This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP. Alan has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.
I’m just back from another great conference and I had the privilege of speaking about a touchy subject… getting older. Why is it a touchy subject, after all aging is inevitable? As a matter of fact getting older beats the alternative! The reason it’s touchy is because in our industry, wedding pros, like you, get older every year, while your target market, engaged couples, stay about the same age. In my over 25 years around this industry couples have only gotten about 5 years older, while I’ve added those 25 years to my total (that’s not fair, but it’s true). I have a survey about this topic, so if you’d like to have your voice heard you can take the short survey here.
So, what’s the problem?
Actually I don’t think there is a problem, but for many wedding pros it can become an issue. At a certain point you find yourself the age of the parents of your clients, while you need to relate to the couple and understand their needs. Any of you who have children know that relating to your kids is not as easy as relating to people your own age. And therein lies the issue, or does it?
As with many other of life’s issues there are many ways to see this. Do you need to be the age of your couples to relate to them? I don’t think so. You just need to work to understand their needs as it relates to your business and service. You also need to constantly adapt to the way they want to do business.
Technology changes all the time
One of the most fundamental ways our market has changed over the past 10 years is the advent of email. For many, if not most of you, getting a prospect on the phone is your preferred first method of contact. But we all know that doesn’t happen these days and email is, and will continue to be the way they reach out to us for the foreseeable future. It’s not up to us to try to change them, it’s up to us to adapt. A basic rule of business is to communicate with your customers using their preferred technology. If they email you, email them back. If they call you, call them back.
Don’t make a problem where there is none
The key is to not highlight something that may not be an issue. Don’t do and say things that get them thinking you may be out of touch (by the way, any of us can be out of touch, regardless of our age). Don’t say things like “When I was your age…” or “My kids are your age…” or “My grandchildren…”. For example, I used to talk about how long I’ve been married, but now I just say I’ve been happily married for a long time (my wife wasn’t happy about me omitting the number of years until I explained why – and if asked I’ll certainly say how many years). I used to say how old my two sons are, but now I just say I have two Gen Y sons.
How many years of experience is enough?
Do you really need to say you’ve been in business “since 1992” on your marketing? Is that relevant to your prospects? What they care most about is what you’re doing now, not what you did 10, 15 or 20 years ago. Is having 5 years experience better than 1? Probably. Is having 10 years experience better than 5? Maybe. Is having 20 years experience better than 15? Hard to say, isn’t it. It’s not the number of years it’s what you did in those years. One wedding pro could have done 5 weddings per year, for 10 years, for a total of 50 weddings. Another may have done 30 weddings per year, for 5 years, for a total of 150 weddings. So you can see that the number doesn’t tell the whole story.
It’s not just your words, it’s your actions and marketing
I’ve often said that you don’t always get credit for doing things right, but you often lose points for getting it wrong. One of the most glaring things you can do is to have an AOL or Hotmail email address for your business. If you have a website, which I would hope all of you do, then your email should be firstname.lastname@example.org, regardless of your age. If you’re 25 and using a Gmail address, I would tell you the same thing. Can you think of any major company that uses AOL, Gmail or Yahoo email addresses (other than employees of AOL, Google or Yahoo)? No, of course not. Using anything other than your website for your email can make you look less professional, less serious, not full time or like you’re a startup, to some clients. It’s easy and inexpensive to set this up, just ask the company that hosts your website, I’m sure they have email for you there as well. I just set up a new website and it was less than $50 per year for an exchange server email (so I can use Outlook). Having your email at your website won’t get them to pat you on the back, but you won’t lose points for it.
What’s your first impression?
Having outdated branding, business cards, logo and most of all your website, can hurt you as well. Most of our customers will see our websites before we get to meet them, so keep it up to date, not just in content, but in design. The same goes for your social media presence. Know which platforms your clients are using and learn how to get a better return from your investment in time and money – the latest edition of WedInsights delves into this very well.
It’s not about trying to dress young, or talking young, it’s about staying relevant with your work and being open to adapting to a changing market, because the market is always changing. In the years I’ve been around the wedding and event industry I’ve seen lots of change. The wedding pros I know who’ve been in the industry that long, and are thriving, are doing things a lot different than they did 25 years ago, are you? If you’re getting a lot of resistance from your prospects the place to look first is in the mirror. For most of our businesses the biggest hurdle is found there. Then take a look at what others are doing, network with younger wedding pros (mentoring can be helpful for both of you) and listen and watch for new trends, not just in your skillset, but business and marketing trends. You don’t have to be the first to jump on them, but if you don’t know they exist it’s easier to be left behind. I look forward to hearing your stories of success, no matter how long you’ve been in business.