» Infographic: How to Stay Profitable During the Off-Season

Many pros consider this time of the year that is more quiet a bit of an ‘off-season’ before busy wedding season picks up in in few months. Even if you may be less busy during this time, it is important to focus on your business, and set yourself up for a successful and profitable year ahead!

Check out these four ways to stay profitable and focused even during the ‘off-season’ from WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon. Want more information? Watch the full webinar here!

Stay Profitable During the Off-Season

» Does Your Wedding Business Take Credit Cards?

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.

“Do you take credit cards?” seems to be an unnecessary question, but it’s still a common one on forums and social groups. With the cost of transactions ranging from just over 1% to as high as 4% (or more with additional fees) it’s certainly a subject worth talking about. It’s a cost of doing business, but can you (or should you) try to mitigate that cost?

Common types of credit cardsI think it’s as much a mindset as a real cost. In my article, You can’t save your way to prosperity, I talked about cost-saving strategies and how most are misguided. There’s a limit to how much you can save. You have to have electricity, gas for your truck, supplies, payroll and taxes. No matter how hard you try, you can’t reduce your costs to zero. Are the efforts worth the savings?

Let’s do the math

Recently I was consulting with a wedding professional and he was lamenting how it costs him 4% when he receives funds through his website. If he does $100,000 in collections, that’s costing him $4,000 per year in credit card fees. If he does $200,000 in collections through credit/debit cards, it costs him $8,000 per year. The only way to reduce that to zero is to stop accepting credit cards. These days that’s also likely to limit your sales as some people only want to pay with their credit or debit card. You also get the funds now, as opposed to waiting for a check or cash, as you can accept the cards remotely, but cash would be in person and checks are becoming a much rarer form of commerce for today’s generation of wedding couples.

I asked my client how many of his customers he might have lost if he didn’t take credit cards, and while it’s hard to say, it’s likely he would have lost a few. The most he can save is $4,000 or $8,000, depending upon his collections. It’s very likely that the lost sales would have cost him more than the credit card fees are costing.

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» 6 Small Business Tax Season Tips

6 Small Business Tax Season TipsSpring is coming (at least we hope!), which means taxes are on everyone’s minds. While taxes can be complicated and vary greatly depending on your business type, state and other factors, we’ve compiled these universal small business tax season tips to help you save time and money this year!

  • Take a close look at the Small Business Jobs Act Tax – it has many initiatives aimed at decreasing the tax burden for small businesses and may provide you with savings in a variety of areas. Start here first to determine what your options are!
  • Be very careful with your bookkeeping. Keeping close track of all your business expenses throughout each month and year will make it easier in the long run. You’ll be able to enter all your expenses into your account system much faster and with more accuracy.
  • Many Pros find themselves traveling a lot and incurring auto expenses and mileage. If you find yourself faced with the option of deducting either your auto expenses or mileage for business-related driving, take the mileage deduction. With gas prices so high, it’s likely to be a better deal. Just make sure to keep track of your mileage diligently. Continue reading

» Online Payments: PayPal vs. Authorize.net

Online Payments: PayPal vs. Authorize.netAs a wedding and event professional, creating efficient payment schedules and distributing invoices is vital to organizing your business and ensuring you are promptly paid for your services. Did you know our Clients Tab has the tools to allow you to make these invoices and collect online payments?

WeddingWire Payments & Invoices are designed to help you get paid faster and ensure that you never miss a payment from your clients! You can immediately prepare customizable invoices, collect ePayments received through each Client Site and review all recent and upcoming payments – all in one place!

Our Clients Tab allows you to set up your Payments & Invoices the way you’d like to receive payments. With different payment methods available, here are some key factors for both PayPal and Authorize.net:

PayPal: Third Party Processor Account

  • It’s easy to use for both clients and vendors. With a quick set-up, you can have PayPal link to either your credit or debit card or directly to your bank account.
  • PayPal is trustworthy and secure. Many major retailers, including eBay, use PayPal to transfer funds between users.
  • PayPal does not charge a monthly fee. While there’s no set up fee, there is a $0.30 transaction fee.

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» Tips on How to Save & When to Spend Money

Running a small business is a very stressful, expensive process and unfortunately, no one (to date!) has been successful at finding the money-growing tree. Identifying the balance of ways to save money and when to spend it is an important task for any small business, whether you’ve been open for 10 months or 10 years. All of the points outlined below are meant to simplify your business; utilize the points as they apply to your company and business plan!

1. Go Green – Go Paperless

You’ve always been told to keep detailed and accurate records but there are many ways to go paperless while maintaining comprehensive files. Saving money by cutting the reams of paper you buy is just one way to save. Sorting and managing all of your files takes up time and manpower when your employees’ time is best spent completing role-specific tasks. Utilizing online file sharing such as Google Docs and Dropbox will save time and money! Additionally, the WeddingWire Clients tab makes it easy to manage your clients, payments and store and share important documents – all in one easy to manage place!

2. Utilize Free Resources

Resources such as Microsoft Office and Quickbooks are software packages that many businesses take advantage of to create, organize and prepare content, orders and invoices. Google Apps Marketplace is another useful site to search for online tools that are easy to use and free or low cost. Programs like these allow a business owner to complete all necessary tasks just as they would with tools like Microsoft Office Suite but with a lower cost option.

3. It’s OK to Be a Guinea Pig

When choosing computer programs, it is always more comforting to know that you are investing and using products that have run the gamut of testing and are tried and true. That being said, a sensible option for saving money on what is typically very expensive software are Beta products. These releases are “not-quite-there products” but in most cases, the products are very refined. Because these tools aren’t yet released to the public, you can receive the Beta software for free while the creators apply the finishing touches before release; therefore, saving some green. If you are a flexible company, with patience to roll with the punches, this is a good option for you. However, because these products may still have some unfound glitches, if you don’t have the time for the unknown, stick with certified, publicly-distributed releases.

4. When to Spend

While it is important to mind your dollars and cents as you are launching and building your business, there are a few ‘splurges’ that financially-cautious companies should make.

  • First impressions are everything. Don’t skimp on a basic site building program; invest the budget necessary to create a website that effectively portrays your company’s brand and vision. Search Engine Optimization is also a worthwhile expense to invest in while building your site.
  • These days, it is essential to make sure your business is mobile. With the ever-changing access to technology, your customers are always on the go; therefore, you should be, too. Not only should you be accessible to your clients, but you should have access to your files, documents, important contacts, etc. While in a client meeting, being able to quickly show examples of your work could make the difference in a new deal. We make it easy with the WeddingWire Mobile Website Creator!

Read this full article and more great insights for your business in our Education Center!

» When They Come Back After Shopping Around

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru, Alan Berg. Alan has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is a member of the National Speakers Association, an author, and founder of The Wedding Industry Leaders Conference, an organization dedicated to the educating and consulting of highly motivated individuals and businesses. Learn more at http://alanberg.com/.

 

How often do you meet with someone who has an appointment with you, then shops around and comes back to your business, only to tell you they got a better price? I’ll bet that it happens more than you would like. You may think, “Oh no, another price shopper!”

Well, I have a different perspective on this situation that you may not have considered.

If the engaged couple had found all they were looking for in another Wedding Pro: style, quality, personality, trust, experience… and yes, price, why didn’t they book them? Who keeps looking after they’ve found exactly what they’re looking for? No one. What that tells you is that they may have found a lower price, but they’re not completely satisfied with the other company.

Don’t forget to say thanks!

The first thing you should always do to a couple that returns, interested in your service, is to thank them for coming back with their interest.

Next, try to find out what they did, and didn’t, like about the other company, other than price. This will help you get to know and understand the couple’s needs and what is important to them, which will help you tailor your services to make their day as special as possible. When they return to your business for more information, what they’re saying is “I’d rather do business with you, but they have a lower price or another important deciding factor that stands out. So, show me again why I like you better. Show me why it’s a better value to do business with you.”

Value is about more than price

If they’re still shopping around after they’ve gotten a better price, then there is some doubt that their services are the same value and quality as yours. Maybe they have to justify that you are the right choice to someone else who is involved in the decision (parents, partners, etc.). Also, we can acknowledge that there will always be someone who charges less than you do. That will always be true. As a matter of fact, at one time in your career, that lower price may have been you, in the early years, so don’t automatically dismiss those that undercut you. They may very well do a good job. They just don’t have your resume…yet.

Get them back in

I think the best way to handle a return shopper situation is to acknowledge that they may have gotten a lower price or found an alternative Pro that is a decent choice for their needs, and then try to get them back in for another appointment. For example, you could say: “Thanks again for coming back to me with interest in our services. When I think about the details of your wedding, I know that we can do a wonderful job, and exceed your expectations. I think you feel that way too, but I know that this lower price is giving you a reason to think twice. Come back in and we can discuss what’s most important to you, and let’s see what we can come up with together. We would love the opportunity to work together and are willing to work to make it possible.”

Once you are able to re-connect, go over the details of your service and remind them why you’re the most capable company to handle their needs for their wedding day. If you can, take something away to lower the price. If you can’t, then justify to them why you charge what you do. After all, if you can’t justify why you charge more, then why should anyone pay more? When you’re the customer you wouldn’t pay more than you have to. Why should your couples?

Don’t forget that it’s a privilege for them to choose your business for their wedding. Earn that privilege with each couple and show them why you’re the best choice. And, when they get back in touch, take that as an opportunity to re-sell them on why you’re a good fit, even at the higher price!

You can read this article, and other great advice from Alan Berg in the WeddingWire Education Center!

» Why Do Couples Ask About Price First?

 

This article was written by Alan Berg, a WeddingWire Education Guru. Alan has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is a member of the National Speakers Association, an author, and founder of The Wedding Industry Leaders Conference, an organization dedicated to the educating and consulting of highly motivated individuals and businesses. Learn more at http://alanberg.com/.

As I travel around the country, and the world, this is one of the questions I get asked most often: Why do couples almost always ask about price first?” There are so many important things that our prospects need to know, yet so many seem to ask about price before getting to the other details. Why is that? We all know that price is not the most important factor, but couples will still ask about price first.

I contend that they ask “how much” because they don’t know what else to ask. If they did, then they would ask the more important questions first. So often they don’t even tell you the date of the wedding, or the location, yet they ask you how much it costs. It’s not that they’re price shoppers, or that they can’t afford your services (everyone needs to know how much it costs at some point and no one wants to overpay)—they simply don’t know where else to start the conversation!

We All Ask “How Much…?”

We’re all guilty of it at times when we’re the customer. When I needed window tinting on some windows in my house to protect my piano from sun-UV ray damage, I emailed 3 companies and asked them “how much?” and it wasn’t that I couldn’t afford it, or that I was price shopping (at least not at that point). It was simply that I didn’t know what else to ask. Once I met with an expert, and therefore got my education on the process, I could then ask better questions.

Many, if not most, inquiries come in through email these days and “how much does it cost?” is often the first, if not the only question. So, how do you handle that? What are some ways to deflect the question?

Say: Thanks!

The first thing you should always do is thank them for their inquiry. They’ve just put you on the menu. I like to point out to my audiences and clients that in this economy, it is very common to be think “price first” when selecting their top Pros. Think about how many other companies there are that probably didn’t even get on their top list for your area of expertise. Be sure to acknowledge that it is a privilege to get a chance to communicate with them, and that your business is being considered.

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» Save Your Data!

Living an e-lifestyle makes running a business more convenient, accessible and efficient. However, while the tools and technology we use can help our lives and business perform effectively, there is always a potential that disaster could strike, hard drives could crash, and all our important, stored data and records could be lost.

As a small business owner, it is always best to be prepared with a data recovery plan beforehand. Here are top tips to prevent data loss, and keep your business and information safe!

Be prepared. When it comes to your business, it’s always best to be prepared for the worst in order to avoid disaster. Experts recommend creating an emergency action plan for all data associated with your business. Keep track of all your data stored electronically, and make sure the updated list is stored not only on your computer, but also in a cloud-based storage place (such as Dropbox), and it is always safe to have a recently printed copy outline, as well. Finally, it is good to do a bit of research into reputable, secure data recovery vendors. In case you ever need one, you already have a place to start.

Back it up. First and foremost, make sure your protection software is up-to-date, as this is your computers first line of defense. Don’t put off those security updates! Second, never assume that your computer is protected from incoming viruses just because you have protection software, and be sure to scan all incoming data for corruption. We recommend not opening attachments from an impersonal or strange email, as they could be damaging corrupt files. Additionally, it is a smart idea to invest in a backup system and establish a formal backup procedure to make copies of all critical data files.

In case of emergency, call! If the worst case scenario does present itself, do not wait to reach out to a data recovery specialist. Even though it may cost a little more, your hard-drive essentially holds the heart of your business and you certainly don’t want to risk further damage. Do your homework when selecting the vendor, and make sure they come recommended, and have plenty of experience and good results in a similar situation.

While we all hope that data loss never occurs, sometimes life is unpredictable (natural disasters strike, computers crash and systems can go down), so it is always best to have a well-established plan –just in case!

» Budget Boot Camp

Budgeting is certainly not the most fun part of managing your business, but it is essential. Fortunately there are ways to simplify the process and make it less of a headache.

Here are the top three guidelines on how to best cultivate your budget:

1. e-Budget. Using finance software can eliminate the stress of an overflowing file cabinet. Forgoing paper receipts and data entry for a technology-based maintenance tool that will manage your bank account and set alerts is extremely helpful in managing your finances, and freeing up some of your time for real work! The tool inDinero offers features for keeping track of your transactions. You can connect multiple bank accounts to view all of your expenses and budgets in one place, as well as set specific categories. Plus, inDinero will sort transactions into your accounts automatically. For more niche tasks, Xpenser is a platform specifically for expense reports, with mobile apps available on iPhone, Android and Windows. Finally, FreshBooks is a tool specifically for managing invoices. Programs and platforms like these also help to really visualize cash flow—something that can be difficult to maintain while juggling physical materials, automatic payments and multiple accounts.

2.  Ask around. Remember, there are no dumb questions—especially when it comes to the financial safety and the success of your business. Using answer sites like Quora can be helpful in reaching a wide audience of professionals who may have been in your position before, and potentially have found a solution to one or more of your problems. Asking questions in forums like this is particularly beneficial for young companies or companies experiencing rapid growth, as they may not be as conditioned to changes in financial situations. Also, reach out to other Wedding Pros who can relate to your industry on WeddingWire by posting business management and growth questions in the Pro Forum!

3. Over-estimate. Wouldn’t you rather end up with a surplus than a debt? Most business expenses are predictable—office supplies, commuting costs, phone bills, computers and software, etc.—but what about unexpected travel fees? A rise in gas prices? Parking tickets? Saving funds, and leaving room in your budget for these types of  unplanned expenses will allow for peace of mind, and potentially, some extra money.

» Getting Ready for Tax Day

April 15th. You know its coming every year but somehow it still manages to sneak up on you. Atleast this year you have a few extra days to prepare (the deadline extended to April 18th). As you get ready to submit this year’s returns, take a look at the recommendations below and then get started for next year with some suggestions to keep you on track.

Claim What You Can

  1. Make sure you list all business expenses. Though it may not be listed by the IRS code, any expense that is “common in your industry” and typical for your line of work should be listed as an “ordinary” expense.
  2. Credit card and other interest is tax deductible as a business expense.
  3. Check if your business qualifies for any credits for healthcare, bonus depreciations, and retirement plan contributions.
  4. Double check that you listed any charitable donations from the past year.

Plan Ahead

  1. Review your financial statements on a regular basis, quarterly if not monthly. Then you will be sure everything is organized and save yourself time down the road.
  2. Get an accountant (with a CPA) that will back you up. Make sure you select someone reputable who you can ask questions when necessary.
  3. If you know you wont be ready, file for an extension! Just make sure your taxes are paid on time.

For more information and tips, read this article from OpenFORUM.