» 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.

» Get Ready to Rock with the WeddingWire Music & Entertainment Guide!

Anyone who’s ever attended a wedding knows that the right music can make or break the experience. That’s why the WeddingWire Editorial Team created the brand-new WeddingWire Music & Entertainment Guide. It’s full of useful information to help couples choose both the right songs and the right professionals for their ceremony, cocktail hour, and reception—definitely worth sharing with your clients. Some of the topics covered in this guide include:

  • How to choose between live music or a DJ
  • Top songs for the important moments
  • How to best work with your music professionals
  • Other forms of entertainment for your wedding day

Be sure to check out the WeddingWire Music & Entertainment Guide, and stay tuned for more guides throughout the year.

Cover photo by Afterglow Images

» WeddingWire Networking Night Southern New Jersey

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at The Carriage House for WeddingWire Networking Night Southern New Jersey!

At the Networking Night, wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy an gorgeous venue space, network with other local vendors across all service categories, and meet members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned about local-industry statistics and how to better reach engaged couples through social media from WeddingWire’s Regional Manager of Customer Success, Katey McBurney.

Thank you to all the wonderful professionals who joined us! We’re excited to share highlights from the event including the educational presentation, our latest issue of WedInsights, and photos from the evening below.

We would like to say a special thank you to the amazing event partners who helped make the evening possible:

Finally, we’re excited to announce the winner of our WeddingWire Prize Pack give away – congrats to Anna from Ramblewood Country Club!

» WeddingWire Networking Night Philadelphia

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at The Franklin Institute for WeddingWire Networking Night Philadelphia!

At the Networking Night, wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy an amazing venue space, network with other local vendors across all service categories, and meet members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned about local-industry statistics and how to better reach engaged couples through social media from WeddingWire’s Regional Manager of Customer Success, Katey McBurney.

Thank you to all the wonderful professionals who joined us! We’re excited to share highlights from the event including the educational presentation, our latest issue of WedInsights, and photos from the evening below.

We would like to say a special thank you to the amazing event partners who helped make the evening possible:

Finally, we’re excited to announce the winner of our WeddingWire Prize Pack give away – congrats to Brian from The Philly Keys!


» How to Create an Automatic Email Welcome Sequence to Book Couples Faster

wedding pros email marketing welcome sequence

Imagine this: A couple planning their wedding heads to your website after finding you on WeddingWire. They want to learn more about you, but aren’t quite ready to contact you for a quote yet, so they sign up for your email list. Minutes later, they get an email welcoming them to your list and introducing your business. They then receive various emails from you over the next 10 days that eventually persuade them to reach out for a quote.

The best part? You can make all of this happen on autopilot. With an email marketing system like ActiveCampaign or MailerLite, you can set up emails that will automatically be sent to new subscribers. Here’s a brief tutorial on how to set it up in most email tools:

1. Create a form that requires a first name and email, and embed the form on your website.
2. Click on Automations and start creating your automated sequence.
3. Start with a trigger. Set the trigger to be activated when someone fills out your form that you just created.
4. Add a step to send your next email, and create your email.
5. Add a step with the setting to wait 1-2 days.
6. Repeat step 4 and 5 until you reach the end of your sequence.

Now, let’s talk about what should go into your welcome email sequence. This automation should have five emails set to send out every other day. Here’s what each email should include:

Email 1: Intro & What to Expect

In this email, start off by thanking the new subscriber for signing up for your emails. Tell them a little bit about you; what your business is all about, why you love what you do, and who you love working with. Then, let them know to expect lots of valuable advice in their inbox in the coming days.

Email 2: Value, Value, Value!

Give the subscriber an incredible piece of advice pertaining to your niche in this email. They will be excited to receive some advice instead of a sales pitch, especially if your tips are truly helpful. In order to make sure this email wows the subscriber, offer a tip about something most couples wouldn’t even think of.

Email 3: Fight Objections

What are some of the most common objections you hear from couples? It could be that your service is too expensive, they don’t see why it’s important, you don’t have enough reviews, etc. Pick one of those big objections and tell the subscriber why they shouldn’t let it worry them. This is your chance to fight objections before they are even brought up. However, don’t pitch your services just yet.

Email 4: Bust Some Myths

In this email, talk about common myths surrounding your niche. Some examples could be that videography is always expensive, you don’t need a wedding planner when you can DIY, no one has ever had great food at a wedding, etc. Talk about why those myths are false and give examples of your work or reviews to prove it.

Email 5: Sell Yourself

Now that you have introduced yourself, shared advice, fought objections, and dispelled common myths, it’s time to pitch your services. Remind them what you specialize in and how much you love what you do. Tell them that you would love to hear about their dream wedding, and ask them to reply and share their ideas so you can help bring them to life.

After going through this email sequence, your subscribers will love and trust you, which will make them more likely to reach out for a quote!

» 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.

» WeddingWire Networking Night Sacramento

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at Vizcaya for WeddingWire Networking Night Sacramento!

At the Networking Night, wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy a stunning venue space, network with other local vendors across all service categories, and meet members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned about local-industry statistics and how to better reach engaged couples through social media from WeddingWire’s Regional Manager of Customer Success, Megan Hayes.

Thank you to all the wonderful professionals who joined us! We’re excited to share highlights from the event including the educational presentation, our latest issue of WedInsights, and photos from the evening below.

We would like to say a special thank you to the amazing event partners who helped make the evening possible:

Finally, we’re excited to announce the winner of our WeddingWire Prize Pack give away – congrats to Meagan from Meagan Lucy Photographers!

» 3 Reasons Why You Need a Facebook Group (Even If You Have a Facebook Page)

facebook group wedding pro

Let’s talk about Facebook. Specifically, moving beyond your trusty Facebook page. Facebook groups have the power to attract engaged couples nationwide or in your area while they are wedding planning. You can use the group to give daily tips, ask questions to learn about your target market, pitch your services, and connect couples with other vendors. You may be wondering why you can’t just post all of this content on your business page, and why you should post it in a group instead. Here are 3 reasons why:

Facebook groups will help you reach more people and get higher engagement for free.

Have you ever posted something on your Facebook page that you were super proud of, only to get zero interactions from your followers on it? Don’t be too discouraged. There is a reason for this, and it’s not your fault. Facebook pages get almost no organic visibility anymore, thanks to Facebook’s news feed algorithm.

Facebook’s algorithm favors posts written by friends or in groups over posts from businesses, which is why starting a Facebook group for your business is quickly becoming one of the best ways to reach potential customers and make sales. The benefit to posting in groups rather than pages is that the posts get ranked higher in the news feed than business page posts, so you get more organic visibility and don’t have to spend money on ads to get seen.

Managing a Facebook group will establish credibility and trust for your business.

When you create a Facebook group, you become the expert. Couples who join the group will see you running the show, ask you questions, and refer their friends to your group when they need help wedding planning. They will see how amazing you are, get to know you as a person, and trust what you have to say. Then, when the same people need your product or service, you will be the first person they think of to buy from.

However, in order to be successful in establishing trust and credibility, you have to give more valuable content than sales pitches. Make your group 80% value and 20% sales. Here are some ideas on what you can post in order to provide value:

  •      Tips about wedding planning, especially if they relate to your product or service
  •      Facebook Live videos with Q&A or advice
  •      Discussion questions about what couples are struggling with, dreams for their weddings, and how you can help them

Every person who joins your group has the potential of becoming a customer.

Make your group a resource for couples in your area so that way you will attract users who have real potential of becoming customers. When they join, the credibility, trust, and relationships you build with group members will help you be able to close sales and book couples. Here are a few tips to ensure you attract the right users to your group:

  •      Include the name of your city, state, or region in the name of your group.
  •      Include the year in the group name to attract couples who are actively wedding planning. You can change the group name each year as you go.
  •      Include the word “wedding” to help couples find the group.

Building a new Facebook group will take more work in the beginning and become less time consuming as they grow, but will generally only take a couple hours of your time per week. If you decide to start your own Facebook group, remember that they do take time to grow, but the work you put into it will be worth it in the end.

» WeddingWire Networking Night San Francisco

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at The Marker for WeddingWire Networking Night San Francisco!

At the Networking Night, wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy a unique venue space, network with other local vendors across all service categories, and meet members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned about local-industry statistics and how engaged couples make their purchasing decisions from WeddingWire’s Director of Market Insights, Andy Whittaker.

Thank you to all the wonderful professionals who joined us! We’re excited to share highlights from the event including the educational presentation, our latest issue of WedInsights, and photos from the evening below.

We would like to say a special thank you to the amazing event partners who helped make the evening possible:

Finally, we’re excited to announce the winner of our WeddingWire Prize Pack give away – congrats to Thea from Kavamore Press!

» Hot Off the Presses: Two New Guides from WeddingWire

We’re delighted to announce the release of two brand-new guides from the editors at WeddingWire. These guides aim to educate and inspire couples as they plan their weddings.

Our 2017 WeddingWire Budget Guide features brand-new statistics and data, money-saving advice from experts, and a helpful tipping section. We frequently hear that couples can’t get enough budget advice, so this guide is sure to be a must-read for anyone planning a wedding.

We all know that having plentiful and delicious food is a major part of any wedding (no one wants hangry wedding guests!), so the WeddingWire Catering Guide is essential reading material. You’ll find catering trends, budget tips, real wedding menus, and much more. One warning: Don’t attempt to read this guide on an empty stomach!

Check out all of our planning guides on WeddingWire and feel free to share them with your clients. Stay tuned for many more guides to come in 2017!

Catering Guide cover photo by Megan Clouse Photography 

» 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.