» Infographic: Top 10 Business Tips from 2016

The start of a new year is the ideal time to evaluate your business success! Take a moment to read these insider’s tips on how businesses like yours have achieved their goals over the past twelve months.

These 10 highlights from WeddingWire’s Senior Director of Customer Success Ashley Conway include advice about how to impress more newly engaged couples and improve your marketing techniques to generate more leads and clients.  Read on and set your business up for success in the coming year.

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» 4 Easy Ways to Reduce Distractions at Appointments

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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.

These days it often seems like everyone is busier than ever, with shorter attention spans.  Knowing this may be true for your clients, it’s your job to keep appointments focused and distractions to a minimum. This advice goes for everything from the physical design and décor of your meeting space, to the background and lighting.

Customize your space for your audience.

If your business has multiple audiences for weddings, corporate parties, bar/bat mitzvahs, even funerals, it’s a good idea to have a way to change the visuals when you meet with them. When a bar mitzvah parent is coming in for a meeting, they should be seeing bar mitzvah art on the walls, bar mitzvah videos playing on your TVs and bar mitzvah images on your printed collateral materials. The same goes for your other audiences. I’ve seen quite a few wedding pros’ offices that use flat screen TVs instead of printed photos, so they can change the imagery. So, unless you’re the photographer, and you’re selling large printed and framed photos, you can try this, too. You can put a nice picture frame around the TV to make it look and feel more like artwork.

How do they see it?

Sit where they will sit and see what’s in their line of sight that might be a distraction. Is there a large window behind you with distracting movement of people, or vehicles? Are there any maintenance items that need to be addressed, from dusting, to spider webs, to touching up paint and fixing broken ceiling tiles? Looking at it from their perspective is one of the things I do when I come for an on-site training. You can’t see it the way that they do, because you see it every day, another example of the Curse of Knowledge.

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Say what?

Are there sounds coming from outside or adjacent rooms that might be a distraction? Here’s another area where you don’t get credit for getting it right, but you lose points for getting it wrong. No one will thank you for reducing the distractions, but they’ll notice when it’s too noisy, dogs barking, babies crying, and when there are people talking or playing music loudly in the next room. Actually, that wasn’t totally correct. You will get thanked in the form of additional business by getting it right.

Give them your undivided attention.

While you’re in an appointment, and I know this sounds obvious, but don’t take phone calls, check your smartphone, or email. It’s rude and it shows them that they’re less important than whatever else you’re doing. When you’re the customer, you don’t like that, so, unless someone close to you is about to have a baby, or come out of surgery, silence your devices, and tell you staff (if you have a staff) not to interrupt you unless it relates to this customer. Most of our communication is non-verbal. People believe what they see more than what they hear, and your actions speak volumes. Giving them your undivided attention is key to gaining their trust. I’ve said this already, but it’s worth mentioning again; people buy from people they know, like and trust.

» How to Make the Most of Engagement Season

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While other business owners may delight in the pre-holiday or back-to-school shopping seasons, the undisputed champ of sales for wedding professionals is engagement season. WeddingWire calculates that about 40% of couples who will be engaged in the next 12 months will do so between November and February.

These quick best practices will help you maximize this crucial time and set yourself up for a productive wedding season.

Freshen up your online presence: Couples these days are accustomed to shopping for services online, so it’s uber-important to put your best foot forward across the Web. That includes your website, social media, WeddingWire storefront and even your email signature. Be sure your branding is consistent throughout and that you make it as easy as possible to contact you. Don’t force couples to hunt for your email or social networks—be sure this is on the very first page of your website. Have a couple of friends put fresh eyes on your sites and social media to be sure you don’t have any broken links, confusing wording or blurry images.

Audit your social: While we’re on the subject, now isn’t the time to neglect your social media accounts! Couples will often use your social media to not only see some of your most recent work, but also get a feel for your personality. They’re looking for partners on their wedding day, not just someone to come in, provide a service and leave. With that said, don’t be a robot on social. Share your best photos, but also share what drew you to the couple, what you loved about the day or why that particular photo is one of your favorites. Be sure to get permission from couples to share and tag them (as well as the rest of the vendor team) if they’re also on social media.

Keep your calendar up-to-date: As couples are reaching out to you for consultations, they’ll want to know that you’re available for their wedding date and location. Take a few minutes to fill in your calendar with as many details as you can about your upcoming wedding season, including building in time for site visits, travel and administrative tasks as needed. While it’s great to be busy, you don’t want to lose business because you’ve incorrectly estimated the time commitment for future clients.

Consider an auto-email feature: In a rapid response world, sometimes 24 to 48 hours just won’t do. As couples fill out your contact form during engagement season, it might be best to automate an email that instantly responds. Beyond showing that you’re responsive right away, use this email to smartly promote your social channels, work that you’re most proud of or even an awesome piece of wedding planning content you really love. Give it some personality, but be sure it’s short, sweet and helping you meet your business goals.

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Prove your credibility: It’s one thing for you to say you’re amazing, efficient and easy to work with, but it’s a whole other thing for someone else to say it. That’s why so many couples rely on business reviews before contacting potential wedding professionals. Make it a goal to amass at least five additional reviews from couples and other professionals you’ve recently worked with this engagement season. Don’t be shy about asking for them—newlyweds love to talk about their wedding and you were an important part of why it was so special!

Nail your first impression: Once you’ve set up a time to meet with a potential client, the real work of engagement season begins. Chances are, the couple’s had a chance to peruse your social media, your website and your storefront, so return the favor by learning a little about the couple as well. Check out their social media profiles if you can, and look into any information they may have included in their emails to you—the type of wedding they’d like, what they enjoyed about your work, their venue, etc. Be prepared to discuss the latest wedding trends in your industry and show a curated collection of your recent projects. So, if you know the couple will be wed at a fancy downtown hotel, don’t show up with a portfolio full of barn weddings you’ve done and vice versa.

Learn even more about how to nail engagement season with this fact sheet.

» What Are the Best Media Outlets for Me?

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

When describing wedding public relations, the basic tenet is this: you have a message you want to get out to your target audience (or audiences), and you want to disseminate that message through the appropriate media channels. The question is, which media outlets are the right ones for me?

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Let’s take a look at some of the best ways to discern the right outlets from the wrong ones.

Are my prospects reading it?

This is an essential question for anyone whose main goal of PR is to increase brand awareness and, with that, their business. One of the first questions I ask any prospect is, “Where are you looking to get featured?” Inevitably, a large percentage answers with, “I want to be on [insert national morning show here].” I find myself explaining that, while getting national coverage like that is great, if your target audience is composed of millennials (which make up 90% of engaged couples), do you really think they are going to be watching those shows on weekday mornings? The answer is no. So, how do you find out what your target audience is reading? Polling your clients is a great way, whether it is through a survey or an informal discussion during meetings. If you find that you’ve done a great job attracting your ideal couple, then you’ll surely see a pattern.

Are they open to submissions?

This seems pretty obvious, but before submitting anything to anyone, be sure that they accept the type of content you’re sending in. For example, if you’re looking to submit a styled inspiration shoot but the blog only features real weddings, then you’ll have spent time on something that ultimately won’t come to fruition.

What kind of content are they currently featuring?

This is where you’re going to have to do a little research. Once you’ve narrowed down some of the outlets you think would be a good fit, take a look at their recent work. What kinds of weddings are they featuring? What type of articles are guest bloggers writing? If your work and expertise are complementary to their content, then it’s likely a great match.

Do they have a presence on social media?

It’s wonderful to land on a media outlet with eye-catching editorials, but if they aren’t following through with promoting content on social media, then you’re not in front of your target audience – and isn’t that the goal? Be sure that your chosen media outlet is regularly posting on its social media channels before jumping onboard.

Now that you know what you’re looking for, it’s time to start your research. Ready, set, get published!

» WeddingWire Networking Night Northern New Jersey

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at The Park Savoy for WeddingWire Networking Night Northern New Jersey!

At the Networking Night, Northern New Jersey 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 about how to handle tough pricing questions from WeddingWire Education Guru, Alan Berg.

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 Nikisha of Inviting Treasures!

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» WeddingWire Hits 1 Million Facebook Followers

We’re excited to announce that WeddingWire has reached a huge milestone:  1 million Facebook fans! It’s an honor to see so many engaged couples turn to us for inspiration and advice as they plan their weddings. As the first wedding brand to utilize Facebook Live, over the past year we’ve seen a 39% increase in followers and an 87% increase in engagement.

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Our Facebook posts range from articles full of expert tips to make planning fun and easy, to real wedding galleries and quirky, uplifting stories to provide some relief for couples from the sometimes stressful situations planning can bring.

Here’s a look at some of our most popular posts from the past year:

Our Facebook presence is a critical part of how we connect with our couples to offer fun (and timely!) content throughout their planning process. Much like you may use different social media platforms to share your content, our broader social media efforts span multiple social media channels and include customizable social tools like Snapchat geofilters and wedding hashtags.

Make sure you’re following WeddingWire on FacebookInstagramPinterest and Twitter to see all the latest trends, inspiration and wedding planning-related content. And don’t forget to follow WeddingWireEDU on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for the latest news and content to help inform and grow your business.

» I Run the Company: What Does That Look Like?

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Jennifer Taylor, Taylor'd Events Group

This 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. She is also the creator of The Taylor’d Plan, a self-administered class for wedding planners who are new to the industry and looking to grow and develop their skills.

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When you start your own business, it can be a bit of an adjustment to figure out your workflow. Since you’re running the show, you have to handle a lot of the administration and business development, and it’s essential to find a happy balance in your day-to-day work.

For me, running my company means that I’m not a major part of the event planning and team management. I don’t go into the office to work on weddings, as I now have other projects that I am working on, so my time is spent working on ways to further grow the company.

One of the biggest lessons to learn when running your own business is the art of delegation. When you have a team that you can trust to handle the routine work, it makes your life that much easier, and you’ll find that you can be more productive spending on business development. It’s really difficult to grow and expand if you’re always in the trenches.

Having a solid team is the key to being a great business owner. Your goal should be to have at least several full-time employees who can handle the bulk of the work and assign additional tasks to part-time employees and/or interns.

With that said, it is still necessary to check in regularly with your team. Their work speaks to your company’s brand, so take some time to stay up-to-date on what everyone is working on and make sure that you are reachable in case of emergency. We have regular staff meetings where everyone discusses their current projects – these are a great way to ensure that we are all on the same page.

Outside the office, use your time wisely and look for resources to help maximize your time spent on business development. New projects can sometimes be overwhelming, so employ to-do lists and block scheduling to simplify your tasks and stay organized. Consider sharing your techniques with your team as well – leading by example is one of the best ways to create a cohesive and streamlined environment for all.

As a business owner, you’ll find that you have a number of new responsibilities as you leave behind some of the more routine tasks. While it can seem stressful at times, it can also be quite a fun challenge – it is your brainchild, so have fun with it!

» Announcing the 2017 WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards®!

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We’re excited to announce the winners of the ninth annual WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards®! Honorees represent the top 5% of wedding professionals nationwide for their excellence in quality, service, responsiveness, and professionalism within the wedding industry.

We are proud to honor these award-winning professionals for their exemplary work and the outstanding reputation they’ve established among newlywed couples as demonstrated through their excellent reviews. Winners are chosen based on the quality, quantity, consistency, and recency of wedding reviews they received from clients in 2016.

Engaged couples use the award as an indicator of legitimacy and reliability when selecting their team of wedding professionals. The badge demonstrates to our couples that a wedding professional is committed to providing the highest quality service throughout the planning process and on their wedding day. According to Casey Clark, Marketing Manager at Antrim 1844 Country House Hotel, a seven-time Couples’ Choice Award winner:

“Couples definitely pay attention to our awards and badges, and they know what those badges represent.”

WeddingWire hosts more than 2.5 million reviews – more than any other wedding site. We’re honored to recognize the 2017 Couples’ Choice Award winners for their accomplishments and for their dedication to excellence within the industry.

See the full list of the winners in your region or category.

Congratulations to all of the 2017 WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards winners!

 

» WedInsights Recap to Boost Your Business Success in 2017

As we enter 2017, it’s important to start planning for the upcoming wedding season and beyond. Besides preparing for upcoming events, dedicate some time to assess your business and find ways to make improvements.

For many pros, a more successful year can mean focusing on a stronger online presence through social media or an improved mobile website. For others, it’s acquiring new customers or finding ways to make their marketing dollars go furtherRegardless of your specific goals, one thing is certain: you must know your customers and understand their wants and needs during the planning process to make the best adjustments to your business — and we are here to help!

Throughout the year, our Consumer Insights & Research Team conducts studies with thousands of engaged and newlywed couples nationwide to assemble the latest in industry and consumer data. Our findings are available to download for free anytime at WedInsights.com. Each volume, one-pager, report or infographic is filled with actionable insights designed to help your business grow and succeed!

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View some of the most popular WedInsights:

Check back often for new reports as we’ll continue to add new topics each month. Do you have a topic you’d like to learn more about? Email us and let us know!

» Easy Ways to Show Appreciation in the New Year

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.

show-appreciation-giftAlmost every wedding professional is busy, and in your fast-paced world it can be easy to quickly move on to the next task or event. However, it’s important to take the time to thank the people you work with and show your appreciation for their help, referrals, support or even business and act with gratitude.

New year’s resolutions are a great opportunity to focus on sharing your gratitude more frequently. These ideas make it easy to share your appreciation daily to the people who impact your life and business.

Referrals:

The next time a potential client mentions you were referred by another professional, make sure you take a moment to say ‘thank you!’ It can be as simple as a quick text or email, and will be appreciated. For bonus points, consider sending a handwritten postcard or thank you note.

When you actually book the event, it’s a plus to send another acknowledgement, such as a written note. Finally, when the event is complete and you’ve received a review or thank you from the client, a note with a copy of client-praise shows you have earned the referral, and will help encourage them to send more clients your way! Always return the favor quickly to build a mutually beneficial relationship.

Gifts:

IRS regulations and company policies generally limit gifts to less than $25. At first blush, $25 doesn’t seem like a lot of money; however, personalizing the gift is a great way to make it special. For example, giving personalized thank you notes with the name of each client is a strong way to make your point.

On one occasion I attended a presentation by an author. Her talk was titled The Art of The Business Lunch’. The author, Robin Jay, had also attended a seminar I gave on blogging. I gave her a book on blogging, called, ‘Nobody cares what you had for lunch.’ The reaction was massive! Anyone could use a book as a thank you. Music is another interesting way to make a connection. When people fill out Facebook profiles, they often indicate their music preferences. Rather than just a gift card, pick an artist your peer or client has listed as a favorite.

Membership Awareness:

You don’t have to be the membership chair to recognize the presence or absence of people from meetings at local groups or for industry associations. If a person who you sat with was particularly interesting, then just drop them a quick note and tell them. This is great way to naturally expand your network! If a person was missing in action, let them know they were missed.

Acknowledging Staff:

When one of your employees has performed ‘above and beyond,’ it’s a great to not only tell them personally but to write a note or send a small token as an added bonus for their hard work. Meetings are a great opportunity to acknowledge staff members by telling stories about their successes. Whether it is making a sale, saving a sale, or performing other client magic, a public thank you has maximum impact on great work.

Anticipation:

A week ahead of the wedding, send the wedding couple a note explaining what a privilege it is to work for them and how you ‘can’t wait for the wedding day’. That will set an amazing tone that not only are you a quality wedding pro, but that you really care about their individual day and appreciate their business.

The same thing is true for the other wedding pros you will be working with. If you plan to work with someone closely that day, make sure you do the research to know who the person is, and express your appreciation in advance for any help they will provide for you to do your job well. This is not the norm – and will make a great impression!

Overall, remember that it doesn’t take a great deal of effort to demonstrate your appreciation, and it can make a significant difference in your likability and your business success! Aim to showcase your appreciation in 2017 to stand out among the crowd to boost your business in the New Year.

» Invest in Yourself: Attend WeddingWire World!

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As you think ahead to your business success next year, it’s important to prioritize your industry knowledge.  Whether you’re new to the wedding industry or a seasoned pro, you can always benefit from learning the latest tips for marketing your services, communicating with clients, and growing your business.

Lucky for you, WeddingWire World will bring the latest education and top speakers to both the East and West coasts in 2017. WeddingWire World will be held on May 1st-2nd in Los Angeles, CA, and on August 14th-15th in Washington, DC.

Time is running out to get your tickets before prices increase on January 1st!

Choose the location and date that works best for you, and register now to lock in our 2016 pricing! Don’t delay – the low rates of just $149 for standard tickets and $299 for VIP tickets are only available until December 31st.

Here’s what you can expect:

  • Informative Presentations: Learn from industry experts, business leaders and top performing wedding professionals, and leave with actionable ways to set up your business for more success.
  • Personalized Education: Enjoy a variety of breakout sessions based on your business needs, and meet one-on-one with an experienced Customer Success Manager for custom account support.
  • New (and Renewed) Connections: Make new contacts and reconnect with industry colleagues during structured networking opportunities over two fun-filled days.

Learn more about WeddingWire World and stay tuned for more details on speakers and conference agenda — coming soon!

» Top Wedding Trends for 2017

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2017 is shaping up to be an exciting year in the wedding industry, and as always, the Editorial Team here at WeddingWire been looking into our crystal ball to try to determine the top trends for the upcoming season. So we’re excited to share our hot-off-the-presses WeddingWire 2017 Wedding Trend Guide which highlights over 100 of the newest trends.

Just a few of the exciting wedding trends we can’t wait to see more of in 2017:

  • Sheer and sexy wedding dresses
  • Gray and burgundy suits for grooms
  • Bridesmaid jumpsuits
  • Urban Elegance = the “new Rustic”
  • Marble details
  • Giant floral wreath backdrops for ceremonies
  • Drone photography and videography
  • Instagram videos
  • Brunch weddings
  • Doughnuts
  • Creative food presentation – food “walls” and hanging food
  • Silent disco (seriously, it’s awesome)
  • Geode cakes
  • Drip cakes
  • Greenery motifs on invitations

And there’s a lot more where those came from! Be sure to check out the brand-new 2017 WeddingWire Trend Guide, out now!

Cover photo by Jeremy Chou Photography