» 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.  

» Say Cheese! The WeddingWire Photography Guide is Here!

PhotographyGuide-Cover-900x1165

The photographer is typically the second vendor a couple books (after their venue), and with so many talented professionals out there, it can be a difficult decision. The brand-new WeddingWire Photography Guide aims to assist and inspire couples as they search for the photographer who best suits their aesthetic, personality, and budget. In this online guide, we cover the logistics of selecting a pro, the details of photography packages and styles and much, much more. This is the WeddingWire Editorial Team’s first guide of 2017 and there are many more planned for the coming year—stay tuned!

Cover photo by Sam Stroud Photography

» How to Maintain a Consistent Brand Voice

Banner-WWEducationExpert

andy-ebon-squareThe 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.

Continuity and consistency are first cousins in the execution of your marketing. Continuity is using marketing tools—like your WeddingWire storefront, website, social media content, logo, etc.— in a cohesive and recognizable manner. Basically, you want to be “you” across every potential client touch point. Consistency, on the other hand, is taking action with regularity. In other words: Being consistent with the use of those tools. This can mean posting to Facebook twice a day, blogging twice weekly, being in touch with your contacts at routine intervals and being sure that your advertising is in tune with most couples’ wedding planning journey.

The combination of updating with continuity and consistency, your brand and the company message forge ahead, leaving the impression of a progressive company both with engaged couples and your peers.

Remember, marketing is everything that touches the prospect or client—not just advertising or social media. Here are a few ways to maintain a consistent brand voice:

Keep it Short and Professional Over the Phone

For some couples, your phone manners is one of the first impressions of your business. Whether you are a one-person micro business or a company with many employees, the way anyone answers the phone should sound the same.

XYZ Company, this is Andy. How can I help you?

Simple, clear, to the point. If you are not the right person to assist, do your utmost to connect the caller with the correct person.

The best example I can offer for a smaller business is a catering professional in Atlanta. She updated her voicemail every day. Her script would go something like this:

Good day and thanks for calling. This is Shelley. Today is Tuesday, March 14th. I’ll be out of the office on client appointments this morning, but you can expect a callback after lunch. If your call requires immediate attention, don’t hesitate to text me at 777-777-7777 and I will do my best to your reach you even sooner. Thanks for calling, and make it a great day!

And, of course, when she was back in the office, the message would be updated. This kind of continuity is spectacular.

Keep Your Delivery and Set-Up Crew Sharp

When your staff members or delivery crew arrive at a venue, how are they dressed? Be sure that even this aspect reflects your company’s personality. A no-fuss option is a company t-shirt or polo-style shirt, accompanied by jeans or slacks.

The moment a venue representative sees you “in uniform,” you’ve broken the ice and are part of the team. Make sure you supply your crew with two or three shirts, so the uniform is always clean and ready to go.

 whwybmtn3_0-brooke-cagle

Don’t Slack with Print Media

The most frequent mistake I see in print ads or flyers is poor headlines. Your company name is not a headline. Your company slogan or favorite hashtag is not a headline. A headline is a phrase, usually accompanied by a visual, crafted to encourage the prospect to read the rest of the ad.

Avoid cliche words such as perfect, dream, unique, awesome and the like. It’s not just about your ad, but the other ads in a publication. Do your utmost to avoid verbiage you recognize in other ads. Make sure the ad is specific to your business and is told in your brand voice.

Are You Wasting Time with Social Media?

It’s always a good idea to periodically evaluate your approach to social media. The first thing to ask yourself is, “Am I using this to its fullest? Should I just drop it or revive it?” You also want to be honest about whether or not your social media content is helping potential clients and peers learn more about your brand personality.

If you are not using a social media platform frequently enough, then make it go away. If you are not measuring social media success across-the-board, then start. If you are not using analytics tools, such as those provided by WeddingWire, get going. Failure to ask these questions could mean you’re spending precious time on platforms that aren’t performing for you or just aren’t enjoyable to you. Your audience can tell when you’re just going through the motions, so be sure you’re invested in whichever platforms you choose.

Speaking of choosing social media platforms, it is easy to find the shiny, new object. Over time, you can wind up with 10 or more social media accounts. It’s far wiser to review what you are really using and the delete those that you don’t update or haven’t managed to engage meaningfully. You’ll usually find that about five platforms are serving you well. If a couple are underused, get them going. Settle in with platforms that really serve you and be solid on the frequency that works for your business.

Get Visual

We live in a highly visual society, so be sure your brand visuals are consistent with your brand voice. This means featuring a diverse variety of couples on your website, storefront, social media and advertising. It also means reviewing images a couple of times a year. Delete some and replace them with newer ones. Keeping your photos current is a reflection of staying up to date with style. Aging wedding dresses and decor do not reflect well on your company.

Typeface About-Face

Don’t forget fonts in your marketing brand evaluation. If you haven’t already, select a few that complement your logo design. Your choices of typeface should be limited about two on a single page. The eye has a difficult time adjusting to more than that. Have a sense about font sizes and make sure they work on all kinds of hardware: Smart phones, tablets and computers.

What Else To Consider

Each company has other factors to consider in continuity and consistency. Add to this list and revisit your thinking. When you review and refresh, it will move your business forward. This should be a regular activity to surpass the competition.

» Focus on Your Earnings, Not Savings

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.

focus-on-earnings-not-savingsAs we approach the end of another year, it’s often time to reconcile our finances. We need to get our books in order, so we can do our taxes (I know, yuk). Then comes the scramble to find the deductions you qualified for over the year. While doing so, it becomes easy to focus on our expenses. For some of us, it’s time to re-evaluate those expenses as we prepare for the coming year.

These insights will help you get a handle on your financial planning needs and help you take control as you plan for the future!

Expenses vs. Investments

The danger in focusing only on expenses is that you can lose focus on the bigger picture. The only money you can save is the money you spend. It’s a finite amount. You can’t make all of your expenses disappear. You have to buy gas for your car, and pay for telephone service, internet connection, electricity, and more. But those are expenses, not investments. Expenses are things that you pay for, where you don’t expect any return other than what you bought (gas, electricity, phone service, food, etc.).

Investments, on the other hand, are things that may, and the operative word is ‘may’, provide a return that’s greater than the value paid. When you invest in a new employee, you would hope to get more value than what you pay them. When you invest in a new website, you would hope to get more value than the cost of the website. When you invest in advertising and marketing, you would hope to get back more than the value that you pay. When you invest in a new location, you would hope to get back more than you invest.

Opportunity Cost

What you need to focus on is getting the best return. The opportunity cost of not investing is the money you could make if you did. Sometimes, that means doing more than just paying the bill. For instance, if you buy a booth at a wedding show, and don’t take the time to design your booth correctly, and invest in great email/direct mail follow up, and actually do the follow up, you’ll never get the most return from that investment. Similarly, if you take a new office/warehouse space, build it out and decorate it properly, but don’t invest in marketing to let people know about it, you’ll never see the full return.

Go Big, or Go Home

Continue reading

» WeddingWire Networking Night San Diego

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at the Handlery Hotel San Diego for WeddingWire Networking Night San Diego!

At the Networking Night, San Diego pros had the opportunity to enjoy a stunning venue space, network with other local professionals across all service categories, and meet members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned more about building relationships in an industry with little-to-no repeat customers during a brief presentation by WeddingWire Contributor, Bethel Nathan.

Thank you to all the wonderful pros 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 enjoyable 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 Jennifer of The Crossings at Carlsbad!

WWNN San Diego wedwire-16 wedwire-41 wedwire-83 wedwire-94 wedwire-123

» Having the Best Year Ever? Don’t Stop Now!

WeddingWire Education Expert

Meghan Ely

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

Perhaps this was your year. The best year ever. The year where everything clicked. When you heard more yes’s than no’s. Maybe you bumped up your salary. Got an office off site. Upgraded your laptop as you simultaneously celebrated meeting your sales goals.

best-year-everIf that sounds like you, then we need to talk.  Because what I’m about to share with you needs to stick with you as you make your plans for 2017.

Don’t stop.

I get it — you didn’t get to this point because of luck. You advertised and stood on your feet for hours at wedding and events. You hit all the local networking events and took out the better part of your region for coffee. You blogged, you shared life behind the scenes on Instagram and even learned a little bit about Snapchat. It’s absolutely normal to feel like it’s time to pull back a little.

But don’t.

One of my best business lessons took place the summer after I graduated from college. I worked for the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Oregon. At the time, they were $13 billion (yes, billion) ahead of their next closest competitor. But they never stopped. They never put the brakes on promotion and innovation. And I’ve carried that lesson with me in the wedding industry ever since.

I see it far too often — a company enjoys the fruits of their labor and then decides to pull back. They see an uptick in the number of client referrals or plans to dedicate more time to social media. So they cut back on media buys and submissions or suddenly disappear from the networking circuit. It doesn’t take long before they see a dip in client and vendor referrals, and business in general. So they ramp up their marketing again — and around and around we go.

Because here’s the thing– your competitors want you to take a break. Those eager up-and-coming wedding pros just diving into the market? They’d do anything for you to not be such a permanent fixture at every association meeting and in every real wedding feature. That upgraded listing or fab booth spot you secured three years ago? I promise, that in this competitive market, someone else already has his or her eye on it.

Should the off-season be a time of reflection, where you take a good hard look at your promotional efforts? Absolutely.  But if you want to continue this era of good feeling, I’d encourage you to keep swimming. Check out these helpful past posts on business ideas and tips and get motivated for an even more successful year ahead in 2017!

» Mapping Out Your 2017 Business Goals

Pro to Pro Insights

Jennifer Taylor, Taylor'd Events GroupThis post was written by Jennifer Taylor. Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui.

Now that the year is coming to a close, think back to your 2016 business resolutions as you start to map out your 2017 business goals. How many did you stick to? How many were put on the backburner? If you’ve never been able to “cut out junk food” or “get to bed earlier,” chances are you didn’t have a system in place to keep you accountable. Forget about those resolutions – put those in the past and prepare yourself to set some realistic, achievable goals for the best year ahead of you.

The new year is the perfect time to evaluate what did and didn’t work in the past and work on actionable solutions to boost your business to the next level.

Hmapping-out-2017ere are some helpful ideas to get you started:

Perform a full 2016 review

Prior to setting your goals, it’s essential that you know what needs to be addressed in your business. There’s no point having a goal to boost your social media presence if you’re already posting regularly. Spend some time analyzing all aspects of your business – from marketing efforts to the sales process to client interaction to bookkeeping. Keep your eye out for weak spots that could use some help – these are the areas that you should set your goals.

Write out your goals

It’s fine to start out with basic ideas of what you want to improve in your company, but you will need to get specific and fully flesh out your thoughts. Do your best to quantify your goals, as it will make it easier to track your progress and determine success. For example, if you want to boost your bottom line, create a goal that reads, “To increase revenue by 10% by the end of the year.” You’ll also want to set a deadline – the end of 2017 is a great one. A lot can happen in 12 months!

Break it down, if necessary

You may need to break your goals down into smaller steps. In our example above, you may try increasing your revenue through different methods – perhaps you want to spend more time networking and building referral business, as well as put an ad in your local wedding magazine. These are smaller objectives that will help you reach your ultimate goal and, in turn, will make your endgame seem a lot more approachable.

Hold yourself accountable

Once you have all of your actionable goals and objectives in mind, set up a system that will keep you accountable. If you want to focus on your blogging in 2017, create a post calendar to help guide your writing. If you want to kick that nasty spending habit (even if they are ‘business expenses!’), set a to-do each week to review your expenditures. Make it so that you can’t simply ‘forget’ about your goals, since they are staring back at you each and every day.

If there’s one takeaway to keep in mind, it’s to stay committed. Commit to yourself and to your company that you will reach your goals. When you hit the end of 2017 and look back, you’ll be thrilled with the progress you made. What better excuse to throw an office party or treat yourself to a massage?

» Easy Ways to Improve Your Business Website

Is your business website working hard enough for you? After all, your website is often the first impression your potential clients see for your business and plays a huge role in determining if a client is interested in working with your business or learning more about your services.

As you prepare for the new year, consider taking some time to invest in refreshing your website to stand out to newly engaged couples and book more business in 2017. These seven tips from WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg provide helpful ways that you can assess your site, maximize your marketing potential, and get more leads quickly. From contact form best practices, to adding testimonials and reviews, to copy writing tips, you will want to bookmark this infographic as you prepare for your next website refresh!

7waystoimproveyourwebsitebefore2017

» Editors Picks: Favorite Real Weddings from 2016

Throughout 2016, our WeddingWire editors have published more than 600 real weddings showcasing couples and the work of talented wedding professionals from across the country and beyond. Narrowing down the favorite weddings of the year was a tough task, but we were up to the challenge. Today, we’re sharing our editorial team’s top 10 picks with you. We hope you enjoy them and get some inspiration and ideas for your future couples!

nadira-laura-willow-noavi-photography
Photo by Willow Noavi Photography

Nadira & Laura

Our very first real wedding of 2016 was a complete showstopper, with two stunning brides who said “I do” in a scenic lakefront ceremony. Both brides donned elegant lace wedding gowns, which were complemented by lush fall florals and bright pops of teal.

annette-jamie-hannamonika-wedding-photography
Photo by HannaMonika Wedding Photography

Annette & Jamie

From the minute we saw Annette and Jamie’s destination wedding, we were itching to plan a trip to Greece. The sunny Cretan wedding took place just steps from the sea—so romantic! To top it all off, the day ended with a performance by traditional Greek dancers.

charisma-rohit-black-hue-photography
Photo by Black & Hue Photography

Charisma & Rohit

This Indian-American fusion wedding was filled with vibrant colors, sparkly accents and unique details, including a paper peacock escort card display made by the bride. We love how Charisma decided to break Indian tradition by wearing a white wedding gown for the reception.

magali-jonathan-arte-de-vie
Photo by Arte De Vie

Magali & Jonathan

From the bride’s Jimmy Choo high heels to the candle-lined aisle, everything about this New Orleans wedding exudes elegance. Staying true to The Big Easy, the newlyweds, their guests and a brass band paraded through the French Quarter during a “second line” at the end of the night.

Continue reading