» 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!

 

» How to Keep Your Storefront Fresh Year-Round

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

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

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

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

Take action:

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

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

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

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

Verify that all information is up-to-date.

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

Take action:

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

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

Captivate couples using your reviews.

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

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

Take action:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Not all friendors are created equally

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

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

Learning on the job

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

Are friendors your competition?

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

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

And the problem is…?

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

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

Now what?

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

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

» How to Get Your Instagram Ready for Engagement Season

Instagram’s ability to engage with its audience while having well-integrated metrics and promotion options makes it a very attractive market for those looking to promote their business. Which is why it has become one of the most popular networking sites today with about a billion users.

Many consumers today have started looking at a brand’s Instagram page before interacting with their products or services. Therefore many businesses use this platform as a portfolio to showcase their brand and product offerings. According to Instagram, 60% of people say that they discover new products on the platform and 75% of Instagrammers take action after being inspired by a post.

So what does this mean for you as a wedding professional? It means that to thrive in the highly competitive wedding industry, you must incorporate Instagram into your business strategy if you haven’t already. In Education Expert Vanessa Joy’s webinar, Are You Instagram-ing Right?, she discussed how heavily some couples are basing their decisions solely on a vendor’s Instagram. Thus, making it important that your Instagram showcases your services just like a website.

Here’s how to “Website-ify your Instagram:

Step 1: Analyze what your clients see

When someone comes to your Instagram profile, they’re getting a snapshot of your business and making judgments. The first things they will see include your followers, how many people you follow, your description, Instagram highlights and the last three photos you’ve uploaded. Since the description is high on that list, it should detail who you are, what you do, where you’re located and what you can do for them. It’s good to take a step back and think as a client, does your Instagram clearly convey those things?

Step 2: Include all information listed on your website

Since a lot of couples are discovering vendors through Instagram, adding information that may be important and traditionally listed on your website is a good idea. You can use the story highlight feature on Instagram to list your products and services, reviews, packages, and inspiration.

Step 3: Consistently showcase your brand

Posting consistently is vital for engagement. So, make sure you have a schedule set up to keep your Instagram updated. Tools like Planoly or Later are very helpful with scheduling posts ahead of time and they let you see how your Instagram grid will look like before you post so you can maintain a consistent style and visually appealing portfolio to represent your services.

You should also think about your audience and post things that are interesting and relevant to them, which means going beyond the work that you do. Try inspirational posts or fun content for couples, it doesn’t always have to be about the services you offer. Creating video content is another way to showcase your brand as they have shown higher engagement rates and keep your audience interacting with your posts longer. IGTV and Instagram stories are also great features to play with as you work on evolving your Instagram presence.

 

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