» Mistakes Happen, Here’s How to Recover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Elizabeth Fogarty

We all make mistakes. And, since we can’t reverse time, we have to deal with those mistakes, and their corresponding consequences. In this article, I will be discussing recovering well in the context of business mistakes, and, in particular, a mistake made by you or your staff that affected a couple and their wedding. To be honest, the ability for you and your business to be able to handle mistakes properly is actually a very important attribute. They say you are not tested until something goes wrong, and in many ways, they are right.  

If your wedding business is running in the right way, you have identified your ideal couple, created a customer journey and experience that meets or exceeds their expectations, and every couple is taken on relatively the same customer journey. But sometimes the journey can go awry… it could be your mistake, it could be a mistake by someone else you are responsible for, it could even be something out of your control but within your perceived realm of responsibility. There are many ways and options when it comes to next steps after a mistake but below are 4 keys which I think are really important.

Be prepared before it happens –
It may seem like this piece of advice doesn’t belong in an article about recovering from a mistake, but trust me when I say it does. Having well-developed and properly working systems and processes in your wedding businesses helps reduce mistakes, but no matter how good you are, mistakes can happen.  Determining what the biggest and/or most common and/or most likely mistakes for your type of business, and having a plan of action if they should happen, will help immensely.

Here is a basic example that I am prepared for in my Officiant business. Failure of my iPad (my ceremony delivery tool) – I deliver my ceremonies from my iPad, and although it has not failed yet, there is that possibility. I have the ceremony in both Dropbox and Evernote, to be sure that I’m not relying on a single app on my device. Plus, that means I can also access it on my phone and I could access and print it from almost any computer (e.g. the business office at the wedding venue or a nearby Office Depot). 

Being prepared is even more important if you have employees (or are one yourself).  It provides a course of action, or multiple courses of action, that can begin to solve the problem even before a boss or owner is reached.   

Immediate action –
When a mistake is made, something usually needs to be done to correct it or move forward from it. Of course, sometimes a true solution is not possible, and sometimes a solution that is possible is not practical.  We’ve already agreed that you can’t reverse time and redo that wedding or avoid the accident. However, there are very few things that can make the mistake worse than when there is no action, or no perceived action. You also want to quickly determine the real impact and the perceived impact.  Maybe the mistake seems bigger to you than it really is, and once you discuss it with the couple, they are cool with just moving on. Show that you have it under control and that you are looking for or implementing corrective action.

Empathy, understanding, and be nice –
The first thing I want to mention is that although there may be a difference between the actual issue and the perceived issue, you will most likely have to deal with both. Yes, the missing sprinkles at the ice cream sundae bar is, in the overall scheme of things, a minuscule mistake, but I am sure there is a couple out there who would perceive it as a bigger deal.  Which leads us to empathy and understanding. Maybe it’s a big deal because the bride’s father who recently passed away loved sprinkles, or the couple’s first date involved discussing the difference of sprinkles vs jimmies. By listening, not dismissing the issue as small or petty, and attempting solutions, you are showing the couple that you understand that it is important to them. You also need to be nice in your response, no matter how big or small, real or perceived, the mistake was. This doesn’t mean you can’t state what happened, but you should not be mean, snarky, snappy, or vindictive. This advice applies if you are responding in person, via email, or even responding to a review. You may get blamed for a mistake that wasn’t your fault, but it is your response that shows your character to the couple, other couples who may read it or hear about it, and other wedding vendors. I cannot emphasize this last part enough – your public responses on reviews are more for future couples and potential vendor partners reading those reviews than for that one specific couple who wrote it.

Plus, while it might seem odd to hear, I suggest that you also be nice to yourself. As business owners who are in the very personal business of weddings, I know that we tend to beat ourselves up for a mistake more than our couples could even beat us up.  Learn from the mistake and from the situation, figure out what you might need to change to avoid something similar in the future, and then let it go.

Respond dis-proportionately
What do I mean?  The idea is that you want to impress upon the couple how seriously you take the mistake by impressing the couple with your response. This could mean a refund for the item that is above what the couple paid or a refund plus something additional (like a future family shoot or a cake for their next birthday). Responding with a very thoughtful and generous response will go a long way.

And, although not a key to recovering well, just remember and understand that you won’t be able to turn them all around. Some mistakes can’t be rectified “enough” for some couples. Some people will not care that you are trying to rectify it, and care only that you made a mistake. And in some cases, even time does not heal all “wounds.” But, as long as these kind of mistakes or issues are rare and not your norm, learn from them, deal with them as they arise, and respond disproportionately to take care of people and of your business.

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.

» Steps to Creating an Effective, Modern Wedding PR Plan

Photo by Luv Lens

No matter where you are in your business or how long you’ve been in the industry, a successful wedding PR campaign must begin with a strategic plan. It’s time to see the overarching goal of your public relations push and commit to a consistent process if you want to see results. While you may be ecstatic over a lucky break like a gorgeous wedding featured on a top blog, most publications and features have a shelf life — that’s why consistency is key.

Public relations is an extremely effective way to build your brand recognition, grow your industry network, and increase your number of leads. However, I do have a word of caution: it takes time. PR is not immediate by any means; your plan must be realistic to what you believe you can achieve in the first year.

Let’s dig into some of the major considerations you’ll need to keep in mind as you map out your PR plan for 2019.

Start with your goals

Think about your big picture goals for yourself, your personal brand, and your company as a whole. Where do you see it in one year? Five? How do you see it growing? Determine what direction you want to take your business and work your way back from there to get a better idea of how public relations can help you reach your goals.

Start by committing to three goals. It could be a conference you want to book, a podcast you want to be a guest on, or a blog that you’d love to see your favorite wedding published — your goals are personal, so don’t be afraid to strive for something that is meaningful to you. Once you know what drives you, set some realistic deadlines for each. Without a deadline, it’s far too easy to put your PR efforts on the backburner to accommodate other projects.

Consider your resources

I hate to break it to you, but public relations isn’t free. While it may not require a hefty budget, it costs an arguably more valuable resource: time. Prior to kicking off any campaign plan, you need to determine in advance how much time you have to allocate to it.

If you simply don’t have the time, you may want to consider hiring an in-house PR rep or outsource to a PR firm. However, if you don’t want to spend much money, you need to be sure that you have the time to execute your plan on your own.

Know your strengths

There are numerous ways to get your name out there these days, but not all of those channels may be the best fit for your skill set. The hard truth is that we’re not all good at everything — so you need to identify what you’re the best at.

If you’re a great writer, consider submitting guest articles. If you’re a photographer or have an eye for gorgeous details, ramp up your efforts for real wedding submissions. If you have a special knack for speaking, being a guest on a podcast is a great way to share your expertise and personality in equal measure.

Stick to what you know so you can excel at it — then, you may consider introducing new PR avenues to your plan down the line.

Map out your plan

When you have all the details in place, you can start to plan out your approach month by month to determine what needs to happen to continue making progress. Oftentimes, this step requires some researching to determine who to contact and how to reach out to them.

As you map out your outreach, take some time to consider your target audience to confirm that your chosen channels will connect with them. Just because there’s a shiny opportunity that would be a great addition to your portfolio does not mean that you will reach those who are ready to hire you.

Execute and evaluate

An organized PR plan must have systems in place to track and assess your successes (and losses). Create a press list to keep track of pitches, features, podcasts, and speaking gigs to keep an eye on where you are in each process — this will help you to know when it’s time to follow up and when it’s time to move on. By keeping a log of your efforts, you are able to dig into your past work to avoid re-pitching similar topics, understand which outlets are the best fit, and tailor your future approach based on what didn’t work in the past.

Public relations takes time, but it can also be a lot of fun to navigate the promotional side of your business. You’re an expert — it’s time you showed that off! Don’t sweat the rejections (seriously, I can’t count how many I’ve gotten), but learn from them instead. Celebrate the big milestones to keep you motivated and stick with it — rest assured that the effort will be well worth it down the line.

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.

» How to Ensure You’re Referral-Worthy

Elizabeth Fogarty

If you were to ask us for one of our secret ‘ingredients’ to a successful business, we’d immediately think about the power of referrals. While you can’t depend on them as a stand-alone way to generate business, referrals are a fantastic way to secure new clients and better yet – they’re often paired with a positive review from whomever is recommending your business. So, how can you maximize your visibility and likelihood that others will refer you?

Make sure your offerings are up-to-date

Step one for guaranteeing your referral-worthy status is actually an easy one, and it starts with simply evaluating your services and online presence. Take the time to really sit down and ensure that your business is accessible to your ideal audience. Are your products and/or services appealing? Are they relevant?

To take it a step further, perform a full review of your website and digital presence and see how you’re being perceived online. This doesn’t necessarily mean going through and picking apart your Yelp reviews (although feedback is a great way to see what you may need to update), but rather making sure that you’re displaying any press or awards that may also elevate your status in the industry. Your portfolio will speak volumes, so keep your past work as a reference for potential clients.

Be consistent in your communications

Whether it’s a new client or a fellow professional, how you present yourself and the level of genuine communication you relay to them is key. You want to present yourself as a consistent business person and even more so, one that goes the extra mile.

Unfortunately for us in the wedding sphere, we don’t generate a lot of repeat business as most people will only have one wedding. However, that isn’t to say that you shouldn’t put your best foot forward and stay in touch! Believe it or not, past clients are some of your best marketing assets, and you can ensure their experience with you is memorable by staying in touch. This can be as simple as sending a bottle of champagne and a card their way on their one-year wedding anniversary – a small but powerful gift. They’ll be more likely to recommend you to a friend or family member that’s also in the market to plan a wedding.

Strategize and be patient!

You never want to come off as pushy at any stage with a client or fellow creative partner. The ROI of a referral may not be instant, but when the new business does start rolling in, you’ll be grateful for the strategy and steps you took to get there.

We like to say that the best way to receive referrals is often to give referrals. Other creative partners that you notice are making a difference in the industry by providing exceptional service can also benefit, and they’ll take notice that you’re putting their name out there. The next time a client asks them for a recommendation, the chances they’ll give out your information are much higher.

Don’t overlook the benefits of a great referral. Putting a little bit of extra time in to update your website and give clients and partners alike a great experience will pave the way of an abundance of new business!

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.

» Staying Relevant in the Changing Wedding Landscape

Fierce & Fringe Photography

Change can be hard, yet change is constant–especially in this industry. This means that we need to be able to predict and prepare for anything.  

Speaking honestly, it can get quite hectic. So, let’s break it down a little bit:

  • It’s an industry where our clients are hiring us for a single transaction (whether a product or a service), which means that we are constantly having to look for new clients to keep our businesses going.

  • That one transaction, though, is for a momentous moment in their life, so it’s not insignificant to them nor one they take lightly.

  • This is often the largest amount of money they have spent in one sitting.

  • And yet it’s also a brand-new experience to them, purchasing things they have little to no experience with.

  • At the same time, many of our clients are consistently price shopping and asking for discounts, partially because the dollars involved seem so large and partially because much of what they are hearing in wedding media or from family/friends say that they can (and should).

  • Plus, most of us have quite a bit of competition in our specific categories, due to relatively low barriers to entry, with new competitors entering regularly.

  • Then, add in that our clients almost always fall within a certain age range, no matter how old we get – which means that the spread between your age and their age grows every year.

  • And new trends (in weddings, food, attire, business, technology, etc etc etc…) emerge every year.

So, yes, maybe dynamic to the point of crazy would be a very appropriate way to describe owning and managing a wedding-related business.   

All of this means that we have to be, at the least, responding to change on a consistent basis and at the most, trying to predict change so that we can be ahead of it when it happens. Do you know a wedding pro who was super successful with a fully-booked calendar five years ago but is now struggling?  Although it can be a combination of reasons–like the forever changing landscape of what couples want and look for in wedding professionals, a lack of modernization in business practices or even the assumption that one can coast on prior success and relationships–a failing business could be prevented, or at least mitigated in some way.

No matter what the reason, you know that mandated disclaimer used in the investment world, “past performance is no guarantee of future results” – well, we need to take it to heart as well.

When talking with my coaching clients, here are some things that we talk about when it comes to change management and how to stay relevant:  

First, I like to put types of change into two categories: industry and client (or couples in our case). Industry change includes new technologies, new options that compete with the options you currently offer, and new marketing opportunities. For example, wedding cake bakers now having to contend with a myriad of other dessert options like donuts, nitrogen ice cream, cupcakes, etc.. While changes from the couples’ side include generational differences and priorities, wedding trends they want to emulate, and economics. When trying to predict and respond to change, it’s important to keep both these categories in mind.

Here is how I navigate the industry to stay relevant:

Paying attention to numbers – both inquiries and bookings. Where are the inquiries coming from? What marketing is working? What are your conversion rates at every stage in the process? Who is booking you and who is saying no? By keeping track of your numbers consistently you can start to see issues at earlier stages than if you only do your numbers once a year.

Attending networking events. Although less formal than educational events, networking events are a great place to chat with other wedding pros in your area. Having real relationships locally can help keep you relevant by keeping you front-of-mind with those who might be able to refer you. It gives you the opportunity to meet people who are new to your area/industry… maybe a new venue coordinator who is taking over at one of your favorite venues, or someone new in another category who might be a great fit for your couples. It’s also a great place to learn how other local wedding businesses are doing, what local trends are popping up, and compare notes about what is working for them and any changes they are making in their businesses.  

Forums and online groups. Joining online groups of wedding professionals, from different areas, can give you a better insight into what changes to expect.  Maybe something originating on the West coast in January and February weddings will be making its way into June and July weddings in the Midwest–allowing your change to be proactive vs. reactive.  These groups can also discuss what marketing tools and systems they are using, and the results they are achieving. While I always encourage community over competition no matter where you are, I do understand that sometimes the conversations within a nationwide group can be more honest, as you aren’t seen as each other’s local competition but rather as distant colleagues.

Local news. I know that this feels really old-school to say, yet it can help you stay on top of changes in the local market. It’s always good to know what the local economy is like, if there are new venues opening or if there are any local regulations coming into play that might affect your business.

Attending educational events. It could be a local meeting with a single education expert or a larger meeting with multiple sessions. Either way, educational events are a  great way to learn about new trends, technologies and ways to approach clients. And, don’t forget to visit the exhibit show if there is one. You might find something that allows you to streamline your business or something new and cool that your couples will love.   

Industry blogs, podcasts, etc. If you don’t have many local educational or networking opportunities, reading and listening to these can be a great way to get a picture of what others are doing, and how. Blogs and podcasts are also another great way to hear about trends that are coming or going.  

Reading what our couples are reading.  I know that as wedding professionals, we spend more time on blogs, podcasts, and articles that are meant for us and our side of the industry, however, we must also understand what our couples are reading. There are lots of articles to be found on wedding budgeting, trends, 10 best of something, etc. For example, as a wedding officiant, I should not at all be surprised by the number of friends and family performing ceremonies and by the fact that the number of them is increasing. After all, it is an option that has been written about on every major wedding information site (yes, frustratingly).

And yes, I understand that it’s very hard to be constantly paying attention to all of the above, while still having time to run your business and take great care of your couples. The point is to start small and eventually make these tasks a part of your regular working schedule. Be as prepared as possible and your wedding business can adapt more quickly and confidently.  

To learn more about evaluating and managing change, and to get help through the process, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.   

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.

» Diversifying Your Press to Keep Up

Change is inevitable in the world of Wedding PR, especially these days. In years past, you could enjoy a bountiful press portfolio by focusing on real wedding submissions, keeping an eye on HARO and participating in inspiration shoots.

With the ever-changing media landscape, and the increasingly competitive nature of wedding publicity, it’s essential to diversify your channels in 2019 to ensure your brand’s buzz is sustainable.

First–it’s time to rethink what promotion means to you. Yes, a fabulous real wedding feature is still a great way to go, and there are instances where an inspiration shoot will make sense for your business goals.  But as I’ve covered prior, it’s important to be mindful of media platforms on the rise,  as well as identify new opportunities where you can leverage your expertise, such as speaking. But in this day and age, it’s time to even go beyond that, and look to lesser-known ways to increase brand awareness instead of just sticking to what’s worked in the past.

With that being said, here are three ways to boost your visibility in the wedding space that may not come to mind:

Guest articles on your creative partner’s sites

The fact of the matter is, the majority of wedding professionals are servicing clients within 100 miles of their office. Even when you’re careful to make sure to work with a variety of event professionals, you’re still going to ultimately end up working with like-minded creative partners who share similar experience, values and, in some instances, style.

It stands to reason that prospective couples are looking at your colleagues’ websites, and are absolutely in a position to consider hiring you as well. It’s also a well-known statistic that couples are researching prospective vendors far before reaching out to them. They’re reviewing their portfolio, social media and every aspect of their web site, including their blog.

On the flip side, many wedding pros are challenged by the idea of keeping up with providing timely content on their own blogs. So why not make it a win-win and offer to share insight on your colleagues’ sites? You benefit from the publicity of being on a site that shares a likely similar audience to yours, while they can take the week off from stressing about writing a blog post.

Facebook Live presentations in targeted Facebook groups

Video has quickly proven to be an increasingly successful marketing tool. That being said, it’s also the perfect channel for sharing your expertise to a wider audience.

There’s no better-targeted audience than members of specific Facebook groups, so make it a goal this year to join industry Facebook and get a feel for opportunities to education, such as FB Live events with the audience. I happen to enjoy seeking out large-scale brands and associations that form a group on Facebook–whether because they all use the same tech program, or have been through a particular educational course.

I love the chance to increase brand awareness for my company by sharing PR insight in the FB Live format–it’s more informal, giving you the chance to share a bit of your personality. You typically also have far more engagement than if you were to present on a webinar, or even in person. In either scenario, don’t hesitate to reach out to the respective administrators to see if a collaboration is possible.

“Best of” lists

I am often surprised by wedding professionals that focus on industry related awards, but don’t look beyond that to consider honors outside of the event world. Most regions host small business awards, and you’re sure to come across “top 40 under 40” lists among area groups and media publications. Likewise, alumni groups from colleges and universities regularly pay homage to successful graduates in their respective fields.

While not directly connected to weddings, it’s a great way to leverage third-party credibility, as well as gain the trust of prospective couples. So carve out time this year to seek options relevant to your location, background, expertise and alumni relations.

If there’s one thing we can be sure of it’s this: change is inevitable, especially in this industry and most certainly among wedding media channels. By shifting your perspective, and remaining open-minded to new opportunities, you’ll be sure to weather what lies ahead.

 

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.

» For the Win – Matching Your Couple’s Expectations to Reality

Oksana Miro Photography

Couples base their expectations on two main categories: the wedding product or service they’re paying for, and the experience they have with you. A ‘win’ for any business is when the reality of your product/service doesn’t just match the couple’s expectations but exceeds it! This means not only delivering a good product but also a good customer experience–the journey the couple takes with you from the time they find you until the time they finish working with you. And that’s what we’re going to focus on here.

So, why does their customer experience really matter? Well, it all comes back to the concept of building an ideal couple cycle that makes your wedding business grow and become more profitable. If you deliver on the experience of working with you, more ideal couples will come your way through recommendations. All this for the win.

How (and why) to set couple’s expectations:

  1. The couple has most likely never done this before. You want to not only control the what, when, and how, but also make sure the couple understands them and agrees to them with you, otherwise they will set their own expectations which might not match reality.

  2. Use your marketing to set expectations. Since most couples have never done this before, their expectations of working with someone in your category are probably set by what they read in articles or hear from those who are already married. While their initial expectation of working with your business, specifically, is set by your marketing, reviews, and word of mouth references. This is why you need to make sure that all of the messaging you control is consistent and saying what you want your ideal couple to expect out of you.

  3. Customize your communication plans. From the time they reach out until the end of their customer experience, the couple’s journey with you is managed by your communications with them. Therefore it’s important that you create a communication plan that is customized to your ideal couple.

    A business that is lower cost but doing higher volume will most likely have, for good reason, a different communication plan than a higher cost, lower volume wedding business in the same category. Different ideal couples with different general expectations. Even your different offerings will need different plans, as you wouldn’t have the same plan for your full-service wedding planning client that you would for your month-of wedding management client.

  4. Start setting expectations early. I recommend discussing the major pieces of their journey during the initial meeting. I also recommend that when telling them about those pieces, tell them a bit about why you do it and the benefit to them. This makes sure that you are on the same page before they book you. For example, as an Officiant, I have two homework assignments that my couples do for me in order to create a custom ceremony. Since that is the only way I do it, they have to be on board with it, or we will not be the right fit and there will be mutual frustrations and disappointments, leading to less-than-ideal customer experience.

    After they book you, I recommend sending a post-booking email that reiterates the major pieces of the journey with more detail. Think of it as a map for first-time visitors, like you would expect walking into a museum for the first time. Help them know what to expect and when! In my case, I start the ceremony creation process four months out, no matter how far out they book me. I always make sure to let them know this and to explain the positive reason I do this. That way they aren’t wondering when we’ll start, and will be ready when I reach out.

  5. Manage expectations throughout the journey. When you are communicating with the couple about a particular piece of the journey, include some information about what is next. By keeping them informed you avoid them setting their own timelines that stray from yours. Getting things done on time, and smoothly, is one of the major reasons they hire a professional.

    Moreover, communicating expectations and next steps reduce the number of “out of the blue” questions or emails and allows you to more easily steer the couple back to the path you want them to follow. Yes, it’s still good (and important) to be flexible and communicate back when they get in touch, but the consistency and quality of the journey come from following the path. Remember: they haven’t done this before, and you are the expert, so help them in the best way possible.

By starting with the above and consistently refining these general ideas based on your business and your ideal couples, you can meet or exceed your ideal couple’s expectations, which will lead to more raving reviews and referrals, and more ideal couples coming your way.

See my webinar “How to Strengthen Your Customer Experience and Generate Future Business” for more tips on how to deliver a top-notch customer experience.


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.

 

» 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.

» 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