» A Decade of Change: How the Industry Has Evolved

 

 

 

alan bergThis 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.

As WeddingWire celebrates its 10th anniversary, I wanted to reflect on the last 10 years in our industry. We’ve been through some interesting times. The economy has gone through some wild swings, and we’ve experienced major ups and downs in politics. However, as I reflect on what’s happened, I’m reminded of the old saying: The more things change, the more they remain the same.

I’ve lived through many more than 10 years in our industry, and some things are constant. We should all be grateful that we’re in a recession-resistant industry. Regardless of the economic climate, people are still getting married. Yes, how much they spend, and how they spend it changes, but that’s not just a factor of the economy. Styles change. Trends change. Attitudes and priorities change. Yet, through all of that, people still get married.

We’re really lucky


I often remind wedding pros, like you, that we chose an industry that has couples spending billions of dollars on their weddings, and they are not required to do so. There’s no law that says you have to have a party to celebrate your marriage. There are laws about getting legally married. But, there are no laws about having food, pictures, music, flowers, fashion, etc. Those are discretionary purchases. Most discretionary purchases are highly affected by the economy, swinging with it up and down. Not weddings. Weddings happen, no matter what.

My theory on this (not scientific, just one man’s opinion) is that no one goes into their wedding thinking it’s practice for the next time. We all hope, and many of us are right, that it’s one and done. My parents just celebrated their 63rd anniversary, a benchmark we’d all like to achieve. So, we spend boatloads of money, celebrating the occasion. We should be thankful, every day.

Here are a few of my observations about the last decade:

Technology – If there’s one thing that’s constant, it’s changing technology. Sure, we all had websites 10 years ago, or knew we needed them, but the underlying technology of them is always changing. Much of what we used to do only on desktop computers, we now do on our mobile devices. It’s not better, or worse; it’s just different. For many of you, the technology of your service has changed. Think DJs going from LPs to CDs to all-digital music. Does that make you a better DJ? No. But, it helps you help your couples.

Communication – Whether it’s Facebook Messenger, LiveChat, Texting or WhatsApp, lots of new communication platforms have come along in the last 10 years. I hated Facebook Messenger when it first arrived. I didn’t think I needed it, as I already had phone, email and text. I quickly learned to love it, as clients, and potential clients, started to reach out to me through it. I can attribute real dollars to conversations that were started through Facebook Messenger, texting and WhatsApp. Today, I’ll embrace almost any technology that my clients want to use to connect with me.

Social Media – Here’s a statement of the obvious: social media has fundamentally changed our lives. Whether it’s for the better, or worse, is up to you to decide. All I know is that 10 years ago I wasn’t investing the time I do today in social media. Where did we get that time? What are we not doing now, that we were doing with that time 10 years ago? We didn’t get any more time, so it had to get shifted from other activities. That said, I use particular social media platforms because I get positive return on my investment in time and effort, and yes, money (if I buy an ad, or boost a post). Many of the wedding pros I meet, and consult with, have no idea if they’re getting any return on their investments. They do it because they feel they have to. Did you jump into the deep end of the social media pool, because everyone else was in the pool? Or, did you first learn how to be a great swimmer, and then jump in?

Social Proof – Here’s a phrase we weren’t using 10 years ago. According to a WeddingWire study, nearly 90% of consumers trust online reviews, as much as personal recommendations. So, while 10 years ago couples were asking their friends, family and coworkers for recommendations, now, with over 3 million reviews on WeddingWire alone, they can go online and find out who you really are. I’ve said this many times: your brand is defined by what your customers say about you, after they’ve worked with you. You need to be highlighting your reviews everywhere: on your website (not just on a testimonials page, as no one goes there) and in your marketing. You need to be actively involved in the process, responding to your good reviews, requesting reviews and yes, addressing anything negative, quickly and professionally. Your brand and your reputation is out there, for everyone to see… whether you choose to see it or not. Be involved.

Sales – Here’s something that hasn’t fundamentally changed. Sales is, and will always be, about people. Yes, you’ll use different technologies in your process, but ultimately, it’s people, buying from people. If you learn how to effectively help people buy, the technology is inconsequential. Artificial intelligence is a long way from being able to take the job of a salesperson in your business. You need to make a connection. You need to ask better questions. You need to really listen to the answers, and then show the customer how you, and only you, can deliver the results they want. That hasn’t changed in the last 10 years, and it’s not going to change in the next decade, if ever. If there’s one skill you need to hone, whether you’ve been selling for 20 minutes, or 20 years, it’s your sales skills. If you don’t make the sale, you don’t get to ply your craft and show your skills. It’s that simple.

So, what’s happened in the last 10 years? I remember first meeting Tim and Sonny at the Wedding MBA conference, 10 years ago. I was impressed with them, even though I was a competitor at the time. I’ve watched, from the sidelines, as WeddingWire has grown, and matured, yet still manages to remain nimble, something that’s not easy to do. I’m proud to be connected with WeddingWire for over 5 years now, and I’m looking forward to the next 10. I wish you all a decade of success!

» From Margins to Mainstream: A Decade of Change For Same-Sex Weddings

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

On May 1, 2007, Tim Chi and the founding members of the WeddingWire team sat down in his pink living room in Maryland to change the wedding industry by introducing technology built to connect wedding pros and “brides” in the wedding planning process.

Meanwhile, just across the Potomac River in neighboring Virginia, I was taking a look at
the explosive growth of our site traffic (a YOY increase of almost 700%) at GayWeddings.com, which we had updated the previous year from our original sites (TwoBrides.com & TwoGrooms.com). The
Dallas Morning News had recently referred to me and my straight mom, who founded our business, as “some of the most knowledgeable experts on commitment ceremonies in the country;” and the only state that recognized “gay marriage” (the term commonly used at the time) was Massachusetts. Most weddings were ceremonies that had no legal component, and the couples who were seeking legal recognition lived in or traveled to Massachusetts or to Canada, where marriage had been legalized in 2005.

It’s hard to believe that 10 short years ago, the landscape for online wedding planning and same-sex marriage was so vastly different. The market still had a traditional feel to it: most couples planned using binders and “bridal shows,” we used different language to describe our ceremonies and customers, and pursuing a marriage license or experiencing federally-recognized marriage equality seemed like an unattainable milestone for the majority of same-sex couples. Even LGBT advocacy groups at the time, with the exception of Freedom to Marry, were hesitant to push for marriage equality over workplace protections and other initiatives.

FlowersWhen did marriage equality and same-sex weddings come to your awareness? When did you begin to advertise your services to lesbian brides and gay grooms? Here are a few special LGBTQ wedding memories from GayWeddings, framed against a backdrop of WeddingWire’s 10th anniversary. We hope you’ll share a few of your stories and milestones with us as well!

Same-Sex Marriage Map, State by State (Pew Research Center)

Detailed Map of Gay Marriage in America (2014) (New York Times)

2008 ::  Connecticut became the second state to legalize same-sex marriage and California’s Supreme Court legalized marriage until a ballot measure known as Prop 8 overturned the decision. In the short span of months where marriage was recognized in California, 18,000 couples rushed to City Hall and GayWeddings’ business was booming. As one of the few resources available to couples and professionals, we were a stop along the planning journey for most same-sex couples, and we received dozens of inquiries from national and local press outlets. Meanwhile, legislators reacted defensively in Arizona and Florida and passed Constitutional Amendments banning same-sex marriage. The New York times ran a piece featuring yours truly and my industry peer, Bernadette Smith of the Gay Wedding Institute.

2009 ::  Along came Iowa, New Hampshire and Vermont, with Washington, D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty signing a bill of his own for the District. With more options for legal marriage, couples were weighing options about how, when and if to have a ceremony and this was especially relevant for couples in the Metro DC area who might live in a state where marriage wasn’t recognized (VA or MD), but could easily travel a few miles to get legally married. The Washington Post took a look at some of the conversations that local couples were having as they weighed their legal choices on the weeks leading up to marriage equality.

2010 :: Momentum was building quickly. Washington, D.C. marriages began, with the US Capitol as backdrop, and the stage was set for New York to follow on its heels. Meanwhile, we, at GayWeddings, realized that, much as we enjoyed being a small family-run business, that the bigger wedding planning sites in the market were catching on to the need to serve same-sex couples. The tide was truly beginning to turn as the industry grew to be more open to the conversation. At GayWeddings, we understood that we were headed toward full inclusivity, and wanted to find a business partner with whom we could work toward that end.

Enter Sonny Ganguly, CMO of WeddingWire, with whom I had a lunch that led to a milestone conversation. He introduced me to Tim Chi and the executive team and WeddingWire, and I prepared myself to pitch them on why marriage equality matters and the ways in which same-sex couples continued to be underserved. Their response? Complete acceptance and engagement. For the first time since my mom and I had begun our work in 1999, we encountered a “mainstream” influencer who had no qualms, self-consciousness or worries about open including and celebrating same-sex weddings.

Gay Wedding Trends: A 2015 Year-in-Review Snapshot2011 :: Following our preliminary planning work in 2010, GayWeddings launched its partnership with WeddingWire in January of 2011. With a flip of the switch, our “gay-friendly” vendor directory became the largest catalog of more than 20,000 wedding pros who were “ready, willing & able” to serve same-sex couples. That same year, Hawaii approved civil unions and New York legalized marriage equality, which (the New York City media market being what it is) created a tidal wave that was felt nationwide. The storyline about “gay weddings” being “big business” (like this CNN Money article) was the primary headline and wedding pros who hadn’t yet been paying attention began to be more open about considering the needs of and the opportunity in working with same-sex couples.

2012 :: The legal tide changed with a new twist in that voters (not judges and not legislators) in Maryland, Maine and Washington state approved same-sex marriage laws through popular vote. Our vendor directory grew to more than 35,000 wedding pros and we updated our language to be more inclusive, referring to it as “LGBT-friendly” rather than “gay-friendly.” I also found myself as an inaugural speaker of the first ever WeddingWire World at The Kennedy Center in Washington DC. Conferences had begun to be more inclusive of same-sex weddings in breakout groups, but WeddingWire was the first national conference (to my knowledge) to offer the topic from the main stage.

2013 :: Count this year as one of the most important years in the progress toward marriage equality. Two big rulings were issued from the Supreme Court. Thanks to the case of Edie Windsor, who sued as a result of the federal tax she paid upon the death of her spouse, the court struck down part of the “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA), which allowed couples who were legally married in their home states to also receive federal marriage recognition. Additionally, the Supreme Court refused to hear the challenge to marriage recognition in California thus reversing Prop 8 and opening the door to the return of marriage equality in California. Many couples (like my wife and I) used this opportunity to get legally married for the federal recognition, even if in-state recognition remained out of reach.

2014 :: By this point, as a regular speaker on the wedding industry circuit, I often found that, when I would say “marriage equality” from the stage, wedding pros would cheer. The joy and excitement was palpable. In fact, we found that the vast majority of pros we surveyed at the time said they were ready, willing and able to serve same-sex couples and our newly named “LGBTQ-friendly” directory surpassed 100,000 wedding pros. Meanwhile, there was still work to be done to provide a safe and open space for those wedding pros who had questions about same-sex weddings, had some religious reservations about participating, or otherwise were new to the conversation. At conferences, my favorite conversations were the ones with deeply thoughtful pros who were struggling with the new reality of marriage equality, but trusted me enough to talk through their concerns.

Legally speaking, appeals courts rulings struck down same-sex marriage bans in multiple states, but one appeals court upheld a constitutional ban making it clear that the next stop was the Supreme Court for all the proverbial marbles. Oh, and photographer Thea Dodds and I re-released our self-published book, Capturing Love, as The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography, under the imprint of Amphoto Books.

What does the post-marriage equality market look like for gay and lesbian couples?2015 :: A year I’ll never forget. In the early months of 2015, we completed the paperwork for WeddingWire to acquire GayWeddings, and shortly thereafter, on June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that bans on same-sex marriage were unconstitutional. One of the proudest moments of my life was standing with my mom and many members of the WeddingWire team on the steps of the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. as the decision was handed down. WiFi coverage was sparse and digital channels were congested because of the crowd, but word spread quickly and the cheers were contagious as we learned that same-sex couples could now marry in any state in the US. As the year closed, I launched a new initiative — #BridalRebrand — and invited professionals to take their efforts toward inclusivity to a whole new level.

2016 :: In order to help others better understand the needs of same-sex couples (particularly wedding professionals and reporters who cover wedding trends), we worked with Bernadette Smith, Community Marketing & Insights and the WedInsights team at WeddingWire to develop the most comprehensive and disciplined study of current wedding trends for all couples: the 2016 Study of Contemporary Couples & Wedding Trends. This national survey featured the largest sample of respondents and, unlike any other survey to date, asked the same questions of LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ couples — from identity to wedding ritual preferences to fears of rejections. The results were eye-opening.

2017 :: Ten years after the founding of WeddingWire and 18 years after the founding of GayWeddings, I hardly remember a time I wasn’t working with the WeddingWire team to improve inclusivity in the wedding market. I’m proud to be supporting not only the inclusion of same-sex couples, but also love lobbying the industry for more openness to serving men (straight or gay!) and other underserved couples who don’t feel that the market reflects them.


When it comes to love, there’s plenty of room for all of us. So, keep leading with love, listening with love and serving with love. In so doing, you can’t go wrong!

» Easy Peasy PR Tips for Small Business Pros

 

 

Being a small business owner comes with a lot of ups, downs and everything in between. It can sometimes feel like you are forever performing a balancing act of appointments, events, and paperwork- the list of responsibilities goes on and on.

Carving out time for things like public relations is important, but can sometimes end up towards the bottom of a never-ending to-do list. The good news is that there are tons of easy tips and tricks to help you grow your company’s PR profile that won’t compete with your busy schedule. Here are some great ways to get your name out there, regardless of how busy you are.

Embrace Real Wedding Submissions

Investing time into real wedding submissions is one of the best first steps you can take as a wedding pro. Getting your work in front of engaged couples on wedding blogs and magazines can have a huge impact on your business. However, in the last several years, it has become an increasingly competitive PR method and the submission pool is overflowing with weddings.

To catch the editor’s attention, follow these guidelines:

  • Do your research: Take some time to create a ‘wish list’ of where you want to be featured and take a look at the kinds of weddings they are showcasing. You want to match your work with the media outlets that feature complementary content so that your entry is competitive.
  • Follow the rules: Surprisingly, a lot of people who submit to wedding blogs don’t look at the guidelines on the website before sending in their submission. To stand out, be sure you are following the rules to the letter.
  • It’s all about the details: Nearly every wedding blog is looking for fresh details to highlight (think unique cakes, centerpieces, flowers, stationery and the like), so be sure to include them with each submission.
  • Tell a story: Images are the focal point of any wedding submission, but if the editor has the couple’s story to go along with those photos, you are more likely to grab their attention. Ask couples what inspired them, their engagement story, favorite wedding day moments, and anything else that makes their big day stand out.  

Use Free/Low Cost Tools

As business owners, the word ‘streamlining’ has a very important place in our vocabulary. Having easy-to-use tools in your back pocket can make a world of difference when it comes to managing your time.

Here are a few of my favorites:

  • Talkwalker Alerts: If you’ve got a feature coming out but don’t have time to keep checking the site to see if it’s live, Talkwalker Alerts is a must-have. It will notify you via email when your feature has been posted so you can get to promoting.
  • Wufoo: If you like to get insight from clients, Wufoo is the perfect tool for you. It is an easy-to-use questionnaire builder that provides you with a link to send out once finalized. Once the form has been completed by the recipient, you will receive an email with their answers to know it has been submitted.
  • HARO: Short for Help a Reporter Out, HARO has been an integral part of my own business for years. Scouring the internet looking for press opportunities can be a full-time job, and this tool brings writers and editors on the hunt for expert commentary directly to your inbox.   

Offer Yourself as a Resource

Introduce yourself to your local mainstream outlets as a resource. Find out who writes about wedding content in local mainstream magazines and outlets, and make sure to find the best person to reach out to (hint: run a search on the word ‘wedding’ and see what comes up). Send an email to introduce yourself and let them know your area of expertise, as well as the best way to reach you for future articles. 
With these tips in your arsenal, it’s time to take out that to-do list and move your public relations efforts up a few pegs- trust me, you won’t regret it!   

Exclusive Wedding PR Education Expert for WeddingWire Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR agency OFD Consulting. She also leads the newly launched OFD Collective, a membership based community of wedding professionals seeking PR education and publicity opportunities for their business.

» A Roadmap to Inclusive Language For Wedding Show Producers

 

 

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

A year and a half ago, I spoke with a number of wedding professionals, including Meghan Ely of OFD Consulting and Marc McIntosh of the Wedding Experience, about the importance of challenging bridal bias in 2016. That is, the importance of taking an in-depth look at one’s marketing language and, as needed, looking for ways to update and reinvent one’s marketing language to be more inclusive of both brides and grooms. For some (and you know who you are), this might also include completely rebuilding your brand or business name to be more relevant in today’s marketplace.

It’s a little campaign I like to call #BridalRebrand.

After more than a year’s worth of conversations with Marc about this topic, I reached out to him for an update on the work he’s done to challenge bridal bias, refresh his brand, and continue to evolve his product. As you’ll see in our conversation below, he has taken the concept of undertaking a #BridalRebrand to a whole new level.

As you consider this update in the Wedding Experience rebranding journey (the backstory of which you can read here), I hope you’ll also consider the scale and impact with which his work impacts our industry — couples and professionals alike.

Further, I hope you’ll take note: if you are a wedding professional who markets your services through expos like the Wedding Experience, it’s incredibly important for you to recognize how any bridal bias you have in your marketing language might be interpreted and potentially draw the wrong kind of attention to your brand.

Remember: unless your services are intended exclusively for women (eg, wedding gowns), wedding marketing needs to be about “brides and grooms” and/or “engaged couples.” Undertaking a #BridalRebrand may feel daunting but it’s doable. Case in point: the evolution of the Wedding Experience.

KATHRYN: Beyond updating your general language to be more inclusive (for example, using  “engaged couples” and “brides and grooms” instead of “brides”), what other changes did you make in your marketing materials?

MARC: In the past, when we relied primarily on mass-appeal advertising, our message tended to focus on the white female that made up the majority of our audience. Today, there are advertising opportunities that can be narrowly targeted, including social media, online music services and retargeting ads. We can now run ads that reach, for example, only Hispanic engaged couples within a 25 mile radius of our event. This has allowed us to target specific audience segments with a message that speaks directly to them.

While our events have always been designed to be open and inviting to everyone, we didn’t do a great job of communicating that in our advertising. Through targeting, we are now able to appeal to attendees regardless of their ethnicity, age, or sexual orientation. We have advertising that includes images of same-sex couples, and we were the first major wedding show producer to do so.  We have also integrated images that include multi-cultural couples, and we now include models of various shapes and sizes in our fashion shows.

 

“I see our changes as more evolutionary than revolutionary.”

– Marc McIntosh, The Wedding Experience

 

K: Did you run into any roadblocks or special challenges in implementing inclusive language in your print materials vs. your digital materials?

M: We have two audiences, the couples who attend our shows and the wedding professionals who exhibit. Our changes on the attendance side were relatively easy and involved tweaks to our advertising, registration forms and show branding. The changes on the wedding professional side proved to be a bit more challenging. Our exhibitor marketing materials screamed ‘bride’ (‘hundreds of brides attend’, ‘sell to a huge audience of brides’, etc.). The word ‘bride’ was so easy to use (and overuse), and we found that simply replacing it with ‘engaged couple’, or something similar, was a bit awkward at times. Making this change required a major rewrite of our marketing materials, but I am happy with the end result.

K: As you look back, what was the single most difficult hurdle to navigate during your #BridalRebrand overhaul?

M: The biggest hurdle was deciding how we were going to change our advertising to appeal to same-sex couples. Although same-sex marriage is legal, unfortunately, it is still a controversial subject and not yet universally accepted. This is a particular concern in the more conservative markets in which we produce our events. We realized that our changes might offend some prospective attendees and exhibitors, so the challenge was to find the right balance. Once we decided to make the changes, we proceeded without hesitation.  

 

“The best piece of advice that I can offer…is that being more inclusive in your marketing message can result in increased business.”

– Marc McIntosh, The Wedding Experience

 

K: What was easier to implement than you expected?

M: I see our changes as more evolutionary than revolutionary.  We have always strived to be fresh and relevant, and our ‘Bridal Rebrand’ was a continuation of that process. Many of our changes were very easy, such as changing the wording on the buttons we give out at our shows. These now read ‘I’m Getting Married’ instead of ‘Bride To Be’.

K: What sort of feedback have you gotten from the wedding professionals and engaged couples with whom you work?

M: We haven’t received a lot of feedback, either positive or negative, and that is exactly what we wanted. Our attendee audience turns over every year, as people enter the market when they are engaged and leave when they are married. The result is that most are seeing our advertising for the first time and don’t notice that we’ve made changes.

That said, we have seen a substantial increase in the number of couples attending our shows, whereas in the past our attendance was overwhelmingly female.  We have seen a small increase in same-sex couples, but not as many as we would like to see, so we continue to tweak our advertising to that market segment.

K: Anything else you’d like to add or additional advice you’d offer to your colleagues in the industry?

The best piece of advice that I can offer, which was my largest takeaway from all of the work we have done together, is that being more inclusive in your marketing message can result in increased business.  The millennial audience, regardless of their demographic, like and appreciate businesses that are inclusive.

Editor’s Note: if you are looking for a market research resource, check out WeddingWire’s WedInsights.

» 4 Easy Steps to Content Creation as a Wedding Pro

When it comes to marketing and PR for your company, content creation is king – especially if you’re the one creating it. It’s no secret that Google loves fresh, well-written and continually updated new content on a blog, rewarding it with higher rankings and greater chance for attention.

If establishing yourself as an expert is part of your master business plan, one of the expectations is that you will provide new, enriching content regularly via your own blog and through partnerships with other media outlets. So how do you create exciting and valuable new content as a wedding pro?

Outline your goals. Ask yourself, “What do I hope to accomplish by focusing more of my time on content creation?” You want to make sure you have a purpose and it’s clear what sort of Return on Investment (ROI) will qualify your content strategy as a success.

content creation

 

Begin creating a content calendar. Determine where you’re posting – which social media, blogs, and guest writing opportunities – as well as how often, keeping in mind that your goals should be manageable.

Figure out what you’ll write about. How, you ask? Host a brainstorming session with your team. Take notes after wedding days on scenarios you can turn into a list of tips for couples. Carve out a brief amount of time weekly to review mainstream press, like your local daily newspaper or The New York Times. Then ask yourself how it can relate to the event industry. Cover company news and industry news. Provide valuable content to your audience with the intention of getting closer to your goals.

Track your progress and revisit statistics quarterly. Ensure that your content remains aligned with your goals. Review your responsibilities and commitments and ask yourself if it’s still feasible to create as much content as you’re doing. Use your analytics to see what posts (social media, blog, others) end up with the most engagements and click-throughs to your site. The best plan is one that evolves and addresses what your audience wants and needs.

Content creation requires commitment and analysis. Done well, it can yield new business opportunities, increased attention to your work, and advancement in the industry of your recognition as an expert. Make a plan, review your goals and achievements, and don’t be afraid to take the leap – start building your content portfolio today.

 

Exclusive Wedding PR Education Expert for WeddingWire Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR agency OFD Consulting. She also leads the newly launched OFD Collective, a membership based community of wedding professionals seeking PR education and publicity opportunities for their business.

» How to Set Your Prices Based on Your Value

I was just at the Photo Booth Expo, and as you can imagine, there were many, many different types of equipment there. Features varied, as did prices. I was speaking with a couple that owns seven photo booths, and they were considering a new mirror booth. There were a couple of different ones they were considering, but one was a lot more expensive than the other. While the quality of the more expensive one was evident, they were torn on which one to buy.

 

Customers buy value, not price. 

My advice? No matter which one they decide to buy, they should charge the same price to rent it out. My statement confused them, as the more expensive booth was more than double the price to buy. Customers aren’t going to have them side-by-side. They’re not going to know what you didn’t buy. They’re only going to know what you bring to their wedding or event. And, most importantly, they’re not paying you for the equipment. They’re paying you for the outcome, which is the fun their guests are going to have at their wedding or event.

This is true for every product and service. While you need to know your costs, you charge for the outcome. Photographers and videographers have many choices of equipment. Most couples wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between photos shot with a Canon camera versus a Nikon. DJs and bands have many choices of equipment. Most customers couldn’t tell the difference between JBL speakers and Bose. Caterers have infinite choices of kitchen equipment, yet the customer gives no thought to how the food is cooked, just that it wows their guests.

 

How do you set your prices?

When you’re deciding how much to charge for your products and services, how do you go about it? Do you take your costs and charge a multiple (3X cost, 5X cost)? Do you even know your costs? Have you taken into consideration your overhead (rent, utilities, insurance, etc.)? Whether it’s envelopes, toilet paper or paper clips, the money to pay for that has to come from your gross sales.

 

If you don’t value your time, no one will.

Too many wedding pros undervalue their time—do you? Do you know how much time it takes to perform your services? Have you included the time it takes to answer emails, take phone calls, and meet in-person (or virtually)? I was sitting with a DJ who was lamenting to me about another inquiry that asked for his “5-hour package.” We started talking about how much time he actually spends on each wedding, from the initial inquiry through any appointments, planning meetings/calls, editing music for each introduction and their first dance, planning their playlist (and do-not-play list) – then the packing up and travel time to their wedding, the wedding itself and then packing up, the time getting home and unpacking. He figured that it was between 35 and 40 hours.

How much is your 5-hour package?

So, I suggested that the next time someone asks about his 5-hour package, he reply, something like this: “Thanks so much for giving me the opportunity to show you how much fun I can make your wedding. I’d love to pack your dance floor, and have your guests saying it was the best wedding they’ve ever attended. I don’t have a 5-hour package, but I’d love to tell you about my 35-hour package – the 5 hours you and your guests will see – and the other 30 hours that I’ll be investing, before your wedding, to ensure its success, which you can see from our dozens of fantastic reviews.” 

Are you charging only for the time you spend at their wedding? Or, are you taking into account all of the other time you’re going to invest in them? Too many wedding and event pros set their prices based upon what someone else is charging. How do you know their prices are correct? You don’t. Do you know their costs? No. Do you have the same overhead? No. What if their prices are too low (as they often are)? Don’t chase them to the bottom.

Over the years, I’ve challenged many of you to justify your current prices. Can you raise you prices now? Not sure? Ask yourself this: If your prices were 5% higher, last year, how many of your customers would have said “No”? If the answer is none, or very few, your prices are too low. You’re undervaluing yourself. When you get to the point where some are saying “No,” but there would be others who would say, “Yes,” to the higher price, then you can still raise your prices. When you get to the point where too many would be saying “No,” and others would also say, “No,” then you’ve gone too far.

 

Raising your rates isn’t as difficult as it seems.

Early this year I got an email from a wedding pro: “I put one of your suggestions into action right after the seminar, and increased my servicing fees by $15 per hour, and NOT ONE PERSON objected. Many thanks from my family, because it really was that easy to put an extra $1500 in our family pocket, which means winter holiday in Mexico, NOT Vancouver Island LOL.” Another wedding pro, a DJ, doubled his prices during one of my presentations, and the next day he sold two weddings at the higher prices! He hadn’t raised his prices in years, and had gotten comfortable selling at the lower price, because it was easy. Now, he finds it just as easy to sell at the higher price.

 

How much money are you leaving on the table?

Every dollar you raise your prices is extra profit. Conversely, every dollar you discount your prices is profit you’re giving away. Take a good, hard look at your pricing structure, then ask yourself those questions about how many would say. “No” to higher prices. Next, see how much more profit you can gain. I look forward to hearing your stories of success!

 

alan bergThis 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

» Niche PR: How to Become the “Go-To” Expert in your Arena

Webinar recap!Niche, Webinar, PR, Marketing, Weddings, Expert, Education

In the often-saturated wedding market, a niche will help you stand out and cut back on competition. Defining a niche allows you to specialize in an area that suits your talents and personality, gives focus to your marketing, and helps you attract your ideal clients.

During this webinar for Premium members, Education Expert Meghan Ely shared the steps to identifying your niche, promoting your expertise to your target audience, and implementing PR strategies to grow your business.

Here are some of the webinar highlights:

  • Showcase your niche in your content. Your website content, social media strategy, and any other owned channels should clearly reflect your niche. In addition to your bio, portfolio, and client testimonials, add a press page and blog to your website to highlight your expertise and demonstrate your capabilities.
  • Introduce yourself as an expert to the media. Consider what media your ideal client is consuming and target those outlets. Start by sending a friendly email to introduce yourself as an expert and a resource in your niche field — and be sure to include a few brief story ideas, too.
  • Pitch yourself for guest writing and speaking opportunities. Review your topics and research opportunities; focus on those that will reach your target audience. Hone your messaging and send a concise, friendly pitch with a few examples of your work. When it comes to speaking engagements, start small, evolve your topics overtime, and never stop practicing.
  • Pursue real wedding submissions. Research opportunities, guidelines, and editorial calendars to determine the best fit and strategy for your business. Be sure to follow the rules of exclusivity and prioritize the opportunities that will reach your ideal audience.

For more tips and additional details about these recommendations, watch the full webinar! Don’t forget that past webinars are available within Premium member accounts to view anytime.

» Hiring an Intern: What You Need to Know

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

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

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

 

How to Find One

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

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

Communicating the Job

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

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

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

 

The Interview Process

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

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

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

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

» A Match Made in Heaven: Video and Social Media

february-premium-webinar-tileWebinar recap!

Videos are a great way to capture the attention of your audience. In fact, videos account for almost 70% of consumer Internet traffic! But how do you create and distribute videos to best showcase your work if you don’t have video expertise? 

During this month’s webinar for Premium members WeddingWire Education Experts Alan Berg and Andy Ebon offered their their tips to easily use video combined with social media to attract and impress your audience even if you’re a video newbie.

Here are some of the webinar highlights:

  • Try out new Instagram features. Instagram Stories and Instagram Live videos are great tools for showing ‘behind-the-scenes’ videos of your work. Posted Stories are available to your followers for 24 hours, which can drive a sense of urgency for your audience. Live videos are only available while you’re broadcasting so it can be helpful to notify your audience in advance if you plan to go live.
  • YouTube is critical to video efforts.. As the second largest search engine after Google, YouTube is a vital component of any video strategy. In fact, 80% of 18-49 year olds watch YouTube each month. Product demos make great videos — just remember to keep videos under three minutes to hold your audience’s attention.
  • Optimize your YouTube videos. In addition to posting compelling video content, make sure to use best practices when creating your YouTube video posts. The right taglines, titles, descriptions, and calls-to-action can help your videos get discovered and viewed.
  • Use Facebook Live to engage followers. Facebook Live videos are an easy way to engage your audience in real-time. Check your phone’s connection before you go live to ensure your stream isn’t interrupted, allow enough broadcast time so that followers can join your live feed, and get creative with your ‘set’ to make your video more visually engaging.

For more tips and additional details about how to leverage these recommendations, watch the full webinar! Don’t forget that past webinars are available within Premium member’s accounts to view anytime.

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

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

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

Best? By Whose Standard?

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

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

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

Focus on What Makes You Different and Exceptional

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

» Wedding MBA 2017: Special Savings for WeddingWire Members

Don’t miss three exciting days of education for wedding professionals at Wedding MBA this October 2-4th in Las Vegas!

wedding mba weddingwire

Did you know you can save extra on your ticket just by being a WeddingWire member? Register on the Wedding MBA website with the code WW3624 to save an extra $20 on the current price (your discount will be applied at checkout).

What will you experience at Wedding MBA?

  • Engaging education to promote your business success. Attend the event for more than 150 seminars geared toward business, technology and trends in the wedding industry. This year, there are category-specific seminars on the first day to supplement the industry relevant main presentations to attend.
  • Presentations from industry leaders and experts. Attend inspirational and informative presentations from top industry influencers including WeddingWire CEO Timothy Chi, CMO Sonny Ganguly, Education Experts Alan Berg, Kathryn Hamm, Meghan Ely, and many more. View the full list of WeddingMBA speakers and sessions here.
  • Networking and celebrating with industry peers. Make new friends while attending the daily sessions, the annual much-anticipated WeddingWire Party, the WeddingWire Happy Hour and more. Plus, meet with members of the WeddingWire team to discuss your account and see what fun surprises we have in store at our Lounge!

Check out the highlights from last year’s event for an inside look at the conference, and get your ticket before the next price increase. See you in Vegas this fall!

wedding mba weddingwire 2016 wedding mba weddingwire 2016 wedding mba weddingwire 2016 wedding mba weddingwire 2016

» 5 Ways You’re Losing The Sale

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

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

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

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

Trying to force a phone call.

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

Sending auto-replies that don’t add value.

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

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

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

Sending attachments and brochures in your first email.

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

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

Writing way too much in your first reply.

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

Not asking a question at the end of your message.

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

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