» WeddingWire World San Francisco 2019

The biggest ‘thank you’ goes out to everyone who joined us this year for WeddingWire World San Francisco!

On February 5, we were elated to bring WeddingWire to the Bay Area to host our first ever World San Francisco. The event, held at the City View at Metreon, boasted a beautiful panoramic view of the city. Between nine highly educational presentations and a fabulous networking night, the event was a huge success. We had a remarkable time with everyone, and are excited to share some of our favorite moments!

Educational sessions

The day was filled with a fantastic lineup of presentations (and selfies) by Sonny Ganguly, Alan Berg, Rob Ferre, Vanessa Joy, Kathryn Hamm, Jeffra Trumpower, Bethel Nathan, and Meghan Ely. These presentations gave guests an opportunity to dig deeper into marketing, sales, pricing, trends, and social media.

*To access a free worksheet to put Bethel Nathan’s tips into practice, text WORLD to 345345!

1:1 meetings with Customer Success Managers and complimentary headshots

Our Customer Success team was delighted to have the opportunity to sync up with their favorite wedding professionals. They held 1:1 meetings to give personalized tips on how to maximize listing value and boost storefront performance. We also encouraged attendees to swing by the headshot room to get a professional photo taken!

Cocktail reception

After a full day of education, guests wound down at a two-hour cocktail reception. They mingled with other attendees, enjoyed savory appetizers and delicious drinks, and took selfies in front of incredible live flower walls. Our guests relaxed over wine in our lounge areas, which were decked out in gorgeous hues of champagne, coral, and emerald. We loved seeing wedding professionals in the Bay Area have the opportunity to connect!

Take a peek at the Facebook album for some of our favorite moments, follow @WeddingWireEDU, and be sure to check out #WeDoWorld on Instagram and Twitter for more event highlights!

A special thank you to our partners who made the day an absolute success!

» Building Your Brand: Going Beyond the Logo

Angela V. Photography

What is a brand? If I ask 10 wedding pros, I’ll get 10 different answers. Some people think it’s their logo, or their colors, the way their store or office looks, or the way they dress. All of those are part of your branding, but they’re not your brand. Large companies have identifiable logos and colors. One look at the Nike swoosh, the Chevrolet bow tie, the Target bullseye, or the Coca Cola symbol and we immediately know whose company it is. Small companies, like ours, don’t have the kind of marketing budgets to make our brands as ubiquitous.

Another definition

I was looking around online for definitions of ‘brand’ and came across this on the Forbes.com website: “Put simply, your “brand” is what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name.” While I agree with this definition, it also makes it hard for small businesses where prospects are changing every year. Many wedding pros get repeat business, but since people don’t need your service themselves, month after month, year after year, you’re relying on someone who’s connected with a former client to know about you, when they need your services. Therefore, just hearing your name isn’t likely to get enough prospects to connect with your brand, the way they do with major, national and international brands.

Another opinion

Marketing expert Seth Godin said in his latest book “This is Marketing”: “A brand is a shortcut for the customer’s expectations. What promise did they think you’re making? What do they expect when they buy from you, meet with you or hire you? That promise is your brand.” That’s another great way to describe a brand, but where do they get those expectations? Where do they find out the promise you’re making? It’s in your marketing, your advertising, your website and the way you communicate with them. Of course, they learn about most of those things before you get a chance to have a conversation with them. That’s why it’s important to make sure your marketing, advertising, social media, and website do the heavy lifting.

It’s already been said

The great news is that the best place to find that promise and to raise their expectations is already available to you… right here on WeddingWire. That’s right, the reviews of your past customers is where your future customers are looking to see what you can do for them. They’re reading the reviews to see what they should expect, not only in the end product of hiring you, but also in the customer experience of doing business with you. Are you responsive to their inquiries and messages? It will be clear in your reviews. Are you a pleasure to do business with and caring to their needs? It will be clear in your reviews. Did you deliver, or over-deliver on your promised services/products? It will be clear in your reviews. And did they notice your attention to detail? It will be clear in your reviews.

Create speed bumps

I was reviewing a wedding pro’s new website the other day and I saw that she had reviews on her site, but they were too long, and too far down the page. You can’t assume that people will scroll all the way down your pages. And don’t assume that just because you put a review there, anyone will take the time to read it. The longer it is, the less likely someone will invest in reading the whole thing. You need short, sound-bites, and you need to be disruptive and put them where your site visitors and people reading your marketing materials are already looking. I told my client to think of these sound-bite reviews and testimonials as speed bumps.

We don’t stop our cars when we approach a speed bump, but we do slow down, and that’s what we want our site visitors to do. That’s what we want when they’re reading our brochures, price lists, menus, and business cards. Don’t cluster all of your reviews in one place. Spread them out on every page. Start with the pages they view the most (your analytics can show you that), and then work your way to the other pages. Your analytics will likely show you, as it does for all of my clients, that a dedicated Testimonials, Reviews or Kudos page is one of the lesser viewed pages on your site. That makes sense since your site visitors have likely read reviews before getting to your site (a likely reason they came in the first place). It also makes sense that they wouldn’t want to view a page that they know you only filled with the best of the best things that have been said about you. That’s why we need to put them on the pages that they want to see (and the ones your analytics shows you they’re already visiting). Oh, and don’t put dates on them unless you plan on changing them regularly. Do add attribution (maybe first names, their city/state or their venue name and city/state) to help incrementally with SEO.

Be strategic

Choose which sound-bites to put based upon what’s being said at that point, on that page. For example, if you put them on your Packages or Pricing page, choose ones that talk about what a great “value” you are, or how it was “worth more than I paid.” If it’s on a page about your food (for caterers, venues, cake bakers, etc.) then use ones that talk about how delicious the food was, or how their guests can’t stop raving about the food, or how it was the best food they’ve ever had at a wedding. If you’re a band or DJ, use ones that talk about the dancing or the fun they and their guests had. If you’re a bridal shop, use testimonials that talk about the experience of buying their dress, in addition to ones that talk about how great it fit.

Use reviews in your conversations

Another place that I use reviews, and so should you, is in the email/messaging/text conversations that we have with our customers and prospects. When someone asks if you can do a particular service, don’t just say “Yes”, punctuate that with a sound bite testimonial. For example, if you’re a wedding planner and they ask if you can help them with finding a venue, answer them: “Yes, of course, that’s one of our favorite ways to help you. We helped Jenny and Steve find their venue and they wrote (insert quote from Jenny and Steve about helping find their venue).”

The big three

I have literally hundreds of reviews of my speaking, website reviews, and sales trainings, yet I keep asking for new ones from my current clients and audiences. Why? Because, in my opinion, the three things that matter when it comes to reviews are: 1) the number of reviews 2) the average score/rating and 3) the recency – they care more about what you did last month, than how long you’ve been doing it. I’ll add that, for me, it’s also that the next thing someone says, or writes could be the best thing I’ve ever received. Just when you think you’ve gotten the best review ever, someone else writes something new or says it in a different way, that is even better than what you already have.

I recommend updating the sound-bite reviews on your website and marketing only when you get something better. And for a side-note, updating the reviews on your website is a good way to add fresh text to your site, something the search engines prefer. So, use the WeddingWire Review Collector, or ask directly, so you get the new branding messaging you need.

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.

 

» 2019 Press Material Prep: What to Add, Toss and Update in the New Year

With sights set on 2019, now is the time to update your press materials to ensure you are wedding PR-ready. Times are changing, so this year –– what’s best to add, update or toss altogether?

What to add: info one-sheet

If speaking or more podcast interviews are a part of your plans in 2019, consider creating a one-sheet PDF to distribute when pitching. Typically branded in your company colors and featuring a headshot, the one sheet can include, but is not limited to:

  • A brief bio

  • Top topics

  • If speaking, topic descriptions

  • Association affiliations/memberships

  • Awards

  • Recent speaking (if applicable)

  • Links to social media and web site

While those to whom you’re pitching will ultimately need more information, this is a great start to give people a snapshot of your expertise.

What to add: dedicated media page

If you find yourself with a steadier increase in press, and you’re becoming easier to find on Google, now is the time to consider adding a page to your site completely dedicated to the media. This move gives journalists the chance to grab everything they need without needing to ask. It shows that you can anticipate their needs, and that you are easy to work with.

So what to include? Consider the following:

  • Recent press

  • Recent releases

  • Company history

  • Team profiles

  • Logo and headshot ready for download

  • Press contact (be it a publicist OR a dedicated email)

What to update: your press goals

The world of media is always shifting, just as your own goals transform throughout the year. Checking in with your progress and readjusting your goals as needed can set you up for future success. “I like to review goals after each campaign spring and then again once each quarter,” shares Christie Osborne of Mountainside Media. “Looking ahead, you want to see if you can replicate and optimize your successes and walk away from things that don’t work. Many small business owners forget that when they say yes to something that delivers average results, they’re often saying no to things that can deliver exceptional results.”

What to update: your press page

The general rule of thumb is that you want to have a minimum of (3) strong press features (be it online, in print, a podcast interview, etc) before setting up a dedicated press page on your site. Most wedding pros already have this in place, but the question remains– do you have it up-to-date? Ideally, your very top features should take the lead at the top of your press page, mixed in with your most recent press to show that you and your brand continue to remain relevant.

What to update: headshots

Headshots are a must-have for professional purposes — it gives others a look at the face behind the brand. More often than not, however, I see wedding pros saving the investment to coincide with business changes– be it a new website, rebrand or expansion of services. While this is absolutely a worthwhile reason to do so, keep in mind your publicity strategy and what role your headshot plays in it.

This is especially the case when you find yourself constantly coming up short with the necessary image for a speaking engagement, award submission or guest article column. If you don’t have a high-resolution headshot at the ready in horizontal and vertical, it’s going to be necessary to make time to get them done in the new year.

When working out the details, consider who you market to, those most likely to see your headshot and the style most likely to resonate with that audience.

You also need to be mindful of future usage, above and beyond press. Back in the day, headshots 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.

What to update: your event gallery

When media outlets are researching potential sources for a story, they want to see that your work is current and in line with your expertise. Are you, for example, one of the top destination wedding planners for LGBTQ couples? Then make sure your online gallery demonstrates this. Weddings date themselves quickly so it’s essential to do this quarterly.

What to update: your bio

If you’ve enjoyed any accolades in the last year– be it new press, new leadership positions, speaking engagements or awards, now is the time to make sure your bio is polished and updated for the new year. Have it at the ready as a Word Doc and Google Doc, so it can easily be shared.

What to toss: old press releases

Press releases are a rarity these days– they can be incredibly impactful but only under the most strategic of situations. With that, consider keeping just the ones from the last year and archiving the rest. These can live on your press page, or the aforementioned dedicated media page.

What to toss: media kits

Very rarely does a printed media kit make sense in today’s digital age. Unless your press contacts still crave paper, you’re going to want all media materials at the ready digitally– be it your bio, company background or team profiles.

What to toss: your old SEO habits

Search engine optimization is essential for increased brand awareness and reach, not just for prospects but for media as well. “If you are pitching to the press, you can bet an editor is going to check you out online before a big feature or opportunity,” explains Sara Dunn of Sara Dunn SEO. “In 2019, I hope wedding pros stop using spammy blog post titles that force in a keyword. Google is always refining its results with one goal in mind: to provide a great experience for the searcher. Rather than focus on SEO tricks in 2019, focus on making sure your website is awesome to visit. Get some backlinks – without other websites linking to yours, Google isn’t going to view your site as trustworthy. Pitching to the press is a great opportunity to build more links to your website, so it’s worth the time for the publicity and the SEO value for your business.”

 

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.

» 2019 Wedding Trends You Need to Know

New year, new trends! 2019 is here and we have the inside scoop on what wedding trends to expect in the coming year! Keep reading to see our full list of what’s “in” so you can be prepared to guide your couples in the best direction.

Starting off with the hottest trend of 2019: personalization. This isn’t exactly a new one, but today’s couples (1 in 4, in fact) are including unique details to showcase their personalities and make their big day truly theirs. Millennials, by no surprise, are willing to spend more money per guest to create a wedding experience that reflects themselves as a couple and makes a memorable experience for their guests. From the use of retro-style lightboxes to increasing popularity in hosting wedding weekends, this focus on personalization will be echoed throughout all of the trends we’ll see in 2019.  

Photo by Blair Schluter Photography

Earthy elements

Earthy decor elements are certainly on the rise in 2019 and we expect to see more and more of it. Rattan and woven accents are one of the most popular elements right now and can be incorporated in many different ways — from furniture rentals to chargers — this accent is especially gorgeous for outdoor weddings in any season.  

Pampas grass is another earthy element that we’ll see pop up and is a great way to add texture to the overall decor. Since pampas grass is a neutral piece, it can easily be paired with pops of color.    

Photo by Vintage Meets Modern Event Rentals

Fun and functional signage

Wedding signs that are part show-stopping, part functional while still showcasing the couple’s style, is a trend we’re excited to see more of in 2019. Felt letter boards and retro-style lightboxes have already established themselves as a favorite of couples as we are seeing them flood our Instagram feeds. This back-to-basics look can be easily paired with floral accents to seamlessly integrate with the decor, and fit in perfectly with minimalistic themes!  

Photo by Pies ‘n’ Thighs

Creative favors

This is a super fun trend that goes back to couples becoming more conscious of sustainability. Couples want to provide favors that guests will actually use at their reception, after party, or even at home. We are seeing all sorts of interesting favors like mini succulents, coffee mugs, or even re-using flowers from the ceremony as a parting gift to guests. One of our favorites is the late-night snack that gives guests some extra fuel before heading home (or to the after-party)!

Photo by Smashing Weddings

Wedding experiences

Couples want to create memorable experiences for their guests, giving rise to “wedding weekends” rather than one-day events. Invites are now becoming more detailed with everything from welcome notes, directions, places to stay, things to do and a calendar of events.

Day-of, we’re seeing a rise in interactive elements like cigar bars, coffee bars, photo booths etc. Food stations are a growing trend as well. Couples want their food to reflect their personalities while also presenting food in a way that is not “one-size-fits-all”. Food stations– like omelet bars, sushi stations or build-your-own dessert bars are a trendy way to provide a personalized experience that guests will love.

Photo by Kir2Ben

Mix-and-match everything

We’ve seen bridesmaid dresses following the mix-and-match trend for some time now and we can expect the same for the groomsmen’s suits as well as decor.

As overall decor becomes more fluid, couples are incorporating many shades of a color as opposed to one exact color in everything. Vibrant hues are coming in strong with couples opting for palettes with multiple bright colors, as seen in the Pantone collaboration with WeddingWire for the top wedding colors of 2019.

Photo by Dan Lecca

Wedding dresses

Meghan Markle’s minimalist, fitted style is still making big waves and many 2019 wedding dress collections featured at least one Meghan Markle-inspired gown. Apart from dresses inspired by the royal nuptials, we will also be seeing a lot of asymmetrical looks, old school glamour, bridal power suits, and bold colorful wedding dresses.

Being in the wedding business is about creating a personalized experience for the couple that is tailored to what they want and need. However, being able to stay on top of current trends is a great way to show that you are in the know on what’s new and can be a reliable guide for couples looking for advice and direction.

These trends originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Trends and Themes to Know for 2019” with Jeffra Trumpower, WeddingWire’s Director of Content and Creative Services.

» Relationship Building Goals for the New Year

Brandi Potter Photography

It’s that time of the year where resolutions are no longer just distant ideas — now it’s time to put them in motion! Just as client relationships and experiences are supremely important to your business’s success, creative partners also play a large part. Increasing engagement with your fellow industry pros is the perfect way to shine a spotlight on your devotion to growth in 2019.

Strengthen relationships

This might be a no-brainer (and we’re all guilty of occasionally getting too wrapped up in our work to check in with those closest to us!), but it really is a crucial pillar in maintaining those creative partner ties.

Don’t stress yourself out about extending a grand gesture! The smallest details can really mean the most, in this case. Keep up with their recent accolades and send them a congratulatory email, or plan a get-together the next time you attend the same conference. Celebrating anniversaries and birthdays means just as much. Being present in their lives and setting a goal to be more communicative is always a step in the right direction, and they’ll start noticing.

Ask for feedback

Being vulnerable and opening yourself up to criticism is difficult, but I’ve found that it’s incredibly useful to know what your strengths and weaknesses are if you’re serious about excelling in both business and relationships. Client feedback is wonderful, but asking for the opinion of your creative peers may be most helpful when it’s coming from an insider’s point of view.

Asking for feedback not only shows that you’re interested in evolving as a wedding professional, but it shows that you care about how you’re viewed in the industry. Back when I was new to the wedding world, I had no idea what I was doing when it came to networking events. I met one of the top caterers in town and asked for honest advice, and she was quick to audit a few things that I wasn’t even aware of — right down to the baseball cap I shouldn’t have been wearing to networking events! After that, I really took her advice to heart and we became close partners in the business.

Increase your participation and maximize attendance

If you’ve been lacking a bit in industry event attendance, this is your opportunity to make up for lost time. Networking and educational events are your key to success in the new year, even when your schedule seems jam-packed. It can be hard to break away from the day-to-day, but participating in these events will benefit you in the long run as a way to connect with creative partners and lend your expertise.

Scope out associations you can join, submit yourself to speak at conferences, and print off some new business cards to hand out when you attend. You never know who will be the next big connection, or who could be a mutually beneficial referral to clients.

Our industry peers keep us in business and they keep us grounded. You want to be remembered as the professional that supports others and goes the extra mile, in whatever capacity that means for you. Putting in a little extra effort into the simplest tasks or exchanges will leave a lasting imprint!

 

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

» WeddingWire Networking Night Northern New Jersey

On Tuesday evening we had the opportunity to host our WeddingWire Networking Night Northern New Jersey. This evening brought together wedding professionals for a night of collaboration in the tasteful conservatory inside of The Madison Hotel.

This conservatory, also a ceremony space, boasted luxury greenhouse vibes as polished chandeliers draped from the ceiling. Greenery filled every corner of the glass room on the account of hanging plants and tropical accent florals.

Local wedding professionals collaborated amongst vendors across various service categories and enjoyed beats by The SCE Event Group. Guests also spent the night striking poses in front of a live flower wall, which was handcrafted by Larkspur Botanicals. Award winning appetizers and beverages were another highlight of this evening, which were provided by Rod’s Steakhouse inside The Madison Hotel.

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

Couldn’t swing by? We’re excited to share the full educational presentation, presented by our very own Jeffra Trumpower, as well as the latest issue of WedInsights. Check out the full gallery of photos, captured by Havana Photography.

This divine evening couldn’t have been made possible without our special partners:

» Do You Do Weddings or Have a Wedding Business?

Karina Santos Photography

As many of you know, the wedding industry is a recession-resistant industry, and in most categories, the barrier to entry is fairly low — which allowed many of us to get in without much investment in the first place. Of course, that also allows many newcomers to get in, every year. Just as many newbies are getting in, many others are dropping out. And hopefully, dropping out because they’re retiring after a long, successful career. Unfortunately, many others get out because they can’t make it work financially.

Many years ago, I was contacted by someone at Yale University who was doing a research project on the wedding industry. He wanted to find out why so many people get into the industry when the economics don’t always seem to make sense. My sense is that because the barrier to entry is so low, not enough people approach their new venture as a business. Indeed, for many people it starts as a hobby or sideline. An all too common story is of the hobbyist who gets asked to help out a friend or relative, or themselves at their own wedding and is then offered money to work for someone else. Sound familiar?

So, do you do weddings, or do you have a wedding business?

There’s nothing wrong with someone getting into our industry that way. It’s happened countless times, and it will continue to happen that way. However, that scenario doesn’t exactly prepare one to have a wedding business. The skills needed to take photos, play music, arrange flowers or do calligraphy are not the only ones needed to succeed as a business. Understanding a balance sheet, profit and loss statement, accounts payables and the various taxes that need to be addressed are also critical to succeeding as a wedding business.

When did you become a professional?

I like asking wedding pros when they felt they became professionals. Many years ago, one wedding pro told me: “When I was asked for my insurance certificate!” That’s certainly a wakeup call for many hobbyists. I once referred a friend, who was beginning to DJ events (he had been a drummer in bands), to my son’s fraternity for their annual formal dinner. It was at a very nice Hilton hotel and of course, their budget was limited. He was willing to work with their budget, that is until the hotel requested his liability insurance certificate. I suggested that he take the gig, as it would pay for the year of liability insurance, and then he wouldn’t have that issue for another year. Instead, he declined the gig! So, instead of doing the gig, maybe breaking even, but having a year of liability insurance, he ended up with no gig, no money and no insurance. That’s not a business way of thinking.

So, when do you consider that you became a professional? Was it when you were paid to do a wedding or event? Was it when you did your taxes and had to report the income from your business? Was it when you were asked for your insurance certificate? I did an online search for the definition of a professional and got this: “(of a person) engaged in a specified activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than as a pastime.” Since I know that many of you either started doing weddings as a sideline (pastime), or maybe are still doing weddings in addition to another job, I don’t think this is completely applicable.

How much time does it take to do a wedding?

Another great thing about weddings is that nearly 68% of them are on Saturday evenings while 25% of them happen on Friday or Sunday. If you have a Monday-Friday job, it’s certainly possible to do the Saturday weddings. Of course, there’s a lot more to a wedding than what happens that day. There’s a lot of preparation and admin that happens before, and in some cases (photo, video) after. Just as people don’t see the hours I spend preparing for a speech, whether I’ve given it before, or not, they don’t see the time you invest in making their wedding great. Are you getting paid for that time? Do you charge by the hour for the wedding day, not taking into account the hours you spend before, at and after their event?

I can do that better!

Many others started their wedding businesses after working for someone else in the industry. Unless it’s a capital-intensive category, like a venue or dress shop, that low barrier to entry makes it seem easy to make the leap. I like to remind people who are ready to make that leap that when it’s your business, you pay for everything. The toilet paper doesn’t just appear in the bathroom, you have to pay for it. The lights don’t stay on, unless you pay the bill. And the ads don’t get run, unless you place and pay for them. Doing weddings while you have another paycheck, is a lot easier than doing them as your sole source of support. Some of you have felt that pain. Some of you are still feeling that pain.

Chin up!

This should not be a discouraging message. Many of you have successful, profitable wedding businesses. And those successful, profitable wedding businesses requires investments in time and money. When you’re part-time, you can try to do everything on the cheap. Free listings, free apps, etc. I’ve always felt that if you want others to invest in you, you have to make the investment first. I don’t want my customers perceiving that I’m doing everything on the cheap. If I want them to pay my prices, I have to show them that I’m leading by example. Better graphic design. Better website. Better messaging and branding. Better continued education. And then back that up with a better product that gets them better results.

Which came first?

Notice that I put the better product last on that grouping. You don’t get to deliver the better product and results until you make the sale. You don’t get to make the sale until you get the inquiry. You don’t get the inquiry unless you’ve done the marketing. How are they going to find you? How are you going to break through the clutter and noise? Those are the things that differentiate hobbyists from businesses.

So, as we begin the new year, I challenge you to think about how are you planning to invest in your wedding business in 2019. Have you bought your ticket to a conference, like WeddingWire World? Are you a member of a local association or networking group… and will you show up to those meetings? Are you investing in advertising on sites like WeddingWire to increase your exposure? How are you going to improve your business skills, so you get to perform your technical skills at more weddings? I’ll leave you to ponder these and answer them for yourselves. I look forward to hearing your stories of success.

 

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

 

» Announcing the 2019 WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards®

Drumroll please…We are so excited to announce the winners of the eleventh annual WeddingWire Couples’ Choice Awards®! Honorees represent the top wedding professionals on WeddingWire nationwide for their excellence in quality, service, responsiveness, and professionalism within the wedding industry.

We are so proud to recognize these award-winning professionals for their exemplary work and the outstanding reputation they’ve established among newlywed couples as demonstrated through their excellent reviews. Winners are selected solely based on their reviews and are determined by a combination of four factors: overall rating, total number of reviews, review performance from 2018, and consistency of reviews from year to year.

Engaged couples use the award as an indicator of legitimacy and reliability when selecting their team of wedding professionals. The badge demonstrates to couples that a wedding professional is committed to providing the highest quality service throughout the planning process and on their wedding day. According to Sarah Boucher, Director of Sales & Marketing at Willowdale Estate:

“For engaged couples, seeing the Couples’ Choice Award is a great first step towards building trust. We look forward to this designation each year because it celebrates our passion, professionalism, and consistency.”

Congratulations to all of our 2019 Couples’ Choice Award winners for their accomplishments and for their dedication to excellence within the industry.

See the full list of winners here

» Booking Season Makeover – Make Your Business More Attractive in 2019

Havana Photography 

How many times have you heard, “oh, since it isn’t the wedding season, you must not be working too hard”? However, we know that our reality is something quite different.

With 40% of engagements taking place between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day, it is peak booking season for most of us! It is also a time when we feel that we can more easily carve out chunks of time – more than the minute or two that might feel feasible in the midst of your crazy season – to work on our business, not just in our business.  

Lots of New Year resolutions seem to focus on personal makeover items. Yet, this applies to our businesses too – and trust me when I say that every business needs at least a little bit of a makeover each year, be it with changes big or small.  

So no matter how good this past year was for you, and no matter how good your bookings are looking for next year, you want to keep your business relevant and up-to-date. As you set aside time to give your business a makeover, below are things that I always encourage my coaching clients to think about:    

1) Take time off – Wait, what? Didn’t I just say that now is the time to work on our businesses? Yes, but taking some time off is working on your business since for so many of us we are one entity. It is very easy to burn out doing what we do, and if we burn out we are less useful to our couples and our businesses. Put an out-of-office email responder and get out for a few days to recharge, because your business’ health is as good as yours!

2) Evaluate the year – Can you easily answer the question of how well you did this year? Now, can you easily answer the question of how well you did this year… with supporting numbers and not just a gut feel? Knowing your numbers not only helps you determine how well you did this year, but it also gives you a good idea of how next year is likely to shape up while giving you quantitive support for making decisions to improve your business. Numbers that I recommend knowing – in addition to your gross revenue and net profit – are:

  • Number of inquiries and their source
  • Number of bookings and their source (yes, your bookings are different from your inquiries!)
  • Income and expenses by category/type
  • Average cost and average profit per wedding  

I also recommend looking at data from the different groups of clients you serve. In my case, I look at weddings vs. elopements, the number of LGBTQ, military or destination couples to analyze how far out I was booked for each to find my own average and busiest booking times.

3) Some strategic thinking – Once you know your numbers, you can start to make some important strategic decisions based on data. Think about, for instance, how many weddings you want/need, how much each of them will cost you to execute, and how you most effectively go about getting them. Doing this will allow you to focus your important resources, both time and money, to their best effect. After all, do you often get in your car and just start driving, hoping to get where you want to go, or, do you plan your route first?  

Our businesses should be the same way — we can’t determine our route without having some real idea of what will get us there. Knowing the numbers allows me to start making decisions about where to put my marketing dollars, which referral relationships I should focus more time on, and if there are certain areas of my business to either cut out or put more into.

4) Reviews – Knowing how very powerful reviews are (you can read my earlier article about that here) when doing a business refresh, you should think about reviews as well.

  • Follow-up with couples who haven’t yet left you a review, because the more current your reviews are, the better. I’m using WeddingWire’s Couples’ Choice Awards® as a great excuse to get back in touch to ask for reviews, since reviews from couples up to a year ago help me qualify to win!
  • Review your reviews part 1: Are there positive and/or descriptive keywords, phrases, sentiments, etc. that keep appearing and can be used to update marketing materials?
  • Review your reviews part 2: If there are criticisms that appear in more than 1 or 2 reviews or something you thought was important but is never being mentioned, you might want to take some time working on business processes and your customer experience.

5) Marketing – How much you do in this area just depends on how deep your makeover is going to be. At the least, I recommend doing the following two tasks:

  • Review and refresh marketing text and pictures: Remember, the pictures and messaging should represent what you want to do and speak to your ideal couples. And when doing this, make sure you not only update your website and the website listings you created, but also any other places you may be listed, such as your WeddingWire Storefront.
  • Use your numbers to evaluate what marketing tools are working for you and which ones aren’t: For those that are, would more resources there make them even more successful for you, like upgrading a listing or adding on an additional wedding show?

For those that aren’t, are there changes you can make to improve your return or would those marketing dollars be better used somewhere else?  Please don’t forget to factor in your time. “Free” tools don’t mean that your time isn’t going into them – as many of us have learned over the years with social media – so make it all work properly for you and your business.

6) Customer experience – And, of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about one of my favorite business areas, the customer experience. Business makeover time is the perfect time to make changes to your business processes, including your communication tools and messaging–hether it be updating the text in your templated emails or adding questionnaires to your process.I’m going through a lot of this now myself, using this year’s learning experiences to further improve my couples’ experience with me.    

Don’t feel overwhelmed with all of the things that you could do in your business makeover. I expect that, based on the age, condition and pain points of your business, you can probably pick at least a few to work on over the next couple of months. Event doing a mini-makeover will help you create a wedding business that is more attractive, smoother running, more profitable and more enjoyable. And that’s definitely worth the time and attention!

 

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.

» Will You Ever Retire?

Photo by Vanessa Joy Photography

I was recently questioned for using the term “minimum wage” in one of my videos on YouTube. The commenter assumed I meant that people should be paid under what he deemed as “living-wage”. It wasn’t my intent, but it did get me thinking. How many wedding professionals, business owners even, aren’t paying themselves a decent living wage?

It’s easy to think we’re making a ton of money in the wedding world because we take in a lot of money. But when was the last time you evaluated your costs? Better yet, when was the last time you looked at how much time your business commands of you?

The easiest way to determine how much you should charge is to add up your cost of sales (the amount of money it takes to actually do the job – typically staff and product costs) plus the cost of business (marketing, insurance, overhead, etc) and multiply that 3-5x. Then, as you grow in experience and skill, your pricing should grow to accommodate that plus inflation. To see a breakdown of that pricing method, download this pricing video.

Now, you may come to that profit number per job or per year and think, “I’m doing pretty good.” But now I want you to take that number and divide it by how many hours you work to get it. Are you making a living wage or just minimum wage?

A living wage should mean that you can save for retirement, and I believe that’s where a lot of us fall short. Let’s face it, weddings are a tough business. They’re stressful, long hours, physically strenuous and on weekends where you’re sadly away from friends and family. Are you prepared to retire one day? Or are you hoping to have a second career?

Saving for retirement is no easy task. It’s one that takes a lot of diligence over a long period of time. Dave Ramsey would suggest that we save 15% of our income for retirement every year. That seems like a huge number when you’re currently saving 0%. But you want to know what’s an even bigger number? The amount of money you need to have saved in order to retire.

Chris Hogan says that “Retirement isn’t an age, it’s a number.” If you want to see what your number is, go take his Retirement IQ quiz. Shocked? I sure was!

The best part of all of this? You have control, my friend! You own your own business so you can immediately make adjustments to start cutting spending and increasing income so you can start down the retirement track — even if you just started in the wedding business.

I didn’t write this article to give you three easy steps to retirement. I wrote it to light a fire under you because no one talks about this. Maybe it’s because we truly love what we do so much that we can’t picture ever not doing it. I get that and I’m actually with you on it. But, that doesn’t mean one day you won’t want to travel more, work a little less and spend most of your time with the people you love vs the people that pay you.

I’ve found my answers to business and personal finances in the two books. Entreleadership and The Total Money Makeover, both by Dave Ramsey. And I want to give them to you. I’ve got nothing to gain from this. Dave Ramsey is not sponsoring me. I just want to see my fellow wedding professionals have a plan and succeed at it.

The week this article posts I’m holding an Instagram Contest. Just head over to www.Instagram.com/vanessajoy, follow me and comment on one of my pictures telling me why you want to retire one day. Make it funny, make it serious, whatever you’d like. 7 days after this article posts I’ll pick the winner and send you both of those books so you can get started on living your dream after your dream.

See you there!

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

 

» How to Foster Relationships After Conferences

While conferences can be a fun experience (and another pin on your traveling map), they also provide education and networking opportunities for everyone involved. That being said, no matter if you’re new to the industry or if you’re nearing a decade (or more!) in well-seasoned knowledge, there’s something valuable for anyone that attends. On the same note, making new connections and professional relationships is part of the excitement of attending a conference, especially when it comes to potential clients or mutually beneficial creative partner contacts. So how can you ensure that these new relationships stay strong after they’re developed?

Strategy is key

Exchanging contact information is only the first step, and follow-up after the fact is also great. But think about the ways that you can be relevant to them without actually being face-to-face. If you have a blog or active social media for your company, consider cultivating that new relationship with some content to cross-promote to each other’s audiences. Both of you will benefit, plus you’ll leave an invaluable impression that you’re a loyal connection to have.

Generosity is something we always advocate for, whether that means a referral or an effort to ‘surprise and delight’ your creative partner. Handwritten thank-you notes go so far, trust us! The old saying about what you put out into the world will inevitably come back around is so true. Putting out those referrals means that you’ll likely see them in return, and you’ll want to make sure you credit the person that scored you that new client.

Be prompt

It’s really that simple. Even if the communication between the two of you isn’t necessarily time-sensitive, it’s still a nice gesture to respond to emails or other correspondence in a timely manner. Prioritizing the small things really do mean a lot in the long run. Our rule of thumb is generally responding within 24 hours of receipt.

To take it a step further, if you’re traveling in the area where your creative partner is located, make an effort to put in the face-to-face contact, even if it’s just grabbing some coffee. This lets them know that you care about continuing the relationship and want to check in on their successes.

There are plenty of ways to foster those long-lasting relationships after conferences, but keep in mind that it’s important that it comes across as organic and genuine. Be yourself, be consistent, and get creative – that is all you need to do!

 

 

Kevin Dennis is 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 the immediate past national president for WIPA.

 

» Should You Focus On Volume Or Profit?

Photography by StopGoLove Film+Photo

In my conversations with wedding pros, around the world, the topic of how many weddings/events a business should do each year is a recurrent one and there’s certainly no one answer that’s right for every business. So many factors will affect both your ability and desire to do more weddings/events. If you’re just starting out, and maybe still holding down a full-time job outside the industry, there’s certainly a limit to how many weddings you can effectively do. On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re well-established, maybe even looking towards retirement, you too may be looking to do a smaller number of weddings/events.

Growth strategy

But what about the businesses who are on the growth curve? There are different ways to grow your business. One is to grow the volume and another is to grow your average sale. Given the choice between those two, I would choose to grow your average sale first, so you earn more from each wedding/event. Then, if you choose to increase your volume, you’ll earn that much more. Before you decide to do more weddings/events, think about why you want to do more. If it’s to impress your industry friends, or as one wedding pro told me, to be seen as a major player in his market/category, make sure you’re also increasing profit. I’ve often said in my consulting that I don’t want to feed your ego, if we’re not also feeding your family.

Keep your eye on the profit

Regardless of which way you go, keep an eye on your profitability. Growing your top line is easy if you’re giving it away. Growing your bottom line is the better long-term strategy. Take a close look at your costs, the time it takes you to complete an event, and your pricing. Costs are relatively easy to find. You should know what the products, ingredients and raw materials cost for each event. Be sure to include everything you use, whether it comes off your warehouse shelf, or your kitchen shelf.

Time is something that seems to be harder for wedding pros to quantify. You invest time with each wedding/event from the moment you get an inquiry. How much time do you invest replying to their emails, calls and in meetings? It’s not just the time on the day of their wedding, it’s also all of the time before and after. For some, particularly videographers, there’s more time spent after the wedding than before or during. How much are you getting paid for your time? Would you take a job that paid that hourly wage?

The 40-hour wedding

While I was having dinner with a wedding DJ friend, he received a new inquiry that asked “How much do you charge for a 5-hour wedding?” We can’t blame the couple for the question, it’s the wedding pros who are selling their services that way that create that environment. If wedding pros only value the time they spend at the actual event, and not the time they invest before, and after, then we can’t expect couples to value that other time, either.

When I asked my friend how much time he actually invests in each wedding, he said it was somewhere between 30 and 40 hours. Given that he does a grand entrance, cuts and edits different music for bridal party introductions, displays photos, does a lighting plan and more, that’s a reasonable estimate. If he were to price his services, by the hour, for only 5 hours, his effective hourly rate is actually 1/6 of that. I suggested that he reply by saying “Thanks for reaching out. I’d love to make your wedding amazing, pack your dance floor, and have your friends and family saying it was the best they’ve ever experienced. I don’t have a 5-hour package, but I’d love to tell you about the 35 hours that I’m going to invest in making your wedding great.” – and then ask one low-commitment question.

What’s the value?

So, how should you price your product and services? I recently presented at WeddingWire World in Dallas and asked that very question. Given that many wedding businesses are service businesses (and yes, we can certainly say that ALL are service businesses, even those with tangible products), it’s really about your time, your creativity, designs, and ideas. How do you put a price on those? Do you price based upon what others charge? Do you take your expenses and then mark them up? Or, do you set your prices based upon the value that you are bringing to both your couples and to you and your family. You see, you set the price, your customers determine the value. Regardless of the price you set, if you need to discount to get the sale, then the actual value is the price the customer paid, not the original price.

Giving away profit

Remember that every dollar you discount is profit you gave away. Conversely, every dollar you raise your prices is additional profit you earn… provided the customers are paying the new, higher price. So, the next time you are asked for a discount, ask yourself how much of your profit you want to give away. Your customers are entitled to ask for a discount. When we’re the customer, we have that right as well. You, the business, have a right to say yes, or no. Just ensure that you’re profiting, regardless of your discounting policy. And, if you’d like to see how you can profit, from day 1 in your business, I recommend reading “Profit First” by Mike Michalowicz. It’ll change the way you view profit, for the better.

 

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.