» How to Ensure You’re Referral-Worthy

Elizabeth Fogarty

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

Make sure your offerings are up-to-date

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

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

Be consistent in your communications

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

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

Strategize and be patient!

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

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

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

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

» Staying Relevant in the Changing Wedding Landscape

Fierce & Fringe Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is how I navigate the industry to stay relevant:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» Have You Evaluated Your Memberships For 2019?

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

How often you should evaluate your memberships?

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

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

Know what’s working and what’s not

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

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

How to be more involved

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

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

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


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

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

Rodrigo Moraes Photography

So what’s a Real Wedding?

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

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

If you got it, flaunt it.

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

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

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

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

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

Not a photographer or videographer? No problem!

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

Lights, Camera…

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

 

It’s time for your closeup.

Get started with Real Weddings

 

» How to Set and Measure Your Business Goals

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.

» Top Tech Solutions to Elevate Client Communication

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

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

Apps that aid communication

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

Meeting virtually

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

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

Social media for maintaining client relationships

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

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

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

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


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

» 3 Signs You Need a Change

Photo by Vanessa Joy

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

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

Sign 1

You’re not getting any new work

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

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

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

Sign 2

You don’t have work-life balance

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

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

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

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

  1. What you hate doing

  2. What you’re not good at

  3. What slows you down

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

  5. What you can pay minimum/fair wage for

Sign 3

You don’t love what you do

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

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

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

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

» 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.

» 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.

» WeddingWire Rewards – Bookings for You, Rewards for Your Clients

WeddingWire Rewards is here!

The WeddingWire Rewards sweepstakes give couples even more of a reason to contact, book, and review your business. Each month we will be giving away $10,000 to one lucky couple for booking and connecting with vendors through WeddingWire. This means more qualified leads and bookings for you!

Couples can receive entries into the sweepstakes for contacting, booking, and reviewing your business. When a couple lets us know they’ve booked your business you’ll receive an email asking you to confirm. If they’ve booked you, you’ll hit confirm and give them a better chance to win! You can also confirm within the special ‘Rewards’ section of your account, under Messages.

Each booking confirmation rewards the couple 10 entries into the WeddingWire Rewards sweepstakes, and more entries mean a better chance to win $10,000 towards their dream wedding!

WeddingWire Rewards is a great way to build and strengthen relationships with your clients. Make sure to spread the news and let your couples and prospective clients know about WeddingWire Rewards!

» How to Attract Your Ideal Couple

Photo by Anchor & Pine Collective

“My business can service all couples.” This is a bold statement and one that luckily I hear less and less these days. For 95% of us wedding business owners and managers, servicing ALL couples well is a far reach without compromising service.

When thinking about long-term success in a passion-based business, there should be two main goals — your happiness and the couple’s happiness. If both aren’t happy, it’s tough to have long-term success.

You might be thinking that a business in which you AND the couple are both happy sounds like a world filled with sprinkles and unicorns. However, this is an actual viable business model for entrepreneurs/business owners in the wedding industry, and it all revolves around the concept of the ideal client (or in our case, the ideal couple).

In order to work with this model, you must first start by developing a business model that makes you happy and then determine the type of ideal couple you hope to service. If there are enough couples to fit your ideal type and support your business model, the next step is to create targeted marketing and a customer experience plan that will meet or exceed the expectations of those couples.

This model of focusing on the ideal couple allows for:

  • More targeted marketing with a better return on dollars spent

  • Less money/time spent on delivering a great and fitting customer experience

  • And most importantly, you guarantee more future business through the ideal couple cycle

The Ideal Couple Cycle

The goal of your business is not just to attract ideal couples, but to create an “ideal couple cycle” which will fill your business year after year with couples that make you happy and are very satisfied themselves.  

The ideal couple cycle is built on the premise that everything within your business is designed, built, written, etc. to attract your ideal couple This means having a marketing message that speaks to them, advertised in places they’re looking, pricing that is in a range they are willing to pay, and a customer experience that meets their expectations.

If all of this is done right, the ideal couple cycle goes as follows: couples are attracted to you by your marketing messaging, your customer experience meets or exceeds their expectations, they leave you great reviews and then refer you to everyone. Those great reviews and referrals lead not only to more couples but to more ideal couples since what they are reading confirms your marketing messaging and your worth/values. These couples are then contacting you as a much warmer lead.  

What also powers the ideal couple cycle is that if you are regularly working with your ideal couples, you also end up working with other vendors who serve the same, or relatively the same, types of couples. By rocking it for these couples, while playing well with these other vendors, you will also increase your vendor referrals. This goes a long way toward bringing in more ideal couples.

Messaging and Imagery

To get this ideal couple cycle going and keep it going, your marketing message needs to speak to your ideal couples and needs to appear in the places that your ideal couples are looking.  For instance, if you are working the low-cost market, then advertising on Craigslist using words like inexpensive, simple, budget, no frills, etc. might be a perfect fit for your business.  If not, advertising there and using those words likely would not be the right fit for your business.

Tips to create messaging that fits your ideal couples:

  • Look at your reviews. What they mention is important, and how they describe you should then be heavily represented in your messaging. I cannot emphasize this enough – use their words!

  • Ask other vendors who you have worked with to describe you and your business. Ask them how they would talk about you to a couple they want to send your way. Use their words too.

  • While you can look at reviews and marketing materials of others who service the same ideal couples for inspiration, do not steal… your messaging needs to be your messaging, and needs to fit what you can and do truly deliver on.

  • Your pictures are just as much a part of your “messaging” to attract ideal couples and should fit accordingly.   

  • To determine the where, track how your ideal couples find you, and spend more time and money advertising in those places.

By focusing your messaging and your marketing on your ideal couples, you will end up getting more inquiries that fit, which means more inquiries that turn into bookings, and therefore a better return on your marketing investment and efforts.

Customer Experience

Now, let’s talk about the less money/time spent on delivering a customer experience. Think of it this way, by trying to service those across all price-points, you either: need multiple sets of processes and are likely using your systems in multiple different ways, which takes more time and effort to set-up and manage on a daily basis; or, you have one set of processes, probably set for a middle ground customer experience, which will make the couples paying you the least very happy but won’t do much for those couples paying the middle to high rate.  At best, your business will end up with a range of reviews and maybe a certain number of couples will still come to you, but it is going to be more marketing work to maintain the business over the years and, you probably won’t be as happy.

A few pieces of overall advice:

  • This cycle can’t get started if you are taking couples that aren’t your ideal couples.

  • Once the cycle is rolling, you still need to maintain it. Keep up your marketing, reviews, and quality of your customer experience. Also, maintain your vendor relationships.

  • Always be paying attention to what is happening with your ideal couples. Are their demographics changing? Are changes in thinking or an outside influence causing your pool of ideal couples to shrink? If so, what do you need to change in your business model or messaging to change with it?

I also want to point out that there are all kinds of happy. If your happiness is purely money-based, then you probably would be looking for the largest market segment that you could serve well… it could be the low price + high volume segment, or the exact opposite with the high price + low volume segment. Either one might be fine to focus on. The key is to remember that it is very tough to create and build a business that can serve both markets well. And, by having a business that is focused on serving whichever market you choose and can serve well, you are properly feeding your ideal couple cycle.


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.