» World DC Speaker Announcement: Georgetown Cupcake Co-founders

You’ve seen them on TV, and now you can see the Georgetown Cupcake co-founders at WeddingWire World 2017 in DC!

Sisters Katherine Kallinis Berman and Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne are the co-founders of Georgetown Cupcake, stars of the hit series DC Cupcakes on TLC, and best-selling authors. Since they launched their Georgetown bakery in 2008, Katherine and Sophie have expanded to six locations in multiple cities, ship nationwide, and currently employ over 400 employees.

As featured speakers at WeddingWire World DC, Katherine and Sophie will share the Georgetown Cupcake story, as well as learnings from building a thriving business and becoming a household name.

Hungry for more? Don’t miss out on WeddingWire World 2017 DC on August 14-15. For details, the speaker list, and tickets, visit WeddingWire World DC.

» Announcing Mindy Weiss at WeddingWire World 2017 LA!

We are delighted to announce that celebrity event planner, lifestyle expert, and author Mindy Weiss is joining us as a featured speaker at WeddingWire World LA 2017!

Based out of Beverly Hills, Mindy Weiss is a full-service event planner who has successfully grown her brand as a leading innovator and trendsetter. Mindy has planned celebrations all over the world, including the celebrity weddings of Ellen Degeneres and Portia Rossi, Sofia Vergara and Joe Manganiello, ABC’s “The Bachelor” stars J.P. and Ashley, and many more. Mindy and her amazing team are best known for their creative ideas, unexpected décor accents and exquisite attention to every last detail.

In addition to event planning, Mindy has written three best-selling books, designed a highly successful line of wedding stationery with Wedding Paper Divas, and will be launching a bridal jewelry line later this year. At WeddingWire World, Mindy will share her insights on current wedding trends, as well as a look ahead to 2017 and beyond.

This is an event that you don’t want to miss! On May 1-2, WeddingWire World 2017, will offer two full days of education and networking to help you grow your business. Click here to learn more about WeddingWire World, view the full agenda, and get your tickets before we sell out!

» Hiring an Intern: What You Need to Know

If you’re in a place where you are in need of a little extra help, but don’t quite have the resources or budget to hire a publicity firm, it might be the right time to bring in a PR intern. Eager college students and recent graduates can bring new perspective and fresh ideas that can really benefit your business and make your daily life a lot more manageable.

With that, let’s take a look at what tips you need to know:   

First and foremost, before sending anything out, educate yourself and make sure you are up-to-date on the laws and regulations associated with hiring a paid or unpaid intern.

 

How to Find One

When you are ready to promote your search for an intern, there are several ways you can go about it. Make sure you are diversifying your methods, and not relying on just one avenue. Word-of-mouth is an underestimated but very effective way to find new people. In fact, some of my best interns have come from friends in the industry referring people they knew. Post the job details on all of your social media accounts, as well as your blog if you have one – be sure that you’re including a link to the full job description and details.

Getting in touch with the local colleges and universities that have PR, marketing, communications, or hospitality programs is another great way to connect with potential applicants. Ask how they promote internships and see if you can get posted on their job boards, social media, etc. You could even take it one step further by connecting with professors in those programs and getting them to spread the word.

Communicating the Job

The description of the internship should be very clear about what the internship will entail—you want the responsibilities to be well-defined. The last thing you want is to have a disappointed intern who, for example, didn’t realize they would be doing admin work at an event planning company. Every company has different needs, but a basic description could look something like this:

Specific duties of the intern vary each year depending on new issues and marketing objectives, but could include: writing marketing pieces; social media management (Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Blogging); assisting with activities during events; appointment confirmations; involvement in promotions and research and providing staff support.

Make sure the description matches your brand and gets everyone excited. If you want the best, you’ll be competing with all sorts of other job opportunities.

 

The Interview Process

Once you’ve got a solid pool of applicants, you’ll want to bring them in for a formal interview. Personally, I like the meeting to be in person, but if the position is remote or current schedules won’t permit, Skype is a good alternative. Begin by explaining what the company is, how the need for an intern came to be, and a little bit more depth into the responsibilities of the position. During the ‘questions’ portion of the interview, stay away from yes or no questions. This is your chance to get to know them, their experience, how prepared they came for the interview, and really get a feel for how well they would fit. Some questions to consider might be:

  • Tell us about your interest in the position. What drew you to our company?
  • Tell us about what kind of experience you have in relation to the position
  • Where do you see yourself after graduating/or in the next five years?

Once you’ve selected your candidate (hooray!), be sure to do an orientation (i.e. an everything-you-need-to-know meeting). At our company, we break the orientation day into different training sessions that start with the basics and works its way into the more complicated aspects of the position. Be sure you remain open minded while they are learning; for some, this may be their first ‘on-the-job’ experience and you are a resource for them while they learn.
With these tips in your pocket, hiring a stellar intern should be just around the corner!

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

» The Business Case for Being an Open Book

While it may seem prudent to hold all of your secrets close, there’s a certain level of respect that comes with a company that prides itself in transparency. However, being an open book isn’t as easy as simply blasting your latest company news on Facebook. Transparency is rooted in a deep regard for competitors and industry peers. The aim is to foster open communication.

 

So, what exactly does it mean to be an open book?

Be open with what’s going on in your company—both good or bad. In the past, I’ve earned business simply by letting people know we were low on bookings when other planners were already booked for their date. At the same time, it means being open with clients, competitors and the rest of your network about changes that may affect them, like the addition of a new staff member or a new product in stock.

 

What’s the ideal relationship with competitors?

It can be tough to open up to other companies that share your ideals and target the same prospective clients. However, with a positive attitude, two competing companies can work together to share best practices for their specialty. This can be mutually beneficial for everyone involved. Don’t worry about losing clients to a competitor. In fact, don’t even think about them as competitors. In the wedding industry, there will always be engaged couples looking to book. In our market, we have a group of planners that meet quarterly to discuss our goals, share resources and encouragement. We are always happy to celebrate someone else’s successes!

 

What should you keep to yourself?

Although it’s great to be transparent about company changes and major goals, there are some things you’ll want to keep to yourself. For example, if you’re having problems with an employee or another vendor, be cautious about sharing too many details. Keep people’s names and reputations out of it and, if you must ask for advice, do so anonymously.

When it comes down to it, it’s entirely up to you how transparent you are with your company. Just know that clients, creative partners, staff and everyone else will respect your commitment to openness and honesty.

 

This post was written by Jennifer Taylor. Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui. She is also the creator of The Taylor’d Plan, a self-administered class for wedding planners who are new to the industry and looking to grow and develop their skills.

» What Wedding Traditions Are Important to Today’s Couples?

wedding traditions

Today’s couples can be both sticklers for wedding traditions and thirsty for change. According to WeddingWire’s Wedding Trends & Traditions Fact Sheet, many wedding traditions are staying put, while others seem to be fading from popularity.

For example, time-honored wedding traditions like the bouquet toss are slowly losing favor with modern couples. Yet, others, like at least one person in the couple wearing white and performing a first dance, are staunchly in style.

What should come as no surprise to those in the wedding industry, images are still the preferred currency of weddings for couples. Most couples now opt for engagement photos and a wedding website. The percentage of couples who use a wedding hashtag to organize photos of their wedding on Instagram is now almost 50%.

wedding traditions wedding cake

What’s the Takeaway for Wedding Pros?

Be sure you’re staying abreast of which traditions are fading from popularity (and what might be replacing them) while also keeping an eye out for things that are fast becoming mandatory. Couples see you as the expert on what their options are, so be sure to have a robust well of knowledge on trends and traditions to help guide them.

Ultimately, though, each couple will want a unique and personalized experience, so be open and ready to make their wedding vision come to life, no matter where it falls on the scale of trendy to traditional.

Read more about Trends & Traditions in this one-pager.

Photo credits: Arte de Vie; Hyer ImagesCharleston Cakes, Etc.

» Why You Shouldn’t Say You’re ‘The Best’

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.

It’s all too common to read marketing declarations from wedding professionals stating they are “the best.” I suggest this is subjective truth at the maximum and lazy copywriting at the minimum. More importantly, it isn’t helping you win couples. Here’s why. 

Best? By Whose Standard?

Ok, so you might be the top wedding venue in South Dakota. Or, the most-recognized floral designer in Hollywood. Birmingham Weekly might recognize you as the best wedding DJ.

It never surprises me when a wedding couple’s testimonial expresses that XYZ Company is the “best” in the city, and you shouldn’t hire anyone else. That endorsement—however flattering—is usually overstated. The wedding couple may be thrilled with the job XYZ performed for their wedding. However, the couple likely interviewed only a handful of companies in the same class and perhaps saw another company or two provide service at a friend’s wedding.

In other words, praise is great for your business—even necessary to score new clients—but praising yourself isn’t part of an effective marketing strategy.

Focus on What Makes You Different and Exceptional

The real reason “best” is a throwaway word is because savvy consumers have trained themselves to tune it out. It’s the language equivalent of a brightly colored “sale” sign—you just feel like you’re about to be tricked, and you ignore it.

A better way to communicate why a couple should choose your services is to put yourself in their shoes. What are they actually looking for when searching for a photographer? A caterer? An event planner? What type of service are you providing? What is key to your ideal customer? How do you do what you do? What is your passion? (Beyond love. We all love love, so that’s not helping consumers, either.)

Essentially think of what you want to tell potential customers, not just about selling them.

 

Who’s Your Ideal Customer? Now Market to That Person.

As a wedding pro, you’re not trying to grab the widest audience. Your business and your services are actually pretty niche—you want couples that appreciate your style of service and are intending to pay what you charge. So, with that in mind, rededicate your marketing power to identify ideal customers, not just by demographics, but by psychographics—personality, lifestyle, budget, wedding planning style, etc.

Find specific qualities in your company that speak of your rare and identifiable characteristics; and don’t repeat indefinable clichés such as “best,” “unique” or “perfect.”

When reaching out for reviews, encourage clients to explain, specifically, what was different or special about your product or service.

I am confident, without hesitation, if you follow such a marketing path, targeted prospects will come flocking to you. And it will feel very good.  

» 3 Million Reviews: Are You Feeling the Love?

weddingwire 3 million reviews

Virtual hugs are in order! With three million reviews, WeddingWire is the #1 site for couples to see newlywed feedback as they build their vendor team. We hope you’re feeling the love today, because more reviews for your business means more opportunities to reach new clients.

To sweeten the pot, we’re offering a $5 gift card to newlyweds who review at least five of their vendors before March 31, 2017. Be sure to ask your former clients to put in a good word for you to win free money toward Starbucks, Amazon or Sephora purchases. <<More contest details here>>

Wondering why reviews are so important to your business? Read up!

3 Reasons Why Wedding Reviews Are Important to Couples: We’ve seen just how important online reviews have become – and how couples are using this information throughout the entire planning process – from researching prospective vendors to making a final booking.

Your Reviews Are Working Harder for You: Couples are now able to easily find reviews related to the type of event they are planning. We’ve found through user testing that more relevant reviews can resonate even stronger with potential clients.

10 Creative Ways to Use Your Reviews: Beyond just collecting reviews, make sure you make your reviews easy to find, and consider adding them to all your marketing collateral including emails, websites, materials and more.

Thank you to all of our Pros for working so hard to collect reviews for your business!

» 5 Ways You’re Losing The Sale

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.

Getting a sales inquiry is a huge buying signal. By the time you get an email—or contact form, LiveChat, text or phone call—your potential couples have already done most of their filtering. They’ve put you on their short list. They’ve started with all of the possible choices and narrowed it down to a small group of potential companies in your service category—including you. 

At any point, we can either make it to the next round or be dropped. The thing is, we rarely know that we’ve been dropped from their list, because we didn’t know we were on it, yet. It isn’t until couples reach out to us that we know we’re even in the running. Therefore, once we get that inquiry, most of our competitors have fallen off the list. When you get that inquiry, even if it says nothing more than “Are you available and how much do you charge?,”that’s a strong buying signal. As far as I’m concerned, at that point it’s your sale to lose. And, it’s a sale most others in your market and category will never get.

So, here are five ways you’re losing that sale:

Trying to force a phone call.

If they wanted to call you, you’d have a phone message, not an email (text, chat, etc.). Unless their email says “please call me,” reply via the same method by which they’ve reached out to you.

Sending auto-replies that don’t add value.

When someone emails you, whether a prospect you’ve never connected with, or a current/past client, they want a reply from a person, not an auto-reply. If you’re out of town at a wedding, a conference or for vacation, it’s perfectly fine to have an out of office message informing your clients of that. That’s information couples need to know.

However, if they email you and get something like “Thank you for your message. It’s very important to us. We’ll get back to you in 24-48 hours,” that’s a statement of the obvious. They expect a reply within 24 hours. According to WedInsights: “Over 80% of couples use emails to inquire about a vendor’s product or service and expect to hear back within 24 hours, if not sooner.” Telling them that you’ll reply within the timeframe that they expect adds no value.

How do you feel when you’re the consumer, and you receive an auto-reply like that? Do you think “Oh goody, I got an auto-reply!” Or, are you no better off than before you emailed? The only time you should use an auto-reply is when it adds value to the conversation. People want a reply from a real person.

Sending attachments and brochures in your first email.

Some of you are puzzled now. They may have even asked for you to send information, so why would I be saying not to send attachments? It’s simple. About 70% of WeddingWire consumer emails are opened on mobile devices, according to WedInsights. Your couples are reading email on their phones and your attachments aren’t formatted for their phone. Your website may be responsive and adapt to their screen, but your PDFs aren’t. Yes, they will open. But, they will open with really small print. Many of you use the file from your printed brochures, which seems like a good idea—until you see that double-page spread on a smartphone screen.

Your brochures aren’t going to close the sale. They aren’t going to create a relationship with your brides and grooms. You have to do that.

Writing way too much in your first reply.

When you get an inquiry, especially if it’s on your contact form, it’s likely to not have much information. In email, as in person, you should mirror your customer. If they write a short message, your answer should be short. If they write a long message, they’re signaling that your answer can be long. Many are planning their weddings from work, and they can’t take the time to read your long reply. When you get a long email from someone, don’t you often put it off until later? But the short ones, they get read right away, don’t they? Keep it short, until they signal otherwise with a long reply.

Not asking a question at the end of your message.

If you want to get a reply to your message, ask one question. Don’t ask everything you need to know, all at once. That’s not how a conversation goes. With real conversation, you ask a question, then wait for the answer (which is why my new sales book is called Shut Up and Sell More Weddings & Events”). If you ask a question in your email and then write another paragraph or two, you’ve buried it, so couples aren’t likely to respond. If you end your email with a period or exclamation point, that’s the end of the conversation. If you ask them five questions, they’re likely to not answer them all. Ask one question, then wait for an answer. Then, ask another question, the way you would if you were on the phone or in person.

If you’re losing many sales based on price, then you should consider putting pricing information on your site and storefront. Most couples want to see pricing before even reaching out to a vendor, according to WedInsights. A realistic price range is my favorite, but not putting anything will invite everyone to inquire. If you have something for everyone, that’s great. But if you don’t, then putting a price range will help them filter. Just remember that every time you get an inquiry you should be happy. That’s a strong buying signal, even when the couple asks about price (which couples often do, because they don’t know what else to ask). Help prospective couples continue their journey towards hiring you by being the first—and best—at replying and having a conversation.

» 3 New Instagram Updates You Should Be Using

instagram wedding professionals florist

The wild, wacky world of social media is ever-evolving. Case in point: Instagram and its bevy of new features for marketers. While change was slow in the four years since the company was acquired by Facebook, the visual blogging site has hit the ground running in recent months to integrate with Facebook and offer similar tools for audience engagement.

Here’s a rundown of the big changes:

1. Stay Top of Mind With Instagram Stories

We’re sure you’ve seen those little circles above your Instagram timeline by now. The Stories feature is Instagram’s attempt at replicating the immediacy and fleeting nature of popular new networks like Snapchat. So far, it’s been a wild success, capturing 150 million daily users in the first 25 weeks.

How it works is pretty simple: From the home screen, click the little camera symbol on the top left corner. This will activate your phone’s camera and you’ll have the option to shoot a live video (more on that later), a normal photo, a Boomerang video or a hands-free video. You also have the option to use photos and videos taken within the last 24 hours by pressing down on the bottom of the screen and swiping up. Once you’ve taken or selected an appropriate image, you can simply add it to your story. This will stay visible to your followers for 24 hours. You can continually add an infinite number of photos and videos to your story, each adorned with text, drawings, time stamps, location stamps or accessories like crowns and sunglasses.

2. Take Advantage of Shared Facebook-Instagram Business Tools and Go “Live” on Instagram

You probably noticed last year that there were a lot more business tools for Instagram users, including the ability to add a “contact” button to your page and to see detailed analytics within the Instagram app. These tools come as Facebook finally integrates the two social media platforms, allowing businesses to reply to comments from both platforms from the Facebook Pages app, manage campaigns across both platforms through Facebook’s Business portal and employ some of the bigger network’s most popular features, including the ability to go “Live.”

Instagram Live works in a similar fashion as Facebook Live, in that followers are alerted that you’re live. However, unlike Facebook Live, the video content is not archived and disappears as soon as you stop broadcasting.

3. Encourage Engagement by Liking the Likes

Engagement is super-important to wedding pros looking to connect with couples and peers. Social media should always feel like a conversation between you and other folks—not like a rally where you’re blasting your message out through a megaphone. Which is why it’s a pretty big deal that Instagram now allows you to like comments on your posts as well as making it even easier directly reply to the user. As you grow your social media presence, it may not always be possible or make sense to reply to every comment (although you should aim to go into the comments on a regular basis!), but a simple like is a great way to show that you’ve read it and you appreciate it.

Learn more about how Instagram can fit into your overall marketing strategy

» How to Maintain a Consistent Brand Voice

Banner-WWEducationExpert

andy-ebon-squareThe 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.

Continuity and consistency are first cousins in the execution of your marketing. Continuity is using marketing tools—like your WeddingWire storefront, website, social media content, logo, etc.— in a cohesive and recognizable manner. Basically, you want to be “you” across every potential client touch point. Consistency, on the other hand, is taking action with regularity. In other words: Being consistent with the use of those tools. This can mean posting to Facebook twice a day, blogging twice weekly, being in touch with your contacts at routine intervals and being sure that your advertising is in tune with most couples’ wedding planning journey.

The combination of updating with continuity and consistency, your brand and the company message forge ahead, leaving the impression of a progressive company both with engaged couples and your peers.

Remember, marketing is everything that touches the prospect or client—not just advertising or social media. Here are a few ways to maintain a consistent brand voice:

Keep it Short and Professional Over the Phone

For some couples, your phone manners is one of the first impressions of your business. Whether you are a one-person micro business or a company with many employees, the way anyone answers the phone should sound the same.

XYZ Company, this is Andy. How can I help you?

Simple, clear, to the point. If you are not the right person to assist, do your utmost to connect the caller with the correct person.

The best example I can offer for a smaller business is a catering professional in Atlanta. She updated her voicemail every day. Her script would go something like this:

Good day and thanks for calling. This is Shelley. Today is Tuesday, March 14th. I’ll be out of the office on client appointments this morning, but you can expect a callback after lunch. If your call requires immediate attention, don’t hesitate to text me at 777-777-7777 and I will do my best to your reach you even sooner. Thanks for calling, and make it a great day!

And, of course, when she was back in the office, the message would be updated. This kind of continuity is spectacular.

Keep Your Delivery and Set-Up Crew Sharp

When your staff members or delivery crew arrive at a venue, how are they dressed? Be sure that even this aspect reflects your company’s personality. A no-fuss option is a company t-shirt or polo-style shirt, accompanied by jeans or slacks.

The moment a venue representative sees you “in uniform,” you’ve broken the ice and are part of the team. Make sure you supply your crew with two or three shirts, so the uniform is always clean and ready to go.

 whwybmtn3_0-brooke-cagle

Don’t Slack with Print Media

The most frequent mistake I see in print ads or flyers is poor headlines. Your company name is not a headline. Your company slogan or favorite hashtag is not a headline. A headline is a phrase, usually accompanied by a visual, crafted to encourage the prospect to read the rest of the ad.

Avoid cliche words such as perfect, dream, unique, awesome and the like. It’s not just about your ad, but the other ads in a publication. Do your utmost to avoid verbiage you recognize in other ads. Make sure the ad is specific to your business and is told in your brand voice.

Are You Wasting Time with Social Media?

It’s always a good idea to periodically evaluate your approach to social media. The first thing to ask yourself is, “Am I using this to its fullest? Should I just drop it or revive it?” You also want to be honest about whether or not your social media content is helping potential clients and peers learn more about your brand personality.

If you are not using a social media platform frequently enough, then make it go away. If you are not measuring social media success across-the-board, then start. If you are not using analytics tools, such as those provided by WeddingWire, get going. Failure to ask these questions could mean you’re spending precious time on platforms that aren’t performing for you or just aren’t enjoyable to you. Your audience can tell when you’re just going through the motions, so be sure you’re invested in whichever platforms you choose.

Speaking of choosing social media platforms, it is easy to find the shiny, new object. Over time, you can wind up with 10 or more social media accounts. It’s far wiser to review what you are really using and the delete those that you don’t update or haven’t managed to engage meaningfully. You’ll usually find that about five platforms are serving you well. If a couple are underused, get them going. Settle in with platforms that really serve you and be solid on the frequency that works for your business.

Get Visual

We live in a highly visual society, so be sure your brand visuals are consistent with your brand voice. This means featuring a diverse variety of couples on your website, storefront, social media and advertising. It also means reviewing images a couple of times a year. Delete some and replace them with newer ones. Keeping your photos current is a reflection of staying up to date with style. Aging wedding dresses and decor do not reflect well on your company.

Typeface About-Face

Don’t forget fonts in your marketing brand evaluation. If you haven’t already, select a few that complement your logo design. Your choices of typeface should be limited about two on a single page. The eye has a difficult time adjusting to more than that. Have a sense about font sizes and make sure they work on all kinds of hardware: Smart phones, tablets and computers.

What Else To Consider

Each company has other factors to consider in continuity and consistency. Add to this list and revisit your thinking. When you review and refresh, it will move your business forward. This should be a regular activity to surpass the competition.

» Bridging Differences for Business Growth

Banner-WWEducationExpert

kathryn-hamm-2016This 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.

It’s the time of year that your phones are buzzing and your inbox is filling with new leads from happy couples, ready to finalize a wedding date and and all of the services they’ll need to design a celebration they’ll remember forever.  So, before engagement season comes to an end, be sure you’re ready to serve all potential clients—even the ones who may differ from you.

 

Start With A Self-Audit

Since we’re early in the season, let’s think about setting the stage for growth and begin with a quick self-audit. As your leads roll in, what patterns are you noticing? Collectively speaking, are the inquiries following patterns of years’ past? Are you having conversations with couples that follow the same trajectory of questions? Are the couples with whom you are meeting booking you for their weddings at a higher or lower rate than in previous years?

These are all important questions, which have been addressed in various ways by my EDU peers, to help you consider the efficiency of your business. And, now, more than ever, the WeddingWire Storefront for wedding professionals offers many robust tools to get answers to some of these reflective, data-based questions.

 

Consider Your Inclusivity, Part One

On the question of becoming more inclusive of same-sex couples, how’s that going for you? Are you looking at the leads you’re generating from same-sex couples and evaluating your success? Are you booking those couples? Where are those leads coming from? Are they satisfied with your service? Or are you not getting any inquiries from same-sex couples?

Before you get overly critical about the results of your efforts to be more inclusive of same-sex couples, please allow me to suggest a rough measure by which to judge your efficacy: recent research suggests that roughly 4-7% of the population identifies as LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender). Thus, it’s reasonable to set a goal for yourself to have 5-10% of your overall inquiries be represented by same-sex couples and 5-10% of your overall contracts to be represented by same-sex couples. When you think about your current track record and projections for 2017, how do your efforts measure up to that rough indicator?

wedding professionals differences diversity business practices

Consider Your Inclusivity, Part Two

My advice to you as you begin to challenge your old assumptions for growth in 2017 and not to, don’t just stop at being inclusive of same-sex couples. Have you considered what religious faiths seem most likely to book your services? What about couples of a different racial or ethnic group than the majority of you and/or your staff? For those of you who’ve been in the market since the days that we used phone calls and paper instead of text messages and electronic contracts, what sort of communications and success are you having with Millennial couples?

Challenging your assumptions, asking questions about what your first impulse is when marketing to and interacting with prospective clients, and taking steps to expand your comfort zone might result in broadening your business and solving a problem (that is a limitation to your ROI) you didn’t realize you had.

 

Bridging Beyond Discomfort

Ready for a deeper dive into converting a self-audit and openness to inclusivity to the next level? Begin by asking yourself these questions: When you open your inbox and see an inquiry from someone with a name you can’t easily pronounce or if you realize you can’t determine the gender of the person, what do you do next? When you meet a prospective client with a visible disability or encounter a language barrier, what do you? When a client identifies themselves to you as queer, how do you react?

Ultimately, it’s important to ask yourself if your well-intentioned concern about a lack of information or discomfort with someone unfamiliar to you negatively informs how you respond. You might find that you feel uncomfortable and less sure of yourself in a conversation, creating an awkwardness that interferes with the relationship. You might take longer to reply as you worry about what to do, thus reducing the chance that the inquiry advances. You might avoid asking the questions you normally would or give advice as you would because you are afraid you will say the wrong thing.

Many of you have shared stories like this with me. Sometimes, it’s clear that you have work to do. You need to have more conversations, continue to educate yourself and potentially even practice with some situation-specific role playing with colleagues you trust. But, sometimes, I find that many of you are open, are working hard to be inclusive but are so afraid of making a mistake that you silence yourself.

In either case, the best advice I can offer you is to listen with love, lead with love and serve with love. Approaching that which is unfamiliar to you with kindness and respect and without placing the burden on the people with whom you are unfamiliar to teach you is always the best way to go.

 

In Sum

It is critical that you prioritize what you know how to do and do well. That you are an expert in your set of services. That you are clear in how you define who you are and what you do. That you are clear on what the value is of those services you offer. That you know the rhythms of your local market. That you nurture and recruit new clients who are a good match for what your business offers. In these cases, working with strength within your comfort zone is key to a successful business.

But, I’m never one to rest on yesterday’s success. And I hope you aren’t either. I think it’s worth breaking out of your comfort zone and bridging into the unfamiliar to grow your business.

A true self-audit of your opinions, attitudes and comfort, along with an audit of the ROI on your business efforts these past few years, may tell the best story on the kind of growth you need to expand your business efforts and where best to get started. 

I wish you luck and I welcome your stories of success and setback!

» Infographic: Top 10 Business Tips from 2016

The start of a new year is the ideal time to evaluate your business success! Take a moment to read these insider’s tips on how businesses like yours have achieved their goals over the past twelve months.

These 10 highlights from WeddingWire’s Senior Director of Customer Success Ashley Conway include advice about how to impress more newly engaged couples and improve your marketing techniques to generate more leads and clients.  Read on and set your business up for success in the coming year.

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