» WeddingWire Networking Night Minneapolis

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at the Lumber Exchange Event Center for our WeddingWire Networking Night Minneapolis!

Wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy a stunning venue right in the center of Minneapolis! Guests met with other local vendors across all service categories as well as members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned local-industry statistics and tips for being inclusive of all couples, presented by WeddingWire Education Expert, Kathryn Hamm!

Thank you to all the wonderful wedding professionals who joined us! We’re excited to share highlights from the event including the educational presentation, the latest issue of WedInsights, and photos from the lovely evening below. You can also see the entire album on our WeddingWire EDU Facebook page!

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


» 7 Ways to Win Mobile Marketing

The world is transitioning to mobile — with Google paying more attention to mobile sites and users engaging mainly via mobile phones, mobile conversion and optimization is going to start impacting us more than ever before.

To prepare for this imminent mobile takeover, here are 7 tips from WeddingWire CMO Sonny Ganguly to make sure your business is set up for mobile success:

1. Be ready for mobile-first SEO
Mobile-first SEO means that Google will be looking at your mobile site to determine both mobile and desktop search rankings. To prepare for this, it’s important to start thinking mobile first for ALL things: website, blog, emails and other communication. This means designing for mobile phones first and then taking that design to desktop instead of the other way around.

Because of mobile-first SEO, it is crucial to have mobile parity which simply means that your mobile website today has to be equivalent to your desktop experience, if not better. The easiest way to achieve this is to have a responsive design that has one brand, one domain and one codebase; a website that looks good on all devices (LiveBooks is a great service for responsive websites that are design focused!).

2.  Mobilize from end-to-end
Even if you mobilize the first step, you need to make sure to mobilize the entire process when you send an email. Mobilized emails that link to non-mobilized websites result in 80% of users leaving the site. Every step along the way must be made mobile-friendly.

3. Create short video content
Facebook has a growing emphasis on video content, and this will continue to increase in the coming years. . Winning at mobile isn’t going to be about words and photos on social platforms, but instead about sharing short video content that is less than 60 or 30 seconds. Also keep in mind that in the world of mobile, most people do not have their sound on, making text overlays vital to a successful piece of video content.

As the availability of content grows, users attention spans are getting shorter, making it important to brand within the first 3 seconds, if not the first second, with some sort of overlay. Because people process visuals and video at a much faster rate than text, short video content is the future.

4. Communicate with millennials
In the world of mobile and millennials, there is an expectation that communication needs to move faster. Couples expect a reply from wedding professionals within 24 hours and 50% of buyers choose the wedding professional that responds first. So speed does matter! and being able to communicate via your mobile phone is a good way to be quick with a response.

When communicating with millennials, it is also important to reciprocate the channel where they prefer communicating, 48% of couples are frustrated when vendors who do not use the same channel to reply as the couple used to reach out. If a couple sent an email that was followed up with a call from the vendor, it is typically viewed unfavorably.

To streamline mobile communication, WeddingWire offers vendors easy-to-use messaging features to communicate quickly and effectively with their couples.

5. Monitor your search console  
Search console is a free service from Google that helps you get the data, tools, and diagnostics needed to create and maintain Google-friendly websites and mobile apps. It’s a service that every business should have running for them to let them know of their average position within search rankings and where they can improve. Search Console is Google’s way of giving you a report card and notifying you of what is working for your website and what is not.

As Google moves towards mobile-first SEO, monitoring your Search Console will tell you if your rankings stay consistent or shift, and where you can improve.

6. Focus on mobile conversion
Mobile conversion is how well your mobile site is converting visitors into leads. Looking into these conversion rates can tell you a lot about how friendly your mobile site is and if there are areas for improvement when compared to your desktop site.

If you’re using Google Analytics you can turn on conversion tracking to see how many people visit your mobile website and convert into leads. You can then use this data to compare your rate to previous years, seasons and even desktop conversion rates to see if you’re achieving mobile conversion parity.

7. Accept mobile payments
Accepting mobile payments before your competitors can be a big advantage for your business;  couples were 23% more likely to recommend wedding professionals who had a form of online payment. Fortunately, WeddingWire members can use WeddingWire Payments to seamlessly request and accept client payments through WeddingWire in the Messages section of their account.

As Eric Schmidt, the previous Chairman of Google, said “The trend has been that mobile was winning, it’s now won.” and these 7 tips will help your business stay on top of this shift to handheld devices and mobile-first SEO!

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Master Mobile Marketing” with Sonny Ganguly, WeddingWire’s Chief Marketing Officer.

» Five Tips To Strengthen Your Multicultural Practices

Photo by Bakerture

This article was written by Bethel Nathan, Owner & Business Coach/Speaker at Elevate by Bethel.

Recent surveys of millennial couples have made it very clear just how much more inclusive they are in their friendships and in their romantic relationships. According to a Pew Research Center report published in 2015, 39% of Americans who have married since 2010 have a spouse who is in a different religious group (compared to just 19% of Americans who married before 1960), and there has been a 5X increase in interracial marriages since nationwide legalization in 1967. Currently, 19% of WeddingWire couples identify as having an interracial marriage, and 18% have said that they include ceremonial customs related to race/religion in their weddings, and these numbers will only continue to grow.

A large number of the 850 couples I’ve married identify as LGBTQ or interfaith or interracial or intercultural (or some combination), and the experience has offered me a good handle on how to approach, discuss, and integrate culture and religion into a ceremony. I always open a discussion on culture and religion during my initial meeting with a couple, because I want to make sure that I am the proper fit for what they want, and because the design and content of their custom ceremony starts from my understanding of WHAT they want, and WHY the couple wants it.

These exact same discussions and decisions about inclusion of culture, religion and traditions that I apply to the ceremony quite often apply to the entire wedding. Décor and design, food and drink, music and entertainment, attire, hair and makeup, even the schedule and timeline… almost every aspect of a wedding can, and usually does, have resonance related to the upbringing, traditions, and beliefs of the couple, their families, and sometimes even their friends. It is imperative that wedding professionals not only have an inclusive mindset, but also the systems and processes ready to implement a celebration that meets the desires of the couple.

Here are 5 ways that help you do both!

1. Don’t assume. I have put my foot in my mouth with assumptions plenty, I promise. Several years ago, I made the assertion that LGBTQ couples come to Officiants like me because they don’t get married in houses of worship. I was speaking with Kathryn Hamm, WeddingWire’s Diversity & Inclusion Specialist, who pointed me to research that revealed that 10% of LGBTQ couples do get married in houses of worship, and cited some personal anecdotal examples. I was a bit embarrassed, but it was a very poignant reminder that while we all have assumptions based on what we have seen, heard and experienced, personally or with previous couples, those assumptions may not tell the whole story.

This is why I recommend that you start the conversation with all your couples from as blank of a sheet as possible, with your assumptions locked away. The best way to make sure that your process is assumption-free (or relying on as few assumptions as possible) is to have an initial set of standard questions that you ask every couple, regardless of any automatic assumptions you made upon meeting them. Plus, be sure to ask open-ended questions to allow them to share what they want. Once they answer, you can ask follow-up questions based on what your experience tells you that you still need to know.

For example, a question an Officiant or DJ might ask is, “Are there any religious or cultural traditions you want to honor or include?” A follow-up question could relate to the “level” to which they want to include them – for instance, the caterer needs to distinguish between having a kosher option on the menu vs. kosher-style vs. the entire menu needing to be kosher.

2. Find out the why. The what is very important but the why is the driver. Honestly, we wedding folks tend to want to help and jump right into ideas or solutions (the “what”), without yet knowing the ‘why’. Understanding the rationale behind a client’s thoughts allows you to make more fitting suggestions. Does the couple want a certain tradition included because they desire it or because they feel they want/need it for family, or even one specific family member? I’ve had couples think that they need to have a traditional Christian wedding – even though they were non-religious themselves – when what they really wanted to do was honor their families and thought that that was the only way to do so.

By understanding the why, you can make sure that what you are suggesting or including will satisfy the couple and the people, or person, it is meant to satisfy. By providing options to your couple for the ‘what” that satisfies this ‘why,’ you increase your value to them, while at the same time making sure everyone is happy or at least satisfied by the solution.

3. Be a solutions person. We as wedding professionals need to be solution providers. And, when it comes to religious and cultural inclusion, I find that, in addition to satisfying family, there are often two points in a couple’s life where the differences in their upbringings can clash: 1) during their wedding and 2) raising their children. As wedding professionals, it’s likely that we encounter the first point regularly, which means that we might have to be mediators, not only between the couple and members of their families, but between the couple themselves, by either having solutions or knowing where to go to find solutions.

The basic rules apply here: listen to both sides, probe with follow-up questions and potential ideas (if you have them), step away and think about it, talk to others who may have dealt with this type of scenario, and then come back to the couple with solutions. The idea is to satisfy both sides as much as possible. And, please resist the “bridal bias” that I see way too often in our industry – you need to make sure to take into account the feelings and wants of both members of the couple.

4. Be a capable match. There is always the balance in our businesses between wanting to say yes and help (and the income that comes from that, too), and wanting to be sure that you are doing right by a couple and their needs. Here is my thought: if in doubt, ask yourself the following question, “Will the quality of what the couple gets from me and my business be adversely affected by my lack of skills or knowledge?” If yes, then maybe you aren’t the best fit for them.

If you reach that point, I always recommend that you be honest with a couple that you don’t have that specific experience or knowledge, and then allow them to make that decision. If you still feel that you can serve them properly, and want to, you can let them know that you are indeed willing to help and happy to do so. Allow the couple to decide if they still want to work with you.

If the couple ultimately determines you are not the right fit, you can always suggest other vendors that may specialize or have experience in their specific request(s). Or, you can look at the solution of partnering up with a colleague to service them together. For example, if you are a wedding planner and an Indian couple comes to you and wants a full Indian wedding, yet you have never done one, should you take it? Without that experience, you may not be their perfect fit, so bringing on the right partner with this expertise could be the perfect solution! You could partner with planner who has experience in Indian weddings so that the couple gets to work with a team that understands not only the what they are looking for, but also the why. And the plus side of the solution is that you get to learn and feel more confident the next time you are asked because you’ll now have that experience

5. Showcase your experience. For everyone’s sake, attracting couples from the get-go who are more your fit, and who you can service and celebrate fully and properly, is a top goal. Therefore, make sure that your service descriptions and portfolio – in places such as your website or WeddingWire Storefront or social media – show past work with a wide range of religious and/or cultural rituals, when you feel confident in your ability to professionally service those couples again.

Keep these tips in mind when engaging with potential clients — I believe it is not only the best thing for society when we are all more understanding and inclusive, but it also turns out to be the right thing for your business.

Bethel Nathan is a San Diego based wedding officiant, business coach, and industry speaker.  Combining her years of corporate and small business experience with a love for marrying awesome couples, Bethel built Ceremonies by Bethel, a successful and award-winning Officiant business.  And although still officiating, Bethel now has another love… helping others turn their passions into successful and sustainable businesses. Learn more at www.elevatebybethel.com.

 

» Open to All: Building Trust With Prospective Clients

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Expert, Kathryn Hamm.

There is a simple, sure-fire way to open any conversation with any prospective client and it’s not rocket science.

The time-tested formula is as follows:

  • 1 part greeting as simple as “Hello”
  • 1 part open-ended question as simple as “How may I help you?”
  • 1 part active listening

Be present and listen actively

How many times a day do you answer the phone or welcome someone into your place of business with this greeting? But how often do you mean it?

We have been taught to offer this generic greeting phrase as part of the social ritual in service and retail settings. It’s become a bit of background pleasantry, and I suspect that many of us are distracted by other pressures, assumptions and distractions, and aren’t as present to how we are introducing this question of connection and service.

What if we reinstituted intentionality into our greetings?

“Hello, how may I help you?”

What if we removed any assumptions we are making about who might be calling and what they might need?

“Hello, how may I help you?”

What if our listening was tuned to not only the words they are using, but also what their concerns or emotional state might be?

“Hello, how may I help you?”

In my experience, the next, best response includes a follow-up question that incorporates an understanding and reflection of what that prospective client has just said or revealed. In this first minute of conversation, the process of earning trust is well underway.

Wedding professionals can use this formula successfully with every single prospective client. It’s a one-size-fits-all approach, though the trust earning portion of the exchange may take more time when a wedding professional is working with an engaged couple with whom they aren’t familiar (i.e., a straight, White, Christian woman in her 40s working with a gay Black couple who are atheists in their 20s or a mixed-race Jewish couple in their 60s). One may have to listen more carefully when navigating a new relationship outside of one’s own lived experience.

Reject the cookie-cutter approach

The key to the process is that it all begins with earning trust and resisting the urge to treat every couple with a cookie-cutter approach. Couples of all stripes appreciate the customized approach and Millennials, as a rule, even when they fit the mold of the “average couple,” require it.

Once you’ve established how a couple frames the way in which they’d like your help, you can then share with them the ways in which you are best suited to help them. As much as it’s important to hear their needs, it’s also important to know your strengths (and weaknesses) and be able to articulate them in a way that advances the conversation.

An example as it pertains to same-sex couples is as follows: in 2005, a GayWeddings.com survey found that same-sex couples were willing to book any vendor who was willing to work with them. Experience didn’t matter as much as openness and customer service did. Now that marriage equality has been recognized and the competitive wedding market is prepared to serve LGBTQ couples, customer service AND expertise matter when it comes to winning business.

And, this is true for other couples who identify as something other than the young, White, straight, fit couple most often represented in blogs and magazines. There are so many types of couples in need of services and each has their own way of expressing their love and sealing their bond.

It’s up to wedding professionals to welcome all couples with grace and to be receptive to their needs; but it’s also essential for wedding professionals to have clear boundaries around what they can and can’t offer as services in order to establish a strong foundation for a fruitful working relationship.

kathryn hammThis post was written by Kathryn Hamm WeddingWire Education Expert, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. 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.

» WeddingWire Networking Night Hartford

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at The Society Room of Hartford for our WeddingWire Networking Night Hartford!

Wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy a classic venue in downtown Hartford! Guests met with other local vendors across all service categories as well as members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned local-industry statistics and tips on working with millennial couples, presented by Associate Director of Customer Success, Megan Hayes!

Thank you to all the wonderful wedding professionals who joined us! We’re excited to share highlights from the event including the educational presentation, the latest issue of WedInsights, and photos from the lovely evening below. You can also see the entire album on our WeddingWire EDU Facebook page!

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

» Summer in the City with WeddingWire: See the Recap!

Hundreds of NYC wedding professionals enjoyed a tropical oasis in Manhattan designed by BLB Events in partnership with WeddingWire at our Summer in the City event. Guests mingled and networked their way through the evening in the modern event space (PUBLIC Hotel) with a spacious terrace. We couldn’t get over the way that our bright, tropical event looked with the city’s skyline at sunset, and the warm up-lighting (Dash of Class Platinum Entertainment) made the inside just as scenic!

BLB Events placed a heavy emphasis on incorporating florals and potted plants (Bride & Blossom) into the design —. including gorgeous arrangements throughout the space and fresh florals tucked into a wooden geometric bar and large macrame curtain (Patina Rentals). Guests enjoyed the floral studded macrame curtain as a photobooth backdrop (sharingbox, Bride & Blossom), fit with a millennial pink velvet couch and banana leaf printed pillows. Check out the gallery (Use the code: yT*2u) After a snapshot in the photobooth, guests also were invited to get palm readings and mini-manicures. On the terrace, guests indulged in a fruity specialty cocktail “The Royale”, and boozy ice cream (Tipsy Scoop) —all while listening to custom mixes by Jason Jani & SCE Event Group.

A huge thank you to all of our partners for making this event not only possible, but a huge success:

Venue: PUBLIC Hotel
Planning: BLB Events 
Florist: Bride & Blossom
DJ: Jason Jani & SCE Event Group
Rentals: Patina Rentals
Lighting: Dash of Class Platinum Entertainment
Photo: Steven Rosen Photography
Photobooth: sharingbox
Ice Cream Cart: Tipsy Scoop
Palm Readings: Tarot Society
Manicures: ManiCare

Check out more of the details from our fun-in-the-sun event captured by Steven Rosen Photography.

» Are Your Business Goals Right for You?

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP.

I love speaking with wedding pros about their businesses, because the business of weddings and events is what my business is all about. Each wedding pro should have their own goals and it’s perfectly acceptable to have different goals at different stages of business — as a matter of fact, your goals should evolve with your business.

How do you measure your business?

New businesses are often just trying to survive, while well-established businesses may be trying to stay current and relevant. What are the benchmarks you’re using to see how you’re doing? Is it the number of weddings and events you do each year? Or is it the total revenue (top-line)? Or maybe it’s the bottom line (net profit). Each of you has to decide what’s important, and then decide how you’re going to achieve that target. Just make sure it’s the right target.

What’s in a number?

I was consulting with an entertainment company who told me that he wanted to do 250 weddings the next year. When I asked him why, he said that he felt he would be seen as a major player in his market. I asked why that was important to him and he replied that he felt it would solidify his standing, and how he was viewed by the other wedding pros. When we looked at how he was planning to get there, it was to go after lower-dollar weddings that he wasn’t getting now. He was currently more of a boutique business, towards the higher end of his market. As I went through with him how to get to the 250, it occurred to me that he wasn’t going to be making much profit on those additional weddings. Once we considered the additional costs: DJs, equipment, insurance, marketing/advertising, admin, etc., most of the money was going to others, not to him. In my words, he was trying to feed his ego, when I prefer that he was trying to feed his family.

Biggest or most profitable?

Another client of mine, a rental company, told me that their goal was to be the biggest rental company in their market. I suggested that a goal of being the most profitable rental company in their market was a better plan. It’s often easier to grow your top-line than your bottom line. You can sell more weddings and more services, at or close to your cost, and increase your total sales. Figuring out how to sell more profitable services, or raising your rates and increasing your average sale, is a better plan. You’ve probably heard the phrase “Work smarter, not harder” and in my opinion, that’s a better way to go. When you figure out how to make more profit per wedding, you’re on your way to working smarter.

Which comes first – more weddings or more profit?

If you have the choice to either do more weddings, or increase your average profit per wedding, I’d focus on the latter. When you start making more per wedding, then you can decide if you want to do more events per year, or just make more from doing the same number of events. Many of the wedding pros I meet, and consult with each year, aren’t trying to do more weddings. Many have already maxed out the number of events, so the only way to increase their sales, and profit, is to increase their average sale. It’s the same for my business. In the early days I was all about increasing my total sales. And while I achieved that, I also realized that I wasn’t profiting enough for the amount of sales I was bringing in.

Diversify, or double-down?

As you look for ways to increase your profits, one possible way is to diversify, and offer new services, or go into new geographic markets. You may see a competitor doing some of these things and decide to follow along. Just make sure that you know why you’re doing it, because it’s likely you don’t know why your competitor is. If you don’t know if they’re profiting from that expansion, you might be chasing a losing proposition. It’s easy to spread yourself too thin, too fast, so think before you follow.

Is smaller better?

In the lifecycle of many of my clients, they start small, get big (sometimes slowly, sometimes fast) and then, many of them decide to scale back and get smaller again. Maybe it’s a venue owner who goes from one, to three, to six venues, and then decides to focus on one or two of the most profitable ones. Or it could be a DJ, photographer or officiant, who goes from being a single-op (just her or him) to multi-op (many employees/contractors, and possibly many services) back to being just her or him and fewer services.

There’s no one answer as to which is better. It’s about which is better for you, at this time. One thing is for certain, you need to decide how you’re measuring your success, right now, and then work to achieve that. Don’t follow someone else’s idea of success, or you’re likely to be like the dog chasing a car. If the dog actually gets to catch the car, then what will it do? If you achieve someone else’s idea of success, will you be satisfied? I suggest you choose your own destination, chart your own course, and then enjoy your success when you get there.

WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP 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.

» Networking Etiquette for Conference Season

Photo by Catherine Lea Photography

This article was written by Education Expert, Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting

We’re in the business of people. I know I’m preaching to the choir when I say this. Conference season is no different – from speaking to spectating to traveling and anything in between, we’re constantly sharing our expertise, chit-chatting with the flight attendant (maybe even calling down to the hotel desk to ask for another sleep mask?), and networking with all of the pros we get to reunite with from across the country.

Networking itself is an amazing way to maintain professional relationships and market yourself in the industry, especially when a rare in-person opportunity comes along in the midst of exchanging emails on top of emails. Putting in that face time is crucial! That being said, let’s dig into the etiquette of networking, namely during conference season.

Be mindful of investment

While this is an amazing time to introduce yourself in person rather than e-meet a fellow industry pro, remember that you’ll probably encounter a lot of jet-lagged faces and some potentially overwhelmed if they have upcoming topics or panels they’ll be speaking on. Don’t let this deter you by any means, just remember that they’re eager to meet people as well, so don’t monopolize anyone’s time.

Kylie Carlson of International Academy of Wedding and Event Planning says, “You definitely want to incorporate continuing education into your trip. But while you’re there, be mindful of the fact that people have paid to attend the conference and want to learn. Take note of their investment.”

Continuing professional relationships (the right way)

This goes for jumping back into professional relationships you might be currently cultivating as well. Kevin Dennis of WeddingIQ notes that if you’re looking to take it the extra mile by being referral-worthy, you’ll want to put in the legwork without being pushy. “Directly asking to be on the preferred vendor list will have the opposite desired outcome. You must give to receive, so boost fellow creative partners with whom you would love to work, and give out their names whenever you have the opportunity. The more you refer, the more referrals you will ultimately receive. That partnership will flourish faster than you think.”

Follow up!

Bill Tzizik, CEO of Classic Photographers, knows that following up (and following through) is the best thing you can do to set yourself up for success. “Everyone says that they’re going to follow up, but few do so in a timely manner. Have a system that works for you for collecting information on site – not just grabbing business cards.”

Do yourself this favor during the conference you’re attending – take note of those speaking on topics relative to your business and the goals you’re pursuing. This builds up for a wonderful segue into a conversation, especially if you’re growing a professional relationship and looking for a topic opening, especially for your follow-up.

Note that while they seem like great people to flock to during networking time in between sessions, the event organizers themselves are going to be the busiest people at the event. It’s better to say a quick hello to them (and any other panelists who may have tight schedules) and follow-up after. I promise they’ll be much happier you did and that phone call or email will be more memorable to them after a whirlwind conference.

The key to etiquette is to simply be respectful of time and money. Even speakers invest their own money into travel and accommodations, so you don’t want to crowd them in their downtime.

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.

» How to Communicate Effectively With Couples and Save Your Sanity

Photo by Lunalee Photography

This article was written by Bethel Nathan, Owner & Business Coach/Speaker at Elevate by Bethel.

What is “just right” communications with your couples?  My definition is having a communication plan that has my business communicating with all my couples consistently, and in a way that:

  1. Gives them the information they want and need while…
  2. Getting me the information I want and need — and it does all of that while…
  3. Meeting, or exceeding, the expectations of my couples, as well as…
  4. Fitting within a time budget developed to keep me both sane and profitable  

A bit long of a definition so let’s break it down by the main points:

Consistency

Your planned communication timing, amount, and quality are designed to be the same for every couple.  Which doesn’t mean you can’t change something based on a specific couple or wedding, it just means that every couple feels the love and attention in pretty much the same way.

Couples’ expectations

Ultimately, your communication strategy, and the tools used to apply that strategy, need to be designed based on your ideal couples.  For example, the mix of communication types and the style of communication for a high priced, low volume Wedding Planner should be very different from those used by a low priced, high volume Officiant.  No business model is “wrong” – as long as it meets your profitability and time needs. Therefore, it is very important to understand that the communication you have with your couples needs to provide a customer experience that closely matches (or exceeds) their expectations.

Time budget

Your communication plan fits your business time budget.  

By knowing how much time you have, what information you want to communicate, and your ideal client’s expectations, you can focus your communication spend on the important communication touch points, and automate or remove others.   

DEVELOPING A COMMUNICATION PLAN

Before revising or developing a communication plan, there are two other important things to remember. Although each of us gets older every year, our couples stay relatively the same age.  This means that our communication plan must match what they are expecting and not just be what we have used for ages (even if it worked well in the past).

Also, don’t forget to also think about communication with other vendors when developing your strategy and plan.  Properly communicating with those you are working with on a wedding can increase your visibility and your perceived professionalism – and, as we know so well, other vendors are often where many of our referrals come from.      

To create a communication plan that fits your business, it is easiest to separate the process into two main steps:

Step 1

Calculate the average number of hours you want to, or currently, spend communicating on that specific wedding.  The calculation should include calls, in-person meetings, creating and sending of emails, etc., and a bit of time for unscheduled communications.

Step 2

Map out a communication plan that best utilizes all the different communication tools and takes into consideration the number of hours that you want to spend per couple.  Think of each touchpoint and ask yourself, “what is the level of importance to me and/or my couples?” Remember, something that might not be that important to you could be very important to them and thus something that is very important to your business.     

Since each business is different, I can’t just provide a single communication plan that fits all.  However, we can take a look at the different communication touch points that are reasonably standard to all of us in the wedding industry.  

COMMUNICATION TOUCH POINTS

Inquiry communication

This is where communication method and the amount of time is hard to plan for, but I do have a few recommendations.  

  • Communicate back within a reasonable period of time.  If you have some information that you almost always provide back (e.g. a pricing breakdown) or some questions that you almost always need to ask (e.g. how many guests), have them handy no matter where you are.  
  • Answer all questions that were asked – and if you can’t answer them without more information, explain why you need the “more information” and request it.
  • Communicate back in the same method they used, unless otherwise instructed.  If they call, you can call. If they email or use WeddingWire messages, please email or message back and don’t try to call.

Initial meeting or consultation

Your business model will determine your initial meeting communication strategy – in-person, phone, online – but you also need to be flexible based on where the couple resides and their requested preference.  

Booking process

Please don’t make it hard for them to book you and give you money.  Truly. We live in more modern times and your couples likely have always lived in those modern times.  Electronic contracts and electronic payments are easier for you and easier and more comfortable for them.  

After-booking communication

Whether it’s an automated email or a templated email which you personalize before sending, it should give them an idea of next steps, timeline or workflow, and reiterate communication expectations.  Some wedding professionals, especially those at the higher-end and with a more complicated process, find that the creation and distribution of an “onboarding” document or packet is very helpful in setting proper expectations and fits with their brand.

Your in-process workflow

It is only a positive for your business, and your sanity, to have a standard workflow that applies to each wedding or level of service purchased – even if it is adaptable based on that specific couple’s (or wedding’s) needs.  The workflow should have set communication points, and you schedule on your calendar and/or in your system any non-automated communication point within the workflow (a two-week final reminder email, a month-out check-in call, time to schedule a venue walk-through, etc.).  

Information giving/gathering

Electronic communication usually works very well here.  Depending on your level of service, you can determine which emails you send would be automated, which would be templated, and which would be completely personal.  And, if you need to get a bunch of information, online questionnaires are a fantastic tool to use, often getting better responses than asking for those questions to be answered in an email.  If your process includes having a scheduled call or an in-person meeting with your couple, send them the discussion points beforehand so they can be prepared. This reduces the amount of back and forth after the meeting and makes sure that no one feels like the meeting was a waste of time.

Unscheduled communications

Although you can’t completely control this, set expectations early on with your couples about how you are going to communicate with them, how best they should communicate with you, and what response time to expect.  

After-event or after-service follow-up

If you work with a lot of couples and just want to congratulate them, thank them, and ask for reviews, this could be an automated email, but I don’t recommend it.  Each couple/wedding is unique and we are in a very personal business, so instead I recommend a templated email that you then personalize based on the couple. I always try to remember one or two memorable things from my time at the wedding and add it to the thank you (it was great meeting your parents, your nephew came through with the rings after all, etc.).  

EVALUATING YOUR COMMUNICATION PLAN

And don’t forget to evaluate your communication plan by:

  • Looking at your reviews. Are the couples talking up how well you communicated with them, not talking about it at all, or talking about it in the negative?  Use this to determine what is working well and what needs change.
  • Keeping track of the questions that shouldn’t be asked or missing items. Are you getting a lot of questions from your couples, yet the answers were in earlier communications?  Are you frequently getting to certain points in your process and still missing items that you requested from your couples?  Are you consistently, or somewhat consistently, forgetting to tell your couples something?

Just remember, your business, your couples, and your technology are always evolving, and thus so should your communication plan.  

Bethel Nathan is a San Diego based wedding officiant, business coach, and industry speaker.  Combining her years of corporate and small business experience with a love for marrying awesome couples, Bethel built Ceremonies by Bethel, a successful and award-winning Officiant business.  And although still officiating, Bethel now has another love… helping others turn their passions into successful and sustainable businesses. Learn more at www.elevatebybethel.com.

» Introducing Our Newest Education Experts

To provide you with more of the the latest and greatest expert advice to grow your business, we are excited to announce that we have added Bethel Nathan and Vanessa Joy as WeddingWire Education Experts, joining Sonny Ganguly, Alan Berg, Kathryn Hamm and Meghan Ely.  Be on the lookout for their blog articles, speaking engagements and webinars over the upcoming months — and when you see them, don’t forget to give them a warm WeddingWire welcome!

Bethel Nathan, Business Coach & Speaker, Elevate by Bethel
Expertise: Customer Experience, Business Management, Relationship Building

Bethel Nathan is a San Diego based wedding officiant, business coach and industry speaker. Combining her years of corporate and small business experience with a love for marrying awesome couples, Bethel built Ceremonies by Bethel, a successful and award-winning Officiant business. And although still officiating, Bethel now has another love, using her years of experience to help others turn their passions into successful and sustainable businesses.

Bethel loves to travel, speaks Japanese and is a long time scuba diver having logged over 300 dives with her favorites being in Indonesia, Galapagos, Socorro Islands, and Fiji. Along with her many fun hobbies, she will be bringing her expertise in customer experience, business management and relationship building to WeddingWire.

To learn more about Bethel, check out her website or or follow her on Instagram.

 


Vanessa Joy,
Owner and Photographer, Vanessa Joy Photography
Expertise: Social Media, Content Marketing, Workflow

Vanessa Joy has been an influential photographer in the wedding community for a decade. Starting her photographic journey in 1998, she has since earned 5 college degrees, and has spoken at almost every major convention and platform in the industry such as CreativeLIVE, Wedding MBA, WPPI, ShutterFest, Imaging USA, WeddingWire World and Mobile Beat. Recognized for her talent and more so her business sense, her clients love working with her and industry peers love to learn from her generous, informative and open-book style of teaching.

Vanessa comes to WeddingWire with her adept knowledge in topics such as social media, content marketing and workflow. Apart from being an expert in those areas, Vanessa has 5 college degrees, a very talented videographer husband (whom she met working a wedding!) and an undying love for chocolates, wine, ice-cream, but mostly cookies! She also comes from a long line of strong, creative women with her mother being a wedding photographer, and grandmother being one of the first female journalists for the NJ Senate.

To learn more about Vanessa, check out her website or follow her on Instagram.

Please join us in welcoming these two new Education Experts. We feel so lucky to have them as a part of the WeddingWire family!

» How to Hire the Right People for Your Team

This article was written by Kevin Dennis, editor of WeddingIQ.

Assembling the right team is essential to the success of a company, especially one that is growing and evolving in a field as service-oriented as the wedding industry. The wrong employee will set you back in terms of time, resources and more than a little sanity. Before you hire someone new, prepare yourself for the task and avoid mistakes before they cost you any of the above.

The posting

Even if you have hired for the position before, it never hurts to revisit your job description. You want your new hire to fit into your overall brand, so be meticulous with how you advertise yourself as an employer.

Revisit the little details – do all of the job responsibilities still make sense? Are there things from your plate you’d like to move over to the new employee? Is your compensation in line with area standards and is it competitive? Consider connecting with your team and soliciting their thoughts on the qualities and skills needed.

Promoting your job opening

When it is time to promote your open position, start with your blog, social media and newsletter. Reach out to trusted colleagues and ask them to keep an ear open for highly qualified candidates looking to change positions. Your best matches often come to you as warm leads.

Great employer seeks perfect candidate

Once you begin interviewing, know the signs of a great match. Look for somebody who is fun, energetic, personable and willing to learn. Your clients want to connect with someone who has a positive attitude and who upholds your corporate culture.

On the flip side, be aware of red flags. Showing up late for an interview, not following instructions included in a job listing, not being properly dressed for the interview, and not knowing anything about the company or the position they are applying for are all signs that a candidate is less than ideal.

The double-edged sword of previous experience

While past experience can be desirable, it also can mean that a candidate has developed bad habits, or is unwilling to adapt. Be open to looking beyond experience. Focus on potential.

Questions to ask

Your questions can encompass basic information like “What do you know about our company?” and “How do you define good customer service?” Don’t be afraid to get (professionally) creative, though. We like to ask something like, “If you were going to be working on a movie, what part would you want to play: actor, producer or director?’ to get a feel for applicants’ motivations and personalities.

Involve the team

Consider a trial run for a set period of time to allow you to determine if your new hire is compatible with your current team. You’re about to spend a lot of time with him or her, so it’s worth the extra effort for all involved to make sure you have found a good fit.

Few business decisions are as critical as hiring the right talent. Invest your time and effort in the process. You will not be sorry.

Kevin Dennis is the editor of WeddingIQ and the owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California. Dennis is the past president for Silicon Valley NACE, and national vice president for WIPA.

» Tips for Your Branding Overhaul

This article was written by Education Expert, Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting

Did you realize that best practices call for a business to rebrand every two years or so? In fact you should plan for a complete rebrand every 4-5 years! We asked the experts to share their tips for your next branding overhaul.

Timing

How do you know that it’s time?

The International Academy of Wedding and Event Planning’s Kylie Carlson points out clear indicators that it’s time for a rehaul, including a dated logo, feelings of embarrassment when you hand out your business card or marketing materials, and struggling to raise your prices. Some signs are positive, however. “Have you simply outgrown your brand?” asks Carlson. “This is actually a nice place to be in,” she encourages. “Often, when a company grows, they enter new marketplaces and that renders their current brand ineffective.”

Once you know it’s time to rebrand, where do you begin?

Start here

Rebranding is a multi-step process. Sandy Hammer of AllSeated recommends beginning by looking “at the brands and companies you love. Why do you love them?” Consider their logo, colors and overall look so you can view your own brand through a similar lens.

Megan Velez of Destination Weddings Travel Group says, “Keeping up with the industry trends is key for your brand. You have to keep an eye out for all facets of consumer behavior, including how your market is reacting to certain brands, what they’re looking for and how they’re speaking.”

Igal Sapir, CFO of 100 Candles cautions that “branding is not just about aesthetics. Yes, poorly constructed sites will be passed over quickly by millennial couples eager to engage with a brand…be mindful of the prospect’s user experience when they come to your site.” Sapir suggests reviewing your site in great detail from the perspective of a client and determining ways to make the experience more efficient.

If you’re renaming your company, Attorney Caroline Fox of The Engaged Legal Collective, advises you to contact a trademark attorney to “do a trademark evaluation and analysis up front before you commit to a name and invest money into new marketing materials or other designs,”

Ready, set, rebrand

You’ll need to put together a team of professionals to help you with your rebrand. Velez believes that looking within your organization first is a helpful way to start. “Leverage the resources you have available, first, especially your design team! Then, go beyond for extra-professional help.”

Carlson recommends asking friends and colleagues for referrals, and warns that “Good designers are often booked well in advance, so once you’ve found the right fit, don’t delay.”

Ashley Stork, owner of Magnolia Vine Events emphasizes organization and bandwidth. “Be honest about your time, and what your capacity is at the time of re-branding”. She recommends having your copy mostly done in advance, adding, “You may need to tweak, add or have a copywriter review but not having the copy for your site will hold up the whole project.”

There is no better time than right now to begin considering and planning for your next rebrand!

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.