» Wedding MBA 2017: Special Savings for WeddingWire Members

Don’t miss three exciting days of education for wedding professionals at Wedding MBA this October 2-4th in Las Vegas!

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Did you know you can save extra on your ticket just by being a WeddingWire member? Register on the Wedding MBA website with the code WW3624 to save an extra $20 on the current price (your discount will be applied at checkout).

What will you experience at Wedding MBA?

  • Engaging education to promote your business success. Attend the event for more than 150 seminars geared toward business, technology and trends in the wedding industry. This year, there are category-specific seminars on the first day to supplement the industry relevant main presentations to attend.
  • Presentations from industry leaders and experts. Attend inspirational and informative presentations from top industry influencers including WeddingWire CEO Timothy Chi, CMO Sonny Ganguly, Education Experts Alan Berg, Kathryn Hamm, Meghan Ely, and many more. View the full list of WeddingMBA speakers and sessions here.
  • Networking and celebrating with industry peers. Make new friends while attending the daily sessions, the annual much-anticipated WeddingWire Party, the WeddingWire Happy Hour and more. Plus, meet with members of the WeddingWire team to discuss your account and see what fun surprises we have in store at our Lounge!

Check out the highlights from last year’s event for an inside look at the conference, and get your ticket before the next price increase. See you in Vegas this fall!

wedding mba weddingwire 2016 wedding mba weddingwire 2016 wedding mba weddingwire 2016 wedding mba weddingwire 2016

» 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!

» Focus on Your Earnings, Not Savings

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP. Alan has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

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

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

Expenses vs. Investments

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

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

Opportunity Cost

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

Go Big, or Go Home

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

WeddingWire Education Expert

Meghan Ely

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

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

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

Don’t stop.

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

But don’t.

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

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

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

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

» Mapping Out Your 2017 Business Goals

Pro to Pro Insights

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

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

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

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

Perform a full 2016 review

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

Write out your goals

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

Break it down, if necessary

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

Hold yourself accountable

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

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

» Join Us at the Planners Suite Conference

planners-suite-conferenceStaying on top of the latest education in the industry is a key to your business’ success. Attending conferences and events as well as joining webinars is a great way to stay up-to-date on the latest trends, stats and topics that matter to wedding businesses.

Washington, DC and surrounding areas pros are invited to The Planners Suite conference this coming January 30-31, 2017 at The Bellevue Conference and Event Center in Chantilly, VA. Enjoy two days of education from a variety of industry speakers, including WeddingWire’s own Director of Market Insights Andy Whittaker.

Conference attendees will learn:

  • How to drive sales for the year
  • How to effectively market your company to your target clientele
  • How to expand your business through the hiring a team
  • How to become a better business owner

WeddingWire members can save $20 on tickets by entering promo code WEDDINGWIRE on the registration page. We hope to see you in January!

» Build a Strong Foundation Before You Expand

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP. Alan has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

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

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

It’s a universal challenge

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

Are you ready to make the commitment?

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

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

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

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» The Key to Setting Realistic Goals

Pro to Pro Insights

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

Most of us are familiar with setting goals, whether personal or professional. It could be to cut down on your caffeine habit or it could be to boost your revenue to reach a certain benchmark. Whatever they may be, goals give us direction in life and provide us with a definition of success. Either you’ve met a goal or you haven’t – right?

Now, of all of the goals you have ever set, how many would you say you’ve reached? Don’t be ashamed – we’re all guilty of creating goals and letting them fall by the wayside for a variety of reasons. (Isn’t that the point of New Year’s resolutions?)

Fortunately, there are a few measures we can take to ensure that our goals become a priority rather than an afterthought. Even if you don’t achieve them by your ideal date, any progress is welcome – as long as you are getting closer to the finish line.

Take note

There’s no shame if your best thinking is done in the shower or in bed right before falling asleep – just make sure you write it down! One of the biggest reasons people’s goals go unmet is simply because they haven’t jotted it down in a place they see every day. The process of writing something down ingrains it in your mind and seeing a reminder every day will keep it on the forefront of your mind.

Don’t hide them

Even though your goals may just be for yourself, it always helps to have a support system at your side. Share your goals with friends, family and colleagues so that they’ll keep an eye out if you need an extra boost. Get with your team at the office to discuss everyone’s goals – that way, you can develop an interlaced network of support and, together, you can all push each other to achieve short- and long-term goals for the company.

A reward never hurts

Most people seek validation to a certain extent and operate well under an incentive-based system, so create a reward structure for you and your team. If, for example, you have a personal goal to speak at a local conference, treat yourself to a spa day once you’ve booked it! This works for employees as well – there’s nothing quite as motivating as a paid day off or an all-expenses-paid trip to an industry event.

Now, it’s time to grab a notepad and write down anything that comes to mind! Oftentimes, we hold ourselves back from aiming high simply because we don’t think that we could ever achieve something. Unfortunately, lack of trying is the only surefire way to never reach a goal. Dream big and take those reach goals and break them down into manageable (and actionable) steps – that way, you’ll be able to track your progress and continue to push yourself to the next objective!

» To Discount or Not to Discount? That is the Question

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.

A very contentious topic among wedding pros is discounting. Both sides of the debate dig in, deeply, when this question is posed on social media or in forums. To completely understand this subject, the discussion needs to first start with defining discounting versus negotiating. I’ve discussed this at-length in my webinar on pricing so if you haven’t seen that one, you may want to watch that as well.

	To Discount or Not to Discount? That is the QuestionDiscounting versus negotiating

For me, discounting is fine when it has a structure and rules. Everyone who buys the same products or services for equivalent dates will pay the same price; the rules are applied equally to everyone. For instance, if you have three packages and your higher packages, which contain more services, also have the highest discounts, that’s great. If everyone who buys that packages pays the same price, then the rules are being applied equally.

On the other hand, negotiating means that two couples who buy the same products or services may pay different prices. Each customer’s ability to negotiate or not will determine their final price. The challenge with negotiating in today’s digitally connected world is that people can, and will, talk about their discount. If you can’t easily explain to one customer why they paid more than another customer for the same products and services – for instance, an in-season date versus an off-season date – then you’re negotiating, not discounting.

Discounting can be part of a pricing strategy. Negotiating can also be part of a pricing strategy, it’s just less structured. There are times when I’ll negotiate to get the sale, but it’s the exception, not the rule. I recommend to my consulting clients to offer added value over a discount in price, as it helps to keep integrity in their basic pricing structure. If you’re ever thrown in an extra product or service to get the sale, you’ve negotiated. Some companies do it on every sale. If you give the same or similar added value services every time, you’re really discounting, not negotiating. If the proportionate value of the added products or services changes with every customer, you’re negotiating.

Which is right for you?

There’s no one answer that’s right for every business. Personally, I prefer discounting over negotiating, as it’s easier to explain to your employees and your customers. I understand that it may not work for all businesses. In my business, as a speaker, sales trainer and consultant, there is no standard price list. Each event and client involves a different set of circumstances (travel, preparation, residual business, etc.). However, when it comes to my physical products (books, CDs, etc.), discounts make sense. For example, when I have a booth at a trade show or event, I’ll have my books and CDs, and usually offer an event discount. Many times I’ll be asked for an even lower price, and I’ll thank them and say that the listed prices are already discounted. Then I’ll ask if they want to pay with cash or credit. Asking for a discount is a buying signal, so always ask them for the sale when they you ask for a discount.

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» 2016 Wedding Business Goals: How Are You Doing?

In our 2015 Annual Vendor Survey, six thousand of our WeddingWire Pros gave us some insight into their biggest pain points and business growth priorities in 2016. Now that the busy season is coming to a close, how are you doing in reaching those goals?

Data from our survey suggests that venues (including rehearsal dinner venues) and catering professionals tend to work in larger corporations with larger employee counts and annual revenues – so we’ve broken out the data for this group separately from the rest of the service categories available for couples to account for the difference in available budgets.

Check out our interactive graph below to see how you measure up against your peers, and read on for more context on each goal.

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» How to Get Big Results with a Small Team

Pro to Pro Insights

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

Be Inspired started with just two employees, and over the years we’ve grown into a team of 12 and the majority of my employees have been with me for many years. Through all the growth, I’ve learned that having a quality team is more important than having a large team.

How to Get Big Results with a Small TeamIf you follow my tips you can make your smaller team more successful than ever.

  1. Don’t hire based on resume

With any team, especially smaller ones, you need to be extra picky when hiring new employees. If your team is small, you need hard workers who will thrive in your environment. Their resume may read perfect experience for the position, but if their personality does not fit with the rest of your team, it’s not going to work out. One person who doesn’t fit into the work environment can throw the whole thing off and negatively affect your business. Understand your business’ culture and be specific.

  1. R-E-S-P-E-C-T

With a smaller team, you are most likely sharing a space with the same people 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. To prevent burnout and frustration with each other, create a company culture based upon respect. There is a time and place to for personal conversations and the more respect within the company, the easier it will be for your employees to understand boundaries.

  1. Have Company Outings

At Be Inspired PR, we’re all about having fun outings together as a squad. We’ve gone on a whale watching trip, done sweat-dripping work out classes, and most recently had a pool party! It’s a great way to just let loose out of the office and have some fun. But company get-togethers can be in office too! Whether it’s walking to a local favorite restaurant or ordering in, group lunches are the perfect way to strengthen the feeling of being a team.

  1. Keep it simple

When you have a small team it’s crucial that everyone is clear about their tasks and responsibilities. That way nobody steps on anybody’s toes and there is a clear sense of who is leading what. Of course, there are always opportunities for collaboration, but for everyday tasks it’s more successful to keep things streamlined.

A small team can be just as successful as a big one when managed in the right way. Maintain the respect between your employees, but also treat them well. With a small team, it may seem easier to manage, but it’s crucial that everyone pulls their own weight.

» The Key to Staying Motivated as a Wedding Professional

Pro to Pro Insights

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

Working in the wedding industry can be a fun and exciting experience, especially if you are passionate about the work. However, as great as it can be to put together a couple’s dream celebration, that’s not to say the job doesn’t come with its stresses.

Most people outside of the industry assume that our professions involve setting up a lot of pretty details and taking gorgeous shots of a couple – and it does! But it also involves client meetings, venue walkthroughs, contract negotiations and tons of paperwork that can get tedious pretty quickly.

The Key to Staying Motivated as a Wedding ProfessionalAs weary as it may be to keep up with the behind-the-scenes side of things, it’s essential to stay motivated throughout the wedding season to ensure that you’re on your game to provide clients with their dream wedding. Easier said than done, right? Let’s look at a few ways to stay motivated when everything seems to be piling up around you.

Just get it done

Ah, the old-fashioned approach. There is really nothing more motivating than checking something off of your to-do list. Start by knocking out a few smaller to-dos to get yourself going in the right direction. The feeling of accomplishment will push you to tackle some of the bigger tasks and you’ll be well on your way to a completed checklist!

Take a break

Sometimes, sitting at your desk and staring at your computer or piles of paperwork is the least motivating thing you can do. If you find yourself wasting time in the office because the inspiration just isn’t there, it’s time to unplug and take a break. It could mean walking around the block, reading a chapter of your current book or heading over to catch the afternoon yoga class – find something that helps your mind unwind and use it to your advantage. Once you get back with a clear head, the work will seem much less daunting than it did just an hour before.

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