» 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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» How to Get the Most Out of Networking Events

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.

Whether you have an established business or if you’re just starting out, networking is crucial for your company to thrive. Networking can be intimidating and nerve-wracking, but with the proper tips, you can definitely take advantage of any networking event. You want to come in confident, make your mark, and guarantee that they will remember you.

  1. Do your research.

How to Get the Most Out of Networking EventsNever go into a networking event blind. You don’t need to necessarily deep dive to find every little detail, but definitely do some background research to find out the background of the company hosting the event, who will be there, what type of features the event will have to maximize networking, etc. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to prepare some conversation starters. It may seem awkward and unnatural at first, but the more you have these in the back of your head, the more prepared you will feel when you meet up with someone new.  You never know who you are going to meet, and you want to guarantee that you make a solid impression.

  1. Shake out the nerves and be confident.

When you get to the event, you may feel nervous (which is normal!), but don’t let it affect you to the point where you just freeze. You’re here to maximize your business and meet people that will only help you. The more confident you feel, the more you will succeed at these events. Take a couple of deep breaths, shake it off, and walk in and network like boss. You’ve got this!

  1. Just do it.

Do a quick scan of the room, find the person you want to talk to and just do it. You have about five seconds to go start that conversation before you begin to overthink it or worse, allow someone else to beat you to the punch. This is all about creating those new connections and you want to take advantage of these opportunities.

  1. Be genuine and keep it real.

Yes, you have the prepared conversation ignitors, but make sure to keep it natural. These connections could help build lasting relationships and give you the ability to collaborate in the future. Be genuinely curious about what they have to say and learn more about them.  Continue reading

» Build Your Reputation Through Relationships & Referrals

Build Your Reputation Through Relationships & ReferralsWebinar recap!

Yesterday, we held this month’s educational webinar, Build Your Reputation Through Relationships & Referrals, hosted by WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon. In this session, Andy explained an important, yet highly underrated part of a successful marketing strategy, which he calls “reputation marketing.”

Andy provided several tips for developing relationships within the industry and expanding your inventory of reviews and endorsements. By following his advice, you can build a reliable reputation, grow your business, and book more clients!

Here are a few ways to build a positive reputation within the wedding industry:

  • Track particular keywords or phrases about your business on Google Alerts to know what people are saying about your business and/or about your competitors. These updates are delivered straight to your inbox.
  • Create a blog where you can promote your own business, as well as those of your peers, whose professionalism you can trust and recommend. WordPress is a great platform to get started!
  • Collect more reviews from past clients and and peer endorsements from other vendors on WeddingWire. This will help to further develop your strong online reputation, and let potential clients know you are reliable!
  • Get involved in your community by attending events, joining associations, or accepting leadership roles in your favorite industry group. Not only can you become a figure of authority in your local community, but you can also demonstrate important skills that people will associate with you as a business owner.
  • Make an effort to learn all aspects of the wedding industry by grabbing a casual lunch or coffee with a peer and get to know the challenges they face on a daily basis, or share business tips. If you better understand each other’s work, you can refer each other when the time comes!

For more information, watch the full webinar, available within all Premium member accounts any time! For more education from Andy, visit his blog.

» 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!

» Wedding PR: Let’s Change the Conversation about Networking

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.

My life in the wedding industry began with three martinis at an industry networking group when I was fresh out of college. It gave me just enough confidence (liquid courage?) to run as a write-in candidate for the inaugural PR chair of the local wedding association. Much to my surprise, I won that evening and it was the catalyst that led to everything else – increased sales for my employer, wonderful friendships, new job opportunities, and even the chance to manage that same association when I first opened the doors to OFD.

Wedding PR: Let’s Change the Conversation about NetworkingSo as you can imagine, I’m a big proponent of networking. In fact, if there were some sort of wedding industry networking fan club, I would be the president of it. Or, at the very least, the PR chair.

Here’s the thing about networking: it wears on you after awhile. And I get it – you start to really get tired of the elevator pitches and the constant card exchanging.  So today I’m here to ask you to rethink networking and instead, consider a new approach. At this year’s WeddingWire World, I shared the top networking notions you need to throw out the window and today, I’m asking you to consider the same.

So how do we change the conversation about networking?

Stop telling yourself that networking is supposed to be fun.
You have goals for your wedding business (and if you don’t, stop reading this immediately and get to work on those!) and there are things you should be doing to help you achieve those goals. Statistically speaking, vendor referrals is one of the leading ways that couples find out about you so more than likely, networking is a necessary component to your promotional strategies.

But for some reason, we assume that we network because it’s fun. I don’t blame you – event people throw great events. But if the only reason you’re going is to kick back with your friends and joke about the endless trend of mason jars, you’re not going to see a solid ROI for your time. Instead, select your networking events because they’re the key to getting you closer to your business goals.

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» Meal Companion Networking: Who, How & Why

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.

The art of face-to-face networking is not a random event; it requires time and dedication to get the most out of the events or groups you attend. If you are a member of an association or networking group that features a seated meal at meetings, there are a number of unique strategies to help you build a one-to-one relationship over a meal.

meal-companion-networking-tipsThere are several options on choosing your meal companion; each with different rationale.

  1. Sit with random people you don’t know.
  2. Sit with friends and/or people you do know.
  3. Choose to sit with one or two people you would like to know more about, and perhaps do business with.
  4. Sit down at an empty table, letting random friends, peers or strangers join you.

All of the options are completely acceptable, but I recommend choosing option three. The most effective way to expand your professional circle is to invite one or two specific people to sit with you and engage with them.

Who: Selecting which members to get to know

An ideal strategy for planning to build a new connection is to find out in advance which people have RSVP’d for the event. Even if an RSVP list is not available to you in advance, be the first one to arrive and review meeting badges on the registration table.

Prior to the meeting, select four to five people who you would like to get to know. Think about why those people may be important as part of your circle of business contacts. Connect with them during cocktails, chat a bit, and ask one or two of them to join you for the meal. If not already committed, one of them will likely accept your invitation.

How: Learning more about other members

With the popularity of Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms, bios or profiles are usually published for members of each platform. Most often, people do elect to make their profile ‘public’, with minor or no limitations on access. Therefore, no one should be shocked if another businessperson reads a profile to learn a little bit more about them.

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» How to Start and Maintain a Networking Group

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.

Networking – there’s simply no better way to get your name out amongst industry peers and potential clients. Not only is it a fun experience (can you say cocktail hour?), but it can also be the changing force that helps advance your business to the next level. Even if you have to duck out of the office a bit early or take a long lunch break, attending networking events is certainly worth the time and effort.

	How to Start and Maintain a Networking GroupHowever, in some cases, you may attend networking events, but find that you’re not happy with the results. If this sounds like you, consider starting your own networking group as there may be other professionals in your industry feeling just as disappointed in the current offerings. To start a networking group, you simply need to have like-minded people who are looking to work together.

Perhaps the locally-established events aren’t as niche-specified as you’d like or maybe they’re always scheduled at inconvenient times leading to low turnout. Whatever the case is, take all of these considerations into account when building your own networking group. Your experience attending these events is the best form of research, as you’ll have a better idea of what you and others are looking to get out of a night of mixing and mingling.

Step 1: Set goals

As with any big project, you’ll want to start off by setting goals. What does an ideal networking event look like to you? Carefully determine the audience you want to include at your events—are you looking to connect with all local photographers? Do you want to build a cohesive network of wedding professionals who focus solely on luxury events? Your answer to this question will form the foundation of your group, as well as provide a game plan for how to grow and maintain your network.

Step 2: Recruit members

Before inviting your whole Facebook list, you’ll want to carefully sift through your connections and select those who will be of the most value to the networking group and are well known in the region. With a list of invited members in hand, you’ll want to have your first event on the books before hitting the ‘send’ button. When people first hear of your group, they’ll want to know details about the inaugural event; otherwise, they’ll most likely forget about the group. Using an approximate number of attendees, find a venue that can comfortably host the group if everyone were to bring one extra person. From there, start reaching out to promote the event and requesting speakers and sponsors, if necessary. You may also want to consider aligning yourself with local media and area bridal shows for larger exposure.

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» WeddingWire World 2016 Agenda Announcement

WeddingWire World 2016 tickets are on sale, and we are excited to announce our conference agenda is now live!

We have packed three days full of top education for wedding professionals. Register for your ticket to learn from celebrity keynote speakers (shh – more speaker announcements are coming soon!), leading industry speakers, Pros like you who have excelled and are sharing their experiences, three new breakout tracks, business workshops, networking opportunities and much more!

Take a peek at some conference highlights below, and review the full agenda here:

  • Compelling main stage presentations on the client experience, technology, sales, networking, trends and more from top rated speakers including Sonny Ganguly, Alan Berg, Meghan Ely, and Monte Durham.
  • New breakout tracks with great speakers. Simply pick your session of choice for each breakout and opt to focus on a business, marketing, or clients theme, or follow your favorite track throughout each day for in-depth education on that theme!
  • Learn from experts during workshop sessions on the final day. Take a deeper look at WeddingWire marketing and client tools, business tools like email and social media, or learn from other successful Pros on important topics like finding your niche.

worldBe sure to check back soon for more agenda updates and speaker announcements!

Don’t miss out on your chance to participate in all the new presentations, networking opportunities, and fun surprises we have in store. Get your ticket today for the lowest ticket price before the $150 increase on September 16th, 2015!

Questions? Email events@weddingwire.com and we will be in touch soon.

» The Value of Professional Partnerships

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.

Last month, I shared some tips on working effectively with photographers to secure the images you want and need for your marketing. That was just one example of how a good relationship with other Pros can benefit our businesses, and it illustrated the value of professional partnerships. Partnering with other wedding vendors should be a priority for any business owner in this industry, for a number of reasons:

Building professional relationships in the wedding industryPartnerships create opportunities to collaborate. Vendors with great relationships can find a variety of ways to work together: co-hosting an industry event; organizing and executing a styled shoot; dually offering a special promotion to clients; even launching a new venture like a blog or a side business. I’ve done several of these things myself and I’ve always appreciated the experience of working alongside others I respect, as well as the added benefit of exposure to one another’s network of clients and colleagues.

Partnerships generate referrals. Practically every wedding vendor gets asked for suggestions in other service categories. And when that question arises, we naturally think of other professionals we trust. Partnering with other vendors often results in referrals not only to clients, but also to other vendors and to opportunities we might never have had otherwise (wedding shows, media exposure, speaking engagements, guest blogging…the list goes on and on!).

Partnerships build credibility. Being associated with other reputable, high-quality Pros is a boost to your own reputation – clients and vendors alike tend to think more highly of business owners who can work well with others in their field. Face it: if one of your colleagues recommends you for something – let’s say an award, or placement in an exclusive vendor list, or a leadership position in an organization – that recommendation is more likely to be considered than if you were “nominating” yourself.

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» Achieving Success through Appreciation, Reviews and Endorsements

Acheiving Success WebinarWebinar recap!

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

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

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

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

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.

A client of mine recently joined a local wedding association (on my recommendation) and boy did that leave us something to talk about.

Over the past five years, I have seen a rapid decline in local associations. The association my client tried out has always been a good fit for me, but when he showed up he had a very different experience. I have withheld the name of the association, so I want those of you involved in associations to take a long hard look and see if something similar is happening with your group.

Top Problems to Watch for in Networking GroupsHere are the top three problems I’ve noted with many networking groups:

  • There are too many cliques and friend groups
  • They don’t always practice what they preach
  • They have too many wedding professionals in one or two categories

Too many cliques

My client is a master networker as he has led groups previously as well as has 25 years experience in going to meetings like this one. When he walked in, he was not greeted by other members and he felt like an outsider. This is one of the biggest problems I hear about with any networking groups in the wedding industry and beyond. This is actually a big problem because people are uncomfortable in these situations and gravitate to those they know. This gravitation towards cliques makes it harder for new members to feel welcomed.

Whether you are new to your networking group or are an existing member, take this part of my client’s story to heart. Remember what it was like the last time you showed up somewhere and didn’t know anyone. Wouldn’t you have appreciated if someone made an effort to make you feel welcome? Having a group of friends in a networking group is great, but remember to look beyond your own clique and reach out to other members whenever you can.

Not practicing what they preach

At this particular association meeting there was a professional panel, and every panelist agreed that being responsive is key to establishing connections in the industry. They suggested that 24 hours was more than enough time to respond. My client wanted to connect outside of the meeting after meeting them face to face, so he wrote a very professional follow up email with these folks to start building a relationship. As of this writing, 3 of the 4 panelists have yet to respond.

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» Success by Association: Pro Networking Tips

Networking is an important part of your business’ success!

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

Networking Tips for Pros