» 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.

» Ready The Rooms With Gender Inclusivity

Photography by Brandi Potter Photography

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Expert, Kathryn Hamm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kathryn Hamm

 

This post was written by Kathryn Hamm WeddingWire Education Expert, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. Follow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.

» Beyond the Stars – The Power of Using Your Reviews

Photo by Slavik Yasinsky Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Share your reviews on social media.

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

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

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

» How To Overcome Ghosting in Wedding PR

Photo by Bellagala Photography

Ghosting – the practice of ending all communication without explanation – was brought to the forefront in the last few weeks among Facebook conversations and industry podcasts.  

While not a new concept, it brings to light the question– what in the world do you do when someone goes MIA on you? This is especially the case with wedding PR related pitches– be it real wedding submissions, styled shoots or media pitches themselves.

If this your first time engaging the editor, or your millionth, it takes a bit of organization, patience and optimism to overcome ghosting.

Before even getting into the business of submissions, it’s essential to set your expectations accordingly. As I like to remind people– it used to be that the ratio of people pitching to editors/writers was 1:1, but these days, it’s closer to 8:1. Inboxes are filling at an unprecedented rate and it’s not easy to catch someone’s attention with just the one email.

Below you’ll find a few of the typical ghosting scenarios you may come across, and the best reactive steps:

Real Wedding/Styled Shoot Submissions

I get this question often from clients and colleagues– what if you submit and then you never hear back? This really does depend on the media outlet so be sure to review their guidelines for submission. Some will give a timeframe on when you can expect to hear back. Pay careful attention to those who expand on the fact that if you don’t hear back within a certain time period, you should move forward elsewhere.

It’s always best when submitting, to mark your calendars for when you can expect to hear back. Be sure to give a little wiggle room in the process. If say, for example, an editor says that they respond within 30 days, mark your calendar for 35 days and follow up if you haven’t heard anything. Aim to be equal parts kind but firm:

Hi {NAME!},

I hope this finds you well. Just wanted to follow up on my recent submission of 
{NAME} and {NAME’s} wedding. I originally submitted on {DATE} and since we’re 
past the {NUMBER} days of consideration, I thought it wouldn’t hurt to check in 
one more time. 

Happy to continue to offer exclusivity to you if the wedding/shoot is still in 
thequeue. If you’d prefer to pass on it, please let me know and I’ll move
on to the next publication. 

Thanks so much!
{NAME}

If you don’t hear back again within about a week, consider it passed on and move on. Before doing so, send along a brief, kind email to confirm your next steps:

Hi {NAME}!

Hope you’re having a great week! Just following up one more time on the 
wedding submission of {NAME} and {NAME’s} celebration from {DATE}. 
I haven’t heard back after multiple attempts so just sending a quick email
along that I’d like to respectfully withdraw the submission. 

I look forward to trying again down the road!

Thanks!
{NAME}

You’ll find, more often than not, that editors will appreciate that you took the time to close the circle on the submission.

With that being said, if you can, it’s great to work with editors that use a direct, streamlined channel for submitting, such as RealWeds.com.

HARO Pitches

For those using a third-party program, such as HARO, rest assured that things are fairly black and white. You pitch directly to the writer with their anonymous email. If it’s picked up, it’s picked up. If it’s not, it’s not. With HARO, there is no need to follow up on a pitch sent out– in fact, HARO creates the anonymous emails for journalists so it’s difficult for you to do so.

The majority of HARO journalists will respond if they liked your quotes and are considering it, but very few, from my experience, let you know if it goes live. With that in mind, when you do pitch, it doesn’t hurt to look up the writer and bookmark their author page on the site where they are writing. Better yet, be sure to set up a Talkwalker Alert on your own name so that you receive emails every time your name pops up in the media.

Media Pitches

While real wedding/styled shoot submissions typically follow along with the guidelines set aside by the editor of the site/blog/publication, this isn’t quite the case when sending along story ideas to writers/reporters and editors for publications and sites.

If you’ve pitched a story idea and have not heard back, it’s a good chance that they are either bogged down with pitches and/or they are simply not interested. My general rule of thumb is to follow up a week later only just the once and to come with additional information, or better yet– another story idea.

More often than not, the media does not love a brief “hey, did you get my article?” email. Instead, kindly follow up and perhaps send a couple of more topics that may be a fit for their publication. The goal is always to add value, not fill their inbox.

It can admittedly be frustrating when you don’t hear back from what you had hoped was an amazing pitch. Remember that members of the media are constantly being inundated with pitches so if you aren’t hearing back in general, just know that it’s a very common thing to happen. I promise it will make it that much sweeter when you do hear back.

 

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.

» Should You Reevaluate for Engagement Season?

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

In the WeddingWire EDU webinar, Are You Ready for Engagement Season?,” I posed the question: “Are you doing what you know you should be doing?”  With the end of wedding season here, now is the time to reflect on what has been working, and what hasn’t. Often things that haven’t been working are a result of the lack of effort or attention on our part. For instance, we might know we need more reviews, but we haven’t been asking because we’ve been deep in the weeds of wedding season. Or maybe you know that your website needs updating, but you haven’t asked your photographer friends for recent photos. Or maybe you know that you should raise your prices, maybe a little, maybe a lot, but you haven’t given the time and attention to figuring out which prices, and by how much.

If I only had the time…

Fear not, you’re in the majority. There’s an old saying: “When’s the best time to plant a tree? Twenty years ago. When’s the second-best time? Today!” It’s not a matter of having more time. It’s a matter of prioritizing that time (something I wrote about in my second book, “Your Attitude for Success”). Each day we’re given a new twenty-four hours and we get to decide how to use them.

Procrastinators unite… tomorrow!

The key is to not try to do it all, just do something, and do it today. I’ve gotten way more accomplished by having a shorter list than I ever did by having a long one. Some of you may have heard me refer to my lists as my “Today List” and my “To-Do List.” My “Today List” includes the things I can’t avoid on a daily basis, such as replying to inquiries, meeting client deadlines, giving speeches, doing webinars… oh yeah, and eating, sleeping and spending time with my family. My “To-Do List” includes my big-picture goals: writing my fifth book, creating my next prospecting campaign idea, speaking in more countries, etc. None of those can be accomplished in one sitting or even one day. None of them is one step. But if I don’t get a small piece of it done, the task will never get started, no less completed.

Once I complete the three things on my big-picture To-Do List… I make a new list. It’s funny how things that used to seem important, just aren’t anymore. That’s because each time we do something new, we move ourselves to a different place, with a different perspective. I have a way different perspective on altitude after jumping from a perfectly good airplane at 13,500 feet. I have a very different perspective on writing books now, after writing four, than I did before I wrote the first one. I have a very different perspective on learning a new language, after presenting in Spanish in four countries. All of these things once seemed unattainable, too difficult, or just plain crazy. On the other side, after doing them, they seem satisfying and empowering. Every time you push yourself, a little more, you move the bar of what’s possible.

What about failure?

Few movements forward are straight lines or only-upward progress. There will be setbacks. Expect them. Plan for them. But, don’t get paralyzed by them. Seth Godin’s book “The Dip” talks about hitting the difficult trough in the path to success. That’s when most people give up. However, it’s the ones that make it out the other side of the trough who reap the rewards. If you are convinced that a new idea will work, that in itself is half the battle. No one can really motivate you, except you. Yes, others can encourage you, but ultimately you have to take the actions. And for those of us who are solo-preneurs, we often need to be our own cheerleaders.

What I said, versus what you heard

Every so often I’ll have a wedding pro tell me that they’re using an idea from a webinar, or one of my speeches or books, but it’s not working for them. Just this week I had an email from a wedding pro, a consulting client of mine, who said that she’s using all of the tips from my latest book, but they’re not working for her. So, I asked her to send me some emails that she’s been using, to see if I can spot any obvious red-flags. When I read her emails, it was very obvious to me that she was using a few of my tips, while ignoring some of the biggest ones. Her emails were short and fit on one screen of a smartphone. Good. But she wasn’t ending with a question. There was no call to action. There was no excitement to the message. I know that she comes from a corporate background, so it’s tough to break the corporate-speak that she’s been doing for years.

Too close to the project

There was a big difference between what I said, versus what she was doing. To me, it was obvious. Of course, it’s easier for me to see it, because I didn’t write her original emails. And yes, it’s undoubtedly easier for me since I wrote a book on the subject. But she read the book. Either she interpreted what I said differently, or she unconsciously resisted the ideas because it caused too much friction for her. Sometimes we just need an outside opinion, someone who can see it more clearly than we can. We’re the experts in some things. We need to seek out experts to fill in the blanks for us when we’re not.

Are you doing, what you should be doing?

Now is the time to step back and see if you’re doing the things you know you should be doing, but you’re just not, at least not yet. Don’t try to tackle them all, just do something. Prioritize your big-picture to-do list and pick your three goals. Then, break those goals down into smaller pieces that you can do in a day, or less. Can you contact one photographer today and ask for some photos for your storefront and website? Yes. Can you reread the text on one page of your website to make sure it’s up to date? Yes. Can you use the WeddingWire Review Collector Tool to ask for reviews from your recent couples? Yes. Can you update your Featured Review? Yes. Can you reply to the most recent 3 reviews? Yes. See, it’s not so hard… now go do it!

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.

» Surprise and Delight Ideas for the Off Season

The off season is fast approaching and, as you find more time in your schedule, consider it an opportunity to increase productivity and map out PR and marketing strategies for the year ahead. No solid marketing plan is complete without a focus on positive experiences for customers and creative partners, as they’re in an ideal position to refer business.

Surprise and delight creates opportunities to really ‘wow’ someone unexpectedly. It’s a proven strategy among Fortune 500 companies and, as wedding professionals, this is our place to shine. We specialize in hospitality and our business is designed around pleasing people — surprise and delight is simply a way to take it to the next level.

Always prepare first

Implementing surprise and delight touchpoints should be a strategic move, so don’t just dive in and start handing free things out to every client that walks in the door. Start by asking yourself the real questions: What are you hoping to accomplish? Who are you trying to reach? What are your strengths? Do you have the resources required to make it happen? The answers to these questions will guide your approach to client and partner outreach.

Start small

Don’t overwhelm yourself upfront with complicated tactics. Start out with a test group as a trial to get your feet wet. This allows you the time to work out the kinks and evaluate feedback. Focus on what will bring you the most relationships, as well as maintain the valuable ones that you already have.

Get to planning

Once your strategy is ironed out, have a brainstorming session with your team or yourself. The sky is the limit, so don’t be afraid to get creative. However, be mindful that some of the best things can be small as long as they’re thoughtful. Keep in mind that it may not be everyone’s off season — hotels, for example, are busy all year round especially during the holiday season. Consider how you can surprise and delight without causing inconvenience.

Build it into your workflow

Surprise and delight strategies should come naturally; if forced, they can lose their genuineness. Think about how to incorporate small tactics throughout your existing workflow. What is one thing that you can do for newly booked clients during the off season? If you use a project management software like Basecamp or Asana, schedule tasks to keep your plan moving. Don’t forget to track retention and referrals, as it helps determine ROI and identify what’s working and what needs tweaking.

There you have it — a starter’s guide to surprise and delight that is sure to get more business through your doors. The off season frees up some of your schedule, so it’s a great time to work on implementing ongoing strategy for client experience. Still, be sure to carve out time to rest and relax over your slow period. Marketing and PR endeavors are no good if you’re not taking care of yourself and taking the time to get re-energized.


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 Keep Your Storefront Fresh Year-Round

Engagement season is here, which means a lot of newly-engaged couples will soon be looking for their wedding team. This means now is the time to update your online presence! Refresh your Storefront and put your best foot forward to get noticed and book new business. Not sure where to start? Don’t worry – we’ve created a simple, step-by-step guide for Storefront revisions and updates.

Here are a few easy ways to ensure your Storefront will make a strong first impression for your business this engagement season:  

Upload high-quality images – and make sure your main image stands out!

Even though it’s small, your thumbnail image is the first thing couples will see! Make sure to draw them in with a high-quality professional photo that showcases your products or services. In addition, show examples of your work by uploading a variety of photos that are specific to your business and highlight your strengths.

Take action:

  • Avoid using generic photos. You want to showcase your expertise in a way that will catch the eye of a couple. Be sure to use professional photography to ensure that the photo composition, lighting, and focus are ideal.

  • Test it on mobile. 42% of the time couples are looking at your Storefronts from their phone, so take a moment to ensure that your thumbnail is compatible. Is it missing the detail you were trying to show? Did you turn the couple into headless horsemen? If so, fix it!

  • Get rid of photos that don’t feature your product or service. If a couple is looking for their venue and comes across a close-up photo of shoes, that’s not what they want to see, even if it is a beautiful photo! Only feature photos that can portray your product or service in some way.

Pro tip: Make sure your main image and photos meet WeddingWire’s Storefront content requirements when making updates.

Verify that all information is up-to-date.

Take the time to read through your FAQs and your business description (and all of the text on your Storefront); and as silly as it might feel, do it out loud! Does it mention old services that you no longer offer? Question every sentence to make sure you are describing your business accurately.

Take action:

  • Check out the Storefront content requirements for guidelines. We encourage you to update your Storefront regularly so that it accurately portrays your brand and your services. You want to send a consistent message to potential clients and be sure to make a strong first impression when they visit your Storefront. Keep in mind that WeddingWire’s content team will review and update your Storefront content whenever you make changes in order to help improve your ranking across top search engines and help you book more couples.

  • Make sure pricing and FAQs are up-to-date. Remember that 88% of couples want to see pricing information before getting in contact with a vendor, so be sure to keep your pricing details updated. If the couple is on your Storefront, you’ve made it to the next round! Make sure that you are providing all key details they are looking for when evaluating your business and comparing you to other wedding professionals in your category.  

Captivate couples using your reviews.

After your photos, the next thing a couple will look at is your reviews. The more recent reviews that you have, the more engaged couples will be able to see the consistency of your work, past and present, and the way couples feel about working with you.

While having a ton of reviews is great, it’s not the only thing couples are considering when they are looking at your reviews. Couples are also looking at the recency, your responses and emotional keywords that can connect them to experiences you’ve provided other couples.

Take action:

  • Update your highlighted review. Premium members can highlight a review; choose a review that is recent, short-to-medium in length and uses great emotional words at the beginning. Don’t pick the longest review you’ve ever received. Couples are likely to skim, so you want them to quickly get the gist when reading through. This doesn’t have to be your most recent review, but it should ideally be one from the same calendar year.

  • Respond to all reviews and make sure your responses include personal details about that couple’s day. These responses should be written with future couples in mind and show that you are engaged with the couple from start to finish.

Build these tips into your to-do list to make sure that you are maximizing your leads and bookings throughout engagement season. Even setting aside 30 minutes a week to respond to recent reviews and look over your Storefront will benefit you in the long run – you can do it!

» Tackling Friendors: When Couples Hire Friends Instead of Wedding Professionals

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

I’m pretty handy with a set of tools, and I’ve often helped out a friend or relative with a repair or home improvement project. In other words, I’ve been a ‘friendor’, have you? A friendor is a friend or relative who performs a service that could have otherwise been provided by paying an individual or business. It happens all the time. Have you ever benefited from the services of a friend or relative? I’ll bet you have. When it works out well, you just smile and move on. When it doesn’t, you have to decide whether to pay someone to complete or fix the job or look to another friendor to do so.

Not all friendors are created equally

While most, or all of us have either been or benefited from this arrangement, not all friendors are the same. Some, like me, aren’t currently professionals in that skill. In my case, I’m not currently a general contractor, although I did work as one earlier in my life. I have the skills to do many of the jobs that a practicing professional would do. So, whether I do something in my house, or for my friend, relative, neighbor or in-law, it will get done at a level on par with at least some of the practicing professionals (maybe better than some, maybe worse).

Have you ever helped a friend or relative with services for which you would normally charge? Many of the folks I’ve met in the industry started out that way. Maybe you were an art student and you took the photos for a friend’s wedding, party, family or new baby. You were skilled in the craft, you just didn’t charge. Did it work out well for both sides (they were happy with your work, and you were happy to give them that gift)?

Learning on the job

Other times, a friendor is learning that craft of skill ‘on the job’, which is to say on the wedding or event. That’s where the trouble can come in. Giving your professional services at no charge still avails the recipient with professional services. Learning how to arrange floral centerpieces, bake and decorate a wedding cake or keep the flow going with the right music should not be happening leading up to, or during a real wedding or event… at least I wouldn’t want it happening on my wedding or event, would you?

Are friendors your competition?

We, in the industry, know all too well that it’s a slippery slope using friendors for a wedding. Being a skilled photographer doesn’t mean you know where to be looking, or what’s going to happen next at a wedding. The skills that make you the envy of your friends in the kitchen at dinner parties, aren’t the same as the ones that you need to create meals for 200 guests, and get them all out quickly, hot and plated the same way. Cooking for 2, or even 12, isn’t the same as cooking for 200.

I previously wrote an article for this blog titled “CraigsList is not your competitor.” If the couple has a very low budget, then you were never a real possibility for them. There will always be lower-priced competitors. As a matter of fact, many of you reading this were the lower-priced competitor when you started. If you were a friendor before becoming a paid professional, were you taking away a possible sale from a pro at that time? Maybe yes, maybe no. I’ve also written and spoken about how we’re all hypocrites for asking about price, or for a discount when we’re the customer, and then complaining when our customers ask first about price, or ask for a discount. We can’t have it both ways. If you’ve ever been, or used a friend/relative instead of paying a professional, you shouldn’t complain when a couple chooses to use one.

And the problem is…?

The problem is not that they use friendors. The problem is when they use friendors and it doesn’t go well: The friend who misses the important photos; the cake that doesn’t look or taste the way they wanted; the friend who stops performing their service and starts acting like a guest. Those are the problems.

There are opportunities to help prevent this. Some businesses have popped up serving the DIY couple and their friendors. Whether it’s selling them the supplies they need, with instructions, teaching courses or giving them an instruction manual/guidebook, some wedding and event pros are servicing this market, helping to minimize the nightmares. Notice I said minimize, and not eliminate. People are people, and many will bite off more than they can chew, get in over their heads and fail miserably. Let’s just hope it doesn’t happen to anyone you know.

Now what?

Just as you shouldn’t waste too much energy on trying to sell your services, at your prices, to DIY couples and those who are looking to CraigsList for cheap vendors, don’t waste too much time or energy on those who are choosing friendors. Yes, you can try to educate them. Yes, collect every article, blog and posting you can find from couples who have had horrible experiences with friendors. But you can’t make them read those things and you can’t change their minds if they believe that will never happen to them. Move on and place your efforts in marketing to your real, core audience, improving your website and increasing your sales conversions. That’s a much better use of your time and effort.

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.

» Are Your Salutations Inclusive?

This article was written by WeddingWire Education Expert, Kathryn Hamm.

The addition of a drop-down menu to a website’s sign up form or the collection of a prospective client’s title can offer a welcoming signal to the newcomer and be a help to your team, but it can also send messages of blind spots.

A recent case in point: I was booking a hotel room online with a global brand, and was delighted to stumble upon an inspired (optional) drop-down menu for my “Title.” From Senator to Princess to Pastor or Judge, Major, or Chef; it was tempting to pick something creative just for the purposes of my stay. I could imagine it! I would announce myself at the front desk thusly: “Hello! Ambassador Kathryn Hamm, at your service!” accompanied by a deep bow with a flourish. But, don’t worry… I won’t!

Naturally, the website’s drop-down menu also included the standard Mr., Mrs., Ms. and Dr.; and, if you would be traveling as a married heterosexual couple who follows traditional etiquette, you would have the option to choose Mr. & Mrs. — and would hopefully remember that Emily Post would expect you to use the man’s name in the first name, last name fields to follow.

What I appreciated about this company’s drop-down menu is that they were showing some creativity in terms of the titles that their customers might like to use and, as such, these titles might offer additional information about their needs or expectations. Especially on a global scale. One could, for example, choose Senor (stet.) or Madame, which could indicate something about the country of origin or what language the person might prefer upon check-in.

But just as one can go awry by using fiancé (rather than fiancée) to describe an engaged woman, it’s important to be familiar with the correct expression, accents, and meanings of various languages, especially those not native to you. In the example above, the drop-down menu referenced “Senor” rather than Señor; and while many of us recognize the limitations of some keyboards, it doesn’t take a great deal of imagination to predict the impression that the use of “Senor” vs “Señor” might make on the gentleman using that drop-down menu or generic form. Additionally, the inclusion of “Mr. & Mrs.” but the omission of “Ms. & Ms.” or “Mr. & Mr.” might send a cautionary, even if unintended, signal to the LGBTQ traveler.

In that spirit, I’d like to offer a salutation that may be new to you and can leave a strong, favorable impression on members of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) community who are inquiring about your services.

Increasingly, younger couples and especially those in the LGBTQ community are recognizing gender expression as more of a fluid construct. That is, they are more likely to appreciate that someone might not identify as exclusively male/masculine or female/feminine. Thus, rather than using a gendered title like “Ms.” or “Mr.,” they might use a third gender-neutral salutation, “Mx.” (pronounced ‘mix’).

What salutations do you use on your drop-down menus, contact and registration forms? Or do you use them at all?

The advantage of including a salutation that each member of the engaged couple can select — especially if you don’t have verbal or visual cues to help you to determine a person’s gender or gender identity — offers a great way to get more information about the couple. Do they identify as a same-sex or opposite-sex couple (if they select Mr. & Mr. or Ms. & Ms.) or can you learn a bit more about what the potential needs of the couple might be if at least one of them selects Mx. indicating a non-binary (or genderqueer) gender identity?

Beyond the direct advantages for a genderqueer couple, your use of Mx. will send an open, inclusive signal to other members of the LGBTQ community and their allies.

One final tip before I close: it’s easy enough to create a template of options that will exist on paper. But, if you’re unsure as to how to go about this in a personal intake interview or sales call, remember that one can avoid an incorrect assumption by asking directly, “What’s your preferred gender pronoun?” (i.e., he/him/his; she/her/hers; they/them/theirs; etc.).

Kathryn HammThis post was written by Kathryn Hamm WeddingWire Education Expert, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist. Kathryn is also co-author of the groundbreaking book, The New Art of Capturing Love: The Essential Guide to Lesbian and Gay Wedding Photography. Follow her on Twitter @madebykathryn.

» Streamlining for Efficiency, Sanity, & Profitability

Photo by Emily Keeney Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When to streamline-

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

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

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

When not to streamline-

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

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

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

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

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

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

» 4 Ways To Respond To Questions About Price

Photo by Rusted Vase Floral Co.

About 88% of couples are looking for price before they even reach out to you. Which makes sense right? No one wants to get excited about a service to then find out it’s out of their budget. Which is why we recommend putting pricing on your website, marketing materials, and Storefront.

However, 44% of wedding professionals say that their prices depend on the individual needs of each customer, making it hard to directly advertise or quote prices. So what are some ways to handle pricing questions in these dependent situations?  

1. Tell them

Many couples bypass vendors who don’t show pricing information for those that do. If you have an exact understanding of what your services or products will cost, simply tell them and ask to move forward by ending with a question like: “Should we reserve that for you?” or “Would you like to schedule a time to visit our venue/see our services?” It might seem unconventional to ask for an appointment in the initial reply, however, if you relayed the details and pricing that was asked for by the couple, they may have all the information necessary to make that decision.

2. Don’t tell them

If you don’t have a singular price, don’t duck the question. Instead explain to them why you can’t give that information just yet by saying something like “I don’t want to leave out anything that’s important to you, or charge you for anything you don’t want or need. So, let me get a few details and then I’ll be able to give you a quote.” Moreover, end with a low commitment question like “Have you secured your venue/ other services yet?” or “Are you having the wedding and reception in the same place?”. This low commitment question can keep the conversation going.

3. Starting price

Giving the starting price of your service is another way to approach the price question. However, it is never recommended to sell from the bottom up, especially if your services or products have a wide range. If a product of yours starts at $800 and the range goes up to $10,000, with the average amount being between $3000 – $4000 you probably shouldn’t start at the low end. Giving the starting price at $800, in this case, is misleading the customer. In a situation like this, you can try responding to a price question with something like “I can’t give you a price until I have all of the details, but I can say that the service starts at $x” and then end with a low commitment question.

4. Price range

Giving a price range is perhaps one of the best options for services that depend on individual customizations for the couple. Following the above example of what to say when you have a starting price, simply add a range to it and try something like “I can’t give you a price until I have all of the details, but I can say that the service runs between $x – $x, will that work for your budget?” and then as always end with a low commitment question to keep the conversation rolling. If a couple comes back with your range being out of their budget, don’t burn the bridge! Try to offer a lower price if possible or end your conversation with “We would love to work with you if you don’t find someone else within your budget!”

Responding to pricing questions can be daunting sometimes, but being asked for the price is one of the biggest buying signals you can hear and it should be embraced!

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Replying to Leads, Part 2: From Conversation to Conversion” with WeddingWire Education Guru, Alan Berg.

» How to Use Headshots to Redefine Your Brand

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

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

Timing is everything

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

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

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

Consider audience and message

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

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

Think about usage

Back in the day, headshots really just lived on your website to give prospects an idea of who you are. Nowadays, they are used in a variety of different manners, be it for social media posts, print materials, or for pitching to media outlets and speaking engagements.

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

Find the right photographer

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

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

Communicate openly

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

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


Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.