» 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

» Success by Association: Network, Collaborate & Get Awarded

Success by AssociationWebinar recap!

In the competitive wedding and events industry, networking and industry recognitions are two leading factors to building your reputation and boosting your professional success.

This week, as part of our monthly educational webinar series for premium members, WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon shared his insights into the value of networking, and how collaborations and joining associations can help your business grow.

Check out some of Andy’s tips below!

What are the best places to network?

  • National Association meetings (industry or skill-based) and local chapter meetings
  • Local industry networking groups
  • National conferences
  • Your local Chamber of Commerce or Visitors Bureau
  • Community events

When you make a new connection, how can you continue the conversation and build a professional relationship?

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» The Importance of Networking for Wedding Professionals

The Importance of Networking for Wedding ProfessionalsWith all your meetings, appointments and events, networking can seem like the last priority on your to-do list. Especially since it’s so hard to measure the ROI of networking, many Pros may see networking as a less valuable business growth strategy than online strategies like SEO and social media. However, there’s a good reason that the most seasoned wedding professionals will tell you that it’s all about who you know!

Just as SEO or social media marketing are not standalone strategies, networking is an initiative that should be done in addition to your other business growth efforts. Below we explain the importance of networking for wedding professionals and why your wedding business should look for more networking opportunities in 2015.

Get more referrals or opportunities

Referrals are huge in the wedding industry. Wedding professionals in most cities or regions have a lot of choice when it comes to other Pros to work with, so it’s important for you to meet more people in your area to identify opportunities. The connections you make at networking events or even social events can be the reason your business gets the referral over another local business – if you’re equally skilled and rated within your community as another Pro, you’re much more likely to be selected as the preferred Pro if the referrer knows you well. Connections you make through networking are extremely important if your business is interested in making it onto a wedding planner’s or venue’s list of preferred vendors.

Gain credibility in your area

If you’re new to the wedding business or new to the area, this benefit is absolutely necessary. While it’s still important to get consumer reviews to help boost your online reputation, an endorsement from another professional helps potential clients see how credible your business is amongst your peers. You want your peers to have nothing but good things to say about your business! Making connections and accumulating endorsements from other local Wedding Pros will instantly add credibility to your business and show that your professional network recognizes your work. It’s best to be proactive about your business’ reputation by putting yourself out there and networking with other local businesses.

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» How to Avoid Becoming a Wedding Industry Cliché

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 all-time cliché success advice from business coaches is to just be yourself. If only life were so simple! In reality, such an approach works for a scant few. As a professional in the wedding industry, it’s important that you rise above maintaining the status quo and come up with ways to be original.

To avoid becoming a wedding industry cliché, ask yourself these questions, below.

How to Avoid Becoming a Wedding Industry ClichéAre you aiming to be the best or to be the most unique?

One can debate who is best at something all day long, but that’s completely subjective and cliché. It’s far better to be different, striking, unusual, interesting in one or various ways. People and work that are truly set apart from the crowd don’t have to shout (figuratively or literally), “Look at me, look at me!” Their work and personal style do that without the accompanying fireworks.

Do you have 10 years of experience or 1 year of experience 10 times?

Many professionals stop growing after a few years in one job or profession. They simply start to repeat themselves. Yawn! Whether you change your services or start coming up with out-of-the-box wedding ideas, be original. Over time it becomes clear that your company produces fresh work for each client. Don’t keep giving tired, repeat performances – try something new and different each year.

Are you obsessively comparing your business to your competition?

Seeing your competition at work, on websites, or in any forum will automatically cause you to compare yourself. If you’re looking for inspiration, find it at conferences, on websites and photos from across the country and around the world. Don’t just copy. Find an inspiration that amplifies or alters what you do.

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» Networking Etiquette for Trade Associations

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.

One of the key marketing channels for wedding professionals is networking with their peers through industry trade associations and other membership organizations. Building and maintaining business relationships through such organizations are key to referrals and introductions to engaged couples for potential bookings.

Part of the appeal of participating in organizations is the excitement of attending events and simply mingling with fellow wedding professionals. Over time, many of these business relationships become close collaborative partnerships and creative teams. That’s why it is essential to choose the organizations wisely, develop a plan for participation and do not over commit.

Networking Etiquette for Trade AssociationsFinding Where You Fit In

In most geographic areas there are more opportunities for networking than there is time in your week! Your experience as a wedding professional will help direct your involvement. Whether it is a chapter-based national or regional organization, the strength of its board of directors is the major indicator of success or failure.

Key questions to consider when evaluating trade associations:

  • Do I know and like some of the board members?
  • Are the general membership meetings well organized and run smoothly?
  • Are meetings facilitated by several people or is it a one-person show?
  • Is there an educational component, as well as a networking component to the meeting?
  • Would you be proud to bring your best client to meeting of interest to them?

Learning the Ropes

When you’ve joined an organization, one of the wisest moves you can make is to have coffee or a meal with one of the board members to understand the association culture, find out where you can contribute, what you can learn, and how you can benefit professionally. A great way to create personal or company awareness is donate services for a meeting. However, the donation should be a good fit for what you have to offer. Below are a few ways to donate your time and effort:
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» Four Tips to Ensure Networking Success

One of the greatest aspects of being a Pro on WeddingWire is the opportunity to network with other Pros! Networking is an extremely important part of your business that allows you to build connections within the industry as well as gain industry knowledge. We know that networking isn’t always easy though!

Here are four tips to help you achieve networking success at your next event:

Four Tips to Ensure Networking Success1. Don’t just intrude into someone else’s conversation

Politely adding yourself into a conversation can be hard but there is a way to do it professionally without being intrusive. Make sure that when you enter a conversation you have a good conversation starter and always introduce yourself when there is a break in conversation. If you want to talk to a member of the conversation privately, make sure you mention that you would love to talk to them about a topic later.

2. Watch your body language

Make sure that you have open body language! Don’t close yourself off to anyone during a conversation. Smiling and having open body language will also make you seem more approachable.

3. Involve everyone in the conversation

Rather than constantly talking about yourself, try finding things to relate to with everyone in the conversation. Remember, you are all at the same networking event so you must have some things in common!

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» Introducing the WeddingWire Education Guide

WeddingWire believes in the power of education to keep your business ahead of the competition so you can gain new clients. We’re excited to announce that the 2014-2015 WeddingWire Education Guide is here, full of tips and strategies for growing and improving your weddings and events business!

The WeddingWire Education Guide provides lots of great content to answer your most pressing business questions from how to get more reviews and marketing strategies that work to the top client advice, networking suggestions and much more.

Check it out today!

Education Guide

» Networking for Wedding Pros: 4 Tips

As busy professionals, it can be hard to forge professional connections in addition to all the duties and responsibilities associated with your business! Especially for those individuals who may solely represent their wedding business, it’s hard to find the time to devote to networking.

Even though you’re a busy Pro, personal branding and networking can be big drivers of referral business. Networking for Wedding Pros doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking – try our tips!

Networking for Wedding Pros: 4 TipsGet to know people before you pitch them

One of the most off-putting parts of networking events is when another Pro homes in on you and starts pitching you about their business! Yes, one of the biggest benefits of networking is building connections with other wedding professionals to further your knowledge or identify opportunities for collaboration, but you shouldn’t walk in and start talking about yourself immediately. Spend time talking to other attendees and getting to know a little bit more about them first before you start wheeling and dealing!

Make a list of questions

If you’ve followed some of our previous tips and started the event with a goal in mind, you should make a list of potential questions you’d like to have answered. If you’re looking to further your knowledge or you’re seeking advice from other Pros, it’s important to come prepared with a few questions you’d like answered. At the very least, they’ll serve as talking points so you can get the conversations flowing easily. At most, you’ll leave the event wiser than when you walked in.

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» 5 Ways to Network Your Way to New Business

Networking is an important way to stand out and get new business in the wedding industry!

We know expanding your professional network can be tricky at times, even if you’re a member of a industry association or group. Check out our infographic with top tips for being a super networker from WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP.

Network

» Who’s in Your Professional Network?

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.

While doing my research for the recent webinar on networking, with its accompanying survey, I found myself weaving back and forth between formal and informal networking.

Formal Networking

Who’s in Your Professional Network?What I call formal networking is when you belong to one of the myriad of associations and groups that dot the landscape of the wedding and event industry. Formal groups have a structure, typically meet at the same date and time each month, and have a volunteer board running it and a particular mission or scope. Some are local and some are national; many are the local chapters of a national group. The advantage of formal networking is the structure and predictability, as well as the tie-in to the national professional networks and often, state or national conferences.

Some are formed around a particular category or skill (i.e. Association of Bridal Consultants – ABC, American Disc Jockey Association – ADJA, or Professional Photographers of America – PPA). Some are centered around a few categories and are a little more broad in scope (i.e. National Association of Catering and Events – NACE, or International Special Events Society – ISES). While others are intended, specifically, to encompass all wedding and event professionals in a particular geographic area (i.e. Maine Wedding Association, Buffalo Bridal Association, Monterey Bay Wedding & Event Professionals or the Bay Area Wedding Network).

Teach me something new

One of the key tenets of these formal networking groups is education (something that’s clearly important to WeddingWire, which is why they allow me the privilege of speaking and writing for you here!). That said the survey results show that a majority of members do not feel they are getting enough high-quality educational content from their participation in networking groups. My question is whether the education is available, or whether the members just choose not to attend.

Informal networking

Both inside and outside the formal groups networking is happening as well. Whether you grab a cup of coffee with another wedding or event Pro, talk shop with them in the hallways of a conference or see them at bridal shows, any time you meet and talk with other Wedding Pros, you’re networking. Neither one is necessarily better than the other – they’re both valuable in building your brand and business.

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» Network Your Way to New Business

Network Your Way to New BusinessWebinar Recap!

Networking is an important part of your business’ growth! Being a good networker will help you to get more leads, build more connections and gain more industry knowledge. This month’s educational webinar for premium members focused on the value of networking.

WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg shared his insights on how to become a super networker and get noticed in a competitive market. Check out these top five tips for networking success, below!

  1. Un-clique: You can’t extend your network without meeting new contacts! It may be comfortable to stick with industry friends at events, but challenge yourself to meet new people and you may be rewarded with a new friend, mentor or future referee.
  1. Be a resource: Be helpful to your network and offer advice, tips or insights to other Pros from across categories when you feel comfortable with a new connection. People enjoy and respect others who are friendly and working to making the industry better as a whole, and your openness will be noticed and appreciated.
  1. Refer others first: Want to know a secret to getting more Pro referrals? Offer to refer them first! While it is important to only refer Pros you do know and feel comfortable with, making the “first move” when you know a client who may need a great florist or Planner in town can break the ice. Referrals are always appreciated, and they will be likely to return the favor.

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