Over the past couple of years, I have presented multiple times on the 6 key areas to focus on when creating a successful wedding business – and very shortly I will be presenting a 2.0 version of this presentation at WeddingWire World DC. In this upcoming session, I will be discussing not only the importance of focusing on the 6 keys, but focusing on them in a specific order.
These 6 keys, in the order they should be worked on, with a little bit of the why, are listed below.
1) Ideal Couple – In an industry in which business is so personal, understanding which couples you want to work with, and which couples you will be most successful working with, should be your first step. Who your ideal couples are, where they are, and what they want from someone doing what you do, will drive much of how you do business.
2) SMART Goals – Knowing your ideal couple helps you to understand things like: how much you can charge for your service, what type of customer experience they are expecting, will you need all 5-star reviews or will a 4-star average be ok, etc. And by understanding these things, it is much easier to write goals that are not only SMART, but smart for your business.
3) Marketing – Since the marketing vehicles you will use, and messaging within those vehicles, need to attract your ideal couples, and will help you meet at least some of your SMART goals, it follows that you need to have worked on the other two first, if you want to market in the most efficient and effective way.
4) Selling Your Value – Similar to your marketing messaging, your value messaging needs to attract your ideal couples, thus creating effective messaging means understanding your ideal couples and their values and priorities, and your goals.
5) Relationships – When developing relationships with colleagues and competitors, it is important to know who your ideal couples are, since you want to establish a different type of relationship with those that work with the same ideal couples as you vs. with those that work with different ideal couples. And, since we want to be as efficient in our businesses as possible, knowing our goals helps us to focus our effort on the relationships that will be the most beneficial.
6) Processes and Systems – Each process, and the corresponding systems that support it, should be developed to at the least meet, but if possible, exceed, your ideal couple’s expectations. By doing this, instead of creating processes and systems that are the norm for all couples, or are built just to save your business time or money, you will have a much better chance of meeting your goals and making your ideal clients happy.
This is just a little taste of what I’ll talk about, and talk about with my coaching clients when we work through this together. If you want to learn more about each of the 6 Keys to a Successful Business listed above, check out my other blog posts and feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com to get the complimentary series of worksheets that explain each of the 6 keys in more detail and even give you guidance on how to evaluate and improve them in your business.
My last blog post, although not very exciting, was a necessary discussion in regards to the why and how of calculating your time cost so that you can price your services accordingly. Not pulse-raising, but a very important topic, because in the service industry of weddings, your time is one of the biggest “costs” to your business, and it is your most precious resource, because, once spent, you can never get it back.
In addition to your time costs, the other business factors to take into account when determining pricing are:
• What is the price range in your area of those already out there doing what you do?
• What are your per couple dollar costs to deliver your service or product?
• What are your ideal couples willing to pay for your service or product?
• And, how much profit do you want to make for the time you spend?
All of these pricing factors will need to be approached from a business perspective, but, just as importantly, from a happiness perspective. The happiness perspective is so important since you most likely started your business to be your own boss, while doing something you love, and controlling your destiny. Yet, you know you will need to work long hours while making some amount of money for those hours. For some of you, your business is part-time and as long as it makes you a little extra spending cash, you are fine running a more off-the-cuff business, while others need their business to be their full-time income, and thus have a much more defined and planned out business. Either way, having an understanding of how much you are making per couple is important, since there is some defined worth to your time. And running your business as a business, professionally, whether it is part-time or full-time, is important to use all, as it affects how others see the wedding industry.
For example, I love to travel, and if an ideal couple hiring me wants me to travel to another state to marry them, I am happy to do it, however, I am going to charge them my normal fees, plus travel costs, plus a fee to cover the fact that I might have to give up other booking opportunities. It wouldn’t fit me, my profit per couple, or even my overall business to do it any other way, as I factor my happiness in too. This doesn’t mean that having a different approach is wrong, as long as you understand the costs and you are happy with the outcome. The main idea is that your pricing should allow you to be happy in, and with, your business for the long term. If you are not happy because you are working too many hours, or you are not making the money you were planning, or you are making money but you are not having the fun you thought you would, you really need to do one of the following:
1) Change how your business works
2) Change who it serves (your ideal clients)
3) Raise your prices
4) Do something else for a living
If you need help working through any of these options, please let me know. And, yes, I know number 4 seems harsh, but just remember that nothing kills a passion-based business more than losing your passion.
If you have been in the business world for more than 10 minutes, you have probably heard the phrase, “think outside the box.” And when you heard it, it probably was in the context of how your business will be, or what you do for someone else’s business will be, more successful if instead of thinking like everyone else and doing what has been done before, you are unique and figure out a new way or path.
Well, there is no doubt that figuring out a new or unique approach, or plan, or product, or service, can sometimes lead to huge success. However, before thinking and then stepping outside the box, you need to understand the box, what stepping outside of it means, and if you going to be comfortable doing it. I could spend many pages writing about this, but here are a few quick points to think about.
1) It seems there are two main times when out of the box comes into play: in developing something completely new (product or service); or when a market is so crowded, you look for a new way to do something within the crowded market – this could be a new way to attract engaged couples to your service, a new service no one else is offering, etc. Thus, doing anything outside the box tends to require an elevated understanding of the potential market, usually a bit more research when planning it, and usually a bit more resources (time and/or money) than if you were doing more for your business, but still doing it within the box.
2) Even if you have a better understanding of the market, and have done a bit more research, thinking and then stepping outside the box is higher risk, offset with the potential for higher reward. However, not everyone is cut out to take the plunge, to deal with the stress while trying, and to accept failure if it comes. Also, if you have others who are helping you, you also have to consider if they are ready to be risky and will there be full support (not blame) when things are tough. Inside the box, things are easier to plan and implement, and thus life is a bit more comfortable.
3) Outside the box can become inside the box quickly, based on the barriers to entry (or lack thereof) of whatever you are doing. If you are going to be the first to try something, make sure it more than pays you back before it becomes the norm. If you figured that you will take small steps outside the box to test the water, know that your competitors are probably going to notice, and based on your success, or perceived success, some of them will probably follow – and quicker than you would hope.
Thinking and then stepping outside the box can be a tricky thing, but if you have an idea, have done the research to feel comfortable that it will work, and you can handle the risk, go for it!
If you read my blog, have heard me or other wedding professionals speak, listen to small business guru podcasts, etc., there is no doubt that you have heard about the concept of the ideal client, or in our case, the ideal couple. When moving your business from “all couples are your market” to focusing on attracting and working with your ideal couples, the most important step is to figure out who are your ideal couples are, and then the second most important step is to figure out if there are enough of your ideal couples to support the business success you want to achieve.
Business 101 says that if you have a great product or service, but nobody who will buy it, your business will most likely fail. Yes, I know that there are businesses that have created their own markets, but for most of us in the wedding industry, we are doing something that is already being done by others. We might be doing it in a different way or using a new technology, but we are not usually recreating the wheel. Thus, making sure there are enough of your potential ideal couples out there to support the business success you envision is an important step. Some tips I recommend you use to determine the size of your market are:
1) Use existing market research and surveys. WeddingWire, The Knot, and other wedding industry leaders do yearly surveys on the wedding market that contain large amounts of helpful data. How many weddings are in your market, average size of those weddings, average age of the couples, average budget spent, plus so much more… all data that is at your disposal.
2) Do your own market research and surveys. Although not always possible or practical, creating your own questionnaire and getting it out to couples can prove helpful since you are getting information specific to what you want to know vs. trying to interpret other people’s data to get your answers. This method is more in-depth since it requires an understanding of how to create and ask survey questions and the need to be able to get enough of a sample of returns to draw valid conclusions. You can do this type of survey by creating a questionnaire and then buying a booth at a wedding show, buying a list, and/or surveying couples through others in the industry.
3) Actual testing. If you have a decent-sized initial marketing budget and the time to build your business, you can start marketing to your ideal couples in the places that you think they are looking. Obviously, this can be expensive if there isn’t enough of a market of your ideal couples to support your business. However, it is the most direct way to find out, since you will either start to get enough business to validate that you can be successful with this set of ideal couples, or you don’t get enough and know you need to adjust.
Knowing that there is a market, and a large enough market, of your ideal couples to allow your business to reach the success you envision is a key step that you should not skip as you elevate your business. If you have questions or need help determining your ideal couples and/or doing research on market size, please let me know and we can work together to figure it out.
Industry shows are a great way, in a relatively short period of time, to hear multiple speakers present on a broad range of topics, and often to find other vendors or suppliers to support your business too. The cost for the variety and amount of information presented usually make industry shows worthwhile, and most shows include a great social component to add to the fun and value. I have attended and been a speaker at multiple shows including The Special Event (TSE), Wedding MBA, WeddingWire World, and the ABC National Conference (and soon to be at the Alt Summit), and I wanted to give you some quick tips and hints on how to get the most from an industry show or conference.
Have reasonable expectations. By that I mean, don’t expect every session to be incredible and/or exactly what you were thinking it would be. Shows need a lot of speakers and some of them are just going to be better, or more on target, than others. If you are unsure about which sessions to attend, talk with others who have seen a particular speaker and get opinions on their quality and their content.
Know your plans going into the show. Based on your goals for the year and the corresponding plans you are implementing to achieve those goals, you should have a good idea of what business topic areas are the most important to seek out. You should also have an idea of what specific information you are looking for within each business topic, which should help you narrow down which are the best sessions to attend.
Try to get two or three actionable takeaways from each session and make detailed notes of those items. Also, see if the presenter is offering any kind of after-show follow-up (slides, other worksheets, etc.). If they are, make sure you are on the list to receive them, which usually means handing them one of your business cards.
Find friends and colleagues to team up with. You will get more out of the show if you have people you can count on in the same session so that you can compare notes and discuss takeaways or next action steps after the session. And, it is also extremely helpful to have friends who are attending other sessions so that you can share notes and get even more out of the show.
Finally, although you will have lots of ideas after a show, you most likely won’t have the time or resources to implement everything. Pick 3 of the most immediate and important items and focus on those items first. As you get them going, or completed, you can then start working on others as you have the time.
For most of us who are solopreneurs or very small business owners, the idea of writing a business plan can seem useless and/or daunting. Maybe you have thought… Why should I write one, I already know I want to do it and so I am just going to do it? Or, I don’t need a business plan, I am not trying to get a loan. Or, maybe even, I didn’t write one when I started my business, why should I write one now? Well, let me just say, a business plan helps you define what you are creating, where you want to take it, how you are going to get there, and what it is going to take, and cost, in the process… all very important to know when starting and when running a business.
I am not saying you can’t be successful without a business plan or that your business plan must be 300 pages filled with every business detail… but trust me when I say that it can help in so many ways – and done at any stage in your business – and below are just a few.
1) By looking at the long-term and detailing out the why you are doing this business, the who do you want as your customers, and where do you want the business to go in the long term, you will make it much easier to write yearly goals and the yearly action items to support those goals. You will also make it much easier to evaluate your business as it grows and therefore to adjust as necessary.
2) Writing a business plan makes you “sweat” the details. By writing out who you think your ideal customers will be, how you plan to deliver your product or service, and how you plan to market it, you get a better handle on what you will need to start and what it will take to continue. For example, when you start listing the things you will need daily just to operate your business, you have a much better idea of how much startup money you should have, how many bookings or clients you will need, and what you will need to charge.
3) A well-thought-through business plan can give you a good idea of your odds for success. By detailing out what it will take, what it should cost, and how much you should make, a business plan can help you determine if your business could be successful – in whatever way you are defining success. And, as you create the plan, if you don’t see the potential for the success you are looking to achieve, you can alter the plan or realize it may not work before committing too much time and capital.
So, remember that assuming you are not trying to get a loan, your business plan does not need to be formal, it just needs to be well thought through and documented. And, your business plan is, and should be, flexible, since what you are aiming for when you start the business may change as your business succeeds and matures. If you don’t know where to begin on it,
If you don’t know where to begin on it, drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll send over my “Nice and Simple Business Plan” template structure. It’s easier than you think to do, and important to take the time to think these things through!