Marketing to Millennials

How To Get More Wedding Inquiries

5 Website Changes You Can Make Today

Wedding welcome party photo by    Cameron Clark

Wedding welcome party photo by Cameron Clark


If you’re a wedding entrepreneur, here are four changes you can make to your company’s website that will help you get more inquiries.


1. Create one clear call to action throughout your site.

Not three, not five, not eight. One.

If you're a service-based wedding professional, the point of your website is to get potential clients to contact you so that you can start a conversation. It is not to convince them of everything they need to know.

We like to think that people click through our sites in the way that we've laid them out, that they’ll go through all our galleries, or swipe through our 10 favorite things, or that they'll complete the fun Buzzfeed-style quiz on the wedding colors that best match their personality, but they don't.

The majority won't even land your home page, they'll land on whichever page on your site best matched their Google search term.

Make sure whichever page they land on is clear about what step you want them to ultimately take. That ultimate step should be contacting you.


2. Delete all industry jargon from your website's copy.

You may hate the term "vendor" or "supplier” (and with good reason), but a potential client who has no experience with the wedding industry will assume the term "creative partner" refers to your business partner or your life partner. They have no idea that you're referring to wedding professionals from other companies.

If this is the battle you want to pick, that’s your choice, but educating a client on how much weddings actually cost may be a better issue to focus on than making sure they get their vocabulary straight, especially since wedding spending is down and the DOW dropped 800 points earlier this month after “the bond market flashed a warning sign about a possible recession for the first time since 2007.”


3. Make your website’s copy inclusive.

Love is love, and it’s important that your site’s copy doesn’t unintentionally alienate people based on who they’re marrying.

Instead of writing the singular “bride and groom” (assumes the partnership includes one of each), you can use :

  • “bride or groom” (“Our services are designed to take all the stress off the bride or groom’s plate.”)

  • the plural: “brides or grooms”/”brides and grooms” (“I love seeing the faces of our brides and grooms when they see the beautifully designed ballroom for the first time.”)

  • couple/couples (“The couples we work with tend to be fun and down-to-earth while still appreciating the finer things in life.”)

On your contact form, if you need the second person’s name, simply use “Your Name” and “Partner’s Name” instead of bride/groom’s name for those fields.


4. Having a blog on your website is still the best SEO method. Period.

If you're not getting found online, blogging is the easiest and quickest fix.

If you have a blog but it's hosted elsewhere (Medium, Tumblr, Blogspot, etc), transfer it to your site. The best method is to host it as a folder (website.com/blog) and the second best is as a subdomain (blog.website.com).

I've written 2 million+ words on my wedding business blog over the years. I am not a blogger. It is not sponsored, ad supported, or affiliate-monetized. But it has landed me some of my biggest clients because it ensures I turn up on the first page for whatever they're looking for. Plus it shows that my expertise runs deep and I know what I'm talking about.

2 million+ additional words on my site for Google to crawl.

You know how many words my competitors have on their sites? Not 2 million. Not even close.

How many words does yours have? How many do your competitors have?

If you write paragraphs as Instagram captions (which do NOT help your SEO because they're coded as no-follow links), you can reprioritize to schedule some blog posts as well. Make the brand house you rent work for you (Instagram), but build equity in the brand house you own (your website and blog).

Also, "engagement season" in the United States starts at Thanksgiving (late November) and goes until Valentine's Day. If you want a potential bride or groom to find you once the question is popped and a ring is on their finger, start updating your site and blog now so that Google has time to index everything.


5. General web UX (short for "user experience") wisdom is that your contact form should be short and sweet.

By short, I mean three fields or less. Even bumping up to just four fields can reduce the number of people who fill out the form and click "submit" by over 50%. That measly extra field can cut your inquiries in HALF!

  • Unless you're a high-volume venue, you probably don't need their wedding date before you talk to them.

  • You don’t need to know up front where a potential client first heard of you, plus whatever they fill in on your contact form is probably wrong. They'll write Instagram because that was their last click when in reality they first saw you mentioned in a print issue of WedLuxe magazine, googled your company on their phone, clicked on a Pinterest result, clicked on a photo to a real wedding you had published on Over the Moon, clicked to your Instagram, then after scrolling for a while, clicked to your website.

  • A couple at the beginning of their wedding planning process likely does not know their real wedding budget yet. If they're having a luxury wedding, they may even assume that their budget will be around $50,000-$60,000 (they’ve heard the US national average is around $30k, so they figure doubling that number is a safe bet). Filtering them out by budget on your contact form is a sure-fire way to lose amazing clients who are happy to pay your rate once they've been educated on real costs and have been guided past sticker shock.

The above information is useful, but asking these questions can wait until your first conversation after you’ve gotten the inquiry.

That said, in some cases you can get away with more form fields without hurting your visitor-to-inquiry conversion rate, which can be helpful in certain circumstances. The catch with this is that the form fields have to be valuable to the potential client, not only to you.

For example, Millennials and Gen Z (aged 40 and younger) are famously guarded when it comes to giving out their personal cell phone numbers. This can be mystifying for people who grew up primarily sharing a landline with their family members.

Even so, it can be very helpful for you to get their phone number up front. If you opt to do this, one way to increase the chances that they complete your contact form is to include a field that asks how they prefer you contact them (by email, by phone, by text/WhatsApp, by Facetime).

A doctor or a teacher is unlikely to be able to take an unsolicited phone call and doesn't necessarily want non-urgent texts showing up on their Apple Watch. People working in an open-plan office where personal calls are frowned upon or personal email sites are blocked can often return a quick text without interrupting their workflow. If your destination wedding client lives outside the US, WhatsApp is likely king. Gen Zers are known for their love of FaceTime because – despite the anti-social label they’ve wrongly been given – they highly value face-to-face connection, even if it can’t be in person.

If you want clients from a younger generation to hand over their phone number on the initial inquiry form, make sure you give them the power to tell you how to use it, and then respect those boundaries.

The Power of Cultivating Community When Marketing to Gen Z

Wedding Spending Is Down: 6 Things You Can Do • No. 3

Here’s some not exactly splendid news: wedding spending is down in every budget category across the board, with the exception of the Ultra Luxury Wedding segment (budgets of $500,000+, not including the honeymoon).

Economists have been forecasting a recession to hit towards the end of 2019 for a while now, and while those predictions are not always accurate, wedding spending tends to be a canary in the coal mine for how people are feeling about their financial future.

At the end of my 2019 State of the Wedding Industry post, I outlined six things wedding professionals will need to do in order to navigate the coming uncertainties. In this blog series called 6 Ways to Survive a Recession, I’m diving into each one a little bit more. Here’s what’s been previously covered:

  1. Get super clear about what your brand is about and adjust your messaging accordingly.

  2. Diversify your marketing and play the long game by building equity in the brand house you own.


The third thing you should focus on is this:

Cultivate an inclusive community that authentically cares about something beyond themselves.

If you haven’t read my 2019 State of the Wedding Industry post yet, I recommend you do so before you continue on. Pay particular attention to the part about inclusive communities, Supreme, and Gen Z, because that’s what I’m going to expand on today.

Caught up? Okay, let’s go:

The oldest of millennials are turning 40 this year, and the oldest of Generation Z are in the early years of tying the knot.

For the next ten years, you will be marketing to both millennials and Gen Z. One generation grew up experiencing September 11th as tweens, teens, and young college-aged students, and one generation grew up post September 11th. These two generations approach the world very differently from one another.

One of the things that is important to millennials when choosing wedding vendors is that they want to know if they can potentially be friends with you. They want to know if you personally are someone they could grab a glass of wine with or catch up with over brunch, long after the wedding day.

Over the past ten years, Boomer and Gen X wedding pros struggled with this more so than their younger peers as their mindset tended to be, "I already have friends, I just want to do your wedding, go home to my family, and have you trust my talent enough to hire me again for your future baby showers, kids' birthdays and mitzvahs, and your company's holiday parties and incentive events."

For the most part, wedding pros of all ages came around to the idea that talent alone was not enough to make them stand out and shifted their marketing to be a bit more personal – sharing more about themselves and giving a peek behind the scenes into their lives.

What you will find is that while sharing your personal life will still work well in attracting millennial clients, it will not resonate as effectively with your Gen Z clients. In fact, Gen Zers will be turned off the most by wedding pros who post their kids in every photo. These clients are the children of the mommy blogger and Instagram influencer generation and have first-hand experience in having their lives splashed across the Internet without their consent or knowledge. As a result, this is a generation that fiercely values their privacy. For the older members of the group, their mindset as consumers tends to be, “If you won’t respect the privacy and wishes of your own children, how can I trust that you’ll respect my privacy and wishes?”

Do not underestimate how strongly they hold this value. While you don’t necessarily need to stop posting photos of your kids altogether, if that’s currently a large part of your marketing, I’d recommend figuring out a balance so that you can still appeal to millennial clients while not alienating Gen Z clients.

Unlike millennials, Gen Z does not care that much about whether or not you are someone they could be friends with. Gen Z wants to know if your other clients are people they could potentially be friends with. They want to be part of an exclusive yet inclusive community that you have created.

Your Goal Is To Create a Community, Not a Cult

Some business coaches will tell you to select 4-6 topics to talk about in your wedding marketing and rotate through them in your social media, blog, and newsletter. While having a schedule is helpful, and a tactic I often recommend, my approach to what goes on that schedule is a bit different.

To effectively reach Gen Zers, you’ll want to base your marketing on your "life guidelines,” as I call them, so that you can remain authentic to who you are and also attract an audience and potential clients who connect with your values rather than just your story.

Remember, people may like your story, but in the end what they really care about is how you can make their own story better in some way. Not focusing everything on yourself also means that you can live your life and not have to worry about having to mine the same stories week after week of how you left your corporate job or how you met your spouse or how you took a leap of faith and opened your business with just $40 in your pocket.

Your goal is to create a community, not a cult. If your marketing is developed based on your life guidelines, you will cultivate a community who can connect with one another over the meaningful things they have in common rather than over merely being a fan of you.

Plus, you are human, which means you are going to inevitably make mistakes, exercise poor judgment, or have some days where you are not the best version of yourself and say or do something you later regret. If all of your marketing is based on fauxthenticity (aka “curated imperfection” and select Gram-worthy “flaws”), you will face a backlash any time your carefully-designed mask slips, because you were actually the one who built the pedestal for yourself.

Authenticity doesn’t mean laying all of your cards face up on the table, and if your marketing is based on your life guidelines rather than on your “Story of Me,” you can allow yourself to truly be yourself, to share your opinions on a variety of non-surfacey issues, to apologize when you’ve dropped the ball or hurt someone, to not be “on” all the time. It is a much healthier way to run a business, in my opinion.

What Are “Life Guidelines?”

Your "life guidelines" are based on your core values – they are essentially how your core values play out in your daily life, how you ensure you actually walk the walk of what you say you believe.

Using your life guidelines in your marketing is in addition to a client avatar, not as a substitute for it. The latter shows you the demographics and psychographics of who you want to work with (household income, where they like to shop, how they dine, etc), the former allows you to narrow that group down more specifically to how they approach life in relation to deeper issues. If you are creating a community of clients that could potentially be friends with one another, you will need to focus on more than ensuring they all carry a Neverfull and love SoulCycle.

I’ll share a few of my life guidelines and the “why” behind them as examples. If I am going to create a community of people who would want to hang out with each other and who I would enjoy working with as clients, then I want to focus on showing what I care about through my marketing and conversations, so that if it is something they care about too, they know they’ve found a group who is on the same page.

My Life Guideline: Whenever possible, support the original artist.

One of my core values is being a good steward of the resources I have. One of my life guidelines to ensure this happens is: whenever possible, support the original artist.

While I rarely talk about being a good steward, supporting the original artist is something I talk about more frequently because it is something I am passionate about.

This is a lesson I really learned after owning a business. Before, I didn't see the issue with buying a well-made knock-off (or, as they're more commonly called these days, "dupes") because I viewed it as being smart with my money. I thought being a good steward meant making your dollar stretch as far as it could go. I later learned that being a good steward means using every dollar as a "vote." Now when I spend my money, I am "voting" for the people who originally created the products/designs/ideas, not the copycats. And because my budget didn't magically increase when I changed my mind on this, it means I usually end up buying better, but buying less.

Not supporting the copycats matters to me. I've had people steal my work and pass it off as their own (not just newbies, but industry veterans, too), and it's hurtful, especially when done by someone I considered a friend.

I once read an interview with Tory Burch where she said she still gets upset when people steal her designs. It made me feel better that the founder of a famous fashion brand had those feelings as well, but it didn't surprise me because the creative work we all come up with, develop into something marketable, and put out into the world is deeply personal. After all, how many of us jokingly refer to our respective companies as our "first baby?"

When someone copies your ideas, they are hurting you, they are hurting your family, they are hurting your employees, they are hurting the creative community and the industry. It is personal and it is okay to be upset about it. Don't allow a grudge to rob you of future creativity, but you don't have to pretend it doesn't hurt.

When it comes to the community you’re cultivating for your clients, don’t forget your community of professional colleagues. While I'd recommend spending your time and energy with the people who support your original work, sometimes you do need to take an extra step to give yourself mental and emotional space. If the person who took your ideas was a friend, you don't have to allow them to be part of your inner circle anymore nor someone you continue to do business or collaborate with. You are also allowed to unfollow them on social media. Focusing on the good sometimes means removing the people who hurt you yet somehow think they still have a right to suck up your oxygen. You can set healthy boundaries now while still allowing for the possibility of redemption later on down the road. (I recommend the book Beyond Boundaries – part of the Boundaries series by Dr. John Townsend – if you're dealing with whether or not to let someone back into your life.)

My Life Guideline: People have a right to live fully, not just merely.

Another one of my core values is that every life has equal value. One of my life guidelines for this is the belief that people have a right to live fully, not just merely.

I am passionate about the fact that there is more to life than food and shelter. Basic needs matter, obviously, but so do art, athletics, and, yes, fashion and parties. The details matter. Being able to imagine, to create, to push yourself beyond what you thought possible, to feel self-confident and worthy of nice things, to be able to relax and joyfully celebrate life's milestones with the people you love and who love you matters. They matter a lot.

I want to spend my time with people who see everyone as fully human and worthy of every good thing life has to offer. More than that, I want to spend my time with doers – people who use whatever resources they have (money, time, creativity, literal votes) to help add good to the lives of others and who don't sit around waiting to "give back" later on.

It is not about which charities or organizations I am personally involved in – the people who resonate most with this life guideline likely also view generosity as a muscle to be developed and consistently exercised and not something to use as a PR or networking opportunity. They would probably get along with each other if they all found themselves in the same location.


These are examples of a couple of my own life guidelines. Yours may be different. Spend some time drilling down into your core values and examining how they play out in your life. How can you incorporate these into your marketing so that you are sharing your interest in something bigger than yourself?

Won’t My Life Guidelines Turn Some People Off?

If you use your life guidelines to shape your marketing, you are 100% guaranteed to turn some people off.

This is okay.

If you are marketing to everyone, you are marketing to no one. You are creating an inclusive community, yes, but you are also creating an exclusive community. You are creating a community where people can connect with each other based on what they value, which is going to be based on what you value. This will automatically exclude those who don’t share your values.

This isn’t about creating a bubble, and everyone won’t agree on every tactic of how you go about supporting the arts, for example. The point is not to believe all the same things, the point is to create a community built on the foundation of the ideas you and they find most meaningful.

Gen Z wants to know more about who you actually are on a deeper, more philosophical level than they do about the behind the scenes of your daily life or your favorite brands or what you made for dinner this week. Fortunately, since you’re still marketing to millennials while starting to market to Gen Z, your life guidelines often play out in your daily life. You can dive deeper into the “why” behind the choices you make in your day-to-day routine, allowing both marketing strategies to support one another while these age groups overlap as wedding clients.

The Biggest Myth About Luxury Clients

A couple of years ago I was quoted in an article in the Tennessean on how "millennials are driving a dramatic change in the food economy." In the piece, the author also shares that Costco is now the number one seller of organic produce in the United States, beating out Whole Foods.

This isn't exactly surprising since:

  1. Costco is more ubiquitous than Whole Foods, and

  2. the average household income of a Costco member is $100,000+.

This is a good reminder for people who sell luxury goods and services in any industry: luxury consumers rarely buy luxury in every category across the board.

Believing that luxury consumers buy luxury all the time is the number one myth I see my clients and others working in the high-end of the wedding industry buy into. Their thought process tends to be that if a person is wealthy, they'll spend a high dollar amount on everything. This simply isn't true, and embracing this fact can help you understand your clients better and sell more effectively.

Wealthy people often stay wealthy because they're smart with their money. They will spend more on what they value, but they are often not into spending just because the price tag is high.

Costco markets to a higher-end demographic because people with higher incomes like to save money. Similarly, Ann Taylor has consistently outperformed among high net-worth shoppers over the past several years. Ann Taylor. Not exactly the first brand that comes to mind when you think of luxury fashion. And yet, these high net-worth women will often pair their Ann Taylor dress with Prada heels and a Balenciaga handbag.

A bride or groom hiring a luxury wedding planner may not see the value in having a high-end cake designer, and vice versa. Value is personal to each client, and part of the initial meeting is sussing out the priorities each couple has.

You can be expensive, and people will pay you handsomely, as long as you're showing the value of what you bring to the table. What you bring to the table goes beyond your portfolio: stylish, beautiful work is now the bare minimum standard, not a competitive advantage. (Don't believe me? Scroll through any wedding hashtag on Instagram. Gorgeous work for days.) If you weren't talented, the potential clients you meet with wouldn't have reached out to you in the first place.

Dig deeper than talent and price, and focus on selling that. In the luxury end of the market this is more important than ever.
 


Originally published August 2016