» How to Use Headshots to Redefine Your Brand

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

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

Timing is everything

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

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

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

Consider audience and message

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

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

Think about usage

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

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

Find the right photographer

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

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

Communicate openly

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

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


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

» How to End Busy Season on a High Note

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

While you might be enjoying a short lull in weddings during these warm summer days, September and October are just around the corner. One of the busiest times of year is about to be in full swing. You can’t celebrate the year’s end buried under a pile of to-dos; now is the time to set yourself up for success.

The best way to prepare for your busy season is to take care of important marketing and PR tasks in advance. For ultimate results, I suggest you:

Implement a block schedule.

Carve out 20-30 minutes per week from your schedule to dedicate to marketing & PR. Make an appointment with yourself, and unless an emergency arises, use the time strictly to manage your most important marketing and PR activities.

Prepare for publishing.

Make note of any particularly editorially-friendly weddings you might have scheduled in the fall and place them on a priority list to revisit when you have the time. Connect with photographers and/or planners in advance to gauge their interest in collaborating on submissions, and contact your couple to secure the required background information, like favorite anticipated details, DIY plans or color inspiration so you will be ready to build their narrative when the deadlines approach.

Review local industry association schedules for the fall and winter.

Compile a list of the “must-attend” events before your end-of-year schedule starts to fill up with tastings, consultations and final walk-throughs. Connecting with your vendors at these professional events often pays off in referrals, and the time you spend with them is valuable.

Don’t let your social media presence or blog go dormant.

Map out a simple editorial calendar. It is okay to lighten up your production a bit until you have more time on your hands. Simply plan to publish regularly, if more infrequently. A social media scheduler like Meet Edgar, HootSuite or Schedugram can save your sanity as well as your time.

Jenny DeMarco of Jenny DeMarco Photography also suggests outsourcing what you can to prevent standstill. “After eight years of photography, last year was the first year I wasn’t super stressed out and overworked and it’s because I finally hired a part-time studio manager,” she says. “I learned the money was worth hiring the better team than trying to deal with a less expensive team doing sub-par work.”

Anticipate award season.

If only industry award deadlines were built around your busy season! Unfortunately, the committees don’t necessarily care if you are swamped, so carve out the time to review your target awards and note their deadlines. Have certain worthy weddings in mind? Collect the required elements in advance. Need a ghostwriter to help make your submission extra competitive? They book up fast, so start your search now.

Identify your “time suckers.”

I personally save a tremendous amount of time now that I book all of my appointments through Calendly, create automated invoices, and process all of my contracts through DocuSign. While the tools I use aren’t strictly marketing or PR-related, they easily save me 90 minutes per week. That’s time regained that can be used towards other high-priority tasks, thanks to tools that are available to you, too!

Paula Ramirez from Historic Mankin Mansion stresses the importance of staying focused. “It is always best to operate from a proactive, laser-focused perspective, seeing potential issues before they even occur. Know that you will be extra busy near the end of wedding season and draw on successes from past experience to handle it with ease and grace.”

Preparing for the end of the year is daunting. I know (even if you don’t) that you’re ready to boost your efficiency in anticipation of the big days ahead, so where do you plan to start?

 

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.

» 4 Ways to Update Your Social Media Strategy

Photo by Vanessa Joy Photography

This article was written by Education Expert Vanessa Joy, Owner & Photographer of Vanessa Joy Photography.

“This is SO exciting!!!!”

That’s what I thought when I first heard about Instagram’s release of Instagram TV, or IGTV. But then I thought of what this really meant. More work. More algorithm changes. More hours of me trying to figure out what they heck I should be doing on social media now.

As a wedding professional, social media is one of the strongest marketing and branding tools we have at our disposal. It’s also the most time-consuming task that takes us away from our true passion of running our own creative business. Right now Instagram is the top priority for wedding businesses in the social media world because that’s where most engaged couples are hanging out digitally these days. So how can you make sure that you’re doing it right when everything keeps changing?

1. Never stop learning

At some point or another I’ve felt the desire to give up. Not on wedding photography altogether, but on little pieces here and there. It’s tempting to feel that way about social media and want to kiss it goodbye because you just don’t want to learn something new that came along. Fight that urge my friends. I’m not saying you have to be a master at social media, but you do need to continue to educate yourself and stay relevant.

2. Don’t believe the lies

It’s tempting to try and find shortcuts when social media gets overwhelming.  Believe me, that won’t end well. From buying followers, likes and other things you’ve heard “work”, how can you discern truth?

Take a look at this video for some quick social media myth debunking.

3. Understand the truth

When it comes to social media the root of it is exactly as it says: social. Every time you see a change come along just remember that each of these platforms is just a corporation trying to make money by engaging users on their platform. If you remember that concept, then you can weather any change by coming back to it. Before you post simply ask yourself “will my audience engage with this?”. It doesn’t matter how they engage with it (like, comment, watch, click, etc), just that they do.

4. Get help

You likely didn’t enter the wonderful world of weddings because you wanted to be glued to social media all day every day. So, streamline the process with a social media scheduling service like Planoly, Buffer, Later, Hootsuite or Meet Edgar (and I’m sure there are many others). If you can, don’t feel ashamed to hire personnel to handle posting or interacting with others. Virtual assistants and office assistants can be great for this and will take a lot of the weight off of your shoulders so you can focus more on your clients and what you do best.

5. BONUS: Know what to fix

For this one, I’m personally going to help you. WeddingWire and I are hosting a webinar for Premium members that’ll help you discover any Instagram faux pas that you may be making. Best part: we’ll be hosting a LIVE critique where you can submit your Instagram account for me to chat about on the webinar! Premium members should check their email to register for “Are You Instagram-ing Right?” on Wednesday, August 22nd at 3pm EDT. I’ll 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

» Why Email Templates Are Awesome

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

For many of us in the wedding industry, emails are the number one way we communicate with our couples. A couple’s experience with you and your business often starts with an email response to their inquiry, ends with a thank you after the wedding, and includes many, many (many!) emails in between.  Therefore, when you are determining the quality and quantity of your communications with couples, you clearly need to put a lot of focus on the quantity and quality of your emails.

As I’ve built my business (to over 850 weddings now, ranging between 75-150 most years), I realized that for the level of service I wanted to provide, and with the volume of couples I needed to work with in order to earn the living I want, I didn’t have the time to write every single email from “scratch.”  However, automated emails wouldn’t be personal enough either. This made creating a large number of templated emails the perfect solution for me. And, although the initial creation of templated emails can take some time, it is well worth it if you plan to be in business for a long time.

“Automated” vs. “templates”

Are we all on the same page on terminology? When I talk about templated emails, many people think I am referring to automated emails… emails you set up once in your system, and then the system sends them out automatically based on a date or system event (such as two weeks pre-wedding or as soon as a questionnaire is received). That’s not what I’m talking about here. Automated emails do have their purpose, but since the only personalization that can happen in an automated email is if you include merge fields within the email (like contact name or wedding date), they won’t work for any scenario in which you want the option to personalize for that couple. Therefore, the only automated emails in my entire customer journey are for invoice reminders and receipts. That is it.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you could write every single email from scratch every single time, but, based on how many emails you probably send, that could be very time-consuming. And, when you think of your process and customer journey, is every single email you send to inquiring or booked couples really 100% different based on that couple or wedding? I highly doubt that it is.

Which leads us to templated emails, an email that you send quite often, and one in which a large percentage, if not all, of the email message applies to everyone you send it to. However, unlike an automated email, a templated email is always sent manually and intentionally, which allows it to be personalized each time you send it.  

For example, my ceremony creation process includes two assignments for the couple, and the email for the second assignment includes a set of instructions and guidance that is lengthy. However, while most, if not all, of the instructions in there apply to many of my couples, not all of it does. This was the perfect scenario for a templated email. This template includes all the possible instructions and details, and then, before I send it to a specific couple, I can review it and add or remove pieces, personalizing it as needed and wanted for that specific couple. I reply personally to all emails from my couples – so I’m not saying to not be really personal as fits you – but almost every email initiated from me during my process and my customer experience comes from a template.

4 reasons email templates are great:

Thus, templated emails are a wonderful option in a business that is so email-heavy yet requires a level of personal service, or perceived personal service. Here are some great reasons for using templated emails:

  1. Saves time and money

Even if it is a short email by having it pre-written you reduce the time required to send it vs. creating that email from scratch, which can help you significantly reduce the communication hours you spend per couple. This allows you to create a communication plan that has a higher customer service ROI as you put small amounts of personalization into the more “mundane” but needed emails and larger amounts of personalization and focus on the more important pieces and methods of communication or your process (e.g. an in-person meeting or even the things they are actually hiring you for!).   

  1. Personalization is still easy

Although I could probably figure out how to edit some of my templated emails so that they could be automated, based on my ideal couples and the level of service I want to provide them, I always want to have the ability to personalize any particular email I send and to choose when it goes out for that particular couple. For example, if I remember that there was a certain reading that the couple mentioned loving during our initial meeting, I want to let them know that I remembered, and I want to include the reading in options I send them or mention which document it is in. Or, if they told me that they were both close to their families, I want to draw their attention to the family blessing ideas.  Couples want to feel like they have been heard, and this allows you to show them that, while not sacrificing your time (and sanity) to do so. Even when responding to a new inquiry, where you might think that you have certain information you are giving every inquiry, I use the chance to personalize it, based on their venue, how they found me, anything they mentioned, etc. – just so that even their first experience with me feels personal, rather than an automated email missing that chance.

  1. Allows for consistency

By templating your emails, you make sure that the message you want to get across and/or the questions you want to get answers to are consistent from couple to couple. This creates a smoother and easier process for you and for your couples.  

Have you ever hit send and then you realized you forgot a piece of information or a question, and yet this is something you send regularly? By including everything you are likely to need in your email template and then taking things out that aren’t necessary for that specific couple, you significantly reduce the chances you will forget to include something. Although it doesn’t seem like a big deal to just send the couple a follow-up, each follow-up you send costs time and can affect the couple’s perception of your business and your level of professionalism.

  1. Reduces spelling and grammar errors

Since you aren’t creating that email right then and maybe rushing to get it out, when mistakes are more likely to happen, using templated emails lets you take the time to review them (and maybe someone else review them if spelling and grammar aren’t your strongest suit) and be sure that all is appropriately said. This gives a better impression to those receiving the emails.

How and when to create templates

What’s next? If you aren’t yet using templated emails, or you are only using a few of them, the first step is to look at every email you sent to 10 of the most recent couples you worked with and determine which of those emails are the ones you sent to most, if not all, of your couples. Is the messaging within the email similar – are you giving them the same information and/or asking them the same questions?  

For each yes, you want to create a template. To create a template for emails you have already been sending, copy in the text from a recent email and build or edit from there. If doing this makes you realize that there are others that you should create and have, being even more proactive in your communications with your couples, remember that you want the template to include pretty much everything you would say if you were saying everything. I can tell you from great experience, it is easier and less time-consuming to remove something from the email that doesn’t apply than to remember to add something in.

Then, if you have a business management system that allows for templated emails to be created and uploaded, as I do, use the system. If you don’t have a business management system (let’s chat about that another time!), or your system doesn’t allow for templated emails, you can create them in Word or Evernote, or some other document system, keeping them handy, and use old-school cut-and-paste each time you need to send it out.   

For each business, the number of automated vs. templated vs. personal emails will differ, as it should.  Your ideal clients, your desired customer experience, your price point, your volume of weddings, and many other things factor into your communication plan (check out my article last month on that, if you missed it). I just don’t want you to dismiss templated emails outright because they require too much work up-front or they don’t seem personal enough. When set up and used properly, templated emails will save you time while actually improving the couple’s experience with your business… a win/win if there ever was one.  

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.

» Read any good books lately? Learning for life with Alan Berg

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

I’ve seen a lot of social posts lately asking about which books to read or talking about books they’ve read. Each of the posts starts an active discussion, which is great. For me, the best part of those discussions is the passion behind the recommendations. In other words, I love reading about the WHY, as much as the WHAT. I also love adding new books to my wish list on Audible (as I mostly listen to audio books these days, while I’m driving). I may not end up listening to all of them, but they give me inspiration and often send me in directions I hadn’t expected.

Learning when you’re not trying to learn

Regardless of whether it’s reading books, listening to podcasts, watching YouTube videos or tuning in to webinars (like the ones on WeddingWire EDU), it’s important to constantly be learning. Some of us do best in a classroom setting, while others prefer learning at their own pace. If we’re paying attention new ideas are all around us, especially when we’re not looking for them. I’ve gotten many great ideas for my business, and those of my clients (businesses like yours) from outside our industry. I heard a great phrase at a National Speakers Association conference, years ago: “Adapt, don’t adopt” – in other words, look at what someone else is doing and adapt it to your business, don’t just copy it.

In the wedding industry we have to adapt. It’s such a niche (albeit a $50-$60 billion one) that there aren’t that many books specifically written for it – one of the reasons I’ve written mine. It’s the same for the speaking industry. I find inspiration for my speaking and consulting in books that aren’t written specifically for me. Rather I see how I can tweak them to apply to me, or to you.

I don’t have time to read

Now I know that some of you are voracious readers, and others haven’t picked up a book since high school or college. All of us receive and absorb information in different ways, some due to physical issues (dyslexia, ADD, etc.) and some due to time constraints. I went for a long time without reading a book. Then I started buying books, only to have them pile up on my desk. For me, it was simply a matter of a lack of quiet time. As I travel, a lot, I felt guilty sitting and reading at home, when I could/should be spending time with my family. I would sometimes read on planes, but often I would just work, or sleep.

What’s best for you

I resisted recording my own books on audio for a few years. Between the time and the cost, I wasn’t sure there was an ROI for me. Now that I’ve recorded all four of my books on audio, and due to your feedback, I can definitely see the benefit. I’ve also become a voracious listener to audio books. Using audio is how I learned Spanish, many on audio “books” through Audible. Now, instead of listening to the news (always depressing anyway), I listen to books. Most of mine are business books, because I’m always looking for new ways to approach what I do in my presentations and consulting.

Where are you getting your inspiration?

Many of us need to lift our faces out of our phones, take off the blinders and look around. Inspiration can come from our kids, family, corner store or national brand. Adapt, don’t adopt those ideas. If you exhibit at wedding shows, or trade shows, look at how retail stores display their goods. Which displays catch your attention? Look at your mail, yes your snail mail. Which pieces do you notice first? Even if you toss it in the recycling, you saw it, and that’s the first step.

Pay attention to fonts, colors and layout. How do other businesses use reviews in their marketing? Since national brands pay big bucks to design firms for their marketing, maybe you can glean some ideas from a billboard, magazine, website or brochure. Have you ever heard someone say: “there are no new ideas”? Maybe it’s true, maybe not. Every new song started with the same 88 notes. Thousands of songs have the same 3 or 4 chords. Everything we write starts with the same 26 letters, yet the variations are endless. We all have the same tools, yet some are using them in new ways. Are you one of them?

What I’m reading

Originally, I wasn’t going to make this about what I’m reading, but I didn’t want to tease you with the title, and then not at least give you some of my favorites. So, here are books that I’ve read, that might be of interest to you. Feel free to share yours as well:

  • Don’t Make Me Think – Steve Krug; the bible for web usability
  • Profit First – Mike Michalowicz; a must read for any small business
  • The Pumpkin Plan – also by Mike Michalowicz; this will give you ideas for which products and services to offer
  • The Dip – Seth Godin; when the going gets tough, this little book will help
  • Purple Cow – also by Seth Godin; actually, almost anything by Seth Godin would be a good place to start
  • The Tipping Point – Malcom Gladwell; this was the first of his books that I’ve read, Outliers and Blink also great.
  • The Paradox of Choice – Barry Schwartz; I recently read this, and it has lots of application to our industry
  • Who Moved My Cheese? – Spencer Johnson; this little book about dealing with change should be required reading
  • Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness – Richard Thaler; along with The Paradox of Choice, I found it fascinating about how you can influence people’s decision making, but giving them better choices

I could keep going, but I’m going to leave it to you to find your inspiration. I will leave you with one more thought, (it’s one of my favorite quotes) Malcolm Forbes once said: “Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.” Now, go open your minds!

P.S. I didn’t include my books, but if you don’t have them they’re at www.GetAlansBooks.com as well as on Amazon, Audible and iTunes.

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.

» Pricing Do’s and Don’ts

Receiving a question about pricing can be daunting and tricky to navigate. On the bright side, receiving a price inquiry is a definite sign of interest and should be exciting! Think of it as a buying signal rather than a red flag. If they are reaching out, it means that they’ve vetted you and you’ve made it to the final round, so making an inquiry is simply the next step for them.

We’ve pulled together a list of Education Guru Alan Berg’s best tips on pricing do’s and don’ts to help prepare you for how to respond to those often-dreaded pricing questions when they hit your inbox.

DO’S

  • Do reply as quickly as possible to an inquiry. Did you know 50% of buyers choose the wedding professional that responds first? Replying instantly can almost guarantee that the inquiring couple is still in the same place mentally and physically rather than having moved on to other things. If you can catch them by responding quickly, there’s a higher chance of receiving a response and a continuing the conversation.
  • Do reply on the same platform that they used for their inquiry. Give couples all the possible ways to contact you, let them choose what works best for them, and then promptly reply on that channel. 48% of couples are frustrated when vendors don’t reply using the same channel they reached out on. So, start with their preferred channel and then request moving to another channel of communication later on if it’s necessary for you.
  • Do acknowledge a question about price, don’t dodge it. If you need more information to give an accurate price, that’s completely fine! Just be upfront and transparent about it. Let them know that you are going to get them an answer, you just need to gather a bit more information about their big day first! Then, make sure to ask questions to start gathering that information to show that you are taking the necessary steps towards getting them that answer.
  • Do provide some pricing information on your website or WeddingWire Storefront. Couples are likely to distort their budget or may have a skewed sense of it (couples tend to underestimate their wedding costs by 40%!). Ideally, your pricing information would be available to them on your website and/or WeddingWire Storefront before they even reach out. 88% of couples want to see pricing of some sort before getting in contact with a vendor. That means you could be cut from the short list before you even have the chance to talk to them, so don’t hold out.

DON’TS

  • Don’t assume that a couple can’t afford you just because they are asking about price! How often do you determine the price of something before buying it? Probably all the time! Because this is a first time shopping experience for most couples, they don’t necessarily know what their needs are or what they are looking for, and therefore don’t know what other questions to ask. You are their guide, so help them out!
  • Don’t lead with your lowest price. Typically, the first number you hear is the number you expect to pay, which ends in an unfair result for everyone. Instead, give a price range. As a simple example, you can say, “Our prices range from $x – $x, with our most popular option being $x.”. Along with a price range, consider pointing out some of the ways you differentiate in order to sell them on you, not just your price.
  • Don’t be afraid to address a low budget. If a couple gives you an idea of their budget for your service and it’s far below your pricing, politely let them know that you completely understand but that you cannot deliver the quality of work that you do within that budget. If possible, try to give them other options that you can provide, although it won’t include everything that they want, within their budget.
  • Don’t dump data and attachments. Instead, give a short, concise answer and try to make sure that it fits on a smartphone screen without the need to scroll. Most people will be answering and opening on their phones and if the information given is too long or overwhelming they aren’t likely to read it or keep it.

» WeddingWire Networking Night Minneapolis

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at the Lumber Exchange Event Center for our WeddingWire Networking Night Minneapolis!

Wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy a stunning venue right in the center of Minneapolis! Guests met with other local vendors across all service categories as well as members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned local-industry statistics and tips for being inclusive of all couples, presented by WeddingWire Education Expert, Kathryn Hamm!

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. You can also see the entire album on our WeddingWire EDU Facebook page!

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


» 7 Ways to Win Mobile Marketing

The world is transitioning to mobile — with Google paying more attention to mobile sites and users engaging mainly via mobile phones, mobile conversion and optimization is going to start impacting us more than ever before.

To prepare for this imminent mobile takeover, here are 7 tips from WeddingWire CMO Sonny Ganguly to make sure your business is set up for mobile success:

1. Be ready for mobile-first SEO
Mobile-first SEO means that Google will be looking at your mobile site to determine both mobile and desktop search rankings. To prepare for this, it’s important to start thinking mobile first for ALL things: website, blog, emails and other communication. This means designing for mobile phones first and then taking that design to desktop instead of the other way around.

Because of mobile-first SEO, it is crucial to have mobile parity which simply means that your mobile website today has to be equivalent to your desktop experience, if not better. The easiest way to achieve this is to have a responsive design that has one brand, one domain and one codebase; a website that looks good on all devices (LiveBooks is a great service for responsive websites that are design focused!).

2.  Mobilize from end-to-end
Even if you mobilize the first step, you need to make sure to mobilize the entire process when you send an email. Mobilized emails that link to non-mobilized websites result in 80% of users leaving the site. Every step along the way must be made mobile-friendly.

3. Create short video content
Facebook has a growing emphasis on video content, and this will continue to increase in the coming years. . Winning at mobile isn’t going to be about words and photos on social platforms, but instead about sharing short video content that is less than 60 or 30 seconds. Also keep in mind that in the world of mobile, most people do not have their sound on, making text overlays vital to a successful piece of video content.

As the availability of content grows, users attention spans are getting shorter, making it important to brand within the first 3 seconds, if not the first second, with some sort of overlay. Because people process visuals and video at a much faster rate than text, short video content is the future.

4. Communicate with millennials
In the world of mobile and millennials, there is an expectation that communication needs to move faster. Couples expect a reply from wedding professionals within 24 hours and 50% of buyers choose the wedding professional that responds first. So speed does matter! and being able to communicate via your mobile phone is a good way to be quick with a response.

When communicating with millennials, it is also important to reciprocate the channel where they prefer communicating, 48% of couples are frustrated when vendors who do not use the same channel to reply as the couple used to reach out. If a couple sent an email that was followed up with a call from the vendor, it is typically viewed unfavorably.

To streamline mobile communication, WeddingWire offers vendors easy-to-use messaging features to communicate quickly and effectively with their couples.

5. Monitor your search console  
Search console is a free service from Google that helps you get the data, tools, and diagnostics needed to create and maintain Google-friendly websites and mobile apps. It’s a service that every business should have running for them to let them know of their average position within search rankings and where they can improve. Search Console is Google’s way of giving you a report card and notifying you of what is working for your website and what is not.

As Google moves towards mobile-first SEO, monitoring your Search Console will tell you if your rankings stay consistent or shift, and where you can improve.

6. Focus on mobile conversion
Mobile conversion is how well your mobile site is converting visitors into leads. Looking into these conversion rates can tell you a lot about how friendly your mobile site is and if there are areas for improvement when compared to your desktop site.

If you’re using Google Analytics you can turn on conversion tracking to see how many people visit your mobile website and convert into leads. You can then use this data to compare your rate to previous years, seasons and even desktop conversion rates to see if you’re achieving mobile conversion parity.

7. Accept mobile payments
Accepting mobile payments before your competitors can be a big advantage for your business;  couples were 23% more likely to recommend wedding professionals who had a form of online payment. Fortunately, WeddingWire members can use WeddingWire Payments to seamlessly request and accept client payments through WeddingWire in the Messages section of their account.

As Eric Schmidt, the previous Chairman of Google, said “The trend has been that mobile was winning, it’s now won.” and these 7 tips will help your business stay on top of this shift to handheld devices and mobile-first SEO!

These tips originally appeared in WeddingWire’s Webinar “Master Mobile Marketing” with Sonny Ganguly, WeddingWire’s Chief Marketing Officer.

» Five Tips To Strengthen Your Multicultural Practices

Photo by Bakerture

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

Recent surveys of millennial couples have made it very clear just how much more inclusive they are in their friendships and in their romantic relationships. According to a Pew Research Center report published in 2015, 39% of Americans who have married since 2010 have a spouse who is in a different religious group (compared to just 19% of Americans who married before 1960), and there has been a 5X increase in interracial marriages since nationwide legalization in 1967. Currently, 19% of WeddingWire couples identify as having an interracial marriage, and 18% have said that they include ceremonial customs related to race/religion in their weddings, and these numbers will only continue to grow.

A large number of the 850 couples I’ve married identify as LGBTQ or interfaith or interracial or intercultural (or some combination), and the experience has offered me a good handle on how to approach, discuss, and integrate culture and religion into a ceremony. I always open a discussion on culture and religion during my initial meeting with a couple, because I want to make sure that I am the proper fit for what they want, and because the design and content of their custom ceremony starts from my understanding of WHAT they want, and WHY the couple wants it.

These exact same discussions and decisions about inclusion of culture, religion and traditions that I apply to the ceremony quite often apply to the entire wedding. Décor and design, food and drink, music and entertainment, attire, hair and makeup, even the schedule and timeline… almost every aspect of a wedding can, and usually does, have resonance related to the upbringing, traditions, and beliefs of the couple, their families, and sometimes even their friends. It is imperative that wedding professionals not only have an inclusive mindset, but also the systems and processes ready to implement a celebration that meets the desires of the couple.

Here are 5 ways that help you do both!

1. Don’t assume. I have put my foot in my mouth with assumptions plenty, I promise. Several years ago, I made the assertion that LGBTQ couples come to Officiants like me because they don’t get married in houses of worship. I was speaking with Kathryn Hamm, WeddingWire’s Diversity & Inclusion Specialist, who pointed me to research that revealed that 10% of LGBTQ couples do get married in houses of worship, and cited some personal anecdotal examples. I was a bit embarrassed, but it was a very poignant reminder that while we all have assumptions based on what we have seen, heard and experienced, personally or with previous couples, those assumptions may not tell the whole story.

This is why I recommend that you start the conversation with all your couples from as blank of a sheet as possible, with your assumptions locked away. The best way to make sure that your process is assumption-free (or relying on as few assumptions as possible) is to have an initial set of standard questions that you ask every couple, regardless of any automatic assumptions you made upon meeting them. Plus, be sure to ask open-ended questions to allow them to share what they want. Once they answer, you can ask follow-up questions based on what your experience tells you that you still need to know.

For example, a question an Officiant or DJ might ask is, “Are there any religious or cultural traditions you want to honor or include?” A follow-up question could relate to the “level” to which they want to include them – for instance, the caterer needs to distinguish between having a kosher option on the menu vs. kosher-style vs. the entire menu needing to be kosher.

2. Find out the why. The what is very important but the why is the driver. Honestly, we wedding folks tend to want to help and jump right into ideas or solutions (the “what”), without yet knowing the ‘why’. Understanding the rationale behind a client’s thoughts allows you to make more fitting suggestions. Does the couple want a certain tradition included because they desire it or because they feel they want/need it for family, or even one specific family member? I’ve had couples think that they need to have a traditional Christian wedding – even though they were non-religious themselves – when what they really wanted to do was honor their families and thought that that was the only way to do so.

By understanding the why, you can make sure that what you are suggesting or including will satisfy the couple and the people, or person, it is meant to satisfy. By providing options to your couple for the ‘what” that satisfies this ‘why,’ you increase your value to them, while at the same time making sure everyone is happy or at least satisfied by the solution.

3. Be a solutions person. We as wedding professionals need to be solution providers. And, when it comes to religious and cultural inclusion, I find that, in addition to satisfying family, there are often two points in a couple’s life where the differences in their upbringings can clash: 1) during their wedding and 2) raising their children. As wedding professionals, it’s likely that we encounter the first point regularly, which means that we might have to be mediators, not only between the couple and members of their families, but between the couple themselves, by either having solutions or knowing where to go to find solutions.

The basic rules apply here: listen to both sides, probe with follow-up questions and potential ideas (if you have them), step away and think about it, talk to others who may have dealt with this type of scenario, and then come back to the couple with solutions. The idea is to satisfy both sides as much as possible. And, please resist the “bridal bias” that I see way too often in our industry – you need to make sure to take into account the feelings and wants of both members of the couple.

4. Be a capable match. There is always the balance in our businesses between wanting to say yes and help (and the income that comes from that, too), and wanting to be sure that you are doing right by a couple and their needs. Here is my thought: if in doubt, ask yourself the following question, “Will the quality of what the couple gets from me and my business be adversely affected by my lack of skills or knowledge?” If yes, then maybe you aren’t the best fit for them.

If you reach that point, I always recommend that you be honest with a couple that you don’t have that specific experience or knowledge, and then allow them to make that decision. If you still feel that you can serve them properly, and want to, you can let them know that you are indeed willing to help and happy to do so. Allow the couple to decide if they still want to work with you.

If the couple ultimately determines you are not the right fit, you can always suggest other vendors that may specialize or have experience in their specific request(s). Or, you can look at the solution of partnering up with a colleague to service them together. For example, if you are a wedding planner and an Indian couple comes to you and wants a full Indian wedding, yet you have never done one, should you take it? Without that experience, you may not be their perfect fit, so bringing on the right partner with this expertise could be the perfect solution! You could partner with planner who has experience in Indian weddings so that the couple gets to work with a team that understands not only the what they are looking for, but also the why. And the plus side of the solution is that you get to learn and feel more confident the next time you are asked because you’ll now have that experience

5. Showcase your experience. For everyone’s sake, attracting couples from the get-go who are more your fit, and who you can service and celebrate fully and properly, is a top goal. Therefore, make sure that your service descriptions and portfolio – in places such as your website or WeddingWire Storefront or social media – show past work with a wide range of religious and/or cultural rituals, when you feel confident in your ability to professionally service those couples again.

Keep these tips in mind when engaging with potential clients — I believe it is not only the best thing for society when we are all more understanding and inclusive, but it also turns out to be the right thing for 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.

 

» Open to All: Building Trust With Prospective Clients

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

There is a simple, sure-fire way to open any conversation with any prospective client and it’s not rocket science.

The time-tested formula is as follows:

  • 1 part greeting as simple as “Hello”
  • 1 part open-ended question as simple as “How may I help you?”
  • 1 part active listening

Be present and listen actively

How many times a day do you answer the phone or welcome someone into your place of business with this greeting? But how often do you mean it?

We have been taught to offer this generic greeting phrase as part of the social ritual in service and retail settings. It’s become a bit of background pleasantry, and I suspect that many of us are distracted by other pressures, assumptions and distractions, and aren’t as present to how we are introducing this question of connection and service.

What if we reinstituted intentionality into our greetings?

“Hello, how may I help you?”

What if we removed any assumptions we are making about who might be calling and what they might need?

“Hello, how may I help you?”

What if our listening was tuned to not only the words they are using, but also what their concerns or emotional state might be?

“Hello, how may I help you?”

In my experience, the next, best response includes a follow-up question that incorporates an understanding and reflection of what that prospective client has just said or revealed. In this first minute of conversation, the process of earning trust is well underway.

Wedding professionals can use this formula successfully with every single prospective client. It’s a one-size-fits-all approach, though the trust earning portion of the exchange may take more time when a wedding professional is working with an engaged couple with whom they aren’t familiar (i.e., a straight, White, Christian woman in her 40s working with a gay Black couple who are atheists in their 20s or a mixed-race Jewish couple in their 60s). One may have to listen more carefully when navigating a new relationship outside of one’s own lived experience.

Reject the cookie-cutter approach

The key to the process is that it all begins with earning trust and resisting the urge to treat every couple with a cookie-cutter approach. Couples of all stripes appreciate the customized approach and Millennials, as a rule, even when they fit the mold of the “average couple,” require it.

Once you’ve established how a couple frames the way in which they’d like your help, you can then share with them the ways in which you are best suited to help them. As much as it’s important to hear their needs, it’s also important to know your strengths (and weaknesses) and be able to articulate them in a way that advances the conversation.

An example as it pertains to same-sex couples is as follows: in 2005, a GayWeddings.com survey found that same-sex couples were willing to book any vendor who was willing to work with them. Experience didn’t matter as much as openness and customer service did. Now that marriage equality has been recognized and the competitive wedding market is prepared to serve LGBTQ couples, customer service AND expertise matter when it comes to winning business.

And, this is true for other couples who identify as something other than the young, White, straight, fit couple most often represented in blogs and magazines. There are so many types of couples in need of services and each has their own way of expressing their love and sealing their bond.

It’s up to wedding professionals to welcome all couples with grace and to be receptive to their needs; but it’s also essential for wedding professionals to have clear boundaries around what they can and can’t offer as services in order to establish a strong foundation for a fruitful working relationship.

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

» Are Your Business Goals Right for You?

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

I love speaking with wedding pros about their businesses, because the business of weddings and events is what my business is all about. Each wedding pro should have their own goals and it’s perfectly acceptable to have different goals at different stages of business — as a matter of fact, your goals should evolve with your business.

How do you measure your business?

New businesses are often just trying to survive, while well-established businesses may be trying to stay current and relevant. What are the benchmarks you’re using to see how you’re doing? Is it the number of weddings and events you do each year? Or is it the total revenue (top-line)? Or maybe it’s the bottom line (net profit). Each of you has to decide what’s important, and then decide how you’re going to achieve that target. Just make sure it’s the right target.

What’s in a number?

I was consulting with an entertainment company who told me that he wanted to do 250 weddings the next year. When I asked him why, he said that he felt he would be seen as a major player in his market. I asked why that was important to him and he replied that he felt it would solidify his standing, and how he was viewed by the other wedding pros. When we looked at how he was planning to get there, it was to go after lower-dollar weddings that he wasn’t getting now. He was currently more of a boutique business, towards the higher end of his market. As I went through with him how to get to the 250, it occurred to me that he wasn’t going to be making much profit on those additional weddings. Once we considered the additional costs: DJs, equipment, insurance, marketing/advertising, admin, etc., most of the money was going to others, not to him. In my words, he was trying to feed his ego, when I prefer that he was trying to feed his family.

Biggest or most profitable?

Another client of mine, a rental company, told me that their goal was to be the biggest rental company in their market. I suggested that a goal of being the most profitable rental company in their market was a better plan. It’s often easier to grow your top-line than your bottom line. You can sell more weddings and more services, at or close to your cost, and increase your total sales. Figuring out how to sell more profitable services, or raising your rates and increasing your average sale, is a better plan. You’ve probably heard the phrase “Work smarter, not harder” and in my opinion, that’s a better way to go. When you figure out how to make more profit per wedding, you’re on your way to working smarter.

Which comes first – more weddings or more profit?

If you have the choice to either do more weddings, or increase your average profit per wedding, I’d focus on the latter. When you start making more per wedding, then you can decide if you want to do more events per year, or just make more from doing the same number of events. Many of the wedding pros I meet, and consult with each year, aren’t trying to do more weddings. Many have already maxed out the number of events, so the only way to increase their sales, and profit, is to increase their average sale. It’s the same for my business. In the early days I was all about increasing my total sales. And while I achieved that, I also realized that I wasn’t profiting enough for the amount of sales I was bringing in.

Diversify, or double-down?

As you look for ways to increase your profits, one possible way is to diversify, and offer new services, or go into new geographic markets. You may see a competitor doing some of these things and decide to follow along. Just make sure that you know why you’re doing it, because it’s likely you don’t know why your competitor is. If you don’t know if they’re profiting from that expansion, you might be chasing a losing proposition. It’s easy to spread yourself too thin, too fast, so think before you follow.

Is smaller better?

In the lifecycle of many of my clients, they start small, get big (sometimes slowly, sometimes fast) and then, many of them decide to scale back and get smaller again. Maybe it’s a venue owner who goes from one, to three, to six venues, and then decides to focus on one or two of the most profitable ones. Or it could be a DJ, photographer or officiant, who goes from being a single-op (just her or him) to multi-op (many employees/contractors, and possibly many services) back to being just her or him and fewer services.

There’s no one answer as to which is better. It’s about which is better for you, at this time. One thing is for certain, you need to decide how you’re measuring your success, right now, and then work to achieve that. Don’t follow someone else’s idea of success, or you’re likely to be like the dog chasing a car. If the dog actually gets to catch the car, then what will it do? If you achieve someone else’s idea of success, will you be satisfied? I suggest you choose your own destination, chart your own course, and then enjoy your success when you get there.

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.

» Networking Etiquette for Conference Season

Photo by Catherine Lea Photography

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

We’re in the business of people. I know I’m preaching to the choir when I say this. Conference season is no different – from speaking to spectating to traveling and anything in between, we’re constantly sharing our expertise, chit-chatting with the flight attendant (maybe even calling down to the hotel desk to ask for another sleep mask?), and networking with all of the pros we get to reunite with from across the country.

Networking itself is an amazing way to maintain professional relationships and market yourself in the industry, especially when a rare in-person opportunity comes along in the midst of exchanging emails on top of emails. Putting in that face time is crucial! That being said, let’s dig into the etiquette of networking, namely during conference season.

Be mindful of investment

While this is an amazing time to introduce yourself in person rather than e-meet a fellow industry pro, remember that you’ll probably encounter a lot of jet-lagged faces and some potentially overwhelmed if they have upcoming topics or panels they’ll be speaking on. Don’t let this deter you by any means, just remember that they’re eager to meet people as well, so don’t monopolize anyone’s time.

Kylie Carlson of International Academy of Wedding and Event Planning says, “You definitely want to incorporate continuing education into your trip. But while you’re there, be mindful of the fact that people have paid to attend the conference and want to learn. Take note of their investment.”

Continuing professional relationships (the right way)

This goes for jumping back into professional relationships you might be currently cultivating as well. Kevin Dennis of WeddingIQ notes that if you’re looking to take it the extra mile by being referral-worthy, you’ll want to put in the legwork without being pushy. “Directly asking to be on the preferred vendor list will have the opposite desired outcome. You must give to receive, so boost fellow creative partners with whom you would love to work, and give out their names whenever you have the opportunity. The more you refer, the more referrals you will ultimately receive. That partnership will flourish faster than you think.”

Follow up!

Bill Tzizik, CEO of Classic Photographers, knows that following up (and following through) is the best thing you can do to set yourself up for success. “Everyone says that they’re going to follow up, but few do so in a timely manner. Have a system that works for you for collecting information on site – not just grabbing business cards.”

Do yourself this favor during the conference you’re attending – take note of those speaking on topics relative to your business and the goals you’re pursuing. This builds up for a wonderful segue into a conversation, especially if you’re growing a professional relationship and looking for a topic opening, especially for your follow-up.

Note that while they seem like great people to flock to during networking time in between sessions, the event organizers themselves are going to be the busiest people at the event. It’s better to say a quick hello to them (and any other panelists who may have tight schedules) and follow-up after. I promise they’ll be much happier you did and that phone call or email will be more memorable to them after a whirlwind conference.

The key to etiquette is to simply be respectful of time and money. Even speakers invest their own money into travel and accommodations, so you don’t want to crowd them in their downtime.

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.