» 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!

» 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.

Continue reading

» 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.

» Get Up-to-Speed this Engagement Season with Fact Sheets

engagement-season-fact-sheetEngagement season is here with 40% of couples celebrating their engagement from November to February each year. Now that the fall busy season is slowing down for may pros, the holidays are a great time to decompress and prepare your business for the busy months ahead.

It’s important to stay updated on the latest industry trends and stats to understand your audience and how your business can stand out. WeddingWire fact sheets are here to help!

As part of our WedInsights content, we have a helpful library full of great one-page resources you can download to get quickly informed on the latest industry research so you can impress more couples.

Here’s a peek at some of the latest fact sheets:

  • Buying an Engagement Ring: See how couples search for the perfect ring and what attributes matter most.
  • Setting a Wedding Date: Uncover the most popular days to wed and learn how couples pick their vendor team.
  • Wedding Stress: Learn what tasks stress couples out the most during the wedding planning process.
  • Bridal Re-Brand: A look at bridal bias and heteronormative assumptions in the wedding industry.
  • Planning a Honeymoon: From destination to budget, see what decisions couples make when planning a honeymoon.

Get started accessing these guides for free!

» 7 Ways to Improve Your Website Before 2017

november-premium-webinar-tileWebinar recap!

Your website’s job is to provide key information about your business, showcase your best work and impress clients to drive leads. When was the last time you considered if your business website is working hard enough for you?

In this month’s webinar for Premium members, WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg shared his tips to assess your current website’s success and target areas for improvement to boost your business — all before the end of the year!

Here’s a roundup of the seven tips:

  • Update your website text: Aim to use conversational text on your site that connects with your target audience — engaged couples. Instead of making your content all about your business, make it all about your customer and bring to life your business.  
  • Do a text purge: Take a look at your site from an outside perspective, and come up with content that they don’t need to make a simple decision of whether to contact you or book your services. Often, too much text is overwhelming and causes your site visitors to bounce. Focus on your key take aways and make them easy to read and digest.
  • Shorten your contact form: Long forms get in the way of more leads! The shorter the form, the less daunting it will seem to reach out and to ultimately work for you. Plus, shorter forms are more mobile-friendly. Focus on just the key info you need, then when you reach out ask them to provide more details like wedding date, location and style.
  • Update your old images: When was the last time you refreshed your website photos? If it’s been a while, it may be time for an upgrade. Make sure you’re making a great first impression with high quality, modern images that will connect with newly engaged couples who are seeking inspiration and wanting to see your work in action.
  • Narrate your photos: Consider adding captions or other narrative context to the photos you showcase on your site. Explain the photos and how your business brought their wedding day or event to life and tie in relevant keywords to boost your SEO. Keep these brief, but it can help make a personal connection to your site visitors.
  • Add testimonials and reviews: Potential clients want to hear from others like them who have used – and loved your services, so make sure your reviews are easy to find! Add your WeddingWire Reviews widget to your website, and place a soundbite from an approved client testimonial on every page so they won’t be overlooked.
  • Put calls-to-action on every page: Make it easy to connect with your business. Consider adding a contact form or clear button to learn more about your business to every page of your website. You can also use calls-to-action to get visitors to engage with content you would like to promote such as a real wedding video, content download or more.

To learn more about these easy ways to improve your website, watch the full webinar now! Plus, Premium members can view all past webinars any time in your WeddingWire account.

» Get Ready for the 2017 WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards!

Couples-Choice-Awards-2017-announcement-imageWhen searching for the perfect wedding team, couples rely on reviews from other clients to understand the value of the experience your business provided for their special day. In fact, 87% of engaged couples read reviews when searching for their wedding pros. Reviews give your business credibility and encourage more couples to reach out to learn about your services.

Exciting news — the WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards® are coming soon! This annual awards program recognizes the top 5% of WeddingWire professionals leading the industry in high quality reviews from newlywed couples. Recipients of the Couples’ Choice Award are determined based on their demonstration of excellence in quality, service, responsiveness, and professionalism each year.

To be eligible for the award in 2017, we encourage you to reach out to your past clients and request reviews! You have until December 31st, 2016 to collect reviews from your clients this year in order to qualify for the prestigious award.

Here are three easy tips to help you collect more reviews quickly:

Start with gratitude

Email or write a handwritten note to your past clients expressing congratulations on their nuptials and how thankful you are for sharing a part of their special day. Your sincerity will be appreciated and will reinforce why they chose your business to be part of their wedding team. Be sure to invite them to leave you a review on WeddingWire, and make it clear that their feedback matters to your business and helps secure future clients.

Showcase your reviews

You earned great reviews, so let your past clients help sell your business for you! Add your reviews to your website, printed materials, and social media to let your past clients help set you apart from the competition. By showcasing your reviews, your clients will notice how committed you are to producing excellent work — and will be encouraged to leave you a review when their wedding is complete since it clearly matters to your business.

Make it easy

After spending months planning their wedding, sometimes couples want a break from their to-do list. Luckily, we make leaving a review easy for both you and your clients! Simply share a direct link to your personalized review URL, or send an automated email from the Review Collector to request reviews from your clients. By directing them right to source to share a few words about their experience with you, it greatly increases the chance they will complete the process. After all, 1 in 5 couples will write a review when asked, and that number increases to 1 in 3 if they are reminded at least once!

Request reviews from your 2016 clients and be on your way to earning more great reviews before 2017!

» It’s Impossible to be an Expert at Everything – and that’s Okay!

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.

Recently, I was conducting a mastermind group the other day in the UK for 10 DJ companies, who have varying years of experience (from 5 years to almost 40 years). What stood out to me was that this group, who all have good, successful companies, each have different business skills. Their technical (computer/internet/website) expertise ranged from low to very high. That’s to be expected with any group. What I didn’t expect is that one of the companies, who’s not known for his technical expertise when it comes to websites, was chiming in to help the group with some pretty technical features of Google Analytics. Quite a few of the guys in the room, including me (as I’ve consulted with him privately), were very surprised.

It turns out that he had been studying up, using websites and YouTube videos, and had picked up a few new tricks – and I’ll have to admit, I didn’t even know one or two of them. A couple of the guys in the room are pretty skilled in making websites and knew him personally, so they were even more surprised.

The point of this story? It got me thinking that each of us has our own history, knowledge and skillset.  None of us is an expert in everything, and we shouldn’t ever assume what others may or may not know. We have our own, unique expertise that comes from the combined knowledge we’ve gleaned, and that knowledge is unique to each of us.

impossible-expert-everythingWe’re each a product of our history

Many wedding pros have transitioned into their own businesses after leaving corporate, or technical jobs. They may have deep knowledge of software such as Microsoft Excel or Outlook. While others struggle to make a basic spreadsheet, they’re knocking out detailed reports with ease. However, those same people who have no problem using Excel might struggle with other areas of their businesses (i.e. marketing, design, websites, etc.). None of us is an expert at everything. When presented with a need for our business, we always have the choice of doing something ourselves, or hiring a professional. Knowing when to choose each path is something we often have to learn by trial and error.

It’s often easier to try to learn a new skill or software program, instead of hiring someone to do that task for you, especially when funds are tight. When you realize that the time you’re investing in learning that skill is time away from building your business, or away from your family, often the right answer is to hire the professional – after all, isn’t that why we want them to hire us? If you’re new at a skill, it’s going to take time for you to master it. If it’s a skill that you can profit from, maybe it’s worth investing in the training and time. For others, hiring a professional us a jump-start to that professional level. What’s that worth to you?

When is it time to make the switch?

I realized that when I switched from doing my own taxes, to hiring a professional CPA. My dad is a retired CPA and we would do my taxes together (my degree is in marketing and accounting). However, he’s been retired for a long time (he’s 86 now), so he’s not up on the latest tax laws and software. I never practiced accounting, so even though I have a good understanding, I wasn’t up on the latest info, either. So, a few years ago I hired an accountant, and the first year he did my taxes he showed me deductions I hadn’t been taking and was able to recoup some refunds from prior years. In other words, he paid for himself the first time I used him.

Too many of us fall into the trap of thinking that because we have expertise in one area, it’s automatically transferrable to another skill. We’re comfortable with using a computer, so we think we can make our own website. We’re creative, so we think we can design our own marketing collateral. It’s understandable, especially when you consider that most of us started as, or still are, small businesses, where you, the owner, is wearing many hats. When you’re bootstrapping a new business, you usually do everything yourself. As a matter of fact, Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, is purported to have said (and I’m paraphrasing) “When I started my business, I knew I’d be wearing a lot of hats. I just didn’t realize I’d be wearing them all at the same time.”

Time is slipping away

An important realization, in any business, is learning to value your time. It’s the one thing you’ll never get any more of. Sometimes it’s best to hire someone to do something you do have the skill for, just because your time is better spent on other tasks. I put off hiring an assistant for a couple of years. I knew it would be helpful, but I wasn’t sure I could justify the expense. Everything was getting done, but at what cost? The cost was my time, sitting on the sofa at night with my laptop, working, when I should have been spending time with my family, or even just relaxing.

What’s your time worth? What else could you be doing if you delegated some tasks to someone else (virtual assistant, intern, employee)? None of us is an expert at everything, no matter how long, or short, you’ve been in business. Sometimes we all need help. Becoming aware of that is the first step to accomplishing more, achieving more and profiting more.

» Engaged Couples Don’t Just Like, They Love Snapchat!

snapchat-geofilters

Snapchat is a quickly growing social media site — and the favorite site of many of your current (and future) couples! In fact, it’s the top social site in growth this year, and 10 billion photos and videos are being shared on the site daily! As social sharing moves more visual than ever before and video grows in importance, getting comfortable on visual-first social sites like Snapchat is important.

One of the biggest social trends we have seen this year is that many weddings are getting shared live on Snapchat. From venue details to behind the scenes looks at the wedding party to the reception celebrations and speeches — couples and their guests are sharing the full wedding experience with their followers.

Couples love to see their day celebrated by their guests, and also want their wedding experience to be special. A great way to encourage posts and customization is by adding a Snapchat Geofilter for their wedding day. To help, WeddingWire has made it easy for couples to pick a design and get it set up with Snapchat for their big day with our free Geofilter designs!

How to Geofilters work? Couples can simply select their favorite design, and easily click through to set it up on Snapchat by uploading their design, picking a time and geofence for the filter and then submitting it to Snapchat for approval (there is a fee required by Snapchat).

If you haven’t set up a Snapchat account, we encourage you to give it a try! If you would like to start posting on Snapchat for your business, focus on becoming a storyteller for your business and authentically capture content in the moment. Share behind-the-scenes photos and videos of you wedding prep, peeks at your daily lives, and of course the beautiful finished product of your work. To grow a following, cross-promote your Snapchat account across your marketing materials and other social channels. Learn more about Snapchat Marketing by reading this recent post!

Photo by Krista A. Jones Photography