» 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!

» 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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» Ready, Set, Startup: Considerations When Starting Your Wedding Business

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.

Let me start with a disclaimer: I will not be telling you how to create, plan, or market your business since that process is different for everyone, depending on what kind of business you want to start and your goals. Instead, I’ll point you in the right direction of finding those answers and getting everything settled.

No matter the idea, I am here to tell you that it can be done – I promise!

Ready, Set, Startup: Considerations When Starting Your Wedding BusinessWhat’s In a Name?

At this point, you should already have a good understanding of what you want to do and who your target audience is. With that in mind, think about what kind of name best suits your company. While it may seem natural to use your name, consider whether you’ll want to grow or sell your business one day. If so, stay away from using your name as it may equate with a personal brand, rather than something that can be transferred to other team members or potential buyers.

Your business name also defines what you do. If you’re interested in planning all types of events, don’t pigeonhole yourself by including the word ‘weddings’ in your name because it may deter corporate or social prospects. I also advise to stay away from words like “perfect,” “greatest,” and the like – you don’t want to have that one customer tell you that their day was not perfect.

Once you have a list of potential names, test them out with friends and family to see which ones stick. Run searches on Google, social media, and your state’s business registration page to ensure that it isn’t already in use. While you’re at it, check in on the requirements that you’ll need when registering your own business.

The More, The Merrier

Once you have a good idea of your name, brand, and services, it’s time to bring in your business development team. If you don’t have an accountant already, find one that works specifically with small businesses so he or she will have a good idea of how to structure your business. This will most likely be about the time that you’re ready to register your company with the state, in which case, congratulations! You’re a business owner! But you’re not done yet… Continue reading

» Five Business Resolutions That You Can Keep

It’s two months in to 2016. Have you kept up with your business resolutions?

If it is time to re-evaluate your resolutions, or if you have not even set any for your business this year, it’s not too late! Check out these top five business resolutions that you can keep from WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg to get you started so this year can be your most successful yet.

For more great tips, watch the full webinar here!

Business Resolutions You Can Keep

» Why the Easy Road to Sales is Hard on Your Business (and the Industry)

This post is by Jennifer Reitmeyer. Jennifer has worked in the wedding industry since 1997. In addition to owning MyDeejay, an award-winning wedding entertainment firm serving the Washington, D.C. market, she also maintains a wedding business blog, WeddingIQ, and a blogging and social media service for wedding businesses, Firebrand Messaging. Her newest venture, Authentic Boss, is an online learning resource for business owners seeking to work and live more authentically. Jennifer is available for small business coaching, speaking, and writing opportunities. Read more at jenniferreitmeyer.com.

Sales tactics to avoid in the wedding industryWe’ve all been there: brand new in our businesses, eager to book as many clients as possible, and willing to do (almost) anything to make it happen. Closing sales feels good – not only does it put money in our pocket, but it validates us and reminds us that we offer a valuable service that people want to buy.

Unfortunately, many wedding pros suck all the value out of their service by throwing professionalism to the wind when it comes to making sales. This is a common practice among new business owners who haven’t yet developed their confidence and the solid reputation to back it up. However, I’ve also seen it happen among seasoned veterans who should know better. Instead of earning clients through quality work and professional service, they’re using gimmicks and tricks.

It’s understandable why wedding pros might do this, especially when they’re new. After all, it takes guts to ask for a sale, and in many cases, getting a client to sign means having some potentially uncomfortable conversations about your pricing and your policies. It means having to prove your worth. It’s tempting to avoid this altogether by taking the easy road. This is harmful not only to their own business, but to the wedding industry as a whole.

See, client perceptions matter. Especially in today’s Internet and social media era, where people are constantly sharing their opinions about everything from pop culture to politics to, yes, wedding planning. When a wedding business – or, as the case may be, hundreds or thousands of wedding businesses around the world – foregoes legitimate business protocols in an effort to make selling easier, it drags the rest of us down. Either prospective clients view the wedding industry as shady and unprofessional, or they expect every wedding vendor to break their own boundaries and do anything to earn a sale. Both of these possibilities create a ripple effect that makes doing business harder for us all.

Here are five common “easy road” tactics to avoid, for the long-term betterment of both your own business and the wedding industry:

Not requiring a contract. Using a contract is Business 101, and yet it’s shocking how many wedding vendors are willing to skip them altogether. In some cases, it’s because they just don’t have one (perhaps they can’t afford to have one drafted by an attorney, or they just haven’t yet felt the need to solidify their bookings in this way). In others, it’s because they’ve decided that using a contract is too “sales-y” and they feel it detracts from the friendly rapport they’re building with their clients. What should be obvious, though, is that a contract protects both parties, and a client should no more be willing to do business without one than you, as, the vendor, should. And believe me, when something eventually goes wrong at an event – which it will – you’ll be glad to have had your responsibilities to your client, and vice versa, spelled out in black-and-white.

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» Growing Pains for Small Business Owners

This post is by Jennifer Reitmeyer. Jennifer has worked in the wedding industry since 1997. In addition to owning MyDeejay, an award-winning wedding entertainment firm serving the Washington, D.C. market, she also maintains a wedding business blog, WeddingIQ, and a blogging and social media service for wedding businesses, Firebrand Messaging. Jennifer is available for small business coaching, speaking, and writing opportunities. Read more at jenniferreitmeyer.com.

Entrepreneurs are a unique bunch. For those of us with “business in our blood,” the exhilaration of forming and operating our own businesses is addictive. Unfortunately, as exciting as it may be to become your own boss, the ugly truth is that, per Bloomberg, 80% of new businesses fail within the first 18 months. What a terrible statistic, right?

Small business growing pains for wedding professionalsWedding professionals aren’t exempt from the odds, but we also have some special qualities that can help us beat them. For one thing, most of the wedding business owners I know are super invested in what they do. Unlike, say, someone who distributes widgets (are those a thing?), people who choose to work in the wedding industry seem especially passionate about their service or product. They also, for the most part, seem to truly care about their clients. We all know how important our couples’ wedding day is to them, and we want to make it perfect.

So, how can we leverage that passion, that investment, and succeed as business owners? I’d say the magic formula lies partly on the “outside” – your branding and marketing, your selling techniques, and how you perform your services on the day of the wedding – but, perhaps even more, on the “inside.” Success comes from your head and your heart. It’s balancing being ambitious with being realistic. It’s anticipating the challenges ahead, and having a game plan to overcome them. It’s mustering the discipline to keep going when the business isn’t fun anymore. It’s finding ways to make it fun again.

It’s treating the growing pains.

We all deal with them – no one is immune. Paying attention to them, learning the lesson that comes with them, and adapting your business for the better are what will keep you going long past that 18-month lifespan of most new businesses.

Here are some typical types of growing pains for small business owners, and the treatment:

What Hurts: The thrill is gone. You were so driven when you started, and you were so energized by the whirlwind of the startup: naming your business, ordering marketing materials,  and sharing your excitement with those around you. And now, your business has been around a while, and it feels like all you do is sift through emails, answer the same old client questions, and pay bills. It no longer interests you.

The Rx: There are a few things you can do. You can figure out ways to work with more of the people you like, and weed out people you don’t. Working with “your people” automatically makes anything you do more rewarding. You can look for opportunities to expand or refine your services to renew some of the sense of challenge and excitement. You can seek new sources of inspiration: a great book or blog, a mastermind group, a session with a business coach. You can focus on other areas of your life – sure, work takes up a lot of time, especially for business owners, but it’s not (or shouldn’t be) all you do. Maybe there’s a new hobby you can pursue, or an old one you can pick up again. Maybe there’s a great cause that could use some volunteer help. Diversifying your interests can go a long way toward addressing entrepreneurial ennui.

What Hurts: Your brand feels stale. You perceive that your competitors’ marketing is sharper, cooler, prettier or more effective than yours. Those beautiful business cards you were so excited to hand out? Now you’d rather leave them in the bottom of your bag. You don’t feel motivated to try to drive more traffic to your website, because frankly, you don’t really want any more eyes on it than necessary. Even your business name doesn’t sound right any more, and you find yourself wanting to skip over it when you’re networking with new people.

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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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» 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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