» 5 Ways to Market Your Business in the Busy Season

Now that summer is upon us, wedding professionals across the country face an extremely busy time of year: wedding season! While we know that the most popular months to get married are June, September, and October, it’s critical to remember those couples who are only just getting started planning a winter wedding. Here are a marketing strategies your business can use to keep new clients coming in despite all the rushing around you’ll be doing in the busy season.

1. Keep gathering reviews

With all your weddings and events happening in the spring, summer, and early fall, it’s important to gather as many client reviews as possible. Each review is another chance for your clients to spread the word about your business, and each review is valuable for potential clients who are researching your business and other professionals in their area. Plus, recency is still a big factor when couples are evaluating your wedding business, so it’s essential to continue collecting them even if your calendar for the next few months is full!

2. Tailor your content

Blogging is a great marketing tool no matter the time of the year! Continue creating great content about your business with an off-season twist – think about where your potential clients are in the planning process and try to appeal to them with the right content for that stage. Are there things couples should know about your business when they first start planning? Is there a particular time period couples should focus on your business category versus others in the planning process? Gain more readers by targeting them with the right message at the right time.

3. Offer off-season deals

Take advantage of those couples who are engaged but not getting married during the busier months by offering discounts or deals for the slower times on your calendar. Remember there are still a significant number of engaged couples who choose not to get married in the warmer months, and they’re still doing their wedding planning while others are taking their trips down the aisle. Think about popular off-season dates like Christmas, New Year’s or Valentine’s Day and provide special offers, discounts or free add-ons now that help make your business stand out as the perfect choice for their winter wedding needs.

4. Boost your social

One of the best ways to stay top-of-mind even when your workload is full is to continue being active on your social networks. Use social media to offer special discounts, collect reviews and testimonials, share your own content, and run contests or promotions. Your posts will appear within your followers’ social streams, and if you’re creating and posting engaging content, they’ll be more inclined to share your posts with their own networks. Plus, with all the weddings on your calendar, you’ll likely have a ton of real wedding photos and details to post! When their wedding date moves closer, you’ll be the business they remember.

5. Focus on other events

If your business works on more than just weddings – corporate events, sweet sixteen parties, baby showers – ramp up your marketing efforts for those events when the wedding season slows down. By decreasing your marketing budget for promoting weddings and compensating by increasing your budget for promoting your events services, you’ll be able to focus on events that tend to happen all year round. Balancing your efforts in this way will be easier on your budget and help you boost your conversions in your secondary lines of business.

Editor’s note: This article was originally published in April 2015 and has been updated for freshness and accuracy.

» Partnership Marketing: Building Your Business from Your Wedding Buddies

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. To learn how OFD Consulting can assist you, as well as more about our new wedding PR kits, please visit us today.

Whether you’re a seasoned business in your area or are new to the scene, marketing is something that should be in the forefront of your business operations. The tricky part is that a business’ marketing approaches are constantly changing and evolving; from PR and social media to more traditional advertising methods, the options are endless.

When considering your own methods, don’t discount your relationships with the businesses around you. Leveraging relationships with your creative partners is a great way to introduce your business into their network. Below we’ve got some tips on creating and maintaining your vendor-to-vendor relationships.

Partnership Marketing: Building Your Business from Your Wedding BuddiesEstablishing a Relationship

It may take some effort to find the right people to work with. If no one comes to mind when thinking of whom you’d want to work with, then it’s time to consider networking. Attend events at your local associations, meet people, exchange cards, and most importantly, follow up.

Make sure that you are the easiest person to work with, whether it’s at an event or setting up a meeting with them (no Saturday appointments in June!). Market yourself as part of their team and be an all-around resource of information to solidify your place as an essential part of the process.

Maintaining a Relationship

Don’t let all of your efforts be for nothing – set up a system to maintain your relationships. Make sure you are staying in touch with them regularly to keep yourself on their minds (think birthday cards and holiday cards). Include them in your real wedding submissions. If you worked with a vendor and the wedding gets published, be sure to give them a shout out in any promotions.

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» Should You Specialize in the LGBTQ Niche?

WeddingWire Contributor

Bernadette Smith

Bernadette Smith is the founder and president of 14 Stories and the Gay Wedding Institute (GWI), and award-winning author of three books, including The Business of Gay Weddings: A Guide for Wedding Professionals. Through the GWI, Bernadette has trained thousands of wedding and hospitality professionals on sales and marketing best practices to same-sex couples. Bernadette’s expertise has been sought after by the Today Show, National Public Radio, the BBC, the New York Times, CNN, among many others.

Now that there is marriage equality across all 50 states, one of the questions I’ve been getting is: Should I open a business specializing in LGBTQ weddings?

Should You Specialize in the LGBTQ Niche?12 years ago, when marriage equality came to Massachusetts, the first state in the country, I opened a wedding planning business (14 Stories) doing just that, with an LGBTQ specialty. I opened the business to be an advocate for my clients and help them navigate a very traditional wedding industry where they might feel trapped in traditional roles, or worse – mistreated or rejected.

At that time, there were no other businesses in my market in Massachusetts with that specialty, so it was very easy for me to build a client base. Additionally, Massachusetts quickly became a destination for couples from other states and countries who could not legally marry in their home state. My wedding planning clientele was not just local couples, but also couples who sought Massachusetts (and later the rest of New England and New York) as their wedding destination. In that sense, it was almost easy money. I’m really proud of the work we’ve done with couples from almost every state and around the world.

Now that every state has marriage equality, specializing in same-sex weddings would be a risk for any business. Think about it: same-sex couples have a wide variety of purchasing criteria just like everybody else. They make their purchasing decisions based on creativity, personality fit, budget, style and a whole number of other factors that have nothing to do with whether or not you specialize in same-sex weddings.

Data tells us that the LGBTQ community is 5-7% of society. In order to make a successful living with an LGBTQ specialty, you have to attract the community, find ones who are engaged, have a wedding date which you have open, have the budget for your services, love your personality, respect your talent and a whole lot more. Having a niche is great, but with this specialty, you would be extremely niche-driven to the point where there just will not be enough demand to create a sustainable business. And at the end of the day, we have to make money. Continue reading

» To Snap or Not to Snap: Snapchat Marketing Explained

To Snap or Not to Snap: Snapchat Marketing ExplainedThe numbers are in: Snapchat, the image-sharing mobile app, is officially a success. Nearly one in five Americans will use Snapchat this year, and the app’s user base is exceeding Twitter and Pinterest in the U.S. for the first time. Yet despite its recent acclaim as most popular app among teens and its tremendous potential as a marketing tool, Snapchat’s marketing capabilities remain a mystery to many small business owners. The app already has various features, such as geofilters and Stories, that could undoubtedly be useful for advertising.

If you’ve never used Snapchat before, here’s a quick guide to the fast-growing mobile app:

  • Snapchat is a mobile app that allows users to share photos and videos that are only available for a short period of time. The user sending the snap selects the amount of time it will be available for viewing. After the photo or video’s time limit is up, it’s no longer visible to the recipient!
  • Users can add text, emojis, and filters to their snaps. Recipients can reply with text or with a snapped photo or video of their own. Snapchat filters range from photo-enhancing color filters to silly animated filters built for selfies to geo-filters that only appear when users are in a certain area.
  • Recipients can save a photo snap through a screenshot – and the app lets the sender know when a recipient takes a screenshot. However, as the sender, you can save the photo or video to your smartphone even before sending it along.
  • The latest Snapchat feature, Memories, offers a way to save and share old snaps in a private archive within the app. Users can set their Memories as private, or share them with others. Memories can also be combined with new snaps to create a longer narrative.
  • There are two ways to snap – you can send them directly to other users, or add to your Story. A Snapchat Story is a series of snaps in chronological order, and they’re available for viewing more than once. Although they don’t immediately disappear, Stories are only available for 24 hours.
  • Snapchat users can add friends by their username, by phone number, Snapcode (a unique scannable code), or by searching for nearby users. Similar to Facebook, both users have to approve when someone wants to follow and send snaps to the other. Users who don’t accept when another user follows them simply don’t receive the snaps.

Though it may seem silly and sophomoric, Snapchat is reported to have overtaken Facebook as the most-used social network among 12-24 year olds. In fact, WedInsights data suggests that among individuals between the ages of 25-34, Snapchat is among one of the most-used as well (albeit behind Pinterest and Instagram). Your target audience is on Snapchat, and they’re using it daily.

Some businesses are becoming early-adopters of Snapchat and attempting to use it for marketing purposes. Snapchat marketing is a bit less traditional from other social networks, particularly because posts disappear and there’s no way to send or post links. However, in January of 2015 Snapchat released Discover, a version of Snapchat Stories for editorial and brand teams. While Discover is reserved for massive brands and news outlets, the added flexibility and advertising implications indicate more to come for businesses on Snapchat in the future.

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» How to Find (and Reach!) Your Target Audience

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.

Looking to book more clients? Then it’s essential to start at the beginning with fine tuning your target audience to determine the very best client for your wedding business. While it may seem like quite the undertaking, a bit of strategic thinking can save you from exhausting your energy and resources before seeing results.

How to Find (and Reach!) Your Target AudienceIt’s safe to say that the best plan of attack is just that – a plan! First and foremost, you’ll need to define your target audience. What age range do they fall in? What social media networks are they hooked on? Do your homework and research your target demographic so you get to know their lifestyles and interests. Do they frequent coffee shops and juice bars? Are they taking Pilates or barre classes at the gym or a private studio? Whatever it is, see if there’s a way for you to join them in their element and connect with them. While an email or Facebook message may seem nice, there’s nothing quite as genuine as connecting with a prospective client because your yoga mats are next to each other or you were waiting in line together.

Another great way to reach your target audience is to network among other local wedding professionals. Talk to some of your favorite venues in the area and start to nurture your relationship with them. Take them out for coffee or send them a small gift – anything to let them know who you are and that you appreciate them. Oftentimes, venues have a list of preferred vendors to share with their clients and there’s nothing better than having your name on there!

More than likely, you’ll have an idea of which of your industry peers serve your target clientele. If you’re not already friends with them, it’s time to get networking! Referrals are extremely valuable, as couples are more willing to trust a vendor that they’ve already hired so it’s certainly worth it to get in with the people who share your ideals. Find a networking group that best suits you—keeping in mind you can attend both event industry networking as well as general business networking—and get to building relationships. Remember – it’s not a race to hand out as many business cards as you can. Look for the professionals with values that align with your own and start chatting. Follow up with them afterwards to continue the conversation – it could develop into a mutually beneficial relationship of referrals.

While there are two distinct ways of reaching your target audience—through them directly and through other event professionals—it’s prudent to find a good mix of the two methods in order to maximize your outreach to its full potential. Plus, you’ll feel covered on all sides so you won’t be pressured when you can’t attend a networking event or you missed a day of Pilates. It’s all about balance!

» Top 4 Email Dos and Don’ts

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.

In many situations, communication between businesses and clients occurs almost exclusively over email. While emailing is a huge time saver, it’s important to realize that they are often the first and only impression that a client or business has of you!

Take your emails seriously and follow these dos and don’ts to ensure that your emails are representing you well.

Top 4 Email Dos and Don’tsReply…and reply quickly! Do not take too long to reply to an email. An overdue email response can not only be a lost opportunity, but it can also send a negative message about you and your business. Take the time to reply to everyone who has taken the time to reach out to you, no matter how insignificant.

Think about how you sound. Although emails often seem like a very informal form of communication, you should always use correct punctuation, spelling, and format. Take the time to proofread your emails so you come off as intelligent and professional. That being said, you can (and should!) still attempt to convey your personality and excitement in your emails. This can often be hard in writing, but don’t be afraid to use exclamations to change the tone of what you are saying and make the recipient feel more comfortable.

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» Don’t Miss the New 2015 WeddingWire Education Guide!

WeddingWire Education GuideWeddingWire believes in the power of education to keep your business growing and ahead of the competition. We’re excited to announce the new WeddingWire Education Guide is here to help your business grow into 2016 and beyond!

This free guide just for wedding professionals pulls all the best educational content and downloads into one simple place for you to view any time. From marketing strategies to sales tips, client communication techniques and more – the WeddingWire Education Guide has you covered with great tips to take your business to new heights!

Check it out today, and don’t forget to bookmark it to review later and share it with your colleagues. 

View the Guide!

WeddingWire Education Guide Pages

» How Advertising and Marketing Work Together

Pro to Pro Insights

Brian Lawrence, Sell the BrideThis post was written by Brian Lawrence, one of the industry’s foremost authorities on marketing in the wedding industry. Brian has consulted with many wedding professionals and wholesale suppliers at www.brianlawrence.com. Brian also owns Local Traffic Builder, a nationally-known web design, marketing and social media firm serving the wedding and event industry. He is the author of “The Wedding Expert’s Guide to Sales and Marketing” and “The Invitation Business Report” and has helped thousands of industry professionals with his marketing insights through personal consultation, books, seminars, blogs and articles, and speaking engagements at leading industry conferences.

How Advertising and Marketing Work TogetherWhile many wedding professionals think that marketing and advertising are one and the same, there are important distinctions between the two. Advertising is a strategy for getting your business in front of as many potential clients as possible, while marketing is a strategy for making sure your business stands out from the competition. Both are necessary to reach and book wedding clients.

For your advertisement on WeddingWire or other online listings, your business should focus on:

  • Clearly communicating your products/services
  • Images and/or videos of your work
  • Consistent and recent client reviews
  • Pricing and/or any deals or discounts you offer

But for your marketing strategy, consider the following as ways to distinguish your business from the other listings the couple passed before you:

  • A well-written About section that describes who you are and why you’re a good choice
  • A website that provides more detail about your business and why you’re unique
  • Text on your website or blog that speaks their language to connect with potential clients
  • Strong calls-to-action that guide potential clients through the inquiry process

Both advertising and marketing are about pulling clients towards you, not pushing them to book you. The aforementioned tactics will help you drive potential clients to take action – whether the action is as small as clicking your ad or as big as signing a contract. When a bride sees a photo that she can imagine herself in, or a couple sees a review from an authentic client, they’re compelled to take action.

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» 3 Ways to Maximize Your Email Campaigns

Conducting email marketingWhen planning a wedding, engaged couples are inundated with emails from both prospective and booked vendors. How do you make your emails stand out from the rest? The answer, though complex, is relevancy. The more relevant your email is to every person on your email list, the more likely your recipients are to open and click through to where you want them to go.

To make your emails more relevant to your prospects and clients, think about your emails as part of a strategic campaign. Below are three ways you can go back to basics to make the most of your email campaigns!

Simplify your email design

There are a lot of considerations for a great email campaign, but it all starts with the right design. Keep your designs clean and simple so that they’re easy to read. Don’t add too much content, which can make emails difficult for recipients to digest quickly. Be cautious when adding imagery so as to not overwhelm your readers, and use clear calls-to-action. If this sounds complicated to you, skip the design! Although research suggests that users prefer more images in emails, text-only emails can still be just as effective as designed emails since they often seem more personal. Try A/B testing the same email in a designed template and a text-only template to see what your audience prefers.

Focus on driving one action

The more clutter there is in your email, the harder it is for your recipients to know what action you want them to take. Each email you send should have a clear message that is simple and compelling, with a single call-to-action. If you have multiple actions you want recipients to take, think about segmenting your list or sending a series of emails to address each action. For example, segment your list by wedding date so that clients with weddings in the next few months are encouraged to take an action, and clients with wedding dates further away are encourage to take a different action. Or, if the actions you’re driving are sequential, set up a series of emails that encourages recipients to take each step at a time.

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» Holiday Marketing Strategies to Boost Your Bookings

Happy Fourth of July!If there’s one thing people love, it’s a good holiday! The United States has a number of holidays throughout the year that mean time off and fun, themed celebrations. While they’re an excellent time for consumers to kick back and relax, holidays are also an excellent time for wedding professionals to make the most of all the excitement that surrounds them.

The Fourth of July holiday has got us thinking about capitalizing on holiday buzz – take advantage of all the goodwill of an upcoming holiday by using one of these holiday marketing strategies!

Create holiday-themed images to use on your social networks

One of the easiest ways to promote your wedding business during a holiday is to create holiday-themed images. Ask your graphic designer to help if you have one (or know one), or use a free service like Canva to add your own text and logo to the image of your choice. Even a message as simple as “Happy Independence Day” with your logo and a nice image will provide a personal touch and keep your business top of mind without much effort! Post these images on your social networks, or add them as your profile or cover photos on Facebook and Twitter. Just remember to be timely – once the holiday has passed, don’t forget to change your photos back to the regular versions.

Introduce holiday deals and promotions

Another great way to capitalize on the buzz around holidays is by offering deals or running promotions. Most retail brands also run sales during holiday weekends, so couples are likely already on the hunt for a good deal. If you are approaching a holiday and still don’t have an event, run a promotion that offers a special package or additional services for a wedding on that holiday. Or, if your business serves consumers beyond events (florists, makeup artists, photographers), consider offering a discount to get more people in the door on a day where they might otherwise be busy.

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» Is Your Digital Content the Right Length?

Creating digital contentWhen it comes to writing for your wedding business, there are a lot of things to keep in mind. The messaging in your blog posts should be consistent with your content your website, and your emails and social media posts should also reflect the same tone and voice. With all of those considerations, it’s easy to write too much (or sometimes too little) to keep it all straight!

If you’ve ever wondered how long your pieces of digital content should be, you’re not alone. Luckily for you, there’s a ton of research on exactly how long your digital content should be for ideal exposure and views on the various channels. Below are some of the findings:

Facebook. Research shows that posts shorter than 40 characters (meaning words and spaces or punctuation) had 86% higher engagement rates than longer posts. This isn’t to say that long Facebook posts are useless – in a lot of cases, there’s no way to condense information into less than 40 characters. If you can squeeze posts to under 80 characters, they get 66% more “likes” and comments.

Twitter. Twitter, unlike Facebook, is already very limited in the amount of content users can post. Ideal post length on Twitter is actually longer than ideal post length on Facebook, but it’s an easy number to remember: 100 characters. Twitter’s own research shows that medium-length tweets get the most re-tweets. Why? If users want to “quote” the tweet or retweet and add their own thoughts, they have enough characters left to do so. For optimally shareable tweets, aim for 70-100 characters.

Headlines. If you have a blog, pay close attention to this one! Just like people scan blog posts, (sad, but true) they scan the headlines. The maximum word count for headlines is just six words. Research shows that if a headline is longer than that, readers only look at the first three words and the last three words. Consequently, keeping headlines to six or fewer words ensures that readers pay attention to the whole headline. Plus, Google typically only displays 50-60 characters of the title in search results, so the shorter, the better!

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» Cross-Marketing in the Wedding Industry

Pro to Pro Insights

Brian Lawrence, Sell the BrideThis post was written by Brian Lawrence, one of the industry’s foremost authorities on marketing in the wedding industry. Brian has consulted with many wedding professionals and wholesale suppliers at www.brianlawrence.com. Brian also owns Local Traffic Builder, a nationally-known web design, marketing and social media firm serving the wedding and event industry. He is the author of “The Wedding Expert’s Guide to Sales and Marketing” and “The Invitation Business Report” and has helped thousands of industry professionals with his marketing insights through personal consultation, books, seminars, blogs and articles, and speaking engagements at leading industry conferences.

Pros working togetherFor most businesses, networking stops at the exchange of business cards – but not in the wedding industry. Building relationships is imperative for most wedding and events professionals to thrive in their market. The mutual intention for both parties is to refer customers on a regular basis. Sometimes wedding professionals even offer a financial reward or incentive each time a referral is made to increase the exchange of recommendations.

The next generation of commitment and collaboration is when Pros share access to a client. Shared access through a preferred vendor list is most common for venues and caterers. As an early rung on the planning ladder, venues and caterers are in the best position to recommend couples to other Pros. They have a strong sphere of influence in the process because they often represent the biggest financial commitment. Sometimes venues will also share the names of prospects who did not book; naturally those referrals are not as strong for the receiving vendor.

If referrals alone aren’t enough to support your wedding business, a best practice to try is cross-marketing with other vendors. Cross-marketing means that one Pro ties in an offer from another Pro for the purpose of using it as an incentive to sell their own service. Cross-marketing is mutually beneficial, since both professionals are rewarded if the couple ends up booking.

The Pro originally contacted by the couple presents something of value to make their offering seem stronger, when it’s at no cost to them. The recommended Pro has a chance to gain the business of the original Pro’s client while the actual couple receives the additional value.

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