» Five Business Resolutions That You Can Keep

It’s two months in to 2016. Have you kept up with your business resolutions?

If it is time to re-evaluate your resolutions, or if you have not even set any for your business this year, it’s not too late! Check out these top five business resolutions that you can keep from WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg to get you started so this year can be your most successful yet.

For more great tips, watch the full webinar here!

Business Resolutions You Can Keep

» Why the Easy Road to Sales is Hard on Your Business (and the Industry)

This post is by Jennifer Reitmeyer. Jennifer has worked in the wedding industry since 1997. In addition to owning MyDeejay, an award-winning wedding entertainment firm serving the Washington, D.C. market, she also maintains a wedding business blog, WeddingIQ, and a blogging and social media service for wedding businesses, Firebrand Messaging. Her newest venture, Authentic Boss, is an online learning resource for business owners seeking to work and live more authentically. Jennifer is available for small business coaching, speaking, and writing opportunities. Read more at jenniferreitmeyer.com.

Sales tactics to avoid in the wedding industryWe’ve all been there: brand new in our businesses, eager to book as many clients as possible, and willing to do (almost) anything to make it happen. Closing sales feels good – not only does it put money in our pocket, but it validates us and reminds us that we offer a valuable service that people want to buy.

Unfortunately, many wedding pros suck all the value out of their service by throwing professionalism to the wind when it comes to making sales. This is a common practice among new business owners who haven’t yet developed their confidence and the solid reputation to back it up. However, I’ve also seen it happen among seasoned veterans who should know better. Instead of earning clients through quality work and professional service, they’re using gimmicks and tricks.

It’s understandable why wedding pros might do this, especially when they’re new. After all, it takes guts to ask for a sale, and in many cases, getting a client to sign means having some potentially uncomfortable conversations about your pricing and your policies. It means having to prove your worth. It’s tempting to avoid this altogether by taking the easy road. This is harmful not only to their own business, but to the wedding industry as a whole.

See, client perceptions matter. Especially in today’s Internet and social media era, where people are constantly sharing their opinions about everything from pop culture to politics to, yes, wedding planning. When a wedding business – or, as the case may be, hundreds or thousands of wedding businesses around the world – foregoes legitimate business protocols in an effort to make selling easier, it drags the rest of us down. Either prospective clients view the wedding industry as shady and unprofessional, or they expect every wedding vendor to break their own boundaries and do anything to earn a sale. Both of these possibilities create a ripple effect that makes doing business harder for us all.

Here are five common “easy road” tactics to avoid, for the long-term betterment of both your own business and the wedding industry:

Not requiring a contract. Using a contract is Business 101, and yet it’s shocking how many wedding vendors are willing to skip them altogether. In some cases, it’s because they just don’t have one (perhaps they can’t afford to have one drafted by an attorney, or they just haven’t yet felt the need to solidify their bookings in this way). In others, it’s because they’ve decided that using a contract is too “sales-y” and they feel it detracts from the friendly rapport they’re building with their clients. What should be obvious, though, is that a contract protects both parties, and a client should no more be willing to do business without one than you, as, the vendor, should. And believe me, when something eventually goes wrong at an event – which it will – you’ll be glad to have had your responsibilities to your client, and vice versa, spelled out in black-and-white.

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» Growing Pains for Small Business Owners

This post is by Jennifer Reitmeyer. Jennifer has worked in the wedding industry since 1997. In addition to owning MyDeejay, an award-winning wedding entertainment firm serving the Washington, D.C. market, she also maintains a wedding business blog, WeddingIQ, and a blogging and social media service for wedding businesses, Firebrand Messaging. Jennifer is available for small business coaching, speaking, and writing opportunities. Read more at jenniferreitmeyer.com.

Entrepreneurs are a unique bunch. For those of us with “business in our blood,” the exhilaration of forming and operating our own businesses is addictive. Unfortunately, as exciting as it may be to become your own boss, the ugly truth is that, per Bloomberg, 80% of new businesses fail within the first 18 months. What a terrible statistic, right?

Small business growing pains for wedding professionalsWedding professionals aren’t exempt from the odds, but we also have some special qualities that can help us beat them. For one thing, most of the wedding business owners I know are super invested in what they do. Unlike, say, someone who distributes widgets (are those a thing?), people who choose to work in the wedding industry seem especially passionate about their service or product. They also, for the most part, seem to truly care about their clients. We all know how important our couples’ wedding day is to them, and we want to make it perfect.

So, how can we leverage that passion, that investment, and succeed as business owners? I’d say the magic formula lies partly on the “outside” – your branding and marketing, your selling techniques, and how you perform your services on the day of the wedding – but, perhaps even more, on the “inside.” Success comes from your head and your heart. It’s balancing being ambitious with being realistic. It’s anticipating the challenges ahead, and having a game plan to overcome them. It’s mustering the discipline to keep going when the business isn’t fun anymore. It’s finding ways to make it fun again.

It’s treating the growing pains.

We all deal with them – no one is immune. Paying attention to them, learning the lesson that comes with them, and adapting your business for the better are what will keep you going long past that 18-month lifespan of most new businesses.

Here are some typical types of growing pains for small business owners, and the treatment:

What Hurts: The thrill is gone. You were so driven when you started, and you were so energized by the whirlwind of the startup: naming your business, ordering marketing materials,  and sharing your excitement with those around you. And now, your business has been around a while, and it feels like all you do is sift through emails, answer the same old client questions, and pay bills. It no longer interests you.

The Rx: There are a few things you can do. You can figure out ways to work with more of the people you like, and weed out people you don’t. Working with “your people” automatically makes anything you do more rewarding. You can look for opportunities to expand or refine your services to renew some of the sense of challenge and excitement. You can seek new sources of inspiration: a great book or blog, a mastermind group, a session with a business coach. You can focus on other areas of your life – sure, work takes up a lot of time, especially for business owners, but it’s not (or shouldn’t be) all you do. Maybe there’s a new hobby you can pursue, or an old one you can pick up again. Maybe there’s a great cause that could use some volunteer help. Diversifying your interests can go a long way toward addressing entrepreneurial ennui.

What Hurts: Your brand feels stale. You perceive that your competitors’ marketing is sharper, cooler, prettier or more effective than yours. Those beautiful business cards you were so excited to hand out? Now you’d rather leave them in the bottom of your bag. You don’t feel motivated to try to drive more traffic to your website, because frankly, you don’t really want any more eyes on it than necessary. Even your business name doesn’t sound right any more, and you find yourself wanting to skip over it when you’re networking with new people.

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» How to be an Effective Entrepreneur: Tips for Growing Your Business

The following post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon. Andy is the Founder of Wedding University and The Wedding Marketing Blog, and is an International Public Speaker, Writer and Consultant based in Las Vegas. Andy travels across North America and beyond, presenting to Associations, Wedding Industry Conferences, Regional Gatherings, and Local Meetings.

Small businesses are fueled by an initial vision, enthusiasm, energy, and generous amounts of caffeine. But most businesses, no matter how well-planned, rarely follow a straight-line growth pattern. Businesses do not operate in a vacuum. They are affected by various external factors: New direct competition, indirect competition, changing policies and perspectives of referral sources, evolution of customer preferences, advances in technology and changes in marketing platforms.

Entrepreneur working in coffee shopFinding time to tweak your business and marketing goals requires blocking time, a planned agenda, and commitment to the exercise. An annual or twice-yearly refresh might involve business partners and/or key employees. If you are a sole owner, consider hiring a marketing/business coach/consultant to be both a facilitator and sounding board.

If hiring a facilitator or consultant isn’t in the budget, you can still take the time to evaluate your business goals to be a more effective entrepreneur on your own. Take the following steps to think about where your business is now and where you want it to go based on where you’ve been. These tips for growing your business should help you frame your thoughts!

Ask yourself:  What is your wedding customer profile today?

  1. What percentage of weddings in your area are local versus destination?
  2. Is there a profitability difference between local customers and destination wedding couples?
  3. Is there a distinct demographic profile for most clients?
    1. Is the profile random or does is result from target marketing?
    2. Do you want to focus your marketing to reinforce the existing profile, or do you want expand/contract the target audience?

Knowing your company’s strengths and tendencies can be fine-tuned into one or more specific target audiences suiting your company skills or profit motives.

Ask yourself: What is the state of your competition?

  1. Which businesses do you compete with on a regular basis?
    1. Is your business winning a reasonable proportion of the clients?
    2. If not, what do you see as your disadvantage/advantage over these competitors?
    3. In what elements of your marketing/sales process/customer service is your business superior or could use improvement?
  2. Are you often annoyed by the visibility of competitors on social media, local print coverage, trade associations, charitable activities, or awards competitions?
    1. What kind of marketing upgrade would accomplish comparable or superior visibility?
    2. Are there avenues your business excels in, but is not currently capitalizing on?

Don’t obsess about competition; just be aware of them, and how you measure up. Become friendly with businesses, like yours, in distant market areas, and discuss similar competitive challenges.

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» Taking Time to Re-Adjust Your Annual Goals

The following post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon. Andy is the Founder of Wedding University and The Wedding Marketing Blog, and is an International Public Speaker, Writer and Consultant based in Las Vegas. Andy travels across North America and beyond, presenting to Associations, Wedding Industry Conferences, Regional Gatherings, and Local Meetings.

With Memorial Day fast approaching, June weddings will be upon us, and the Fourth of July will quickly follow. It’s already almost mid-year!

Think back to New Year’s Day – that’s the time when you made business resolutions and built your goals for 2015. I strongly suggest you start to re-adjust your annual goals by midyear, if not quarterly, to better reflect your current status.

Taking Time to Re-Adjust Your Annual GoalsThe longer you’ve been in operation, the further back you can make comparisons. Circumstances change; expansion, relocation, adding employees, setbacks, natural disasters, and more could all affect your business’ performance thus far this year. That’s all true, but what one should be looking for is consistent profitability and growth, month after month, year after year.

Let’s start with keeping score

Perhaps the first question that needs asking is: Are you effectively tracking leads, appointments, sales, closing rates, reviews, and other activities? Are you applying the most complete and efficient systems to learn the outcomes? If your overall measure of success is profitability, you have to know what’s working and what’s not.

Whether the results are better, in decline, or about the same, the next question should be, “Why?” What changed in your given time period that caused the difference (or lack thereof) in results? Write down the major milestones or events that may have caused an increase or decrease in your metrics.

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» Are You Suffering from Success? Thoughts on Expanding Your Business

The following post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon. Andy is the Founder of Wedding University and The Wedding Marketing Blog, and is an International Public Speaker, Writer and Consultant based in Las Vegas. Andy travels across North America and beyond, presenting to Associations, Wedding Industry Conferences, Regional Gatherings, and Local Meetings.

Each wedding business owner has their own definition of success; some plan and manage with great care, while others grow with reckless abandon and may be experience intense stress as a result.

It’s common for many kinds of wedding businesses to start as part-time, usually to pursue a hobby or passion. From there, it’s a quick jump from hobbyist to business owner. The excitement of building a business with passion, pints of adrenaline, and infusion of cash or credit will carry you for a couple of years. However, as a business starts to gain momentum, the sole owner or partners begin to take on new roles: Human Resource Manager, Accountant, Marketing Director, and sometimes Graphic Designer.

Are You Suffering from Success? Thoughts on Expanding Your BusinessThe greatest change in the wedding industry within recent years is the magnification of the importance of various business roles like blogging, search engine optimization and social media. These areas are specialized, and many wedding professionals don’t have the necessary skill sets but are thrown into these roles anyway. There comes a critical point where you, as a business owner, must start thinking about expanding your business to avoid burnout.

What are the symptoms of suffering with success? Here are a few indicators:

  • When people ask you how the business is going, your first thought is about how busy you are. Ask yourself: Is that a good answer? What do I really mean? Am I highly profitable or just overloaded?
  • You work a full seven days a week. Whether you run a part-time or full-time wedding business, you find yourself struggling to keep up each day. There are times when you might go multiple weeks without a single day off.
  • You are experiencing FOMO: Fear of Missing Out. Even though you know you need to pace yourself, you book every single opportunity that presents itself. You fear that if you don’t accept a booking that the influx of leads will dry up.
  • People stop inviting you to events because your excuse is that you’re always working. Sooner or later, the invitations cease; even from family members.
  • You begin to resent clients. Instead of being excited about the day, weekend, or wedding, you focus on the idiosyncrasies of the client, anticipating rough spots in the wedding even if they have not yet occurred.
  • Your significant other begins to quietly drop hints about spending more quality time with you. Without changes in your business commitments, the volume on these remarks gets louder and louder.
  • Maintaining your health has become a lower priority. Clothes don’t fit as they should, or you huff and puff just going up a flight a stairs.

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» New Employee Onboarding Success Tips

New Employee Onboarding Success TipsThe hiring process, from start to finish, can feel like a daunting task. And with so much work going into identifying and hiring that perfect new employee, it’s easy to forget that your job isn’t over when the contract is signed!

New employee onboarding is not often a skill that most wedding professionals have in their realm of experience, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be learned. Use these new employee onboarding success tips to set yourself (and your new hire) up for long-term success.

Get a head start

Onboarding a new employee should start before he or she even arrives! The new hire will need to know when to arrive, where to park, how to dress and what to bring on the first day. Make the situation easier for the new hire by providing all this information prior to the first day. Maintain an open and consistent line of communication in the days or weeks leading up to the employee’s first day, and make sure your team is ready internally.

Cover all the basics

In addition to all the HR forms you and the new employee will need to fill out, there are a number of basic steps to take when onboarding a new employee. Even if you have a small store or office, don’t skip the office tour! You’ll need to point out important things like break areas, rest rooms and emergency exits. It’s also important that you go over any emergency procedures with the new employee to keep them up to date on workplace safety. If you have enough employees that it might be confusing for the new hire, provide an organizational chart to show who to report to with questions or issues.

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» Top Business Resolutions for 2015

Want 2015 to be the best year for your business yet? We’re here to help with your Top Business Resolutions!

Start the year off strong with these 10 key business items to focus on, directly from WeddingWire CMO Sonny Ganguly. By committing to focus on each of these important categories, you are bound to have a successful year ahead!

Top Business Resolutions for 2015

» 7 Steps to Establishing a New Wedding Business

The following post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon. Andy is the Founder of Wedding University and The Wedding Marketing Blog, and is an International Public Speaker, Writer and Consultant based in Las Vegas. Andy travels across North America and beyond, presenting to Associations, Wedding Industry Conferences, Regional Gatherings, and Local Meetings.

No matter how active your current business or how big your aspirations, it’s not unusual to wonder about your next steps as a business. Whether you’re brand new to the wedding industry as a whole, or you’re considering moving to a new market or category, I’ve outlined below what I believe to be some of the best places to start when establishing a new wedding business.

7 Steps to Establishing a New Wedding Business1.  Jumpstart your experience and passion

Whether you are a newbie or a seasoned professional who needs a booster shot, there is no better tactic than spending time as an intern with another professional in your field of endeavor. For the beginner, staying local (just be sure to share clear intentions) is a great place to start. Reading books, attending seminars, and the like all have their place; however, there’s nothing like getting your hands dirty and observing.

If you’re an experienced Pro, you’ve hopefully made peer contacts through wedding and category-specific conferences. Identifying a peer who is strong where you are weak and offering to work for free for a week or two is a fast-track approach to finding a spark. One of the keys in either situation is to offer something of specific value (think ‘skill’) to contribute. That value for value relationship is most likely to create a successful collaboration.

Approach these opportunities with clear goals, making sure you can achieve the experience and knowledge you desire, and arrive at a clear agreement on arrangement.

2.  Seek out educational and networking opportunities

There are local, regional and national entities offering a wide variety of education and networking opportunities. Even those choices can be daunting. Consider breaking it down like this:

  • National Conferences – Whether general industry conferences or category-specific conferences, there are a number to choose from. An example of wedding industry conferences would be WeddingWire World or Wedding MBA.
  • Regional Events – Depending on your resources and the curriculum, these are also a good place to start. Examples are hosted by NACE (National Association for Catering and Events), ISES (International Special Events Society) and ABC (Association of Bridal Consultants).
  • Local Groups – These can be local chapters of national associations or individually formed local groups. There are many wedding-specific organizations. To become educated or to stay current in your local market, you should sample multiple groups and pick a couple which fit your ambitions and goals. There is networking, education, seminars and more. Beginning to build business relationships and a personal fan club starts here.

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» Top 10 Business Resolutions for 2015

Top Business Resolutions WebinarWebinar Recap!

Yesterday, WeddingWire CMO Sonny Ganguly hosted our annual webinar, Top Business Resolutions, to kick the new year off right. Sonny shared his best tips for a successful year for your business from brand to website, reviews and more.

Here is a sneak peek of the top 10 tips, and be sure to watch the full webinar in the Education Center!

  • Brand: Focus on brand consistency for your business, and work to create a quarterly PR plan.
  • Website: Make it easy for website visitors to contact you. Create an easy to use contact form and place it very prominently on your site, then use Google Analytics to see how your site performs.
  • SEO: Every page on your site should have a page title, meta description, meta tags and H1 tag to build strong SEO.
  • Social: Commit to being active on Facebook + two other sites at the least. This year, we recommend Instagram and Pinterest to reach your target audience most effectively.
  • Video: Create and post videos across all your sites – from your website to your Storefront to social media. Video is very engaging and a great way to showcase your work.

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» Your 2015 WeddingWire Resolutions

Your 2015 WeddingWire ResolutionsNow that it’s 2015 (we can’t believe it either!), your business is likely busy preparing for the influx of 2015 brides and grooms who got engaged over the holidays and will begin planning their dream weddings. But before you hit the ground running, it helps to make a list of your business’ resolutions for the New Year.

For Premium WeddingWire members, many of your business’ resolutions can be tied to tools within your account! We’ve made a list of the top WeddingWire resolutions that will make your business more effective and efficient in 2015.

Take time to re-evaluate your Storefront.

While we suggested it last year, re-evaluating your Storefront should be a recurring task. Update your messaging to include any new products or services, and try to upload some new photos to show potential clients that you always have new, fresh experiences to share.

Make your website work better for you with our Website Widgets.

Engage clients when they visit your website with helpful widgets offered through your WeddingWire Account, including the ‘Contact Us’ widget,the ‘Reviews’ widget, which showcases your recent reviews, and more. WeddingWire Widgets are easy to install – no need for a web developer.

Learn new things by registering for WeddingWire World 2015.

Join us for WeddingWire World 2015 in Washington, D.C. to learn from our lineup of industry experts and special guest speakers about what’s new in the wedding industry. WeddingWire World 2015 will be a two-day event March 16-17, so cross this item off your resolutions list now before prices go up!

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» 4 Considerations When Growing Your Business

Big Ideas for Small Business HR

With the busy season right around the corner, now may be the time to consider hiring more employees and growing your business. Each year, you should be re-evaluating your business to decide whether or not it’s the right time to make a change. For many newer small businesses, the question is whether you want your business to remain small or aim for growth.

There are a lot of logistics to consider when making these types of decisions, and they often overshadow the more intangible concepts you need to run your business successfully. While considerations like finances and state and federal regulations are obviously important, it’s also important to determine your goals from a human resources perspective.

If you’re ready to take your business to the next level, keep these four considerations in mind to ensure things continue to run smoothly!

4 Considerations When Growing Your BusinessNurture your team’s creativity

Wedding and event professionals are a very rare breed; hard-working, independent, professional, but most of all creative. It takes a lot of creativity to compete in an industry that is constantly evolving and depends so much on trends! Make sure that as your team grows, you continue to foster that creative environment. Seek out new team members with different backgrounds and perspectives, and look for new opportunities to work together with the members of your team to come up with unique ideas.

Be ready to take necessary risks

While your business needs to be strategic in its growth and endeavors, don’t be afraid to take risks. First, be sure to evaluate your business’ position to determine whether or not there’s too much danger to rock the boat, but then be ready to research new possibilities and get out of your comfort zone. You probably took a risk in starting your business, so don’t be afraid to trust yourself again enough to strive for innovation. Avoid becoming complacent and learn from all your ventures, whether successful or not.

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