» #WeDoLove for the Anniversary of Marriage Equality

This Sunday, June 26, 2016, marks the one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality!

The court ruled that the right to marriage is a fundamental right for all – that there is no legal or moral justification for standing in the path of marriage equality. Members of the WeddingWire and GayWeddings teams were on-site to witness the historic decision, and spent the morning celebrating with the LGTBQ community and straight allies in attendance.

To celebrate this monumental anniversary, WeddingWire and our sister site, GayWeddings, collected video submissions from wedding pros and engaged couples alike telling us why they “do love” in support of marriage for all and they did not disappoint! Check out the inspiring video below to be reminded of why marriage equality is such an important victory for love that impacts all of us.

Together with GayWeddings, WeddingWire is proud to continue offering resources and education to all engaged couples and wedding professionals. We hope you enjoy celebrating this important moment in history this weekend with loved ones!

Spread the love and let the LGBTQ community know that you’re ready, willing, and able to help them plan the wedding of their dreams by adding our GayWeddings badges to your website or blog. Or, if you haven’t yet joined the GayWeddings directory to start reaching more same-sex couples, learn how to opt-in and customize your main image on GayWeddings today.

» Have You Registered for Wedding MBA?

Have You Registered Wedding MBA?Don’t miss three exciting days of presentations and seminars from top-notch wedding professionals and favorite industry experts at Wedding MBA this October 3-5th in Las Vegas!

Did you know you can save extra on your ticket just by being a WeddingWire member? Register using this special link to save an extra $20 on the current ticket price (please note your discount will be applied when you complete checkout).

What can you look forward to at Wedding MBA?

  • An entire first day  filled with specialty content covering a variety of categories. There will be Wedding Venue Seminars, Photobooth Seminars, Decor Seminars, Florist Seminars, and many more! Attend the sessions to learn from your peers.
  • Many WeddingWire Education Experts will be in attendance, such as WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, who will be presenting his own talk, “Wedding Cashers,” on making more sales in less time. Alan’s other presentation, “Word Up,” will discuss ways to optimize your website text. You can also hear from WeddingWire Education Expert Kathryn Hamm on “Serving Same-Sex Couples: The Real Story”, and Meghan Ely on “One for the Money: Ten Ways to Boost Sales Without Discounting.” Plus, WeddingWire CMO Sonny Ganguly has three main stage sessions you won’t want to miss.
  • WeddingWire is excited to have our booth, annual party, and to sponsor a Happy Hour as the closing celebration for the event Wednesday evening! We can’t wait to show you what fun surprises we have in store this year.

The event will be here before we know it! Don’t forget to register now and save on your ticket before the next price increase on Saturday, June 25th.

» Build Your Reputation Through Relationships & Referrals

Build Your Reputation Through Relationships & ReferralsWebinar recap!

Yesterday, we held this month’s educational webinar, Build Your Reputation Through Relationships & Referrals, hosted by WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon. In this session, Andy explained an important, yet highly underrated part of a successful marketing strategy, which he calls “reputation marketing.”

Andy provided several tips for developing relationships within the industry and expanding your inventory of reviews and endorsements. By following his advice, you can build a reliable reputation, grow your business, and book more clients!

Here are a few ways to build a positive reputation within the wedding industry:

  • Track particular keywords or phrases about your business on Google Alerts to know what people are saying about your business and/or about your competitors. These updates are delivered straight to your inbox.
  • Create a blog where you can promote your own business, as well as those of your peers, whose professionalism you can trust and recommend. WordPress is a great platform to get started!
  • Collect more reviews from past clients and and peer endorsements from other vendors on WeddingWire. This will help to further develop your strong online reputation, and let potential clients know you are reliable!
  • Get involved in your community by attending events, joining associations, or accepting leadership roles in your favorite industry group. Not only can you become a figure of authority in your local community, but you can also demonstrate important skills that people will associate with you as a business owner.
  • Make an effort to learn all aspects of the wedding industry by grabbing a casual lunch or coffee with a peer and get to know the challenges they face on a daily basis, or share business tips. If you better understand each other’s work, you can refer each other when the time comes!

For more information, watch the full webinar, available within all Premium member accounts any time! For more education from Andy, visit his blog.

» 5 Things to Remember When Creating a Website

Pro to Pro Insights

Leila Lewis, photo by Valorie Darling PhotographyThis post was written by Leila Lewis of Be Inspired PR. As a business school graduate from Santa Clara University, Leila (Khalil) Lewis’ career began in publishing, where she worked in marketing and editorial roles for business and lifestyle publications. Since transitioning into the wedding business in 2004, Leila has over 10 years of wedding marketing experience under her belt, and is the industry’s go-to for wedding public relations services, brand development and business consulting.

Online brand representation can make or break a company. I’ve been consulting with brands for the past 10 years, and I have seen just how effective a well-done company website can be. Your website can be visually appealing, but if it doesn’t have a few fundamental basics, then your website could have a negative impact on your business.

5 Things to Remember When Creating a WebsiteBelow I share five things to remember when creating a website for your wedding business. Some of these tips may seem like no-brainers, but 60-80% of sites I review are still missing the mark on what makes a website client-friendly!

Tell Your Potential Clients Who You Are

Many sites refer to the overall company name when describing what they do, but there is no mention of who is behind the brand. Potential clients are looking to learn everything there is to know about your company when accessing your website, especially who you are! Including an “About Me” page will allow your clients to easily access the information they want, including your name, photo, and a short bio. Use this page to your advantage and list your impressive credentials and past experience.

Include Social Media Links

If you make it difficult for potential clients to find your social media sites, they aren’t going to spend the time looking for them. Including links to your company’s Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, and any other relevant social media accounts will allow clients to not only access the sites quickly, but will give your company credibility and relevance with the new generation of customers. Make the links clear and visible on the home page and include it on all other pages as well.

Show off!

A company website is not the place to be humble. Create a press page where you showcase any features, mentions, or positive reviews. Clients will be more inclined to work with a company who has had previous success. Include links to these features and don’t be afraid to show off your work!

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» 10 Best Practices for Communicating with Millennials

10 Best Practices for Communicating with MillennialsSuccessfully communicating with Millennials can sound like a daunting task if you aren’t familiar with their heavy reliance on mobile devices. After all, Millennials are the “mobile generation”: everything they do or want to do can be done on-the-go. They have around the clock access to email, news, social media you name it, they can do it!  So how do you possibly get their attention in a time when there are literally thousands of modes of interaction? The key is to understand three of the most popular (and efficient) ways Millennials are interacting with the world around them: texting, email, and social media.

To give you an idea of just how “mobile” this generation is, consider this: Millennials spend an average of four hours and 22 minutes on smartphones each day, and 87% of millennials have their smartphones on them at all times. According to the same data, 80% of Millennials said that the first thing they do when they wake up is check their smartphone, and 60% said that they believe everything will be done on mobile devices in the next five years. Looking at your audience specifically, engaged couples spend 30% of their time planning their weddings on mobile devices each week. The world is shifting to become much more mobile-based, and it’s essential to adapt your business’s marketing strategy accordingly. Is your business catering to these individuals?

If your answer is no, don’t worry. By following a few simple mobile etiquette tips and adjusting your current marketing strategy to account for this mobile generation, you’ll be equipped to successfully communicate Millennials via email, social media, and even text messaging.

Email

  1. Make your emails mobile-friendly. According to the 2016 WeddingWire Newlywed Report, about 70% of WeddingWire consumer emails are opened on mobile devices, which demonstrates how important it is that all of your business’ emails can be opened from a mobile device. WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg refers to this practice as “mobile end-to-end,” which means that the Millennials who are constantly on-the-go can access your content on a desktop or mobile device and enjoy the same experience.
  2. Don’t get lost in the (inbox) crowd. Once you reach your client’s email inbox, it’s important to direct them to your email amidst the hundreds of others they’re probably receiving. To do this, use a short, descriptive subject line that grabs their attention and provides all of the important information. This strategy is crucial for a generation that often weeds out emails based merely on the subject lines.
  3. KISS. This acronym – Keep It Short and Simple – is the golden rule for your email content. Millennials’ time is precious; they’re a busy generation with very little time to read through lengthy boring content. So once you’ve grabbed their attention with a catchy subject line, make your emails concise and exciting. Use images and large font to engage your clients, and be sure to keep the message short enough so you don’t lose their interest.
  4. Respond ASAP. Remember to respond as quickly as you can, because besides being courteous, doing so lets your clients know they are important. Our data suggests that most couples expect to hear back from a vendor within 24 hours, so aim for that at a minimum.

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» NACE Experience: Special Savings for WeddingWire Members

NACE Experience logoWeddingWire believes in the value of ongoing education to support your business growth in the wedding industry, and we’re excited to share a special offer to save on tickets to the National Association for Catering and Events (NACE) Experience 2016! This three day educational conference for all catering and events industry professionals is being held July 17-20 in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Register today and save $50 on your ticket by using promo code WPM50E16, applied during checkout.

The NACE Experience includes:

  • Design Experience, a one of a kind interactive demonstration of the latest trends and design tips
  • Culinary Experience, a multi-sensory experience that lets participants enjoy culinary treasures at their seats as they are being prepared on site
  • National speakers from all over the industry, such as personalities from the Food Network, Hard Rock International, and more

Don’t miss your chance to enjoy breakout sessions, award-winning national keynote speakers, networking with other catering and event professionals, and a Marketplace Expo with top industry companies – including WeddingWire!

For additional details, view the full schedule, speakers, and travel and hotel information, and follow along on social media with #NACEEXP16.

Planning to attend? You’re invited to join the Greater Fort Lauderdale Convention & Visitors Bureau for their Wedding Planning Destination Experience 2016, immediately following the NACE Experience 2016. Conference attendees who attend the event receive one complimentary hotel night with their registration!

nace experience hotel

» WeddingWire Networking Night Phoenix

Earlier this week, wedding professionals gathered at The Clayton on the Park for WeddingWire Networking Night Phoenix!

At the Networking Night, Phoenix pros had the opportunity to enjoy a modern venue space, network with other local professionals across all service categories, meet members of the WeddingWire team, and listen to an educational presentation by WeddingWire’s Regional Manager of Customer Success, Katey McBurney.

Thank you to all the wonderful pros who joined us! We’re excited to share highlights from the event including the educational presentation, our newest issue of WedInsights, and beautiful photos from the evening. If you want to continue the conversation with some of the pros you met at the event, check out the WeddingWire Networking Night Phoenix board in the Pro Forums.

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

We’re excited to announce the winner of our WeddingWire Prize Pack – congrats to Cori of the Phoenix Art Museum!

Click the photo below to view the highlight video by Distinctive Wedding Videos.

WeddingWire Networking Night Phoenix

View the rest of the event photos below!

WeddingWire Networking Night Phoenix 2016
WeddingWire Networking Night Phoenix 2016
WeddingWire Networking Night Phoenix 2016
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» Why Craigslist is Not Your Competitor

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

Just the other day, I heard yet another wedding pro bring up Craigslist, lamenting how easy it is to get into his industry (in this case, be a DJ). The thing is, he’s at the top end of the price spectrum in his market. Why would he think that people charging a fraction of what he’s charging are his competition? It’s an easy trap to fall into. Theoretically, anyone who does what you do is a competitor. In the real world, though, that simply isn’t true.

Why Craigslist is Not Your CompetitorIs there really a difference?
Technically, Rolls Royce competes with Kia, because their products are both capable of transporting people from point A to point B. Of course, we know that isn’t true. While a Kia buyer might dream about one day owning a Rolls Royce, the opposite isn’t so. People buy Rolls Royce cars for reasons beyond basic transportation needs. The same is true when couples are shopping for their DJ, or photographer, or caterer, or dress, or wedding planner; they need what you do. But do they need and want you to do it?

Marketing thought leader Seth Godin suggests that you don’t need everyone to get what you do. You only need a small portion of the total market to really understand the specific value you bring. You can’t get them all, and you probably don’t want them all. That DJ doesn’t want the couple that only has $500 to spend on their wedding entertainment. Sure, they’re entitled to have a fun wedding, with great music – he’s just not their guy. Maybe someone else is; maybe they’ll use an iPhone. Either way, he didn’t lose that gig. It was never his to get.

What about you?
Are you wasting time, energy, and resources worrying about every other company in your market, professional or not? You simply can’t control those variables. The barrier to entry, for most wedding and event businesses, is very low. Many, if not most, don’t require a license or certification. Other than those that require a substantial physical presence (caterer, venue, dress shop, etc.), the monetary investment is very low as well. You don’t need the most expensive camera to take great photos; you need a great wedding photographer behind that camera.

Experience can’t be bought – it has to be earned. That said, experience is not a guarantee of success. Being in business for 10 years doesn’t guarantee that couple a great outcome from you. Have you done 5 weddings each year of those 10 years? Or, have you done 50 weddings each year? Have you updated your technical skills, as well as your business and customer service skills? There are many moving parts when it comes to providing a successful wedding outcome.

Who is your real competition?
If it’s not everyone who does what you do, then who are your real competitors? To figure this out, you have to understand how your target market shops for your product/service. What are the things that they value the most? Their priorities drive their budget, and fear is a major factor when making a big decision. What are they afraid might happen if they make the wrong decision? If they’re afraid that you can’t or won’t deliver the outcome they want, they’ll pay more to someone else for the peace of mind. Those are the times you scratch your head, wondering why they chose a higher-priced supplier, when you felt you could do everything they wanted.

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» Risk Management: Identifying Significant Risks

Pro to Pro Insights

Jennifer Taylor, Taylor'd Events GroupThis post was written by Jennifer Taylor. Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui.

Nobody wants to face a crisis during an event – that’s a fact. However, that’s all the more reason to prepare in advance and develop a risk management plan. That way, if things go awry, you’ll be ready to mitigate the repercussions and bounce back.

Risk Management: Identifying Significant RisksThe key to a solid risk management plan is open communication between all parties involved. This includes the clients, their parents, the venue coordinator, and all of the wedding professionals on the event team.

Each event is unique, so it may make sense to develop a standard crisis plan that can be tailored to the situation at hand. For example, uncooperative weather is a common worry for outdoor events, so a rain plan is something that can be planned in advance. However, for each event, you’ll need to be familiar with the venue so that you can tweak the rain plan if necessary.

The same goes for other potential risks – use your foresight to think about what could possibly go wrong and find a solution before it does. Worried about an elaborate cake surviving the summer heat? Ensure that there is a nice and cool place for it to stay safe and sound. Concerned by a vendor’s lack of communication? Draw up a phone tree with everyone’s day-of phone numbers so each person can be reached.

Once there is a plan in place, send it along to the rest of the event team to ensure that everyone is on the same page. Communicate your expectations and what you define as a successful. Be sure that everyone understands what kind of constraints they are operating under, as it may have an effect on the level of damage control necessary. An event is truly a team effort, so include all involved parties in the crisis plan so that each has their own role that will contribute to a successful event, no matter what happens.

It will help to schedule a monthly call with the rest of the event team just to check in on everyone’s progress and ensure that everyone has what he or she needs. This is a great way to not only keep everyone accountable and avoid risk, but also to build a better camaraderie between members.

You may not even need to use your risk management plans – that’s the good news! However, if something does happen, you’ll be confident in knowing that you’re fully prepared to handle the crisis and lessen the damage that can come from it.

» Is Your Website Turning Away Potential Clients?

Megan Hayes is a Regional Manager of the Customer Success Team at WeddingWire. As a client-facing customer advocate with 6+ years of experience in both account management and online advertising, she’s now taken her experience and travels nationally speaking on topics to empower small businesses with industry trends. She earned her bachelor’s degree in Communication Studies with a Public Relations concentration from James Madison University.

One of the oldest (yet often overlooked) challenges in the wedding industry is that of diversity. While society has led us to think a certain way based on what’s portrayed to us in media outlets such as magazines and television, the reality is that today’s couples reflect a variety of ages, ethnicities, races, sexual orientations, and financial backgrounds.

Just think: How many times have you seen a young bride standing alone on the cover of a wedding magazine? Does she represent all of your wedding clients? The short answer, of course, is no. We all know that, yet you wouldn’t know that from the imagery and language used in the majority of wedding-related media.

Is Your Website Turning Away Potential Clients?Whether it’s your business website, your social networks, or ads in wedding magazines, only catering to one type of client could mean that your website (and marketing materials) could be turning away potential clients. According to a recent WedInsights fact sheet, 40% of straight grooms and 50% of brides and grooms of color say it is challenging to see themselves reflected in the content and imagery of magazines and online resources. Additionally, same-sex couples and those with lower household income are also more likely to say they experience this challenge.

It’s important to remember that all types of couples are looking for inspiration and relatability to help them with their decision-making needs throughout the wedding planning process. If couples can’t relate to or identify their own similarities within your work, this might deter them from considering your services. Conversely, our data shows that representing more diverse audiences can actually benefit your business. According to our 2016 Survey of Contemporary Couples & Current Wedding Trends, 98% of same-sex couples surveyed feel positively about a company featuring same-sex imagery on their websites and marketing collateral.

And diversity doesn’t only matter to those who aren’t represented in mainstream media. That same study indicates that 53% of opposite-sex couples have the same positive sentiment; half (49%) find it important for their vendors to be inclusive and provide services for all types of couples.

Over the years, companies have taken an initiative to step away from the stereotypical imagery to a more inclusive outlook on society. We’re starting to see a shift in focus with well-known brands launching campaigns tht promote real people such as Dove’s Real Beauty Campaign and Campbell Soup’s #RealRealLife Campaign. Additionally, companies like General Mills, Swiffer and Coca-Cola are great examples of established companies that have followed a similar strategy towards representing the realism of today’s culture through online marketing campaigns, print ads, commercials, and branded hashtags.

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» What’s the ‘Q’ in LGBTQ?

WeddingWire Contributor

Bernadette Smith

Bernadette Smith is the founder and president of 14 Stories and the Gay Wedding Institute (GWI), and award-winning author of three books, including The Business of Gay Weddings: A Guide for Wedding Professionals. Through the GWI, Bernadette has trained thousands of wedding and hospitality professionals on sales and marketing best practices to same-sex couples. Bernadette’s expertise has been sought after by the Today Show, National Public Radio, the BBC, the New York Times, CNN, among many others.

When I’m working with teams training them on attracting LGBTQ customers and growing their client base, my first focus is always language and terminology. I believe that language is the foundation of our society and to effectively serve the LGBT wedding market, we must first truly understand the language of our community.

What’s the ‘Q’ in LGBTQ?Let’s start with the easy part: LGBT or sometimes seen as LGBTQ. L stands for lesbian, G for gay, and B for bisexual. All of those are examples of sexual orientation – who we fall in love with, who we are attracted to, and who we want to go to bed with.

The T in LGBT stands for transgender, or someone whose physical body doesn’t match the gender identity in their brain. Those folks are likely to change their bodies to match their minds. The most visible transgender person in the world is probably Caitlyn Jenner, a transwoman, or more accurately, a woman.

And Q stands for queer. Queer is a pretty controversial term, one that has historically been a derogatory term for members of our community. For example the older generation of LGBT folks are often still offended by that term “queer.” They may have been referred to as queer by bullies in high school, college, or even by members of their own family. For them queer is a really controversial and actually offensive term. That’s why I never recommend the use of queer (as a standalone term) in your marketing materials.

However, using LGBTQ as opposed to LGBT is actually a broader term and may be a successful way to market your wedding business. Simply put, queer has actually been reclaimed particularly by Millennials and used as an umbrella term that seeks an understanding of gender and sexual identity as complex and fluid. See, gender is a spectrum. There are lots of people who don’t identify with either male or female boxes, but rather fall somewhere in between. Simply put, they are gender fluid. Another word for gender fluid is genderqueer, commonly shortened as queer.

Similarly there are lots of people who don’t identify as straight, gay or even bisexual. Sexual identity is also a spectrum. If someone has a broad range of attraction to all different kinds of people there’s a very good chance they’re going to self-identify as pansexual or queer. Sometimes I referred to queer as “the anti-label label”: for people who are more fluid and don’t like labels or boxes, it’s the perfect label.

So, why does this matter in the wedding industry? First off, it’s a marketing consideration. Should you use the term LGBT or LGBTQ? If you live in a very liberal place, your client base is currently very progressive liberal couples, and if you often hear from the couple themselves first instead of having parents involved in the planning, then you may consider using LGBTQ instead of LGBT in your marketing materials. LGBTQ is also the perfect term if your target audience is millennial LGBTQ folks. However, if your target audience is older same-sex couples, then I would advise not using LGBTQ and instead just using LGBT. Remember, that older LGBT folks have some baggage around the term queer, particularly if it was used as a slur against them.

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» Wedding PR: How to Craft an Award-Winning Submission

WeddingWire Education Expert

Meghan Ely

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding pr firm OFD Consulting. As a highly sought-after speaker in the wedding industry, she is the exclusive Wedding PR Education Expert for WeddingWire as well as the national Communications and Marketing Director for WIPA. To learn how OFD Consulting can assist you, as well as more about our new wedding PR kits, please visit us today.

Whether you realize it or not, awards should play a prominent role in your wedding PR campaign. They not only provide brand recognition, but they also speak to your expertise and act as a source of outside credibility. Winning a few quality awards can grow your revenue, in addition to boosting morale in the office.

Wedding PR: How to Craft an Award-Winning Submission“That’s great. But where do I apply?”

The number one key to a successful award application is to only submit to those that fit your business. Sending applications out to any and all awards you can find is a waste of time, as well as damaging to your integrity. Remember – every story is different, so don’t assume that you’re a fit for every award that your competitor has. Stick to the ones that your company truly qualifies for and put all of your effort into it.

Aim high, but be realistic as well. While you certainly may deserve some of the top-tier awards, you’ll need to work on building your brand recognition before you reach that point. Start out by applying to local and regional awards before going for the larger national ones – this way, you can start developing your award-winning portfolio.

“Then what?”

Once you’ve narrowed your focus down to one or a few awards, be sure to read and reread the guidelines. One mistake may cost you the win, so do your due diligence and know what is required for a completed submission. Give yourself enough time to complete the application and submit it prior to the deadline.

Map out your approach prior to writing – the last thing you want is to fill out an application online and lose it from faulty Internet or one wrong click. When writing up the copy, it’s best to use your own voice to make everything flow together into a coherent story. This means that you need to “speak” with the judges – stay away from jargon, acronyms, and other terms that may confuse them. Don’t assume that they know everything, so connect the dots and make it easier for them to understand. Using facts and figures, as well as images, are great ways to support your story.

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