Saying that 2020 is a year that most of us would like to forget is a statement of the obvious. It’s always easier to look at the negative that’s in front of us, but there have been some bright spots. I’ll agree that finding those bright spots is sometimes hard when the dark cloud looms large. There are always things to be grateful for, if you’ll focus your attention on them. I’m grateful to speak with my 90-year old Dad every morning. Hearing his voice and knowing he’s safe and healthy is a good start to our day.
I wish you 1 problem
Collectively we’ve lost too many friends and family, and others are still suffering the health effects, not to mention the financial impact. My good friend, Andy Ebon, who is battling Covid as we speak, once told me: “When you’re healthy you have 100 problems. And when you’re not, you have 1!” I’m sorry that he’s living that axiom right now and hope he gets better, soon.
Back to my original reason for writing this article
Even in a year with a dark shadow hanging over it, there are some lessons that we can carry forward with us to improve the future outlook. Things aren’t going back to the way they were. They never do. They just move forward to the next reality and I know that many of you can’t wait for the next reality… because this one stinks!
Here are some business lessons learned:
- Selling doesn’t have to be face-to-face – I think this is one of the best lessons from 2020. So many wedding and event pros were insistent upon getting your customers to meet with you in-person. While I’m sure your closing ratio had certainly been better when you can sit across the desk or table from a couple, those of you who’ve learned how to make the sale without doing that have an edge going forward. How much time have you saved by not meeting in person? How many remote/virtual meetings have you had where the customers weren’t in the same place? You can continue to do sales remotely, even after it’s safe to meet in-person. Maybe not every customer, but many more than you did before.
- Conversion is the key – when the number of inquiries drops, conversion becomes that much more important. Each lead has always been valuable. When you’re swamped with leads, you focus more on the ones who respond than the ones that don’t. If you can fill your calendar that way, great! But when fewer leads are coming in, each of them is that much more important to convert. A small increase in your conversion from lead to conversation means more opportunities for sales calls/Zooms/meetings.
- Referrals and relationships can dry up – Many businesses relied on referrals from other wedding and event pros as well as the relationships with people at other companies. When businesses closed their doors, either temporarily or permanently, a lot of those referrals dried up. People do business with people, not companies and some of those relationships are with people who were laid off or furloughed. When you’re not going to networking meetings (ILEA, NACE, WIPA, AfWPI, etc.), you’re not seeing your industry friends. When you’re not doing as many, or any weddings and events, you’re not seeing the industry contacts that you might otherwise run into. Out of sight often means out of mind. And when they’re not doing as many weddings and events, they don’t have as many customers to refer back to you.
- Advertising is about access to an audience – The first of the 4 steps to getting more sales is getting someone’s attention (the others are getting an inquiry, having a conversation and making the sale). When referrals dry up, and wedding shows can’t happen, how do you get the attention of potential clients? I’ve been saying for years that you never buy an ad you buy access to their audience. Each media company has a unique audience. Even in the depths of the pandemic, there was still traffic to sites like The Knot, WeddingWire, Weddingsonline, Easy Weddings and Guides for Brides. Was it down? Yes, of course. Did it go away? No.I’ve already written an article about why advertising and looking for opportunities are important during a crisis, click here if you want to read it. Being consistent with your advertising is critical to your long-term success. Yes, even now with 2021 being pretty full for many of you, you need to keep investing in staying in front of the audience who will need you in 2022 and beyond. Don’t shut off the engines because you’re busy now. You want to stay busy. And the more leads you get, the more pricing power you gain when supply and demand are in your favor.
- Weddings will endure (with some scars and bruises) – We’ve always been told that weddings are recession-resistant, but we’ve never been through a recession like this. I’ve been in the industry over 25 years and I’ve seen financial ups and downs, housing crises, soaring and crashing economies and natural and other disasters. And yet, weddings chugged along. This is the first time we’ve been told that you can’t do your job, period. We’ve been prepared for a lot, but not this..
The silver lining, of course, is that for many wedding businesses, most of the weddings have been postponed until later this year or next. Yes, it stinks that you had so many cancellations. And for the postponed ones you have to wait until next year to see that income. But, considering that so many other industries are forever losing income from this year, that they’ll never recoup, the long-term outlook for the wedding industry is better than many. (Yes, my glass is always half-full)
- Bigger isn’t always better – Many businesses that had been growing in the prior years have had to scale back. Some of you may be realizing that you don’t want to try to re-grow quite as large. Bigger businesses can mean more sales, but often profits don’t grow as much. Expenses for overhead, staff, insurance, marketing, etc. also grow as you do, and they can eat up much, or sometimes most of the additional net income. The key is to right-size your business. Don’t copy your competitors. Their needs, wants, costs and future are theirs, not yours. Know what your competitors are doing and charging, but chart your own course. I’ll bet that many of you will stay smaller than you were last year and be quite OK with that.
Here are some personal lessons learned:
- You need a rainy-day fund – Heck, you needed a monsoon-day fund this year. Many of us have been hearing, since we were kids, that you need to be saving for a rainy day, even when it’s sunny outside. Well, this year was the test, for sure. Those who had one probably would have preferred not to have to tap it, but it was good that it was there. Those who didn’t, for whatever reason, now see the value in having one. If you have one, replenish it as you can. If you didn’t, start one as soon as you can. One relatively painless way I save is with the Acorns app, which rounds up everyday purchases to the next dollar. We paid off our son’s student loans and our cars this way – we had them save a fixed amount per day on top of the round-ups. (Click this link to find out more, and we each get $5 if you sign up)
- We can live with less – If this year has taught us anything it’s the difference between what you want and what you need. Wow, has that become so much clearer. When your business and finances were humming along, I’m sure some ‘wants’ looked like ‘needs.’ We all ‘need’ our health, a roof over our heads, food on our table and to be surrounded by people who love and care about us. Pretty much everything else is a want. Well, maybe good Bourbon can stay on my ‘needs’ list!
- We need our personal connections – There a lot of people in our industry who rarely went to the networking events, or conferences. There are others who attended almost every one. I’ll bet that both groups would love to be able to get together with your personal and/or industry friends again, the way you used to. No masks. No social-distancing. Just laughing, eating and drinking with friends. We all took for granted things like going to a bar or restaurant, or just having friends over. I hope that we’ve learned to appreciate those times, and when it becomes the next normal, we’ll continue to value and savor them. But please wait until it’s prudent to do so.
- We all have a ‘Victim-card’, but we don’t need to show it – This is not a competition for who’s got it worse. Every one of us has a reason to feel like a victim, whether it’s financial, health-related, family, or something else. I can’t think of anyone I know that hasn’t been affected in some way. However, there are those who continue to feel victimized (and remind us all about how they are the victim) and those who look for the silver linings and opportunities. I try to live by this: “It’s OK to acknowledge how people and things make you feel. It’s up to you how long you feel that way.” Learning to let it go, or at least to push it back in your consciousness and priorities is a choice.
By no means is this intended to be all of the lessons we’ve learned this year, but it’s a start. Make your own list of things you’ve learned that you’re going to carry forward. Make your own list of needs and wants. Acknowledge your victim-card and choose to stow it away. And I hope that we can get together some time next year at an in-person industry event, rekindling old friendships and making new ones. Stay safe, stay healthy and have a very Happy Holiday season.
© 2020 AlanBerg.com & Wedding Business Solutions LLC
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- “Training with Alan was really valuable, exactly what I needed. Thanks Alan!” – Nada Tizzano, Belmare Weddings & Events, Sorrento, Italy
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- “WOW! The remote training that Alan provided our team is incredible.” – Susan Dewberry, Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Atlanta, GA
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