Wedding Business Strategy

4 Things To Know If You Use Instagram for Wedding Marketing

Note from Liene: I
originally published this piece as an Instagram post in July. I’m reposting it here today given two pieces of big news this week: the first being that Instagram’s founders both resigned, taking Facebook (which purchased it for $1 billion in 2012) by surprise; and the second being that WeddingWire has acquired XO Group (parent company of The Knot, The Nest, The Bump, GigMasters, etc) for $933 million and is taking it private.

With the second piece of news breaking this morning, I’ve seen many conversations already that basically say, “The ads stopped working a while ago, so you should be focused on Instagram anyway.” While there’s much to be unpacked in that statement, we’ll save that for another day. In the meantime, if you’re going to step up your Instagram game as an alternative to advertising elsewhere, the post below outlines some key things to keep in mind, especially as Mark Zuckerberg turns to Instagram to make up for the hit Facebook has been taking in revenue and reputation.

• • •

Twitter recently deleted 70 million accounts and some wedding professionals lost thousands of followers overnight. Why? The accounts were fake, bots, or purchased. It’s only a matter of time until Instagram does their own purge again, and it will hit people harder than it did in 2014. Here are some tips on making Instagram work without faking it:
1. Don’t buy followers, ever, even if they’re “real people” (they’re not). Don’t pay for services that use bots to follow and unfollow and leave fake comments (“keep up the great content ❤️”, etc). These get flagged first as priority for deletion.
2. Curate or don’t, have a color scheme or not, share only professional work or mix in personal — this all depends on your business, brand goals, target market (“brides” is not a target market, dig deeper) and your own values of what you’re willing to share. There’s no one size fits all. Test to see what works for the people who actually pay your bills, and of course for your own sanity.
3. Algorithms work differently for business accounts versus personal accounts and not always for the better. The changes in the reach of your business account’s posts are real and not in your head. Instagram wants their ad dollars. Anyone who tells you otherwise needs to study up.

(Also, if you already have a business account linked to Facebook, don’t switch it back to a personal account – you’ll be penalized.)
4. With the introduction of Questions and IGTV, it’s tempting to focus solely on Instagram, which of course they would love because that’s how they make money. As a business owner, you need to focus on YOUR money, not theirs.

Use Instagram’s features to build trust, show off your creativity, and to stay top of mind. Most importantly use it to drive people to a PLATFORM YOU OWN.

I’ve been teaching this for over a decade and it hasn’t changed: your website/blog/newsletters are the house you own. Social media (Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc) are the house you rent.

Facebook could shut down Instagram tomorrow for whatever reasons they like (“We’re re-focusing on our core basics”, etc.) and your followers would be gone. Make the house you rent pretty and make it work for you, but invest the majority of your resources (money, time, energy) building equity in the house you own.

This last point applies to other platforms as well. If you’re spending ad dollars with magazines or online planning sites such as The Knot or WeddingWire and not simultaneously investing in your own website, blog or newsletter, you are still throwing money at someone else’s house while neglecting to build equity in yours.

There is no one platform that will act as a magic wand, solving all your marketing woes. It is not a matter of working smarter, not harder. To make it in an increasingly competitive industry, you will need to work smarter and harder.

The Biggest Pricing Mistake Wedding Pros Make

photo by    Cameron Clark

photo by Cameron Clark

The biggest mistake that I see wedding pros make time and time again is this: sending pricing to a couple before they even talk to them.

Here’s how it might play out:

  1. A bride or groom contacts you asking for pricing.

  2. You send a beautifully designed pricing PDF.

  3. They ask if you have their date available (you do!).

  4. They hire you (maybe).

Let’s say they do hire you. Hooray!

For this scenario, let’s say you’re either a wedding photographer or a wedding planner. And, for simplicity’s sake, let’s say that you’re charging them $5000 for “complete coverage” or “full planning” with “unlimited hours” – the flat fee quoted for that package in your beautifully designed pricing PDF.

$5000 seems reasonable. After all, as far as you can tell, that’s around what your competitors charge (maybe). Plus, it’s more than you charged last year, so that has to be good, right?

Then you begin learning the real deal about this wedding you landed:

  • The wedding is a multi-day event and you’re expected to be at the rehearsal, lobster bake welcome party/rehearsal dinner, wedding morning beachside bike-a-thon and breakfast picnic, The Wedding, after party, and farewell brunch. Your top package promised a flat fee for “unlimited hours” with no limitation on how many days or events those hours applied to.

  • The wedding is at a venue that has incredibly strict rules about load-in/load-out schedules, which will require you to hire more staff/labor to get everything off the trucks and set up on time.

  • Some of the events are in multiple locations, so you’ll need staff at various properties to ensure everything is set up and runs smoothly/gets photographed and documented.

  • You’ll need to manage set up of catering and staffing prep tents, which normally wouldn’t be a huge deal, except for the time crunch this venue has you under.

  • The wedding is at a venue that has some obscure insurance requirements that your current liability certificates don’t cover, meaning you’ll have to fork out extra cash for a special rider before you can step foot on property.

  • The wedding is black-tie and the nice-but-not-formal wedding day outfits you typically wear with branded aprons aren’t appropriate. You’ll have to budget for clothing allowances for your team.

  • The wedding is going to be published, and the magazine has arranged to bring in an outside photographer to exclusively shoot all their photos, so your photo credit won’t be the one featured in any of the press outlets. You were counting on being able to use all the photos for marketing and PR and now that opportunity is gone, without an adjustment in pay for you.

By the time you’ve added up all the hours you’ve spent working on this particular wedding, subtracted payroll, normal overhead like your studio rent or home office costs, the additional unexpected expenditures above, taxes, etc, you’ve probably lost money on this wedding.

$5000 sounded good, but it wasn’t based on real numbers so it ended up being real money running through your pockets and into everyone else’s.

If you send out pricing before having a conversation with potential clients, make today the day you break that habit.

The conversation can be over email, and if you can get them on the phone, even better. A note on this: phone is ideal for a lot of vendors, because it is a more natural conversation, but it can be difficult for potential clients to carve out time for phone calls during their work days, especially if they have demanding jobs (teachers, nurses, doctors, attorneys, finance execs, etc). You’re not the only wedding professional they’re considering and if you make it too much of a hassle for them they’ll move on to the next person on their list without a second thought.

You don’t necessarily need to dial down every detail of their wedding during this initial conversation, but you do need to have a basic understanding of the scope of what they are hoping to accomplish before you quote them a price.

If you are going to be a creative professional, you have to price yourself in a way that is sustainable. Protect yourself from burnout by having these key conversations first.

The Well-Paid Wedding Pro

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I'm excited to share that I'll be speaking at the Coterie Retreat in Bermuda this year. The Coterie Retreat is the wedding industry conference produced by the brilliant team at Munaluchi Bride, and focuses on companies who work with couples in the multicultural wedding market. Most of the attendees work in the Premium, Luxury, and Ultra Luxury segments of the wedding market and come from around the world. If you work in (or want to break into) the multicultural and/or destination wedding markets, this is the conference for you.

This year's event will be held in December at the iconic Fairmont Hamilton Princess, Bermuda's only luxury urban resort – a perfect chance to trade in freezing snow for warm beaches. You can read more about my experience at The Coterie Retreat in Johannesburg, South Africa last year, but suffice to say it was one of my favorite conferences I've ever participated in.

The entire experience was unpretentious, encouragement was candid and authentic, every speaker shared useful, practical knowledge (Preston Bailey even shared a spreadsheet with cost and pricing breakdowns from one of his events), and because it's limited to just 100ish people, it's the perfect setting to network and make new industry friends while never feeling overlooked or left out.

A perfect spot at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess to recharge and make plans for your 2019 wedding season. Photo via  @PrincessBermuda .

A perfect spot at the Fairmont Hamilton Princess to recharge and make plans for your 2019 wedding season. Photo via @PrincessBermuda.

My session this year is called “The Well-Paid Wedding Pro: Profitable Pricing Strategies.” As a wedding industry business consultant, pricing is the number one question I get asked about from clients, conference attendees, and wedding professionals from around the world, and this talk is designed to give you real-world, tried and true strategies. No hypotheticals, no “it worked once and then never again” theories, and no “here is how Starbucks does it, just copy them” not-so-useful advice.
I’ll be demystifying the “How do I charge so that I can actually make real money and have a life” question as well as the “WTF happened? No one wants to pay my rate anymore and it never used to be a problem” situation.

We’ll cover what works (and what doesn’t) for each industry segment (no more trying to make planner or photographer pricing models fit your floral business, etc), different norms you’ll face in multi-cultural and destination markets (comfort levels around talking about money, negotiating expectations, etc), as well as the various stages and opportunities you might be considering pursuing (mass market vs luxury, licensing, franchising, wholesale, etc).

And of course no wedding pricing conversation would be complete without discussing that hot button topic: kickbacks.
If you’d like to get your pricing straight – and enjoy some of that Bermuda sunshine – visit for more info and to register and follow them on Instagram to see the rest of the speaker line up announcements. Can’t wait to see you there!