» 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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» Top Word of Mouth Strategies to Get More Referrals

Top Word of Mouth Strategies to Get More ReferralsWhether they advertise their wedding business on one site or dozens, many wedding professionals still believe that a lot of their local business comes from word of mouth – and for good reason! Having happy customers who refer you to their friends and family is a great way to get more business, and it’s not going anywhere in the near future. Even as online presence becomes more and more important, word of mouth marketing should not be overlooked.

Although word of mouth may seem like a more casual form of marketing, it’s not accidental! You can create a deliberate, planned strategy to build an army of fans and leverage them to help you attract more engaged couples. Below are some top word of mouth strategies to get you started!

Know when to ask

The most important part of any word of mouth strategy is to ask at the right time. The best time to ask for a consumer referral is after you’ve completed your work for their wedding or event – right when they couldn’t be happier with the way it all turned out. Ask at the event (if the moment is right and you have the opportunity), include it in your review request emails, or put reminders on your website and even on your receipts and invoices. Remind them to tell their friends about your business if they know anyone recently engaged, and let them know you would really appreciate the help. Happy customers are typically more than willing to pass your business name along to others if you truly exceeded their expectations. All you have to do is ask!

Offer something in return

If you’re really trying to grow through word of mouth strategies, consider offering something in return for those customers who provide a referral. This takes a little more work on your end – you’ll need to be sure you can track referrals in order to provide incentives – but the prospect of receiving a benefit can help activate happy clients who need a little push to help you out. Offer a special discount code if the event hasn’t yet occurred, or throw in a free or discounted product if you can. If your business does repeat business (florists, bakers, photographers, DJs), offer a free or discounted product for the future. These sorts of perks will make clients more likely to tell their friends about your business.

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» Top Ways to Maximize Your Marketing Budget

Top Ways to Maximize Your Marketing BudgetWith the end of winter in sight and the busy season right around the corner, now is the time to start preparing your business for success! You’ll want to use all your time to work on upcoming weddings and events, which means your marketing activity may fall by the wayside. Even if your calendar is full, it’s vital your marketing efforts are still driving couples to find your business.

We know that a marketing budget can quickly disappear if you’re not careful, but there are ways to maximize your existing budget to get the most out of your efforts. The best practices below will help you manage your marketing strategy without breaking the bank!

Decide on your goals

Before you start spending time or money on a specific marketing tactic or channel, decide on your business’ goals. If your marketing budget is limited, it’s extremely important to align all marketing activity with a certain goal. Do you want to book more weddings, or do you want to make more money on each wedding? Those goals are very different, so the marketing tactics and channels you should target are very different.

Evaluate your current activities

What marketing activities is your business currently engaged in? What’s working? What’s not working? Having a good understanding of the answers to these questions will help you evaluate where your needs are. Then, once you have you’ve decided on your business’ goals, you can evaluate your current activities as helping you to reach those goals. This will help you figure out which areas you’re weak in and how you can improve!

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» Email Marketing 2015: Trends to Know

Email Marketing 2015: Trends to KnowAlthough email isn’t a new medium, the way we communicate through email is changing. Technology, software and user behavior all influence the way we interact with our inboxes. In the fight for limited space in the inbox, email marketing strategies evolve each year.

Despite the daily inundation of emails in our inboxes, email marketing is still a great way to reach your audience and share timely and pertinent information! The following 2015 email marketing trends will help your wedding business stand out in the New Year.

Adding more images

Research suggests that users prefer image-based emails over text-based emails, so consider incorporating more images into your emails in 2015. Whether you purchase images through a licensing website or use those which you already have, use them in your emails to illustrate and emphasize the message you’re conveying. You can also take this a step further by using free graphic design software (like Canva) to add text and other effects to your images for a professional look. Just remember, though, that your entire email should not be ALL images – it’s still important to include both HTML and text-based code so email providers with stricter image settings will still see the email the way you want it to look! Mix images and text to make sure all your bases are covered in the event images don’t load properly in some email environments.

More A/B testing

Modern marketing strategies are largely based on data, meaning that businesses are getting smarter about the way they engage with clients. In order to gather data on the best send times, email length and messaging, try more A/B testing in 2015. With A/B testing, you send version A and version B to a small subset of your email list, then send the winning version (the version with the highest open rate) of the email to the rest of your email list. Most email service providers incorporate A/B testing as a feature to make it easy to try out different things. If your email service provider allows for A/B testing, they’ll automatically segment your list and send the winning version to the rest of the population for you so you don’t have to do it manually. This type of testing will help you learn how to optimize your emails and ultimately achieve better results.

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» Make 2015 Your Mobile Marketing Year

It’s now officially the last month of 2014, which means it’s time to think about next year! There are probably a number of items on your business’ to-do list, but you should also consider mobile marketing as an addition to your goals.

This year, mobile devices overtook desktop Internet usage for the first time ever – in January, mobile devices accounted for 55% of Internet usage in the U.S. It’s safe to say that mobile marketing is here to stay! Below are some tips for making 2015 your business’ mobile marketing year.

Make 2015 Your Mobile Marketing YearAssess your mobile readiness

Before you start creating your mobile marketing strategy, assess your business’ mobile readiness. Do you have an optimized mobile website? Is your business’ website responsive on all devices? Do you have the ability to create a mobile app for your business? Answering these questions can help you determine where you should start and how far your strategy can take you! Remember that there’s no sense in dedicating time or money on mobile marketing efforts if you’re not ready to provide a good mobile experience for potential clients.

Enhance your existing mobile presence

Mobile websites are different from their desktop counterparts in that the screen is much smaller and there’s no mouse, so the way a person uses your website will be different. They’ll need big, easy-to-click buttons rather than text links, and you’ll want to break up the copy on your web pages to make them easier to read on small screens. If you don’t have a responsive website design, you can easily create a mobile website with our Mobile Website Creator.  Our tool allows you to paste a quick bit of code to your website, which will make it so your website is optimized for mobile devices.

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» Why You Should Avoid Groupon Weddings

Pro to Pro Insights

Rick Brewer

This article was written by Rick Brewer of Wedding Business Marketing. Rick has 22+ years in marketing and selling to wedding couples and is known for his proprietary approach to the psychology of wedding buying. Rick has worked with over 2100 wedding businesses, spoken to 250 + wedding groups and regularly shares his insight on wedding industry trends and cycles.

If you’ve never used Groupon to find daily deals in your area, you’re in the minority. The deal-of-the-day website features discounted products or services in your area which you can buy for a limited period of time. These types of deals are often successful because they raise awareness about a business and bring in a rush of new customers.

Several years back I actually praised Groupon for their effective use of email marketing – since the deals on Groupon change daily, they send daily emails to alert users to new local offers. These emails are also based on behavior, which means Groupon can send emails with more relevant offers to users. It’s a great email marketing strategy that yields high open and click through rates.

Through the past few years, Groupon has grown to include other offerings like Groupon Getaways to help travelers book cheaper travel deals. However, the giant misstep I see with Groupon is that it has recently started the Groupon Wedding Shop, which offers wedding products and services at dramatic discounts.

There are three main reasons why I think Groupon Weddings are a bad approach for your wedding business to consider:

Why You Should Avoid Groupon WeddingsThe wedding industry is a specialty industry. A wedding professional’s experience, training and personality come into play in their business as well as the results for the client. What we offer is typically unique to us as providers. You can offer what you sell for twice the price of a competitor, but your business’ quality could be totally worth the difference. The products and services we provide cannot be lumped into one price or discounted rate – there are too many other factors involved.

The only differentiating factor on Groupon is price. This thought process is a true disservice to couples searching for wedding professionals. Focusing on price will talk many couples out of the professionals who can truly be a perfect match for their wedding. In weddings, there are no “do-overs.” Lower-quality vendors with little experience can easily ruin one of the most important days in a couple’s lives. Your business should be able to justify your higher price to potential clients rather than offer discounted rates to compete with other local Pros.

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» The Internet: Your New “Permanent Record”

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.

As valuable as the Internet is to couples planning a wedding, it’s equally invaluable to Pros in the business of selling weddings. Websites, blogs and social media have made it easy to adjust your pricing, roll out promotions and even overhaul your branding. However, keep in mind that the Internet has become a permanent record of sorts, with archive sites and mirror sites creating a history of practically everything that’s ever been published online.

The Internet: Your New “Permanent Record”That’s why it’s so important to make strategic decisions and take a long view approach when branding your business and setting your rates. Savvy clients and smart business owners tend to watch the market over time — they’re aware of what various companies are offering and how much they’re charging. And when a company constantly flip-flops on its pricing or drastically alters its entire image, people notice.

In my own market, I’ve heard lots of buzz about Pros who’ve arbitrarily doubled their rates, halved their rates, blasted people with coupons and threatened massive price increases. All of these changes, and the branding confusion that results, have been documented forever, thanks to the Internet.

Obviously, every business owner needs to make adjustments to accommodate a changing market. I’m all for making tweaks to your image, and even rebranding completely when it makes sense to do so. However, with your every business move captured online and added to your “permanent record,” it’s essential that the choices you make are carefully considered. Can you explain a huge price increase or reduction when someone’s aware of what you used to offer? (And believe me, even if your clients haven’t yet noticed, your competitors have!) If you’re rebranding, do you have a clear reason why, and are you able to account for how the “new” you is different from the old you?

If we’re all stuck with that online permanent record, let it be one that documents a series of logical, strategic growth and transformation over time.

» Should You Try Mobile Opt-in Marketing?

Should You Try Mobile Opt-in Marketing?By now your wedding business should be aware that mobile marketing is on the rise. While you know it’s something your business should be doing, it’s another thing entirely to start up a mobile marketing campaign or program! You can mobilize your website, Storefront and emails, but those are not your only options for reaching engaged couples on their mobile devices.

If you’re interested in sending immediate information on a more personalized basis, here’s a brief introduction to mobile opt-in marketing!

What it is

Traditional marketing tactics do not require your target audience to opt-in because most traditional marketing tactics are 1-to-many – meaning that one business is communicating with many people with one message. Traditional marketing tactics include print advertising, direct mail or radio and television ads. With the social media revolution, social networks opened up two-way communication with their audience. Now users can “like” your business’ page on Facebook and interact directly with your business. This change caused other changes in marketing strategies to shift from sending a mass message to crafting more relevant and timely messages based on behavior.

Opt-in marketing means that users have given your business permission to send them information on a 1-to-1 basis. The best and most popular use of opt-in marketing is email marketing – if you don’t have explicit permission to email a given person (whether they opt-in through your website or establish a business connection with you) you’re likely to be marked as spam and suffer other penalties.

Mobile opt-in marketing is very similar to email marketing, except that instead of giving you permission to send them emails, users are giving you permission to send them voice, text or other mobile messages to their smartphones or cell phones. Mobile opt-ins go beyond being able to interact with your business via smartphone; the user is giving you permission to push messages directly to their phone number.

How to do it

If you’ve ever opted-into an email newsletter list for a publication or individual business, you’ve seen how easy it can be! You’ll need to create a form to collect the phone numbers as well as some simple legal language to lay out your terms and conditions. These terms will explain in detail what you are and are not allowed to do with the user’s phone number. CTIA – The Wireless Association and Mobile Marketing Association have some great best practices for messaging consumers in the U.S.

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» Pro Tips: Auto-Reply Email Best Practices

As engagement season ramps up and couples start the first stage of wedding planning, your business is likely about to see an increase in wedding inquiries. For many wedding professionals, an email auto-reply is the simplest (and quickest) way to respond.

However, nothing shouts “auto-reply email” more than the typical “Your email has been received” response. Email is not a new channel, so it’s assumed that when a person sends an email that the recipient receives it. It’s nice to let him or her know that the email was received, but it’s important that that’s not the only message you include in the email. You need to add value right at that first touch.

Below are five Pro tips for auto-reply email best practices that will help you immediately add value so you can convert more of those initial wedding inquiries into paying clients!

Pro Tips: Email Auto-Reply Best PracticesSet expectations up front

If you know that you spend most of your days out of the office or performing tasks that take you away from the computer, use an email auto-reply to set expectations for the potential client to hear back from you. Be specific; don’t simply state that you’ll reply “soon.”  It’s implied that if you want their business, you’ll reply “soon.” Give a specific time period where they can reasonably expect to hear back from you – and be sure to respond within that time period!

Provide everything they need

If you want to suggest that they call for faster service or for more pressing requests, provide your business’ phone number right there in the email. They’ve already gone through your business’ Storefront and website to find your email or submit a contact request, so don’t make them do it again! You can also add your business’ address and hours of operation to make it easy for them to know how and when to reach you if something should happen with their email.

Don’t regurgitate your website

While you want to provide everything they need, don’t regurgitate your website. You don’t need to fully describe your services or go through your business’ mission statement in your auto-reply email. You want to find the sweet spot where you’re providing helpful, valuable information but without repeating everything they’ve already read on your website. A good way to decide how much information to include would be to put yourself in the potential client’s shoes and go through the contact process from finding your business to email. That should inform you about what information they’ve already seen and what information they still might not know!

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» Set Yourself Apart With Storytelling Marketing

Pro to Pro Insights

Kylie Carlson

Kylie Carlson is the founder of the Wedding and Event Institute, a certification and training company offering courses in wedding planning, event planning and event design. With campuses in the US, Australia, New Zealand and the UK, Kylie is a sought after international speaker on the business of weddings and events. She has also helped to launch the businesses of over 250 wedding planners around the world and is on the Advisory Board of Event Solutions Magazine.

Stories have been told throughout the world for as long as anyone can remember. A story aims to evoke an emotional response and triggers the senses of the listener, thereby creating that all-important connection between the storyteller (you, the business owner) and of course the listener (your client).There is your key: you want your potential client to connect with you and that is the power behind storytelling.

Compared to ten years ago, when we only had the more traditional forms of media available to us, we now have the world at our fingertips. How and where your story is played out has changed. So your story needs to change with it. It needs to be sharp and snappy – something that will catch the eye and create a connection with the reader so it stands out among all the tweets, Facebook posts, Instagram pictures and more.

Set Yourself Apart With Storytelling MarketingWhy storytelling marketing?

I don’t know about you, but facts and statistics have never stuck in my brain. They may travel through, but they never seem to take up residence until anchored by some kind of meaning. The way our brains are programmed allows us to really connect emotionally with a story and gives us the ability to process information more effectively in story format.

So what is the link between storytelling and brands? The strength of a brand is based on the stories people relate about their experiences, assumptions and judgments. Without realizing it, we are telling a story about our experiences with a brand nearly every day. How many times have you raved about something to friends and family? Maybe it was an experience you had at the supermarket or trying a new product for the first time. All of these experiences are touch points and by us relaying the information we are spreading the word about a product or service. Effectively we are helping to promote a brand by telling the story of our experience with it.

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» Mobile Marketing for Wedding Professionals

Mobile Marketing for Wedding ProfessionalsWith all the components of digital marketing to keep track of, mobile marketing may not be a high priority. Much of the research and articles written about mobile marketing suggest that your business create a fully responsive website, send SMS messages or create a mobile app.

OK, so your wedding business probably won’t be creating its own mobile app, but that doesn’t mean you can’t optimize your marketing efforts for mobile devices! Mobile marketing for wedding professionals is a whole different ball game, and with your limited time to dedicate to mobile marketing strategy you might feel overwhelmed. Don’t worry! There are a number of small things you can do that will have a big impact on your business’ ability to reach couples wherever they’re spending their time.

Below are the areas you should focus on mobilizing for your business so every couple who interacts with your business in some way gets the best experience, no matter the device!

Mobile website: Before you protest that you don’t have enough time to create a mobile website, read further! You don’t have to have a separate mobile website for your business; the key here is to ensure that your existing website functions well on a mobile device. Use your phone to check out your website on your smartphone. Is the text too small to read easily? Do you have trouble clicking on individual links? Do you have to zoom in and out with your fingers to navigate through the site? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you have some optimizing to do! WeddingWire offers our Mobile Website Creator to premium Pros, which simply requires you to paste a quick bit of code to your website and voila! You’re done and have a mobile-friendly site. Some website providers, like WordPress, also provide similar plugins that may be worth checking out.

Mobile-friendly email: Email marketing can be a very useful tool for many Wedding Pros, but unfortunately many of the beautiful emails you design don’t look so beautiful on mobile. Luckily for you, most email marketing platforms now offer desktop and mobile versions of their own templates, or they offer responsive designs that work on all devices. Unluckily for you, there are still a number of considerations you should still be aware of even if you have separate versions of your emails. You should be prepared to examine your versions and make adjustments where necessary. Remember that big buttons are easier to click than smaller text links, and keep your content as short as you can in your mobile versions. It’s difficult to read a lot of text on a mobile device without breaking it up with other design elements, so bear that in mind as you make adjustments and always review your emails on both desktop and mobile before sending.  Continue reading

» Five Tips for Successful Email Marketing

email-marketing-tipsEmail marketing is a great way to connect and share important details about your business with your audience. However, it’s very important to consider your messaging, design and calls to action to ensure your email marketing is effective. Most importantly – always focus on the consumer first! Consider their needs, interest and what would engage them and be sure to avoid ‘me’ language. Tell them what you can do to make their life better, not just why your business is so great.

To help maximize the impact of your next email campaign, check out these top tips for effective email marketing!

  • Send people the content they want. Great content is an important part of a successful email campaign. Determining your email content is really all about understanding what your audience would like to know about or what would be helpful for them. Consider sending relevant wedding planning tips to your category that would be relevant and engaging to them!
  • Keep your email short and sweet. Your email should be simple, and right to the point with one main focus. Too much content or differing messages will not only be confusing to your audience, but also will cause reader drop off. Too much writing is overwhelming and not digestible from all devices.
  • Create a brand voice and design. Strive to reflect your brand message and voice in all communication and all your marketing materials. Ideally, your audience should recognize your email campaigns and the content you share, and over time will look forward to your emails and updates.

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