» Event Recap: The Planners Suite Conference

Event Recap: The Planners Suite Conference 2016This past Monday, event planners of all different backgrounds and stages of their careers gathered for The Planners Suite Conference at Top of the Town in Arlington, VA!

WeddingWire was thrilled to have our own Kyle Mihalcoe in attendance to speak about how your business can stand out on social media, but the conference also included a number of expert speakers on a variety of topics surrounding the core message of the day – turning passion and purpose into profit!

After a warm welcome from Jon’ll Boyd, CEO of Completely Yours Events and Founder of the Planners Suite Conference, and emcee Candice Camille, WellologistTM, attendees observed a ton of great presentations from true industry experts, including:

  • Tips on grabbing the attention of key sponsors for events from Stacey Ferguson of Blogalicious
  • Instructions for creating successful and full proof contracts from Rebecca Melone of Melone Law, P.C.
  • Lessons on managing your finances from Sonya Smith-Valentine of Financially Fierce
  • Helpful marketing advice and strategies from Sherron Washington of P3 Solutions
  • Guidelines for effectively and gracefully executing a styled shoot from Christina Grimes of Completely Yours Events
  • Reasons why it’s so important to take control of your own A/V from Taren Bradley of PSAV
  • Sales automation best practices from Che Brown and Trevor Otts of Peak Performers Institute
  • Engaging tips for taking the plunge and investing in your own success from Cheryl Wood of Cheryl Wood Empowers
  • Keynote presentation by the one and only Jodi Moraru of EVOKE
  • Suggestions for learning how to charge what you’re worth from Shelby Tuck-Horton of Exquisite Expressions and Events
  • Branding strategies and reminders from Amanda Miller Littlejohn of The Branding Box
  • Steps to building and maintaining a successful team from host and creator Jon’ll Boyd of Completely Yours Events
  • Information for defending against copyright infringement from Jennifer Reitmeyer and Kyle Bergner of WeddingIQ

Attendees finished a very long, inspirational day with a happy hour and mixer filled with the constant exchange of advice, laughs, and business cards. But the best part about the conference was the unity among attendees. Each planner was there to grow themselves, and their business, but they left with plenty of connections and an extended network.

In addition to the amazing planners in attendance, The Planners Suite Conference featured the wonderful work of the following pros:

Check out a few photo highlights from Chip Dizárd Weddings, below!

The Planners Suite Conference 2016
The Planners Suite Conference 2016
The Planners Suite Conference 2016
The Planners Suite Conference 2016
The Planners Suite Conference 2016 Continue reading

» WedInsights: Why Couples Prefer Online Payments

WedInsights: Why Couples Prefer Online PaymentsSmall and large businesses alike have an increasing number of options to collect digital payments from customers. Now that credit cards and online payments are more commonly being used in the wedding industry, it’s important for professionals to accept most forms of payment – especially the forms that are most convenient for your clients!*

Mobile payments are only expected to grow in prevalence – transforming the way consumers pay both online and offline in the coming years. Stay ahead of the trend and ensure you are collecting payment the fastest, and easiest, way for your clients! The stats below from Volume 9 of the WeddingWire WedInsights Series shed light on why couples prefer online payments.

More than 50% of couples prefer to pay their wedding vendors using an online payment method

Although 85% of couples pay for their products or services by personal check, writing a check has become a thing of the past in the minds of today’s couples. Just like you need to stay up-to-date with the latest trends in your field, it’s important to do the same with your business practices so you aren’t perceived as outdated!

Online payments typically take less than one day to submit payment

Submitting a payment online is not only convenient for the client, but it also helps you get paid faster. Couples on average take less than one day to submit an online payment, whereas those required to mail in or drop off a check take 3 – 4 times longer. Why wait?

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» Top 4 Email Dos and Don’ts

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 public relations services, brand development and business consulting.

In many situations, communication between businesses and clients occurs almost exclusively over email. While emailing is a huge time saver, it’s important to realize that they are often the first and only impression that a client or business has of you!

Take your emails seriously and follow these dos and don’ts to ensure that your emails are representing you well.

Top 4 Email Dos and Don’tsReply…and reply quickly! Do not take too long to reply to an email. An overdue email response can not only be a lost opportunity, but it can also send a negative message about you and your business. Take the time to reply to everyone who has taken the time to reach out to you, no matter how insignificant.

Think about how you sound. Although emails often seem like a very informal form of communication, you should always use correct punctuation, spelling, and format. Take the time to proofread your emails so you come off as intelligent and professional. That being said, you can (and should!) still attempt to convey your personality and excitement in your emails. This can often be hard in writing, but don’t be afraid to use exclamations to change the tone of what you are saying and make the recipient feel more comfortable.

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» Gay Wedding Trends: A 2015 Year-in-Review Snapshot

View More: http://carlyfullerphotography.pass.us/kathryn-amy-weddingThis post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Kathryn Hamm, Publisher of GayWeddings.com, the leading online resource dedicated to serving same-sex couples since 1999. 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.

Though the spiritual implementation of wedding rituals for same-sex couples has remained steady since GayWeddings.com was founded in 1999, the practical implementation and legal opportunities have changed dramatically.

Gay Wedding Trends: A 2015 Year-in-Review SnapshotBesides the most dramatic change–same-sex couples having legal access to marriage rights in all 50 states–gay and lesbian wedding trends now look overwhelmingly different than they did 20, or even 10, years ago.

Where once we were having small, private ceremonies that might or might not have included our family members, we are now celebrating our unions with many more guests in attendance (100 on average according to a recent WeddingWire survey), with more family members than ever celebrating with us and, it’s worth noting, often pressuring us to hurry up and get engaged already.

I’ll be speaking at WeddingWire World in greater depth on the latest LGBTQ wedding trends, data insights, and how same-sex couples continue to impact the larger modern market, but I hope you’ll enjoy this brief sneak preview of the themes ahead.

LGBTQ wedding trends look an awful lot like those for non-LGBTQ couples

Yes, wedding ritual assimilation is well underway. Thankfully, that street goes both ways, which means that straight couples are gaining a few fun twists just as LGBTQ couples are lining up behind wedding trends shared by all couples in the mainstream market.

If you are looking for a crystal ball into 2016, GayWeddings.com’s lead writer, Whitney Teal, offered couples a fabulous summary of the 2016 style trends that are important for couples to keep in mind. Her summary includes 7 trends from mixed-gender wedding parties to drones (the camera carrying kind, not the dull guests!) to hashtags and retro menswear. It’s a great read so check it out to learn more about what’s ahead.

Pro Tip: Share the GayWeddings.com 2016 Style Trends post with your LGBTQ couples or prospective couples as a conversation starter.

Structurally speaking, we’re more alike than different…

Many of you are now familiar with the tradition and trend statistics the WeddingWire team released summarizing the behavior of same-sex couples in 2014. You might not be surprised to know that we continue to find a similar pattern for all couples in 2015, including:

  • LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ couples who use WeddingWire report similar levels of use of planning apps, announcing an engagement on social media and using a wedding hashtag.
  • LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ couples who use WeddingWire report a similar number of months for their engagement period.
  • LGBTQ and non-LGBTQ couples who use WeddingWire report a similar number of dollars spent in wedding costs.

…But some differences are essential to remember and integrate into your toolbox

In 2014, we found that LGBTQ couples broke from “tradition” and expressed themselves a bit differently when it came to wedding rituals. For individual LGBTQ couples, this was largely determined by fit with or rejection of heteronormative gender roles (eg. what a bride “does” and what a groom “does”). But, that was yesterday.

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» Updates to Your WeddingWire Account: February 2016

This week we’ve introduced some important improvements and exciting updates to your WeddingWire account. Read more about these changes below!

	Updates to Your WeddingWire Account: February 2016A Better, Faster Vendor Directory

The vendor directory has had some work done! The updated design provides a refreshed look-and-feel to let your main image shine, plus it creates a more organic search experience to encourage couples to reach out to your business. Our goal is to drive more traffic to your Storefront so that users can find out everything they need to know about your wedding services!

Take a look »

Updated Review Gifts

WeddingWire is no longer offering a photo book or canvas print as a reward for couples who write two or four reviews. This information has been automatically removed from your Review Collector email template; however, if you have chosen to notify clients of this reward elsewhere, please make sure to update as needed. Stay tuned for new offers to encourage couples to write reviews, or invite your clients to enter our WeddingWire Rewards wedding giveaways!

The New Search Engine Optimizer

We’ve improved the Search Engine Optimizer to include even more functionality to boost your Storefront ranking! Check out the new sections focused on adding fresh content, selecting your preferred Title and Description, optimizing your About Us content, and more. This is great news for pros with multiple locations or different service offerings!

We’re also in the process of updating the ‘Visit Website’ link from your Storefront to now include a nofollow tag. This change will prevent any potential issues in the eyes of search engine algorithms and make sure your business Storefront continues to rank toward the top on Google and other search engines.

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» When People Pleasing Becomes a Problem

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

When People Pleasing Becomes a ProblemBusiness ownership can be confounding for a lot of reasons, a big one being that we often find our personalities in conflict with our priorities. Sometimes, our natural traits can be a hindrance, both to our financial success and to our well-being as business owners. For example, we all have times when we get frustrated or angry with a client, yet obviously we can’t express the sentiments that may be going through our head (at least not verbatim!).

There’s another trait that’s just as detrimental to business as an anger management problem, but far more common: an addiction to people-pleasing. Sure, empathizing with others and wanting to make them happy are good things in our uniquely sentimental, emotion-driven industry. However, constantly putting clients first, at the expense of your business, can quickly cause you to go under. The ability to honor your own standards, set boundaries, and maintain your bottom line are all essential to your company’s longevity.

If you’re a kind, thoughtful, chronic people-pleaser, here are three mistakes to avoid as you operate your business:

Agreeing to things that put your business in jeopardy. Selling our products or services often feels like selling ourselves, and it can be intimidating. When a client seems ready to hire us, but just wants us to make a “few” changes to our contract or modify our policies, it can be tempting to go along with their requests just so that we’ll make a sale. This is a dangerous risk to take, however. For instance, when a client is asking you to strike a clause holding them or their guests liable for damage, they’re essentially asking you to assume that liability yourself. It would be crazy to accept that, right? Well, sure, when you’re thinking about it theoretically – but when a client is putting the pressure on, it’s easy to rationalize that a worst-case scenario will never happen, you’ll accommodate them just this once, blah blah blah…All well and good, until something does happen. If nothing else, you’ve demonstrated to the client that you’re a pushover, and they’re bound to keep pushing. Instead, hold firm to your contract and to any other terms you’ve put in place, and do so with the confidence that you’re giving the client the benefit of being served by a protected, established business.

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» Set Business Resolutions that You Can Keep in 2016

Business Resolutions You Can Keep Webinar recap!

Every January starts with excitement about New Year’s Resolutions, but all too quickly they can be forgotten or pushed aside. Make 2016 your best year yet by setting business resolutions that you can actually keep, and that will have a lasting positive impact!

During this month’s webinar for premium members, WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg discussed the importance of setting challenging, yet achievable resolutions for yourself and your business each year.

Review Alan’s Top 5 Resolutions for Pros:

  1. Be respectful of time. As a busy Pro, you know that often, it can seem like there are simply not enough hours in the day! Save your own time, your clients time, and other professionals time, and keep your communication direct and concise. Also, work to respond to all inquires or questions in a very timely manner (aim for 24 hours or less!), even if just to acknowledge them.
  2. Be less connected to tech. While we all love technology and how it can make our lives more in sync, it can also be a distraction from personal interaction and taking the time to enjoy the moment. Challenge yourself to set some specific time to disconnect completely from tech each day, and focus on really connecting to the people and experiences in your life.
  3. Avoid hypocrisy. Wedding pros often have similar complaints when it comes to some clients. Next time you feel frustrated, take a moment to truly consider their point of view. After all, they are planning and investing in a once in a lifetime event. Wouldn’t you have questions, expect the highest quality service, and want to save some money if you could? Work to see their perspective, show empathy, and then use your experience to help them feel confident in their decision to do business with you.
  4. Shorten your to-do list. There is an easy way to shorten your to-do list without simply saying ‘no’ to more work! Make a daily ‘must-do’ list to go with your larger ‘to-do list.’ On this list, prioritize a handful of key actions that you must meet that day. Then, when the list is complete, move on to the next prioroity round of to-dos, or catch up on emails, calls or errands! You will feel accomplished and more relaxed, while keeping your focus on high priority items.
  5. Resolve to think bigger. Challenge yourself this year! What is the next big business step you hope to achieve? More revenue? More booked events? An expanded team? Consider what a better business means to you. From there, set three goals you hope to reach in 2016 that will get you to your next level. Create some metrics or programs that will help you reach your goals, and get started! Don’t forget to visit them regularly to stay on track, and see how you are progressing. A monthly check in can help!

For more great tips on creating and keeping your resolutions this year, watch the full webinar!

Commit to more education this year! All past webinars on a variety of important business topics for wedding Pros are available in the Education Center for premium Pros to view anytime, anywhere.

» Social SEO in 5 Minutes a Day: Part 2

Pro to Pro Insights

Kathy DalPra, Bride AppealThis post was written by Kathy DalPra. Kathy is the owner of Bride Appeal. She takes the overwhelm out of SEO, sales and website conversion so wedding businesses can turn more curious visitors into high paying clients. Kathy’s strategies began to develop during her time as bridalpreneur when she took a struggling website to the top of Google; gaining targeted traffic, press mentions and celebrity customers along the way. Today Kathy shares her methods with other event professionals at brideappeal.com.

Welcome to the second installment of my tips for boosting your rankings and getting your brand in front of more prospects by investing just 5 minutes a day on social media. If you’re just joining us, start with Part 1 and continue on below!

4. Link Love

If you’re new to SEO, let’s get you up to speed on a critical ranking factor: links to your website. Also known as “backlinks.”

When quality websites link to your website, it’s kind of like receiving a vote for the value or authority of your website. It sends a signal to search engines that other online resources and real people feel your website content is valuable and worth sharing.

In other words, getting backlinks helps your website rank higher.

And based on recent comments from Google and Bing, it sounds like social sharing may affect your website authority, and subsequently your ranking, in a similar way.

While Google doesn’t come right out and confirm that having your webpage links shared across social media can help your webpages rank higher, they certainly hint strongly at it:

“Facebook and Twitter pages are treated like any other pages in our web index, and so if something occurs on Twitter or occurs on Facebook and we’re able to crawl it then we can return that in our search results.”

In the same interview, Google also said that a link does carry more weight depending on the person who shares it on Twitter or Facebook.

And Bing echoed Google’s statements with this:

“We take into consideration how often a link has been tweeted or retweeted, as well as the authority of the Twitter users that shared the link.“

These statements suggest two things:

  1. If one of your webpages or blog posts is shared on Twitter (and likely other social platforms as well), Google and Bing can see this and possibly list it in their search results or, at the very least, recognize that your page is gaining in value because it is being shared on social media.
  2. When your website pages or posts are shared often and by influential users on Twitter, it increases the weight, or perceived importance, of your website page, giving it a ranking boost. The more these activities, or signals, add up, the more chances your page has to rank higher.

This means that if a major industry influencer on Twitter retweets your website link, it could give your domain and that specific page a little SEO boost, helping it to rank higher over time.

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» Don’t Miss the 2016 WeddingWire WinterBook!

2016 WeddingWire WinterBook coverIt’s that time of year once again – our 2016 WeddingWire WinterBook is here and we can’t wait for our pros to see it!

Our seasonal e-magazines feature the latest wedding advice and inspiration for your clients, showcasing the work and experienced opinions of our community of talented event professionals. The new WinterBook is full of the hottest ideas to keep your warm during the cold winter months!

Top stories in this issue include:

  • Expert tips in response to the most-asked budget questions
  • New wedding trends straight from industry experts
  • Creative (and not to mention stunning!) winter real weddings
  • The latest beauty and fashion ideas for couples in 2016
  • Top wedding ideas currently trending on WeddingWire
  • …and more!

Plus, throughout our WinterBook, we’ve highlighted our 2016 Couples’ Choice Award-winning wedding professionals by placing a blue star next to their names! Be sure to check it out and share it with your clients on Facebook and Twitter to help them achieve their dream wedding vision.

Cover photo by Milton Photography

» Social SEO in 5 Minutes a Day: Part 1

Pro to Pro Insights

Kathy DalPra, Bride AppealThis post was written by Kathy DalPra. Kathy is the owner of Bride Appeal. She takes the overwhelm out of SEO, sales and website conversion so wedding businesses can turn more curious visitors into high paying clients. Kathy’s strategies began to develop during her time as bridalpreneur when she took a struggling website to the top of Google; gaining targeted traffic, press mentions and celebrity customers along the way. Today Kathy shares her methods with other event professionals at brideappeal.com.

You can snatch up more rankings and get your brand in front of more prospects by investing just 5 minutes a day.

In this article, I’ll show you how to do so even if you’re not a technical SEO jedi.

Every week I hear from wedding and event professionals who are putting off their wedding SEO altogether because they think they have to ‘get it perfect’ before it will work.

Listen, even my SEO is not perfect and yet Google is my #1 source of traffic.

There are hundreds of SEO strategies we can employ in our business, but we only need to start with a few simple ones to reap the rewards.

So why not begin with an activity you’re already doing? Social media networking!

By simply leveraging the social media accounts you’re already toying around with each week, you can get your company more visibility in both search engines and within the social networks themselves.

All you need to do is view your social activity like an SEO strategy and invest 5 minutes a day.

So let’s dive into Part 1…

1. Dominate Google with Your Social Profiles

A few years back a wedding photographer called me in a panic because competitors who shared her business name in the same geographical area were outranking her in the search engines.

She was losing business left and right to fresh prospects who recently heard of her, but were landing on someone else’s website!

She might not have had that problem at all if she knew how to dominate Google’s first page for her brand name.

Kind of like this…

ocial-profiles-in-search-results

Yes, your social media accounts can rank in search engines too.

When people search for your company name, personal name or even your profession on a local level, they can stumble on one of your social media profiles, not just your website.

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» Wedding PR: Time to Shake Things Up!

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 and NACE Education Chair for 2014-15. To learn how OFD Consulting can assist you, as well as more about our new wedding PR kits, please visit us today.

January tends to be a natural time in the year for wedding pros to plan for the year ahead. We set goals, refresh our brand, and finally cross off all of the lingering to do’s on our never-ending list.

Wedding PR: Time to Shake Things Up!In years past, I use my first post of the year as a not-so-gentle reminder to get organized before wedding season sneaks up on us yet again. But what if you are already there, armed with your standard operating procedures, and you’re still seeking that “something different” that will fulfill that missing spot? Luckily, there are a number of ways to mix things up and start off your next venture.

Go Offline

That’s right – log off and smell the roses! It’s understandable if the majority of your marketing efforts are online, as millennials are constantly connected. However, it may be time to diversify and devote some of your time to going offline – from magazines to television, it never hurts to branch out and build your brand through different mediums. Start off with one new approach that reaches your target audience and fits in with both your company’s goals and your skill set.

Consider Podcasts

Beyond hits like Serial and This American Life, podcasts are a great tool for marketing your wedding business. There are podcasts for nearly every niche out there and they can be considered a media on-the-rise. Not only are they very popular with Gen Y, but they come with the added bonus of being great practice for those interested in speaking (see next point!). Unlike online and print features, podcasts allow for your target audience to get a glimpse of who you really are and how excited you are to talk about weddings.

Speaking Engagements

While public speaking may not be everyone’s specialty, it’s hard to argue against the fact that it’s great for getting your brand out there. If you’re ready to take the plunge, start small and work on developing a platform based on your expertise. Start out in your region and look into local networking groups or industry events. Consider reaching out to nearby universities’ hospitality departments and inquire about guest lecturing. Find a way to include guest participation and be sure to ask for feedback afterwards. It’ll only take a few practices before you start feeling like a seasoned pro!

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» 4 Simple Steps for Wedding Vendors to Get More Traffic From Pinterest

Pro to Pro Insights

Christopher Lin, Lin & Jirsa PhotographyThis post was written by Christopher Lin. Chris is the co-founder of Lin and Jirsa, an award-winning Los Angeles wedding photography and cinematography studio founded in 2006. Chris has used his marketing, SEO and business expertise to help build Lin and Jirsa into a company that shoots over 300 weddings annually serviced by over 30 talented creatives. Along the way, Chris and his two business partners also created SLR Lounge, where an international team of writers and photographers share their education with the community.

Pinterest and weddings are a perfect marriage; brides and grooms need a place to gather and share ideas and Pinterest provides that perfect, pretty, organized platform.

But as wedding professionals, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that. Whether you’re a photographer, florist, planner, or any other wedding vendor, you’ve probably all had clients send you links, saying, “I want something that looks like this,” with a link to a board they created. So how do you take advantage of this situation to drive traffic to your website? For our photography studio, Lin and Jirsa, we receive around 12% of our traffic from Pinterest, as you can see in the screenshot of our Google Analytics below:

Lin and Jirsa Pinterest analytics

Here are the 4 simple steps to getting more traffic from Pinterest (modified from our book, Photography SEO and Web Marketing):

Step 1:  Upload Images to Your Blog or Website

Pinterest can drive a ton of traffic to your site because the images on Pinterest are linked directly to the site from which it is originally pinned. So, the first step is to upload images featuring your work on to your blog or website. Do not upload images directly to Pinterest, because then you lose the link value.  

Step 2: Add The Ability to “Pin” Directly On Your Website  

If your website is on WordPress, there are plugins like Pinterest Pin It Button. If you’re on Squarespace, follow these instructions here. Every content management system should have an easy solution.  If you can’t figure it out, hire an expert – this is an investment worth making. Continue reading