» 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.

» Relationship Building Goals for the New Year

Brandi Potter Photography

It’s that time of the year where resolutions are no longer just distant ideas — now it’s time to put them in motion! Just as client relationships and experiences are supremely important to your business’s success, creative partners also play a large part. Increasing engagement with your fellow industry pros is the perfect way to shine a spotlight on your devotion to growth in 2019.

Strengthen relationships

This might be a no-brainer (and we’re all guilty of occasionally getting too wrapped up in our work to check in with those closest to us!), but it really is a crucial pillar in maintaining those creative partner ties.

Don’t stress yourself out about extending a grand gesture! The smallest details can really mean the most, in this case. Keep up with their recent accolades and send them a congratulatory email, or plan a get-together the next time you attend the same conference. Celebrating anniversaries and birthdays means just as much. Being present in their lives and setting a goal to be more communicative is always a step in the right direction, and they’ll start noticing.

Ask for feedback

Being vulnerable and opening yourself up to criticism is difficult, but I’ve found that it’s incredibly useful to know what your strengths and weaknesses are if you’re serious about excelling in both business and relationships. Client feedback is wonderful, but asking for the opinion of your creative peers may be most helpful when it’s coming from an insider’s point of view.

Asking for feedback not only shows that you’re interested in evolving as a wedding professional, but it shows that you care about how you’re viewed in the industry. Back when I was new to the wedding world, I had no idea what I was doing when it came to networking events. I met one of the top caterers in town and asked for honest advice, and she was quick to audit a few things that I wasn’t even aware of — right down to the baseball cap I shouldn’t have been wearing to networking events! After that, I really took her advice to heart and we became close partners in the business.

Increase your participation and maximize attendance

If you’ve been lacking a bit in industry event attendance, this is your opportunity to make up for lost time. Networking and educational events are your key to success in the new year, even when your schedule seems jam-packed. It can be hard to break away from the day-to-day, but participating in these events will benefit you in the long run as a way to connect with creative partners and lend your expertise.

Scope out associations you can join, submit yourself to speak at conferences, and print off some new business cards to hand out when you attend. You never know who will be the next big connection, or who could be a mutually beneficial referral to clients.

Our industry peers keep us in business and they keep us grounded. You want to be remembered as the professional that supports others and goes the extra mile, in whatever capacity that means for you. Putting in a little extra effort into the simplest tasks or exchanges will leave a lasting imprint!

 

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.

» Do You Do Weddings or Have a Wedding Business?

Karina Santos Photography

As many of you know, the wedding industry is a recession-resistant industry, and in most categories, the barrier to entry is fairly low — which allowed many of us to get in without much investment in the first place. Of course, that also allows many newcomers to get in, every year. Just as many newbies are getting in, many others are dropping out. And hopefully, dropping out because they’re retiring after a long, successful career. Unfortunately, many others get out because they can’t make it work financially.

Many years ago, I was contacted by someone at Yale University who was doing a research project on the wedding industry. He wanted to find out why so many people get into the industry when the economics don’t always seem to make sense. My sense is that because the barrier to entry is so low, not enough people approach their new venture as a business. Indeed, for many people it starts as a hobby or sideline. An all too common story is of the hobbyist who gets asked to help out a friend or relative, or themselves at their own wedding and is then offered money to work for someone else. Sound familiar?

So, do you do weddings, or do you have a wedding business?

There’s nothing wrong with someone getting into our industry that way. It’s happened countless times, and it will continue to happen that way. However, that scenario doesn’t exactly prepare one to have a wedding business. The skills needed to take photos, play music, arrange flowers or do calligraphy are not the only ones needed to succeed as a business. Understanding a balance sheet, profit and loss statement, accounts payables and the various taxes that need to be addressed are also critical to succeeding as a wedding business.

When did you become a professional?

I like asking wedding pros when they felt they became professionals. Many years ago, one wedding pro told me: “When I was asked for my insurance certificate!” That’s certainly a wakeup call for many hobbyists. I once referred a friend, who was beginning to DJ events (he had been a drummer in bands), to my son’s fraternity for their annual formal dinner. It was at a very nice Hilton hotel and of course, their budget was limited. He was willing to work with their budget, that is until the hotel requested his liability insurance certificate. I suggested that he take the gig, as it would pay for the year of liability insurance, and then he wouldn’t have that issue for another year. Instead, he declined the gig! So, instead of doing the gig, maybe breaking even, but having a year of liability insurance, he ended up with no gig, no money and no insurance. That’s not a business way of thinking.

So, when do you consider that you became a professional? Was it when you were paid to do a wedding or event? Was it when you did your taxes and had to report the income from your business? Was it when you were asked for your insurance certificate? I did an online search for the definition of a professional and got this: “(of a person) engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.” Since I know that many of you either started doing weddings as a sideline (pastime), or maybe are still doing weddings in addition to another job, I don’t think this is completely applicable.

How much time does it take to do a wedding?

Another great thing about weddings is that nearly 68% of them are on Saturday evenings while 25% of them happen on Friday or Sunday. If you have a Monday-Friday job, it’s certainly possible to do the Saturday weddings. Of course, there’s a lot more to a wedding than what happens that day. There’s a lot of preparation and admin that happens before, and in some cases (photo, video) after. Just as people don’t see the hours I spend preparing for a speech, whether I’ve given it before, or not, they don’t see the time you invest in making their wedding great. Are you getting paid for that time? Do you charge by the hour for the wedding day, not taking into account the hours you spend before, at and after their event?

I can do that better!

Many others started their wedding businesses after working for someone else in the industry. Unless it’s a capital-intensive category, like a venue or dress shop, that low barrier to entry makes it seem easy to make the leap. I like to remind people who are ready to make that leap that when it’s your business, you pay for everything. The toilet paper doesn’t just appear in the bathroom, you have to pay for it. The lights don’t stay on, unless you pay the bill. And the ads don’t get run, unless you place and pay for them. Doing weddings while you have another paycheck, is a lot easier than doing them as your sole source of support. Some of you have felt that pain. Some of you are still feeling that pain.

Chin up!

This should not be a discouraging message. Many of you have successful, profitable wedding businesses. And those successful, profitable wedding businesses requires investments in time and money. When you’re part-time, you can try to do everything on the cheap. Free listings, free apps, etc. I’ve always felt that if you want others to invest in you, you have to make the investment first. I don’t want my customers perceiving that I’m doing everything on the cheap. If I want them to pay my prices, I have to show them that I’m leading by example. Better graphic design. Better website. Better messaging and branding. Better continued education. And then back that up with a better product that gets them better results.

Which came first?

Notice that I put the better product last on that grouping. You don’t get to deliver the better product and results until you make the sale. You don’t get to make the sale until you get the inquiry. You don’t get the inquiry unless you’ve done the marketing. How are they going to find you? How are you going to break through the clutter and noise? Those are the things that differentiate hobbyists from businesses.

So, as we begin the new year, I challenge you to think about how are you planning to invest in your wedding business in 2019. Have you bought your ticket to a conference, like WeddingWire World? Are you a member of a local association or networking group… and will you show up to those meetings? Are you investing in advertising on sites like WeddingWire to increase your exposure? How are you going to improve your business skills, so you get to perform your technical skills at more weddings? I’ll leave you to ponder these and answer them for yourselves. I look forward to hearing your stories of success.

 

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.

 

» Booking Season Makeover – Make Your Business More Attractive in 2019

Havana Photography 

How many times have you heard, “oh, since it isn’t the wedding season, you must not be working too hard”? However, we know that our reality is something quite different.

With 40% of engagements taking place between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day, it is peak booking season for most of us! It is also a time when we feel that we can more easily carve out chunks of time – more than the minute or two that might feel feasible in the midst of your crazy season – to work on our business, not just in our business.  

Lots of New Year resolutions seem to focus on personal makeover items. Yet, this applies to our businesses too – and trust me when I say that every business needs at least a little bit of a makeover each year, be it with changes big or small.  

So no matter how good this past year was for you, and no matter how good your bookings are looking for next year, you want to keep your business relevant and up-to-date. As you set aside time to give your business a makeover, below are things that I always encourage my coaching clients to think about:    

1) Take time off – Wait, what? Didn’t I just say that now is the time to work on our businesses? Yes, but taking some time off is working on your business since for so many of us we are one entity. It is very easy to burn out doing what we do, and if we burn out we are less useful to our couples and our businesses. Put an out-of-office email responder and get out for a few days to recharge, because your business’ health is as good as yours!

2) Evaluate the year – Can you easily answer the question of how well you did this year? Now, can you easily answer the question of how well you did this year… with supporting numbers and not just a gut feel? Knowing your numbers not only helps you determine how well you did this year, but it also gives you a good idea of how next year is likely to shape up while giving you quantitive support for making decisions to improve your business. Numbers that I recommend knowing – in addition to your gross revenue and net profit – are:

  • Number of inquiries and their source
  • Number of bookings and their source (yes, your bookings are different from your inquiries!)
  • Income and expenses by category/type
  • Average cost and average profit per wedding  

I also recommend looking at data from the different groups of clients you serve. In my case, I look at weddings vs. elopements, the number of LGBTQ, military or destination couples to analyze how far out I was booked for each to find my own average and busiest booking times.

3) Some strategic thinking – Once you know your numbers, you can start to make some important strategic decisions based on data. Think about, for instance, how many weddings you want/need, how much each of them will cost you to execute, and how you most effectively go about getting them. Doing this will allow you to focus your important resources, both time and money, to their best effect. After all, do you often get in your car and just start driving, hoping to get where you want to go, or, do you plan your route first?  

Our businesses should be the same way — we can’t determine our route without having some real idea of what will get us there. Knowing the numbers allows me to start making decisions about where to put my marketing dollars, which referral relationships I should focus more time on, and if there are certain areas of my business to either cut out or put more into.

4) Reviews – Knowing how very powerful reviews are (you can read my earlier article about that here) when doing a business refresh, you should think about reviews as well.

  • Follow-up with couples who haven’t yet left you a review, because the more current your reviews are, the better. I’m using WeddingWire’s Couples’ Choice Awards® as a great excuse to get back in touch to ask for reviews, since reviews from couples up to a year ago help me qualify to win!
  • Review your reviews part 1: Are there positive and/or descriptive keywords, phrases, sentiments, etc. that keep appearing and can be used to update marketing materials?
  • Review your reviews part 2: If there are criticisms that appear in more than 1 or 2 reviews or something you thought was important but is never being mentioned, you might want to take some time working on business processes and your customer experience.

5) Marketing – How much you do in this area just depends on how deep your makeover is going to be. At the least, I recommend doing the following two tasks:

  • Review and refresh marketing text and pictures: Remember, the pictures and messaging should represent what you want to do and speak to your ideal couples. And when doing this, make sure you not only update your website and the website listings you created, but also any other places you may be listed, such as your WeddingWire Storefront.
  • Use your numbers to evaluate what marketing tools are working for you and which ones aren’t: For those that are, would more resources there make them even more successful for you, like upgrading a listing or adding on an additional wedding show?

For those that aren’t, are there changes you can make to improve your return or would those marketing dollars be better used somewhere else?  Please don’t forget to factor in your time. “Free” tools don’t mean that your time isn’t going into them – as many of us have learned over the years with social media – so make it all work properly for you and your business.

6) Customer experience – And, of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about one of my favorite business areas, the customer experience. Business makeover time is the perfect time to make changes to your business processes, including your communication tools and messaging–hether it be updating the text in your templated emails or adding questionnaires to your process.I’m going through a lot of this now myself, using this year’s learning experiences to further improve my couples’ experience with me.    

Don’t feel overwhelmed with all of the things that you could do in your business makeover. I expect that, based on the age, condition and pain points of your business, you can probably pick at least a few to work on over the next couple of months. Event doing a mini-makeover will help you create a wedding business that is more attractive, smoother running, more profitable and more enjoyable. And that’s definitely worth the time and attention!

 

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.

» Will You Ever Retire?

Photo by Vanessa Joy Photography

I was recently questioned for using the term “minimum wage” in one of my videos on YouTube. The commenter assumed I meant that people should be paid under what he deemed as “living-wage”. It wasn’t my intent, but it did get me thinking. How many wedding professionals, business owners even, aren’t paying themselves a decent living wage?

It’s easy to think we’re making a ton of money in the wedding world because we take in a lot of money. But when was the last time you evaluated your costs? Better yet, when was the last time you looked at how much time your business commands of you?

The easiest way to determine how much you should charge is to add up your cost of sales (the amount of money it takes to actually do the job – typically staff and product costs) plus the cost of business (marketing, insurance, overhead, etc) and multiply that 3-5x. Then, as you grow in experience and skill, your pricing should grow to accommodate that plus inflation. To see a breakdown of that pricing method, download this pricing video.

Now, you may come to that profit number per job or per year and think, “I’m doing pretty good.” But now I want you to take that number and divide it by how many hours you work to get it. Are you making a living wage or just minimum wage?

A living wage should mean that you can save for retirement, and I believe that’s where a lot of us fall short. Let’s face it, weddings are a tough business. They’re stressful, long hours, physically strenuous and on weekends where you’re sadly away from friends and family. Are you prepared to retire one day? Or are you hoping to have a second career?

Saving for retirement is no easy task. It’s one that takes a lot of diligence over a long period of time. Dave Ramsey would suggest that we save 15% of our income for retirement every year. That seems like a huge number when you’re currently saving 0%. But you want to know what’s an even bigger number? The amount of money you need to have saved in order to retire.

Chris Hogan says that “Retirement isn’t an age, it’s a number.” If you want to see what your number is, go take his Retirement IQ quiz. Shocked? I sure was!

The best part of all of this? You have control, my friend! You own your own business so you can immediately make adjustments to start cutting spending and increasing income so you can start down the retirement track — even if you just started in the wedding business.

I didn’t write this article to give you three easy steps to retirement. I wrote it to light a fire under you because no one talks about this. Maybe it’s because we truly love what we do so much that we can’t picture ever not doing it. I get that and I’m actually with you on it. But, that doesn’t mean one day you won’t want to travel more, work a little less and spend most of your time with the people you love vs the people that pay you.

I’ve found my answers to business and personal finances in the two books. Entreleadership and The Total Money Makeover, both by Dave Ramsey. And I want to give them to you. I’ve got nothing to gain from this. Dave Ramsey is not sponsoring me. I just want to see my fellow wedding professionals have a plan and succeed at it.

The week this article posts I’m holding an Instagram Contest. Just head over to www.Instagram.com/vanessajoy, follow me and comment on one of my pictures telling me why you want to retire one day. Make it funny, make it serious, whatever you’d like. 7 days after this article posts I’ll pick the winner and send you both of those books so you can get started on living your dream after your dream.

See you there!

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

 

» How to Foster Relationships After Conferences

While conferences can be a fun experience (and another pin on your traveling map), they also provide education and networking opportunities for everyone involved. That being said, no matter if you’re new to the industry or if you’re nearing a decade (or more!) in well-seasoned knowledge, there’s something valuable for anyone that attends. On the same note, making new connections and professional relationships is part of the excitement of attending a conference, especially when it comes to potential clients or mutually beneficial creative partner contacts. So how can you ensure that these new relationships stay strong after they’re developed?

Strategy is key

Exchanging contact information is only the first step, and follow-up after the fact is also great. But think about the ways that you can be relevant to them without actually being face-to-face. If you have a blog or active social media for your company, consider cultivating that new relationship with some content to cross-promote to each other’s audiences. Both of you will benefit, plus you’ll leave an invaluable impression that you’re a loyal connection to have.

Generosity is something we always advocate for, whether that means a referral or an effort to ‘surprise and delight’ your creative partner. Handwritten thank-you notes go so far, trust us! The old saying about what you put out into the world will inevitably come back around is so true. Putting out those referrals means that you’ll likely see them in return, and you’ll want to make sure you credit the person that scored you that new client.

Be prompt

It’s really that simple. Even if the communication between the two of you isn’t necessarily time-sensitive, it’s still a nice gesture to respond to emails or other correspondence in a timely manner. Prioritizing the small things really do mean a lot in the long run. Our rule of thumb is generally responding within 24 hours of receipt.

To take it a step further, if you’re traveling in the area where your creative partner is located, make an effort to put in the face-to-face contact, even if it’s just grabbing some coffee. This lets them know that you care about continuing the relationship and want to check in on their successes.

There are plenty of ways to foster those long-lasting relationships after conferences, but keep in mind that it’s important that it comes across as organic and genuine. Be yourself, be consistent, and get creative – that is all you need to do!

 

 

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

 

» Should You Focus On Volume Or Profit?

Photography by StopGoLove Film+Photo

In my conversations with wedding pros, around the world, the topic of how many weddings/events a business should do each year is a recurrent one and there’s certainly no one answer that’s right for every business. So many factors will affect both your ability and desire to do more weddings/events. If you’re just starting out, and maybe still holding down a full-time job outside the industry, there’s certainly a limit to how many weddings you can effectively do. On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re well-established, maybe even looking towards retirement, you too may be looking to do a smaller number of weddings/events.

Growth strategy

But what about the businesses who are on the growth curve? There are different ways to grow your business. One is to grow the volume and another is to grow your average sale. Given the choice between those two, I would choose to grow your average sale first, so you earn more from each wedding/event. Then, if you choose to increase your volume, you’ll earn that much more. Before you decide to do more weddings/events, think about why you want to do more. If it’s to impress your industry friends, or as one wedding pro told me, to be seen as a major player in his market/category, make sure you’re also increasing profit. I’ve often said in my consulting that I don’t want to feed your ego, if we’re not also feeding your family.

Keep your eye on the profit

Regardless of which way you go, keep an eye on your profitability. Growing your top line is easy if you’re giving it away. Growing your bottom line is the better long-term strategy. Take a close look at your costs, the time it takes you to complete an event, and your pricing. Costs are relatively easy to find. You should know what the products, ingredients and raw materials cost for each event. Be sure to include everything you use, whether it comes off your warehouse shelf, or your kitchen shelf.

Time is something that seems to be harder for wedding pros to quantify. You invest time with each wedding/event from the moment you get an inquiry. How much time do you invest replying to their emails, calls and in meetings? It’s not just the time on the day of their wedding, it’s also all of the time before and after. For some, particularly videographers, there’s more time spent after the wedding than before or during. How much are you getting paid for your time? Would you take a job that paid that hourly wage?

The 40-hour wedding

While I was having dinner with a wedding DJ friend, he received a new inquiry that asked “How much do you charge for a 5-hour wedding?” We can’t blame the couple for the question, it’s the wedding pros who are selling their services that way that create that environment. If wedding pros only value the time they spend at the actual event, and not the time they invest before, and after, then we can’t expect couples to value that other time, either.

When I asked my friend how much time he actually invests in each wedding, he said it was somewhere between 30 and 40 hours. Given that he does a grand entrance, cuts and edits different music for bridal party introductions, displays photos, does a lighting plan and more, that’s a reasonable estimate. If he were to price his services, by the hour, for only 5 hours, his effective hourly rate is actually 1/6 of that. I suggested that he reply by saying “Thanks for reaching out. I’d love to make your wedding amazing, pack your dance floor, and have your friends and family saying it was the best they’ve ever experienced. I don’t have a 5-hour package, but I’d love to tell you about the 35 hours that I’m going to invest in making your wedding great.” – and then ask one low-commitment question.

What’s the value?

So, how should you price your product and services? I recently presented at WeddingWire World in Dallas and asked that very question. Given that many wedding businesses are service businesses (and yes, we can certainly say that ALL are service businesses, even those with tangible products), it’s really about your time, your creativity, designs, and ideas. How do you put a price on those? Do you price based upon what others charge? Do you take your expenses and then mark them up? Or, do you set your prices based upon the value that you are bringing to both your couples and to you and your family. You see, you set the price, your customers determine the value. Regardless of the price you set, if you need to discount to get the sale, then the actual value is the price the customer paid, not the original price.

Giving away profit

Remember that every dollar you discount is profit you gave away. Conversely, every dollar you raise your prices is additional profit you earn… provided the customers are paying the new, higher price. So, the next time you are asked for a discount, ask yourself how much of your profit you want to give away. Your customers are entitled to ask for a discount. When we’re the customer, we have that right as well. You, the business, have a right to say yes, or no. Just ensure that you’re profiting, regardless of your discounting policy. And, if you’d like to see how you can profit, from day 1 in your business, I recommend reading “Profit First” by Mike Michalowicz. It’ll change the way you view profit, for the better.

 

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.

 

» Make the Most of Your Time During Off-Season

Photo by Karina Santos Photography

It’s hard to argue with the value of continuing education, but as busy professionals, it’s easy to overlook learning opportunities in favor of tangible money-making efforts. After all, time spent reading or attending workshops could be allotted to client work or marketing your brand.

Fortunately, the off-season tends to be slower for most wedding pros, making it the optimal time to double down on educational endeavors and build skills that will set you up for a better 2019. Here are some suggestions to make the most of your off-season.

Read business books

This is often the low-hanging fruit for professionals who don’t quite have the need or the resources to take classes or attend conferences. Not sure where to start? Take a look at these pros’ suggestions.

  • Kylie Carlson of Creative Entrepreneur Online: “She Means Business by Carrie Green isn’t a new book, but the phrase ‘female entrepreneur’ really spoke to me as my career began taking off, and even more so to see that the author made it her own with the Female Entrepreneur Society that she founded in 2011. It’s such an inspiring read and I recommend it to others in our industry looking for that extra push.”

  • Keith Phillips of Classic Photographers: “One of the books that I frequently revisit is Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. The slow season is a great time of year to get your positive mental health and attitude on track for heading back into peak engagement season when new clients will be seeking out your services.”

  • Matthew Wengerd of A Fine Press: “Seth Godin’s latest, This is Marketing, is absolute gold for wedding professionals. He’s the father of “permission marketing” and has a penchant for seeing the market as it will be in the five years more clearly than you or I see it in the present. If you’ve ever wondered how to position your business or create a profile of your ideal couples, this is the book for you.”

Book a conference trip

There’s no better experience for continuing education than a weekend filled with seminars and workshops from the industry’s top professionals. “I’m a huge proponent of attending conferences to further education,” says Kevin Dennis of WeddingIQ. “Few things are as effective as face-time with other industry professionals, plus their work ethic can be contagious. I suggest joining a local or national association for this very reason and soaking up all of the knowledge and networking opportunities available.”

Get hooked on a podcast

As a self-proclaimed podcast addict, I encourage looking into business podcasts that can help you grow your business strategy. Kristen Gosselin of KG Events & Design shared her favorites with us:

  • Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations

  • Rise Podcast with Rachel Hollis

  • The Daily Boost

  • Freakonomics Radio

  • Creative Empire Podcast

Looking for wedding industry related podcasts to dive into? If you want to get better insight into engaged couples these days, look no further than Bridechilla, where hostess with the mostess Aleisha breaks down planning each week — with equal parts vigor and humor.  On the B2B side, Andy Kushner’s The Wedding Biz interviews well-respected thought leaders and industry icons, while She Creates Business focuses on how to grow, scale and sustain success as a female entrepreneur in the wedding space.

Dig into the conversation

Take advantage of the off-season to understand what couples want. Get creative with how you immerse yourself in understanding the world of wedding planning through their perspective. “I have always been a huge Redditor, so in the off-season, I like to browse the subreddits: r/weddingplanning, r/wedding, and r/weddingsunder10k,” explains Paulette Alkire of Chalet View Lodge. “Because of Reddit’s discussion forum structure, I can interact, ask questions, and get a true sense of what the average bride is genuinely thinking about.”

Forget weddings (for a bit)

Everybody needs a break — putting a pause on wedding work can actually be quite inspiring. “Expose yourself outside of the industry,” encourages Heather Rouffle of Atlas Event Rental. “Look to fashion and home décor (reading magazines and browsing social media for blog articles and podcast interviews) as they correlate very well to what’s new and trending for tabletop and linen designs, which will help you develop new décor ideas for clients.”  

Tie up loose ends

There are surely some tasks from the year that never got completed simply for lack of time. Take this off-season to check off those boxes to prepare yourself for a streamlined 2019. “We take the time to focus on updating our website and systems to take advantage of constantly-emerging tools and technologies,” shares Joan Wyndrum of Blooms by the Box. “We also use the downtime to plan out long-term content and stock up on tutorials and photo shoots to be used throughout the upcoming year.”

Investing in education during your off-season is a great tactic, no matter how successful you were in 2018 or what your goals may be for 2019. There’s always room for growth, so allow yourself the time to become better — one book, podcast, or class at a time.

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.

» Creating an Efficient, Sustainable Work Culture

When your work culture is efficient and sustainable, your industry peers, clients and prospects tend to see you differently. It is inviting to top talent and intriguing to those who want to know the secret of your success – attention for all the right reasons. A strong, efficient work culture paired with a desirable and quality product or services is a recipe for great achievement.

What should your culture include?

Begin by examining your values. How do you want others to perceive your business? What sets you apart from your competition? When someone sees your logo or hears your business name, what is the first thing you hope comes to mind?

Choose an atmosphere that both reflects where you and your employees want to work, and the kind of business your prospective clients want to work with. Are you the formal, business-like entity that values strict deadlines or are you more playful and laidback? While you are free to define your work culture any way you want, there is a consequence of becoming discordant with your base clientele. Consider their needs and perceptions before you adopt anything too wildly out of character.

Culture sustainability

Creating a work culture is not a one-off event. You need to nurture your employees, hear their input and resolve their concerns. At Fantasy Sound, we hold an annual retreat to get out of the office, brush off the cobwebs and bring in fresh air and perspective. During these retreats, we hold honest conversations about what is working and what needs improvement. Everyone’s voice is heard.

Throughout the year, we also check in with our team to confirm we are staying on track. The effort to sustain a great work culture is worth the outcome for the business and staff alike.

Efficiency promotes satisfaction

You can have the coolest company culture around, but failure to provide efficient, reliable services will kill even the hippest businesses fast. Take steps to make your company culture is one that prizes productivity and efficiency.

Manage time wisely. We employ time mapping across all of Fantasy Sound, making firm appointments with ourselves to ensure that everything we need to do gets done, and done well. This ensures a high-quality customer experience and great reviews, which in turn feeds employee spirit.

We also seek out technology that resolves issues that would otherwise become pain points. The keys to successfully employing technology to boost productivity are to carefully weigh your options, choose the best products for your needs, and to provide training and support for your staff to make adoption go smoothly.

Managing time and using technology contribute to our ability to serve our internal and external clients and maintain a productive work environment. An efficient team is a happy team.

It is almost impossible to overstate the impact that atmosphere and employee engagement has on the success of a business. The key to achieving this level of employee satisfaction and performance is creating an efficient and sustainable work culture.

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.

» Ready The Rooms With Gender Inclusivity

Photography by Brandi Potter Photography

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Expert, Kathryn Hamm

I attended a wedding out on a farm in Virginia several years ago. As I explored the grounds during a break in the action, I found a small building offering restrooms for guests. There were three doors with permanent signage: one marked as a restroom for men, one for women, and one as a special room for “the bridal party only.”

Knowing that folks sometimes use the term “bridal party” to refer to the couple and their attendants, I asked the groom if this was a room to which he, the bride and all of their attendants had access. No, he said. This was a room that was intended for the bride and her attendants only.

The message I received from this? A groom and his attendants are a secondary focus at this venue and are expected to use the facilities with the rest of the guests.

How wedding professionals have come to address this challenge of addressing the needs and expectations of a wide variety of couples, a desire for more inclusion, and the legal recognition of marriage varies.

Tommy Waters, Venue Owner/Event Coordinator of The Renaissance in Richmond, Virginia, says that, with the shift in legal recognition of marriage, The Renaissance updated the name of their “Bridal Suite” to “Couple’s Suite” to “cater to all groups including same-sex couples.” Interestingly, he says that the signage adjustment has “gone unnoticed” by their bride-groom couples, but has “been met with positive feedback from our same-sex couples.”

The decor of the Couple’s Suite is appreciated universally by all couple combinations, and Tommy and his team like to add “day of” touches like “His” and “His” towels and “Hers” and “Hers” champagne flutes to further personalize the space.

I also asked Leah Weinberg, Owner & Creative Director of New York-based Color Pop Events what sort of naming practices she encounters for the rooms where the wedding party gets ready for the wedding, and she says that the names for these types of spaces run the gamut.

“A lot of venues still refer to them as ‘bridal suites,’” she says, “but more ‘with it’ venues use words like getting ready suite or ‘getting ready room, ‘green room,’ or just ‘suite.’”

When exploring venue recommendations for her couples, Leah says that she is “pretty disappointed” when seeing venues that “still call these rooms ‘bridal suites’ in this day and age.”  She says that they should know better. “If two grooms are getting married at your venue and you tell them you’ve got a ‘bridal suite,’ that’s not going to go over too well.”

All of this is not to say that there isn’t room for those who would prefer a “traditional wedding,” with all of the “bridal” trappings for a bride to experience the day of her dreams, with her groom playing second chair. That’s great, too, if it’s what the couple wants.

It’s an opportunity for a conscious choice that I encourage wedding professionals to consider. To do so only requires a few adjustments in the opening interview and a consideration of the physical space. As you consider your “ready rooms” and inclusive practices for the 2019 season, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you assume that wedding parties will be defined and split by gender? Tread carefully there because 40% of all couples in 2018 had mixed gender wedding parties.
  • Do you assume that couples interested in visiting your venue are straight (a bride & groom pairing)?
  • Do you assume that the couple won’t see each other or get ready together prior to the wedding?
  • Do you have two spaces of equal size where each member of the couple can get ready if they so choose?
  • Are those rooms flexible in design to suit the needs of all brides or grooms or does each have fixed trimmings for a “bride” (perceived to be feminine) or for a “groom” (perceived to be masculine)?
  • Are those two rooms labeled for a “bride” and her wedding party and a “groom” and his wedding party or do you have creative names for the rooms that will apply to all combinations of couples?
  • Do you have a restroom that a person of any gender identity can use? Bonus point: these facilities are often handicapped accessible or helpful as family restrooms!

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.

» Beyond the Stars – The Power of Using Your Reviews

Photo by Slavik Yasinsky Photography

When marketing a brick and mortar business before the internet, the three magic words were location, location, location! However, this has changed over the years — now reviews are what makes a business successful online.

As you know, having as many great – and recent – reviews as possible is very important to your business. It shows your work ethic and values, from the voices who have hired and experienced your services, a “social proof” that you will live up to the promise of your work. Reviews can set you apart when being compared to other wedding professionals in your category. I often hear from couples that they reached out because of my reviews, even when they didn’t come directly from a site with reviews. How about your couples?

Here are some ways you can use the power of reviews to increase the number of ideal couples who inquire with you – leading to more bookings, which leads to more great reviews, which leads to a fabulously repetitive cycle.

Use what is written in your reviews in places where your ideal couples are looking.

I cannot emphasize this enough! Words, phrases, and even entire reviews – that describe what you want to do more of with couples – should be integrated throughout your marketing materials, on all the pages of your website, on your social media, in your verbal messaging, and any other place where you are communicating with couples. This includes initial calls/meetings with couples or your elevator pitch at wedding shows to reinforce perceptions and expectations. For example, in so many places and in so many ways, I use some form of, “my couples are looking for a ceremony that is fun, personal, meaningful, and non-traditional” – because that is what I hear over and over from my ideal couples and continue to read in my reviews. It truly describes what I do and speaks to my ideal couples and, thus, I embrace it and use it everywhere. The idea is to let your couples say it for you, because it is more powerful coming from them – plus, let’s be honest, often some of the praise they say about you would sound a bit (or more than a bit!) weird or braggart coming from you. Let them say it all for you!

Use what is written in your reviews to improve your SEO.

This takes the above one step further, to not only use your reviews once a potential couple has found you, but also to help potential couples find you. The positive words, phrases, and sentences that get used over and over in your reviews should also be used as keywords on your website and in your blog articles.

Use what is said in your reviews to fix problem areas within your business.

For example, one coaching client of mine was getting high marks for her service on the wedding day itself, but lower marks for her responsiveness in the lead-up to the big day. This issue was written about in multiple reviews and needed to be addressed if the overall customer experience was to be improved. Remember, you may not think what is being reported is a problem, but if your couples think it is, you either need to fix that area or set proper expectations with new couples. 

Obviously, if you get one not-so-great review, it might require a personal response but it probably doesn’t require a process change. However, if you get multiple not-so-great (or quite bad) reviews, read them objectively looking for a pattern. Do they say your communication was lacking? Do they say you weren’t professional? Do they say your end product wasn’t what was promised? If there is a pattern, you should take corrective actions as soon as possible.

On the positive side of the above, use what is said in your reviews to help you streamline and improve your business processes.

Is there something within your process that couples always mention in a positive way? If there is, is there a way you can make it even better? Or, if you are looking at how to be more efficient, is there something you thought every couple would mention but don’t? Could you remove that from your process?  

For example, I send a wedding greeting card with a personal hand-written message to each couple after their wedding. The card itself is a few dollars plus postage, and the time to write it is at least a few minutes. If that never gets mentioned in reviews, is it a part of my process that I could remove without negatively impacting the customer experience? Yes, it is. Now, that doesn’t mean I have to remove it, as it might fit the customer experience I personally want to provide, but it provides valid justification if I decide to remove it.

Share your reviews on social media.

I know this sounds obvious, but I follow lots of local and national wedding professionals and yet, I only can name a few who seem to be consistently sharing their reviews. Facebook, Instagram, and even Pinterest are all places that your potential couples may be checking you out, and therefore you should let your previous couples speak positively for you on these platforms. A great way to share your reviews are to screenshot them right from the WeddingWire Business app and post it on your social platforms (rather that retyping the words, which can be faked or edited).

As you can see from the above, your reviews really do have superpowers that can be exploited for good– the good of your business. Spend the time and effort to make it happen!

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.