Wedding Business Consultant

Is That Wedding Conference Worth Attending?

At    The International Wedding Conference    in Lisbon, Portugal; at the    Coterie Retreat    in Johannesburg, South Africa; at    Oh So Inspired    in Sonoma, California.

At The International Wedding Conference in Lisbon, Portugal; at the Coterie Retreat in Johannesburg, South Africa; at Oh So Inspired in Sonoma, California.


As a professional speaker and wedding business consultant, I am obviously a big believer in the importance of taking the posture of a lifelong learner, embracing education, and seeking out insights from people who have expertise in areas you'd like to improve. Fortunately, there are tons of industry workshops and conferences that you can choose from nowadays (this was not the case even just 10 years ago).

While I've previously shared 5 things I personally look for in a business consultant, here are some questions to ask and things to consider when evaluating whether or not a particular conference is worth the investment for you:
 

1. How much will this conference actually cost me?

This one seems like a no brainer, but the first thing I recommend you do is set a conference budget for the year. If you feel the word "budget" is too restrictive, reframe how you think about it: a budget is just a plan for how you spend your money. So set up a plan for how you'll spend on in-person education. A conference budget should include:

  • Conference registration

  • Travel (including ground transportation to and from the airport, which, depending where you're flying into, can sometimes cost just as much as a plane ticket)

  • Accommodations

  • Meals, snacks, and everything food and beverage related, including whether or not you want to treat some new friends to a round of cocktails

  • New clothes (or a Rent the Runway allowance) for special conference events like awards ceremonies or galas, if necessary

  • Gratuities, miscellaneous fees, etc

  • Books, gifts, souvenirs, a visit to the hotel spa, excursions, etc

I like to use You Need A Budget to create quick “back of the napkin” budgets for figuring out how much things like conferences will really cost, but there are tons of other options out there, including good old-fashioned pen and paper. The most important part is that you figure out ahead of time whether or not a conference with a $3000 registration fee is going to end up costing you closer to $6000 when all is said and done.

Obviously, this outline is just the cost of attending the conference. You can also figure out how much money you'd not be making by spending a few days away from your desk and factor that in, if you'd like. 
 

2. What do I hope to get out of the conference?

Write down two or three goals you hope attending the conference will help you accomplish. Be as specific as possible. Here are a few examples to get your brain going:

  • What areas of your business do you want to improve?

  • What areas do you feel bogged down by or in the weeds about?

  • What are you doing well that you know could do better?

  • Do you want to shift your mental model of how you approach certain issues?

  • Have you reached a certain level of success and been met with new challenges that your current group of industry peers and "friendors" haven't faced yet?

  • Do you want to move into serving a different target market or demographic?

  • Do you want to meet specific people who will refer you business?

  • Do you want to meet people outside your local network that you can refer business to and collaborate with?

  • Do you want to get published more often or in higher-caliber outlets?

  • Are you demotivated or in a creative rut?

  • Do you feel alone or like the rest of the industry seems to "get it" but your local industry doesn't?

  • Are you struggling with your business taking over the rest of your life and leaving no time for the people and things that matter most to you?

Again, be as specific as possible. "Book more weddings" is too general a goal. Do you want more weddings at the same price point? A higher price point? How many more weddings do you need in order to hit your financial goals yet not burn out?

Once you've outlined your goals, move on to the next question.
 

At    Engage Luxury Wedding Business Summits    in Asheville, North Carolina, and Paradise Valley, Arizona.

At Engage Luxury Wedding Business Summits in Asheville, North Carolina, and Paradise Valley, Arizona.


3. How likely is it that the insights from this list of speakers and the agenda for this conference will help me achieve my goals?

Lots of conferences and workshops have great speakers. That does not mean a particular lineup is going to be valuable to you. It's important to remember the adage, "What got you here won't get you there." Just like a child has different needs as it grows from baby to kindergartner to tween to college student, your business has different needs as it grows. It is okay if you have grown out of what a particular speaker or conference has to offer, even if you found them incredibly valuable at earlier points in your career.

Take the goals you wrote down above and weigh them against what the conference you're considering is offering.

  • Do the speakers a conference is bringing in tend to prepare in advance or do they cram their slides together the night before? Are they known to always click through slideshows of their own work instead of presenting useful info?

    Also, if a speaker said yes to speaking for free, they still need to treat the presentation as though they were getting paid and respect the investment the attendees made to be there by not phoning it in.

    Anyone who does public speaking has given a presentation or two where they were "off", but if you are spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on a conference, you have every right to expect the conference producers to hold their speakers to a professional standard.

  • Have the speakers replicated their success?

    To paraphrase an old saying – once is luck, three is a pattern. For example, if someone is speaking on pricing, have they successfully landed clients using that model at least three times? If the speaker is a business consultant, have they helped a minimum of three other companies successfully do what they are telling you to do?

  • Do the speakers have experience not only where you've been, but where you're hoping to go?

  • Do the speakers tend to be generous with the information they share or do they hold back out of fear you'll one day compete with them or to get you to hire them as a coach or consultant?


    I’ve signed speaking contracts for conferences that state that a speaker cannot share a plug for their own business, workshops, courses, etc in their presentation. Personally, I wish a lot more conference producers would adopt this clause.

  • Are the topics being covered relevant to what you are hoping to accomplish? Do the speakers tend to offer the hottest advice from 2011 (or worse, 2001) but nothing connected to current market realities? Do they share examples from companies like yours overcoming a particular set of challenges or do they only share examples from Starbucks and Apple? (Yeah, yeah, we get it, the world's first trillion dollar company is doing a few things right.)

In my opinion, it is okay if not every session at a conference is a meat-and-potatoes session. A significant factor in business success comes from mindset shift: thinking bigger, thinking more strategically, discarding old fears and perceived limitations, or approaching issues from a different angle. These are things that aren't solved with a tidy formula and that you aren’t necessarily going to learn in a how-to session. Plus, if you're demotivated or in a rut, sometimes you need a "your dreams are possible" inspirational talk to get back to the best creative version of yourself.

Having how-to sessions on marketing, finance, and skill-set improvement are important, but they're not exactly super beneficial if you're in a place where you dread going to work in the mornings. Getting fired up again can be worth spending money on and sometimes you'll want a conference with an agenda that fuels you and your business both practically and emotionally.
 

4. Are the speakers and attendees people I want to network with and spend time around?

I believe that every person we meet is someone we can learn from. That does not mean I want to spend several thousand dollars and several days away from my family to be around just anyone. We all have limited time and resources and I want to be intentional about who I am actively listening to and surrounding myself with.

I also believe that the value of a conference is just as much about the attendees in the room as it is the people on the stage. While you may learn a lot and hit your educational goals from the conference sessions, you will learn so much more in the conversations you have with other attendees while sitting by the pool or hanging out after dinner in the lobby bar.

If you want to consistently earn six-figures in your business*, one way to get there faster is to network with people who know how to consistently get to 7-figures (or 8!). It requires a different mindset, and you will learn a ton just from chatting during breaks or downtime. While there is absolutely nothing wrong with being in the beginning stages of business, attending a conference where you are much further ahead of the rest of the attendees may not be the best use of your time.

Sometimes I hear, "Why would I pay to make new industry friends?" The answer is simple: sometimes it's what you need. I have a friend who attended a conference specifically because she wanted to get to know a planner she had long admired for her ability to balance motherhood and running a successful business. As a mom with young kids of her own, she didn't care if this planner ever ended up referring her a wedding or not, she just wanted to buy her a glass of wine and hear about how she made everything work. While she could have just called her, it would have been unlikely she would have gotten a time slot on the planner's busy calendar. The conference was a place that afforded them both the time and opportunity to network, and there was value to both of them in paying to be in the same room.
 

At    Engage Luxury Wedding Business Summits    in Grand Cayman; at    Coterie Retreat    in Johannesburg, South Africa; at    Imaging USA    in Phoenix, Arizona.

At Engage Luxury Wedding Business Summits in Grand Cayman; at Coterie Retreat in Johannesburg, South Africa; at Imaging USA in Phoenix, Arizona.


5. What else is giving me pause about attending?

Once you've set your conference budget, outlined your goals, and identified that this conference can help you reach them, you may still feel pause about signing up to attend. If that's the case, here are a few things to examine to determine whether that pause is a gut feeling you should trust or simply an unfounded fear you should ignore:

  • One way to determine whether a conference is relevant or mainly marketing hype and Instagram-fueled FOMO, is to take a look at the repeat attendees. Have their businesses changed for the better since they started going or do they seem to be in the same spot they always were?

  • Are you a conference junkie, addicted to education but never implementing anything to move the needle once you're back home? The pause you feel may be the fact that deep down you know you need to spend some time putting the answers you've already found into place before you spend more money on another educational event.

  • Are you avoiding a conference because a newer competitor attended in the past and you don’t want to admit that they may have discovered something good before you did?

    If so, please figure out how to get over this, as you are only hurting yourself. While your ego is busy nursing that grudge, your competitors are busy learning, growing, expanding their network, and positioning themselves as the go-to in your market.

  • Are you hesitating because the conference opportunity seems perfect but is out of your comfort zone (maybe you're an extrovert considering an intimate retreat with lots of quiet time for reflection or perhaps you're an introvert and intimidated by the number of attendees and evening events of a larger conference)?

    If this is the case, consider how you can stretch yourself and leave some room for the miracle. You should be comfortable at a conference – to a point. If you're an introvert, plan for some alone time (a morning walk by yourself, etc). If you're an extrovert, set a plan to connect with a friend or family member via FaceTime each day so that you can get some extra "people time" in, even if they are not physically present with you.

 

As I mentioned above, I am pro conferences and workshops – and not just because speaking at them is how I make a living. I have met people at conferences who have ended up becoming some of my best friends, who show up for me during tough times and who I show up for. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely road, one often misunderstood by people who have never been on it themselves. Surrounding yourself with colleagues who "get it," who push you to be better, and who cheer for your success matters, and conferences can be a great way to make that happen, all while creating a better business for yourself and your family. Win-win.
 


(*A side note: please don’t believe the myth that you can’t make six-figures in the wedding industry. You can. You may have to adjust how you do some things, but the numbers are there and it is generally a doable goal.)

Originally published August 2018

2019 State of The Wedding Industry

Design by    Stefanie Miles   , photo by    Cameron Clark   .

Design by Stefanie Miles, photo by Cameron Clark.


Today I’m sharing my take on the business of weddings as it stands today. This is not a wedding style trend report (though I am totally here for the abundance of organic greenery replacing over-the-top florals thanks to Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s wedding) nor does it touch on every detailed aspect of the $298 billion global wedding industry.

Instead, it is a high-level view of what I’ve seen happening with clients and other industry professionals, patterns I’ve noticed, changes in the luxury market, shifts in the economy and in generational consumer behavior and how they relate to the world of bridal, and so forth.

This post is long, so grab a cup of tea or, depending on your time zone, a glass of wine and let’s dive in:

Photo by    Cameron Clark   .

Photo by Cameron Clark.

#WedToo

While the #MeToo movement was officially started in 2006 by Tarana Burke, it is now at the forefront of conversations worldwide, including in the bridal industry.

81% of women and 43% of men have been sexually harassed, with 38% of women experiencing this harassment in the workplace. In the wedding industry, the number of women sexually harassed at work is 67%. This includes harassment by colleagues, wedding clients, and wedding guests.

The occurrence of harassment within the industry has been whispered about for decades, but this past year, thanks to the Me Too movement, more wedding professionals have been speaking up about it publicly. More pressure has been put on wedding business conference producers to keep predatory people off their speaker and sponsor lists. On the legal side of dealing with clients, more vendors are now including harassment clauses in their contracts to protect themselves and their staff.

These changes are long overdue.

Photo by    Cameron Clark   .

Photo by Cameron Clark.

Luxe Love, Young Love

In 2017, 85% of global luxury growth was driven by millennials and Gen Z. Eighty-five-percent.

Luxury represents something different to Gen Zers (born 2001 and after) than it does to their older cohorts, including millennials. While millennials (the oldest of whom turn 40 this year) value the heritage and artisanal aspects luxury provides and Gen X values the status of individual achievement that allow them to afford luxury goods, Gen Z values the access to an inclusive community that exclusive luxury can provide.

Exclusive goods and services providing inclusivity can seem like an oxymoron, but it’s not. In a sense this isn’t much different than what country club memberships offer — access to an inclusive yet exclusive group of people. Yet, while older generations place most of the weight on the price tag of exclusive-yet-inclusive luxury, Gen Z places more weight on the scarcity of that luxury.

For an example of this, look towards the brand Supreme. While they are considered a luxury brand, their lower priced ($50 or less) items sell out just as quickly. Once they’re sold out, they don’t make more. If you have a product with the Supreme logo, you are included in the group, no matter the price tag of your specific item.

Hasan Minhaj has a deeper dive into Supreme, if you’re unfamiliar with them and want to get up to speed:

Click here to view video if you are reading this post via email or RSS feed.

As more Gen Zers begin to get married, you will notice that they won’t respond to your marketing that you just revamped to target millennials. They won’t focus on whether or not they could see you as a friend, like millennials do – Gen Z wants to know whether or not your clients are people they could potentially be friends with. They not only look to what you bring to the table in terms of expertise and personality, they look at the entire community you are building through your company culture. And if you are in the luxury space, they want you because you are hard to get, not solely because you are expensive. They want to be a part of the exclusive-yet-inclusive authentic community you have cultivated.

• • •


The oldest of the Gen Zers are also the kids of the “mommy blogger” and “Instagram mom” generation. As a result of their personal lives being splashed across the Internet for clicks, likes, and sponsorships, often without their knowledge and/or consent, Gen Zers value their privacy more than the older generations do. They are more guarded, even if it doesn’t appear that way. They do not want to be in your Stories, and it has nothing to do with being angsty teens.

Even the Gen Zers angling for their own Instagram stardom (where sponsorships are the new status symbol), take a very heavily curated approach, making sure that what they present is not everything, and keeping the real stuff for private friend Instagram groups, “finstagram” accounts, and Twitter group DMs (just as Gen X prefers Facebook, Gen Z increasingly prefers Twitter, considering Facebook to be “for the olds”).

Because of this value for privacy, Gen Zers will not want their weddings published or posted across social media the same way millennials and Gen Xers do. This will be a point of wedding planning tension between Gen Z couples and their Gen X/millennial parents.

Just as you needed two separate marketing strategies to target both millennial and Gen X clients, you will need two separate marketing strategies to target both Gen Z and millennial clients.

Photo by    Cameron Clark   .

Photo by Cameron Clark.

A Growing Discontent With “Education As Usual”

Around the world, wedding business conferences struggled to sell tickets, with many offering behind-the-scenes comped registrations to fill seats, allowing them to avoid the appearance of disinterest or irrelevancy and increasing social media updates as trade for attendance. While conference producers have always employed this strategic move, it happened more this past year than in the past decade.

There are three main reasons for this:

First, there is more saturation in the wedding education category. More people are launching workshops and conferences – some qualified, some not. Conferences are also competing more with alternate educational opportunities like online courses and mastermind groups (ranging from $300-$25,000+ a year).

Second, as the general economy is booming for some, but not so much for the majority, the overall wedding industry has been in uncertain waters, with qualified leads slowing and couples moving towards longer engagements again. As budgets and revenues tighten, wedding vendors are looking more closely at how and where they want to spend their education budget. Many are choosing to focus on one main conference annually instead of attending multiple. There has also been a wider focus on strategic relationship networking rather than meeting as many people as possible in the hopes that something pans out. Wedding pros want a community they can count on and continue to nurture once they return home. They want like-minded people who they can relate to with their challenges and call on when they need a sounding board or extra set of experienced hands.

Third, wedding pros are tired of the “same old, same old” when it comes to educational events. Same speakers, same attendee cliques, same curriculum, same insights from books they’ve already read. Instead, they are increasingly asking for conferences with a tightly curated list of true experts rather than a laundry list of speakers. They want a focus on bread and butter sessions, meaningful inspiration, and less of the “look at me” presentations. If they are going to make a several-thousand dollar financial investment and spend time away from their families, they expect to be primarily educated, not primarily entertained. Wedding pros attending conferences and workshops are craving real ROI over ego ROI more than ever.

• • •

I hesitate to call diversity a “hot topic” because it has always been a hot topic. Maybe the difference now is that more people are forced to pay attention because more people now have the power and options to spend their advertising and education dollars elsewhere.

In conferences and workshops, there has been a demand not just for more diversity on the speaker lineups, but for more conversations on the related issues from the main stage. People are seeking authenticity in these conversations. They want to hear speakers discuss how issues of race impact weddings and learn how to handle unique planning challenges that crop up. For example: how to choose destinations that are more inclusive and welcoming to specific race and cultural backgrounds. No one wants to hire a planner who doesn’t know that a certain town in a popular destination has a reputation for racism or bigotry against their client’s heritage or worldview and no one wants their 200 guests to deal with that while attending their wedding. These are the types of real-world problems modern wedding pros are expected to be experts in yet very few conference producers are comfortable tackling them.

Wedding professionals are also looking for non-Western based cultural diversity in the educational content offered. A few years ago, I was the keynote speaker at a conference that had a main stage panel on how to best market to and work with clients having arranged marriages. Topics like these have been one reason people working in destination weddings are increasingly seeking out business conferences produced outside of North America and Europe. The wedding industry is global, talent is literally everywhere, and more people are stepping up to fill the needs that Western-focused business conferences haven’t been meeting.

(If you’re considering investing in wedding education in 2019, here are 5 questions to ask when deciding if a wedding conference is worth it.)

Photo by    Cameron Clark   .

Photo by Cameron Clark.

Media Matters

So much has happened in the world of wedding media over the last year, most notably WeddingWire’s acquisition of XO Group – parent company of The Knot – for $933 million. In other industry-wide news, Oath announced it would be closing Style Me Pretty, which was then reacquired and relaunched by Abby and Tait Larson, the site’s original founders. Southern Weddings magazine announced it would be closing and Martha Stewart Weddings announced it was turning its focus to digital and only producing one special print edition annually.

While wedding media is not the gatekeeper it once was, the third-party credibility it can lend still matters (even if it doesn’t actually help your SEO). Getting published may not send as many direct leads as it used to, but it does help tip the scale in your favor when being compared to other equally talented wedding pros who may not have as many press features.

• • •


As Facebook continues to reel from its myriad scandals
(everything from their mishandling of the Russian government’s interference in the 2016 US election to lying about and inflating video metrics to giving 150 companies including Netflix access to your private messages to executives green-lighting anti-Semitic PR messaging against people who spoke out against the company), it is increasingly turning to Instagram to make up for lost revenue (it finished 2018 with a 25% drop in stock price for the year).

If you feel like you’ve been seeing ads every fourth or fifth photo, in both your Instagram feed and in Stories, it’s because you have. If you feel like your reach and engagement has dropped, it’s because it has. Remember when Facebook changed their business page algorithms so that you’d have to pay to promote your posts to get seen by the same number of people you used to reach organically? They are applying that same strategy to Instagram.

And just when you’ve signed up for the latest online course on beating the algorithm, they will change it again.

• • •


Instagram Fatigue is growing.
People are tired of perfection, of perfectly curated imperfection (what I call “fauxthenticity”), of everything and everyone’s work looking the same same same. But Instagram still drives leads (though that number is dropping), so wedding pros continue to use it, becoming increasingly jaded, turning elsewhere for creative inspiration, and taking “detoxes” when they feel they need (and can afford) to.

Pinterest is still the top driver of social media traffic for weddings.
It has held this title for years. And let’s settle this debate: Yes, Pinterest is social media. Yes, it is a visual search engine. It is both. You need to approach it as both, creating a strategy that takes both unique circumstances into account. (And if you are detoxing social media, you need to detox Pinterest as well, because it triggers the pleasure centers in the brain the same way Instagram and Facebook do.)

My advice? Make the most out of Instagram, Stories, Facebook, and other social media platforms and features while they are still valuable, but don’t put all your eggs in their respective baskets. Social media is the house you rent. Your website, blog, and newsletter are the house you own. Make the house you rent work for you, but make your primary focus building equity in the house you own.

Wedding at    Amangiri   . Photo by    Cameron Clark   .

Wedding at Amangiri. Photo by Cameron Clark.

Destination: Big Business

Destination weddings continue to hold at about 25% of the global wedding market, with the number occurring outside the US continuing to increase, and the number occurring inside the US continuing to drop.

This shift occurred largely because of the Trump administration’s travel ban, leaving couples nervous about dealing with (or making their guests deal with) the uncertainty of US customs, and opting to get married elsewhere instead. Remember, millennials value making sure their guests feel comfortable and have a great experience overall. Choosing to avoid the United States as a wedding destination is easier than dealing with the anxiety of whether or not friends and family might get hassled as they get off a plane. This shift is obviously good news for the markets that have seen a bump in destination wedding business over the past two years, namely Mexico, Italy, Spain, Turkey, and Japan.

Several countries have begun to (or continue to) crack down on outside destination wedding professionals without work visas, most notably in Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic, Columbia, Thailand, Indonesia (with an emphasis on wedding pros headed to Bali), Japan, and India.

• • •


Even with travel logistics becoming more of a consideration for couples, we will continue to see the concept of GLOCAL weddings grow,
especially after Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas’s wedding. While the main wedding took place in Priyanka’s home country of India (where she is easily the more famous of the two) and they opted to work with Mumbai-based planner Aditya Motwane, they also brought in wedding vendors from other parts of the globe, such as photographer Jose Villa and wedding filmmaker Caleb Jordan Lee.

Because the world is more connected than ever, and couples can find the best talents anywhere thanks to social media, they are increasingly opting to combine global and local (GLOCAL) vendors for their weddings, whether local refers to the place they call home or local to their destination. It is becoming more rare to plan a wedding comprised of 100% local wedding pros.

Getting Tech-Wise

Wedding tech is still the fastest growing segment of the wedding industry (it has been for the past five years), but not without its pitfalls.

As some wedding tech companies that burst on the scene several years ago – armed with millions in VC funding – ended up laying off staff and quietly closing their doors over the past 18 months, investors are starting to take a closer look at the realities of the industry. They are doing more due diligence than they’ve done in the past, rather than taking hopeful industry disruptors at their word.

The two biggest hindrances to success in the wedding tech space continue to be a lack of awareness, education, and respect for the history of the industry and the people and ideas that paved the way, and a lack of understanding of the true consumer behavior of brides and grooms. While anecdotal experiences can be useful as the spark for a business idea, the success and longevity of the business idea require that founders dive deeper.

Design by    Imoni Events    at the    Royal Palms   . Photo by    Cameron Clark   .

Design by Imoni Events at the Royal Palms. Photo by Cameron Clark.

The Tough Realities of Tariffs

Tariff is simply a fancy word for a tax on imports or exports and if you are a creative artist in any capacity, your business will be affected by the 10% tariff the Trump administration imposed on billions of dollars worth of Chinese imports this past September (the rate was supposed to rise to 25% on January 1st, but the two countries have agreed to hold off on the increase until March 2019).

Tariffs are affecting the import costs of pretty much every product that goes into making a wedding happen. Even if the end product is assembled in the United States, many of the source materials come from China.

For example, chiavari chairs now cost 10% more for furniture rental companies to import, and may cost 25% more come March. These costs ultimately get passed to the bride and groom, which means that either their design budget won’t stretch as far, or they’ll choose to splurge in this area and cut back on other vendor categories (photography, invitations, music, etc).

Here are just a few of the wedding-related materials and products that will be impacted by these new tariffs: letterpress machines, engraving plates, stamping foils, stationery (glassine, embossed paper, photo paper, etc), inks, dyes, paints, pigments, cameras and camera parts, film, power generators used for tented weddings and outdoor events, compressors, hydraulic lifts, and other tools used in event production and installation, hair products, gifting products and materials, vinyl, wall and ceiling coverings, dance floor materials, wedding apparel and fabrics, upholstery, leather, and floral containers.

You can download the full list of import products impacted by these tariffs here.

• • •


Across the pond from the US, Brexit is likely to affect floral imports, driving costs up, which in turn will force couples who value flowers the most to cut back in other supplier and vendor categories. Again, this means that the price of wedding flowers could very well affect you as a caterer, photographer, or invitation designer.

Some feel that Brexit’s impact has already begun, even though it has not yet officially been implemented and still faces a fight. Many British wedding suppliers have seen their costs go up, in turn pricing them out of the budgets of their target brides and grooms.


• • •

Even if you hate politics or don’t consider yourself a political person, the policies and laws that get implemented affect your business in a very real way, no matter what side of the aisle you fall on. If you never pay attention to the news, consider checking in at least once a week, so you can keep your thumb on what may impact you, even indirectly, in the future. Pay attention to your supply chain and the supply chain of the products you use and depend on. This will help you better plan and prevent you from getting caught off guard.

Photo by    Cameron Clark   .

Photo by Cameron Clark.

The Wedding Industry Is Still Recession-Proof

If you are feeling the pinch from economic and political uncertainty over the past two years, you’re in good company. Many wedding pros are feeling the same way and you are definitely not alone.

The good news is that people will still get married, and in that sense, the industry is recession-proof. Couples may have longer engagements to save more or to keep an eye on their stock market and other investments, they may place a heavier priority on where they spend their wedding budgets, but they will still tie the knot.

The challenge for you as a wedding professional will be to market and sell your true value more clearly than ever. To show why your particular brand and talents are vital to their day. You want to be the area they choose to splurge in, if they are forced to cut back in others. Being the favored go-to of a planner or venue will not be enough. Being the most-published vendor will not be enough. Being the “celebrity wedding artist” everyone recognizes will not be enough.

• • •


To thrive in the coming years in this ever-changing industry, here are a few things you’ll need to do:

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

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

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

Don’t buy into your own hype and don’t assume your popularity will last forever, especially if you’re one of the current industry it-girls (or it-guys).

Acknowledge that true experts never stop learning and work relentlessly on pushing yourself to be better.

Pay attention to what’s happening in the world so that you can adjust your business plan as needed.

Working “smarter not harder” is not a thing. You need both.

The wedding industry is a dream job, and we need what you bring the table.

5 Reasons Potential Clients Are Ghosting You

Photo by    Cameron Clark

Photo by Cameron Clark

No one likes being ghosted, and it can be extremely frustrating when you’ve done all you can to communicate with a potential client only to hear crickets. The most common reaction to ghosting in the wedding industry is to assume it’s all about cost and to lower your prices. While it sometimes is about money, there are other reasons that cause people to avoid telling you no:

1. You’re sending your pricing right away.

Sticker shock is real, and if you’re one of the wedding pros they’re considering at the beginning of their planning process (namely planners, venues, or photographers), it is likely that the budget they have in their mind is not based in reality whatsoever.

People hear that the average wedding in the US is around $30k, they watch the “reality” wedding TV shows that display costs on the bottom of the screen without noting which items or services were comped or discounted by the vendors in exchange for publicity, they find creative inspiration on wedding blogs and magazines and don’t know that they will have to pay triple to make that design happen because they are getting married in a union town, and when they ask their friend what they spent on a given item, the friend feels uncomfortable sharing real numbers, so they tell a little white lie to seem smart and like they got a deal.

Your potential clients likely don’t know what real weddings cost because they have never gotten married before. Your primary role at this point in the process is to educate them in a way that shows your value.

Also, if you are sending prices right away, you’re not educating yourself on what their wedding will actually require from you. On top of that, you’re branding yourself as cookie cutter because you’re essentially saying “we only do these types of weddings, so we know how much to charge without talking to you.” Lose-lose.

If you’re still sending pricing right away, make 2019 the year you break this bad business habit.

2. You’re sending too much info too soon.

I’ve spent years doing research on how couples and their families truly approach their wedding spending and as a result developed WedType, a scientifically-based wedding buyer behavior model. Of the four types of wedding consumers (Seekers, Drivers, Researchers, and Lovers), Researchers are the ones who will read everything. For them, when it comes to information, more is better. For the other three types, more is too much.

While you won’t know right off the bat which WedType you’re dealing with, if you’re sending every possible piece of information, if you’re counting on people to read through all of your website and move on the exact right path through your marketing funnel, if you’re asking them to take a quiz or fill out a multi-page questionnaire before you even talk to them, you will overwhelm the majority of your potential clients.

When people feel overwhelmed, they subconsciously associate that feeling with you and your brand. This means that they may love your work but, for some reason they can’t quite put their finger on, feel like you would be burdensome/tiring/a drag to work with.

3. You’re being a little TOO efficient.

No one likes to feel like a number. No one likes to feel like a checkmark on your to-do list. And no one wants to feel like their wedding is one of 2.2 million a year and therefore not all that unique.

Automated replies have their place, but you probably don’t need to use them. Here’s some tough love: automated and canned replies may help you feel more organized and efficient behind the scenes, but they make you look cold and uncaring.

I’m willing to bet that when you wrote out your core values and mission statement for your business and marketing plans, “cold” and “uncaring” were not traits you included as wanting to be known as.

If you’re in the luxury space, this is especially true. High end means high touch. You get to charge more because you have to hold their hand through more of the process.

People almost always hire the person who makes them feel the best from the very beginning of the process. Be the person who’s willing to sacrifice a little bit of efficiency in order to make people feel truly valued, heard, and connected.

4. You’re not scheduling a followup BEFORE you send the proposal.

If you want to close the sale faster, or get to a firm “yes” or “no” answer more quickly, schedule a 10 minute call for a couple days after you send the proposal to discuss it and answer any questions they may have.

This is a decades-old tactic that is used by sales people all over the world because it works. Here’s a very simplified example of how it goes:

Monday AM: You receive an inquiry via your website. Yay! You reply right away that you’d love to chat for 10 minutes to learn more about them and their wedding.

Monday PM: They’re available for a call after they get off work, so at 6 pm their time, you have a quick call. Towards the end, you say, “Congratulations again! I love your ideas! I’m going to send you a customized proposal by Wednesday. I want you to take a day or so to bounce it off your friends and family and get their feedback, then on Friday I’d love to chat with you to go over it and answer any questions you may have. What time works best for you this Friday for a quick 10 minute call?”

Wednesday: Send the proposal with a reminder to bounce it off their friends and family.

Friday: On your 10 minute call answer any questions they may have. Sell your value as you go through it.

The idea that if people want you they will find a way to pay for it is true to a point. Money doesn’t grow on trees and you may just be flat out of their budget even if they decide to scale back in other areas. If this is the case, tell them that you understand (because you do, because you also do not have an unlimited bank account), and that you’d love to refer them to some wedding pros who may be more in line with their budget. While you may not get the sale, you’re raising the bar for the industry by referring them to talented people rather than charlatans who are only good at Instagram.

You’ll want to tell them 10 minutes for these first phone calls because it is too early in the process for them to feel comfortable committing to a longer period of time. Typically once they’re on the phone, they’ll want to speak longer, but showing them up front that you are respectful of their time and schedule is important.

A quick note on telling them to bounce it off their family and friends: millennials and Gen Z grew up making decisions in groups thanks to a change in the educational system in the 1980’s. Giving them space to solicit feedback from people they trust allows them to feel more comfortable with you and not pressured to make a decision they may end up regretting. Their putting a priority on their college roommate’s opinion may feel like a slap in the face to you, the actual expert, but building trust with your potential client is the most important factor here.

5. No one likes being the bearer of bad news.

Everyone is human and no one wants the icky feeling that comes with letting someone else down. Even if you have an “it’s just business” mindset, your potential clients may still feel terrible telling you they’re going with someone else. Add to this the fact that they may have interviewed a dozen other wedding professionals in your category and it’s easy to understand how telling a dozen people “no” could put a huge damper on their day.

One way to combat this is to tell them that if you’re not the right fit, you’re happy to recommend someone else who may be better suited for them. This shows that you genuinely care about them having the best wedding, even if they don’t end up booking you. Generosity wins.

Ghosting is not a new phenomenon. All ages do it, and blaming it just on millennials or Gen Z is lazy thinking and a way to avoid doing the work of examining where you could be running your business better.