» Why Failure IS an Option

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

Whether it’s playing it safe, or being an overprotective parent, it’s often tempting to try to reduce the chance for failure. After all, isn’t failure bad? Actually, all failure isn’t bad, because failure meant you tried something, and just didn’t get the results you wanted. A speaker friend, Bruce Hale, once told me that “failure is just an unintended consequence.” He then went on to say that “success is often an unintended consequence as well,” because we often get a successful result, just not the one that we had originally intended. You can’t succeed, or fail, unless you try something new.

What’s the worst that can happen?

A few years back, when my friends and I went skydiving, we all got t-shirts after the jump that say: “Skydiving – what’s the worst that can happen?” Now, with skydiving, there is a pretty bad possible outcome. Sure, it’s not the one that we want, or expect to have, but it is possible. Yet we went anyway. Why? I can’t speak for my friends, but for me, that possible outcome wasn’t even on my radar. I was thinking about the exhilaration, the rush and the views. There are many more people who will never go skydiving because of the possible outcome of failure – admittedly, a bad outcome.

So, are you motivated by the possibility of success, or debilitated by the fear of failure? Are you visualizing what it means to get the positive outcome you desire? Or, are you not even getting started because of the possibility that it won’t work, and you won’t end up where you want to go? What you should be asking yourself is: “What’s the worst that can happen?” I once heard (or possibly read) that you should not only ask yourself what the worst possible outcome could be, you should also visualize that outcome. Is it really that scary? Would you be able to get through that challenge? Would you and your business, or family, be able to recover from that failure?

You get what you focus on

Knowing and visualizing the worst-case scenario is not the same as focusing on it. You can’t motivate yourself by avoiding negative outcomes. Imagine a catcher in a baseball game telling his or her pitcher: “Whatever you do, don’t pitch this next batter low and inside. Got it? Not low and inside or he’ll hit it.” Where do you think that next pitch is going? Right, low and inside. A better approach would have been to say: “For this next batter, pitch it high and outside. That’s a good pitch for him/her, high and outside.” Where do you think that pitch is going? More likely than not… high and outside, away from that batter’s sweet spot.

Where’s your focus?

Are you focusing on the positive outcomes, trying new things, and acting upon your ideas? Or, are you not getting started because you can’t stop seeing the worst-case scenarios? It’s OK to know what that worst-case scenario is, just don’t let it consume all of your attention. If he had focused on the failures, Thomas Edison wouldn’t have tried 10,000 different ways to make a light bulb. If they had focused on the failure, 3M Corporation would never have created Post-It Notes. The adhesive they used for it was originally developed for another purpose, but it was a failure. Someone over there had the foresight to see another use for it, and viola, we have Post-It Notes.

Lemons into lemonade

You may have heard how some people can take a bad situation, and see the good, and they call it turning lemons into lemonade. The thing is, you have to be willing to get lemons in the first place. It’s both our actions, and our inaction, that deliver the lemons to us. We may have been aiming for oranges, or apples, but instead we got lemons.

When I wrote my first book, the original title was going to be, “Insite”. I thought it was clever and that I could do a series, adding “Hindsite” and “Foresite” to it. Well, in my testing of the cover samples, the title fell like a lead balloon. It was either no reaction, or a negative one. However, I had also written on the cover, in small print: “If your website was an employee, would you fire it?” It was almost an afterthought, and I don’t even remember how it ended up on the cover. When people looked at the cover samples, the title didn’t move them, but that line did. So, even though I was told, by many people, that titles should be short and catchy, I went with: “If your website was an employee, would you fire it?” To this day, in its second edition, people still smile when they read or hear that title. That success was an unintended consequence.

You got this

What have you tried, that didn’t get you the outcome you originally wanted, but you made lemons out of? What was your mindset that allowed you to see the success through the failure? And how can you channel that feeling, while understanding the risks, understanding the worst-case scenarios, and still take the actions necessary to succeed? You’ve already done it, probably countless times in your life. You took the chance, took the leap of faith, or simply didn’t even consider the worst-case scenario at all. Don’t sabotage your success with the fear of failure. Instead, nourish your success with the seeds of failure, so you can reap the rewards of success.

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

» 5 Big Ways LGBTQ Wedding Planning Has Changed in 5 Short Years

Photo by B. Jones Photography

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Expert, Kathryn Hamm.

Five years ago, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decided that New York resident Edie Windsor’s out-of-state marriage (she married Thea Spyer in Canada in 2007) would be recognized in New York, where same-sex marriage had been legally recognized since 2011.

This landmark decision immediately opened the door for the many same-sex couples who wished to seek legal partnership recognition but could not do so in their home states, and ultimately paved the way toward SCOTUS’ Obergefell decision in 2015, which embraced marriage equality nationwide. Those legal shifts, though taking place in courtrooms, ultimately had a significant impact on the wedding market and the choices of engaged LGBTQ couples.

Time Flies

Prior to 2013, LGBTQ weddings were smaller, had older brides and grooms, were more custom than traditional in design, and the couples themselves tended to pay for the ceremony and celebration. After 2005, when Massachusetts legalized marriage and others followed, some couples were planning legal elopements to travel to jurisdictions for a marriage certificate, but many were choosing to have non-legally-recognized ceremonies and otherwise share their commitments more publicly.

Though I have a file full of instructive anecdotes and isolated data snapshots to explain what was happening in the market back in the day, it was 2013 that offered a turning point for enough data to explain how the same-sex wedding market has been changing with legal recognition. The result? With the spread of marriage equality recognition, we could see in real time how LGBTQ weddings were beginning to assimilate into the “mainstream” market and, conversely, how non-LGBTQ weddings had begun to adopt LGBTQ innovation more frequently, including trends like ‘pop up’ or micro-weddings, blended wedding parties, color variety in wedding parties, laypeople as officiants, and more.

Newlywed Report: LGBTQ Market Analysis

Over the past few years, WeddingWire’s WedInights team has issued its annual Newlywed Report, which is chock full of insights about today’s couples, gleaned from the answers from almost 18,000 participants (the most comprehensive and rigorous report in the industry). This essential tool is important to help wedding professionals stay up-to-date on the latest trends, particularly when it comes to same-sex couples because the LGBTQ market segment has been in a state of constant growth and flux for the past decade. What was true five years ago is not necessarily true today. Now that the U.S. is celebrating three years of marriage equality nationwide, however, trends within the LGBTQ market segment are beginning to stabilize, making it easier for wedding professionals to make thoughtful decisions about their marketing plans and service offerings for all couples.

‘What was true five years ago is not necessarily true today.’

Before I highlight a few key shifts in lesbian and gay wedding trends, it’s important to note that this analysis draws primarily from the WeddingWire Newlywed Reports (2015-2018) and WeddingWire Trends & Traditions Surveys, which offer a direct year-over-year comparison of questions. It also references trends revealed in the 2015 Contemporary Couples Report (by WeddingWire, GayWeddings, Community Marketing, Inc and the Gay Wedding Institute) of those who married in 2014, and a related report, Same-Sex Couples: Weddings & Engagements (by Community Marketing, Inc and the Gay Wedding Institute) of couples surveyed in 2013, but who may have celebrated a union or become engaged at any time in the previous years.

Five Big Changes for Same-Sex Couples

#1 Parents are stepping up. And in?

More than ever, same-sex couples are receiving help paying for their weddings. Five years ago, a strong majority of same-sex couples (79% in 2013) reported paying for all or most of the wedding themselves, compared to 2017 where that number has dropped significantly to 59% of couples. This shift tells us that more parents (and extended family) are participating in and supporting their kids’ LGBTQ weddings, and, as a result, the overall wedding spend is increasing as more vendors are hired, more guests are invited, and as LGBTQ couples have shifted away from practical and often quickly planned legal elopements to a more typical engagement and wedding planning process.

This also means that identifying the decision-maker in the booking process may be shifting now that a couple’s parents may have more financial investment in the wedding and, as such, an expectation around decision-making.

#2 Growth of the guestlist

The growth of the guestlist at gay and lesbian weddings is a direct result of more couples coming out, more couples choosing to marry, and more couples feeling comfortable celebrating with a broader circle of families, friends, and co-workers. It’s also a function of being able to get legally married in one’s home state and having the chance to plan accordingly. In fact, the 2015 Survey of Contemporary Couples revealed that 79% of same-sex couples were planning a wedding ceremony and reception, almost doubling the result (43%) of couples surveyed previously (Same-Sex Couples: Weddings & Engagements, 2013).

  • Prior to 2013, the size of the average guestlist was 65
  • In 2014, the average size was 80
  • In 2015 and 2016: 100
  • In 2017: 107 (which still lags behind non-LGBTQ couples average guestlist size of 127)

In sum, having both a ceremony and a reception is a relatively new development for a majority of same-sex couples and marks a major shift with clear planning and budgeting implications and has had a direct impact on the growth in size of the average guestlist.

#3 Size of wedding party

As same-sex weddings have grown in size, so, too, has the supporting cast. In 2013, 63% of same-sex couples reported that they had anywhere from 0 to 3 persons in their wedding party. Yes, you are hearing that correctly. Five years ago, same-sex couples had 3 or fewer people standing up with them as witnesses. Today, the average wedding party size for same-sex couples is 7, compared to 9 for heterosexual couples.

More moving parts, more guests and bigger wedding parties are just another indicator that same-sex couples are following the structural rules of traditional wedding planning compared to the highly personalized, more modestly-sized ceremonies from years’ past.

#4 Blended Wedding Party

There is perhaps no better example of a wedding custom than the wedding party in order to illustrate not only the difference in the willingness of same-sex couples to break with tradition, but also an impressive example of how gay weddings have influenced straight weddings.

In WeddingWire’s 2016 Trends and Traditions Report, only 14% of LGBTQ couples reported dividing their wedding parties based on gender. That is, guys on one side and gals on the other. Same-sex couples have always tended to blend their wedding parties, asking their closest supporters to stand with them, regardless of gender and often in whatever attire they choose (eg women wearing pants and dresses to suit). What’s most remarkable is to understand how this repurposed vision of a wedding party for same-sex couples has dramatically influenced the choices of opposite-sex couples in a short amount of time. Seventy-four (74%) of straight couples divided their wedding parties by gender in 2015, but the needle moved to 69% in 2016 and, more recently, dropped to 60% in 2017.

‘What’s most remarkable is to understand how this repurposed vision of a wedding party for same-sex couples has dramatically influenced the choices of opposite-sex couples in a short amount of time.’

As same-sex couples are assimilated into the mainstream market, it’s clear that there has been a two-way street of influence, which has been amplified by Millennial couples, who choose rituals and make planning choices that are highly customized to their preferences.

#5 Age of the couple

In 2014, Jennifer Senior, then a writer for the New York Magazine, noted that one third of LGBTQ newlyweds were over 50. WeddingWire’s Newlywed Report revealed that the average age of same-sex couples who had married in 2015 and 2016 was 35 (with a smidge of variation in age between gay grooms and lesbian brides). In 2017, the age dropped to 34. Today, LGBTQ couples still skew a bit older than non-LGBTQ couples (the average age for heterosexual couples in 2017 was 32), but the shrinking gap reveals not only how opposite-sex couples are getting married a few years later in life, but also how same-sex couples are getting younger.

This is just one more example of how the engagement and wedding planning trajectory for same-sex couples is assimilating to match the typical relationship trajectory for heterosexual couples: start dating, (perhaps cohabitate), get engaged, and get married. With more open acceptance of LGBTQ individuals and couples, one’s sexual orientation is no longer a factor in one’s interest in and access to marriage and wedding planning services.

kathryn hammThis post was written by Kathryn Hamm WeddingWire Education Expert, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. 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.

» Still Waiting to Hear From a Lead? Here’s Why.

Securing responses to your lead replies is a common pain point for wedding professionals and it’s easy to understand why. When potential couples reach out to inquire about your services and you reply only to never hear back, it’s frustrating. Maybe the person was busy or forgot, or maybe your reply accidentally landed in their spam folder. But the harsher truth may be that it was your reply that cut communication short.

WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg explains that there is always room for improvement when it comes to your lead replies. If you’re not getting the responses you desire, Alan has some explanations and tips to help you turn your response success around.

You’re taking too long to reply

7 in 10 couples say that vendor responsiveness is the most important factor they consider when looking to book their wedding team. That seems totally rational, right? Our research also shows that after submitting an online inquiry, 40% of couples note that they didn’t hear back from vendors within five days. As wedding professionals, you should stay on top of your inquiries because if you aren’t, it’s probably costing you sales. Think about it: if you inquired about a product or service that you wanted to purchase and had to wait at least five days, wouldn’t you consider finding it somewhere else?

Approximately 50% of couples choose the vendor that replies first. Because time is clearly of the essence here, do your best to reply as soon as possible. Alan recommends waiting no more than 24 hours to respond.

You’re asking for a phone call or meeting

When a couple reaches out for the first time, it’s usually in reference to something specific (“What is your price for x?”, “Are you available on x date?”). Remember that they did not ask you to have a phone call or a meeting— they asked a question. Replying back “Are you available anytime to chat or come in for a meeting?” instead of answering their question could cause a missed opportunity for a reply.

You suggest a new communication channel

Along with timeliness, nearly half of all couples express frustration when their communication channels aren’t reciprocated. To better your chances at a response, use the same communication channel to respond until your back and forth exchange gets to the point where another method might be better. If a potential customer emails you, you should email back. As a matter of fact, more and more bookings are being done entirely over email, without a single phone call. Remember: “If they wanted to call you, they would have called.”

You’re not thinking mobile

If your replies aren’t crafted for mobile, you’re severely lowering the chances of securing a reply back. Approximately 80% of couples use emails to inquire about services and 70% of WeddingWire consumer emails are opened on mobile devices. To fit mobile’s demands, keep your replies short. As we mentioned, couples are usually asking you a simple question. By keeping things short, not only are you guaranteed not to overwhelm, but you are maximizing the readability of your reply, too.

Another mobile-first tip: Alan suggests that you don’t send attachments in your first few replies. Most attachments fall into the “overkill” category and can overwhelm a couple with information they don’t yet need. But, more importantly, most attachments are designed for desktop so they can be hard to both read and display on a mobile device.

You don’t ask a single question

Not asking a question in your reply can be detrimental. While it may seem that ending with a friendly “I look forward to hearing from you!” suggests to the couple that you are expecting a reply from them, this line doesn’t demand a reply from them.

Instead, Alan suggests that you should ask a “low commitment” question in every single correspondence to guarantee a reply back. Unlike “high commitment” questions such as “When would you like to come in to meet?”, low commitment questions like “How many guests are you expecting?” or “Do you have a venue secured yet?” begins the conversational back-and-forth needed to make a sale.

You’re avoiding pricing

Price questions shouldn’t be something to fear. Be upfront about price and don’t duck the question. Put yourself in their shoes: when you ask about price and someone tap dances around it, how do you feel? If you are concerned about sharing an exact price, give a price range instead. That way you are not overwhelming a couple with every price, and can leave it open ended to ask the follow up question “what services in particular were you thinking about?”

You’re starting your reply with “Congratulations on your engagement!”

It might sound nit-picky, but we promise it’s not. Most wedding professionals start their reply with some form of congratulations to the happy couple. When couples are doing their research and are beginning to contact vendors, every preview line in their inbox starts to look exactly the same. Change things up to ensure that you get noticed!

You’re using automation or copy and paste

Sounding disingenuous is not going to result in a sale. When a couple sends you an inquiry and they receive an automatic reply saying “someone will be in contact with you shortly” it doesn’t add anything to the conversation, even if you end up sending your reply within five minutes of that message going out.

Additionally, it can be really obvious when things are copy and pasted. When a couple is under the impression that the email you sent to them is also sent to everyone else, they probably won’t believe that you can offer them the personalized services they want. If you do have copy and paste text that is generalized and you just can’t part with it, consider having someone who is completely unfamiliar with your business read it. If they believe that the segment reads like it is copy and paste text, it’s time to nix it.

It is easy to get defeated when lead replies don’t turn into sales, all the more so when conversation quickly dies out. However, if a couple is reaching out to you, it’s because they are interested in you.Know that in reaching out, a couple has eliminated a huge portion of your competition. While they might also be reaching out to a few more similar wedding professionals, you are still a part of the select group that they liked and wanted to hear from because they want to book you.

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

» Collecting Meaningful Reviews for Same-Sex Couples

Photo by Gawne Designs Photography

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Expert, Kathryn Hamm.

Hopefully you’ve spent time considering the tips and tools for collecting reviews that the WeddingWire team has outlined on the ProBlog, as well as during the live sessions at WeddingWire World. In addition to strengthening your brand presence with the potential of earning the prestigious Couples’ Choice Award® by collecting testimonials, you’ll also be offering valuable information to your prospective clients. And this is especially true for the LGBTQ couples who are researching your bonafides and readiness to receive their inquiry about your services.

By means of a quick review, first please consider WeddingWire’s basic tips for collecting reviews from the brides and grooms with whom you’ve worked:

  1. Just ask!
  2. Give them time.
  3. Automate, but keep it personal.
  4. Build reviews into your culture.  [Read more]

Now, let’s take a deeper dive into thinking about how to build on these necessary steps, and how to do so in a way that will appeal to the LGBTQ couples who are in need your services.

Just ask, but be specific

When I meet wedding professionals at conferences, I often ask them if they have worked with same-sex couples, and then, if they have asked that couple for a review. Though I’ve met many pros who tell me that they have done so and submitted a gay or lesbian wedding to a blog, magazine or other planning site to showcase their work, surprisingly, I have yet to meet a wedding professional who answers affirmatively about requesting a review from a same-sex couple.

Remember that LGBTQ couples generally review your WeddingWire Storefront  with an eye to assess not only your professional competence, but also your cultural competence and experience. Perhaps you are using inclusive language. Perhaps you do have images of same-sex couples. You are sending all of the right signals, but the couple might be wondering: but how did it really go? Reviews are your opportunity to let your past LGBTQ-identified clients tell your future LGBTQ clients about your services with respect to the particular experience of planning a same-sex or queer wedding.

This means you might consider inviting your clients to share details about their experience with you that include your LGBTQ cultural competence. For example, did you anticipate their needs and understand the planning differences and/or nuances for same-sex couples or did they have to educate you along the way? Did you have a strong set of experienced and LGBTQ competent professionals on your referral list? Was the language in your contracts appropriate?

If you aren’t sure how to open this conversation, remember that LGBTQ newlyweds know what it felt like to begin searching for vendors (and perhaps even be rejected), and they’ll appreciate a nudge to write a review that gives clear and identifiable feedback for your prospective clients to consider. Most will likely be happy to take the time to write you a review in order to help future LGBTQ couples through their planning process and vendor search.

Give them time, and respect their privacy

It’s true that finding the right time to send your review request is key. Make sure that the couple isn’t so overwhelmed that they overlook the request, but don’t wait so long that the gush-factor has worn off. And, as you are considering the space they need to write their review for you, please also remain sensitive to privacy factors.

Though same-sex marriage is legal and couples are having ceremonies, there are still some LGBTQ-identified folks who keep their personal lives private. This is especially true for folks in therapeutic and school settings; and for folks who may live in communities where being LGBTQ-identified is frowned upon.

If you aren’t already sure about how “out” the couple is, approach your request with sensitivity to gauge their comfort level (eg, “Would you be comfortable writing a public review about your experience of my services with an explicit reference to my ability to address your needs as a same-sex couple?”). If the couple does prefer to remain private, consider the ways in which they can write a review with a nom de plume to register their assessment about your work while maintaining some discretion.

Automate, but keep it personal (part 2)

Any busy wedding professional can appreciate a tool that supports easy communication with couples. Especially when it’s easy to send a gentle reminder if a couple hasn’t responded immediately with a review. But please don’t sacrifice that personal touch when leaning on a communication system. Most of us are more responsive when we are being asked a question that feels specifically directed to us an individual. And, today’s millennial couples are especially receptive to prompts that reflect personal details and needs.

Additionally, in an industry that tends to be heteronormative (that is, built around a bride-groom default), personalization is especially important for LGBTQ couples. Please make sure that you are using the terminology and salutations preferred by each individual and each couple. Make sure that you’ve proof-read any generic text to ensure that it’s inclusive. Not all forms are created equal for all couples.

The culture of reviews. and feedback

The WeddingWire team recommends mentioning reviews “early and often” from the sales process through the big day. Beyond finding a routine for you and your team to regularly mention and request reviews from every client, recognize that this is also a great place to get feedback on your cultural competence from your same-sex couples.

Find a time to connect with the newlyweds you’ve served, and ask them to offer you feedback in order to help you improve your services and offerings. This post-mortem conversation is an excellent way to deepen your connection and develop a better understanding of the professional development you may need to pursue to grow your business. It also serves as a simple springboard to ask the couple to write a brief review to help other same-sex couples who may be looking for a wedding professional with experience like yours.

kathryn hammThis post was written by Kathryn Hamm WeddingWire Education Expert, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. 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.

» How to Make the Most out of Conferences (and Better Your “Today” List)

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

I love going to conferences. There are so many opportunities for learning, not just in the sessions, but also in the hallways and at the social events. Ideas come at you from all directions, it’s often like drinking from a firehose. If you’re like me, you come away with more ideas than you can possibly use. That’s good. You just need to learn to prioritize (more on that later). The problem I see, all too often, is when we come away from a conference, with more ideas than we can use, we end up not using any of them. Those pages and pages of notes, whether on paper or digital, end up on a shelf, never to see the light of day again. So, how do you change your conference habits (and general to-do list management) from overwhelming “shelf-help” that gets lost in the mix to truly productive “self-help”?

Why do we do it?

I’m not a psychologist, but I’m sure there’s a really good reason why we don’t take action on those pages of notes and new ideas. All I know is that I’m just as guilty of it as you are. Or, at least I used to be. I take less notes than I used to, partly because I know that the more I take, the less I’m likely to look at them. It’s more intimidating to see that I have 20 pages of notes, than 3. So, I’m more selective and try to focus my notes to my needs.

Putting it into perspective

Another reason I think we don’t take action is because we get distracted. Buzzwords are flying around, shiny products are on display and other attendees are regaling us with their stories of success. The challenge there is separating the fiction from the non-fiction. Let’s just say that some people tend to exaggerate, or selectively leave out the challenges they’re facing. It’s not unlike how on social media we tend to only see the great successes, without the struggles or investments, in money and time, that led to that success. You can’t reap the rewards unless you’re willing to make the investment (or sacrifice).

How do you measure success?

The next challenge in evaluating opportunities and new ideas is that each of us defines our success in our own way. Our needs are different. Our expenses are different. Our goals are different. Just because someone else is seeing their version of success with a new idea, doesn’t mean that will work for you. Use your own compass and plot your own course. Don’t use someone else’s map to find your path.

But, we can’t do them all!

Exactly! You can’t do them all, no one can. That’s why you need to learn to prioritize your ideas and limited time. I learned to do this over 10 years ago, at my first National Speakers Association conference. We had three very full days of meetings. On the last day, at the last session, the association national president addressed the group. He told us to make a list of all of the ideas we had heard. Then, told us we should prioritize the list, in the order of how they would most benefit our businesses. And then, and here’s the hard part, to keep the top 3 things and then physically get rid of the rest of the list. You can’t focus on 20 or 30 things. You’ll just end up diluting your time between too many things, getting nothing done. When you focus your time on only 3 things, you’ll get way more accomplished. After you complete those items, make a new list. If some of the things from your original list are still important, they’ll show up again. I can tell you, from personal experience, that they rarely do. Once you have finished the things on your list, your business, and you personally, are in a different place. Things that were important before, just aren’t important now.

“To-Do List” vs. “Today List”

I’ve been living my life that way since that conference. It was hard, at first, to erase my dry-erase board, with its myriad of ideas and projects. Sure, I took a picture of it, before erasing it, but I haven’t looked at that photo… ever. And yet, I’ve accomplished more than I ever had. The things on my short list are not my daily tasks. Replying to email, marketing and writing content are a different list. I like to refer to them as my “Today List”. The big picture items are my “To-Do List”. Writing a new book is usually on my to-do list. When I finish one, I start writing the next one. Learning a new language made it onto my new list. Then presenting in that language. Next, for me, is doing the audio version of one of my books, in Spanish. A lofty goal? Sure. But what good are goals you can easily hit? Actually, my uncle once told me never to use the word “goals, ” because it’s self-limiting. Think bigger, and you can achieve more. Don’t try to just reach a goal, try to do the best you can, every day.

So, what does your shelf look like?

Have you filed away years-worth of conference or webinar ideas, without ever acting on them? How many notebooks, filled with notes, are on your shelf, or filed away? How many things are on your big-picture, to-do list? Do you really need them all? Or, can you keep the first 2 or 3, and focus all of your energy on those? It takes a little faith and a little courage to shorten your list. If you’re like me, you’ll find it liberating, like a huge weight has been lifted. And then, when you start to get more done, you’ll be encouraged to keep making short lists. Here’s to helping yourself (and not your shelf)!

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

» How to Create a PR Plan

Photo by Michael Stephens Photography

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

Being the wise wedding professional that you are, you know you need a PR plan. You realize that great press equals great clients and an increase in your standing among your peers in the industry. It’s just that making a plan seems so hard.

Putting off the PR plan you could create today until tomorrow may seem like it’s saving you time and effort at the moment. In the long run, though, it really just pushes off attaining your dreams further into the future. You deserve better than that and you know it. Instead of procrastinating, start with these steps to get your PR plan underway today.

Take stock

Begin by assessing your business. What do your clients love about you? To whom do you appeal now, and to whom would you like to in the future? Who is your ideal client? How do people find you? If you could reach the ones who have never heard of you, what is the first thing you would want them to know? Before you can launch a PR campaign, you need to answer these questions, refine your message and pinpoint your desired audience.

Make a wish list

Next, dive deep into the internet and social media and create a wish list of the outlets you plan to target. It’s not enough to just list the ones you enjoy reading or visiting. Make sure you identify the publishers that reach your ideal customers – using the demographic information you compiled.

Maximize efficiency through organization

Even if it isn’t your strong suit, staying organized has become much easier with advances in technology. These leaps forward currently take the form of online apps and tools to help keep you on top of your game. I personally love Wufoo to collect couple’s wedding day information, Basecamp as project management software to keep us moving along with our daily to do’s and Boomerang, which sends reminders to me to follow up with emails I’ve sent that have not received replies.

Promote your results

Once you are successful at publishing a real wedding or contributing your expertise to an industry article, you’ll want to promote your success. First, send a thank you note to the editor or publisher to solidify your relationship for the future. Then, get the word out on social media. If you have your own blog, craft a post about the piece and include a link to the full piece. By promoting the piece, you’ll be magnifying the spotlight on your business and helping create valuable Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your website and your publisher’s as well.

Ultimately, avoiding creating a plan can only hurt your business, not help it. Make a point of ensuring your future success by creating a PR plan and beginning to check off related tasks today!

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

» Ways to Make Your Website Accessible for More Clients

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Expert, Kathryn Hamm.

The first and easiest part of being more inclusive in your digital marketing is to diversify representation within your images and text. As I’ve written previously, this includes written and visual representation of “brides and grooms” or “engaged couples;” of same-sex couples; of various races and ethnicities, religious rituals and physical abilities, shapes and sizes. These are simple cues that say “I see you” to prospective clients who might not feel included in mainstream wedding media.

Consistency is key

Though this may be enough to broaden your appeal to more clients, I advise wedding professionals to seek more information to understand the nuance of need beneath a first impression. It’s important to recognize that when a client feels “seen,” they are more likely to make an inquiry, but also they are more likely to hire you if you can deliver a truly inclusive experience from beginning to end.

Consider the case of a Caucasian stylist who features African-American brides on her website, but does not have a wide range of foundations and complementary hues for darker skin tones or an understanding of styles that are trending amongst black brides. Or the photographer who books a same-sex couple but applies a heteronormative (one bride, one groom) approach to the poses of two grooms or two brides or offers a referral to a caterer who is outspoken against same-sex marriage. When broadening your service offering, extra homework, preparation and consistency goes a long way.

Consider your website accessibility for all clients

Though your website may offer that “first impression” opportunity for some clients, it can also result in couples (and/or their attendants and guests) who have disabilities leaving your website quickly due to accessibility issues.

Below are a few simple tips to enhance your website to be more inclusive and accessible for clients with disabilities. Remember: these considerations may be important for the engaged person who is doing the planning, but might also be important for engaging the collaborative assistance of a parent or best man or best woman.

  1. Image accessibility
    Make sure that your key images and actionable buttons are large enough to be seen by someone with limited eyesight and that your ‘alt tags’ and ‘title tags’ clearly describe the content in an image so that a screen reader can interpret that visual information in a spoken form for those who are blind or dyslexic. It’s likely that many of you are already tending to your ‘alt tags’ for SEO (and if not you should be!) so this additional consideration increases the value of your business investment.
  2. Text accessibility
    Consider the flexibility of your written content to make sure that the information you are presenting comes across impactfully if a client is using a screen magnification tool to enlarge the text or a screen reader to interpret the text. It can also be helpful to make sure that your links are underlined or otherwise clearly differentiated from your normal text so that those who are color blind can easily find important links on your site.
  3. Video accessibility
    As you publish video content of your work or expertise on your website and in social media feeds, make sure to offer a clear description about the main point of your content, but also consider adding subtitles or investing in a sign language interpreter to provide a translation for those who are deaf.
  4. Inclusive representation
    Beyond including images of brides, grooms and guests with disabilities in your marketing images, take the time to find a local ASL interpreter to include in your referral list and/or professional network. If you aren’t otherwise required by ADA compliance, take a take a test tour of your office, event space or venue in a wheelchair to understand where access may be an issue. Or consider having a large print or screen-reader-friendly version of your contract so that a client with a visual impairment or dyslexia can more easily understand all of the terms related to the booking.

These small adjustments can be made during your next website update or as an improvement to your next blog, social media or video post. And, beyond making a meaningful difference for many brides and grooms with disabilities, engaged couples who are looking out for their guests with disabilities will also appreciate that you are ready, willing and able to serve them, too.

Did you know? Apple products have a wide range of accessibility tools built in to its iOS. If you have an iPad or iPhone, explore the features on your own device to see how those with vision, hearing or physical disabilities might be accessing your digital presence without even realizing it. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility.

kathryn hammThis post was written by Kathryn Hamm WeddingWire Education Expert, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. 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.

» How to Streamline Your PR in 2018

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

During this time of the year, most wedding professionals are enjoying the beginning of a slower season when event work eases up and the business of running a business takes priority. When you are knee-deep in busy season, it’s so easy to get excited about PR and all of the exposure you know comes with it, but it can easily fall to the backburner when one of a million more pressing issues crops up.

The downtime of the slower season is a great time to streamline your PR for the coming year and make sure it becomes part of your week-to-week workflow. Don’t miss out on opportunities to promote your business through targeted pitches to prime publishers by simply putting the time in now.

The following steps are time-tested ways to streamline your PR and get ready for the coming year:

Implement block scheduling

Block scheduling is a method of time management in which you evaluate your priority tasks and pre-schedule the amount of time you are going to devote to each one and how often (i.e. on daily, weekly or monthly basis).  I recommend committing to at least one hour per week to engage in PR-related activities, whether that means assembling a media list, creating pitches or submitting proposals for speaking engagements. Set aside the time you plan to invest in PR and during that time focus exclusively on it. Don’t get distracted by social media, your phone, email, your children or even your cat. Make your PR time power time.

Use HARO

HARO (helpareporter.com) is the go-to site for matching your amazing stories and expertise with press looking for something to report about. Commit 10 minutes every business day to scanning HARO and acting on opportunities that have potential.

Preview upcoming weddings and make predictions

Look ahead at the weddings you have in the works. Which ones have publishing potential or meet editorial requests? Start gathering what you would need if you decided to submit them now. Coordinate with your photographer, get client permission, obtain and process the backstory information from your couple and their vendors. Do the tedious tasks that normally stand in the way of completing important projects while you still have the time and are focused on the benefits.

Explore ways to make your life easier

Sounds like a pretty great step, right? Think about your pain points and then ask yourself if there are any apps, programs or changes you can make that will alleviate them. Some may take a small investment, or you may need to learn to use them, but if they perform necessary tasks and save you time that you can use to address something that really needs you, they are invaluable.

The slow season is your best opportunity to put in place procedures and systems you need to make you a superhero of PR all year long. Follow these simple steps and focus on the desired outcome. Your efforts now will most certainly yield PR rock star-level results in the not-too-distant future.

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

» Why Price Questions Shouldn’t Worry You

Photo by Riverland Studios

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

As we enter a new year, and get into the heart of engagement season, I want to remind you that price questions are buying signals. If you know that, and you live it, then I could make this the shortest article I’ve ever written, but let me fill in the details for the rest of you.

By the time you have someone asking you what you’d charge for your services for their wedding, or event, they’ve already done a lot of filtering. Most of your competitors will never hear from this same couple, or customer. It’s very likely that they know a little, or more, about you, from your website, WeddingWire storefront, reviews and more. You only got the inquiry because they like what they’ve seen and heard so far.

Don’t blow it!

Since you’ve made it to their short-list of companies they think can do what they want, and produce the results that they want, don’t ruin your chances with them by taking the lead for granted, or worse, assuming they can’t afford you just because they’ve asked about price. Don’t you ask about price when you’re the customer? Does it mean you can’t afford it because you’ve asked about price? Of course not. It’s just one of many pieces of information you need to make a decision. The thing is, when you’re shopping for something you know, you ask about price after you find out whether it fits your technical specs.

For example, if you need a new camera, you’ll ask about resolution, features, compatibility with your lenses, etc., and then, once you’ve checked off all of your technical needs, you ask about price. If it doesn’t fit your technical needs, then price doesn’t matter. The same applies if you need a new vehicle for your business. Price will only matter after you determine that it meets your technical needs. It doesn’t mean you can’t afford that truck, it just means you have needs that are more important that price.

They don’t know, what they don’t know

The challenge for your customers is that they don’t know how to articulate their needs. They’ve likely never shopped for your product or service before, so they’re not equipped with how to shop. Or, they’ve been to your website, read your online storefront, checked out your reviews, seen your photos and videos, and they already think that you’re a good fit. So, the only questions that they have left are: Are you available? and How much do you charge?

When they ask about price…

  • It may not mean they’re looking for your lowest package/offering
  • It may not  mean they’re price shopping (only comparing on price)
  • It may not mean they can’t afford your prices

Don’t judge a book by its cover

If you treat them as if they can’t afford you, or that they’re looking for your lowest price, you’re likely to lose some legitimate prospects. How many sales have you made, for more than your lowest package/offering, to people who first asked about price? The answer is probably: a lot. We all have. Everyone needs to know the price, eventually. Some just don’t know what else to ask, so they start with the one thing they understand… money! So, instead of dreading getting the “How much does it cost…?” question, celebrate it. Relish in the fact that most of your competitors aren’t getting asked that, or anything, by this same customer. They’re not in the game, because they don’t know there’s a game going on. But you do, and you’ve just been told to suit-up, and get in the game.

The change starts with you

They’re not going to change the way they inquire with you. I’ve been in this industry for a long time, and couples have always asked about price, earlier than you, the professionals, want to hear it. I’d rather have that discussion early, than not have a chance at all. Learn how to have the same conversation you’d have in person or on the phone, via email, messenger, LiveChat or text. Whatever the technology, it’s still a real conversation. Don’t avoid their question, you’ll turn them off. Don’t try to change from a digital conversation, to a phone/in-person one, too soon. You’ll turn them off. If you reply to their inquiries about price, and they don’t reply to you, that doesn’t mean they can’t afford you. It could be the way you’re replying. I see it all the time (and it’s the subject of my next book).

The short answer is that if you reply to “How much do you charge?” with “Let’s have a phone call or schedule a meeting”, and then you don’t hear back… stop doing that! I’ve spoken about this on WeddingWire webinars, and written about it in articles, but my favorite way to answer this is to quote them a price range, so they, and you, can see if you should continue the discussion (that is, assuming you don’t have a range on your site and storefront, in which case price shouldn’t be an issue when they reach out).

So, the next time you get an email, or message through WeddingWire, that asks about price, put a smile on your face, because you’re communicating with a BUYER! It’s a mindset change that will serve you well.

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

» How to Prep for 2018 Wedding Submissions

Photo by Walking Eagle Photography

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

With the end of the year upon us, it’s a great time to sit down and start mapping out your public relations efforts for 2018. For event professionals, real wedding submissions should be a big part of your strategy. It’s an effective way to get your brand in front of the audiences you’re seeking, and helps to establish you as an influencer in the industry.

Don’t know where to start? Let’s take a look at some of my top tips to follow for submitting.

Get permission

Before you do anything else, you want to make sure that you have not only the photographer’s permission but the client as well. The easiest way to do this is by including it in their contract, but we also recommend talking to them about it beforehand so you know they are on board from the beginning.

Do your homework

This may come as a surprise, but not every blog is right for every wedding. When deciding where to send a submission, sit down and do some research on which blogs are going to be the

right fit. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to send a black tie luxury wedding to a blog that heavily features rustic backyard celebrations. Be sure that you can find complementary events that are recent (within the last year) so you know what the editor is looking for.

It’s all about the details

When selecting images you’re planning to include in the submission, you want to think about it with the editor’s point of view in mind. Remember that they are trying to inspire their readers with trends and fresh ideas, so they will generally give preference to those who include lots of details. You may have adored the couple and want to see their faces all over the feature, but that isn’t what’s going to catch an editor’s eye.

Follow the rules

The biggest mistake you can make when submitting is not following the guidelines for each publication. There is no exact formula to follow, each outlet is distinct and will have different requirements. From image sizing to number of photos to sharing programs, no two are exactly the same. Be sure that you are checking the directions each time you submit a wedding to ensure that you haven’t missed anything.

Develop the story

While the photos will tell part of the story, it’s the couple themselves that editor’s want to hear about. The detail photos are important, but they want to know why the couple selected them, and what personal touches they included. For us, we have a questionnaire that is sent out to couples asking them details about their wedding like inspiration, DIY projects and how they met/got engaged. The couple will love getting involved in the process, and the editor will appreciate all of the detail you have included in the submission.

Include the team

No event is made great by just one person. It takes a team of vendors to bring everything together and make it a success. It’s important that when submitting a wedding you give credit where credit is due by including everyone that was involved. If the wedding gets published, they will appreciate the recognition, and will likely promote it themselves, increasing exposure for your business in turn.

With these tips in mind, you’re sure to kick your 2018 PR plan off with a bang!

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

» How to Leverage the Royal Engagement for Your Business

Photo by Kensington Royal via Instagram

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

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the UK’s Prince Harry is marrying American actress, Meghan Markle in May 2018. That’s right friends: it’s another royal wedding!

If you’re anything like me, your initial reaction was probably to pull out your commemorative china, don a fascinator and toast the engagement with a cup of your best Earl Grey. Or, if you are just a little bit less obsessed, you at least had a moment of recognition that the media coverage of all things bespoke is guaranteed to be constant and overwhelming through May and beyond. Either way, as a wedding professional it’s time to celebrate because this is a major opportunity to leverage your expertise in return for some valuable publicity – even if you don’t know the first thing about making a proper fruit cake.

The fact is that from now until May, media outlets will be hungry for stories, either directly related to or inspired by the engagement. Now is the time to get your name out there and take full advantage of this gift. Kate and Will married in OFD’s second year, and I was able to turn that into national TV coverage! Good Morning America actually sent a team to film my royal wedding viewing party – one of the Crown Jewels (pardon the pun) of my own early publicity. It was, and still is, all about timing, experience and enthusiasm.

So, what can you do to get your piece of the royal publicity pie?

  • Reach out to your local media
    If you’re already seeing coverage of the royal wedding locally, even if it’s just the engagement announcement, hunt down the writers on the beat and email them now. Introduce yourself and establish your wedding expertise, along with your willingness to chime in.
  • Leverage content on your own website and social media
    One of the biggest challenges people have with blogging is coming up with content, so take advantage of the global attention and create an ongoing blog theme related to it. Include your observations, predictions and commentary.
  • Sign up for HARO
    If you haven’t done so already- keep an eye out for wedding related inquiries, which are bound to increase as the fervor builds.
  • Plan an inspiration shoot
    If you don’t feel comfortable putting yourself out there as an expert, go ahead and at least consider your own fun shoot inspired by the royal wedding. Dare to be different, but make sure it complements themes and elements predicted for the upcoming nuptials (remember that editors need to be able to connect the dots). The wedding is in May, so start submitting by March, at the latest.
  • Have fun!
    Host a local viewing party and invite all of your wedding friends. It’s a great way to ramp up the wedding season and make deeper connections.

    There is no reason to fear royal wedding madness – this is a great time to be in our industry. Prepare for an adventure, because this will definitely be one of your most entertaining wedding seasons yet.

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

» Do You Want the Sale, or Not?

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

While speaking at a conference in Mexico, I overheard some wedding professionals talking, and one said:“If you don’t want to do the wedding, just give them a really high price.” I jumped into the conversation, and I said “If you don’t want to do the wedding, don’t do the wedding!” Giving them a high price doesn’t change the reasons you didn’t want to do it. Maybe it was really far away. Maybe it would be so time-consuming, that it would take away from your other clients. Or, maybe they’re just not nice people and you didn’t connect with them. If you give them a high price, and they accept it, those reasons didn’t go away. You’ll just likely end up regretting taking it, while you toil away on a wedding you didn’t want to do. The money is not going to make up for that.

I was doing an event in Ireland recently, and I asked the attendees to let me know if any of them got a new lead, during the event. A DJ, who had come over from the UK for the event, told me that he just got a new inquiry through his website. I asked him to read it to us. He didn’t sound very excited while reading it, and I asked him why. She was 2½ – hours away from him, in an area where he doesn’t usually get inquiries. He had just won a prestigious award in the UK, and figured that she had seen that, and that’s why she reached out (just conjecture on his part, of course).

Your attitude will come through

I asked how he was going to reply, and he said “I don’t really care if I get it, or not, being 2½ – hours away.” I asked him “Do you want the sale, or not?” He said he could go either way. I asked him again “Do you want the sale, or not?” He said “I’d only do it for my full fee.” I told him that he hadn’t even gotten to that point, yet. However, if he wasn’t interested, then tell her he’s not available. If he is interested, then let’s answer this together. His attitude when writing the reply is very important. If you’ve seen me present on this topic, read my books, or heard a webinar or read my articles here, you know that tone and energy comes through in written conversations.

So, he replied to her, and she replied back. He gave her a price range. She indicated that the top of the range was too high for her, and asked if he had something for less. He asked for a 5- minute phone call the following morning, which they had, and he booked her for his full fee (the bottom of the range he had given her). He was happy, and so was she. Had he written his original response, it’s possible she would have seen that he was blasé about getting the sale, and she’d find someone who was as excited as she.

Don’t rush the process, just because you’re busy

When I do sales training, I like to look at the actual digital conversations of my clients, businesses just like yours. Very often I see conversations that try to rush the process, either by asking too many questions at once, sending lots of attachments, answering questions they haven’t asked yet, and more. When I ask why they’re including so much information, the reason is often because they’re so busy with other tasks, they don’t feel they have the time to have a few, or a lot of back and forth, short conversations. Sound familiar? I’ll bet it does. What do you want, when you’re the customer?

I get it, I really do. However, when you’re the customer, and you email a business about something you need, what do you want? Don’t you want to have a conversation with a real person? A real conversation, not a data dump of information. Not lots of PDFs, or even one PDF, especially if you can’t easily read it on your phone. Don’t you want to know that someone is taking an interest in solving your problem, or getting you to the end result that you want? Of course, you do, and so do I. It’s not their problem that you’re busy. Yes, we like to do business with the popular companies, there’s a certain reassurance. However, I’d rather do business with someone who takes the time to have a conversation with me, than someone who copies and pastes the same information to me, that they do for everyone else. We all like to think that we’re unique.

Can you afford to lose one sale?

How full is your calendar? Can you afford to lose one sale? What would that cost you? It’s probably already happened. It happens to all of us, sometimes it’s our fault, sometimes it’s not. Some of the reasons are beyond our control. If they book someone who’s half your price, they didn’t see the value in hiring you. It’s going to happen. If they book someone who was referred by a friend or relative, oh well. But if they book someone else, for the same, or higher price than you, because you didn’t show them the personal attention that they wanted (and deserved), from their very first contact with you, that’s on you. If you don’t need another sale, more power to you. But that attitude can come back to bite you in the long run. So, do you want the sale, or don’t you? If you do, then treat them the way you’d want to be treated!

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