» 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

» 10 Marketing Best Practices for 2017

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.

As the year comes to a close and busy fall wedding season winds down, now is a good time to review your marketing strategy for the upcoming year. Review these ten marketing tips to help keep your business on track and set-up for success in 2017!

  • 10-marketing-tipsKeep your brand fresh. It’s easy to fall into the trap of simply renewing your online listings and not making changes to the content or reviewing the design to make sure it’s modern and on brand. Take a look at your marketing materials and your advertising platforms, and consider making some small updates to refresh your branding for 2017 like adding new imagery, refreshing your logo or highlighting your social media accounts.
  • Leverage your in-person exposure. If you participate in wedding shows or local events, don’t let the competition pass you by! Make sure your booth, marketing materials and promotions are up-to-date and make a great first impression to your potential clients. Remember your presentation is not just for wedding couples, but also makes an impact on your fellow professionals who can become referrals in your network.
  • Make website updates. Websites can be like closets… businesses tend to add content, but rarely remove anything old! Set aside time to do a full vetting of your website, including all pages. Consider updating copy, adding/removing staff member information, reviewing pricing, contact forms and images of your work. A modern site will catch the eye of your prospects, and dated material will be a red flag.
  • Highlight your inquiry form: It is critical to have an inquiry page within your site so couples can easily get in touch to learn more about your services. This may be the point important element to drive your leads and sales! She this page as a prominent link and add a link or small contact form to every page within your site for added exposure. To help track your marketing success consider asking your prospects: “How did you find our site?”
  • Add testimonials to your site: Let your past clients do the selling for you! Collect and add testimonials and reviews from happy past clients, and add sound bites to all your marketing materials. Customer praise should be featured throughout your site, and make sure you add your WeddingWire Reviews widget to show off recent reviews, along with any accolades for reviews like WeddingWire Rated or Couples Choice Awards.

Continue reading

» It’s Impossible to be an Expert at Everything – and that’s Okay!

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.

Recently, I was conducting a mastermind group the other day in the UK for 10 DJ companies, who have varying years of experience (from 5 years to almost 40 years). What stood out to me was that this group, who all have good, successful companies, each have different business skills. Their technical (computer/internet/website) expertise ranged from low to very high. That’s to be expected with any group. What I didn’t expect is that one of the companies, who’s not known for his technical expertise when it comes to websites, was chiming in to help the group with some pretty technical features of Google Analytics. Quite a few of the guys in the room, including me (as I’ve consulted with him privately), were very surprised.

It turns out that he had been studying up, using websites and YouTube videos, and had picked up a few new tricks – and I’ll have to admit, I didn’t even know one or two of them. A couple of the guys in the room are pretty skilled in making websites and knew him personally, so they were even more surprised.

The point of this story? It got me thinking that each of us has our own history, knowledge and skillset.  None of us is an expert in everything, and we shouldn’t ever assume what others may or may not know. We have our own, unique expertise that comes from the combined knowledge we’ve gleaned, and that knowledge is unique to each of us.

impossible-expert-everythingWe’re each a product of our history

Many wedding pros have transitioned into their own businesses after leaving corporate, or technical jobs. They may have deep knowledge of software such as Microsoft Excel or Outlook. While others struggle to make a basic spreadsheet, they’re knocking out detailed reports with ease. However, those same people who have no problem using Excel might struggle with other areas of their businesses (i.e. marketing, design, websites, etc.). None of us is an expert at everything. When presented with a need for our business, we always have the choice of doing something ourselves, or hiring a professional. Knowing when to choose each path is something we often have to learn by trial and error.

It’s often easier to try to learn a new skill or software program, instead of hiring someone to do that task for you, especially when funds are tight. When you realize that the time you’re investing in learning that skill is time away from building your business, or away from your family, often the right answer is to hire the professional – after all, isn’t that why we want them to hire us? If you’re new at a skill, it’s going to take time for you to master it. If it’s a skill that you can profit from, maybe it’s worth investing in the training and time. For others, hiring a professional us a jump-start to that professional level. What’s that worth to you?

When is it time to make the switch?

I realized that when I switched from doing my own taxes, to hiring a professional CPA. My dad is a retired CPA and we would do my taxes together (my degree is in marketing and accounting). However, he’s been retired for a long time (he’s 86 now), so he’s not up on the latest tax laws and software. I never practiced accounting, so even though I have a good understanding, I wasn’t up on the latest info, either. So, a few years ago I hired an accountant, and the first year he did my taxes he showed me deductions I hadn’t been taking and was able to recoup some refunds from prior years. In other words, he paid for himself the first time I used him.

Too many of us fall into the trap of thinking that because we have expertise in one area, it’s automatically transferrable to another skill. We’re comfortable with using a computer, so we think we can make our own website. We’re creative, so we think we can design our own marketing collateral. It’s understandable, especially when you consider that most of us started as, or still are, small businesses, where you, the owner, is wearing many hats. When you’re bootstrapping a new business, you usually do everything yourself. As a matter of fact, Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, is purported to have said (and I’m paraphrasing) “When I started my business, I knew I’d be wearing a lot of hats. I just didn’t realize I’d be wearing them all at the same time.”

Time is slipping away

An important realization, in any business, is learning to value your time. It’s the one thing you’ll never get any more of. Sometimes it’s best to hire someone to do something you do have the skill for, just because your time is better spent on other tasks. I put off hiring an assistant for a couple of years. I knew it would be helpful, but I wasn’t sure I could justify the expense. Everything was getting done, but at what cost? The cost was my time, sitting on the sofa at night with my laptop, working, when I should have been spending time with my family, or even just relaxing.

What’s your time worth? What else could you be doing if you delegated some tasks to someone else (virtual assistant, intern, employee)? None of us is an expert at everything, no matter how long, or short, you’ve been in business. Sometimes we all need help. Becoming aware of that is the first step to accomplishing more, achieving more and profiting more.

» WeddingWire Networking Night Kansas City

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at Californos for WeddingWire Networking Night Kansas City!

At the Networking Night, Kansas City pros had the opportunity to enjoy a gorgeous venue space, network with other local professionals across all service categories, and meet members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned more about local industry statistics and how to better reach engaged couples through a brief presentation by WeddingWire’s Regional Manager of Customer Success, Katey McBurney.

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 beautiful 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 Angela of Fabulous Frocks of Kansas City!

weddingwire40-blogweddingwire39-blog weddingwire33-blog weddingwire4-blog Continue reading

» The Force of the Social Media Four

It can be challenging to stay on top of the latest social media sites and trends — especially while you are busy running a successful wedding business. But there’s no need to feel overwhelmed. Social media doesn’t have to require lots of time to make a big impact on your client reach!

This infographic shares the four key social media sites where you will make the greatest impact with your target audience of engaged and pre-engaged couples today. Review these tips from WeddingWire CMO Sonny Ganguly to learn how to leverage the social media four: Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat.

The-force-of-social-four

» Your Reviews Are Working Harder for You

We have added a new search and filtering functionality to the reviews on your Storefront. Couples are now able to easily find reviews related for the type of event they are planning. We’ve found through user testing that more relevant reviews can resonate even stronger with potential clients. For example, if they’re planning an outdoor wedding, users can easily select that particular search term to see just the reviews of past clients who had that type of wedding. Similarly, if a user wants to see anytime a particular employee was mentioned and they search by name, all reviews mentioning will display with that search term bolded in each review.

10-8

With this new functionality, it’s more important than ever to collect reviews from all your clients to showcase your offering! We automatically ask questions about which services each couple uses after they complete the review to make sure they will be associated with the correct filters.

We make it easy with the WeddingWire Review Collector. Just add your client’s contact information and customize your email. We’ll take care of sending reminder emails on your behalf if they don’t take immediate action. Request reviews »

Don’t forget! Couples’ Choice Awards 2017 is coming soon. The deadline for your reviews to be considered is December 31, 2016. Make sure you ask your clients for reviews today to help boost your chances of winning.

Questions? Visit the Support Center for more information about your account or email support@weddingwire.com at any time

» Wedding PR: Developing Your Speaking Platform

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

If you’re looking to expand your public relations efforts, professional speaking can be the perfect solution to increasing brand recognition and solidifying yourself as an industry leader. Oftentimes, people get excited and jump headfirst into pitching themselves; however, this can be a mistake if you haven’t put together a strategy ahead of time.

One major piece of your speaking strategy is your platform – it is essential to creating and fine-tuning your topics ahead of the actual pitching process. Ideally, your speaking platform will consist of three or four topics that you are comfortable speaking for at least 45 minutes, but even up to one and a half hours.

meghan-blog-imageSo, what topics should you cover? Good question.

First and foremost, dig deep and ask yourself what subjects you’re equally passionate about and well versed in. If you were standing in a room full of industry peers, would you be comfortable answering everything and anything about your chosen topic? Sit down and map out every topic you can think of, but don’t be too broad. Nobody wants to hear something just about wedding planning – you have to get specific with it. Expect to have a pretty overwhelming list (you do know a lot!), but don’t worry because you’ll be narrowing it down later.

Then, it’s time for research! Look at the places that you want to pitch, whether it’s a local workshop, national conference, association meeting or retreat. Review the speakers who are already booked and what kinds of topics they are covering. Your goal is to offer subject matters that are complementary to what is already there but still offer a unique perspective.

Once you’ve narrowed your topics down to the three or four best options, it’s time to put together your three main components for pitching – a catchy title, a brief description and three or four strong takeaways. Your title should be interesting without being two cutesy, with the description explaining what your speech is all about. Keep it simple at about 75 words or less. As for the takeaways, they should include actionable items that attendees will learn and walk away from your presentation with. Don’t be too anxious about expanding too much in your pitch – you’ll have much more space in your presentation to dive in deep!

As always, test the waters when pitching. If you’re finding that you’re not getting responses, it may be time to pivot your subjects. Topics are meant to evolve. For example, if you’re focusing on technology or social media, you should expect that your content would evolve quite a bit.

Create a marketing piece, like a one-pager, that really showcases you and your topics. As you’re submitting and waiting to hear back, it never hurts to take those topics and write guest articles or blog posts about them. Making efforts to project one’s self as an industry expert can be the difference in a winning pitch!

» Build a Strong Foundation Before You Expand

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.

Through my many years around the wedding and event industry, I’ve met lots of people who have successfully expanded their businesses, whether it’s to other services, or to other markets. The one common thread is that they already had a successful business with a strong foundation before they expanded. I’ve also run into lots of people who have tried to expand, but failed. Usually they tried too soon, or didn’t do the leg work necessary to successfully branch out.

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you consider business expansion:

It’s a universal challenge

While speaking in India recently, a make-up artist told me that she wanted to expand to many other countries, and she’d like my advice. I loved her enthusiasm and entrepreneurial spirit. So I asked her what contacts she had in those other countries, and she had none. I asked if she had ever visited those other countries, and she had not. I told her that I appreciated her desire to grow, but that she needed to do some research about those markets first. A few things to learn are how they use make-up services, what the competitive landscape looks like, what the pricing and wedding spending are for services like hers, and other key details that will impact her success.

Are you ready to make the commitment?

Are you thinking of branching out? Countless photographers tell me that they’d love to do destination weddings in exotic places. Why? Probably because they see the photos and posts of other photographers in those places and it looks exciting. Who wouldn’t want to do that? What you don’t see, is all the work that happened leading up to the event. How did they get that wedding? What connections do they have that you don’t? What networking brought them to that connection? Was that their first destination wedding, or their 20th? You have to be prepared to take on new challenges and potentially the required additional time or resources that will affect your business.

It all looks great on social media, but that’s just part of the story

The funny thing about Instagram and Facebook posts is that they typically only show the best successes and worst failures. When you see those beautiful destination wedding images on Instagram or Facebook, you don’t get the back story. Were there any logistical issues, travel issues or safety concerns? It all looks glamorous on the surface, but you don’t hear about the mosquitos, the 16 hour flights, countless hours waiting in airports, hotel issues, or in the case of my recent trip speaking in Mexico, the 10-foot long boa constrictor snake that was outside the venue. Yeah, that’s the less glamorous part of traveling for work that you don’t see, or often hear about.

Continue reading

» Why You Shouldn’t Offer Multiple Wedding Services

Pro to Pro Insights

Leila Lewis, photo by Valorie Darling PhotographyThis post was written by Leila Lewis of Be Inspired PR. As a business school graduate from Santa Clara University, Leila (Khalil) Lewis’ career began in publishing, where she worked in marketing and editorial roles for business and lifestyle publications. Since transitioning into the wedding business in 2004, Leila has over 10 years of wedding marketing experience under her belt, and is the industry’s go-to for wedding public relations services, brand development and business consulting.

As a business consultant that specializes in collaborating with wedding industry creatives, I am consistently working with different wedding professionals who are trying to kick-off their new business or revamp their old business. Commonly wedding pros that come to me for business help are what I like to call “slashers” — pros who offer more than one wedding service.

What is a slasher?

blog-slashers-finalA slasher is someone who offers multiple services and/or products. They may be a wedding photographer, but are also a wedding planner/stationery designer/DJ/caterer. If you’re a creative person, it’s easy to fall into the trap of being a slasher and wanting to offer up a wide variety of your skills and passions to your clients. You’re already in the wedding industry and have an eye for aesthetic, so you decide to take on different hobbies that relate to the industry: calligraphy, baking, floral design, etc. While these skills can help you for all things wedding-related, tacking it on as another tab on your website can confuse your clients and can actually distract your business instead of helping to it grow if you’re not careful.

How can being a slasher affect your business?

You might think that having more service options will increase your amount of business, but that’s not always true.  Often, it can be better to pick your area of expertise, and hone your skills and offerings in that specific area to do it very well.

Continue reading

» How to Take Home More Industry Awards

A key way to expand your business and stand out from the competition is through winning industry awards. Whether you’re a new business or a seasoned pro, earning both recent and frequent accolades, collecting stand-out client reviews, and sharing your best work is a pivotal part of your business success.

In our latest infographic, get insights from Education Expert Meghan Ely of OFD Consulting with these six helpful tips to earn more industry awards!

earn-industry-awards

For more information, watch the full webinar! All past webinars are available within your WeddingWire account under the Education tab for Premium members to view on-demand at any time.

» 6 Ways to Optimize Your Website for Leads

startup-photos-v2With all of the competition in the wedding industry, even getting website visitors in your local market can be a big win! Once they arrive on your website, however, it’s vital that you guide them to take the next step by submitting a lead to get in touch with your business. It’s easy to get swept up in your own desires and ideas when building your website, but ultimately you need to think about how your prospects will view and interact with it in order to drive more conversions.

Don’t worry; your website is a channel that can be optimized, just like any of your marketing channels! Read on for six easy ways to optimize your website for leads and inquiries.

Reduce form fields

When it comes to reducing friction for your website visitors, reducing the length or number of fields used in your form is one of the easiest ways to boost your conversion rates. The fewer fields the visitor has to fill out, the more likely they are to submit a lead. Inevitably, though, shortening your contact forms is a trade-off – shorter forms generate more leads, but longer forms generate higher quality leads. The key is to think hard about which fields you truly need and which fields you can forego until you get the chance to learn more at the next point of contact or at the appointment. At the very least, you’ll want name, email, phone number, and wedding date; the rest depends on your service category and routing needs. Just remember: Keep it simple!

Prioritize form placement

If you want your website visitors to submit a contact form to get in touch, give your form top placement on your website. While today’s web users are used to scrolling past the “fold” to learn more, placing your contact form above the “fold” guarantees that they’ll see it regardless of their next action. In fact, Education Guru Alan Berg suggests adding a contact form to each page of your website to guide visitors towards submitting an inquiry. Whichever option you choose will ultimately depend on the layout and design of your website, but whatever you do, just don’t hide your contact form by placing it too far down on your homepage or by putting too many steps between their entrance and the form.

Utilize your reviews

Your WeddingWire reviews are easy to find and evaluate on your Storefront, but if a potential client is looking at your website you want to make sure they can find them there, too. When deciding whether or not to submit a lead through your website, couples are looking for proof that your work is quality and that your past clients were happy with the results of all your efforts. If a couple is reviewing your website, you’ve already made it through several stages of consideration and offering rave reviews will help make their decision easier. Select a few of your best reviews and add them to your website to help convince prospects that your business is the best choice. Make sure you add them close to your contact form so a happy client is one of the last things they see before deciding whether to commit.

Show off your awards

Awards are one of the best ways to lend outside credibility to your business. After all, you can say how awesome your business is, but your opinion isn’t impartial until someone else also verifies it! Showcase what sets you apart from your competition by featuring your awards near your form or in the header or footer of your website. Unlike other awards in the wedding industry, the WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards® are solely based on reviews from real newlyweds and their experiences working with their wedding professionals. If your business is prestigious enough to be among the top five percent of wedding professionals on WeddingWire, we’ll provide you code so you can easily feature your award on your website for all visitors to see.

Test your calls-to-action

Could the generic text on your button or contact link on your form be the factor that’s driving down conversions? Or perhaps the color of your contact button causes it to blend in with the rest of your website? Test the color and text of your call-to-action or submit button to see if your conversion rates differ. Try changing your formal ‘Contact Us’ text to ‘Get in Touch!’, or use a contrasting accent color on the form button to attract more submissions. A word of caution, though – only change one element at a time (text or color) so that you can track which change truly had an impact.

Track and analyze changes

All of these changes will be hard to measure if you don’t have enough information to see what’s working! Tracking the number of inquiries you receive each month is easy enough to analyze, but then you’ll only be looking at one piece of the puzzle. It’s also important to use Google Analytics or other website analytics platforms (sometimes offered with your web-hosting platform) to track how many visitors you receive, how long they’re staying on your website, and how many pages they visit before submitting an inquiry or leaving your website. Keeping an eye on all of these things will help you understand the behavior of your website visitors and make changes that will improve your conversion rates and time on site.

Every website is different, and it may take some time to find the right combination to work for you. Remember to give it time – you likely won’t see changes in leads overnight, but that doesn’t mean your updates aren’t working! You can always ask for feedback from your friends and industry peers, or ask a client to explain what they did or didn’t like during their research. Happy optimizing!