You can’t see the skies clearing with your head in the sandI was interviewed the other day by a reporter for NPR (National Public Radio) and she asked me what the closest parallel to the Coronavirus crisis would be, from my over 25 years around the wedding and events industry. I thought about all of the other crises that I’ve seen come and go, from financial crises to the 9/11 tragedy, and I couldn’t think of anything that comes close to this. For me, the biggest challenge is the uncertainty of the end. With a natural disaster (hurricane, tornado, earthquakes, floods, etc.) it’s easier to see when it’s over, and you can start recovering. Sure, some take longer than others, but you can definitely feel when you’re in the recovery phase. Also, most natural disasters are localized. The results could be devastating for the people directly affected, but other areas can only empathize with what they see on TV.

The invisible enemy

One of the biggest challenges of getting through this crisis is that it’s an invisible enemy. Unless you or someone that’s close to you is physically ill, everything feels normal, which unfortunately lulls too many people into a false sense of “this could never happen to me.” We’re learning new terms such as “social-distancing” and trying to figure out what that really means. We’re being told to stay home, but we’re allowed to go out for food, gas, supplies, etc. Which stores are open, and which are closed? It’s a very confusing time, for sure.

Will the wedding industry survive?

The short answer is, Yes. The industry will survive. Individual businesses are positioned differently as to how well they will make it through. We’re an industry of small businesses, however, most of the businesses in the US are considered small businesses.

According to data from the Census Bureau’s Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs, there were 5.6 million employer firms in the United States in 2016:

  • Firms with fewer than 500 workers accounted for 99.7 percent of those businesses.
  • Firms with fewer than 100 workers accounted for 98.2 percent.
  • Firms with fewer than 20 workers made up 89.0 percent.

I can say, with confidence, that other than venues/caterers, most of the wedding industry is made up of companies with 20 or less workers, certainly full-time workers. According to the Federal Reserve, 40% of Americans don’t have $400 in the bank for emergency expenses. Going without income for weeks, or months is going to be devastating. And it’s not like those people can just go and get another job, when most businesses are required to be closed. But there are some things you can still be doing, to make more productive use of your time now.

If you didn’t see, I recently did a free webinar to give some positive vibes “10 Proactive Things You Can Do No To Lean-In” – the recording and all of the resources are at www.AlanBerg.com/Resources

What can you do now while you’re working from home?

If you haven’t already done so, get in touch with all of your already-booked customers for April through September… yes, September. People do business with people, and they’ll remember you being proactive. According to The Knot Worldwide, a survey of their affected couples showed that only 4% were looking to cancel their weddings. 61% were looking to reschedule for 2020 and 15% for 2021. Not every call or email is going to mean a cancellation, so don’t be afraid to reach out.

Be confident and have a plan

Rather than calling or emailing and asking “what do you guys want to do?”, reach out and say “Let’s get you rescheduled so you can let all of your guests know, and so you can get your choice of dates while so many other couples are postponing and rescheduling. Create the sense of urgency, because it’s real! The prime fall dates are already booked, so it’s time to get creative. Articles and webinars from The Knot, WeddingWire and others are recommending to couples to consider a weekday wedding if they want to choose a 2020 date. And don’t be afraid to ask for an additional deposit/retainer when moving the date. You’re deferring the revenue you would have had for the coming months until later. And, as I always say “If you don’t ask, the answer is always, No!”

Are you doing virtual meetings and tours?

With the technologies we have today, giving virtual tours of your venue, or having virtual meetings is easier than ever. My resources page has some info for you. If you’re a venue and you’re not yet doing virtual tours, check out the special 50% off package from VisitingMedia for TrueTour™ , and incredible immersive-media solution that can have you doing virtual tours, with 360º views, 3D modeling and terrific tracking tools (I’m on their advisory board and asked if they could make a special for you during this troubled time): https://visitingmedia.com/march-2020-incentivized-pricing/

The food tastes the same on Monday!

Remind your couples that no one ever looks at someone’s wedding photo and asks what day of the week it was. Their guests will understand that these are unusual circumstances and choosing a weekday to reschedule will give them all of the beautiful results they want… and most importantly, the same team. If a couple reschedules from a Saturday in April to a Monday or Thursday (or Tuesday or Wednesday) in October, there’s a really good chance all of their wedding pros will be available. However, if they are able to find a Saturday, or for some a Friday or Sunday, there’s a good chance that some of their original wedding pros are already booked. Even if you’re not the venue, reach out early so you can help guide your couples to a reschedule date that works for you, too.

New leads are still coming in

I was at The Knot on September 11, 2001. That, too, was an unprecedented event. The traffic on TheKnot.com dropped, as you would imagine. What was surprising, at the time, was that by 2 days after, traffic was back to what it had been the day before the tragedy. Wedding planning charged ahead. I’m no longer an employee at The Knot, so I can’t see the traffic, but I’m sure it’s been down. What I do know from my Zoom calls and consulting with wedding pros, like you, is that there are still new leads coming in. Are they down? Yes, but I’m already hearing that they’re starting to ramp back up, as I’m sure the traffic to The Knot, WeddingWire and others will, as well. (at home, the boss isn’t looking over their shoulder to see that they’re sneaking a peek at your website or social media!)

Is now a time to be selling?

Follow up on any leads you’ve gotten recently, and any new leads that come in. People who are planning their weddings and events later this year and next year will be hunkered down, and they may be doing their research at this time. In the secret shopping that we do, most companies don’t follow up on their leads more than once (if they even reply once). Companies that try multiple times, multiple ways have the best shot of converting leads. In my book “Why Don’t They Call Me?”, I lay out a 5-step process for following up. I’ve gotten lots of positive feedback from people who have started following up this way and are seeing much better response.

Reach out and don’t touch someone

Reach out to any couples with whom you had meetings/calls/conversations and ask how they’re doing. Be empathetic and don’t be salesy. Once they reply, ask if they’re moving ahead with their planning, or if they’ve put it on hold. If they’re moving ahead, gently let them know that there are a lot of couples who are postponing their weddings from this year to next, which means prime dates, and some not-so-prime dates will be filling up. Let them know that when they’re ready to have a conversation, you’re there for them. Between Zoom, FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangouts and more, there are lots of ways to connect with your customers without being face to face. I’m actually hoping that this will show many of you that you don’t need to meet face to face, even after social-distancing is lifted.

Keep Networking!

Your phone still works. Your Email works. Skype, Zoom, FaceTime and Google Hangouts work. When you make these calls, don’t let it fall into a pity party. Yes, we’re all losing business now, but now is the time to surround yourself with positive voices. Let your friends vent, but be sure to bring it back around to what you can do now to be better

What should you NOT do?

Don’t put your head in the sand. Yes, it’s bad for everyone. If you don’t have an emergency fund, it’s going to be a rough few weeks. For some, the stimulus package will provide some temporary relief. I’ve also heard that banks and other companies will be making concessions, understanding that if you’re not working, you’re not bringing in income (deferral of mortgage payments, rent, loan payments, etc.). Now is not the time to panic, that leads to bad decision-making. If you’re feeling stressed (and who isn’t) you may want to seek professional help from a therapist, meditation app or possibly your local clergy.

Don’t create your own recession

Don’t pull back on your advertising and marketing. Playing catch-up is hard, especially in weddings. In the last recession, the companies that leaned in and kept their advertising and marketing efforts in place, or even increased them, came out of it the best. In times like these I find it best to lean in to the crisis. Companies that do tend to come out faster, and stronger. An unfortunate reality is that some companies may not survive, and the ones that do will pick up the slack. Give yourself the best chance for survival by leaning-in. A year from now we’ll all be looking forward, helping couples have amazing wedding celebrations. If you have your head in the sand, you won’t be able to see that the skies are clearing!

Don’t forget to check out the new Resources Page that I recently added. It has a link to the free webinar recording of “10 Proactive Things You Can Do Now To Lean-in” and information and links that were mentioned in the webinar, as well as others I’ve added.

© 2020 AlanBerg.com & Wedding Business Solutions LLC

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Need help navigating these uncertain times?

Whether it’s getting your website better positioned to convert traffic, handling the leads your getting, or any sales or marketing related issues, I can help you with ways you can lean-in and work ON your business.

Here’s someone I’ve helped recently, where a small adjustment was all he needed to convert a sale:

“Wow, thank you so much for your help. I have been having trouble what to say / ask after I give out pricing information. Many times I would just hear nothing back.  After working with you for a few minutes, you gave me advice and just made a few little tweaks. The next day I implemented your advice and BANG, I not only got a response got a phone call which led to a booking within the hour.”

Mike Lagomarsino, Soundz Amazing DJ, Plattsburgh, NY

To find out how I can help you with a website review, virtual sales training (whether it’s just you, or your team) or to plan having me come out for sales training or speaking when the ban is lifted, contact me via emailtextuse the short form on this page, or call +1.732.422.6362

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • John Parker says:

    Alan – Great post! Hope you’re staying safe.

    I am not seeing ANY new leads coming in since 3/13 Nor any following up from earlier leads.. It’s gone full silence.. 100% of my business client interaction is re-scheduling or canceling business that has already been booked – and using other downtime to make sure website and other assets are up-to-date.. (& plenty of house “to-do” items getting checked off)

    My sense is people are very reluctant to book new weddings right now, especially larger ones, & further think the possibility exists for at least some people to be rethinking the concept of large gatherings generally. Not to mention, the “extra” money people had in the way of stock market gains for certain wedding items that they otherwise might have “splurged” on (like what I do) is, for many, just not there anymore.

    Trying to be realistic, I believe the inevitable direction for my particular business (live band for weddings & events) against this backdrop is down. I’m fortunate in that we WILL survive as I have financial reserves, but I think anyone in this industry who is not re-examining the entirety of their business & carefully evaluating it’s potential for continued viability in weddings and events – is NOT being pragmatic or smart.

    I agree Alan’s advice & counsel could be invaluable at a time like this – & I also agree it’s great to be optimistic. But, to think that anytime this year (or longer) it’s going back to the way it was – seems to me wishful. (but I’d take it 😛)

    Prayers & best of luck to all.. john

    • Alan says:

      Thanks for your perspective, John. Yes, now is the time that you’re glad you had been putting away for a rainy day, because it’s pouring right now!

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