» 7 Components of a Successful Website

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.

Your website is always evolving, but it has one singular purpose: to generate inquiries and leads. Creating an engaging, optimized, easy-to-navigate site is a critical part of your success. Now, more than ever, an impressive website is the sign of a successful and trustworthy business, so it’s vital that you modernize and update your website often.

How to build a successful websiteThese seven components of a successful website will help you update your site to today’s standards and put your best foot forward for potential clients in your area.

Functionality

How your website functions and responds to visitors is the starting point of your website’s user experience. If visitors can’t find what they need or your website is broken in some way, the content you write doesn’t matter. There are several considerations to take into account when thinking about your website’s functionality:

  • Intuitive Navigation: Your website’s navigation is the blueprint for visitors – they’ll use your framework to find what they’re looking for. Give your web pages logical names, and keep it simple. The ideal number of pages in your main navigation is seven or fewer. If you have more pages than that, consider adding sub-pages that drop down from the main pages. Additionally, recognize that there is a top-down or left-to-right bias in order and choice. A user is more likely to click one of the first three tabs, so be thoughtful about choosing the order.
  • Internal Search: Our collective brains are wired differently. Some people will follow your carefully thought-out main navigation menu, while others prefer a search box to find specific information quickly. Offering a search box gives visitors a number of options for how they prefer to navigate your website. Most website builder platforms/programs offer this sort of option, plus third-party widgets are available to incorporate a search function into your site.
  • Mobile-friendly: Google reports that more Google searches take place on mobile devices than on computers in 10 countries, including the US and Japan. It’s no longer acceptable to expect users to pinch the screen to zoom in or out to view all the features of your website on a mobile device. In fact, Google has begun prioritizing mobile-friendly, responsive sites in search results to encourage those who have not yet updated their sites to make the necessary changes. You can check your website’s compliance with Google’s mobile-friendly test. The best solution? Choose a responsive template that automatically adjusts to the visitor’s screen size.

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» Cultivating Win-Win Event Relationships

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.

On the big day, engaged couples simply want one thing: a memorable event. They are counting on the professionals they’ve painstakingly researched and hired to handle everything as planned and minimize any potential bumps in the road before they cause issues.

Vendors at a wedding must work togetherHowever, brides and grooms tend to select one or two vendors at a time, often not considering the teamwork advantage of businesses working well together. Regardless of where your company lands in the planning/buying process, it’s to everyone’s advantage to guide the clients toward equally-skilled and team-oriented professionals.

Serving a couple on their wedding day requires teamwork, cooperation, and coordination, regardless of who does the hiring. It’s natural to value one’s own contributions as important; however, any professional who does his or her job without regard for other vendors at the event will undoubtedly cause conflict. All wedding professionals need to act cooperatively to be truly effective.

Below are a few common day-of conflicts Pros may encounter:

  • A busboy walking a direct path between the kitchen and guest table, unaware of the photographer’s line of sight, ruins the photo opportunity the photographer was after.
  • A photographer taking formal shots – planned for only 20 minutes but actually taking 60 minutes – delays the start of the meal. The caterer is working on a timeline for preparation and service, so now the food is cold and the chef is angry.
  • The DJ needs adjacency to the dance floor and clear space for speakers, but he arrives to find that tables are placed between the music source and the dance floor. He’ll have to play music at a lower volume to avoid making those guests closest to the speakers unhappy.

These conflicts can easily be avoided through more awareness and communication. Communicating your needs to your fellow vendors and listening to theirs in return will give you a better understanding of how the event will flow. The flow of the event and the ceremonial moments need flexibility to maintain the maximum energy; every interruption in the action resets the energy. The minimum number of stops and starts will result in a fluid and upbeat event.

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» Achieve More Success Through Appreciation

Appreciation is key for building strong industry and personal relationships – and can have a lasting impact on your business’ success! Showing and sharing appreciation also makes you and the people around you happier and more positive.

This infographic shares top tips from our July Webinar hosted by Education Expert Andy Ebon, and reveals five easy ways to show appreciation to those around you, from clients, to employees, to other Pros and beyond. To learn more, watch the full webinar available for all premium members!

July_Webinar_Infographic_SimpleWaystoAchieveMoreSuccessthroughAppreciation-final

 

» Achieving Success through Appreciation, Reviews and Endorsements

Acheiving Success WebinarWebinar recap!

This month, as part of our monthly educational webinar series for premium members, WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon shared his insights into the value of showing appreciation to the people in your life and business – from employees, to clients, to other Pros.

Plus, great Reviews and Pro Endorsements are more likely to happen for people who not only do their job well, but are helpful and approachable, so sharing and showing appreciation can go a long way in building your reputation!

Here are nine simple ways you can show appreciation, inspired by a recent Inc. article:

  1. Write it by hand: An electronic thank you is fine, but if you take time to write the perfect message of appreciation, why not consider writing it by hand? A note shows you really took the time to say thank you and is always a fun surprise!
  2. Offer small gestures: A small gesture requires little additional effort for you, but removes a burden for a colleague or client, and makes their day a bit better. It also shows you know they are working hard. A small gesture can be as simple as bringing them a cup of coffee or offering to take an item of their to-do list, and can make a big impact.
  3. Acknowledge an absence: If you are going to be out of town or wrapped up in events, make sure you are up front with your clients and potential clients about any changes to your normal schedule, so they understand if you take a bit more time to get back to them. Also, try to set an expectation on when they may hear from you, or who they can contact with immediate needs.
  4. Give back: If another Pro takes the time to write you an Endorsement or recommend you to a client of theirs – say thank you and return the favor if you can. Write them an Endorsement as well, send them a note, give them a call, or keep them in mind for any future client needs. If a client takes the time to write you a Review, respond to the review and the client to show your gratitude for their time and acknowledge the personal impact it will make on your business by those who read it in the future.
  5. Offer public praise: It feels good to be told, “You did a great job!” and public praise is even more appreciated. You can offer praise to your co-workers, employees, or even clients and other Pros. Post on social media to say how incredible their wedding was! Or, give a shout out about how talented another wedding Pro that you worked with is at their job. Genuine compliments and praise pay off – from helping create new connections to simply making others around you happy!
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» How to be an Effective Entrepreneur: Tips for Growing Your Business

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.

Small businesses are fueled by an initial vision, enthusiasm, energy, and generous amounts of caffeine. But most businesses, no matter how well-planned, rarely follow a straight-line growth pattern. Businesses do not operate in a vacuum. They are affected by various external factors: New direct competition, indirect competition, changing policies and perspectives of referral sources, evolution of customer preferences, advances in technology and changes in marketing platforms.

Entrepreneur working in coffee shopFinding time to tweak your business and marketing goals requires blocking time, a planned agenda, and commitment to the exercise. An annual or twice-yearly refresh might involve business partners and/or key employees. If you are a sole owner, consider hiring a marketing/business coach/consultant to be both a facilitator and sounding board.

If hiring a facilitator or consultant isn’t in the budget, you can still take the time to evaluate your business goals to be a more effective entrepreneur on your own. Take the following steps to think about where your business is now and where you want it to go based on where you’ve been. These tips for growing your business should help you frame your thoughts!

Ask yourself:  What is your wedding customer profile today?

  1. What percentage of weddings in your area are local versus destination?
  2. Is there a profitability difference between local customers and destination wedding couples?
  3. Is there a distinct demographic profile for most clients?
    1. Is the profile random or does is result from target marketing?
    2. Do you want to focus your marketing to reinforce the existing profile, or do you want expand/contract the target audience?

Knowing your company’s strengths and tendencies can be fine-tuned into one or more specific target audiences suiting your company skills or profit motives.

Ask yourself: What is the state of your competition?

  1. Which businesses do you compete with on a regular basis?
    1. Is your business winning a reasonable proportion of the clients?
    2. If not, what do you see as your disadvantage/advantage over these competitors?
    3. In what elements of your marketing/sales process/customer service is your business superior or could use improvement?
  2. Are you often annoyed by the visibility of competitors on social media, local print coverage, trade associations, charitable activities, or awards competitions?
    1. What kind of marketing upgrade would accomplish comparable or superior visibility?
    2. Are there avenues your business excels in, but is not currently capitalizing on?

Don’t obsess about competition; just be aware of them, and how you measure up. Become friendly with businesses, like yours, in distant market areas, and discuss similar competitive challenges.

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» 7 Ways to Stay Creative and Inspired

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.

In the throes of the busy wedding season, it may seem like all you’re able to do is keep up with status quo; you prepare for one wedding, work the event, and then move on to the next. There’s often little time left to devote to creativity, which means you can start to feel like a weddings robot.

Idea! light bulbFew people can maintain creativity, but certain habits can rejuvenate you when you’ve fallen into a rut. Here are some solid ideas to keep you creative and inspired, even during the busiest of times:

Change your morning routine

If you are a creature of habit, change things up! Take a different route to your favorite coffee shop. Maybe pick a different copy shop. You’ll see and meet different people. Change your coffee order; pick a bagel instead of croissant. You know it’s time to do this, when your barista asks, “The usual?”

Pace yourself

Don’t just work til you drop from exhaustion; take breaks. Set a timer for 60-90 minutes, then take a breather. Work in sprints. Take 20 minute breaks to refresh. Get out of the building, take a walk, read fiction, call an old friend, turn on some high-energy moving and dance for a few minutes. In short, shake yourself up, so you’ll look forward to the next task at hand.

Carry a notebook and a pen

Smart ideas, blog topics, and other creative thoughts hit you at random times. Don’t get caught short without a way to record those ideas. I like the process of letting the ink flow, but you might prefer dictation on your smartphone. Cool! How you save the ideas is not the key – just make sure to save them for future action.

Change your soundtrack

Listen to different radio station or music channel. Dig through old CDs and rediscover some of your music. Unclick your favorite, predictable playlist and randomize from your entire collection. Pick up some nature tracks like rain or ocean waves, and let them be this afternoon’s background.

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» Taking Time to Re-Adjust Your Annual Goals

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.

With Memorial Day fast approaching, June weddings will be upon us, and the Fourth of July will quickly follow. It’s already almost mid-year!

Think back to New Year’s Day – that’s the time when you made business resolutions and built your goals for 2015. I strongly suggest you start to re-adjust your annual goals by midyear, if not quarterly, to better reflect your current status.

Taking Time to Re-Adjust Your Annual GoalsThe longer you’ve been in operation, the further back you can make comparisons. Circumstances change; expansion, relocation, adding employees, setbacks, natural disasters, and more could all affect your business’ performance thus far this year. That’s all true, but what one should be looking for is consistent profitability and growth, month after month, year after year.

Let’s start with keeping score

Perhaps the first question that needs asking is: Are you effectively tracking leads, appointments, sales, closing rates, reviews, and other activities? Are you applying the most complete and efficient systems to learn the outcomes? If your overall measure of success is profitability, you have to know what’s working and what’s not.

Whether the results are better, in decline, or about the same, the next question should be, “Why?” What changed in your given time period that caused the difference (or lack thereof) in results? Write down the major milestones or events that may have caused an increase or decrease in your metrics.

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» The Art of Acknowledgement

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.

Growing up, there were several occasions that my parents required that I send thank you notes – birthday parties, graduation parties, and so on. Today, it’s still good advice; it’s just more complicated. How we give and how we receive gratitude is a tricky, but it’s an important element of personal and company interaction. It says volumes to others about the soul of you and your company.

Below I share some of my best suggestions for both thanking others and accepting thanks in return!

The Art of AcknowledgementAccepting Praise

During the course of an event, most wedding professionals will respond to verbal appreciation with something like, “No problem,” “It’s no big deal,” or “Just doing my job.” I know what you mean by those responses, but as the customer, hearing responses like that can seem dismissive, somewhat clueless, and disconnected. It makes one walk away, shaking your head as to why the appreciation didn’t register.

Don’t underestimate the power of acknowledging that appreciation! Simple responses like, “You’re welcome,” or “It’s my pleasure” can go a long way towards connecting with that customer. Accepting a compliment with a warmer response shows that you are appreciative for their business.

Unexpected Appreciation

You can also put a smile on someone’s face before you work with them to set a warm tone for the upcoming event. I suggest day-of wedding professionals send handwritten notes to the venue representative and the wedding couple. A simple note lets the couple know that you’re looking forward to working with them and will set you apart from all other wedding professionals. Whether your business is present at the wedding or reception, just know this communication, unrelated to logistics, final payment or anything else, is a ray of sunshine.

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» Success by Association: Pro Networking Tips

Networking is an important part of your business’ success!

In our recent webinar, Success by Association: Network, Collaborate and Get Awarded, WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon shared his best Pro networking tips to grow your business. Find below some highlights from the webinar, including targeting the best places to network, what to do after making a new connection, and how to initiate working together with your connections.

Networking Tips for Pros

» Are You Suffering from Success? Thoughts on Expanding Your Business

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.

Each wedding business owner has their own definition of success; some plan and manage with great care, while others grow with reckless abandon and may be experience intense stress as a result.

It’s common for many kinds of wedding businesses to start as part-time, usually to pursue a hobby or passion. From there, it’s a quick jump from hobbyist to business owner. The excitement of building a business with passion, pints of adrenaline, and infusion of cash or credit will carry you for a couple of years. However, as a business starts to gain momentum, the sole owner or partners begin to take on new roles: Human Resource Manager, Accountant, Marketing Director, and sometimes Graphic Designer.

Are You Suffering from Success? Thoughts on Expanding Your BusinessThe greatest change in the wedding industry within recent years is the magnification of the importance of various business roles like blogging, search engine optimization and social media. These areas are specialized, and many wedding professionals don’t have the necessary skill sets but are thrown into these roles anyway. There comes a critical point where you, as a business owner, must start thinking about expanding your business to avoid burnout.

What are the symptoms of suffering with success? Here are a few indicators:

  • When people ask you how the business is going, your first thought is about how busy you are. Ask yourself: Is that a good answer? What do I really mean? Am I highly profitable or just overloaded?
  • You work a full seven days a week. Whether you run a part-time or full-time wedding business, you find yourself struggling to keep up each day. There are times when you might go multiple weeks without a single day off.
  • You are experiencing FOMO: Fear of Missing Out. Even though you know you need to pace yourself, you book every single opportunity that presents itself. You fear that if you don’t accept a booking that the influx of leads will dry up.
  • People stop inviting you to events because your excuse is that you’re always working. Sooner or later, the invitations cease; even from family members.
  • You begin to resent clients. Instead of being excited about the day, weekend, or wedding, you focus on the idiosyncrasies of the client, anticipating rough spots in the wedding even if they have not yet occurred.
  • Your significant other begins to quietly drop hints about spending more quality time with you. Without changes in your business commitments, the volume on these remarks gets louder and louder.
  • Maintaining your health has become a lower priority. Clothes don’t fit as they should, or you huff and puff just going up a flight a stairs.

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» Success by Association: Network, Collaborate & Get Awarded

Success by AssociationWebinar recap!

In the competitive wedding and events industry, networking and industry recognitions are two leading factors to building your reputation and boosting your professional success.

This week, as part of our monthly educational webinar series for premium members, WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon shared his insights into the value of networking, and how collaborations and joining associations can help your business grow.

Check out some of Andy’s tips below!

What are the best places to network?

  • National Association meetings (industry or skill-based) and local chapter meetings
  • Local industry networking groups
  • National conferences
  • Your local Chamber of Commerce or Visitors Bureau
  • Community events

When you make a new connection, how can you continue the conversation and build a professional relationship?

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» The Surging Necessity of Your Mobile Presence

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.

No matter what industry your business operates in, you must be aware of the new platforms and tools used by your audience. I live by the simple rule that when more than 5% of your audience is using a certain channel or medium to find your business, you should invest in that channel or medium. In the case of the wedding industry, you can no longer ignore the mobile trend; you must have a mobile presence to reach potential clients where they’re already spending their time.

The Surging Necessity of Your Mobile PresenceThe main age demographic for the wedding industry is 18-35 (your local area may vary). Just four years ago, 5-10% of that age group was using mobile devices to search. Today, the same age group uses mobile devices 65-75% of the time. No matter how they find your business, whether through an online wedding directory, online search engine, or countless other choices, a mobile website is mandatory.

When a visitor attempts to access your website from a mobile device, the mobile browser reads the code on your website and determines whether it should show the prospect a full desktop version or a mobile-friendly version of your site.

If you take a look at Google Analytics for your website, you can view what percentage of your audience is visiting your website on desktop or mobile. Drilling deeper, you will be amazed at how many different formats access your website. It is not uncommon to see 25-40 different computer screen sizes and 50-100 mobile resolutions.

There are a number of ways to make your website more mobile friendly, so below I’ll explain the two main strategies for mobilizing your website.

Responsive Design

A website built using a responsive design or format automatically changes the layout and/or content of your website based on the size of the user’s screen. For example, your website on a desktop will display your full site navigation in a horizontal bar, but your website on a mobile device will stack those navigation elements or change to offer drop down menus to accommodate the slimmer screen size. Rather than designing two separate versions of your website, your business can create one website with one experience, no matter the screen size.

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