposure. The ultimate media list takes time and research to create, but as the secret weapon behind your PR efforts, it can be pure gold.

Evaluate your goals

Every powerful media list starts with research. Use your market research to create a profile of your perfect clients. Understand who they are, what their level of education is, what they eat and read and enjoy. Know their habits – do they watch local morning television or the evening news? Do they use Facebook, Instagram or Twitter? Do they read alumni publications, special interest magazines, or popular blogs?

Understanding the behavior and psychology behind your ideal clients will help you determine which media outlets are strategically valuable, and which are not. You have limited time and effort to expend pitching media, so your list must be curated and your attempts strategic.

Craft a message

I have to emphasize how important it is that you craft an appealing message that answers your target’s needs and communicates something about your business that you want them to know. You’re creating a connection with your prospects, but your opportunity to influence with each press mention is brief, so you want your message to be clear, powerful and on point.

Consider what you have to share. Is it images of your recent work, great advice or an introduction of a product or service new to your market? Can you make relevant commentary on a current event or do you have a special connection to a popular trend? What do you have to offer that will intrigue your prospects enough to act and impress editors enough to include you?

Choose your target media

You have a profile of your ideal prospects and a message you want them to hear. Who should you pitch? At first, you’ll have a broad list of media of all kinds: blogs, magazines, local TV shows, national TV shows, radio and association publications to name just a few. Narrow the field by thinking of which ones appeal to your ideal prospects. Which match up to your profile? Put yourself in your prospects’ shoes and think of their lifestyle habits to help you determine where they receive their messages.

Reach out

It’s not always easy to predict which media will have the influence you are looking for, especially if your ideal client is different from you. When you don’t know, ask! Contact your current clients or happy past couples and ask them about their habits. Ask how they found you can how they tell their friends about you. Build on your current success.

Collect pertinent information

Once you have created a list, gather contact information to make it easy to pursue each lead when you have something to share. You’ll need the publication name, point of contact, email address, submission requirements and known deadlines which should be added to your editorial calendar. Staying organized will increase the efficiency of your efforts and yield greater results.

I know it seems like a lot of work, and may even appear to be a step that can be skipped, but curating your ultimate media list is a powerful way to focus your efforts and achieve ultimate success. Take the time now and you will reap the rewards in successful press down the road.

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding PR firm OFD Consulting, which specializes in getting wedding professionals their brides. She is a highly sought after industry speaker and serves as a Public Relations adjunct professor for Virginia Commonwealth University, specializing in PW writing and brand promotion.

» How to Build Your Network and Collect More Content

Photo by Vanessa Joy Photography

This article was written by Vanessa Joy, Owner & Photographer of Vanessa Joy Photography.

I remember the first time I went to a wedding convention. It seemed like everyone knew everyone else; but the only person I knew was the bathroom attendant because my naturally introverted self would frequently hide there. I’m sure I’m not alone in being able to empathize with DJ Tanner from Full House, eating alone in the bathroom on her first day of high school. For the record, no, I didn’t eat in the bathroom – ew.

If you’re a budding industry professional, you may notice that a large part of the industry is who you know. Now, that’s not to say our livelihood is superficial in any way. It’s to draw attention to just how powerful networking is in our line of work. We’re a large industry, but a small community.

Networking may seem daunting, but building relationships within the wedding world is crucial not just to the success of your business, but to your enjoyment of it as well. After all, don’t you want to work with your friends every weekend? Here are 4 tips to up your networking game.

Read up on it

If you’re not a natural go-getter or social butterfly, it’s ok! Heck, I was homeschooled for 9 years of my life. Social graces were not on my side for most of my life. I had to learn them the good old-fashioned way: reading a book. Ok fine… listening to one on audible.

I do recommend Carnegie’s book, but another favorite of mine is Never Eat Alone. As an Italian, this is pretty much a rule for me anyway, but bringing it to business takes it to a whole new level. Read it and you’ll have breakfast, lunch and dinner dates at the next WeddingWire World no problem.

Use social

In what other century have you had direct access to someone’s personal line, without needing to get through their secretary? None. Thanks to social media, you have that power right at your fingertips.

Don’t underestimate what you can use social media for. I recently covered a HUGE part of this on a recent WeddingWire webinar Social Media: A Guide for Wedding Professionals. You should be using social media to connect with as many other wedding professionals as you can. Here’s an even bigger tip – connect with professionals before an upcoming conference by searching the conference’s hashtag. Bingo! You’ve made friends before you even stepped off the plane.

Stop reaching for the stars

Now I know your mom told you otherwise, but I’m here to bring you down to earth. As fabulous as it would be to take my advice from the previous tip and contact David Tutera and Silvia Weinstock and become besties immediately, it’s probably not going to happen. Why? Not only is everyone already barking up that tree, but they’ve been in the business for a while and already have their circle of tight friends.

Instead, make your own referral network. Befriend the next Marcy Blum or Fred Marcus (sorry to keep using NYC Wedding Vendors… it’s just where I’m from) by reaching out to people on your level of experience and clientele. Build each other up to be the next big thing.

Find photographers

It’s always funny to me when I hear that other wedding professionals have a hard time getting photos from photographers. You might not know this, but wedding planners, caterers, florists, bands, dj’s and venues are like the holy grail to us wedding photographers. To me, you’re the key to clients, and usually luxury clients that’ll spend more money on photography.

However, I know that it can be hard to get photos, so inside this last tip, I’ve got a few more for you that’ll help you get more photos of your work that you can use on social media to show off your services and connect with other vendors.

Offer Something, Anything

Now, I do not charge most vendors to use my photos on social media from weddings that I’ve worked. A lot of photographers feel the same way and are happy for the cross-promotion. However, contacting a photographer and expecting them to give you photos for free isn’t going to fly. It’s only polite to offer something in return, even if it’s not monetary.

Help Submit Weddings

You wouldn’t believe how much work is involved for a photographer after a wedding. Usually it’s where your wedding headaches end, and ours begin. Often when we’re being asked for photos, it’s another thing on our long to-do list.

However, if we give you photos, you can help us by submitting the wedding photos to popular magazines and blogs. If you have connections to some – even better! Obviously, make sure this is ok with the photographer first. But typically we’d be thrilled to have this taken off our plate and it’s a win-win when the photos get published.

Offer Future Collaboration

Us photographers need (and should want) to build relationships too. When you’re asking for photos, find ways to work with us again. Maybe you’re a makeup artist and you can offer to do hair and makeup for the photographer’s next headshot (we all need updated ones!). Or perhaps you’re an officiant that can provide some ceremony text that’ll make for a great blog post on the photographer’s blog. You could even suggest doing a styled shoot and get a whole group of vendors involved. The possibilities are endless, but if you start your intentions with serving other people, it’s amazing how much more you’ll get in return than you originally hoped for.

Use the Photos

Once you’ve snagged some photos and hopefully started a wonderful new work friendship, don’t hesitate to use the photos for LOTS of things! The more times you use them, the more the photographer will benefit from the cross-promotion. Make videos (super amazing for social posts) like these marketing and communication videos I’ve made right here. Use the photos alone in tons of social media posts like the ones I suggest here.

The Wedding Industry may ebb and flow but it’s always built on relationships. Spend time cultivating new ones and nurturing the ones you have and you’ll never be without work.

Vanessa Joy has been an influential photographer in the wedding community for a decade. Starting her photographic journey in 1998, she has since earned 5 college degrees, and has spoken at almost every major convention and platform in the industry such as CreativeLIVE, Wedding MBA, WPPI, ShutterFest, Imaging USA, WeddingWire World, and Mobile Beat. Recognized for her talent and more so her business sense, her clients love working with her and industry peers love to learn from her generous, informative and open-book style of teaching. Check out more of her resources at www.BreatheYourPassion.com

» WeddingWire World Florida 2018

The biggest ‘thank you’ goes out to everyone who joined us this year for WeddingWire World Florida!

On April 17, we brought WeddingWire World back to Florida! The event was hosted at the lovely Miramar Cultural Center, and what a success it was. From networking to educational workshops with passionate speakers, we loved spending the day with all of you. As we look back on World Florida, we can’t help but want to share our some of our favorite moments.

Nine brilliant presentations

Thank you to our incredible presenters Sonny Ganguly, Alan Berg, Jacqueline Nwobu, Meghan Ely, Kathryn Hamm, Michelle Loretta, Kyle Mihalcoe, Jeffra Trumpower and Athena Meyers. Their insightful presentations covered a range of topics, from SEO and marketing, to Gen Z and the latest industry insights.

1:1 Meetings with Customer Success Managers

We were so happy to have our WeddingWire Customer Success Managers available to meet with attendees 1:1. The team enjoyed providing personalized tips to help maximize listing value and boost storefront performance.

NetWORKing

Having a network of local wedding professionals to support you is so important. We loved seeing old friends reconnect and watching new relationships form. From a meet-and-greet over coffee to our sitdown networking lunch, we are happy that our attendees had time to meet and network— that is what World is all about!

Sunset cocktail reception

Sipping, snacking and networking was the perfect way to round out the day. Attendees enjoyed music from DJ Dro Entertainment, tasty local bites and many selfies in front of the “We Heart Weddings” wall. We loved getting down on the dance floor and snapping selfies with our attendees!

Our team was so excited to bring WeddingWire World back to Florida and we couldn’t have even imagined the amount of love we received. Florida, thank you for such a warm welcome!

Enjoy the Facebook album of some of our favorite moments, and be sure to check out #WeDoWorld on Instagram and Twitter for some other moments you may have missed!

A special thank you to our partners, the day wouldn’t have been the same without you!

5801 Wedding Cinema

Amanda Smith Photography

Cafe Ala Carte

Dj Dro Entertainment

EVoga Events

Over The Top Rental Linens

Plantation Florist-Floral Promotions, Inc

Type E Design

» Let’s Talk About Price in Your Lead Replies

Price is a difficult thing to talk about— but it shouldn’t be. WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg insists that you shouldn’t dread pricing questions but rather, you should embrace them. Why? It’s the quality of conversation in your lead replies that leads to a sale, and if a couple has to pay for your services anyway, price need not be the elephant in the room. To help open up your conversations, especially when it comes to talking about price, Alan Berg answered some of your most frequently asked questions about handling price questions in lead replies.

If my business offers multiple services, and a lead says that they are interested in my services and asks what my prices are, how do I keep that email short while answering a lot of questions buried in that “simple” question?

As it turns out, this reply isn’t as long as you might think. Instead of sending all of your prices for each service you offer, simply reply “What services were you interested in more specifically?” This reply will then not only narrow the length of your eventual price reply, but will also ensure that you are providing the exact information your client wants without overwhelming them with pricing that doesn’t apply to them.

But what if someone says they are interested in multiple services of mine and asks for pricing? How do I still keep that reply short?

Let’s say you are an entertainment business and a lead says that they are interested pricing for a DJ, dance floor and lighting. All you need to do is list the prices (or price ranges) for the three (and only the three!) they asked for, and ask a follow up question to keep the conversation going. “What venue did you have in mind for hosting your reception?”

I am totally guilty of sending too much information, specifically with price, because I feel like I have to. How do I send less?

There are four ways to handle price:

  1. You can tell them the exact price. While this is specific and can be helpful, it can be quite hard to do sometimes without the full scope of information from a potential client.
  2. You can not tell them the price and avoid questions about it at all costs… but we all know this isn’t good practice.
  3. You can give the starting price. You need to exercise this one with caution as you might have services that go far above your starting price. Thus, sometimes this tactic can be very misleading to couples who think your costs are much lower.
  4. You can give a price range (Alan’s favorite way to share pricing information), and share your average price.

Giving a price range lets you weed out people who might not be able to afford your services and sets realistic expectations with the potential client. It also allows a conversation to start as it gives a ballpark figure where you can then ask follow up questions to keep the conversation moving forward, such as “What services were you considering?.” (moving you closer to the sale!).

What if they never ask about price/don’t ask about it early on?

Hold off on mentioning price at the beginning (unless they ask outright). Maybe this potential client was referred, or heard a quote and knows your price already. If you feel worried that it has yet to be mentioned, feel free to bring up price in the second half of a new reply to calm any anxiety.

“By the way, I just wanted to let you know about our pricing since we haven’t talked about it and I wanted to make sure you were comfortable moving forward. Our range for what we have been discussing is between a and z.”

After you mention price, go back to the context of the first half of the reply to get off the price discussion and leave the ball in the client’s court as to if s/he wants to discuss price further. Remember, however, that this isn’t necessary. If they didn’t ask about price well into a discussion, they probably know what they need to know already.

If I have a beautiful document for my pricing and a lead inquires about price, can I send that attachment?

No! Even if you have a brilliant, beautiful document that outlines price, or any other detailed culmination of your business’s information, don’t send it. Alan insists that you should never reveal too much. Not only can attachments overwhelm couples and be difficult to view on mobile devices (the vast majority of WeddingWire consumers reply to emails on mobile), but an attachment doesn’t make the sale, you do! Attachments halt conversations, and remember conversation is what leads to a sale.

Every time I quote a price or give a range through email, I never get a reply back. However, when I am on the phone, my closing rate shoots up. What can I do?

Alan states that it depends on the conversation you are having. If you aren’t getting replies back, see if your reply left a dead-end or if it encouraged further communication. Again, emails should be like phone calls where a back-and-forth is created through questions. In situations like this, you are probably closing over the phone because you are good at conversation. So, utilize that strength in your emails and formulate them to read just like you would talk over the phone.

If you are a service that has a flat rate, try giving the price and then say “were you looking to do any special touches like a sand ceremony?” or “were you going to write your own vows or is that something you would like me to help with?” This way, you give a price and still follow up with a question to guarantee a reply and keep the conversation going.

Talking about price doesn’t need to be a touchy subject or something that is difficult to discuss in lead replies. We hope that by answering these questions, you have learned to welcome price questions and feel confident when covering them in your lead replies.

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Replying to Leads” with Alan Berg, WeddingWire Education Expert and CSP. Premium Members can view the webinar recording in their accounts.