» 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.

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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.

» Get Ready for the 2017 WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards!

Couples-Choice-Awards-2017-announcement-imageWhen searching for the perfect wedding team, couples rely on reviews from other clients to understand the value of the experience your business provided for their special day. In fact, 87% of engaged couples read reviews when searching for their wedding pros. Reviews give your business credibility and encourage more couples to reach out to learn about your services.

Exciting news — the WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards® are coming soon! This annual awards program recognizes the top 5% of WeddingWire professionals leading the industry in high quality reviews from newlywed couples. Recipients of the Couples’ Choice Award are determined based on their demonstration of excellence in quality, service, responsiveness, and professionalism each year.

To be eligible for the award in 2017, we encourage you to reach out to your past clients and request reviews! You have until December 31st, 2016 to collect reviews from your clients this year in order to qualify for the prestigious award.

Here are three easy tips to help you collect more reviews quickly:

Start with gratitude

Email or write a handwritten note to your past clients expressing congratulations on their nuptials and how thankful you are for sharing a part of their special day. Your sincerity will be appreciated and will reinforce why they chose your business to be part of their wedding team. Be sure to invite them to leave you a review on WeddingWire, and make it clear that their feedback matters to your business and helps secure future clients.

Showcase your reviews

You earned great reviews, so let your past clients help sell your business for you! Add your reviews to your website, printed materials, and social media to let your past clients help set you apart from the competition. By showcasing your reviews, your clients will notice how committed you are to producing excellent work — and will be encouraged to leave you a review when their wedding is complete since it clearly matters to your business.

Make it easy

After spending months planning their wedding, sometimes couples want a break from their to-do list. Luckily, we make leaving a review easy for both you and your clients! Simply share a direct link to your personalized review URL, or send an automated email from the Review Collector to request reviews from your clients. By directing them right to source to share a few words about their experience with you, it greatly increases the chance they will complete the process. After all, 1 in 5 couples will write a review when asked, and that number increases to 1 in 3 if they are reminded at least once!

Request reviews from your 2016 clients and be on your way to earning more great reviews before 2017!

» It’s Impossible to be an Expert at Everything – and that’s Okay!

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.

Recently, I was conducting a mastermind group the other day in the UK for 10 DJ companies, who have varying years of experience (from 5 years to almost 40 years). What stood out to me was that this group, who all have good, successful companies, each have different business skills. Their technical (computer/internet/website) expertise ranged from low to very high. That’s to be expected with any group. What I didn’t expect is that one of the companies, who’s not known for his technical expertise when it comes to websites, was chiming in to help the group with some pretty technical features of Google Analytics. Quite a few of the guys in the room, including me (as I’ve consulted with him privately), were very surprised.

It turns out that he had been studying up, using websites and YouTube videos, and had picked up a few new tricks – and I’ll have to admit, I didn’t even know one or two of them. A couple of the guys in the room are pretty skilled in making websites and knew him personally, so they were even more surprised.

The point of this story? It got me thinking that each of us has our own history, knowledge and skillset.  None of us is an expert in everything, and we shouldn’t ever assume what others may or may not know. We have our own, unique expertise that comes from the combined knowledge we’ve gleaned, and that knowledge is unique to each of us.

impossible-expert-everythingWe’re each a product of our history

Many wedding pros have transitioned into their own businesses after leaving corporate, or technical jobs. They may have deep knowledge of software such as Microsoft Excel or Outlook. While others struggle to make a basic spreadsheet, they’re knocking out detailed reports with ease. However, those same people who have no problem using Excel might struggle with other areas of their businesses (i.e. marketing, design, websites, etc.). None of us is an expert at everything. When presented with a need for our business, we always have the choice of doing something ourselves, or hiring a professional. Knowing when to choose each path is something we often have to learn by trial and error.

It’s often easier to try to learn a new skill or software program, instead of hiring someone to do that task for you, especially when funds are tight. When you realize that the time you’re investing in learning that skill is time away from building your business, or away from your family, often the right answer is to hire the professional – after all, isn’t that why we want them to hire us? If you’re new at a skill, it’s going to take time for you to master it. If it’s a skill that you can profit from, maybe it’s worth investing in the training and time. For others, hiring a professional us a jump-start to that professional level. What’s that worth to you?

When is it time to make the switch?

I realized that when I switched from doing my own taxes, to hiring a professional CPA. My dad is a retired CPA and we would do my taxes together (my degree is in marketing and accounting). However, he’s been retired for a long time (he’s 86 now), so he’s not up on the latest tax laws and software. I never practiced accounting, so even though I have a good understanding, I wasn’t up on the latest info, either. So, a few years ago I hired an accountant, and the first year he did my taxes he showed me deductions I hadn’t been taking and was able to recoup some refunds from prior years. In other words, he paid for himself the first time I used him.

Too many of us fall into the trap of thinking that because we have expertise in one area, it’s automatically transferrable to another skill. We’re comfortable with using a computer, so we think we can make our own website. We’re creative, so we think we can design our own marketing collateral. It’s understandable, especially when you consider that most of us started as, or still are, small businesses, where you, the owner, is wearing many hats. When you’re bootstrapping a new business, you usually do everything yourself. As a matter of fact, Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, is purported to have said (and I’m paraphrasing) “When I started my business, I knew I’d be wearing a lot of hats. I just didn’t realize I’d be wearing them all at the same time.”

Time is slipping away

An important realization, in any business, is learning to value your time. It’s the one thing you’ll never get any more of. Sometimes it’s best to hire someone to do something you do have the skill for, just because your time is better spent on other tasks. I put off hiring an assistant for a couple of years. I knew it would be helpful, but I wasn’t sure I could justify the expense. Everything was getting done, but at what cost? The cost was my time, sitting on the sofa at night with my laptop, working, when I should have been spending time with my family, or even just relaxing.

What’s your time worth? What else could you be doing if you delegated some tasks to someone else (virtual assistant, intern, employee)? None of us is an expert at everything, no matter how long, or short, you’ve been in business. Sometimes we all need help. Becoming aware of that is the first step to accomplishing more, achieving more and profiting more.

» Taking Full Advantage of the Off-Season

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.

When it comes to planning ahead, there is no better time than the off-season to get organized and map out your next steps in business development. Whether it’s streamlining your client intake procedures or doing research on an idea you’d like to capitalize on, it’s best to make the most of the time during your off-season. If you can’t make time for it now, how do you plan to handle it when your days are filled with events?

off-season-blogHere are a few ways you can take advantage of your off-season and put your business in a better position for the year to come:

Jumpstart your social media

Has your social presence been lacking? Do you need a total overhaul on your accounts? Now is the time to map out your social media plans for the upcoming season. If posting to Facebook and Instagram is too time-consuming when you’re busy with other work, look into programs like Later and Schedugram that allow you to pre-schedule your social media posts. That way, you only have to set aside an hour or two of your time each month to plan out your posts.

Streamline your emails

Email drafts are a lifesaver – in addition to making your life easier, they also set a standard procedure for others as they send emails (or future employees if you’re not quite there yet). Although you’ll certainly want to tweak each email for its recipient so it stays genuine, creating drafts of your frequent emails will save you a lot of time in the future. Consider writing up drafts for initial responses to inquiries, follow ups, welcome emails and anything else that you find yourself sending out a lot.

Rebranding and Website Redesign

Rebranding is a major process and takes a lot of time and preparation – certainly not what you want consuming your time while you’re in the middle of peak season. If you’ve been thinking about changing your name, updating your logo or even doing a complete overhaul, start preparing as the off-season begins and aim for a launch date around the beginning of the next season. Even a simpler website redesign can take some time, so don’t wait to get started!

Planning a new project

If you’ve been thinking about launching a new service or building an extension of your company, the off-season is the ideal time to do your research and begin implementing the first steps of your plan. Give yourself enough time to map it out and understand that it is a work in process – it’s not something you can finish overnight!

» The Key to Setting Realistic Goals

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.

Most of us are familiar with setting goals, whether personal or professional. It could be to cut down on your caffeine habit or it could be to boost your revenue to reach a certain benchmark. Whatever they may be, goals give us direction in life and provide us with a definition of success. Either you’ve met a goal or you haven’t – right?

Now, of all of the goals you have ever set, how many would you say you’ve reached? Don’t be ashamed – we’re all guilty of creating goals and letting them fall by the wayside for a variety of reasons. (Isn’t that the point of New Year’s resolutions?)

Fortunately, there are a few measures we can take to ensure that our goals become a priority rather than an afterthought. Even if you don’t achieve them by your ideal date, any progress is welcome – as long as you are getting closer to the finish line.

Take note

There’s no shame if your best thinking is done in the shower or in bed right before falling asleep – just make sure you write it down! One of the biggest reasons people’s goals go unmet is simply because they haven’t jotted it down in a place they see every day. The process of writing something down ingrains it in your mind and seeing a reminder every day will keep it on the forefront of your mind.

Don’t hide them

Even though your goals may just be for yourself, it always helps to have a support system at your side. Share your goals with friends, family and colleagues so that they’ll keep an eye out if you need an extra boost. Get with your team at the office to discuss everyone’s goals – that way, you can develop an interlaced network of support and, together, you can all push each other to achieve short- and long-term goals for the company.

A reward never hurts

Most people seek validation to a certain extent and operate well under an incentive-based system, so create a reward structure for you and your team. If, for example, you have a personal goal to speak at a local conference, treat yourself to a spa day once you’ve booked it! This works for employees as well – there’s nothing quite as motivating as a paid day off or an all-expenses-paid trip to an industry event.

Now, it’s time to grab a notepad and write down anything that comes to mind! Oftentimes, we hold ourselves back from aiming high simply because we don’t think that we could ever achieve something. Unfortunately, lack of trying is the only surefire way to never reach a goal. Dream big and take those reach goals and break them down into manageable (and actionable) steps – that way, you’ll be able to track your progress and continue to push yourself to the next objective!

» Can You Hear Me Now? Communication Tips to Get More Replies and Bookings

July-Webinar-ImageWebinar recap!

Communicating with clients in this day in age can be very confusing. Technology has transformed not only the way we communicate, but what we should be saying and how we should be saying it.

It’s important to be familiar with the best modern communication practices in order to get more replies and book more couples! In this month’s webinar for Premium members, WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg shared his tips for successful communication in the wedding industry!

Here are the 6 T’s that Alan suggests for better client communication:

    • Technology. With literally thousands of apps available for communication–from Messages, to Live Chat, to email, to calling, etc.– it’s difficult to know the best way to get in touch with a couple. At the end of the day, customer convenience is the motto to live by. Follow their lead using their preferred communication type. If you’re making the first contact, email is typically your safest bet, as most couples prefer email over all other communication methods.
    • Timing. The faster you respond to a couple, the more likely it is that they will choose your business over others. Most couples expect a response within 24 hours, so if you know you won’t be able to get back to them before then, at least make contact to let them know you will be in touch soon.
    • Text. Whatever method of communication you choose, be sure to keep your message short and sweet. Also make sure that anything you send can be easily read on a mobile device. Alan suggests that you avoid using attachments and graphics when possible, as those tend not to load properly on mobile devices.
    • Tone. When it comes to your tone, the golden rule is to mirror your client. Get a feel for their manner, and respond accordingly. However, don’t feel obligated to ditch your unique voice, and don’t change your tone once you’ve booked a client. Stay true to yourself and your business personality!
    • Transition. Alan says that one of the most important elements to remember (and one that many business owners forget) is to always provide a call to action. Give your clients a sense of direction, letting them know what the next best step is. However, don’t be pushy; you don’t want to rush them or make them feel forced into an appointment.
    • Tenacity. Don’t give up on a sale if you haven’t heard back right away! Couples are very busy when planning a wedding, so follow up to remind them that you still care about their sale. Ask for the sale if they ask you a question, but avoid seeming impatient. It’s a best practice to follow up 3-5 times on a lead before you let it go, just remain professional and try different approaches to see what gets you a reply.

For more great advice, watch the full webinar, and be sure to check out Alan’s blog all about the business of weddings!

Pro tip: WeddingWire Messages is a fast and easy way to connect with couples, available now in your account! You’ll be notified about new leads or messages, and you can reply using your email, account or mobile device. You’re easily able to send attachments, manage conversations and client details, and move from inquiry to marked as booked instantly. Learn more here!