Wedding Spending Is Down: 6 Things You Can Do • No. 2

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, 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.


The second thing you should focus on is this:

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

As business owners, there are two key truths we have to pay attention to: first, we have bills we need to pay this week, this month, this year, and, second, there will be bills we need to pay in 20 years.

We have to play a long-game to ensure we will still have a business in 20 years, while still bringing in money to pay the bills that are due now.

The pressure to make money now because the lights need to stay on and payroll needs to be met now is very real. As a result of only focusing on the short-term pressure, wedding professionals tend to offer too many discounts too often and train people to wait for the sale, or they use dynamic pricing when they shouldn’t and dilute their brand’s long-term value. Instagram brings in clients now, so many wedding pros focus their efforts there, largely neglecting the other platforms that will help them still be around in 20 years.

When it comes to creating a sustainable brand, you’ll want to make the house you rent work for you, but focus the majority of your time and money building equity in the house you own.

The “house you own” refers to the parts of your business that no one can take away from you.

The “house you rent” refers to things that can be useful to your business but that you don’t ultimately control since they belong to someone else.

Everything that falls under the “house you rent” category could go away tomorrow, leaving you in hot water if those were the main things you’ve been investing in.

Here are some examples of things in each category:

The House You Own

  • Website

  • Blog (hosted on your website, not on Medium, Tumblr, or elsewhere)

  • Newsletter

  • Podcast (wholly owned by you, not one you host on a podcast network owned by someone else)

  • Workshops, conferences, or classes (owned by you, not by others)

  • Pricing strategies

  • Workflow and processes (how quickly your team returns emails and phone calls, your production turnaround times, your product shipping speed, etc)

  • Talent, skill, and depth of expertise

The House You Rent

  • All social media, including:

    • Instagram

    • Facebook Fan Pages + Groups

    • Twitter

    • Snapchat

    • Pinterest*

    • YouTube*

    • Weibo

    • WeChat

    • WhatsApp Groups**

    • LinkedIn Pages + Groups

    • Blogs hosted on sites owned by others (Medium, Tumblr, etc)

    • Podcasts hosted on networks owned by others

  • Advertising

  • Editorial Publishing (magazines, blogs, etc)

  • TV appearances

  • Public Speaking at workshops, conferences, or classes owned by others

*Pinterest and YouTube are often misunderstood and sometimes assumed to be only visual and video search engines. While they are search engines, they are also social media, and your strategies should approach them as both.

**Depending on which countries you work in, WhatsApp groups can be a key marketing tool.

The Numbers That Matter

We all know that 1,000,000 followers does not equal $1,000,000 in the bank. We all know that we should pay attention to the numbers that matter, but sometimes we aren’t sure which numbers those are. The numbers that matter – for both the house you own and the house you rent – are dependent on your specific goals, so they may not be the same numbers that your colleagues or competitors are measuring.

For example, 95% of the people who purchase from me because of an Instagram post never doubletap the photo. This is primarily because I sell business-related services and products and the people who purchase them tend to be more established in their careers and don't necessarily want their competitors to know what issues they may be stuck on or what improvements they are making in their company. Part of it is about protecting their ego and part of it is protecting their competitive strategy.

So for Instagram, I don't get hung up on the number of likes, because I know that it is still moving people to action behind the scenes. I pay attention to the number of sales each promo post generated and the number of returning vs new customers. Returning customers means that what I offer has proven value and new customers means that what I offer is relevant to where they’re currently at. For my specific goals, these are the numbers that matter.

Here are some examples of brand expansion or ancillary goals you may have and the numbers that can help you achieve them. Companies who are looking to collaborate with you also have tighter marketing budgets these days, so they are going to look at the platforms you have in place, the audience you can bring to the table, as well as your conversion track record. These are general rules of thumb as they can vary based on the specific company you plan to collaborate with:

The numbers that matter for Book Deals

HOUSE YOU OWN:

  • Blog subscribers

  • Blog visitors (unique visitors and returning)

  • Blog bounce rate

  • Time spent on site

  • Newsletter subscribers

  • Newsletter open rate

  • Newsletter clickthrough rate

  • Podcast subscribers

  • Podcast downloads

HOUSE YOU RENT:

  • Twitter followers (minimum 5000 active, real followers)

  • How often you tweet original content and insights (posting inspirational quotes, retweeting compliments or press mentions, or using IFTTT or another service to auto-link your Instagram or Facebook posts doesn’t count in this number)

  • Twitter engagement rate (number of retweets, comments, etc)

  • Instagram followers (organic, real followers – no purchased/bots)

  • Instagram engagement rate (real engagement – no purchased, bots, or your social media manager commenting on your account from five different accounts they manage (this last one may seem like a strategic way to “beat the algorithm,” but agents and publishers generally frown on it)).

  • Facebook Fan Page likes

  • Speaking engagements (do others consider your advice valuable and worth spending money on?)

The numbers that matter for TV Show Deals

HOUSE YOU OWN:

  • Blog subscribers

  • Blog bounce rate

  • Blog visitors (unique visitors and returning)

  • Newsletter subscribers

  • Newsletter open rate

  • Newsletter clickthrough rate

  • Podcast subscribers

  • Podcast downloads

HOUSE YOU RENT:

  • YouTube subscribers

  • YouTube video view counts

  • Twitter followers (live tweeting is a big deal in TV marketing, especially since Shonda Rhimes started requiring her casts and crews to live tweet during episodes and interact with fans and other shows followed suit)

  • Twitter engagement rate (not just how often people retweet or engage with you, but how often you engage and reply back to them)

  • Instagram followers (organic, real followers, no purchased/bots)

  • Instagram engagement rate (real engagement - no purchased, bots, or your social media manager commenting on your account from five different accounts they manage (this last one may seem like a strategic way to “beat the algorithm,” but agents and publishers generally frown on it)).

  • Facebook Fan Page likes


The numbers that matter for Product Line Collaborations

HOUSE YOU OWN:

  • Sales numbers

  • Names and types of celebrity clients you’ve previously worked with (primarily applies to planners, chefs/caterers, floral designers, photographers)

  • Website visitors (unique visitors and returning)

  • Length of visitor time on website

  • Blog subscribers

  • Blog visitors (unique visitors and returning)

  • Blog bounce rate

  • Blog link clickthrough rate

  • Newsletter subscribers

  • Newsletter open rate

  • Newsletter clickthrough rate

HOUSE YOU RENT:

  • Instagram followers

  • Instagram engagement rate

  • Facebook Fan Page followers + Group members

  • Facebook Fan Page + Group engagement rate

  • YouTube subscribers

  • YouTube video view counts

  • Pinterest followers

  • Pinterest engagement rate

  • Pinterest clickthrough rate

  • Twitter followers

  • Press (are other people willing to give their brand’s stamp of approval to what you do?)


Other People’s Goals

There may be goals you have that are dependent on the goals of people you want to collaborate with. For example, if your goal is to work with a certain planner or designer and their goal is to get published more often or to be internationally known, then they are going to consider how often you are published, where you are published, and the strength of your relationship with those editors, as well as how many followers you have on Instagram and where those followers are from.

You may not care about getting published at all because it doesn't directly drive sales for you, but if your dream collaborator cares about it, then getting published needs to be on your priority list. Sometimes the numbers that matter to you will be in support of the numbers that matter to others because that's how you'll reach your ultimate goal.


You don’t necessarily need to have all of these – not every book publisher requires you have a podcast, for example, even though others do. Also, given the numbers listed above, you may be tempted to purchase followers or use a follow/unfollow service. Please don’t (and don’t let your social media manager do this either), as these practices can get your account flagged and penalized.

Is That Styled Shoot Worth It?

Styled shoots can be a strategic way to invest in your long-term success as they can be useful for showing what you can do creatively, especially if your past clients haven’t had the types of budgets you’d like to ultimately work with. They can also be useful for flexing your creative muscle when you feel like you’ve been in a rut. They can, unfortunately, also be a major drain on your time and money, and in some cases can hurt your vendor relationships.

The number one question related to photo shoots that I get asked from product-based wedding professionals (stationers, rental companies, caterers, florists, etc) is, "How do I turn down styled shoot requests without making the planner or photographer mad?"

The people who have to spend money on tangible products aren't exactly excited to come on board for a styled shoot that doesn't have a solid publishing plan set up beforehand. It costs them more than time and creative energy, and they often don't see any return on the actual cash they invested.

questions to ask if you are planning to produce or participate in a styled shoot

AS A STYLED SHOOT PRODUCER:

  • Where do I want this published?

  • Can I work with the media outlet to get pre-approval for publication or will I “shop it around” for publication afterward?

  • How much will it cost in actual dollars spent?

  • Does it benefit every participant or just me? Does it benefit each of us in proportion to what we’re contributing?

  • Will I get additional advertising in exchange for producing the shoot for a third-party magazine, website, or blog? (See my post on working for free without getting taken advantage of)

  • Will publishing this shoot on my own site, blog, or social media accounts violate the media outlet’s exclusivity requirements? If so, how long will the stories or photos be promoted by them before they are buried in favor of the next shoot?

  • Does this support my short-term or long-term goals?

  • Does this position my brand in the way I want to be known?

  • Do I get to flex my creative muscle or will I be producing more of what I am already known for?

AS A STYLED SHOOT PARTICIPANT:

  • What is the publishing plan for this shoot? Is the coverage already guaranteed or will the shoot be “shopped around” for publishing afterward?

  • How much will participating cost me in time and actual dollars?

  • Is there a budget to cover the hard cost of goods I am providing? (Flowers, film, cakes, food, delivery driver payroll, etc)

  • If not, am I okay paying out of pocket for this particular shoot?

  • Is someone else being paid for the shoot? (Another vendor contributing goods, the shoot coordinator/producer, the photographer, etc)

  • How and where will I be credited on this shoot? (In the editorial lede or at the bottom? In the headline? In an Instagram caption and tag? Will the tags be individually visible or will they be stacked on top of each other so no one can read them?)

  • Will I get additional advertising in exchange for the cost I am contributing? (See my post on working for free without getting taken advantage of)

  • Does this support my short-term or long-term goals?

  • Does this position my brand in the way I want to be known?

  • Do I get to flex my creative muscle or am I being asked to create more of what I am already known for?

  • Will publishing this shoot on my own site, blog, or social media accounts violate the media outlet’s exclusivity requirements? If so, how long will the stories or photos be promoted by them before they are buried in favor of the next shoot?

  • Money aside, is participating the right thing to do because of the clients or opportunities the shoot producer has sent me in the past? (There are certainly times when being a team player or returning a favor needs to win out.)


CREATING STYLED SHOOTS FOR INSTAGRAM

Please think twice about spending money on styled shoots that are primarily for Instagram.

It is true that reach and engagement on Instagram is down compared to this time last year. If your real wedding content isn't getting as much engagement as it used to on Instagram – and if the photographs are good – it's not because of the content itself. It's because of the algorithm.

Yes, Instagram has been making vague claims that their algorithm won’t impact the user experience, but it definitely has (it is more difficult for IG to make money from a chronological feed, which is the real reason it was changed). Furthermore, algorithms are how Facebook makes its money on all of the platforms it owns. Instagram may be a free social media platform, but it is not a charity. Getting you to pay to promote your posts is literally their business model. They are not in the business of making you money if there is no financial benefit for them.

Posting styled shoots on Instagram that you are also publishing elsewhere is smart, but creating expensive styled shoots just for Instagram is not. It will not solve your problems. All you will be doing is spending a lot of money on the house you rent, a house you have no business control over.

My Take On Social Media Breaks

I am all in favor of taking a break from social media if you feel your mental health needs it. It is important to remember however that social media amplifies a pre-existing issue, it is not the cause of an issue.

Feeling like there's more you're missing out on while abundance surrounds you is part of human nature dating back to Eden. The difference now is that we can see what more people are doing so we are not limited to only comparing ourselves to people we know from our community or in the entertainment industry. If social media is bringing up feelings of envy, unworthiness, or inadequacy for you, then it's important to use your break to get to the root of those issues and work on them.

It's become popular in some circles to say that you don't really need social media anymore, that you can do things the "old fashioned way" through newsletters, blogs, or podcasts. While it's true you should use these things to your advantage as they are the house you own, they are not the old fashioned way.

The old fashioned way was taking out a second mortgage on your actual, real-life house so you could pay $10,000 or more per month for a publicist to get you featured in wedding magazines or on TV. Anyone who started their business after 2007 has social media to thank for getting them to the point they could walk away from it at all. Also, because the benefits of social media can work like compound interest, they won't know if that break actually helped or hurt their business until 2-3 years afterward.

Social media may not be the house you own, but it is still a key factor in today’s marketing mix. If you find yourself addicted to it or needing to carve out more time for focused work, set boundaries around how you use it (you can use an app like Freedom to help you). Take a short-term break if you feel you need to and can afford to, but please do not take the advice of people who say you "don't need it at all" if they have never had to build their own business without it.


As you can see, focusing solely on social media won’t get you what you may be dreaming of. Focusing solely on the visual social media platforms won’t get what you what you may be dreaming of. Neglecting the seemingly slower moving marketing platforms like blogs and newsletters is a mistake. Let your competitors skip the tedious, boring parts of marketing in favor of the shiny, ego-boosting thing. Focus your efforts on the things that will help ensure you are still around in 20 years.

Wedding Spending Is Down: 6 Things You Can Do • No. 1


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.

If you haven’t yet felt the pinch in your own business, count yourself lucky, because many wedding professionals have. While you may not be dealing with it now, you can ask any colleague who went through the 2008 (or any previous) recession and they will tell you it’s better to prepare ahead of time than to be caught off guard.

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. Over the next few days, I want to dive into each one a little bit more. The first one is this:

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


When most people hear "get super clear about what your brand is about," they think of the age-old concept of "defining your why" (recently made popular again by Simon Sinek's book.) While it is true you need to know your intrinsic motivators for doing what you do (supporting your family, paying for your kids' Ivy League degrees, creating experiential memories for your family through amazing vacations, extending hospitality through a beautiful and nurturing home, building orphanages, etc), that is not what I am talking about here.

I am talking about getting clear about what you do and who it is for.

You’re smart, so you know that you need to go beyond “I plan weddings” for “brides and grooms.” Maybe you’ve landed on something like this:

“I specialize in planning beautiful weddings” for “couples who love love.”

This sentence may sound sweet, but it is meaningless marketing jumble. Let’s unpack why:

“I specialize in planning beautiful weddings." Yeah, no kidding.

Here’s where marketing messaging diverges from reality a bit: while there are definitely unstylish weddings out there, if no one is marketing themselves as “specializing in ugly weddings,” then saying you specialize in beautiful weddings lumps you in with everyone else. If no one is claiming the opposite, you will not stand out. If you specialize in beautiful weddings, you specialize in nothing.

Now for the second part: “for couples who love love.”

Again, this sounds sweet, but it is super generic: some people may be afraid of love, but very few actively dislike love. It does not drill down enough into which type of engaged couples you are actually looking to target.

To come up with who your work is for, ask yourself who you most want to work with and which types of weddings you most enjoy working on. Maybe your favorite clients are those who have multi-day weddings with a heavy religious and/or cultural focus. Maybe you want to work specifically with fashion-forward socialites. Maybe you’re happiest with clients who are “basic” (I’m currently typing this while drinking a latte from Starbucks, using a mousepad from Target, and wearing jeans from Nordstrom, so I’m definitely not knocking being basic). Maybe you want to specialize in luxe elopements. Whatever it may be, spend some time figuring out what type of client work brings you the most joy, that you can still make money at.

When you think about what you do, you will also want to primarily think about how it benefits who it is for, rather than making it all about yourself. In the end, people who hire you do so because they believe you can make them better in some way. Even your most loyal Instagram fans who double tap every photo and watch every Story do so because they believe you can make their own life better in some way. It is really not about you at all.

A Real-Life Example:

I’ll use my own company as an example here because I spent a lot of time figuring this out, plus I don’t want to highlight someone else who may be happy that others haven’t yet figured out their secret sauce. Think Splendid’s tagline is, “We help wedding industry leaders succeed.” Here’s an abbreviated version of my thought process behind how I landed on this:

What I Do:

I get bored easily. I like working on projects that vary from one another. I also like figuring out solutions to the challenges that come up after a company has been in business for a while. I most enjoy the cognitively difficult parts of consulting – the parts that require me to sit and think deeply and strategically through all different angles of a problem.

On top of that, I am good at this type of work. Really good at it. Being a deep thinker and overly analytical can often be unwelcome traits in many areas of my life, but they are wonderful assets in my career. Downplaying my gifts in this area is a surefire way to end up miserable in my job.

In order to do the type of consulting work I most love and that I am most good at, I have to set specific boundaries on the type of work I won’t do: I am not going to set up Quickbooks for you. I am not going to plan and produce marketing activations for you. I am not going to manage your social media for you. I am not going to pitch media outlets on your behalf. These are all valuable services and there are talented people you can hire to help you with them. They are not what I want to spend my time working on so they are not what I do.

Who It Is For:

I have actively studied (and practiced) leadership for the past twenty years. I like working with leaders. I like working on the types of problems they come to me with. These can be leaders who have been in business for several decades or people who found themselves in a position of leadership early on. Either way, being a leader requires a different mindset, and I prefer to work with people who already have that mindset. It is totally fine if someone doesn’t consider themselves a leader – there are lots of other business consultants who are happy to work with them and possibly even help them develop into someone who views themselves as a leader. But again, that is not the type of work I want to do.

The Benefit:

Success, on your terms. However you define success – whether a number, a lifestyle shift, a feeling or emotion, whatever – my work can help you achieve it. The keyword here being “help.” You are responsible for your own success, and the work I do can help you make it happen. It is not a magic wand or a silver bullet.

Why It Works:

First, it works because I am now more tightly focused on the work I enjoy doing.

Second, it works because my messaging is clear about what I do and who I am for (helping wedding industry leaders succeed), while leaving it open to various types of projects within those boundaries.

Third, it works because not every business consultant in the wedding space claims to work with leaders, so I am not lumping myself in with everyone else. Some people help companies just starting out. Some people focus primarily on finance and accounting. Some people focus primarily on tactics over strategy. Some people try to be a Jack- or Jane-of-all-trades. Not me. I want the hard problems that wedding industry leaders run into. That’s what I enjoy. That’s what I’m good at. So I say so.


Tell Potential Clients Why You’re Splurge-Worthy

As wedding budgets tighten and couples have to make decisions about which categories to cut back in and which to splurge in, you want to be the person they splurge on. Producing beautiful work and calling it beautiful is not enough. People won’t know how what you do is different or valuable until you clearly say so. So say so.

True humility doesn’t hide its gifts.

Meet Me at a Destination Wedding Conference in Dubai

I’m thrilled to share that I’ve been asked to give the inspirational keynote address at the Destination Wedding Congress in Dubai next month.

The Destination Wedding Congress is the largest business conference for destination wedding planners and venues in the world, and this year they are adding an element specifically for destination wedding photographers. In partnership with Dubai Tourism, the event will be held at Atlantis The Palm Hotel from March 27-29th.

In addition to my main stage inspirational keynote talk on the topic of success, I’ll also be teaching a separate class on pricing. You’ll get to meet attendees from around the world as well as hear from speakers like Preston Bailey, Christina Holt, Ali Bakhtiar, and others from the United States, Lebanon, Morocco, China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, India, South Africa, and more.

Most importantly, you will walk away with a truly global perspective on what is happening in the wedding industry and how to grow your business, rather than a primarily Western-focused perspective. With weddings becoming more “glocal,” hearing from and meeting with wedding and luxury professionals who don’t speak at or attend many of the other industry conferences will give you a competitive edge.

You can learn more about the Destination Wedding Congress on their website here and follow them on Instagram here.