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» WedInsights Recap to Boost Your Business Success in 2017

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

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

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

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View some of the most popular WedInsights:

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

» Easy Ways to Show Appreciation in the New Year

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

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

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

Referrals:

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

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

Gifts:

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

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

Membership Awareness:

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

Acknowledging Staff:

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

Anticipation:

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

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

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

» Focus on Your Earnings, Not Savings

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP. Alan has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

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

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

Expenses vs. Investments

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

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

Opportunity Cost

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

Go Big, or Go Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what she had to say:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WeddingWire Education Expert

Meghan Ely

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

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

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

Don’t stop.

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

But don’t.

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

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

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

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

» Mapping Out Your 2017 Business Goals

Pro to Pro Insights

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

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

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

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

Perform a full 2016 review

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

Write out your goals

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

Break it down, if necessary

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

Hold yourself accountable

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

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

» Spread Holiday Cheer and Get More Reviews this Month

reviewincentive-dec16-b2bnewsletterGive your clients another reason to review your business this December. Now, when couples review their wedding team on WeddingWire, they’ll get rewarded by earning gift cards to favorite retailers like Amazon, Starbucks and Sephora – just in time for the holidays!

How does it work?

Couples simply need to review 5 of their wedding professionals by 12/31/16 to earn a $5 gift card to the retailer of their choice, or review 10 wedding pros to earn a $10 gift card!

Reviews help your business too!

87% of couples read reviews when deciding which wedding pros to contact, so make sure you have recent reviews of your business to catch their eye. The Review Collector within your account makes it easy to request reviews from your clients, and will even send auto-reminders on your behalf so they won’t forget. Plus, we’ve included a message within the customizable review request to let them know that they can earn gift cards for reviews submitted this month!

All reviews submitted by 12/31/16 will help you qualify for 2017 Couples’ Choice AwardsⓇ, so send your review requests today to your 2016 couples!

» Have Your Couples Share Their Just Said Yes Moments!

just-said-yesWe’re excited to launch our annual Just Said Yes contest for newly engaged couples to share their special moment upon engagement to win great prizes, including a cash prize to be put toward an amazing wedding vendor team like you!

Couples can enter the contest by following these simple steps:

  1. Get engaged and snap a photo about their engagement experience
  2. Share the photo via Instagram or by uploading a photo to the Just Said Yes website
  3. Post the photo and tag @WeddingWire and #JustSaidYes to enter

Lucky winners will be announced throughout the campaign from December to February! One grand prize winner will get $10,000 towards their wedding team, and monthly winners will receive fantastic prizes for their wedding and honeymoon including: a wedding dress from Allure Bridals, a Mediterranean cruise from Celebrity Cruises and a dream registry from Wayfair Registry. See full terms and conditions here.

Share the contest to your clients so they can announce their exciting news to friends and family and be entered to win great prizes! Plus, follow along to see fun engagement posts and engagement inspiration shared on social media this engagement season using #JustSaidYes.

» Easy Ways to Improve Your Business Website

Is your business website working hard enough for you? After all, your website is often the first impression your potential clients see for your business and plays a huge role in determining if a client is interested in working with your business or learning more about your services.

As you prepare for the new year, consider taking some time to invest in refreshing your website to stand out to newly engaged couples and book more business in 2017. These seven tips from WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg provide helpful ways that you can assess your site, maximize your marketing potential, and get more leads quickly. From contact form best practices, to adding testimonials and reviews, to copy writing tips, you will want to bookmark this infographic as you prepare for your next website refresh!

7waystoimproveyourwebsitebefore2017

» Join Us at the Planners Suite Conference

planners-suite-conferenceStaying on top of the latest education in the industry is a key to your business’ success. Attending conferences and events as well as joining webinars is a great way to stay up-to-date on the latest trends, stats and topics that matter to wedding businesses.

Washington, DC and surrounding areas pros are invited to The Planners Suite conference this coming January 30-31, 2017 at The Bellevue Conference and Event Center in Chantilly, VA. Enjoy two days of education from a variety of industry speakers, including WeddingWire’s own Director of Market Insights Andy Whittaker.

Conference attendees will learn:

  • How to drive sales for the year
  • How to effectively market your company to your target clientele
  • How to expand your business through the hiring a team
  • How to become a better business owner

WeddingWire members can save $20 on tickets by entering promo code WEDDINGWIRE on the registration page. We hope to see you in January!

» 10 Marketing Best Practices for 2017

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

As the year comes to a close and busy fall wedding season winds down, now is a good time to review your marketing strategy for the upcoming year. Review these ten marketing tips to help keep your business on track and set-up for success in 2017!

  • 10-marketing-tipsKeep your brand fresh. It’s easy to fall into the trap of simply renewing your online listings and not making changes to the content or reviewing the design to make sure it’s modern and on brand. Take a look at your marketing materials and your advertising platforms, and consider making some small updates to refresh your branding for 2017 like adding new imagery, refreshing your logo or highlighting your social media accounts.
  • Leverage your in-person exposure. If you participate in wedding shows or local events, don’t let the competition pass you by! Make sure your booth, marketing materials and promotions are up-to-date and make a great first impression to your potential clients. Remember your presentation is not just for wedding couples, but also makes an impact on your fellow professionals who can become referrals in your network.
  • Make website updates. Websites can be like closets… businesses tend to add content, but rarely remove anything old! Set aside time to do a full vetting of your website, including all pages. Consider updating copy, adding/removing staff member information, reviewing pricing, contact forms and images of your work. A modern site will catch the eye of your prospects, and dated material will be a red flag.
  • Highlight your inquiry form: It is critical to have an inquiry page within your site so couples can easily get in touch to learn more about your services. This may be the point important element to drive your leads and sales! She this page as a prominent link and add a link or small contact form to every page within your site for added exposure. To help track your marketing success consider asking your prospects: “How did you find our site?”
  • Add testimonials to your site: Let your past clients do the selling for you! Collect and add testimonials and reviews from happy past clients, and add sound bites to all your marketing materials. Customer praise should be featured throughout your site, and make sure you add your WeddingWire Reviews widget to show off recent reviews, along with any accolades for reviews like WeddingWire Rated or Couples Choice Awards.

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» Winter Reading List for Wedding Pros

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

As the peak season winds down and you find more time on your hands, it’s important to make sure you’re carving in time for personal and business development. There is no better way to do this than to get your reading on! With that in mind, grab a mug of your favorite warm drink, pull up a blanket and get cozy with this reading list for wedding pros as the weather gets colder.

Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

winter-reading-listThis is my go-to book and I recommend it to virtually anyone who asks for reading suggestions. In fact, I actually gave it away at this year’s WeddingWire World! During my first few months of starting OFD, I made sure to take the time to meet some of my favorite entrepreneurs. In the process, my dear friend Nina, who owns Classic Party Rentals of Virginia (one of my favorite people ever!), told me to buy it. Seeing as I do everything she tells me, I bought it and devoured it within days.

It’s a great book on the power of relationships with the notion that “your network is your net worth.” The wedding industry may continue to change, but by all means, relationships will always be at the forefront so this is imperative. If you’re going to read only one book on this list, let it be this one!

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Do you have a new idea that you’re dying to explore? Is there something you really want to get off the ground? Well, the off-season is the perfect time to map out your plan, but don’t do anything until you read this first. This book dives into the world of testing an idea and it has proven invaluable to me as I’ve contemplated the next steps of my business. This is a great read for anyone considering a pivot in their company!

Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans by Peter Shankman

I’ll be honest – I’ve been a longtime fan of Peter Shankman ever since I discovered HARO. He is a customer service expert and this book is perfect for those looking to focus on developing client experience. In the wedding industry, one of the top ways that couples find their vendors is through friend referrals, so this is an incredible read to help you build a loyal fan base among your customers.

Nice Guys Finish First by Doug Sandler

We are so lucky to have Doug Sandler in the wedding industry and this book speaks to the power of kindness in the business. It’s chockful of great anecdotes from Doug’s career and truly showcases how to put systems into place to ensure the emphasis is placed on business relationships.

Get ready for a page-turning off-season! These books are both enjoyable and educational at the same time, so order your first book and get going on your off-season efforts.