Early last month, I had the honor of speaking at WeddingWire’s National Conference in DC. It was my third appearance speaking at the conference and this year definitely did not disappoint! My seminar, “Industry Veterans,” gave me the opportunity to participate on a Pro Panel and answer some great questions delivered by moderator and WeddingWire CEO Timothy Chi. Of course, this seminar was focused on providing Veteran expertise to other Wedding Industry Professionals.
Here is a recap of the panel questions and my complete answers:
1. What is your favorite part of the wedding and events industry?
I have two answers to this question.
First off, the honor of being such an integral part of a couple’s wedding day is amazing! The amount of lasting relationships we have built is unmatched by any amount of financial success. This has never been a job, it’s a way of life for us!
Secondly, I do have to mention how crazy it is that we get to do this as our profession. The Wedding Industry, especially in Boston, is booming and I can’t believe that we are able to make such a great living for our families by doing what we Love every day! I am also blessed that I can provide such a great place to work for so many other professionals that share the same passion and love for the memories that we create.
2. What is the biggest change you’ve seen in the industry since you’ve started in the business, and how have you adapted to it?
The largest change I have noticed is how educated and savvy our clients are becoming. There is so much information online for couples to research; they are more dependent on online reviews and already know what they want before ever coming into our office. Because of this, we have focused much of our online presence on what we call pre-sales. Providing factual information, photos, videos and client reviews that tell our story and inform clients about the quality of our service. Keeping this information current sells us long before the couple ever meets us in person.
3. How have you used your past clients to grow your business reputation, and do you have any tips for collecting or showcasing your best reviews?
We approach the Review Collection Process from day one, before the client is ever booked. We stress the importance of reading through our reviews and our competitor’s reviews. We touch on the differences in our reviews and even educate them on the review process. At the end of the event, during the thank yous, we always ask them if they will go online to leave us a fabulous 5-Star review. This not only reminds them of the importance of the review, but also gives them a heads up that the review email will be coming soon.
The review email is NEVER a template! Every artist sends out their own review emails and customizes each one for that particular couple. We follow up with each client after 2 weeks if we have not received the review with a reminder email. Once the review is posted, we request a photo (if we don’t have one already) to go along with their review. The review and photo are then copied to our Tumblr Blog which we share on social media for added exposure and SEO.
4. What is a new resource or technology you’ve found to help take your business to the next level?
Video has become more and more relevant in the wedding world. After some professional recommendations, we started creating Video Blogs for our entertainers. It’s a great way to showcase our work and the venues that we work with. Because we have wedding filmmakers on staff, it’s an easy task – but anyone can create these video blogs with basic video equipment and free online video software. Once these videos are completed, we post them everywhere and utilize Facebook’s promoted posts and Pinterest’s promoted pins to help create continued buzz around our brand.
5. As your business continues to grow, how do you go about hiring more staff while maintaining your brand?
Our business model requires us to only hire the Best! Once our client demand for a particular service grows, we start the search. We use social media to post the job listings and promote the posts for maximum exposure. Once a potential 617 Weddings’ Rock Star is identified, I conduct a phone interview with the applicant and use a standard set of interview questions that are customized to the position. The hiring process then follows the same lines as any other business including references, and a review of their skill set.
What we are looking for is a young professional who already has Wedding experience. We then offer training, the “617 Weddings” way, to prepare them for what’s ahead.
6. Have you changed your prices over time and how did you reach that decision and justify your value?
The only price changes we have made are to keep current with our local market. My business philosophy has always been to stay the best value in Boston. I truly believe that every couple deserves the BEST on their Wedding day and should be able to have the best without breaking the bank. I would rather showcase our work to as many clients as possible, creating referrals and business for years to come, instead of increasing prices. As a company, we have expanded our offerings to add value and increase our customers spend.
7. Over time, how have you grown your business? For example, have you branched out to develop new revenue streams?
Without going into too much boring detail, I have taken a solo member DJ Company performing 10-20 weddings per year, to a multi-service complete Boutique Wedding offering serving over 500 weddings across New England.
8. How has developing relationships with industry pros helped your business develop or evolve?
Creating this multi-service offering was easy because I knew the right professionals that I wanted to bring into my company to guarantee success. While industry associations and networking events have introduced me to some fabulous Boston wedding pros, working alongside the right vendors and collaborating together is what helped to build these solid relationships.
Along with this, building and retaining relationships with our Venues has proven to be a #1 priority and a major source of client referrals for all our offered services.
9. How do you stay passionate about your business and services the longer you are in business?
I do this by setting realistic goals for both myself and the company as a whole. Examples of these goals are…
Weekly: event bookings, posted client reviews and upgraded sales packages
Monthly: revenue numbers, new venue relationships and networking meeting attendance
Yearly: total booking numbers and revenue goals as well as company and personal skill growth
Of course, the “staying passionate” part comes from meeting and exceeding these goals!
10. What is the best piece of business advice you would give to other wedding professionals?
If you are a small business, STOP thinking small! You need to think big and have lofty expectations for your business. If you treat your company like a “real business” and not like a hobby you will be much more successful. You need to get your brand out in front of as many potential clients and cheerleaders as possible. Forget about trying to get rich off of every client – focus your attention on growing your brand and working every weekend.
If you actually got to the bottom of this post… Thank You! It’s always a pleasure to share information with my industry peers. If every you would like more info or to have a deeper discussion about one or more of these topics please feel free to email me directly.