Wedding MBA 2017 Recap

The Wedding MBA is like an artificially intelligent robot from a science fiction film- as time passes, it adapts and becomes sleeker, smarter, and stronger. In other words, WMBA gets better and better each year. But unlike HalArnoldJARVIS, or D.A.R.Y.L., WMBA desires peace with mankind, educating wedding industry professionals on “the business side of the wedding business.”

WMBA topped 3500 attendees and 60 exhibitors, making this year the biggest in its history. You could spend hours and hours walking through the exhibition hall, speaking with vendors, grabbing free swag (including boss candy like Blow Pops), and doing a little people watching. In fact, access to the exhibits and booths was worth the price of admission on its own.

But wait, there’s more! Attendees were able to choose from over 150 educational seminars, interactive product demonstrations, WedTalks, and expert Q & A’s that ranged from finance, sales, legal, SEO, trends, and more.

And if that wasn’t enough for you, Wedding Wire and the Knot sponsored a super duper dance party over at the Aria. Yes, of course, I did the robot. It was a hit. Of course. Also, the folks at Wedding Network USA always make sure to organize the best buffet dinner this side of the Mississippi. Another big thanks to Erin Osaki and Arliece Caro for being my partners in crime throughout the entire conference. #allidoiswin #imonHBO #60dollarcocktail

A big shout out to Shannon Underwood, WMBA Conference Director, for inviting me back for my sixth year in a row as a speaker! When I first presented at WMBA in 2012, I was just a little tadpole. Now, I’m a little frog. A little, bald, frog.

The education at WMBA is top notch. I have implemented specific marketing and operations concepts I learned at the WMBA that yielded significant profit. Utilizing video blogs, automating email, and client-avatar development are just a few. This year, I was privileged to see the following speakers provide excellent content.

Susan Southerland, Just Events! Group, Inc

The Dark Side of Wedding Planning: What to do when you get blamed for everything

Susan really knows what she’s doing. She’s planned 1000’s of weddings (and a handful of divorces- just kidding!). Her expertise has been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Dang! Magazine, and this blog. She’s a pro’s pro. That’s pro squared. However, there was nothing square about her presentation about handling bad client situations.

Get Legal Help: Make sure you have an attorney draft your contract- DUH! Laws vary from state to state, so it helps to have an attorney guarantee that you are taking advantage of all legal incentives offered in your jurisdiction.

Specificity: Be super-duper specific about what is included in your services. Broadly worded “packages” can come back to bite you. Protect yourself from bite marks by listing what is included and what is not, such as client correspondence. Susan says that when you respond to a text at midnight, then you are giving the client permission to text you at midnight. So, for example, you can tell the client “communications, including texts, received before 5pm are returned by 9am the following day” or “no communications will be returned on Saturdays.” This way, the client is better educated on expectations and your scope of work is less likely to expand.

Working for Free: If you are approached to do low-cost or free work by a non-profit association or trade group, or even friends, it is important to set up boundaries and truly ask yourself- What is the value that I am getting for this? If it’s not worth it, your time is better spent marketing yourself in other ways. Will you be featured in the association’s marketing materials? Do you get email or attendee contact information? If so, how much is that worth to you? Understanding this will prevent you from working to DEvalue your brand.

Alan Berg, Certified Speaking Professional

Crisis Communication: What to say in difficult situations

Alan Berg is legend. Not in the sense that he is a lone survivor of a worldwide plague who lives in an abandoned New York City. More like, he is an amazingly engaging speaker who knows what he is talking about. His presentation centered around language to use when dealing with angry clients, vendors, and darkseeking zombies.

What not to say: “You signed off on this.” Telling the client that they are the final say on a bad idea will NEVER make the client happy. Because, at the end of the day, you might not have started the fire, but it is now YOUR problem.

Language: Make sure that you engage the client with “I” statements, not “you” statements. Saying “You said..” or “You wanted..” is accusatory. Replace with “Here’s what I can do…” or “I hear that, and let’s try this..” or “I think you are now a walker. I need to destroy your brain.”

Value Proposition: When there is a problem, find out what happened, then find out what you can do to make it right. Sometimes that involves refunds, sometimes that involves creating value with other services. For example, “May I offer you an additional photography session.”

Game On: You are playing chess when dealing with angry clients. And you are not playing with stupid zombies that are trying to eat the pieces. These are intelligent, social media-savvy clients that can leverage circles of friends to destroy you. You will win the game if you provide value to the angry client to defuse the situation, EVEN IF YOU ARE RIGHT, in order to prevent the worst outcomes. Alan says he would rather be happy and successful than right.

Kathryn Hamm, Publisher Gay Weddings

Bridal Bias: Marketing to today’s couples- not yesterday’s brides

I always make it a point to go see Kathryn when she speaks. She’s part educational, part motivational, and part inspirational. Kind of like a Hallmark Card that talks and walks…and wears a blazer. Go up and ask her if she has a check from your grandma for 12 dollars.

Rebranding: Be more inclusive in your marketing language. “Brides” or “Bridal” is not inclusive in today’s world. Unless your business serves only women (e.g., a gown shop), then limiting your marketing to these terms is limiting who is being reached. Kathryn pointed out that Wedding Wire changed their “Bride’s Choice” award to “Couple’s Choice.” See?!

Who Do You Serve: Kathryn recommends examining institutional cultural roles in your business. For example, for venue operators, do you have a “Groom’s dressing room” and a “Bride’s dressing room?” Are they equal size? Are there excessive gender items associated with it (pool table and bourbon in one, mirrors and grooming items in the other). Instead, try “Merlot Room” and the “Chardonnay Room.”

Engage Your Local Community: If you want more LGBT Community referrals, it’s important to get out and network. Volunteer for LGBT causes in your area. Reviews and recommendations from the LGBT community can be powerful indicators that your business is actually inclusive- and not just paying lip service to the issue.

Tabitha McCausland, Tabitha McCausland Photography

Snappy Stories: Marketing with Snapchat and Instagram stories

Tabitha is a photographer, business owner, and social media guru. She’s photographed weddings for 17 years in over 12 countries, runs the social media accounts for a Fortune 500 company, and has started and sold several businesses over the years. If you call her ‘lazy’ she will hit you over the head with a sack full of Tab Colas. Her presentation was the right amount of fizz and went down smooth. Also, she totally brought an entire crew/squad/team/tribe with her from Florida and they rolled hard up in that mix.

Here’s a disclaimer about this presentation. I have NO idea about Snapchat or Instagram. I think one of these is a social media platform, the other one is a teddy bear shaped snack food.

Stats: Snapchat’s average user age is 14-19. Instagram’s average age is 17-24. Teenagers are barely texting now, and are instead choosing these social media accounts. Don’t even try to call them, they won’t answer.

Instagram: Your business must have over ten thousand followers on Instagram before you are permitted to show your website URL.

Websites: Social media is now set to overtake websites with regard to millennial business searches. Millennials are doing almost all of their research via social media prior to reaching out to your business. They stalk your videos, photos, and marketing. The days of coming to an office and having a ‘sales’ meeting are coming to an end. By the time you get the call, they know who, what, why, and when. As a business owner, you need to make it as easy as possible for the client to find you, learn about you, and vet you.

How Often Should You Post: Post every day that your business is open. If you’re a florist, take a pic of a mock-up. Call it “mock-up Monday” or whatever. If you’re a DJ, take a pic of a new item. Posting to social media shows you have a pulse and are working.

People Love You: Wedding business owners have glamorous jobs. You have glitter. You have fancy dresses. You have makeup. You have the chicken dance. Use Snapchat and Instagram for behind the scenes AND the glitz and glamour.

Tips for Getting More Followers: Find out when your clients or potential clients are most active. Post at those times and often. You can’t just like. You must like AND comment. Also, you have to engage people. Engaging people shows you are sincere and enjoy what you do.

Candy Blog, Ms. Candy Media, LLC

Saturday Night Live: Live streaming on social media

Ms. Candy Blog founded and operates the #1 female candy website for candy lovers, was the first candy live streamer, and has been known to livestream on multiple devices simultaneously utilizing a 7 device mount named and created specifically for her. If she was a SAT question, it would be, Ms. Candy Blog is to candy as Rob is to Taco Bell. True story, you don’t have to take the SAT to get into college in Tennessee, so I’m not really sure if that is an accurate SAT question. Anyway, Candy was super entertaining, raining sweet drops of knowledge onto all of us.

What is It?: Livestreaming is defined as “in the moment live video” in which the “audience can interact with the broadcaster.”

Kids These Days: Millennials are live streaming. As a wedding pro, you gotta get in on that. Also, if you live stream yourself with a Chewbacca mask, you will get 140 million views. Millennials are not on Facebook, but often use Facebook to search for vendors. Facebook users watch live videos for 3 times as long as other types of videos.

You Da woMan: Livestreaming allows you to be the star of your own show. Your audience, i.e., potential clients, can get to see you, vet you, and connect with you. The “know, like, and trust” factor is off the charts with livestreaming. Remember that, authenticity + transparency = great content.

Best Practice Tip (1): Notify your audience beforehand (“Hey guys, check me out at 5pm today!”). Also, do not cross platforms. In other words, don’t promote yourself on Instagram for a livestream on Periscope (does this still exist?!).

Best Practice Tip (2): Make sure that you are in a well lit area with a lava mic or a headset. You don’t have to purchase lights or have an expensive mic. Natural light is OK, but Ms. Candy says ring lights are the best.

Best Practice Tip (3): Your face should be in the upper third of the screen so you’ll still be seen while the comments populate on the screen. Make sure it’s your face.

Best Practice Tip (4): How long should you livestream? This will depend on several factors. Have people joined in? Are people dropping off? The bottom line, if people are into it, keep going. Ms. Candy said she once livestreamed for 10 hours.

Shane McMurray, The Wedding Report

Medium: Use surveys to increase revenue

Have you ever seen ‘A Perfect Mind?’ I haven’t. But I think Russel Crowe is in it and like, he’s some kind of genius with numbers. That’s Shane. From scratch, Shane built an algorithm for generating impressively accurate marriage statistics throughout the country. These stats can be used to understand wedding business trends and forecast where wedding pros should allocate their marketing efforts. In his presentation, he taught how to use surveys for measuring problems and creating solutions to improving client experience.

Goals: Surveys should be limited to one goal or main idea. This prevents dilution of results.

Disqualifier: In order make results accurate, ensure that the person answering the questions has the information that you want. Create a disqualifer question. For example, if you are a dress designer, “did you purchase a dress from us?” would allow you to get the opinions of only from those that you actually served.

Primary Segmentation Question: Always have an anchor question. For example, “Did you enjoy your experience?” If the purpose of your survey is to fix problems, then those that answer “yes” can be sorted out so you can concentrate on those that did NOT have a good experience.

Avoid Leading Questions: You’re not Matlock. Make sure the questions are designed such that you are not leading the client to a particular answer. For example, “I am very satisfied” with a 1-5 scale of disagree to agree (leading) vs. “Were you satisfied?” with a 1-5 scale. Also, avoid, “Why are you such an idiot?” with a 1-5 scale.

Survey Software: Don’t try to do a survey with MS Word. This isn’t 1996. I wish it was, because my wallet chain would be in style. Use software like Tableu or Power BI.

Jason Hennessey, Hennessey Consulting

Dress Up Your SEO

In my experience, aside lawyers, SEO “experts” have the worst reputations. In fact, Shakespeare once wrote, “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers and those SEO dudes.” (Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, Scene 2). However, Jason is an exception. He’s highly knowledgeable and spent 45 minutes giving us his SE-knOw how (that’s not Shakespeare, but it should be).

NAP: You must start with your NAP (name, address, phone number). Make sure any and every website that features your business (the Knot, Wedding Wire, Yelp, BBB, etc) has the EXACT same NAP. This includes number modifiers (“Unit” vs “Suite”), directions (“SE” vs “Southeast”), and other abbreviations (“AVE” vs. “Avenue”). Consistent NAPs tell Google that you are where you say you are, and makes it easier for their crawlers to find you. So, the more close you are to complete NAP uniformity across the interwebs, the more likely you will rank higher in Google search results.

Google Structured Data Testing Tool: This website tells you if you have SCHEMA implemented on your website. SCHEMA is something really important, but I don’t know why because I was eating some Cheetohs during this part and the crunch noise caused me to miss what he said. Sorry.

G my B: You must complete a Google My Business profile. When inputting your information, it is better to use a number with a local area code. Also, ditch the email address and use an @yourdomain address. Select the most relevant category for your business. Finally, pay to have a Google certified photographer come out and take pictures of your business. These images get turned into a ‘virtual tour.’ Google loves this.

Johanna Erin Jacobson

Photographer’s Guide to Selling Stock Photos

With some professions, it is considered improper or incorrect to refer to an individual that no longer practices that trade as an “ex” or “former.” For example, a President of the United States or a Marine. I think lawyers should fall into that same category. Johanna is an attorney that currently works as a photographer and international travel blogger who speaks four languages. Over the past several years, she’s developed a practice of selling stock photos to companies and websites all over the world. She was EXtra informative.

Payment: Understand how you want to get paid for your work. Often, you can get a one-time upfront fee or work out a royalty system that will provide passive income for perpetuity. Figure out what your goals are with a particular set of photos and adjust how you approach customers accordingly.

Release: Obviously, general releases are critical for stock photography. A release allows you to use the model’s image or likeness for an intended purpose. Make sure that your model is of age, and if not, get a parent or guardian to authorize the release.

Be Your Own Business: It’s possible to start your own stock photography company. There are many potential clients out there (real estate agents, lawyers, office professionals, travel agents, etc) that need photographs like a taco needs sour cream and tomato to be a Taco Supreme. Johanna stressed that, if you can get out there and hustle, you can create your own book of business to sell your stock photos without having to go through agencies or other websites.

Multitask: If you have been hired to provide photographs (for example, a food shoot or vacation tour), see if you can squeeze in other photographs that might be used for other purposes. Just make sure that you haven’t contracted with the original client to provide all images.

Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting

As the World Turns: Fresh content ideas for your blog

Meghan is a speaker on wedding marketing, operates a PR firm, and is an adjunct professor in the Mass Communication department at Virginia Commonwealth University, specializing in Public Relations Writing and Branding. FYI, this stuff will be on the final.

Say it Loud: Your blog is your megaphone. It shows what you can do, so scream your personality and accolades from the rooftops, man!

Strategy: Before you start, you must ask ‘What is your message?’, ‘Who is your target audience?’, and ‘What resonates with them?’. (Meghan would not like my improper use of punctuation here). Understanding what you want to do, who you want to do it to, and how they want to be done to will determine and inform the direction of your content.

Clicks: Be consistent with actual, useful content. Coming up with clickbait titles will only go so far.

I Want to Party With You: Work with what you have. Wedding professionals have crazy/awesome stories. Like, that one time the groom pole vaulted over the DJ’s lighting rig with a canoe oar. Or when the bride took all those muscle relaxers and her family forgot her little sister’s birthday. You’re not an accountant. Those people are boring. Turn your crazy stories into blogs.

Content Ideas: Think about your processes (Hiring, Planning, Execution). Think about your client’s pain points (How to take a dress to a destination wedding without ruining it). Think about your niche (Planning a wedding at Taco Bell). Think about your location (Traffic headaches of Atlanta in 2018 that will shut down your wedding). Think about your business (Adding team members, awards, etc).

In conclusion, I love the WMBA. YOU CAN GET TICKETS FOR 2018 HERE! The End.