It’s pretty clear that 2021 is going to be a busy year for doing weddings. The latest release of The Knot 2020 Real Weddings Study [COVID-19 Edition] shows that nearly half the weddings from 2020 were postponed, most of those to 2021. When you take all of those weddings on top of the weddings that were already scheduled for this year, it’s shaping up to be the busiest wedding year in our lifetimes, if not ever. Yeah, after last year that’s a welcome stat. The other side of that, of course, is that you now need to fulfill all of those weddings. And while that means you finally get to collect the rest of the money you’re owed from the postponed weddings, you’re also going to find yourself busier than normal.
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Remember what got you here
When things are humming along in your business, it’s easy to take your eye off the ball and focus your attention on the here and now. And you certainly need to attend to what’s in front of you, so you keep the level of quality service and attention to detail that your customers expect and deserve. At the same time, you need to focus on the leads that are coming in, and more importantly, the things you need to do to ensure that leads keep coming. You’re busy because of your past efforts. You stay busy because of what you do now.
It’s a good problem to have
Some of my clients complain about getting too many leads for dates they’re already booked. Sound familiar? Your prospective clients don’t know that you’re already booked, and unless you’re a venue, where they can still change their date, the couples are looking for someone who’s available on a specific date. Getting more inquiries than you can fulfill is a good problem. For some, it’s the signal to expand. For others, it’s a signal to raise your prices. Whatever you decide, I’d rather be in that position than not getting enough leads at all.
Fill your calendar the right way
The key for any business is to decide what inventory you have (both physical inventory and on your calendar) and try to fill that with people you like, who value what you specifically bring in results and who are willing to pay your prices. Inventory for most wedding and event pros is the number of weddings/events you want to, or can do in a year. That number varies greatly from a handful for some, to dozens for others and hundreds or thousands for still others. The number that’s right for you isn’t necessarily right for someone else in your market and category. Don’t copy a competitor’s targets. That works for them (maybe). Choose your own goals and then make a plan to hit achieve and exceed them.
What worked before may not work now
Where were you getting your leads from before the pandemic shut everything down? Did you rely on word of mouth and referrals? That was great, but what happens when the people referring you aren’t getting leads or making sales? What happens when the people who were referring you get furloughed or are permanently let go? What happens when you’re not attending in-person networking events, wedding shows, and yes, even weddings? And your past clients aren’t seeing their friends, co-workers, and acquaintances at the gym, salon, house of worship, etc. The people who refer you aren’t seeing you (and each other), and we tend to refer people we know, like, trust, and have had recent contact with. When those pipelines dry up you need to have other sources feeding your sales funnel.
Are you diversified?
Just as we’re told to have a diversified investment portfolio, we should also have a diversified sales pipeline. You want to be in the enviable position of getting too many qualified leads. That gives you pricing power and, as I mentioned early in this article, the opportunity to reevaluate your company structure and which products and services you offer. The good and bad of our industry is that people are planning ahead, and in many cases way ahead. While you occasionally get a lead for something coming up soon, most are for further into the future. That means you need to be keeping your eye on the future business while servicing current customers.
Divide and conquer?
Some of my clients split the duties of getting new business from servicing current customers. The salespeople do the selling and others do the fulfilling. That can work for many businesses and is harder for others, especially if you’re a team of one! Having created and lead sales teams, I prefer that structure if you can do it. Your salespeople won’t be distracted during wedding season since it’s not their job to fulfill the products and services. If you can’t do that then it’s important to keep your eye on the marketing efforts, even when you’re in the depths of wedding season. Outsourcing is another option for any of you. Don’t look just at the cost, also look at the business you could be bringing in that you’d otherwise miss out on. If you can get a good ROI (return on investment) by outsourcing parts of your marketing efforts, then you’re losing money by not doing it.
It’s hard to play catch-up
While it’s great that people are still planning on getting married despite a worldwide pandemic, it’s also hard to play catch-up if your calendar isn’t yet full. Someone starting a new wedding business today is in the enviable position of having an empty calendar… one they can fill with weddings you can’t do because you’re booked. No, I’m not encouraging new competitors for you, but it is a fact that many new businesses are created during recessions. I recently saw a post on a Facebook page from a new venue and I couldn’t help thinking of all of my clients who are already booked solid for every weekend this year. They’re getting inquiries for Saturday’s in October that they can’t do, but the new venue can. The new venue is at a disadvantage not having photos and reviews to support what they can do, but the open calendar is an opportunity for them… if they get in front of the right audience.
Be where they are
Now you know that you need to keep up your marketing and advertising efforts, even when you’re elbow-deep doing weddings this year. So, where should you be advertising and marketing? Wherever your target audience is looking for you, or someone like you, when they’re looking to buy. That last part is key. Your target audience is likely on social media, but are they looking for their venue, caterer, DJ, planner or officiant while they’re on Facebook, Instagram or TikTok? There’s a big difference between being on YouTube looking for a video on how make banana bread and being there looking for wedding floral and décor ideas.
Buy the audience not the ad or booth
Many of you have heard me say this before, but it’s too important not to repeat here. Never buy an ad or wedding show booth. Buy access to the audience that sees that ad or attends that show. If it’s the right audience, then buy the best placement you can get. If it’s not the right audience – which requires you to ask better questions than just how much it costs – then don’t buy it at all. The best-looking ad or booth is wasted if it’s not seen by the right people at the right time. And it’s not a passive endeavor. After you get that great placement, be sure to complete it with the best graphics, photos, reviews, videos, and calls to action. And of course, be sure to reply to all inquiries quickly and the right way to get them to actually reply back, and not ghost you.
Telescope or microscope?
Be sure to use your telescope to look for future opportunities and use your marketing and advertising efforts to convert those, yes, even while you’re running around like a headless chicken in the middle of the busiest wedding year, ever! Don’t pull back thinking that this wave will continue on its own. It’s been a very unique set of circumstances that’s gotten us to where we are today. It’s going to take a focused, concerted effort to stay busy next year and beyond. And it’s what you do today and tomorrow that will determine your future success. Let me know how I can help.
©2021 Wedding Business Solutions LLC
Need help with your strategy, marketing plan or converting leads?
Join me for an upcoming Master Class: How to reply to inquiries without getting ghosted! – Wednesday, Feb. 17th, 1pm Eastern (10am Pacific, 6pm UK/Ireland).
- “With this seminar I booked 4 weddings in a week.” – Caroline Kurkowski, Upbeat Occasions, Albany, NY
Is it time to fire your website? Join me and a very small group (only 10 businesses) for a Group Website Review Session, Monday, Feb. 22nd, 7pm Eastern (4pm Pacific, 9am Sydney/Melbourne 23rd Feb.)
- “I was part of Alan’s group website review last month – since then, my bounce rate is down and conversion rate is up!” – Savannah Gryskiewicz, Your Inspired Event, Fresno, CA
To find out how I can help you with a website review, virtual sales training (whether it’s just you, or your whole team) or to plan having me come out for sales training or speaking when the ban is lifted, contact me via email, text, use the short form on this page, or call/text +1.732.422.6362