» 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.

» How to Balance Work Personalities

This article was written by Kevin Dennis, editor of WeddingIQ

Maintaining a positive workplace is a key to success. After all, a business runs best when employees are engaged and focused on work instead of office politics.

A comfortable work environment starts at the hiring process — qualifying candidates based on your company’s core values will ensure that your employees will form a solid team. I look for someone who is energetic, confident, eager to learn, and interested in our company. In our situation, experience isn’t necessary as we are happy to train on site, but a keen interest and knowledge of our company shows passion to be a part of our team. At the end of the day, that speaks more than job experience.

Cultivating a positive work culture starts at the top — it’s up to a business owner to create an environment where work gets done and employees feel comfortable communicating with one another. At Fantasy Sound, we have daily “Sound Off” meetings that allow us to discuss our service standards for the day and ensure that everyone is on the same page. Employees feel engaged and empowered when they feel that their voices are heard, so listen up. It only takes 15 minutes of the day, but it keeps morale high and sets our company up to continue providing excellent service.

We also have weekly department meetings that help to keep us operating efficiently. Not only do these meetings hold everyone accountable, but I’ve noticed a rise in our team productivity as well since hot issues can be addressed all at once.

In addition to open communication, every business owner wants to instill a culture where employees look forward to going to work. How do you do that, you ask? Simple: plan fun teambuilding activities to get rid of the proverbial cobwebs. For example, we host birthday lunches for every employee which is always a nice time to look forward to. We’ve also recently started an ongoing Mario Kart tournament within the office for a taste of healthy and fun competition.

Even still, internal conflict is inevitable in any office and it’s up to business owners to navigate these waters with caution. I personally try to address conflicts as they happen, as opposed to seeing if they can work out on their own. Waiting too long can cause a minor disagreement to fester into something larger, which can be detrimental to your overall work culture.

With that said, I do recommend waiting a bit if the conflict is particularly emotional. Address it once the emotions pass and everyone involved can approach it with a cool head. Letting emotions mix into the discussion can cause the problem to get even worse. Sit down with each party individually before setting a time for a group meeting. That way, you can go into the discussion with the full picture and offer ideas for solutions. When counseling employees, avoid taking sides by sticking to your company values. Appeal to their commitment to the company and work together to find a solution that keeps everyone happy. Chances are that if you hired the right people from the get-go, any internal conflicts can be overcome with open and honest communication.

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.

» Time Blocking for Success

Photo by Anna Liz Photography

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

For quite a few years, the business buzz was all about multi-tasking. The ability to juggle multiple tasks at the same time seems like a no-brainer when it comes to good tools to have in your personal toolbox.  However, many of us found that we weren’t good multi-taskers – and even when we were managing to do it, it seemed inefficient, and what we were doing is better-called task-switching. And now, many studies have confirmed what we experienced – rarely are you doing two things well at the same time, and it was found to decrease productivity by a good 40%, as it takes time to switch your mind/mindset from working on one task to another.   

Thus, came the idea of time blocking: focusing on one task, or a set of very similar tasks, for a long enough time period to gain efficiency.  Here you identify different tasks that you do on a periodic basis, whether it be daily, weekly, monthly, and for each of those task types, you block a specific amount of time on your calendar for that task. For example, I send all of my couples an anniversary email. So, on my calendar is a block of time at the start of every week in which I create and schedule all of my anniversary emails for the week – it takes much less time to do them all at once than to do a few each day. One wedding planner client creates multiple timelines for upcoming weddings during a single time block. The only thing you are doing within the time block is that certain task or the same type of tasks.  And, you are working on it until either the block of time is used up or until the task is complete. Yes, this means going “old-school” and doing just one thing at a time.

Although time blocking is a simple concept, the set-up and consistent use for a solopreneur or small business can sometimes be challenging, as many of us wear many hats in our businesses. Maybe you are a wedding DJ with a three-hour time block today for you to focus on creating playlists for some upcoming weddings. Then, just as you start, a new inquiry comes in. Do you stop what you are doing and respond to the inquiry? Let’s answer that as we talk about the why and the how of successfully using time blocks in your wedding business.

Why use time blocks?
Time is truly our most valuable asset, because, once used, we cannot get it back. You can make more money but can never make more time. We have only 1440 minutes in a day, and they will pass by no matter how we use them. By using time blocking, we consume our most valuable asset in a more efficient way, giving us some time back that we are likely wasting. That reclaimed time can be used to improve our business or improve our personal lives, or both.   

Is this you? You are a photographer, trying to create an album for your couple, while answering inquiries, and responding to this weekend’s wedding planners.

  • 10 minutes getting everything you need open and ready on your computer and getting focused

  • 20 minutes working on the layout

New inquiry comes in –

  • 10 minutes switching focus to checking your calendar and system and gathering what you need

  • 20 minutes answering the inquiry

  • 10 minutes switching focus back to the album

  • 20 minutes working on the album

Email comes in from this weekend’s wedding planner –

  • 10 minutes switching focus to pulling up what you need to think about for that wedding

  • 10 minutes responding to the email

  • 10 minutes switching focus back to the album

The result: 70 minutes of work with 50 minutes preparing to do work is not very efficient, plus mistakes might have been made along the way with the less-than-perfect focus.  

How to set up and use time blocks

First, identify your repetitive or similar tasks. These could be writing blog or social media posts, communicating with other wedding vendors involved in upcoming weddings, writing ceremony drafts or timelines or playlists, or even doing the bookkeeping.  

Then you need to determine how much time you need to block in each “period” to complete the task(s).  Start with an average and reasonable amount of time for it. For example, if I want to do bookkeeping at the end of each month, and in June it took me 3 hours, July took me 2 hours, and August took me 4 hours, I am going to time block 3 hours at the end of September for bookkeeping, and then add this three-hour block to my calendar on a convenient day each month going forward.   

7 tips to effectively use time blocking:

  • Only work on one thing or similar things during that block. Whether it’s something that requires focus (like timeline or BEO creation), or just needs to get done (like answering emails or admin for recently booked weddings), work on the same or similar things for real efficiency.  

  • Block time in which the concentration level and thought required for the task matches your natural rhythm. If you are most awake and focused in the morning (as my husband is), block some of the more intense tasks during that time and save the more brain-dead tasks for when you are more brain-dead. Personally, mornings are not my thing, so my administrative and brain-dead items are scheduled for the mornings, while my creative and focused time starts mid-day. Find yours.

  • Don’t try to block your whole day or week. Keep open time between the blocks, as well as during the time of day when your specific business needs you to be more flexible to switch tasks.

  • Move time blocks to fit as you arrange your week. If you usually do your bookkeeping for 3 hours on the 4th Friday of the month but will be on vacation or have a wedding on that day, just move the time block to another open time.

  • Reward yourself! Time blocks require focus and discipline, so it is definitely acceptable to give yourself a reward for doing so. For instance, for every 3 hours of focused ceremony writing, I take 20 minutes to play a  game or dance to upbeat music.

  • Use tools and apps to help you focus. I have many that I can suggest to you, and these include turning off notifications on your phone or your email application on your computer, putting on headphones and using something like focus@will, or apps around the Pomodoro technique like Time Timer or even a fun one like Forest (breaks you of the habit of just grabbing your phone as you’re “growing trees” on it instead!).

  • The time blocks you create, and how strictly you adhere to them, will depend on your business model and ideal couples. Responding to inquiries is one of those considerations. Do you need to respond within minutes or is within a few hours okay?  Each of us has a different answer based on our business model and ideal client. Maybe you ask a teammate, employee or virtual assistant to take over responding to inquiries during that time block instead.

I recommend that you start with setting up a few time blocks, see how they work for you and when is best, and then add more each month. The more time blocks you can set up, the more efficiency you will gain, but this should always be balanced with maintaining the appropriate service level or support you provide to your couples.

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 End Busy Season on a High Note

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

While you might be enjoying a short lull in weddings during these warm summer days, September and October are just around the corner. One of the busiest times of year is about to be in full swing. You can’t celebrate the year’s end buried under a pile of to-dos; now is the time to set yourself up for success.

The best way to prepare for your busy season is to take care of important marketing and PR tasks in advance. For ultimate results, I suggest you:

Implement a block schedule.

Carve out 20-30 minutes per week from your schedule to dedicate to marketing & PR. Make an appointment with yourself, and unless an emergency arises, use the time strictly to manage your most important marketing and PR activities.

Prepare for publishing.

Make note of any particularly editorially-friendly weddings you might have scheduled in the fall and place them on a priority list to revisit when you have the time. Connect with photographers and/or planners in advance to gauge their interest in collaborating on submissions, and contact your couple to secure the required background information, like favorite anticipated details, DIY plans or color inspiration so you will be ready to build their narrative when the deadlines approach.

Review local industry association schedules for the fall and winter.

Compile a list of the “must-attend” events before your end-of-year schedule starts to fill up with tastings, consultations and final walk-throughs. Connecting with your vendors at these professional events often pays off in referrals, and the time you spend with them is valuable.

Don’t let your social media presence or blog go dormant.

Map out a simple editorial calendar. It is okay to lighten up your production a bit until you have more time on your hands. Simply plan to publish regularly, if more infrequently. A social media scheduler like Meet Edgar, HootSuite or Schedugram can save your sanity as well as your time.

Jenny DeMarco of Jenny DeMarco Photography also suggests outsourcing what you can to prevent standstill. “After eight years of photography, last year was the first year I wasn’t super stressed out and overworked and it’s because I finally hired a part-time studio manager,” she says. “I learned the money was worth hiring the better team than trying to deal with a less expensive team doing sub-par work.”

Anticipate award season.

If only industry award deadlines were built around your busy season! Unfortunately, the committees don’t necessarily care if you are swamped, so carve out the time to review your target awards and note their deadlines. Have certain worthy weddings in mind? Collect the required elements in advance. Need a ghostwriter to help make your submission extra competitive? They book up fast, so start your search now.

Identify your “time suckers.”

I personally save a tremendous amount of time now that I book all of my appointments through Calendly, create automated invoices, and process all of my contracts through DocuSign. While the tools I use aren’t strictly marketing or PR-related, they easily save me 90 minutes per week. That’s time regained that can be used towards other high-priority tasks, thanks to tools that are available to you, too!

Paula Ramirez from Historic Mankin Mansion stresses the importance of staying focused. “It is always best to operate from a proactive, laser-focused perspective, seeing potential issues before they even occur. Know that you will be extra busy near the end of wedding season and draw on successes from past experience to handle it with ease and grace.”

Preparing for the end of the year is daunting. I know (even if you don’t) that you’re ready to boost your efficiency in anticipation of the big days ahead, so where do you plan to start?

 

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 Run Your Business While You’re Away

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

Travel, whether for business or pleasure, can take you away from the office. As a business owner, handling your absence well can easily make or break your company. So, how can you stay on top of the many facets of business management when you’re away?

Use apps

Productivity apps let you take your office on the road, and are designed to help you manage business affairs from afar. They allow you to easily delegate tasks to your team, and monitor their completion so you always know the status of your accounts and events.

Stay accessible

When I am away, I always let my staff know that they can reach me any time and that they should never hesitate to contact me with a question. We use texting and iMessages for immediate needs because they can be used during a meeting, even if wi-fi isn’t available. We save calls for emergencies only – if I see a call come through while I’m in a meeting, I know I need to excuse myself and take it because phone calls are our code for an emergency situation.

Keep up with email

It’s also important to stay on top of your emails. If you don’t set aside some time each day to address and prioritize your email, you’ll never catch up when you get back to the office. Set aside 30 – 40 minutes per day to sort through new emails and to delegate any necessary tasks that result. If you are traveling somewhere that doesn’t have reliable wi-fi, you should schedule this at times you know with certainty that you’ll have internet access.

Debrief

Another key to successful management from a distance is to meet with your staff when you return from a trip to review what happened while you were gone and get everyone on the same page again.

Manage your time wisely

Travel involves a lot of time challenges that can create unique situations. One is a matter of time zones – when possible, you should try to continue working in the same time zone as your home office so you can remain aligned with your team. This will make it easier for them to get in touch with you, and will provide a consistent experience for your clients.

The other is having time for yourself. You must learn when to say yes and when to say no. Days are long when you’re traveling and trying to operate your business. Know your limits and schedule things like interviews and networking events wisely. Make sure that every activity has potential for payoff. The time you spend doing anything needs to be worth the time you are sacrificing that would normally go towards managing your business affairs.

Travel can be both life and business-enriching, and it doesn’t have to stop you from doing a great job managing your event company. Use these tips to help streamline your efforts and you will ensure that your even in your absences, your business will stay strong!

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.

» Best Apps to Reduce Stress During Busy Season

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

A career in the wedding industry has to be one of the most rewarding and simultaneously most stressful jobs around. While rarely (at least not on a good day) do wedding professionals have to save lives or put theirs in peril, they are responsible for a very important day that doesn’t come with any do-overs. Top that off with intense event logistics and the need to make it all look effortless, and you have a solid recipe for stress.

Finding ways to alleviate that stress yet still deliver incredible weddings should be a top priority to any wedding professional. One way to curb the nail-biting moments is to incorporate technology into your workday that takes some of the burden off of you.

Here are some of our favorite apps for streamlining your work:

Zipwhip for Client Comms

We use Zipwhip for all of our client texting. The beauty of this program is that you can have personalized conversations with customers through one number on your computer. You can skip the hassle of sharing personal mobile numbers and still be just as available.

Canva for Content Creation

Nothing beats the expertise of a professional designer but when you’re in a pinch, Canva is a great, free design program that allows you to create branded content for your wedding business. They have thousands of templates for nearly every need you can imagine- from Facebook covers and Instagram-friendly graphics to presentation slides.

Schedugram for Social Media

One of the best things about Facebook has been the ability to pre-schedule your posts. Unfortunately, Instagram has not had the same option but now there are third party apps like Schedugram that allow you to do just that. Schedule your posts as well as the first comment (aka #hashtagcity).

Zoom for Client Meetings

Zoom is a great high-quality option for video streaming, ideal for client meetings and group conference calls. If you use Google Calendar, you can add a Chrome extension that allows you to create a new Zoom meeting within the calendar entry. Those who offer webinars will find that it doubles as great educational software.

Dropbox for File Management

Sharing files can sometimes be a challenge if they are large and take a long time to download. Dropbox is cloud storage that allows you to upload files like documents or images from your phone, device or computer to folders that you can then easily share with your team or send to a client.

Basecamp for Projects

Project management involves a lot of moving parts, but you don’t have to get buried by the details when you use Basecamp. Quickly and easily assign tasks, monitor projects, track down overdue items and know in a glance what the status of even your most complicated endeavor is.

These are my go-to apps and programs to help relieve stress and I hope they can alleviate some for you too!

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.

» 4 Steps to Manage Your Time More Effectively

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

Time is one of the most valuable assets any business can possibly have – time to build infrastructure, attract new clients, serve current clients and stay in touch with past clients. Time is a limited resource, however, and way too often we waste it when we could be maximizing it and experiencing growth.

Understanding the impact that wasting time and properly managing it can have on your business is critical to your success. Achieving maximum success requires maximum time efficiency. So how do you manage it?

Make a to-do list

We might think we’re the ultimate multitaskers, but our brains can really only focus on one thing at a time. Making a to-do list allows you to prioritize tasks that need to be done and keep track of how much you’ve accomplished and how much is left. It is a simple way to make your use of time more efficient. If you don’t like paper lists, try going high-tech and keeping yours on your phone or tablet.

Recognize common time traps

In order to fix a problem, you need to clearly define what the problem is, right? Time issues tend to sneak up on people because we think we’re working hard. Email is a prime example. Checking it all day and at home simply diverts you from doing actual work. Busy is not the same thing as productive. What other functions take too long and drain the life from your business?

Eliminate email waste

First, leave your email for the office. Use your time at home to take care of yourself, your health, your family and those non-work affairs that need addressing so you can be your best self at work. Turn off your notifications so incoming mail does not interrupt your workflow. Set aside 15-minute periods to address what needs to be done in your inbox, generally not more than three times each day, unless your email volume requires additional time. Maximize the efficiency of your email management by setting reminders to act on waiting emails, using templates for responses to frequently asked questions and inquiries and using software or an app that allows you to schedule emails in advance.

Use apps to help manage time

Instead of trying to keep up on your own, leverage technology and research and select apps that take over the functions you’re currently trying to manage by hand. There are social media apps that you can use to pre-schedule content and monitor your presence. Financial apps that can help with payroll, accept payments from your customers and assist in preparing your taxes each year. Event software apps take all of the work out of seating arrangements for your clients and creating all important timelines. You can win back so much time you are currently wasting in your business by simply identifying helpful apps.

Good time management essentially boils down to identifying areas of weakness and addressing them with best practices and great technology. You can take your wedding business to a whole new level by taking control of your time management. Don’t wait – start today!

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 current chapter president for Silicon Valley NACE, and National Vice President for WIPA.

» How to Create a PR Plan

Photo by Michael Stephens Photography

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

Being the wise wedding professional that you are, you know you need a PR plan. You realize that great press equals great clients and an increase in your standing among your peers in the industry. It’s just that making a plan seems so hard.

Putting off the PR plan you could create today until tomorrow may seem like it’s saving you time and effort at the moment. In the long run, though, it really just pushes off attaining your dreams further into the future. You deserve better than that and you know it. Instead of procrastinating, start with these steps to get your PR plan underway today.

Take stock

Begin by assessing your business. What do your clients love about you? To whom do you appeal now, and to whom would you like to in the future? Who is your ideal client? How do people find you? If you could reach the ones who have never heard of you, what is the first thing you would want them to know? Before you can launch a PR campaign, you need to answer these questions, refine your message and pinpoint your desired audience.

Make a wish list

Next, dive deep into the internet and social media and create a wish list of the outlets you plan to target. It’s not enough to just list the ones you enjoy reading or visiting. Make sure you identify the publishers that reach your ideal customers – using the demographic information you compiled.

Maximize efficiency through organization

Even if it isn’t your strong suit, staying organized has become much easier with advances in technology. These leaps forward currently take the form of online apps and tools to help keep you on top of your game. I personally love Wufoo to collect couple’s wedding day information, Basecamp as project management software to keep us moving along with our daily to do’s and Boomerang, which sends reminders to me to follow up with emails I’ve sent that have not received replies.

Promote your results

Once you are successful at publishing a real wedding or contributing your expertise to an industry article, you’ll want to promote your success. First, send a thank you note to the editor or publisher to solidify your relationship for the future. Then, get the word out on social media. If you have your own blog, craft a post about the piece and include a link to the full piece. By promoting the piece, you’ll be magnifying the spotlight on your business and helping create valuable Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for your website and your publisher’s as well.

Ultimately, avoiding creating a plan can only hurt your business, not help it. Make a point of ensuring your future success by creating a PR plan and beginning to check off related tasks today!

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.

» Is Your SEO Up to Par for 2018?

This post was written by Mike Anderson, Associate Director of SEO at WeddingWire.

These days, most purchases start with a search.

Customers turn first to Google or Bing to find what they’re looking for, which means if you want to be found, a strong search engine presence is a must. In fact, 81% of people perform some kind of search before making a large purchase. (1)

But in order to land high in Google’s search engine results, you first have to make your website and content easy for Google and customers to understand.

As we kick off 2018, follow the steps below to make sure that your SEO is up to par to gain online visibility, increase your website traffic and ultimately, your sales.

Find relevant keywords to focus on

The first step in optimization is to figure out what keywords you want to rank for. To help find keywords, there are a number of free tools available such as Moz’s Keyword Explorer and the SERPs Keyword Research Database. If you have an account with Google AdWords, their Keyword Planner is a great option as well. Each of these tools allows you to find popular search queries and export keywords you like.

Tip: When conducting your keyword research, try to search for keywords as your customers would. If you were looking for a DJ in your town, what would you search for?

Optimize your website

Once you have a list of keywords, the next step is to incorporate them into your website. Try to be strategic. Make sure keywords are included in the following elements of your website:

  • Title tag – keep it to 50-60 characters and use your target keywords at the beginning. Treat it like a headline – your title tags should be compelling to your audience and include your brand name towards the end
  • Meta Description – these are limited to 160 characters, Make sure they give an accurate description of the page, include your target keyword(s), and are intriguing enough that users will want to click through
  • H1 – this is the heading of a page. It should be kept to about 20-30 characters, and describe the page’s topic. It will often be similar to your title tag, and likely be the title of a blog or article on the page, which means it should stand out and include the keyword that page is targeting. Use only one H1 tag per page.
  • H2s – these are your subheadings, which can be used to break up the content on a page. Don’t include your target keyword in every one, but try to use it once or twice.  

Tip: Try to optimize your homepage for 2 to 3 broad keywords and use sub pages to target more specific, service-related terms. Also, don’t forget to make sure your site is optimized for mobile use. More than half of all searches are done on mobile devices!

Make sure your content is unique and engaging

Once you have optimized your website, it is important to focus on your content. Content quality is widely regarded as one of the most important SEO signals, and speaks volumes about your website’s reputation. By posting quality photos, engaging articles, and useful resources, your clients will want to link to your website. Content freshness is also an important ranking factor, so remember to post new content every so often.

As you begin writing, keep in mind, content should be formatted in a way that keeps readers engaged.  Use short blocks of content to make it easily skimmable, and use a combination of bullet points and paragraphs. Remember to also include links where possible and natural, both to other pages on your site as well as to other relevant websites.

Tip: If you’re looking for article ideas, refer back to keyword research tools to see what things your clients are searching for. Or take a look at your competitor’s social media profiles to see what topics are most popular with similar audiences.  

Optimize your business profiles

While your website is an important asset, it’s critical to ensure that your business information and content is accurate and well represented on other sites as well. Make sure that your Google My Business listing is claimed and features accurate information. The same goes for local directories like Yelp, YP, Apple Maps. Also, if you have signed up for WeddingWire, make sure to add a thorough description of your business and high-quality photos.

As you are filling out your profiles, remember to fill in as much information as possible. The more you provide, the easier it will be for customers to find you. In addition to address and contact information, try adding a relevant category to your Google My Business profile, mention any areas your business specializes in or choosing a high quality profile photo to use in your listings.

Tip: To run a quick analysis of your local listings, try Moz Local, which offers a free scan and score.

Grow your social communities

In addition to your site and your online profiles, social media is also an important part of your online presence. Being active on social media can help grow your online audience, and more importantly, drive more leads. But it can also help your SEO. Studies have shown that social linking itself does not add much SEO benefit. But related signals – such as business reviews and links back to your site from bloggers – can make a big difference. Regular posting on social networks can also help you see what content resonates with your clients, giving you ideas on what other topics would be good to write about. The larger your audience becomes, the more likes, reviews and links you receive.  

Tip: Make sure you provide information about your business on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other sites you appear on.  

Also, consider boosting some of your posts. Because business pages have limited organic reach, boosting will gain a significant amount of exposure and visibility. When choosing which posts to boost, remember to pick ones that promote your own content and are especially helpful to your audience. Also consider boosting anything designed to collect contact information, such as free downloads and giveaways.

Take it from Google

Google offers a number of resources to webmasters interested in bettering their sites and their search engine rankings. Their official webmaster guidelines is a great resource to learn about recommended best practices and discouraged activities. The company also has multiple spokespeople that answer community questions and give updates on changes to Google’s algorithm.

Tip: Check out Google’s webmaster guidelines to learn more about SEO best practices. Also, try following John Mueller (@JohnMu) on Twitter for the latest updates.

SEO isn’t always easy, but it is worth it.

So take the time to find the best keywords. Incorporate them properly and naturally into your site and content. Optimize your online presence with the correct information, and reach out to influencers in your industry.

Once you’ve done so, the pay-off will be a higher rank in search engines, more exposure, and more leads.  

Sources
(1) Retailing Today (2014)

» 5 Resolutions for Wedding Professionals in 2018

The beginning of a new year brings excitement about resolutions and goals, but often they can be forgotten or pushed aside, especially when busy season comes around. To make 2018 your best year yet, set business resolutions that you can actually keep and that will have a positive long-term impact on your business. It’s important that these goals are challenging, yet achievable resolutions for both you and your business.

WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg has highlighted 5 resolutions that wedding professionals can put into action:

  1. Be respectful of time.

    As a busy professional, you know that often, it can seem like there are simply not enough hours in the day. Save your own time, your clients time, and other professionals time, by simply keeping your communication direct and concise. Also work to respond to all inquiries or questions in a very timely manner (aim for 24 hours or less!), even if it is just an acknowledgement of the inquiry.

  2. Be less connected to technology.

    While we all love technology and how it can help us stay in sync and organized, it can also be a distraction from personal interaction and taking the time to live in the moment. Challenge yourself to set some specific time to disconnect completely from technology each day, and focus on connecting with people, enjoying experiences or taking time to reflect on the goals you have set.

  3. Avoid hypocrisy.

    Wedding professionals often have similar complaints when it comes to some clients. Next time you feel frustrated, take a moment to truly consider the client point of view. After all, they are planning and investing in a once in a lifetime event. Wouldn’t you have questions, expect the highest quality service, and want to save money where you could? Work on seeing their perspective, show empathy, and then use your experience to help them feel confident in their decision to do business with you.

  4. Shorten your to-do list.

    There is an easy way to shorten your to-do list without simply saying ‘no’ to more work. Make a daily ‘must-do’ list to go with your longer ‘to-do list.’ On this shortened list, prioritize a handful of key actions that you must meet that day. Then, when the list is complete, move onto the next priority round of to-dos, or catch up on emails, calls or errands. You will feel accomplished and more relaxed, while keeping focus on higher priority items.

  5. Resolve to think bigger.

    Challenge yourself this year! What is the next big business step you hope to achieve? More revenue? More bookings? A bigger team? Consider what a better business means to you. From there, set three goals you hope to reach in 2018 that will take you to that next level. Create some metrics or programs that will help you reach your goals, and get started. Don’t forget to visit them regularly to stay on track, and see how you are progressing. Checking in monthly will provide reflection and help you stay on track with these goals.

Whether your list of resolutions for 2018 is long or short and concise, adding these five actionable items is a great way to put your best foot forward in the new year.

» These Are Our Most Read Articles of 2017

Photo by epaga FOTO

Throughout the year, we’ve shared our best tips for wedding businesses, the latest industry trends and the newest WeddingWire innovations, all to help you stand out and connect with more of today’s couples. We’ve rounded up the top articles that were the most helpful and enjoyed by our community this year — have you read them all?

10. Storefront Tune-Up Tips for Engagement Season
Did you know that nearly 18% of all engagements occur in December alone? Now is the best time to optimize your online presence in preparation for newly engaged couples looking for their ideal wedding team.

9. Why You Shouldn’t Say You’re “The Best”
Making this claim is an all too common marketing declaration, and it’s not one that will help you win couples. Instead of making that overstated claim, you should focus on what makes you different and exceptional with your ideal customer in mind.

8. Want More Reviews? Start Doing These 4 Things
Remember, 95% of couples use reviews to select their vendors and recency is the most important factor when couples are evaluating your reviews! Couples like to hear (and see!) what they should expect – not from the vendors themselves, but from past couples who’ve been in their position. Whether you’re new to collecting reviews or a seasoned expert, follow these top tips to start collecting even more reviews.

7. How to Respond to a Negative Review
Reviews are key to your online reputation, and it can be frustrating to receive a review that you may not be satisfied with or feel you don’t deserve. Although you may disagree with the review, it’s important to be professional in your response.

6. How Should You Politely Tell a Client “I Don’t Do That”?
As a creative professional, sometimes your taste and unique skills just don’t line up with the trend of the moment. When a request comes in for something that you don’t feel comfortable doing, use these suggestions to politely tell that potential client, “Thanks, but that really isn’t up my alley.

5. How Are Weddings Changing?
In the 2017 Newlywed Survey, we learned things like: Couples now spend 50% of their time planning from a smartphone (up from 30% last year!) and millennials are spending a bit more on weddings: $31,000 on average. To see more of what’s changing and what’s staying put, see the full newlywed survey.

4. 6 Ways to Optimize Your Website for Leads
Once a couple makes it to your site, it’s vital that you guide them to take the next step by submitting a lead. It’s easy to get swept up in your own ideas when building a website, but ultimately you need to think about how couples will interact with it in order to drive more conversions.

3. 5 Ways You’re Losing the Sale
Getting a sales inquiry is a huge buying signal. They’ve started with all of the possible choices and narrowed it down to a small group of potential companies in your service category—including you. At any point, you can either make it to the next round or be dropped.

2. Top Wedding Trends for 2017
Keeping up with current trends allows you to show potential clients that you are in the know and prepared to help them personalize their big day. These are the top trends we saw in 2017 and we can’t wait to share what’s to come in 2018!

1. Pricing Do’s and Don’ts
Here it is – our top post of 2017! Receiving a question about pricing can be daunting and tricky to navigate, but receiving that inquiry is a definite sign of interest and it should be exciting! Instead of being filled with dread when you see a pricing question hit your inbox, cue the confetti and use these top do’s and don’ts to answer their questions.

Thanks for being a part of our community — and we look forward to continue to grow together in 2018!