» Have You Evaluated Your Memberships For 2019?

When we think of tools that help us continue our education and grow as industry professionals, association memberships are one of the things that likely come to mind. The benefits of membership, whether local or on a national level, are endless. But when you factor in the travel to events, the finances you put into attending, and the time that you take away from your business to make it to the meetings, it’s important to analyze your memberships to make sure that the ROI is worth it in the long run.

How often you should evaluate your memberships?

It should be noted that nearly every membership has its benefits, but ultimately, your participation and how you reap the rewards is up to you. You should take time each year to take a hard look at each association you’re a part of. Are you getting the most out of your membership? Are you making it a priority? Have you noticed that your business is better because of it?

It’s also important to think about which associations make more sense to you. If you find that you’re benefiting more from a local association, it’s completely okay to start smaller and focus on building your connections from there. Don’t feel as if you have to commit to a national association if you’re not gaining as much from it.

Know what’s working and what’s not

There are plenty of ways to take advantage of your membership, even if you feel you may have been letting it fall to the wayside. Think about why you first decided to join. Was it to establish more industry connections? Did you want to further your education with fresh ideas from other experts? Whatever the case may be, you can always turn it around and tackle your position as a member with those initial goals in mind.

If you’re not seeing the results you want, try approaching it from a different angle. Make more of an effort to connect with other members by following up with them, congratulating them on recent achievements, or just showing a genuine interest in their work. Take advantage of attending your association’s webinars or seeing guest speakers.

How to be more involved

Our industry makes it extremely easy to be passive when it comes to things that aren’t in line with our immediate business. If it’s not at the top of your mind or on your calendar, it’s inevitable that they’ll slip away.

Personally, I live and die by my calendar. If it’s not marked in my schedule, it just won’t get done. Mark each event ahead of time and block off part of your day to devote to attending. And this can be a hard one, but learn to say ‘yes’! When other members are meeting for dinner or meeting up at a conference, it could be in your best interests to put in some valued facetime and strengthen those relationships. You never know who will refer more business to you, or who will become your next go-to friend in the industry.

An association membership can be one of the best things you ever do for yourself as a professional, and evaluating your place as a member can help you maximize the benefits and ensure that you’re reaping what you sow!


Kevin Dennis is the editor of WeddingIQ and the owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California. Dennis is the past president for Silicon Valley NACE, and current international president for WIPA.

» Show Us Your Best: Get published on WeddingWire with Real Weddings

Rodrigo Moraes Photography

So what’s a Real Wedding?

Designed to further connect your business with engaged couples, Real Weddings inspire everyone involved in the planning process with gorgeous ideas to celebrate love.

Increase your exposure across WeddingWire with Real Weddings. No models, no set – just real life celebrations highlighting your work, published in the Real Weddings gallery. See this gallery displayed right on your Storefront, and the Storefronts of all vendors who took part in the wedding.

If you got it, flaunt it.

Show potential clients the breadth of your work with real life, high quality examples. WeddingWire Real Weddings are the perfect opportunity to, display your work, attract potential clients, and promote your business to our wide network of engaged couples.

As a vendor with a published Real Wedding you’ll gain more exposure across WeddingWire, with couples able to search the Real Weddings gallery by location, color, season, and style for inspiration and to find vendors like you. Plus, they can view the names of all professionals tagged in Real Weddings and easily visit their Storefronts.

Are you a photographer or videographer? Here’s how it works.

(Wedding professional in another category? Keep reading, we’ve got you covered below.)

  1.  Submit your photos/videos of authentic, candid moments that capture real emotions of the day from start to finish. We want to see work that genuinely showcases the couple’s wedding story.Think anything from engagement rings, invitations, accessories, first look, vows, flower arrangements, reception decor, cake cutting, grand exit, and the list goes on!
    We’re looking for your best high quality photos. And of course, you’ll need an account with WeddingWire.
  2. Don’t forget to give every vendor that played a role in the event accolades by tagging the full wedding team in your photos/videos, so that your content also appears on their Storefronts. You can directly tag other vendors who took part in the wedding or email the couple asking them to provide the vendor names.
  3. Next, your submission will be reviewed by a member of our team to ensure it meets our quality standards and requirements. Remember that all content must meet submission requirements and can be rejected if it does not.
  4. Our team will let you know by email if your content was approved or not a fit for publication.
  5. Approved Real Weddings will be published in the WeddingWire Real Weddings gallery, on your Storefront, and the Storefronts of all tagged vendors for all couples to see and enjoy!

Not a photographer or videographer? No problem!

If you’re a vendor on WeddingWire and offer services in another category, you can easily request Real Weddings from photographers, videographers and couples within your WeddingWire account! When you send a Real Wedding request, they’ll receive an email asking them to submit professional, high quality photos and videos for feature consideration.

Lights, Camera…

From photographers to florists to bakers, Real Weddings are available to showcase your best work and gain exposure with our extended network of couples (read: your future clients).

 

It’s time for your closeup.

Get started with Real Weddings

 

» How to Set and Measure Your Business Goals

I received a call from a client’s sales manager asking me how many calls I expected my sales reps to make. I told him that throughout my sales career in this industry, beginning when I was an independent ad sales rep (commission only), then a publisher (with 3 sales reps), to a Regional Sales Director (16 reps) and then VP of Sales (over 50 reps), I never measured phone call volume. He seemed surprised, as that’s been one of the metrics he’d been judged by as a sales rep for most of his career, which is why he’s been using that as a benchmark for his own team.

I explained that, at least to me, measuring call volume was a distraction, as call volume was not my goal. More sales was the goal, so that’s what I measured. I never asked my sales reps for call reports, or used systems to measure their call volume… that is, unless they weren’t making their sales numbers. If the production wasn’t there, then I wanted to know what they were doing. Interestingly, my top performing reps often made the fewest calls. They just had more productive calls. My lower-performing reps were often making lots of calls, but they weren’t going anywhere.

What’s your benchmark?
What are you measuring in your business? Is it in alignment with what you want to achieve? Sales volume is certainly a good measurement, but profitability is a better one. It’s easy to increase the number of sales you make. Just lower your prices until everyone says Yes! – I don’t know about you, but that’s not what I’m looking to achieve. What about sales dollars? That’s a better benchmark, but as with sales volume, it is an incomplete measurement.

You may decide to spend more time with your family. But if you have your eyes glued to your phone while you’re with them, what did you really accomplish? The key to accomplishing your goals is to set better ones. Make them lofty, but realistic. Don’t set yourself up for failure, set yourself up for success. A wall just a foot above the ground is an easy bar to walk over. One twenty feet high is nearly impossible one to surpass. Definitely reach higher, but also have a realistic plan to get there.

Measuring conversion
I often get asked about conversion percentages – the amount of leads you should be converting to a sale. However, these numbers vary from business to business. If one wedding pro’s website has clear pricing information, while a competitor has none, the second business may end up fielding many inquiries who can’t afford them, artificially increasing their inquiry numbers, and decreasing their conversion percentage. If you really want to measure conversion, you need to be looking at how many visitors come to your Storefront or website and then take the next step to make an inquiry, or click through to your site from your Storefront and then make an inquiry. That’s going to be really hard to track unless you have very good website tracking software and know how to properly read it.

That said, you can track inquiries to conversations, and conversations to either appointments or sales and appointments to sales. You need to keep good records. The first rule of computers that I learned was the acronym GIGO – Garbage In, Garbage out. If someone makes an inquiry, but you’re already booked on that date, and they can’t/won’t change their date, that was still a good inquiry. Unless you have an availability calendar, so they can check your date before reaching out, those are valid inquiries. We know from WedInsights that nearly 90% of couples are looking for price before they reach out to you, so displaying some kind of pricing guidelines is beneficial to getting better quality inquiries. And yes, I know that many of you don’t want to display pricing, but when you’re the customer, aren’t you looking for the price?

Inquiries, conversations or sales, oh, my!
So, what should you measure? Start with the easiest things to measure – the inquiries that come in through your website, Storefront, direct emails, social messaging, etc. Then calculate the number of inquiries that turn into meaningful conversations. The last conversion is to measure how many of those conversations become sales directly, or lead to more detailed meetings that then turn into a sale.

You’ll want to track the conversion from each source separately to see where your best leads are coming ‘through’. Notice I didn’t say where they’re coming ‘from.’ The reason is that you don’t get business ‘from’ your website, you get business ‘through’ it. They had to come ‘from’ somewhere to get to your website. Your couples, just as when you’re the customer, make many stops along the way to get to you. You’ll probably never know all of them, just the last one or two, and if they also were referred to you by someone they know, you may get that as well. It’s an inexact science, at best.

What’s the trend?
Reporting like this is most helpful by watching trends, rather than discrete numbers. You need to see how these conversions are trending over time so you can have visibility to improvements and degradations. If you change something on your Storefront like adding pricing, or updating photos and videos, or getting a higher placement, did it make an impact on your inquiries and click-throughs? If you updated your website, or better yet, built a new one, did it affect your inquiries? However, don’t forget that you get what you measure, so keep an eye on your sales and profitability numbers as that’s really what you want. Higher sales volume without higher profit is a poor outcome. It’s nice to say you did more events, but not if it’s not flowing to the bottom line. As I’ve said before, I want to feed your family, not your ego!

WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP 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.

» WeddingWire Networking Night Phoenix

On Wednesday evening we had the opportunity to host our WeddingWire Networking Night Phoenix. The evening brought together wedding professionals for a night of networking and education at the trendy boho-chic Saguaro Hotel Scottsdale.

The Agave Ballroom, where the event was held, boasted an adorable pom-pom wall, and a bright patio space with festive furniture and fire pits. Pinks and oranges really made the space pop, which went perfectly with the event’s signature cocktail– prickly pear mimosas!

Thank you to all the wonderful wedding professionals who joined us!

Couldn’t swing by? We’re excited to share the full educational presentation, presented by our WeddingWire Education Guru, Alan Berg, as well as the latest issue of WedInsights. Check out the full gallery of photos, captured by Tony George Photography.

This amazing evening couldn’t have been made possible without our event partners:

» Top Tech Solutions to Elevate Client Communication

Communication today would hardly be recognizable to someone living 15 – 20 years ago. Beyond simply being free from the landline, they would be surprised to know that phones are rarely used for spoken conversations anymore. In fact, there is a whole new etiquette surrounding whether or not it is even appropriate to call rather than message someone – a complicated set of rules that rivals the best of Emily Post.

Fortunately, there are numerous apps to streamline communication and keep you connected. They have recently begun to reshape the client experience while elevating ease of communication. These apps help you meet the needs of your couples and are so easy to use that they can be added to your bag of tricks in mere moments!

Apps that aid communication

One of the most popular apps for client communication today is WhatsApp. A free messaging system that allows users to exchange texts, photos, audio messages, and videos easily, WhatsApp has become invaluable, especially to users who prefer to connect via Wi-Fi than use their cellular data. Couples planning from afar, and those who travel regularly are particularly grateful for web-based messaging.

Meeting virtually

Videoconferencing has become a common way to meet with clients who are too busy or too far to gather in person. Among its many bells and whistles, Zoom makes it easy to meet virtually with one or more parties, perfect for planning meetings or design consultations.

It can be helpful, when meeting virtually, to have apps on board like Adobe Document Cloud E-Sign Services for electronic signatures on contracts and Dropbox or Google Docs for sharing large files and collaboratively maintaining documents stored in the Cloud.

Social media for maintaining client relationships

There are many reasons that a professional may need to connect with clients beyond file management. When your primary purpose is to stay in touch to maintain the relationship after the wedding, social media apps can be very useful.

Follow your couples’ handles and interact with them. Like their photos, include an occasional personal comment and reach out to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries and other celebrations. Track major post-wedding life changes like babies and moves to new homes. Use Instagram or Facebook to track these dates so you can send gifts and notes when they happen. Your goal is to be top of mind next time one of their friends or family members becomes engaged and needs services like yours.

Use your social media channels to keep your clients in the loop about your company and offerings, as well. Hootsuite is a social media dashboard that allows you to schedule posts in advance, distribute them across multiple platforms, and track their success. Similarly, Planoly can be used to schedule Instagram posts, specifically, in advance. Regular engagement will keep you relevant to all of your clients and connected when you are needed next.

The face of modern communication may have changed, but at the heart of it, the purpose remains the same: client connection. Whatever you add to your toolbox, make sure it helps you achieve the level of service to which you are committed for your most important audience: your clients.


Kevin Dennis is the editor of WeddingIQ and the owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California. Dennis is the past president for Silicon Valley NACE, and national vice president for WIPA.

» National LGBTQ Wedding Trends for 2019

These days, there are two overarching planning trends influencing today’s LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) couples — one follows a pattern of increasing assimilation into the mainstream market and its trends; the other follows an increasing embrace of broader, less restrictive definitions of gender expression. In order to better serve all couples, it’s important for wedding professionals to be vigilant about these two seemingly contradictory trends and how to identify the needs of each individual couple.  

Broadly speaking, with 80% of today’s wedding market represented by Millennials, LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ (aka ‘straight’) couples are looking to add personalized touches that play well on social media and serve their authentic expression. Thus, we’ll be seeing more similarity than difference in wedding planning trends between the two groups.

At the same time, wedding professionals must understand that younger couples are embracing the term “queer” as a more inclusive term for their gender identities, expression, and sexual orientation. Though more couples may be challenging traditional concepts of gender expression (and the traditional roles of “bride” and “groom”), this doesn’t mean that their weddings will be unrecognizable.

The key element for wedding professionals to understand is that while cultural assimilation is underway, LGBTQ couples still want to build wedding rituals that are reflective of their own identities, and the range of expression will be more broad than what we expected from a “bride and groom” 50 – or even 15! – years ago.

 

Mainstream representation

When I talk about “mainstream representation,” I’m referring to planning trends that are inclusive not only of traditional weddings, but also of seasonal and evolving trends for a broad swath of today’s couples. These are the wedding trends you’ll hear about in national trend reports, and these are the weddings you’ll see on the largest wedding blogs and platforms and in national magazines. The representation is increasingly inclusive of additional religious, ethnic and cultural wedding customs, and also will include same-sex couples and mixed-race and non-white couples. The unifying feature is generally the wedding wallet, as most of these featured couples are able to afford highly stylized weddings, photographers, and videographers.

Since marriage equality recognition has settled in over the past 4 years, LGBTQ couples have assimilated and adapted to the general wedding trends that suit their taste, style, and budget rather than their legal needs and familial support. Many same-sex weddings appearing in mainstream media sources, for example, look increasingly like their opposite-sex counterparts; the primary difference is whether there are two brides, two grooms or one bride and one groom getting married.

Accompanying increased assimilation, straight (non-LGBTQ) couples are demonstrating their curiosity and excitement about new wedding customs introduced in same-sex weddings. Many of these new rituals have evolved from the very practical purpose of adapting rituals for one man and one woman to be better suited for two women or two men. Today, however, younger couples across the board are planning their wedding rituals and receptions, choosing to adopt rituals that are less restrictive of gender roles and more accepting of an equal expression of love and commitment.

For all couples from mainstream sources who approach you looking for services, it’s incredibly important that you ask open-ended questions to understand not only what they are looking for, but how they see themselves and to which planning trends they are responding. The majority of the market is represented by engaged couples who seek personalized service, and want to be understood and supported in developing a meaningful tradition that is reflective of their love and commitment. It’s important to understand what a bride and groom might want and/or need; what two grooms might want and/or need; or what two brides might want and/or need. In sum, cultural shifts are impacting everyone.

 

Progressive representation

Though most couples (LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ) may be seeking personalization and a wedding worthy of a wedding feature in WeddingWire’s “Real Wedding” inspiration pages, there are also LGBTQ couples who still embody some of the needs and objectives of the early wedding pioneers. They are brides and grooms and bridegrooms who may use their own labels and be struggling to get their needs met because the mainstream market isn’t serving them. For these couples, rather than focusing on how to serve two brides or two grooms, the larger question is one of intentional service to support the couples who have a much more expansive (often non-binary) representation of their gender expression or sexual orientation.

Genderqueer and other non-binary couples, according to “LGBTQ Weddings in 2018: A Study of Same-Sex and Queer Identified Couples,” share a “strong fear of rejection” based on their sexual orientation or gender expression. Sixty-one percent (61%) of transgender and non-binary identified couples and 44% of same-sex couples remain wary. Significantly, 100% of married trans/non-binary identified couples (p. 38) are concerned about “religious freedom” laws that allow service providers to refuse to serve LGBTQ couples (compared to 88% of married same-sex male couples and 96% of married same-sex female couples).

Thus, when you, as a wedding professional, have the opportunity to serve a queer-identified couple, it is important to expect a deeper line of questioning and a higher expectation of understanding about the politics surrounding same-sex marriage, the queer community, and gender identity and expression. Know that historically marginalized couples may be slower to trust the process, having been mistreated, misgendered or misunderstood previously in their planning process.

 

Goodbye to service refusal

Though there are still questions on service refusal to be settled in the courts and by lawmakers, the wedding industry – as a whole – has chosen to be inclusive and welcoming of same-sex couples. In 2017, a majority of wedding professionals (67%) said they believe that wedding-related businesses should be required to serve same-sex couples; a minority of vendors (32%) supported service refusal. Notably, a number of those who support the right of a business owner to refuse service also said that they think same-sex couples should be served.

Though couples do still express concerns about rejection and discrimination, the market has evolved to offer more powerful examples of unconditional acceptance according to the rule of law (eg, WeddingWire’s non-discrimination policy) than rejection. And, even with a few road bumps along the way, I see this trend continuing to spread from coast to coast throughout 2019.

 

Kathryn Hamm

 

This post was written by Kathryn Hamm WeddingWire Education Expert, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. Follow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.

» 3 Signs You Need a Change

Photo by Vanessa Joy

We all get burnt out every once in a while. Sometimes the rut passes, but occasionally these ruts are trying to tell us something about the bigger picture. And a little fatigue can turn into a downward spiral if you’re not careful.

If this sounds all too familiar, keep reading for the three signs that might indicate these ruts are trying to tell you something.

Sign 1

You’re not getting any new work

This can be an indicator of a number of things, but could be because 1 – you’re not marketing your business well or 2 – your clients aren’t happy.

I admit marketing in the wedding industry can be tricky and ever-changing. There are a myriad of ways to market your business, and what works for your competitors might not work for you. Finding a marketing plan that works for you does involve some trial and error, and sometimes being in a rut is the perfect time to try something new.

If you think the problem is that your clients aren’t happy and aren’t referring you new work, check your WeddingWire reviews. They can be a great barometer to help you understand if you’re meeting your clients’ expectations. Also, don’t forget to take the time to respond to the clients that took the time to write you a review. Couples love to see that you care!

Sign 2

You don’t have work-life balance

I imagine that you didn’t decide to be a part of the wedding world to work non-stop, miss out on your kid’s soccer games and never spend time with your spouse. During wedding season I know as well as you do that things can get hectic. However, if you’re finding yourself constantly drowning in work and not getting to do the things that you want to do, it’s definitely time for a wake-up call.

You should be running your business, not letting your business run you.

If this is you, it’s time to get some help. Like literal help – an intern or employee. I know for some that might be an expense you don’t feel ready to take on. Even if you can’t afford it now, you can start planning how you will afford it in the near future. Figure out what outsourcing something will cost per job and then raise your prices by that much.

Can’t figure out what to outsource? You should outsource things that fall into one of five categories:

  1. What you hate doing

  2. What you’re not good at

  3. What slows you down

  4. Anything that you personally don’t need to do

  5. What you can pay minimum/fair wage for

Sign 3

You don’t love what you do

This one is a biggie because it can be pretty damaging to the quality of your work as well as your life. You should never, ever hate what you do in life. It’s 2019 and the world is full of opportunities outside of the regular 9-5 job.

That being said, you may feel like you never want to see another wedding again because you’re overworked, or you’ve had a few too many difficult clients. It could be any number of things, but if that feeling has been lingering for quite some time, then you need to figure out why you hate it. Identify what you specifically hate to do and use that to start a list of things that you need to change. Then, take that list and read back to the number one thing I told you to outsource. Start doing more of what you love!

If you’ve found some parts of your business you’d like to change, don’t forget about them and click away. Take time to think about what you’ll change and then find someone that you can be accountable to really do it. Sharing your plans aloud makes them more real and will motivate you to follow through. Turn burnout into a positive and 2019 will be yours!

Vanessa Joy has been an influential photographer in the wedding community for a decade. Starting her photographic journey in 1998, she has since earned 5 college degrees, and has spoken at almost every major convention and platform in the industry such as CreativeLIVE, Wedding MBA, WPPI, ShutterFest, Imaging USA, WeddingWire World, and Mobile Beat. Recognized for her talent and more so her business sense, her clients love working with her and industry peers love to learn from her generous, informative and open-book style of teaching. Check out more of her resources at www.BreatheYourPassion.com

» Wedding Friends with Benefits – How to Improve Vendor Relationships

In most categories within our industry, referrals can make up a portion of the “where business comes from,” and thus, any wedding business’ yearly planning should include some piece on building or improving vendor relationships.

I have come to firmly believe that the most profitable and enjoyable wedding businesses are ones that create and then continually feed what I refer to as “the ideal couple cycle.” When building a business that drives an ideal couple cycle, we need to develop and maintain not just any vendor relationship, but focus on relationships with vendors who work with the same ideal couples or close. These result in warmer leads and likely more couples booked.

In addition to referrals, there are many other reasons you might look to develop more or stronger vendor relationships, including:

  • Weddings or events tend to run more smoothly: When a team of professionals who have experience together and can trust each other, things tend to run smoother. This means that your couple has a better experience with their entire wedding, not just the part that you control, and that usually means better reviews and more referrals.

  • Having people to jump in and help when needed:  Once in a while we need other wedding professionals to step in and help our couple. That’s more likely to happen when you have a network of professionals who know you, trust you, and like you.

  • Learning and sharing best practices: Maybe you want to get better at a certain part of your business or learn something new. Finding and working with someone who does it well can improve your skill set and build a valuable relationship.

  • Gaining an accountability partner and sounding board: As solopreneurs and/or small business owners, it is nice to have people who can keep you on track and give you experienced feedback.

  • Wing person: Whether you enjoy networking or hate it, it’s always good to have people who you can chat with at events or conferences and who can also introduce you to others.

  • Having a friend and/or venting partner: Let’s be honest, this can be an unusual industry to work in, and it’s nice to have folks in your life who can understand and empathize! Plus, it helps you keep any and all venting (either about couples or other wedding professionals) off of social media, which is never a good idea!

Below are the keys to developing and maintaining more focused and successful vendor relationships.

Defining “your type”

Just as much as you look for a type when creating personal relationships, you should do the same when creating vendor relationships. Remember, you don’t have to become close friends, but you should respect each other from a business/personal perspective and like each other too.

If you are looking for referrals as the main benefit of a relationship, then you definitely want to focus on those who attract and serve similar ideal couples. For example, if I am a lower price-point photographer, and not looking to change my ideal couple, then it most likely would be a waste for me to try to cultivate a relationship with a high-end planner or venue. Couples that come to them would most likely not be looking for someone like me, and, from the other side, my couples would most likely not be looking for a high-end wedding planner or venue.   

Additionally, you may want to start creating relationships with “competitors” – those in the same category as you. For example, in my Officiant business, I want to have relationships with those who serve the same ideal couples since they can refer couples to me when they are already booked and I can do the same for them. I know many wedding planners who fill their calendar with weddings that their colleagues cannot take themselves.

However, having relationships with those who serve different types of couples usually still results in referrals, as it’s important to know who to refer when you aren’t that couple’s right fit (either for price or style). Taking care of couples who come your way, even when you can’t be the one to ultimate service them, in a professional and thoughtful way, does benefit your business in both the short and long-term.

How to find and connect with like-minded vendors

Naturally, it is tough to walk into a networking meeting and know exactly who works with your ideal couples, so you need to approach this a bit differently than old-school networking. The first place you should be looking is at the other vendors at your weddings – especially if it is a vendor with whom you have already done multiple weddings. Approach them, chat for a minute, collect a card, and follow-up afterwards. You can also talk to your current community of friends in the industry. Figure that they know you and your style, so they might know others who work with the same couples and have the same style.

Attend a big wedding show and walk around and look at booths – if those vendors have done their job right, you should be able to tell who serves your same ideal couples. Use the opportunity to stop by and collect their cards to follow-up later.

Attend more education-focused events like conferences or professional association meetings (vs. only the parties or social-focused events). This will give you a better chance to get to know a vendor’s business. Help them in some way. Send them gifts, take them to coffee, wine and dine them (okay, maybe just wine or coffee them). Lots of ideas of where to start!

Value proposition and benefits

When you do contact or follow-up with the vendors who you think are a good match, always remember, you are not hard-selling them, but rather, you are trying to build a mutually beneficial long-term relationship. Let them know who your ideal couples are, how you describe your style and your offerings, and what sets you apart from others. Be a resource to them. Seek their guidance. Be helpful to them in some way shape or form (there are many ways to add value to colleagues beyond just referrals). And yes, it is more than okay to be friends with competitors (ones who do what you do and ones who don’t).

Maintaining the relationship

You should “call and write.” What I mean by this is that you should find ways to keep in touch without being annoying. Relationships need both trust and rapport and have to be built over time. You have to be willing to create a mutually beneficial relationship – giving, not just taking. Obviously, being able to refer couples to them is very beneficial, but, depending on what you do, that may not always be possible. You could offer them opportunities to promote their business by having them write a guest blog post, inviting them to a networking event or even promoting them on your social media – keeping it professional but personal.

Vendors vs. venues

I did just want to make a quick distinction between relationships with other vendors and dealing with venues since there can be differences. We all want to be “on the list,” but spending a lot of time and/or money to get on a list at a venue which serves something very different from your ideal couples is just wasted. If there is a venue you work at a lot, get to know the people who run it. Make sure they know you, and share those raving reviews or thank you cards from your mutual couples. Do they have a list? Do they want any of your cards or materials?  Do they do any kind of wedding shows?

Some don’ts in the relationship game

Remember that it’s a professional relationship, first and foremost, and therefore, you should be professional with them. Don’t bad mouth other vendors – while it is okay to tell the truth about an experience with them, it is not usually a best-practice to create drama or throw someone under the bus (independent of your relationship with them). This industry can feel like a small world, and doing that doesn’t usually serve you well.

Remember that not all relationships will go anywhere, and some will end up costing you more than they return, but the goal is to build yourself a strong community of wedding professionals, over time, who serve the same ideal clients. Your business will thank you for it, and I expect that you will also enjoy being in it much more.

Bethel Nathan is a San Diego based wedding officiant, business coach, and industry speaker. Combining her years of corporate and small business experience with a love for marrying awesome couples, Bethel built Ceremonies by Bethel, a successful and award-winning Officiant business. And although still officiating, Bethel now has another love… helping others turn their passions into successful and sustainable businesses. Learn more at www.elevatebybethel.com.

» WeddingWire World San Francisco 2019

The biggest ‘thank you’ goes out to everyone who joined us this year for WeddingWire World San Francisco!

On February 5, we were elated to bring WeddingWire to the Bay Area to host our first ever World San Francisco. The event, held at the City View at Metreon, boasted a beautiful panoramic view of the city. Between nine highly educational presentations and a fabulous networking night, the event was a huge success. We had a remarkable time with everyone, and are excited to share some of our favorite moments!

Educational sessions

The day was filled with a fantastic lineup of presentations (and selfies) by Sonny Ganguly, Alan Berg, Rob Ferre, Vanessa Joy, Kathryn Hamm, Jeffra Trumpower, Bethel Nathan, and Meghan Ely. These presentations gave guests an opportunity to dig deeper into marketing, sales, pricing, trends, and social media.

*To access a free worksheet to put Bethel Nathan’s tips into practice, text WORLD to 345345!

1:1 meetings with Customer Success Managers and complimentary headshots

Our Customer Success team was delighted to have the opportunity to sync up with their favorite wedding professionals. They held 1:1 meetings to give personalized tips on how to maximize listing value and boost storefront performance. We also encouraged attendees to swing by the headshot room to get a professional photo taken!

Cocktail reception

After a full day of education, guests wound down at a two-hour cocktail reception. They mingled with other attendees, enjoyed savory appetizers and delicious drinks, and took selfies in front of incredible live flower walls. Our guests relaxed over wine in our lounge areas, which were decked out in gorgeous hues of champagne, coral, and emerald. We loved seeing wedding professionals in the Bay Area have the opportunity to connect!

Take a peek at the Facebook album for some of our favorite moments, follow @WeddingWireEDU, and be sure to check out #WeDoWorld on Instagram and Twitter for more event highlights!

A special thank you to our partners who made the day an absolute success!

» Building Your Brand: Going Beyond the Logo

Angela V. Photography

What is a brand? If I ask 10 wedding pros, I’ll get 10 different answers. Some people think it’s their logo, or their colors, the way their store or office looks, or the way they dress. All of those are part of your branding, but they’re not your brand. Large companies have identifiable logos and colors. One look at the Nike swoosh, the Chevrolet bow tie, the Target bullseye, or the Coca Cola symbol and we immediately know whose company it is. Small companies, like ours, don’t have the kind of marketing budgets to make our brands as ubiquitous.

Another definition

I was looking around online for definitions of ‘brand’ and came across this on the Forbes.com website: “Put simply, your “brand” is what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name.” While I agree with this definition, it also makes it hard for small businesses where prospects are changing every year. Many wedding pros get repeat business, but since people don’t need your service themselves, month after month, year after year, you’re relying on someone who’s connected with a former client to know about you, when they need your services. Therefore, just hearing your name isn’t likely to get enough prospects to connect with your brand, the way they do with major, national and international brands.

Another opinion

Marketing expert Seth Godin said in his latest book “This is Marketing”: “A brand is a shortcut for the customer’s expectations. What promise did they think you’re making? What do they expect when they buy from you, meet with you or hire you? That promise is your brand.” That’s another great way to describe a brand, but where do they get those expectations? Where do they find out the promise you’re making? It’s in your marketing, your advertising, your website and the way you communicate with them. Of course, they learn about most of those things before you get a chance to have a conversation with them. That’s why it’s important to make sure your marketing, advertising, social media, and website do the heavy lifting.

It’s already been said

The great news is that the best place to find that promise and to raise their expectations is already available to you… right here on WeddingWire. That’s right, the reviews of your past customers is where your future customers are looking to see what you can do for them. They’re reading the reviews to see what they should expect, not only in the end product of hiring you, but also in the customer experience of doing business with you. Are you responsive to their inquiries and messages? It will be clear in your reviews. Are you a pleasure to do business with and caring to their needs? It will be clear in your reviews. Did you deliver, or over-deliver on your promised services/products? It will be clear in your reviews. And did they notice your attention to detail? It will be clear in your reviews.

Create speed bumps

I was reviewing a wedding pro’s new website the other day and I saw that she had reviews on her site, but they were too long, and too far down the page. You can’t assume that people will scroll all the way down your pages. And don’t assume that just because you put a review there, anyone will take the time to read it. The longer it is, the less likely someone will invest in reading the whole thing. You need short, sound-bites, and you need to be disruptive and put them where your site visitors and people reading your marketing materials are already looking. I told my client to think of these sound-bite reviews and testimonials as speed bumps.

We don’t stop our cars when we approach a speed bump, but we do slow down, and that’s what we want our site visitors to do. That’s what we want when they’re reading our brochures, price lists, menus, and business cards. Don’t cluster all of your reviews in one place. Spread them out on every page. Start with the pages they view the most (your analytics can show you that), and then work your way to the other pages. Your analytics will likely show you, as it does for all of my clients, that a dedicated Testimonials, Reviews or Kudos page is one of the lesser viewed pages on your site. That makes sense since your site visitors have likely read reviews before getting to your site (a likely reason they came in the first place). It also makes sense that they wouldn’t want to view a page that they know you only filled with the best of the best things that have been said about you. That’s why we need to put them on the pages that they want to see (and the ones your analytics shows you they’re already visiting). Oh, and don’t put dates on them unless you plan on changing them regularly. Do add attribution (maybe first names, their city/state or their venue name and city/state) to help incrementally with SEO.

Be strategic

Choose which sound-bites to put based upon what’s being said at that point, on that page. For example, if you put them on your Packages or Pricing page, choose ones that talk about what a great “value” you are, or how it was “worth more than I paid.” If it’s on a page about your food (for caterers, venues, cake bakers, etc.) then use ones that talk about how delicious the food was, or how their guests can’t stop raving about the food, or how it was the best food they’ve ever had at a wedding. If you’re a band or DJ, use ones that talk about the dancing or the fun they and their guests had. If you’re a bridal shop, use testimonials that talk about the experience of buying their dress, in addition to ones that talk about how great it fit.

Use reviews in your conversations

Another place that I use reviews, and so should you, is in the email/messaging/text conversations that we have with our customers and prospects. When someone asks if you can do a particular service, don’t just say “Yes”, punctuate that with a sound bite testimonial. For example, if you’re a wedding planner and they ask if you can help them with finding a venue, answer them: “Yes, of course, that’s one of our favorite ways to help you. We helped Jenny and Steve find their venue and they wrote (insert quote from Jenny and Steve about helping find their venue).”

The big three

I have literally hundreds of reviews of my speaking, website reviews, and sales trainings, yet I keep asking for new ones from my current clients and audiences. Why? Because, in my opinion, the three things that matter when it comes to reviews are: 1) the number of reviews 2) the average score/rating and 3) the recency – they care more about what you did last month, than how long you’ve been doing it. I’ll add that, for me, it’s also that the next thing someone says, or writes could be the best thing I’ve ever received. Just when you think you’ve gotten the best review ever, someone else writes something new or says it in a different way, that is even better than what you already have.

I recommend updating the sound-bite reviews on your website and marketing only when you get something better. And for a side-note, updating the reviews on your website is a good way to add fresh text to your site, something the search engines prefer. So, use the WeddingWire Review Collector, or ask directly, so you get the new branding messaging you need.

WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP 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.

 

» 2019 Press Material Prep: What to Add, Toss and Update in the New Year

With sights set on 2019, now is the time to update your press materials to ensure you are wedding PR-ready. Times are changing, so this year –– what’s best to add, update or toss altogether?

What to add: info one-sheet

If speaking or more podcast interviews are a part of your plans in 2019, consider creating a one-sheet PDF to distribute when pitching. Typically branded in your company colors and featuring a headshot, the one sheet can include, but is not limited to:

  • A brief bio

  • Top topics

  • If speaking, topic descriptions

  • Association affiliations/memberships

  • Awards

  • Recent speaking (if applicable)

  • Links to social media and web site

While those to whom you’re pitching will ultimately need more information, this is a great start to give people a snapshot of your expertise.

What to add: dedicated media page

If you find yourself with a steadier increase in press, and you’re becoming easier to find on Google, now is the time to consider adding a page to your site completely dedicated to the media. This move gives journalists the chance to grab everything they need without needing to ask. It shows that you can anticipate their needs, and that you are easy to work with.

So what to include? Consider the following:

  • Recent press

  • Recent releases

  • Company history

  • Team profiles

  • Logo and headshot ready for download

  • Press contact (be it a publicist OR a dedicated email)

What to update: your press goals

The world of media is always shifting, just as your own goals transform throughout the year. Checking in with your progress and readjusting your goals as needed can set you up for future success. “I like to review goals after each campaign spring and then again once each quarter,” shares Christie Osborne of Mountainside Media. “Looking ahead, you want to see if you can replicate and optimize your successes and walk away from things that don’t work. Many small business owners forget that when they say yes to something that delivers average results, they’re often saying no to things that can deliver exceptional results.”

What to update: your press page

The general rule of thumb is that you want to have a minimum of (3) strong press features (be it online, in print, a podcast interview, etc) before setting up a dedicated press page on your site. Most wedding pros already have this in place, but the question remains– do you have it up-to-date? Ideally, your very top features should take the lead at the top of your press page, mixed in with your most recent press to show that you and your brand continue to remain relevant.

What to update: headshots

Headshots are a must-have for professional purposes — it gives others a look at the face behind the brand. More often than not, however, I see wedding pros saving the investment to coincide with business changes– be it a new website, rebrand or expansion of services. While this is absolutely a worthwhile reason to do so, keep in mind your publicity strategy and what role your headshot plays in it.

This is especially the case when you find yourself constantly coming up short with the necessary image for a speaking engagement, award submission or guest article column. If you don’t have a high-resolution headshot at the ready in horizontal and vertical, it’s going to be necessary to make time to get them done in the new year.

When working out the details, consider who you market to, those most likely to see your headshot and the style most likely to resonate with that audience.

You also need to be mindful of future usage, above and beyond press. Back in the day, headshots just lived on your website to give prospects an idea of who you are. Nowadays, they are used in a variety of different manners, be it for social media posts, print materials, or for pitching to media outlets and speaking engagements.

What to update: your event gallery

When media outlets are researching potential sources for a story, they want to see that your work is current and in line with your expertise. Are you, for example, one of the top destination wedding planners for LGBTQ couples? Then make sure your online gallery demonstrates this. Weddings date themselves quickly so it’s essential to do this quarterly.

What to update: your bio

If you’ve enjoyed any accolades in the last year– be it new press, new leadership positions, speaking engagements or awards, now is the time to make sure your bio is polished and updated for the new year. Have it at the ready as a Word Doc and Google Doc, so it can easily be shared.

What to toss: old press releases

Press releases are a rarity these days– they can be incredibly impactful but only under the most strategic of situations. With that, consider keeping just the ones from the last year and archiving the rest. These can live on your press page, or the aforementioned dedicated media page.

What to toss: media kits

Very rarely does a printed media kit make sense in today’s digital age. Unless your press contacts still crave paper, you’re going to want all media materials at the ready digitally– be it your bio, company background or team profiles.

What to toss: your old SEO habits

Search engine optimization is essential for increased brand awareness and reach, not just for prospects but for media as well. “If you are pitching to the press, you can bet an editor is going to check you out online before a big feature or opportunity,” explains Sara Dunn of Sara Dunn SEO. “In 2019, I hope wedding pros stop using spammy blog post titles that force in a keyword. Google is always refining its results with one goal in mind: to provide a great experience for the searcher. Rather than focus on SEO tricks in 2019, focus on making sure your website is awesome to visit. Get some backlinks – without other websites linking to yours, Google isn’t going to view your site as trustworthy. Pitching to the press is a great opportunity to build more links to your website, so it’s worth the time for the publicity and the SEO value for your business.”

 

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.

» 2019 Wedding Trends You Need to Know

New year, new trends! 2019 is here and we have the inside scoop on what wedding trends to expect in the coming year! Keep reading to see our full list of what’s “in” so you can be prepared to guide your couples in the best direction.

Starting off with the hottest trend of 2019: personalization. This isn’t exactly a new one, but today’s couples (1 in 4, in fact) are including unique details to showcase their personalities and make their big day truly theirs. Millennials, by no surprise, are willing to spend more money per guest to create a wedding experience that reflects themselves as a couple and makes a memorable experience for their guests. From the use of retro-style lightboxes to increasing popularity in hosting wedding weekends, this focus on personalization will be echoed throughout all of the trends we’ll see in 2019.  

Photo by Blair Schluter Photography

Earthy elements

Earthy decor elements are certainly on the rise in 2019 and we expect to see more and more of it. Rattan and woven accents are one of the most popular elements right now and can be incorporated in many different ways — from furniture rentals to chargers — this accent is especially gorgeous for outdoor weddings in any season.  

Pampas grass is another earthy element that we’ll see pop up and is a great way to add texture to the overall decor. Since pampas grass is a neutral piece, it can easily be paired with pops of color.    

Photo by Vintage Meets Modern Event Rentals

Fun and functional signage

Wedding signs that are part show-stopping, part functional while still showcasing the couple’s style, is a trend we’re excited to see more of in 2019. Felt letter boards and retro-style lightboxes have already established themselves as a favorite of couples as we are seeing them flood our Instagram feeds. This back-to-basics look can be easily paired with floral accents to seamlessly integrate with the decor, and fit in perfectly with minimalistic themes!  

Photo by Pies ‘n’ Thighs

Creative favors

This is a super fun trend that goes back to couples becoming more conscious of sustainability. Couples want to provide favors that guests will actually use at their reception, after party, or even at home. We are seeing all sorts of interesting favors like mini succulents, coffee mugs, or even re-using flowers from the ceremony as a parting gift to guests. One of our favorites is the late-night snack that gives guests some extra fuel before heading home (or to the after-party)!

Photo by Smashing Weddings

Wedding experiences

Couples want to create memorable experiences for their guests, giving rise to “wedding weekends” rather than one-day events. Invites are now becoming more detailed with everything from welcome notes, directions, places to stay, things to do and a calendar of events.

Day-of, we’re seeing a rise in interactive elements like cigar bars, coffee bars, photo booths etc. Food stations are a growing trend as well. Couples want their food to reflect their personalities while also presenting food in a way that is not “one-size-fits-all”. Food stations– like omelet bars, sushi stations or build-your-own dessert bars are a trendy way to provide a personalized experience that guests will love.

Photo by Kir2Ben

Mix-and-match everything

We’ve seen bridesmaid dresses following the mix-and-match trend for some time now and we can expect the same for the groomsmen’s suits as well as decor.

As overall decor becomes more fluid, couples are incorporating many shades of a color as opposed to one exact color in everything. Vibrant hues are coming in strong with couples opting for palettes with multiple bright colors, as seen in the Pantone collaboration with WeddingWire for the top wedding colors of 2019.

Photo by Dan Lecca

Wedding dresses

Meghan Markle’s minimalist, fitted style is still making big waves and many 2019 wedding dress collections featured at least one Meghan Markle-inspired gown. Apart from dresses inspired by the royal nuptials, we will also be seeing a lot of asymmetrical looks, old school glamour, bridal power suits, and bold colorful wedding dresses.

Being in the wedding business is about creating a personalized experience for the couple that is tailored to what they want and need. However, being able to stay on top of current trends is a great way to show that you are in the know on what’s new and can be a reliable guide for couples looking for advice and direction.

These trends originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Trends and Themes to Know for 2019” with Jeffra Trumpower, WeddingWire’s Director of Content and Creative Services.