» WeddingWire Networking Night Philadelphia

This Tuesday, we hosted our WeddingWire Networking Night Philadelphia for local wedding professionals at the turn-of-the-century Ballroom At The Ben – Finley’s Catering.

Wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy this event in an exquisite space with a striking European ambiance.

Guests relaxed over delectable hors d’oeuvres, sipped wine, and networked with other local vendors across all service categories as well as members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned local-industry statistics and pricing tips, presented by WeddingWire’s Education Expert, Alan Berg!

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

We’re excited to share highlights from the event including the educational presentation, the latest issue of WedInsights, and photos from the lovely evening below. Check out the full gallery of photos!

We would like to say a special thank you to the amazing event partners who helped make the evening possible:

» Off-Season Tips for Solidifying Vendor Relationships

Photo by Anchor & Pine Collective

We’ll never stop saying it – your success in the events industry is grounded in the relationships you form and maintain. This is a people-centric business so developing ties to like-minded professionals is a critical pillar in the foundation of every strong event company.

During the busy season, the efforts that are necessary to finesse relationships are limited by your time and energy. However, the off-season provides not only opportunities to meet new people, but also an opportunity to circle back to those you’ve wanted to get to know better and find new ways to leverage your strongest ties; it is also the perfect time of year to put into place systems that will make it look like you’re the king or queen of networking the rest of the year!

Here are just a few ways you can solidify your vendor relationships during your off-season.

Maximize your attendance and participation in associations
It’s hard to participate and be present during peak season, because you simply can’t be in two (or three, or five) places at once. So during your next lull, double-down on your commitment to attending all available networking and educational events.

Look for opportunities to attend meetings, deliver professional development as a speaker to your peers, and contribute your time, product and services whenever the opportunity arises to the organizations you support with your membership. Make a big impression now to stay on your colleagues’ radar when you can’t actually attend.

The off-season is also a great time to vet new associations or positively respond to invitations to be a guest or guest speaker at new groups. You may or may not ultimately join, but your willingness to support other professionals will someday be returned in kind.

Be strategic
Think about the ways that you can be relevant to others when you can’t actually be face-to-face with them. Do you have a blog or active social media platforms? During the off-season, work with your colleagues to exchange content and pre-schedule posts that offer valuable information to each other’s audiences. You’ll each benefit from fresh and useful entries on your feeds, and will demonstrate to others how much faith you have in your business relationship.

I always advocate for generosity, believing that paying it forward is one of our strongest business-building policies. The off-season is a great time to look for creative ways to share referrals and help nudge the professionals you trust towards their own new successes. It’s also the right time to thank those businesses that have referred you during the year for their generosity. Send handwritten thank you notes, fun tokens of appreciation, and drop in for personal visits and expressions of gratitude.

Use technology to plan for the next busy season
There are apps for everything, and we strongly believe in using them to work smarter. A good to-do list or calendar app can help you create reminders of important dates like colleague birthdays, anniversaries or business milestones. Use a drop-ship service during the off-season to pre-schedule little tokens and gifts to arrive with personal notes of appreciation. In our fast-paced industry, thoughtfulness stands out more than any ad campaign or promotion.

Whether you’re at the top of your game, or just starting out, nothing is more integral to the success of your events business than your connections. Use the gift of the slow season to find new and innovative ways to extend your network and solidify your highly valuable vendor relationships.


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.

 

» Streamlining for Efficiency, Sanity, & Profitability

Photo by Emily Keeney Photography

This article was written by Bethel Nathan, Owner & Business Coach/Speaker at Elevate by Bethel.

To me, there are really 3 main areas of focus for business improvement in our industry.

First, is getting business, which entails all the marketing you do and relationships you build. Second, is your end product or service, photos for a photographer, baked goods for a baker, etc. And third, is the one I spend a lot of time speaking, writing, and coaching about. It is the “in-between time”, the customer experience.

From the time a couple finds you until they either don’t hire you or you have provided the service they hired you for. During this time, the interaction between you and your couple is experienced in a way that is dictated by your processes, and those processes are supported by your systems.

So, you may be thinking to yourself, if they book me (focus 1) and I deliver them an expected product or service (focus 2), why do I have to worry too much about my systems and processes (focus 3)? Well, we are in a competitive industry, and you should want an edge. And that “edge” can be achieved through evaluating and, where necessary, streamlining your business processes.   

Now, many people hear “streamline your business processes” and automatically think, “automate everything,” but this is not always the case, and is rarely what I recommend, especially in an industry as personal as ours is. Although it can include automating certain pieces (for instance, I automate my invoice reminders).

The true goal of streamlining your processes is to figure out if new processes need to be added, current processes can be improved and if there are any current processes that can be removed.

You need to start with understanding which pieces are critical to your business success and important to your couple’s satisfaction, as automation is not usually the direction to go for those pieces. Rarely are the answers the same for all of us, even for two businesses doing the same thing within our industry. So, while talking to others in your category and comparing the pieces within your customer experience can be very helpful, you need to always be aiming for your business to have a customer experience that supports your vision and meets or exceeds the needs of your ideal couples.   

When to streamline-

  • When a new piece of software or hardware (or a change in one you already use) can get you an outcome that works for your business, with less time spent. Key: as long as this does not hurt the value of the outcome.  

  • When a current process can be combined with another process.

  • When the outcome you are getting from a process is more than you need and it provides little to no value.

When not to streamline-

  • When the outcome is important to the satisfaction of your couple or another vendor and changes would affect their perception and/or outcome.  This is where “customer satisfaction” is more important than having the most efficient process.

  • When the cost to streamline outweighs the cost savings of streamlining.  

  • And to echo Goldilocks, “when the process is just right” – when the cost of a current process is pretty much equal to the value of the process within your business.  After all, there is always a cost in time or money to make changes, so only do so when it’s worth it.

If you decide to streamline, I recommend following these steps:

  1. You need to document and have a good understanding of all the processes in your business (to read more about that, see this article on how to communicate effectively with couples and save your sanity). This includes communications with your couple and other vendors, any purchasing of materials you need to get the job done, all pre- or post-wedding work that you do, etc. Map it all out!Note that you can always start with one process, for example the booking process, and work on streamlining it. Just remember that most processes don’t happen in isolation, which is why I recommend having a good understanding of all your processes before you do any major changes
  2. Plan to streamline. Look at a single process and, based on what you know from your evaluation of that process and your vision for customer experience, brainstorm ways to streamline it. Can you combine it with another process? Can you reduce the steps within the process? Can you automate it, or part of it? But before you make a change, really think about the impact that change will have on your couple or another vendor. This is the most crucial step since there are pieces that you could streamline which would increase profitability and save sanity, yet doing so will negatively impact the customer experience enough that it is not worth the savings gained.
  3. Make it happen. Allow yourself the time to make this change, whether it means switching to a new software, creating new email templates, or creating a questionnaire. And then start to implement it when you are ready. Tweak as needed, as you start to see it in use.
  4. Rinse and Repeat! You are never done, and you want to re-evaluate your systems and processes periodically, always with your eyes on your customer experience and your ideal client.

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.

» How to Use Headshots to Redefine Your Brand

This article was written by Education Expert, Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting

Headshots are a must-have for professional purposes — it gives others a look at the face behind the brand. Now more than ever, headshots are being used as a strategy that can elevate brands to the next level. In fact, I recently invested a great deal into headshots for my entire team with the confidence that it will pay back in dividends. With that said, here’s my personal guide to incredible headshots.

Timing is everything

Acquiring new headshots amidst business changes is a smart move, be it a new website, a rebrand, or a change in your team or services — it can really add a fresh feel to a company’s brand. In other cases, you may just want to update your current photo and promote a new image.

“When you look different in your headshot than you look in person, it’s time for a new headshot,” explains Shannon Tarrant of Wedding Venue Map. “The point of a headshot is to be recognizable when people see you, so current is always best.”

Regardless of why you’re considering new headshots, it’s wise to start the search for a photographer early on. This will allow you to find the very best person for your needs, while still saving a bit so it doesn’t hit your budget hard.

Consider audience and message

Take a step back and think about your general publicity strategy. Who do you market to? Who is most likely to see your headshot: engaged couples perusing your site, press contacts, or industry peers looking to refer a creative partner? The goal is to decide what style would resonate best with your target audience — for some, an approachable and friendly look is best whereas others may prefer a more refined and upscale look.

With my recent batch of headshots, I decided it was time to deviate from the usual and do something different. I wanted our confidence and experience to show through (hello, grey hair!), while still capturing the rawness of who we are as individuals.

Think about usage

Back in the day, headshots really 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.

“Be sure to have a mix of vertical and horizontal shots taken,” shares Kevin Dennis of WeddingIQ. “Your needs will vary, whether it’s for social media or a request from someone hiring you to speak. You always want to be prepared.”

Find the right photographer

Headshots are a personal business, so it’s essential to work with a photographer that truly understands you and the look that you are going for. It may go without saying, but DIY is not the answer. “After all, we can’t get frustrated with DIY couples if we choose to DIY this ourselves,” reminds Keith Phillips of Classic Wedding Photographers. “Find someone you can feel comfortable asking for guidance when it comes to location and dress.”

Make sure they have experience with headshots — it’s not the same as capturing an engagement shoot or wedding. Don’t be afraid to spend some money on the right photographer. While you may have some generous friends offering free headshots, you’ll want to be sure that the result will help you reach your goals.

Communicate openly

When you get to the shoot, don’t be afraid to get comfortable with the photographer. Ask them for their opinion on outfits, hairstyles, and colors. Look to them for advice on best poses and feel free to ask to see some of the shots on the back of the camera — tell them if you aren’t comfortable with anything and adjust accordingly. Communication is key throughout the process and will be the surest way to get photos that exude confidence and grace.

Once you’ve received your new headshots, it’s time to share them with the world! Post them to your social media channels, add them to your website, and let the compliments roll in.


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 Protect Your Business from an Ever-Changing Economy

This article was written by Kevin Dennis, editor of WeddingIQ.

Owning an event business is complicated. It’s not enough that you have to stay on top of trends, adapt to new technology, as well as change with fashion and the generations. You also have to focus and think about how to endure the ebbs and flows of the ever-changing economy. The economy is one of the biggest challenges a small business can face and it can make or break your business depending on how well you prepare.

But, how can the ever-changing economy affect your event business?

With few exceptions, we are nearly all in business for the revenue. You might need your revenue as a primary source of income, or simply to supplement that of a spouse – but you probably need it nonetheless. Maximizing your company’s profitability is a high priority, however this can be difficult when the economy is in flux and booking patterns become unpredictable.

There are ways that you can stabilize your business, though, to help shield it from unforeseen circumstances including:

Diversifying your revenue streams

Developing multiple streams of income allows you to sustain a business even if one of your major products or services falls victim to the economy. If you usually market your product to a luxury clientele, for example, having a more budget-friendly option ready to go in the event that the market collapses can keep the money coming in long enough for you to make necessary adjustments to your business model.

Keep your insurance updated

Be prepared for anything and everything. Make sure you have liability, business and workman’s comp insurance to keep your business safe from unfortunate events.

Price your services carefully

We price ourselves to fall a bit on the higher side so we don’t have to compromise the level of service for which we are known. This maximizes profits allowing us to save and reinvest in our businesses, and it also shields us from total devastation if the economy should take a downturn.

Nurture your professional relationships

When the economy is strained, some will fall victim and either need help to keep going or will have to close their doors. If you have a strong network of business associates, you may be able to seek and receive help during difficult times. Attend association meetings and other networking gatherings regularly to maintain your current relationships and seek new ones. Help others in time of economic hardship by sending referrals, and graciously accept help when it is offered to you.

The economy is a powerful factor when running a business, but with some forward-thinking you can prepare your 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 national vice president for WIPA.

» How and When to Expand Your Niche

This article was written by Kevin Dennis, editor of WeddingIQ.

Choosing a niche can elevate your brand to the next level—just ask any successful business owner. Niches allow you to focus your talents on a corner of the market, effectively increasing overall brand recognition as well as carving out your role as an expert in your field

However, in some cases, it’s wise to think outside your niche and look for ways to expand your services while still sticking to what sets you apart in the market.

Do clients ask about services you don’t offer? Are creative partners hinting at something they’d love help with? Take a hard look at your market to see if there is room for that service and whether it fits in with your current offerings.

Don’t jump ahead without doing your due diligence—dig into your market and get a better understanding of who may consider this new venture of yours as a competing gesture. Ask yourself if this move may affect your existing industry relationships and whether the risk is worth it.

At the same time, you’ll need to evaluate your company internally. Expanding your business will only be successful if your company is already secure and running smoothly. As a business owner, you need to prepare to invest some money up front knowing it will be worth it down the road. If your brand is still a work in progress, give it some time to flesh out and become established before considering growth opportunities.

Next, consider how your new venture will fit into your brand. I’m a firm believer that new services should develop within your existing brand. If you try to add new businesses for every service, your brand will become watered down and confusing for prospective clients. Keep it simple and stick to the same marketing styles, colors, tone of voice, and overall branding techniques.

When it comes down to it, client experience is priority and a consistent brand is a major factor for happy returning clients. After I started my career as a DJ, Fantasy Sound naturally developed into a drapery and lighting company, maintaining a consistent brand throughout. On the other hand, when I acquired WeddingIQ, an educational hub for wedding professionals, it came with a brand that made sense to continue—it was a living thing that readers had grown to love.

In both cases, I’m fortunate to have had help from advisors—insight from others is a valuable resource when making major business decisions. Trust your gut, but also consider perspectives that others can offer. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for advice from trusted business associates.

Lastly, give it three years before you consider discontinuing a new venture. It can take time to make a profit, so don’t panic if you’re losing money after a year. However, if you’re not seeing a return at three years, it may be time to look into other options. Don’t fret, though—consider it a learning experience and use your knowledge to make your next endeavor a success.

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.

» Are Your Business Goals Right for You?

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP.

I love speaking with wedding pros about their businesses, because the business of weddings and events is what my business is all about. Each wedding pro should have their own goals and it’s perfectly acceptable to have different goals at different stages of business — as a matter of fact, your goals should evolve with your business.

How do you measure your business?

New businesses are often just trying to survive, while well-established businesses may be trying to stay current and relevant. What are the benchmarks you’re using to see how you’re doing? Is it the number of weddings and events you do each year? Or is it the total revenue (top-line)? Or maybe it’s the bottom line (net profit). Each of you has to decide what’s important, and then decide how you’re going to achieve that target. Just make sure it’s the right target.

What’s in a number?

I was consulting with an entertainment company who told me that he wanted to do 250 weddings the next year. When I asked him why, he said that he felt he would be seen as a major player in his market. I asked why that was important to him and he replied that he felt it would solidify his standing, and how he was viewed by the other wedding pros. When we looked at how he was planning to get there, it was to go after lower-dollar weddings that he wasn’t getting now. He was currently more of a boutique business, towards the higher end of his market. As I went through with him how to get to the 250, it occurred to me that he wasn’t going to be making much profit on those additional weddings. Once we considered the additional costs: DJs, equipment, insurance, marketing/advertising, admin, etc., most of the money was going to others, not to him. In my words, he was trying to feed his ego, when I prefer that he was trying to feed his family.

Biggest or most profitable?

Another client of mine, a rental company, told me that their goal was to be the biggest rental company in their market. I suggested that a goal of being the most profitable rental company in their market was a better plan. It’s often easier to grow your top-line than your bottom line. You can sell more weddings and more services, at or close to your cost, and increase your total sales. Figuring out how to sell more profitable services, or raising your rates and increasing your average sale, is a better plan. You’ve probably heard the phrase “Work smarter, not harder” and in my opinion, that’s a better way to go. When you figure out how to make more profit per wedding, you’re on your way to working smarter.

Which comes first – more weddings or more profit?

If you have the choice to either do more weddings, or increase your average profit per wedding, I’d focus on the latter. When you start making more per wedding, then you can decide if you want to do more events per year, or just make more from doing the same number of events. Many of the wedding pros I meet, and consult with each year, aren’t trying to do more weddings. Many have already maxed out the number of events, so the only way to increase their sales, and profit, is to increase their average sale. It’s the same for my business. In the early days I was all about increasing my total sales. And while I achieved that, I also realized that I wasn’t profiting enough for the amount of sales I was bringing in.

Diversify, or double-down?

As you look for ways to increase your profits, one possible way is to diversify, and offer new services, or go into new geographic markets. You may see a competitor doing some of these things and decide to follow along. Just make sure that you know why you’re doing it, because it’s likely you don’t know why your competitor is. If you don’t know if they’re profiting from that expansion, you might be chasing a losing proposition. It’s easy to spread yourself too thin, too fast, so think before you follow.

Is smaller better?

In the lifecycle of many of my clients, they start small, get big (sometimes slowly, sometimes fast) and then, many of them decide to scale back and get smaller again. Maybe it’s a venue owner who goes from one, to three, to six venues, and then decides to focus on one or two of the most profitable ones. Or it could be a DJ, photographer or officiant, who goes from being a single-op (just her or him) to multi-op (many employees/contractors, and possibly many services) back to being just her or him and fewer services.

There’s no one answer as to which is better. It’s about which is better for you, at this time. One thing is for certain, you need to decide how you’re measuring your success, right now, and then work to achieve that. Don’t follow someone else’s idea of success, or you’re likely to be like the dog chasing a car. If the dog actually gets to catch the car, then what will it do? If you achieve someone else’s idea of success, will you be satisfied? I suggest you choose your own destination, chart your own course, and then enjoy your success when you get there.

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.

» 10 Best Practices for Communicating with Millennials

Successfully communicating with Millennials can sound like a daunting task if you aren’t familiar with their heavy reliance on mobile devices. After all, Millennials are the “mobile generation”: everything they do or want to do can be done on-the-go. They have around the clock access to email, news, social media – you name it, they can do it!  So how do you possibly get their attention in a time when there are literally thousands of modes of interaction? The key is to understand three of the most popular (and efficient) ways Millennials are interacting with the world around them: texting, email, and social media.

To give you an idea of just how “mobile” this generation is, consider this: Millennials spend an average of four and a half hours on smartphones each day, and 87% of millennials have their smartphones on them at all times. According to the same data, 80% of Millennials said that the first thing they do when they wake up is check their smartphone, and 60% said that they believe everything will be done on mobile devices in the next five years. Looking at your audience specifically, engaged couples spend 42% of their time planning their weddings on mobile devices each week. The world is shifting to become much more mobile-based, and it’s essential to adapt your business’s marketing strategy accordingly. Is your business catering to these individuals?

If your answer is no, don’t worry. By following a few simple mobile etiquette tips and adjusting your current marketing strategy to account for this mobile generation, you’ll be equipped to successfully communicate with Millennials via email, social media, and even text messaging.

Email

  1. Make your emails mobile-friendly. About 70% of WeddingWire consumer emails are opened on mobile devices, which demonstrates how important it is that all of your business’ emails can be opened from a mobile device. WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg refers to this practice as “mobile end-to-end,” which means that the Millennials who are constantly on-the-go can access your content on a desktop or mobile device and enjoy the same experience.
  2. Don’t get lost in the (inbox) crowd. Once you reach your client’s email inbox, it’s important to direct them to your email amidst the hundreds of others they’re probably receiving. To do this, use a short, descriptive subject line that grabs their attention and provides all of the important information. This strategy is crucial for a generation that often weeds out emails based merely on the subject lines.
  3. KISS. This acronym – Keep It Short and Simple – is the golden rule for your email content. Millennials’ time is precious; they’re a busy generation with very little time to read through lengthy boring content. So once you’ve grabbed their attention with a catchy subject line, make your emails are concise and exciting. Use images and large font to engage your clients, and be sure to keep the message short enough so you don’t lose their interest.
  4. Respond ASAP. Remember to respond as quickly as you can, because besides being courteous, doing so lets your clients know they are important. Our data suggests that most couples expect to hear back from a vendor within 24 hours, so aim for that at a minimum.

Social media

  1. Give it whimsy. Millennials spend about five and a half hours on social media daily, most of the time via mobile devices, so it’s important for your business to have an active presence online and to post interesting, relevant content that will grab their attention. Industry thought leaders suggest that you include a little playfulness in your posts, as the social media that Millennials find the most engaging and shareable is often a combination of goofy and earnest content. Don’t be afraid to show some personality – after all, they’ll need to be working with you personally on a very important day in their lives!
  2. Be creative. Despite their reliance on mobile, Millennials switch their attention between electronic devices several times an hour, so it’s important to post engaging, creative content across all platforms that will keep users’ attention no matter what medium they are viewing it on. The key, however, is to post the right content for the platform; don’t just post the same content across your social networks. Consider your audience for each network to post the appropriate content with the right tone. Think about it: You wouldn’t post the same thing to LinkedIn that you would post to Facebook, would you? Use all types of platforms to showcase your expertise and let your product sell itself.
  3. Start a conversation. Millennials are more likely to engage with a social media post if they care about the content. Our research shows that 40% of couples say they comment, tag their partner or friend, and/or post on a vendor’s page if they like the content. They are also more likely to share your content with their own followers if they feel a strong connection to it, so encourage this behavior by posting content that they can respond to or share. If they share your content, it not only indicates loyalty, but it also extends your reach to even wider group of prospects.
  4. Follow trends. We get it; you’re busy! With countless social networks and apps available today, it can be hard to stay up to date with them all. You don’t need to have a presence on them all, but you do need to understand which are the most popular among Millennials. For instance, many engaged Millennials are using Instagram to look for inspiration and to post engagement and wedding photos for guests to see. They often use personal wedding hashtags and location tags that make it easy for friends to find, so mirror these trends by using your own hashtags or geo-tags in your media posts to direct more people to your content.

Texting

  1. Proceed texting…with caution. Text messages are one of the dominant forms of communication among Millennials, well above phone calls. However, while texting is an easy way communicate a quick message, there are still important rules that apply to the business world and are important to remember even when communicating via text. WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg recommends that wedding professionals (and all professionals for that matter) never text prospective clients first. Texting is the last personal communication method we have today, so boundaries are necessary for it to remain that way. Once you’ve had meaningful contact with someone via email or by phone, you can ask if they would prefer texting. If you prefer not to text with clients, you can explain that they should only be texting you for wedding “emergencies,” or if they’re running late to an appointment.
  2. Keep it professional. Avoid falling into the laziness trap of abbreviations and emoticons. While it is easy to simply write, “c u @ 3 today,” you want to keep your texting “voice” professional when communicating with a client – even Millennials who are all too familiar with the vernacular. Adhere to basic grammar rules, don’t type in all caps (to Millennials, that translates into screaming), consider your tone, and always include your name in the text so as to not confuse your client.

Millennials may seem like a complicated generation with their smartphones, tablets, desktops, and other devices. However, following their trends on social media and using professional email and texting behavior will allow you to communicate with these individuals in the most efficient way possible, no matter what device they’re using!

 

» Are You Too Busy To Be Successful?

Photo by Dana Lynn Photography

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP.

One of my presentation titles is: “Are you too busy to be successful?,” which, like many of my topics, came from discussions I’ve had with wedding & event professionals like you. Being busy is easy. Whether it’s email or social media, family obligations or volunteering, staying busy is easy. Getting the things done that you want and need is another story. And since we’re not getting any more hours in the day, what’s the answer for busy wedding and event professionals?

And the answer is…

Well, the answer is the same for you, as it is for me, and it’s one word… priorities. We simply make the time for the things that we prioritize. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Then why is it so hard? We have to realize when we’re controlling our priorities, and when we’re allowing others, or outside forces to control them. We also have to realize that we can change our priorities whenever we want. Still sounds simple, doesn’t it? Not so fast.

What’s my priority today?

Have you ever gotten a call from a friend who offers to take you to the ball game, or show, or concert, on short notice? You had plans for that day/time, but you change them so you can go with your friend. In other words, you changed your priority for that time slot. Sure, whatever you were going to do probably still needs to get done, it just moved down a notch, or two, on your priority list.

But I just. Can’t. Stop…

I know, from personal experience, that there are times when we’re doing something other than what we know we should. Maybe we’re spending time on Facebook, when we know there are emails to be answered, or proposals to write, or laundry to do. Sometimes there’s an invisible force that tells us “I’ll just look at one more post” or “I’ll only click one more link…”, but one leads to four, leads to ten, leads to another hour lost. Hey, we’re only human. The first step in correcting this behavior is realizing that you’re doing it. Then, you need the willpower to cut yourself off. In other words, you need to change your priorities.

The most important word you need to know

Something else that makes us too busy is taking work on which we know we should pass. If you’re relatively new in your business, it’s likely that you’re taking any, and every customer that comes your way. That makes sense, but eventually we all learn that we don’t want every sale. The pressure often comes when we chase the big dollar sale, only to have it take way more time and resources than we anticipated. That time is taken from your core customers, and your family time, and you may even have to pass on some smaller, yet more profitable customers to accommodate the one big one.

When I’m consulting with businesses, like yours, I want you to focus on profitability, not just top line growth. Getting more revenue is great but keeping more of it is better. I recently had a client tell me they wanted to be the biggest company in their market/category. I suggested that they focus on being the most profitable, rather than the biggest. My favorite expression for that is that I don’t care about feeding your ego, if it’s not feeding your family. So, the most powerful word you have is “No.” it’s hard to pass on more sales. Believe me, I know from firsthand experience. I raised my rates so I could take less work this year, but it backfired. I’m busier than ever. Clearly, I haven’t learned to say “No” as much as I should.

Stop throwing money at me

I did say “No” to the highest paying speaking gig I’d ever been offered, because I wasn’t the right fit. They were even offering to change the date of their event, and it was a significantly higher fee than I had been getting at the time. But my expertise doesn’t extend to their industry. It’s close, but they really should have someone who understands the nuances, and legalities of their world. While I could learn them, it would have taken me away from my core audience. Also, if I were the customer, I wouldn’t want someone learning my industry on my dime. I would want to hire someone who is already an expert. Isn’t that why your customers hire you? Because you’re already the expert.

Can you be successful without being busy?

I’m sure you can, but busy isn’t a bad thing. It’s being too busy to get to do the things you want that is bad. If you’re not spending time with family and friends, that’s bad. If you’re always playing catch-up, getting things done at the last minute, that’s bad. If you’re not getting to your big-picture, to-do list items, that’s bad. I wrote in a recent post titled Self-Help versus Shelf-Help,” which includes a section about keeping only two or three things on your big To-Do List, so you can get more done. You really can be more productive, without being too busy. I’m a realist, so I know that your wedding season is going to be busy. But, if you prioritize what’s most important, and learn to say no a little more often, you’ll be able to see when you’re creating more busy-ness than necessary. Here’s to your 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.

» How to Build Your Network and Collect More Content

Photo by Vanessa Joy Photography

This article was written by Vanessa Joy, Owner & Photographer of Vanessa Joy Photography.

I remember the first time I went to a wedding convention. It seemed like everyone knew everyone else; but the only person I knew was the bathroom attendant because my naturally introverted self would frequently hide there. I’m sure I’m not alone in being able to empathize with DJ Tanner from Full House, eating alone in the bathroom on her first day of high school. For the record, no, I didn’t eat in the bathroom – ew.

If you’re a budding industry professional, you may notice that a large part of the industry is who you know. Now, that’s not to say our livelihood is superficial in any way. It’s to draw attention to just how powerful networking is in our line of work. We’re a large industry, but a small community.

Networking may seem daunting, but building relationships within the wedding world is crucial not just to the success of your business, but to your enjoyment of it as well. After all, don’t you want to work with your friends every weekend? Here are 4 tips to up your networking game.

Read up on it

If you’re not a natural go-getter or social butterfly, it’s ok! Heck, I was homeschooled for 9 years of my life. Social graces were not on my side for most of my life. I had to learn them the good old-fashioned way: reading a book. Ok fine… listening to one on audible.

I do recommend Carnegie’s book, but another favorite of mine is Never Eat Alone. As an Italian, this is pretty much a rule for me anyway, but bringing it to business takes it to a whole new level. Read it and you’ll have breakfast, lunch and dinner dates at the next WeddingWire World no problem.

Use social

In what other century have you had direct access to someone’s personal line, without needing to get through their secretary? None. Thanks to social media, you have that power right at your fingertips.

Don’t underestimate what you can use social media for. I recently covered a HUGE part of this on a recent WeddingWire webinar Social Media: A Guide for Wedding Professionals. You should be using social media to connect with as many other wedding professionals as you can. Here’s an even bigger tip – connect with professionals before an upcoming conference by searching the conference’s hashtag. Bingo! You’ve made friends before you even stepped off the plane.

Stop reaching for the stars

Now I know your mom told you otherwise, but I’m here to bring you down to earth. As fabulous as it would be to take my advice from the previous tip and contact David Tutera and Silvia Weinstock and become besties immediately, it’s probably not going to happen. Why? Not only is everyone already barking up that tree, but they’ve been in the business for a while and already have their circle of tight friends.

Instead, make your own referral network. Befriend the next Marcy Blum or Fred Marcus (sorry to keep using NYC Wedding Vendors… it’s just where I’m from) by reaching out to people on your level of experience and clientele. Build each other up to be the next big thing.

Find photographers

It’s always funny to me when I hear that other wedding professionals have a hard time getting photos from photographers. You might not know this, but wedding planners, caterers, florists, bands, dj’s and venues are like the holy grail to us wedding photographers. To me, you’re the key to clients, and usually luxury clients that’ll spend more money on photography.

However, I know that it can be hard to get photos, so inside this last tip, I’ve got a few more for you that’ll help you get more photos of your work that you can use on social media to show off your services and connect with other vendors.

Offer Something, Anything

Now, I do not charge most vendors to use my photos on social media from weddings that I’ve worked. A lot of photographers feel the same way and are happy for the cross-promotion. However, contacting a photographer and expecting them to give you photos for free isn’t going to fly. It’s only polite to offer something in return, even if it’s not monetary.

Help Submit Weddings

You wouldn’t believe how much work is involved for a photographer after a wedding. Usually it’s where your wedding headaches end, and ours begin. Often when we’re being asked for photos, it’s another thing on our long to-do list.

However, if we give you photos, you can help us by submitting the wedding photos to popular magazines and blogs. If you have connections to some – even better! Obviously, make sure this is ok with the photographer first. But typically we’d be thrilled to have this taken off our plate and it’s a win-win when the photos get published.

Offer Future Collaboration

Us photographers need (and should want) to build relationships too. When you’re asking for photos, find ways to work with us again. Maybe you’re a makeup artist and you can offer to do hair and makeup for the photographer’s next headshot (we all need updated ones!). Or perhaps you’re an officiant that can provide some ceremony text that’ll make for a great blog post on the photographer’s blog. You could even suggest doing a styled shoot and get a whole group of vendors involved. The possibilities are endless, but if you start your intentions with serving other people, it’s amazing how much more you’ll get in return than you originally hoped for.

Use the Photos

Once you’ve snagged some photos and hopefully started a wonderful new work friendship, don’t hesitate to use the photos for LOTS of things! The more times you use them, the more the photographer will benefit from the cross-promotion. Make videos (super amazing for social posts) like these marketing and communication videos I’ve made right here. Use the photos alone in tons of social media posts like the ones I suggest here.

The Wedding Industry may ebb and flow but it’s always built on relationships. Spend time cultivating new ones and nurturing the ones you have and you’ll never be without work.

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

» 5 Easy Ways to Get More Referrals

Photo by Rania Marie Photography

Throughout wedding season, you will be working with plenty of new clients and wedding professionals, many of whom will be happy to pass your name around to future engaged couples if you make a great, lasting impression.

Word of mouth recommendations and referrals, especially from other industry professionals, are great ways to gain powerful business exposure and build trust with potential clients, yet many wedding professionals are hesitant to ask for them. If you want to start seeing more referrals (and we are positive that you do!) follow some of these tips:

Set expectations early

Early in the client process, you should let your clients know that feedback, reviews and referrals are very important to you. Explain how they help you better your business and gain new clients. It also is important to indicate that you appreciate and value all feedback, and that you will be following up to ask for it after their event. Having this conversation early in the planning process and throughout will reinforce how important it is to your business. Happy couples are most likely to help you out after you make their dream day come true, so make sure that you are not only having this conversation, but doing your best work, too!

Ask for feedback

Requesting reviews as part of your standard post-event follow up routine is so important. If you are not sure you want the client to submit a review, still follow up and ask for feedback and if they would recommend you to another engaged couple. They will appreciate that you care to check in on how you did, and all feedback can be valuable as you build your business.

Consider an incentive

If you really want to encourage past clients to refer your business, consider offering an incentive. Offer a fun freebie, or a discount on a post-wedding service that you can provide (such as infant photo shoots, or a discount on a flower arrangement or cake). Offering deals on post-wedding services is a great way to keep past clients in your circle. The more contact you have with past clients, the faster you will come top of mind when a friend asks for a recommendation.

Say thank you

Always say thank you for reviews and referrals! Let the referrer know that you appreciate their feedback, and be sure to acknowledge their support of your business. They took the time to write you a recommendation or share your information with a contact, so it is important you show the same respect and address their referral to maintain the positive relationship. Consider sending a personal note or small thank you gift, it’s a small gesture that will be much appreciated and could lead to many more referrals in the future!

Network

As you know, networking in the wedding industry is crucial. Many professionals are asked by couples who they would recommend in the local area for a wide variety of service categories, making it an easy way to book more business. Join local organizations, national associations in your service category, attend local networking events and always take the time to introduce yourself to other vendors working the events you book. Creating a strong circle of fellow wedding professionals is mutually beneficial to everybody involved: you get the opportunity to recommend your top contacts and those contacts will do the same for you.  

Capturing qualified leads through referrals will boost your business and make busy season work for you all year long. Maybe your busy season will extend far beyond October! Be sure to be open with your clients about referrals and never be afraid to seek them out. Also rely on your network and always be thankful to secure referrals. Best of luck!

» Why Failure IS an Option

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP.

Whether it’s playing it safe, or being an overprotective parent, it’s often tempting to try to reduce the chance for failure. After all, isn’t failure bad? Actually, all failure isn’t bad, because failure meant you tried something, and just didn’t get the results you wanted. A speaker friend, Bruce Hale, once told me that “failure is just an unintended consequence.” He then went on to say that “success is often an unintended consequence as well,” because we often get a successful result, just not the one that we had originally intended. You can’t succeed, or fail, unless you try something new.

What’s the worst that can happen?

A few years back, when my friends and I went skydiving, we all got t-shirts after the jump that say: “Skydiving – what’s the worst that can happen?” Now, with skydiving, there is a pretty bad possible outcome. Sure, it’s not the one that we want, or expect to have, but it is possible. Yet we went anyway. Why? I can’t speak for my friends, but for me, that possible outcome wasn’t even on my radar. I was thinking about the exhilaration, the rush and the views. There are many more people who will never go skydiving because of the possible outcome of failure – admittedly, a bad outcome.

So, are you motivated by the possibility of success, or debilitated by the fear of failure? Are you visualizing what it means to get the positive outcome you desire? Or, are you not even getting started because of the possibility that it won’t work, and you won’t end up where you want to go? What you should be asking yourself is: “What’s the worst that can happen?” I once heard (or possibly read) that you should not only ask yourself what the worst possible outcome could be, you should also visualize that outcome. Is it really that scary? Would you be able to get through that challenge? Would you and your business, or family, be able to recover from that failure?

You get what you focus on

Knowing and visualizing the worst-case scenario is not the same as focusing on it. You can’t motivate yourself by avoiding negative outcomes. Imagine a catcher in a baseball game telling his or her pitcher: “Whatever you do, don’t pitch this next batter low and inside. Got it? Not low and inside or he’ll hit it.” Where do you think that next pitch is going? Right, low and inside. A better approach would have been to say: “For this next batter, pitch it high and outside. That’s a good pitch for him/her, high and outside.” Where do you think that pitch is going? More likely than not… high and outside, away from that batter’s sweet spot.

Where’s your focus?

Are you focusing on the positive outcomes, trying new things, and acting upon your ideas? Or, are you not getting started because you can’t stop seeing the worst-case scenarios? It’s OK to know what that worst-case scenario is, just don’t let it consume all of your attention. If he had focused on the failures, Thomas Edison wouldn’t have tried 10,000 different ways to make a light bulb. If they had focused on the failure, 3M Corporation would never have created Post-It Notes. The adhesive they used for it was originally developed for another purpose, but it was a failure. Someone over there had the foresight to see another use for it, and viola, we have Post-It Notes.

Lemons into lemonade

You may have heard how some people can take a bad situation, and see the good, and they call it turning lemons into lemonade. The thing is, you have to be willing to get lemons in the first place. It’s both our actions, and our inaction, that deliver the lemons to us. We may have been aiming for oranges, or apples, but instead we got lemons.

When I wrote my first book, the original title was going to be, “Insite”. I thought it was clever and that I could do a series, adding “Hindsite” and “Foresite” to it. Well, in my testing of the cover samples, the title fell like a lead balloon. It was either no reaction, or a negative one. However, I had also written on the cover, in small print: “If your website was an employee, would you fire it?” It was almost an afterthought, and I don’t even remember how it ended up on the cover. When people looked at the cover samples, the title didn’t move them, but that line did. So, even though I was told, by many people, that titles should be short and catchy, I went with: “If your website was an employee, would you fire it?” To this day, in its second edition, people still smile when they read or hear that title. That success was an unintended consequence.

You got this

What have you tried, that didn’t get you the outcome you originally wanted, but you made lemons out of? What was your mindset that allowed you to see the success through the failure? And how can you channel that feeling, while understanding the risks, understanding the worst-case scenarios, and still take the actions necessary to succeed? You’ve already done it, probably countless times in your life. You took the chance, took the leap of faith, or simply didn’t even consider the worst-case scenario at all. Don’t sabotage your success with the fear of failure. Instead, nourish your success with the seeds of failure, so you can reap the rewards 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.