» 7 Essentials of a Great Website

An online presence is vital for any business, but a poor online presence could be costing your business money. As busy season starts to wind down and engagement season ramps up, you should start thinking about using the next couple of months to tune up your business, including your website. Doing so will make sure you are putting your best foot forward for all of the newly engaged couples!

Your website’s job is to provide key information about your business, showcase your best work and impress clients to drive leads. When was the last time you considered if your business website is working hard enough for you?

Here’s a roundup of seven website essentials from WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg:

  1. Personalized Content: Aim to use conversational text on your site that connects with your target audience — engaged couples. Instead of making your content all about your business, make it all about your customer and bring life to your business.

  2. Fresh Imagery: When was the last time you refreshed your website photos? If it’s been a while, it may be time to do so! Make a great first impression with high quality, modern images that will resonate with newly engaged couples who are seeking inspiration. Not only is it a great way to show off your work and service, it’s a great way to establish credibility with a couple.

  3. Relevant Information: Take a look at your site from an outside perspective, and determine what information they need to make a simple decision of whether to contact you or book your services. Then, delete everything else. Often, too much text is overwhelming and causes your site visitors to bounce. Focus on your key takeaways and make them easy to read and digest.

  4. Simple Contact Form: Long forms get in the way of more leads! The shorter the form, the less daunting it will seem to reach out. Plus, shorter forms are more mobile-friendly. For the form, only ask for the key information you need. When you respond to their inquiry you can ask them to provide more details.

  5. Narrated Photos: Consider adding captions or other narrative context to the photos you showcase on your site. Explain the photos and how your business brought a couple’s wedding day or event to life and tie in relevant keywords to boost your SEO. Keep these brief, but it can help create a personal connection.

  6. Testimonials and Reviews: Potential clients want to hear from others like them who have used – and loved your services, so make sure your reviews are easy to find! Add your WeddingWire Reviews widget to your website, and place a soundbite from an approved client testimonial on every page so they won’t be overlooked.

  7. Straight Forward Calls to Action: Make it easy to connect with your business. Consider adding a contact form or clear button to learn more about your business to every page of your website. You can also use calls-to-action to get visitors to engage with content you would like to promote such as a real wedding videos, content downloads and more.

» How to Build an Organizational Plan for Your Business

Small businesses owners often dedicate the majority of their time to managing their business and making their clients happy. In many cases, they get wrapped up in their day-to-day work and forget about themselves. After all, didn’t you go into business for you?

We explored time management and productivity techniques with Vanessa Joy of Vanessa Joy Photography in our recent Premium webinar. Vanessa shared tips for helping you run your business rather than letting it run you.

The workflow exercise below is all about finding what really matters to you and taking action to work towards your definition of success. Whether you want to create more free time to spend with your family, build a bigger client base, allow more flexibility for travel, or whatever else it may be, this organizational plan will help move you towards your goal.

“Parts of a Whole” Exercise

  1. Before anything else, you must define what success means to you in your small business. It’s probably something you thought about a lot at the beginning of your journey, so it’s a great place to start. Ask yourself why you went into this business and write a few of those things down. Are these still the things that equate to success in your mind? If not, do a bit of editing and come up with a full list of how you determine the success of your business today.
  2. Now that you’re refreshed on your why and what success means to you, grab a piece of paper and a pen. Draw a line down the middle to make two columns. On the left side write down the following things: anything you dislike doing for your business, the things you aren’t good at, the tasks that slow you down, any menial ($10 an hour) tasks, the processes you know are broken, and anything you do that you know your clients don’t notice.
  3. On the right side write down all of the things you love doing for your business, everything that defines your brand, and the things your clients do notice (for this, look to your reviews, emails from couples, etc).

Putting Your Plan in Action

And just like that you’ve outlined the priorities for your business! Everything written in the left column should be thoroughly assessed and prioritized. Set aside some time and create a potential plan of action to remove these tasks from your workflow completely. When assessing these tasks, it’s hard to visualize putting them in someone else’s hands. So, ask yourself if keeping them under your control moves you toward your definition of success. If not, it’s time to find an alternative whether that’s outsourcing, automating or hiring an intern.

For everything in the right column, these are the tasks that should continue to be in your realm and under your control. This is where you can make the most impact in your business and where you should be focusing your time. These are the tasks you went into business for.

We’ll admit, making an organizational plan for your business isn’t always easy, but we promise it will help you in the long run. Figuring out where to spend your time is the most important step – from there you can find tools for streamlining and begin to outsource some of the left column work.

Once you have made your plan, do your best to have patience and delegate. There’s no way to see results unless you wait!

» 5 People Every Wedding Business Owner Needs on Speed Dial

As the saying goes, “It takes a village.” That sentiment rings true when it comes to owning and operating your own business. You want to surround yourself with smart and capable people that will contribute to your success and growth. Who those people are tend to be a bit different for everyone, but we’ve put together a list from fellow wedding pros on who you may want to add to your speed dial.

Website Consultant
Kylie Carlson of the International Academy of Wedding and Event Planning relies heavily on her website consultant, “Since we are an e-learning company, I speak to my Website Consultant daily for his advice on different things I need to maintain 6 websites and a Learning Management System.” Most of us can relate to running a business primarily through a website, and when emergencies pop up or you need something added quickly, having your consultant’s number at the ready is a must.

Social Media Groups
In the age of social media, sometimes a phone call isn’t needed when you belong to groups of like-minded individuals that you trust. Jenny DeMarco of Jenny DeMarco Photography shares, “I am a part of a group of about 35 peers from all over that met while attending the same workshops and conferences every year. We are diverse in age, experience, income levels, business models, photography styles and much more. We have an online Facebook group that I turn to all the time when I need advice or encouragement.”

Business Partner
When you need a second opinion, or are struggling with some of the bigger decisions, oftentimes the person you should be speaking with is your business partner. “Running a business is often a fast paced environment that needs quick decisions, creative problem solving, and innovative ideas. So I find myself regularly calling the person that I know is just as invested as I am- my business partner.” explains Audrey Isaac of 100 Candles.

Publicist
Kevin Dennis of WeddingIQ doesn’t make any marketing PR decisions without first getting on a call with his publicist, “For us, our speed dial list is really two-fold, because different people are valuable in different areas. Our publicist is the first person we call when it comes to any marketing or insider wedding industry questions, but when I am thinking on a new idea or need advice outside of PR and marketing, I turn to a few trusted veteran peers for help.”

Massage Therapist
You may read this with a confused expression, but relaxation and recharging are an absolute necessity when working in the wedding business. “After a weekend of weddings, you need that massage first thing Monday morning,” says Jennifer Taylor of Taylor’d Events. If not a masseuse, then perhaps call your tennis partner or yoga instructor- whatever you need to do to enjoy a little rest.

Now it’s your turn! Pull out your phone and create a speed dial list that’s right for you.

 

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.

» 3 Reasons Marketing in Facebook Groups Can Hurt Your Business

Have you ever joined a Facebook Group for local wedding vendors and couples, excited to find a place to connect with potential clients – only to find that every group is flooded with vendor after vendor pitching themselves, each one offering a lower price than the last?

This is a common scene in local Facebook communities, often titled “Wedding Buy/Sell/Trade” or “Yard Sale” groups. Couples will post in these groups looking for vendors, but because it is so easy for anyone to join and market in these groups, it becomes oversaturated with local vendors who fall into the trap of competing to offer the lowest price.

The tricky part is that with so many posts popping up from couples planning their weddings in Facebook groups every day, it is easy to fall into the trap yourself and start commenting on posts that ask for vendors with rates way under your standard pricing.

Here are three reasons this is hurting your business:

  1. Since there are so many vendors trying to quote their lowest rates in an effort to compete for business in these groups, the couples who join and post in local Facebook wedding groups tend to be deal seekers. Of course, this is not always the case, but if you have higher end pricing or simply do not want to discount your rates, it can become difficult to find prospects willing to pay full price. 
  2. If you spend a lot of time in these groups marketing to couples that aren’t your ideal clients, you are losing time that could be spent building your business elsewhere – like updating your WeddingWire Storefront, preparing for bridal shows, or working on a referral program. If you feel like you post and comment often in Facebook groups, but it’s getting you nowhere, try focusing your energy on other avenues that you know work for you. 
  3. Participating in lowest-bidder comment threads in these groups can devalue your work. If you find yourself commenting on every post and handing out discounts to all of the couples who contact you in these groups, it makes your discounted rates the norm – meaning it will become more and more difficult to find couples and get referrals from people who are willing to pay for your full priced packages.

So what should you do instead? Focus on your ideal client. These couples are the ones who are most likely to love the work you do and write reviews that will attract more ideal clients in the future. Think about how your ideal client researches wedding vendors and the unique qualities they are looking for in their search. Then use those things to determine how to market to them and how to convey your brand on WeddingWire, from your photos to your profile description.

Make sure to highlight the characteristics they are looking for in a wedding vendor throughout your profile so that your ideal clients will be even more interested in what you have to offer. Then when you do get inquiries, you won’t feel as pressured to give discounts or “beat” other vendors in the market – all while saving time after leaving those Facebook groups!

» Do You Hate (The Boring Parts of) Your Wedding Pro Job?

alan bergThis 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.

I once heard a very famous speaker friend say on-stage: “I hate my job!” We, in the audience, were very surprised, until he continued that he loves speaking, he just hates all of the other things related to his work: prospecting, administration, sales, etc. Sound familiar? Do you love the creative parts of your work, but hate the business parts? Many wedding pros I meet feel that way.

Love it or hate it, those business tasks are what separate a hobby from a business. When I started selling wedding advertising many years ago, I remember visiting with a wedding photographer in his studio. His bookshelf had lots of photography books, but it also had business books. While his work was very good, there were other, more artistic photographers in his market. That said, he had a better, more viable business than many of the more artistic photographers, because he understood that he also needed business skills.

What are you good at?

Which parts of your business are you best at doing? Chances are, you didn’t say sales and marketing. If you did, good for you! If not, then what are you doing to enhance your business skills? Are you attending conferences like WeddingWire World? When I started giving presentations at conferences many years ago, the business sessions were lightly attended, compared to the sessions on improving your craft (floral arranging, video editing, etc.).

Over the years, I’m pleased to see more business content become available and more people choosing to attend. After all, you can have the best creative skills and not have a viable business. If you have great business skills, you can always hire the creative talent. When it comes to the business tasks, you can either learn to do them better or outsource them. I know how to do my accounting, but I use a CPA to do my taxes. They’re up on the latest laws and deductions, and have proven their worth to me, over and over, through their actions. I understand graphic design, but I hire a professional graphic designer, because they’re more creative than me. I understand website design, and I’ve written a book on websites, but I use a professional website designer for the more technical aspects, which are not my strength.

 

TGIF or TGIM?

In the 9-5 world, you hear TGIF from people who are looking forward to Friday, because it’s the end of their work week. In the wedding industry, Friday is the beginning of your work. Sure, you’ve been preparing for these weddings for weeks, or months, but you get to see the culmination of your work on the weekend. Yes, weddings can happen on other days, but the recent WeddingWire Newlywed Report said that, in 2016, 22 days accounted for half of all weddings. They were all Saturdays, and the 3 most popular dates were all in October. So, I can say, with confidence, that the weekend is likely when you’re performing your services.

Do you look forward to Friday, TGIF, because you’re excited about being able to bring to fruition your hard work, and to show your couples, and their guests, an amazing experience? Or, do you say TGIM, Thank Goodness It’s Monday, because your work is done? Yes, there’s a sense of relief in knowing that the wedding went off, hopefully without a hitch. Yes, there’s a sense of satisfaction in delivering your products and services, at a high-level, and having your customers pleased with the results. That said, some of you don’t get to see the faces of the guests, as they arrive at the wedding, or as they dance the night away. You deliver the tent, tables, flowers and décor, before the first guest arrives. You see brides in their dresses, in your shop, but not at the wedding (until they post or send you photos). You see grooms in their tuxes and suits, but not at the wedding. You see the invitations, but not the look on their guest’s faces when they go to their mailboxes and then open, with anticipation, the first impression of their wedding. So, do you look forward to delivering your service, or for the relief of it being over?

 

Inner pride

The most intense sense of pride comes from within. Yes, it’s nice to have others say your work is great. Yes, it’s gratifying to see their wonderful reviews. But, as I said on my recent WeddingWire EDU webinar, “Your ROI (Return on Investment) is in the WHY,” you should work the same, whether anyone sees you or not. Satisfaction of a job well done should be internal first. Know that you’ve done the absolute best you could for that customer. Take pride in that, and then look for validation from the couple and their guests.

Like it, or not, not everyone posts a photo or review. You often get little or no feedback from your customer, and rarely from the guests (unless you’re physically at the wedding). While there’s no shortage of egos in the wedding industry, your first goal is to feed your family, then feed your ego. Do what’s right, because it’s the right thing to do, not because anyone will notice. Then, get validation that you did, through their photos, social posts and reviews. So, love your job, or hate it (and outsource more of it), feel very blessed we’re in an industry that allows us to share our creativity on one of the most special days of their lives. TGIF!

» WeddingWire Networking Night Los Angeles

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at Noor for WeddingWire Networking Night Los Angeles!

At the Networking Night, LA wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy a gorgeous venue space, network with other local vendors across all service categories, and meet members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned about building relationships in a business with little to no repeat customers from WeddingWire Contributor, Bethel Nathan.

Thank you to all the wonderful professionals who joined us! We’re excited to share highlights from the event including the educational presentation, our latest issue of WedInsights, and photos from the enjoyable evening below.

We would like to say a special thank you to the amazing event partners who helped make the evening possible:

Finally, we’re excited to announce the winner of our WeddingWire Prize Pack give away – congrats to Heather from Lisa’s Bon Appetit!

» Infographic: Top 10 Business Tips from 2016

The start of a new year is the ideal time to evaluate your business success! Take a moment to read these insider’s tips on how businesses like yours have achieved their goals over the past twelve months.

These 10 highlights from WeddingWire’s Senior Director of Customer Success Ashley Conway include advice about how to impress more newly engaged couples and improve your marketing techniques to generate more leads and clients.  Read on and set your business up for success in the coming year.

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» 4 Easy Ways to Reduce Distractions at Appointments

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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.

These days it often seems like everyone is busier than ever, with shorter attention spans.  Knowing this may be true for your clients, it’s your job to keep appointments focused and distractions to a minimum. This advice goes for everything from the physical design and décor of your meeting space, to the background and lighting.

Customize your space for your audience.

If your business has multiple audiences for weddings, corporate parties, bar/bat mitzvahs, even funerals, it’s a good idea to have a way to change the visuals when you meet with them. When a bar mitzvah parent is coming in for a meeting, they should be seeing bar mitzvah art on the walls, bar mitzvah videos playing on your TVs and bar mitzvah images on your printed collateral materials. The same goes for your other audiences. I’ve seen quite a few wedding pros’ offices that use flat screen TVs instead of printed photos, so they can change the imagery. So, unless you’re the photographer, and you’re selling large printed and framed photos, you can try this, too. You can put a nice picture frame around the TV to make it look and feel more like artwork.

How do they see it?

Sit where they will sit and see what’s in their line of sight that might be a distraction. Is there a large window behind you with distracting movement of people, or vehicles? Are there any maintenance items that need to be addressed, from dusting, to spider webs, to touching up paint and fixing broken ceiling tiles? Looking at it from their perspective is one of the things I do when I come for an on-site training. You can’t see it the way that they do, because you see it every day, another example of the Curse of Knowledge.

wedding professionals meet couples wedding vendor

Say what?

Are there sounds coming from outside or adjacent rooms that might be a distraction? Here’s another area where you don’t get credit for getting it right, but you lose points for getting it wrong. No one will thank you for reducing the distractions, but they’ll notice when it’s too noisy, dogs barking, babies crying, and when there are people talking or playing music loudly in the next room. Actually, that wasn’t totally correct. You will get thanked in the form of additional business by getting it right.

Give them your undivided attention.

While you’re in an appointment, and I know this sounds obvious, but don’t take phone calls, check your smartphone, or email. It’s rude and it shows them that they’re less important than whatever else you’re doing. When you’re the customer, you don’t like that, so, unless someone close to you is about to have a baby, or come out of surgery, silence your devices, and tell you staff (if you have a staff) not to interrupt you unless it relates to this customer. Most of our communication is non-verbal. People believe what they see more than what they hear, and your actions speak volumes. Giving them your undivided attention is key to gaining their trust. I’ve said this already, but it’s worth mentioning again; people buy from people they know, like and trust.

» Focus on Your Earnings, Not Savings

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.

focus-on-earnings-not-savingsAs we approach the end of another year, it’s often time to reconcile our finances. We need to get our books in order, so we can do our taxes (I know, yuk). Then comes the scramble to find the deductions you qualified for over the year. While doing so, it becomes easy to focus on our expenses. For some of us, it’s time to re-evaluate those expenses as we prepare for the coming year.

These insights will help you get a handle on your financial planning needs and help you take control as you plan for the future!

Expenses vs. Investments

The danger in focusing only on expenses is that you can lose focus on the bigger picture. The only money you can save is the money you spend. It’s a finite amount. You can’t make all of your expenses disappear. You have to buy gas for your car, and pay for telephone service, internet connection, electricity, and more. But those are expenses, not investments. Expenses are things that you pay for, where you don’t expect any return other than what you bought (gas, electricity, phone service, food, etc.).

Investments, on the other hand, are things that may, and the operative word is ‘may’, provide a return that’s greater than the value paid. When you invest in a new employee, you would hope to get more value than what you pay them. When you invest in a new website, you would hope to get more value than the cost of the website. When you invest in advertising and marketing, you would hope to get back more than the value that you pay. When you invest in a new location, you would hope to get back more than you invest.

Opportunity Cost

What you need to focus on is getting the best return. The opportunity cost of not investing is the money you could make if you did. Sometimes, that means doing more than just paying the bill. For instance, if you buy a booth at a wedding show, and don’t take the time to design your booth correctly, and invest in great email/direct mail follow up, and actually do the follow up, you’ll never get the most return from that investment. Similarly, if you take a new office/warehouse space, build it out and decorate it properly, but don’t invest in marketing to let people know about it, you’ll never see the full return.

Go Big, or Go Home

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» Join Us at the Planners Suite Conference

planners-suite-conferenceStaying on top of the latest education in the industry is a key to your business’ success. Attending conferences and events as well as joining webinars is a great way to stay up-to-date on the latest trends, stats and topics that matter to wedding businesses.

Washington, DC and surrounding areas pros are invited to The Planners Suite conference this coming January 30-31, 2017 at The Bellevue Conference and Event Center in Chantilly, VA. Enjoy two days of education from a variety of industry speakers, including WeddingWire’s own Director of Market Insights Andy Whittaker.

Conference attendees will learn:

  • How to drive sales for the year
  • How to effectively market your company to your target clientele
  • How to expand your business through the hiring a team
  • How to become a better business owner

WeddingWire members can save $20 on tickets by entering promo code WEDDINGWIRE on the registration page. We hope to see you in January!

» 10 Marketing Best Practices for 2017

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.

As the year comes to a close and busy fall wedding season winds down, now is a good time to review your marketing strategy for the upcoming year. Review these ten marketing tips to help keep your business on track and set-up for success in 2017!

  • 10-marketing-tipsKeep your brand fresh. It’s easy to fall into the trap of simply renewing your online listings and not making changes to the content or reviewing the design to make sure it’s modern and on brand. Take a look at your marketing materials and your advertising platforms, and consider making some small updates to refresh your branding for 2017 like adding new imagery, refreshing your logo or highlighting your social media accounts.
  • Leverage your in-person exposure. If you participate in wedding shows or local events, don’t let the competition pass you by! Make sure your booth, marketing materials and promotions are up-to-date and make a great first impression to your potential clients. Remember your presentation is not just for wedding couples, but also makes an impact on your fellow professionals who can become referrals in your network.
  • Make website updates. Websites can be like closets… businesses tend to add content, but rarely remove anything old! Set aside time to do a full vetting of your website, including all pages. Consider updating copy, adding/removing staff member information, reviewing pricing, contact forms and images of your work. A modern site will catch the eye of your prospects, and dated material will be a red flag.
  • Highlight your inquiry form: It is critical to have an inquiry page within your site so couples can easily get in touch to learn more about your services. This may be the point important element to drive your leads and sales! She this page as a prominent link and add a link or small contact form to every page within your site for added exposure. To help track your marketing success consider asking your prospects: “How did you find our site?”
  • Add testimonials to your site: Let your past clients do the selling for you! Collect and add testimonials and reviews from happy past clients, and add sound bites to all your marketing materials. Customer praise should be featured throughout your site, and make sure you add your WeddingWire Reviews widget to show off recent reviews, along with any accolades for reviews like WeddingWire Rated or Couples Choice Awards.

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» Winter Reading List for Wedding Pros

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

As the peak season winds down and you find more time on your hands, it’s important to make sure you’re carving in time for personal and business development. There is no better way to do this than to get your reading on! With that in mind, grab a mug of your favorite warm drink, pull up a blanket and get cozy with this reading list for wedding pros as the weather gets colder.

Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi

winter-reading-listThis is my go-to book and I recommend it to virtually anyone who asks for reading suggestions. In fact, I actually gave it away at this year’s WeddingWire World! During my first few months of starting OFD, I made sure to take the time to meet some of my favorite entrepreneurs. In the process, my dear friend Nina, who owns Classic Party Rentals of Virginia (one of my favorite people ever!), told me to buy it. Seeing as I do everything she tells me, I bought it and devoured it within days.

It’s a great book on the power of relationships with the notion that “your network is your net worth.” The wedding industry may continue to change, but by all means, relationships will always be at the forefront so this is imperative. If you’re going to read only one book on this list, let it be this one!

The Lean Startup by Eric Ries

Do you have a new idea that you’re dying to explore? Is there something you really want to get off the ground? Well, the off-season is the perfect time to map out your plan, but don’t do anything until you read this first. This book dives into the world of testing an idea and it has proven invaluable to me as I’ve contemplated the next steps of my business. This is a great read for anyone considering a pivot in their company!

Zombie Loyalists: Using Great Service to Create Rabid Fans by Peter Shankman

I’ll be honest – I’ve been a longtime fan of Peter Shankman ever since I discovered HARO. He is a customer service expert and this book is perfect for those looking to focus on developing client experience. In the wedding industry, one of the top ways that couples find their vendors is through friend referrals, so this is an incredible read to help you build a loyal fan base among your customers.

Nice Guys Finish First by Doug Sandler

We are so lucky to have Doug Sandler in the wedding industry and this book speaks to the power of kindness in the business. It’s chockful of great anecdotes from Doug’s career and truly showcases how to put systems into place to ensure the emphasis is placed on business relationships.

Get ready for a page-turning off-season! These books are both enjoyable and educational at the same time, so order your first book and get going on your off-season efforts.