» Online Tools for the Creative Entrepreneur

Online Tools for the Creative EntrepreneurAs busy wedding and event professionals, you probably don’t have a ton of free time – if any! With everything on your plate, it can be hard to find the time to be creative with your business. Whether you’re looking for emerging trends in the wedding industry, trying to stay up to date with industry leaders or just thinking about new ways to make your customers happy, you need the right tools to access all that information quickly and efficiently.

Many entrepreneurs and small business owners have the same problems; you’re expected to be in-the-know about all aspects of your business, but you rarely have the time to keep up with it all. Luckily for you, there are plenty of online tools and apps to make your life easier!

If you want to be creative but still get everything done, use these online tools to save time!

Trend Tools

Pulse – Use the Pulse app to pull all your favorite news sources into one custom stream. You’ll keep your finger on the “pulse” of what’s going on with your favorite websites, publications and news sources. It’s easy to use on your phone or tablet, so you can quickly look through your stream when you have a few extra minutes on the go.

Pinterest – Your business may already be using Pinterest to add your own business’ images to get more backlinks to your website, but you can also use Pinterest as a quick and easy trend spotting tool! Follow your friends in the industry (or even WeddingWire!) for wedding inspiration, and follow WeddingWireEDU to easily scan trends in the business and tech world.

Data Tools

Google Analytics – If you aren’t already signed up on Google Analytics, it’s time to start. Google Analytics allows you to track traffic on your website and blog and see more information about your visitors, what pages they visit, and how long they stayed on your site. You’ll see which areas are performing well and which areas need improvement so you can increase web traffic and conversions. The best part: it’s free!

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» Choosing the Right Small Business Tech Solutions

man and plan concept on wallAs engagement season continues in full swing, many Wedding Pros are receiving an influx of inquiries and an increase in bookings! If you’re feeling inefficient and overwhelmed, it may be time to look at the technology your business is using to manage these clients.

Premium WeddingWire Pros have access to all the tools necessary to run their businesses, from client management tools to secure client websites to marketing solutions. If you’re considering upgrading your membership with WeddingWire or even looking for other small business tech solutions, consider these four factors!

Accessibility

The tool or solution you choose should be accessible by multiple people from a variety of places. Gone are the days where software had to be installed on one computer, for one person. Your technology should allow you to do what you need to do, when you need to do it, or delegate to another member of your staff. You should also consider mobile capabilities when choosing a solution, as mobile devices and tablets are quickly phasing out desktops.

Security

Related to the point of accessibility, security is a very important consideration when choosing technology for your business. Any client data, financial information, or employee information should be kept safe and secure within your platform. If you choose a platform that is through a partner (like WeddingWire!), your information is often more secure than choosing a standalone software, as those systems will take extra precaution when provided a secure system.

Customer Service

Another important consideration when deciding on your small business’ tech solutions is customer service. If you should have a problem, it’s reassuring to know that someone will be available to answer your questions. The technology you choose will be a very important part of your business and will help you tremendously to improve your productivity, so you’ll want to make sure that the relationship with the provider is strong.

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» Website Do’s and Don’ts

Many wedding and event professionals create and manage their own business websites to help establish themselves in the wedding industry and build brand awareness. If you’re a small business just starting out, it can be hard to determine what should be on your website, how it should look and how it should function!

Whether your website is new or just needs an update, our infographic with these top 10 website do’s and don’ts will help you put your best foot forward and book more weddings in 2014!

Website Dos and Don'ts

» Tools for Growing Small Businesses

Tools for Growing Small BusinessesWith 2014 laid out in front of us, it’s time to decide what goals you’d like to achieve and how you’re going to achieve them! It’s one thing to make a New Year’s resolution, but it’s quite another to follow through on it.

If one of your goals for 2014 is to grow your business, then this post is for you! We’ve got your four top tools and tips for growing small businesses to help you reach your growth goals.

Implement a social media management system.

Social media is no longer an option for many small businesses. Growing your online presence through social media properties can help you reach new potential customers and grow your brand awareness. It can be hard to find the time each week to spend on social media, especially when you need to log in to each account and make your updates.

A social media management system allows you to manage multiple accounts from one place. You don’t have to log in and out of your various accounts, and you can see feedback from fans being pushed right to your system. You can even schedule posts ahead of time so that you don’t have to get on every day at a certain time if you’re busy! There are free to low-cost tools like Hootsuite that allow you to do all of these same activities.

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» Online Payments: PayPal vs. Authorize.net

Online Payments: PayPal vs. Authorize.netAs a wedding and event professional, creating efficient payment schedules and distributing invoices is vital to organizing your business and ensuring you are promptly paid for your services. Did you know our Clients Tab has the tools to allow you to make these invoices and collect online payments?

WeddingWire Payments & Invoices are designed to help you get paid faster and ensure that you never miss a payment from your clients! You can immediately prepare customizable invoices, collect ePayments received through each Client Site and review all recent and upcoming payments – all in one place!

Our Clients Tab allows you to set up your Payments & Invoices the way you’d like to receive payments. With different payment methods available, here are some key factors for both PayPal and Authorize.net:

PayPal: Third Party Processor Account

  • It’s easy to use for both clients and vendors. With a quick set-up, you can have PayPal link to either your credit or debit card or directly to your bank account.
  • PayPal is trustworthy and secure. Many major retailers, including eBay, use PayPal to transfer funds between users.
  • PayPal does not charge a monthly fee. While there’s no set up fee, there is a $0.30 transaction fee.

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» Small Business Marketing: Are You Holding Yourself Back?

With the world becoming increasingly digital, there’s a website for almost any imaginable idea, event, company or person. In addition to a website, many entities expand their reach by setting up social networking profiles, mobile websites, and profiles on other industry websites and communities.

So how can it be that so many small business owners have not adopted modern technology to assist in their marketing efforts? According to a recent survey by Yodle, more than half (52%) of SMB owners do not have a website, or even measure the results of their marketing programs. Even worse, only 1 in 10 small businesses have figured out how to use social media or online advertising.

Small Business Marketing: Are You Holding Yourself Back?In this day and age, you cannot afford to hold yourself back by not having an online presence. Think about it from an engaged couple’s perspective: are you willing to hire a company who doesn’t have a website or has one of poor quality that is hard to navigate? How can you trust this service’s work without being able to do online research? If the company can’t afford a website, how can they be successful?

At WeddingWire, we’re constantly improving our services to be a true technology partner for small businesses. Wedding and event professionals like you should be able to focus on what you love to do, and we make that easy through our industry-focused business management and marketing tools. We make it simple and quick to build a strong online reputation with reviews, create a mobile site, set up and manage social media in one place, and more. WeddingWire’s suite of online tools, available to our premium members, help you easily manage your business and get back to doing what you love!

If your business is missing a website or other key online elements, here’s how WeddingWire can help:

1.  Create a Storefront. Your WeddingWire Storefront is a customizable area for you to describe your business services to prospective clients. Here you can upload photos, collect reviews, display your services and a include variety of other important aspects of your business! Your Storefront will be seen by engaged couples searching for wedding and event vendors in your chosen category and region. Continue reading

» Consider SlideShare to Gain More Customers

Interested in reaching new audiences and sharing content or resources you created?

Consider SlideShare, an online presentation website used by professionals throughout the world, with a rapidly growing network.

What is SlideShare? SlideShare is a website that allows you to create an account for your business and add your personalized messaging, links to your website and social networks and other brand elements, to share content created by your business with the world (and can be added to you blog, website, social media and more). SlideShare now ranks in the top 300 websites, so it may be the time for your business to consider creating a SlideShare presence. It’s easy to create a profile for your business and start reaching SlideShare users!

Consider SlideShare to Gain More Customers

Here are some reasons to your business may want to try out SlideShare:

Web traffic: With over 60 million unique visitors every month, SlideShare is one of the highest-traffic websites on the Internet today. This means that potential clients are able to find your content on the site, and learn about your business before they even realize they need your services. SlideShare gives you more exposure to your audience and boosts your search engine credibility.

Tell your story: Similar to the way you can tell your company’s story on social media, SlideShare allows you to show a bit of personality and establish a deeper connection with potential clients. Since users can also comment on your presentations, you can open a dialogue at any time. Focus on sharing content that your clients would find interesting, helpful or engaging (like wedding planning tips, steps for hosting a bridal shower, or seasonal event trends).

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» Manage and Grow Your Personal Brand!

Developing a strong brand is important to your business success. Make sure that you are owning your brand “territory” and building a strong online presence with these tips from PR Daily.

Check out our top 5 favorites below, and read the full article for all 10 sites.

BrandYourself

This website is a great way to manage and take ownership of your search results. The tool makes sure top search engines like Google and Bing find the real you—not someone else who may have a name similar to yours. It helps you put relevant results at the top and improve your personal brand.

About.me

About.me helps you create a personal homepage that is a central place for all your websites and social media accounts such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+, Instagram and a blog. This tool can help improve your presence online, and help others quickly learn who you are and what you share in one easy place.

Social Mention

This tool sends alerts based on your established keywords. It analyzes when someone mentions you and also determines how important those mentions are. Essentially, it is social media search engine by searching user generated content like blogs, bookmarks, comments and videos.

 NameChk

Do you want to know if your name is available on a certain social network? This tool helps make sure you secure your domains on social networks. It helps you determine if your desired social media username or URL is still available on tons of social networks, and also allows you to search for other options if need be.

Google Alerts

Google alerts are still a must to search for the keywords you want to know about, such as your name or the business name of your competitors. It also helps you stay up-to-date on keywords you are interested in, like WeddingWire, Wedding News, your local area, and more.

For more branding tips on and offline, be sure to check out our past posts about considering your branding colors, and designing a business card that gets noticed!

» New Updates to Your WeddingWire Account!

We made some exciting updates to your WeddingWire account! We have new client tools, an updated navigation and added customization to make your account easy to use. Check out an overview of what’s new below, and then log in to see for yourself and get started!

Clients Features UpdatesClients-updates

We have made some updates to our Clients tools to continue to improve the tools based on your suggestions. Here are a few of our updates:

New Account Navigation

Your WeddingWire account has a new navigation to make it easier to find what you are looking for! We have created new tabs to help:

  • Sites: Customize your mobile and client sites
  • Reviews: Request, track and showcase your reviews
  • Advertising: Update your public-facing Storefront and see how your business reaches across the WeddingWire and EventWire Networks

Customization Optionscustomization

Make your account your own! Add your business logo to the top left corner by simply clicking ‘Change’ after log in.

Also, all Settings are now housed in one easy place. Click the cog icon in the top right corner to update everything you need. Customization includes employee information, billing information, Client tab settings and more.

Log in now, and enjoy your new account updates!

» Tools for Creating Great Infographics

Today, great visual content is key. At WeddingWire, we love infographics! Infographics are visual representations of information, data or knowledge intent to present complex and engaging content quickly and clearly. Still not sure what an infographic is? Check this out!

We think that infographics are a fun and unique way to combine top industry tips, the latest statistics and important information into an engaging visual!

Check out some of our latest infographics designed just for Pros like you, including: How to Stand Out in a Competitive Market, How to Make Blogging Work for You, Are You Too Busy to Be Successful?, 6 Steps for SEO Success, and What’s Next in Tech!

Interested in making your own great infographics? These visuals are a great way to show your business expertise, and your creativity! Brainstorm ideas for an infographic you would like to share with your clients or other Pros in the industry. Some ideas include: top tips for planning your wedding, wedding trends this summer, 10 steps to a great photo, how to write your own vows in 5 steps, and much more!

Once you have your topic in mind, get started on the copy! Remember to keep it short and sweet so the infographic and images can tell the story for you. When you are ready to create your infographic or visualization, check out some online resources we have complied to find the best fit for you.

Here are some tools for creating simple visualizations:

  • Infogr.am: Infogr.am is a popular tool for creating free, interactive infographics. Chose from a variety of themes that are provided, and create custom charts using real data. Additionally, you are able to add your own images or video if you would like. When complete, you can embed it on your website and publish it directly on Infogr.am.
  • Visual.ly: Using this tool, create a free infographic for your business using their gallery of themes. Then, connect with your social media accounts to get sharing! The tool encourages use of your social media network and hashtags for added online exposure for you content.
  • Piktochart: This web-based tool provides six free infographic themes for creating simple visualizations. Simply drag and drop different shapes and images and customize your copy, and you are able to add in any graphs you may have. Then, you can export your image as a PNG or JPG in print or web copy for sharing.
  •  Easel.ly: This is another free tool for creating infographics that is currently in beta (which means the initial stage of launch). It is great for storytelling and has a wide selection of designed objects you can include, as well as a good selection of backgrounds. Also, you are able to upload your own images if you would like.

After you have created your infographic, be sure to share it! Consider embedding it into your website, sharing it with potential clients as an added resource, posting on your social media accounts and more.

For the latest leading inforgraphics for wedding and event Pros, be sure to follow WeddingWireEDU on Pinterest and pin your favorites!

» Better Your Business with an RSS Feed

Whether you are an avid blog reader, have some blogs and online content you follow regularly, or even if you haven’t yet developed a following on industry blogs – an RSS feed can help improve your business by giving you a great daily dose of Education!

First things first – what is an RSS feed?

An RSS is technically called a “Rich Site Summary” and serves as a web feed or “personal channel” where you can search, follow and track frequently updated web content – commonly used for blogs and news headlines.

Why consider using an RSS feed?

RSS feeds allow you to easily and quickly stay informed on the latest content of your favorite news, blogs and web content resources that interest you and apply to your business. This way, instead of starting your day and checking your favorite five sites, you can add them to your feed and the latest posts will all appear in one easy to review and preview feed – saving you time! Stories or posts that interest you can be clicked, and you will be directed right to the full post.

How do you get started?

Setting up a feed reader is easy! There are a variety of platforms available. You may have heard Google recently announced a change to their popular feed – Google Reader. It will no longer be available as of July 1, 2013, but luckily if you do have a feed with Google Reader you can export your feeds to a new reader using Google Takeout. There are a variety of popular feeds available to explore, including: netvibes, Pageflakes, and Bloglines.  Additionally, you may have one associated with your email account, such as Yahoo!.

Once you have established a feed, start to visit your favorite sites (including WeddingWireEDU, of course!) and add their RSS to your feed! If you have questions, we suggest looking at the feed’s help section for tips on getting started. Once you have established your feed, you can continue to add to it as you find new favorite blogs, sources with great articles, and any news sources that you would like updates from. Some sites we would recommend include: American Express’ Open Forum for small business tips, Mashable and TechCrunch for the latest in tech, WeddingWire’s blog for wedding inspiration and WeddingWireEDU for tips, updates and advice for Wedding and Event Pros!

As new content is published, it will be delivered to your feed in chronological order. That way, whether you constantly refresh your feed or catch up on a weekly basis, you can scroll through the content and review the posts that appeal to you and your business.

Enjoy!

Once you have your RSS established or further developed, find a way to incorporate it into your daily (or even weekly) routine. Catch up on the latest posts as you enjoy your morning coffee, dedicate some time to learning over lunch at your desk, or review the day’s relevant posts as you unwind watching a favorite evening TV show. Whatever works for you! RSS feeds are a great way to ensure that the latest industry happenings, tips and advice is delivered right to you!

» Maximize Your Impact When Working Virtually

From time to time, weather, personal events and more can impact your daily work schedules, and sometimes you and members of your team may have to work from home or on-the-go. Today, it is easier than ever to connect with your employees, colleagues, clients and contacts virtually, so working virtually can be extremely productive.

Follow these top tips to maximize your productivity from a virtual office, working from home or travel:

  • Hold your regular meetings:

In order to stay on top of your work, it is best to try to hold your regular and previously scheduled meetings, even if you have to do so on the phone. If you have the time and the resources to connect, it is best to keep your work moving, and stay in touch. This way, your work and decisions re moving forward, and your being out will not hold them up—which would ultimately lead to creating more work and stress for when you are back to your normal routine. If you are unable to join, see if a co-worker can run the meeting without you, and send you notes of the items discussed and next steps.

  • Avoid distractions:

Working remotely can be distracting, if it is outside of your usual routine. Working from home, a trip, or a friend or family’s home can bring outside distractions which can draw your attention way from your workload. It is easy to get side-tracked by your laundry, an engaging conversation, or the TV. Do your best to set up a daily schedule, and dedicate a certain amount of time to the tasks you need to accomplish that day. Try to find a quiet area, free from distractions, where you can focus on your work and establish productivity.

  • Share documents:

When you have your documents saved on a cloud, it is easy to access them on the go, and share with others. Using tools like Google Docs, you can quickly locate your work from any computer or tablet, even if you do not have your own work computer with you. Also, if you need to update or share these files, you can do so on-the-go, and not fall behind! Don’t have a Google email (Gmail) account? Set one up in just minutes for free!

  • Use chat and video chat:

Using a chat system is a great way to stay connected, even when you are not in the office. Connect with your staff through chat systems such as AOL Instant Messanger or Gchat through your Google email, and keep updated on your workloads, questions and more. Additionally, you can hold your meetings face-to-face with video chatting, such as using Google Hangout. You just need a webcam and for your team to have Google email addresses.

  • Stay in touch:

It is important to stay in touch when working out of the office, and keep your co-workers, other vendors and clients posted on your whereabouts. If you are going to be out of touch for a few days, be sure to set-up and out of office with information about how to contact you in case of an emergency, or directing to a co-worker who can manage any questions.

Working remotely is easier than ever before with today’s technology, but it is important to stay productive, communicate effectively, and set expectations to take advantage of your workday.