» Mistakes Happen, Here’s How to Recover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo by Elizabeth Fogarty

We all make mistakes. And, since we can’t reverse time, we have to deal with those mistakes, and their corresponding consequences. In this article, I will be discussing recovering well in the context of business mistakes, and, in particular, a mistake made by you or your staff that affected a couple and their wedding. To be honest, the ability for you and your business to be able to handle mistakes properly is actually a very important attribute. They say you are not tested until something goes wrong, and in many ways, they are right.  

If your wedding business is running in the right way, you have identified your ideal couple, created a customer journey and experience that meets or exceeds their expectations, and every couple is taken on relatively the same customer journey. But sometimes the journey can go awry… it could be your mistake, it could be a mistake by someone else you are responsible for, it could even be something out of your control but within your perceived realm of responsibility. There are many ways and options when it comes to next steps after a mistake but below are 4 keys which I think are really important.

Be prepared before it happens –
It may seem like this piece of advice doesn’t belong in an article about recovering from a mistake, but trust me when I say it does. Having well-developed and properly working systems and processes in your wedding businesses helps reduce mistakes, but no matter how good you are, mistakes can happen.  Determining what the biggest and/or most common and/or most likely mistakes for your type of business, and having a plan of action if they should happen, will help immensely.

Here is a basic example that I am prepared for in my Officiant business. Failure of my iPad (my ceremony delivery tool) – I deliver my ceremonies from my iPad, and although it has not failed yet, there is that possibility. I have the ceremony in both Dropbox and Evernote, to be sure that I’m not relying on a single app on my device. Plus, that means I can also access it on my phone and I could access and print it from almost any computer (e.g. the business office at the wedding venue or a nearby Office Depot). 

Being prepared is even more important if you have employees (or are one yourself).  It provides a course of action, or multiple courses of action, that can begin to solve the problem even before a boss or owner is reached.   

Immediate action –
When a mistake is made, something usually needs to be done to correct it or move forward from it. Of course, sometimes a true solution is not possible, and sometimes a solution that is possible is not practical.  We’ve already agreed that you can’t reverse time and redo that wedding or avoid the accident. However, there are very few things that can make the mistake worse than when there is no action, or no perceived action. You also want to quickly determine the real impact and the perceived impact.  Maybe the mistake seems bigger to you than it really is, and once you discuss it with the couple, they are cool with just moving on. Show that you have it under control and that you are looking for or implementing corrective action.

Empathy, understanding, and be nice –
The first thing I want to mention is that although there may be a difference between the actual issue and the perceived issue, you will most likely have to deal with both. Yes, the missing sprinkles at the ice cream sundae bar is, in the overall scheme of things, a minuscule mistake, but I am sure there is a couple out there who would perceive it as a bigger deal.  Which leads us to empathy and understanding. Maybe it’s a big deal because the bride’s father who recently passed away loved sprinkles, or the couple’s first date involved discussing the difference of sprinkles vs jimmies. By listening, not dismissing the issue as small or petty, and attempting solutions, you are showing the couple that you understand that it is important to them. You also need to be nice in your response, no matter how big or small, real or perceived, the mistake was. This doesn’t mean you can’t state what happened, but you should not be mean, snarky, snappy, or vindictive. This advice applies if you are responding in person, via email, or even responding to a review. You may get blamed for a mistake that wasn’t your fault, but it is your response that shows your character to the couple, other couples who may read it or hear about it, and other wedding vendors. I cannot emphasize this last part enough – your public responses on reviews are more for future couples and potential vendor partners reading those reviews than for that one specific couple who wrote it.

Plus, while it might seem odd to hear, I suggest that you also be nice to yourself. As business owners who are in the very personal business of weddings, I know that we tend to beat ourselves up for a mistake more than our couples could even beat us up.  Learn from the mistake and from the situation, figure out what you might need to change to avoid something similar in the future, and then let it go.

Respond dis-proportionately
What do I mean?  The idea is that you want to impress upon the couple how seriously you take the mistake by impressing the couple with your response. This could mean a refund for the item that is above what the couple paid or a refund plus something additional (like a future family shoot or a cake for their next birthday). Responding with a very thoughtful and generous response will go a long way.

And, although not a key to recovering well, just remember and understand that you won’t be able to turn them all around. Some mistakes can’t be rectified “enough” for some couples. Some people will not care that you are trying to rectify it, and care only that you made a mistake. And in some cases, even time does not heal all “wounds.” But, as long as these kind of mistakes or issues are rare and not your norm, learn from them, deal with them as they arise, and respond disproportionately to take care of people and of your business.

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.

» Steps to Creating an Effective, Modern Wedding PR Plan

Photo by Luv Lens

No matter where you are in your business or how long you’ve been in the industry, a successful wedding PR campaign must begin with a strategic plan. It’s time to see the overarching goal of your public relations push and commit to a consistent process if you want to see results. While you may be ecstatic over a lucky break like a gorgeous wedding featured on a top blog, most publications and features have a shelf life — that’s why consistency is key.

Public relations is an extremely effective way to build your brand recognition, grow your industry network, and increase your number of leads. However, I do have a word of caution: it takes time. PR is not immediate by any means; your plan must be realistic to what you believe you can achieve in the first year.

Let’s dig into some of the major considerations you’ll need to keep in mind as you map out your PR plan for 2019.

Start with your goals

Think about your big picture goals for yourself, your personal brand, and your company as a whole. Where do you see it in one year? Five? How do you see it growing? Determine what direction you want to take your business and work your way back from there to get a better idea of how public relations can help you reach your goals.

Start by committing to three goals. It could be a conference you want to book, a podcast you want to be a guest on, or a blog that you’d love to see your favorite wedding published — your goals are personal, so don’t be afraid to strive for something that is meaningful to you. Once you know what drives you, set some realistic deadlines for each. Without a deadline, it’s far too easy to put your PR efforts on the backburner to accommodate other projects.

Consider your resources

I hate to break it to you, but public relations isn’t free. While it may not require a hefty budget, it costs an arguably more valuable resource: time. Prior to kicking off any campaign plan, you need to determine in advance how much time you have to allocate to it.

If you simply don’t have the time, you may want to consider hiring an in-house PR rep or outsource to a PR firm. However, if you don’t want to spend much money, you need to be sure that you have the time to execute your plan on your own.

Know your strengths

There are numerous ways to get your name out there these days, but not all of those channels may be the best fit for your skill set. The hard truth is that we’re not all good at everything — so you need to identify what you’re the best at.

If you’re a great writer, consider submitting guest articles. If you’re a photographer or have an eye for gorgeous details, ramp up your efforts for real wedding submissions. If you have a special knack for speaking, being a guest on a podcast is a great way to share your expertise and personality in equal measure.

Stick to what you know so you can excel at it — then, you may consider introducing new PR avenues to your plan down the line.

Map out your plan

When you have all the details in place, you can start to plan out your approach month by month to determine what needs to happen to continue making progress. Oftentimes, this step requires some researching to determine who to contact and how to reach out to them.

As you map out your outreach, take some time to consider your target audience to confirm that your chosen channels will connect with them. Just because there’s a shiny opportunity that would be a great addition to your portfolio does not mean that you will reach those who are ready to hire you.

Execute and evaluate

An organized PR plan must have systems in place to track and assess your successes (and losses). Create a press list to keep track of pitches, features, podcasts, and speaking gigs to keep an eye on where you are in each process — this will help you to know when it’s time to follow up and when it’s time to move on. By keeping a log of your efforts, you are able to dig into your past work to avoid re-pitching similar topics, understand which outlets are the best fit, and tailor your future approach based on what didn’t work in the past.

Public relations takes time, but it can also be a lot of fun to navigate the promotional side of your business. You’re an expert — it’s time you showed that off! Don’t sweat the rejections (seriously, I can’t count how many I’ve gotten), but learn from them instead. Celebrate the big milestones to keep you motivated and stick with it — rest assured that the effort will be well worth it down the line.

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.

» Staying Relevant in the Changing Wedding Landscape

Fierce & Fringe Photography

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is how I navigate the industry to stay relevant:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

» 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

 

» 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.

» 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.

» How to Attract Your Ideal Couple

Photo by Anchor & Pine Collective

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

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

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

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

This model of focusing on the ideal couple allows for:

  • More targeted marketing with a better return on dollars spent

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

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

The Ideal Couple Cycle

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

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

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

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

Messaging and Imagery

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

Tips to create messaging that fits your ideal couples:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Customer Experience

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

A few pieces of overall advice:

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

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

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

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


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

» WeddingWire Networking Night Philadelphia

This Tuesday, we hosted our WeddingWire Networking Night Philadelphia for local wedding professionals at the turn-of-the-century Ballroom At The Ben – Finley’s Catering.

Wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy this event in an exquisite space with a striking European ambiance.

Guests relaxed over delectable hors d’oeuvres, sipped wine, and networked with other local vendors across all service categories as well as members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned local-industry statistics and pricing tips, presented by WeddingWire’s Education Expert, Alan Berg!

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

We’re excited to share highlights from the event including the educational presentation, the latest issue of WedInsights, and photos from the lovely evening below. Check out the full gallery of photos!

We would like to say a special thank you to the amazing event partners who helped make the evening possible:

» 6 Tips for Using Hashtags

Photo by Anne-Claire Brun

Hashtags are a great tool for businesses that want to use their social media presence to grow and reach new clients. Instagram posts with at least one hashtag have 12.6% more engagement than those without. So what are some things to keep in mind when using hashtags? Read on!

A Guide to Hashtagging:

1. Stay away from generic hashtags

One of the biggest mistakes when using hashtags is sticking to popular ones. Your content can easily get lost in the sea of generic hashtags due to the number of people using it. Instead, find hashtags that are specific to your clients, your area or have industry keywords, something like #ijustsaidyes or #hejustproposed or #dcweddings as opposed to a generic #eventplanner.

2. Research your hashtags

A great way to find which hashtags work for you is by experimenting. To get started, select a variety of hashtags that are relevant to your work, some generic with high post density, and some niche with fewer posts and use them when publishing new photos. If after a few hours your photo shows up as one of the top or recent posts under the hashtag, then you’ve found a winner and you should continue testing and using it.

3. Vary what you use

Once you find the hashtags that work for you, vary their usage according to the type of content you’re posting. You want to be relevant when categorizing your content as well as reach new audiences with a variety of hashtags.

4. Don’t overcomplicate  

If you want to expand your reach to other couples, you shouldn’t use complicated hashtags that can easily be misspelled and difficult to find. With people’s ever-shortening attention span, a simple hashtag that can quickly point them towards your services is the best thing you can do. The last thing you want is a typo coming in the way of your business!

5. Use the couple’s hashtags

When posting about a specific couple, try to use their wedding hashtag to reach their immediate family and friends. Being able to interact with the couple and their guests will increase engagement on your posts — and high engagement is typically rewarded by Instagram.

6. Start your own

We love the idea of starting your own hashtag to create a community. It’s a fun way to brand yourself and monitor what people are saying/sharing about your business. The hashtag you use for Instagram can also be used across channels to promote and create conversations around your services while functioning in a way as reviews for your prospective clients to see how past clients have reacted to your work.

Hashtags can be daunting to navigate and use, but don’t be afraid because they are allies in promoting your business and reaching a wider audience!

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Are You Instagram-ing Right? Tips for Attracting Engaged Couples” with WeddingWire Education Expert, Vanessa Joy.

» Wedding MBA 2018: See the Highlights!

We had such an exciting week in Las Vegas for another great Wedding MBA conference! We loved connecting with thousands of wedding industry colleagues and friends from across the globe. From outstanding education to a fun-filled celebration, our WeddingWire team was thrilled to see so many of vendor friends doing what they love!

Here are a few of our favorite highlights:

Expert Education

We loved sharing business tips, industry insights and a range of education with you. Our Education Experts presented 16 times at the event — on a wide variety of topics from marketing, to websites, to sales and more. We were also so pleased to include some category-specific education from our Experts. Check out the slides from our presentations here.

Passport to fun

We had so much fun with everyone who stopped by the WeddingWire booth to say hello to the team, and collect passport stamps for swag. Our team loved seeing your selfies in our photo booths provided by The Brand Booth, and watching you contribute to our coloring wall. We were also able to meet with hundreds of pros to share account advice, set their businesses up for success on WeddingWire, and collect product feedback for future updates and improvements. Our team loved seeing friends—old and new.

Celebrating with pros

It wasn’t all business insights and education — there was plenty of fun along the way! We took the time to unwind, after a full day at the conference and take in some Vegas nightlife with great music at the annual WeddingWire party at the Foxtail Pool & Nightclub. Jason Jani of SCE Event Group spun another amazing set, featuring electric violinist Lydia Ansel.

For more event takeaways and to stay up-to-date on all the latest WeddingWire happenings for pros, be sure to follow WeddingWireEDU on Facebook and Instagram. We hope you see you again next year!