Monday, December 12, 2011

Bridal Show Do's and Don'ts: How-to Maximize your Investment and Book More Brides


By Krista Chapman
krista@thepinkbride.com
@PinkLadyKrista


Enchanted Florist Booth Design

A challenging undertaking, bridal shows are often a costly investment.  Far too many vendors fail to fully take advantage of the targeted pool of brides and grooms that is ready for the picking at these events.  Having been witness to many flops and fail, a list of do's and don'ts were in order.  Use my tips below for your next bridal show and success awaits! 

Do plan to impress.  Don't show up at a bridal show with only a few brochures or simple poster to toss atop your black clothed 8ft table.  Brides look to shows for inspiration and ideas but most of all, they look to be impressed.  After all, they have been dreaming of this is one day their entire lives.  If your booth fails to create their fantasy, you're falling short.  Having a thoughtful and eye-catching design that highlights current wedding trends is key.  Design not your thing?  Many vendors collaborate with planners, florists and designers, trading services to create amazing displays that draw couples from all over the show floor.

Do set up the day before.  If the show producer has incurred the additional expense of renting the exhibition hall for an extra day, take advantage of this.  Spending hours setting up a gorgeous booth display, only to be left frazzled with minutes to clean up and be ready to greet brides, is not a good plan for the day.  Having extra time will also give you time to network with other vendors on show day.  Treat the bridal show as if it were a paying event... the difference being you are investing the in future success of your business.

Designs in Paper Booth Sign
Veteran Insider Tip:  Don't forget your company sign!  Relying on the small booth maker or skipping a sign all together is a mistake.  If a bride is at all confused by who you are or what your company does, you have failed! 

Do be professional.  Obvious though seems, I can't tell you how many times I have caught vendors texting on their phone, eating in their booths, gossiping with other vendors while ignored brides simple walk by their booth.  Much of this is the result of being under-staffed (see my next point) but far too many vendors turn their booth into a personal office, chachkies and all.  When spending thousands of dollars, brides want their wedding vendors oozing with professionalism.   If you are not willing to put in the effort to dress appropriately and put your best professional foot forward, you might as well skip the show.

Veteran Insider Tip:  Keep in mind your outfit for the day.  Professionalism in mind, stiletto heels and skirts that will be tugged at all day is not a good idea.  Any veteran to a bridal show can spot a rookie with this common mistake.  Three hours in, heels come off and you're chatting up potential clients about your exceptional service in stockings.

Plenty of staff sampling at the Maggie Moos show booth.
Don't under-staff your booth.  Bridal show day is not a walk in the park... the hours are long, you need to be cheerful while having the same conversation again and again, and you likely had a wedding the night before.  Successful show vendors will have enough staff on hand to properly respond to the crowd in a timely fashion and allow everyone to take breaks, without going overboard.  I generally recommend 3-5 people for a single booth at a larger well attended show, more if you are serving food samples.  Going it alone in a booth is a mistake.  You're likely turn grouchy, brides will not wait to talk with you and leaving a booth unattended while you run to the restroom sends the wrong message.  What will the bride assume you will do on her wedding day?

Do take names at your booth.  Whether you're sponsoring a show-only special or hosting a giveaway, ask attendees to sign up for something in your booth.  This way you leave the show with a lead list of brides specifically interested in your company.  Waiting up to a week for a lead list from the show producer puts you at a disadvantage.  While I certainly recommend sending an email or postcard to the full lead list, you can call your targeted list within a day of the show.  If contacted sooner, they will likely book sooner and I know you're in favor of that.

Do engage with brides.  Okay, so not stalker level engaging but sitting in your booth, chatting up your co-workers or even reading a magazine, sort of makes this whole bridal show a bit pointless.  You want to convey some level of interest in the brides and their families at the show.  Stand at the front of your booth, ready to hand out information and answer questions.  Most importantly, say hello.  I often prompted attendees by asking if they were familiar with my company... either way, you have a lead to talk about the very thing you're selling.  Savvy vendors will see every person there as a potential lead (and sale), including Mom and bridesmaids in tow.  Mom is likely to have some say in the office party caterer and bridesmaids turned bride will remember what type of impression you made for years to come.

Nashville and Knoxville Shows - Jan 8th,
Chattanooga and Memphis Shows - Jan 22nd
Murfreesboro Show - Feb 19th
Franklin Show - March 11th
Don't forget your appointment calendar.  Be ready to book... appointments, tastings, and weddings.  Having to tell a bride on the show floor with checkbook in hand that she will need to go to a website or call for an appointment on Monday and you can say goodbye to that sale.  Brides are busy and bridal shows are a great opportunity to meet with various vendors and book on the spot.  Bring your datebook, sample contracts, and then sweeten the deal with a show-only package or special.  Not only will the bride maximize her time, but when you leave with multiple contracts in hand so have you.  Having enough staff, where as someone can be dedicated to these details suddenly makes a lot more sense.

Have more questions?  Wondering what you can expect from the upcoming show you're participating in?  Contact the show producer.  Often, they have years of show experience as well as many do's and don'ts specific to your market.  Don't be afraid to ask for advice on booth set-up, tips for engaging with brides and best time for staff to take breaks.  Dollar for dollar, bridal shows are still the best way to reach a high number of your target audience, often at the point they are ready to buy.  Your success, just like with all the events you produce, is in maximizing the planning, details, and follow-up.

Best of luck!

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Pink Pro University: Submitting to Wedding Blogs


By Krista Chapman
krista@thepinkbride.com

For many mom and pop wedding professionals, committing the time needed to manage and maintain a blog is simply not realistic.  Instead, consider submitting the gorgeous pictures of all your hard work to wedding bloggers.  But how do you best go about offering your work up to the blogging gods and goddesses?  Read on for my best tips to get featured!

Why submit your work?  Rather obvious (increased exposure equals a new pool of potential clients) it surprises me how many wedding vendors hesitate when submitting to bloggers.  Self-doubt convinces you that your work is not good enough and busy schedules allow this task to slip off the to-do list.  Bloggers need content and you need exposure... can you think of a better match?  The worst-case scenario and your content is politely declined or you never receive a response.  Best case scenario?  You're featured, shot out into the social media vortex and expose your company to thousands of new prospects.  Do you really need any more convincing?    

What to submit?  All bloggers are looking for original, creative and unique content.  New trends, popular color palettes and lots of details are always in demand.  Do you offer a new product or service in your market that no one else does?  Do you have original and timely advice for couples in the midst of wedding planning?  Are you noticing a common trend or complaint with your brides that needs to be shared?  Most blogs will have a submission guidelines with exact photo (professional pics, please) and content needs but be mindful to point out the specific details that made this content unique or different.  The key is to make it as easy as possible for the bloggers with suggestions for content, feedback from the couple, and links to involved vendors.  When I have to hunt down all the details to finish a wedding feature, it often sits on the back burner and can be delays... for weeks.

Start local.  We all agree that Style me Pretty is the Holy Grail of wedding blogs but if you have not had your work featured it is probably best to think smaller.  After all, your best prospects are likely reading local blogs for wedding planning information specific to their location.  The Pink Bride has a great blog that reaches all markets across the state of Tennessee but don't overlook area vendors.  If a vendor partner has a blog, consider offering content or even acting as a guest writer.  I'll bet they will appreciate the additional content and cross exposure (by way of each other's social media). 

Advertising helps.  Not always a requirement but generally speaking most bloggers will give preferential treatment to their site sponsors and advertisers (after all they keep the lights on).  However, particularly creative or remarkable content will get featured, regardless of advertiser status.  I might also suggest asking for an initial feature at no cost to test the response you get from the blog's audience (and determine if the investment is worth it).  Including a wedding giveaway for the readers will also sweeten the pot but keep in mind that blog content is quickly updated so a banner or ad will always give vendors more permanent exposure.

Need a safe place to get started?  The Pink Bride blog is always happy to feature vendors in our program... see our submission guidelines here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Pink Pro University: Facebook Best Practices

By Krista Chapman
krista@thepinkbride.com

Navigating (and keeping up with) the world of Facebook is difficult even to the most obsessed.  For small business owners that have plenty of other to-do's on their list, the whole social media landscape is overwhelming, confusing and often ignored.  Sound about right?  Yes.. then this post is for you.  As more and more of our potential clients, brides and grooms spend their time in these worlds, it becomes increasingly important to join the community (or miss out).   Below are my best practices to maximize the time you spend marketing your business so you can get back to business.

Getting Started
Facebook is a platform for your business to connect with clients (prospective, current and past), creating a community whereas you, as the business owner, are better able to anticipate customer needs and shift to fit the market.  I think it is safe to say we all know we should be a apart of this but the real question is how do we do it?  Let's get started

1. Create a business page.  Facebook has done a decent job of making this easy with a systematic guide for creating a page found here.  Plan on spending a few hours uploading and filling in all your content.  For those of you that may have long ago set up your business as a profile (where you have friends), most experts recommend shifting to a page.  There are numerous analytics and benefits that you simply don't get in profile mode.  One thing of note...  making this shift will result in the loss of some data (pictures, past status updates) but you do remain connected to all your friends which is important.        

2. Facebook Help Center is your best friend.  This tool is located in the top right corner when you log into facebook (see right).  A small down arrow, that when clicked will pop up a drop down menu with the Help Center option.  This is a great resource full of basic tutorials on everything facebook.  You can pretty much type anything into the search bar and have an answer in seconds. 

3. Practice makes perfect.   As you get started, make it a habit to spend at least 30 minutes on facebook everyday to familiarize yourself with the set-up and tools.  Not 30 minutes reading your friends posts, but instead clicking buttons and links that are new to you.  I was not automatically smarter than anyone else when it comes to social media.   It was through diligent daily practice that I learned the shortcuts and increased my comfort level with these systems.  And guess what?  I am still learning.

4. Are you open to learning? Take the attitude of eager student learning a new skill and this will come over time and practice.  Have a sense a humor about your mistakes and know you will inevitably make some.  If you believe you will never understand social media and how it affects your business, you never will.

Time Management

1. Use a social dashboard.  My favorite is Hootsuite.com.  Users are able to connect up to five social media feeds (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc) and scheduled status updates to be posted at a future time and date.  This lets you spend a couple hours, one day scheduling posts for the rest of the week.  Best part?  The basic service is free.

2. Limit notifications.  Back to the top right drop down arrow... This time click and go to Account Settings.  Once here, look to the left column, where you can click Notifications.  This gives you access to everything that can facebook can notify you about.  Most recently, they have defaulted to sending a weekly email summary (box at the top of Notifications page).  If you would rather have custom notifications (by either email or mobile phone), this is the place to make the changes.

When to Post
1. End of the week.  Facebook have dubbed a "happiness spike" later in the workweek, which causes a slight jump in user engagement by way of commenting and liking on wall posts.  Thursdays and Fridays are the best day statistically for engagement so if you have a great wedding recap or big announcement wait to post this until the end of the week.

2. Outside of business hours.  Many of your brides and grooms likely work 9-5, Monday thru Friday and may not have easy access to facebook.  As a result, waiting to post until later in the evening or even on the weekends can pay big dividends when it comes to user engagement.  Since I do not expect you to spend you evenings 'working' on facebook, use your Hootsuite (above) account to schedule posts and then spend a few minutes responding to comments.

3. When your fan base is most engaged.  Despite everything in my above points, may find that your specific audience on your facebook page is different.  They may instead prefer to interact with your content on Monday morning or Wednesday over lunch.  As you get started, try posting at different times and days of the weeks and see what kind of engagement you get. All said, the best way to get your fans to interact is to post interesting and remarkable content...

What to Post
1. Remarkable Content.  Does it make you go huh?  Does it solve a common problem?  Does it make you want to share with others?  If this is your reaction, a bride is likely to think the same.  Consider this good content to share as a status update.


2. Pictures and/or Videos.  Humans are visual creatures and the bride is perhaps the most visual of all... get yourself a camera (wait, you already have one on your phone!) and start taking pictures.  I have had success with behind-the-scenes set-ups and real weddings or events.  This is also a great way connect with other vendors, tagging them in media where both your work is featured.

3. Share the love.   Speaking of tagging... when you are posting a status update is a great idea to tag a fellow vendor (Hit the @ key, follow by typing the business's facebook page name... tag will automatically pop up) or to share one of their recent posts to your wall feed.  Remember, you must first 'like' a page you want to tag and business pages cannot tag individual users.

4. I also recommend...
  • Bizpers... essentially a status update that's a little bit personal and a little bit business combined.   I can't credit for this one (thank you Star Hall!) but I love how well it engages users.  Remember, you are working to make a connection and it is general easier to connect to other humans, not companies.
  • Asking a Question...  The best way to know what your fans want or think is to ask.
  • Quotes or unusual facts related to your product or service (particular quotes from pop culture or celebrities).

Don't do this!
1. Talk only about yourself.  This goes for you, your company, your events, etc.  Frankly, most facebook users (and potential clients) are not interested in what's going on in your life.  Remember this is social media and works best when you are also engaged in the content posted others (by commenting, liking or sharing... more best practices to include as part of your 30 minutes of daily maintenance).  Err on the side of supporting others and users will come to see you as a great resource that they depend on (and do business with!).

2. Isolate your Fans.  Airing dirty laundry on facebook is a no-no.  This seems obvious but far too many facebook users jump quickly onto their soapbox, only regret this later.  Think before your post!  I also recommend against strongly aligning your business or organization with topics that polarize (religion, politics, etc).  The exception to the rule is when the product or service you offer is polarizing to begin with (for instance, companies serving exclusive gay couples).  If you are not sure how your facebook audience will react to sharing information on a certain subject, it is better to skip the post.  The best pages are positive, inviting and warm... just like the best weddings.


3. Ignore Users.  Make a rule to respond to every comment or wall post on your fan page.  Either by liking or commenting back, this shows fans you're listening and care what they have to say.  Consider this part of your 30 minutes a day of maintenance.

4. Disappear from facebook.  If users visit your facebook page, only to see that you haven't posted in months, they might start to wonder if you are still in business.  It is important to stay engaged (and use your Hootsuite) to maximize your facebook presence.  Otherwise, we are back to square one and you were better off putting these resources elsewhere.

Most importantly, don't be too proud to ask for help.  We all were beginners at one point.  Not asking for help or even delegating this work to someone better suited to manage social media only continues your suffering.  So stop it already and ask for help!


Krista Chapman is a freelance writer, wedding expert and educator based in Nashville, TN with more than 15 years of hospitality related experience.  Beyond weddings, her expertise focuses on sales, marketing, social media and finding balance.  She loves wine with bubbles, flea markets, paperback books and the Packers. Currently, fans keep up with her daily blog posts atThePinkBook.com, where you can find advice, planning tips and inspiration related to wedding planning.  Her work can also be seen in The Pink Bride Magazine, published locally in various markets across the state of Tennessee.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Why You're Broke!

Escape the cycle of living bride to bride and find the financial freedom to really love your career.

By Krista Chapman
Twitter.com/PinkLadyKrista


No doubt, you started this little business because you wanted to carve out an meaningful and successful purpose.  Months, maybe ever years later, you have seen a glimmer of a idea grow into a wildly successful enterprise.  But you have a  dirty little secret...  You're busy but you're broke.

Nothing feels worse than staring down a ever-increasing pile of bills and wondering how much longer you can rob Peter to pay Paul.  For too many businesses, businesses founded on passion, big dreams and bigger investments,  Peter catches on pretty quick and the doors slam shuts just as quickly as it open.  A likely culprit are to blame for your financial woes.  Four culprits, in fact.  And all are why you're broke.

(1) You buy on impulse.  I like to call this SOS... Shiny Object Syndrome.  How often are you caught ordering office supplies or shopping at Target, when an enticing deal catches you off guard?  Momentarily distracted by the shiny goodness, you pounce and purchase.  Too many small businesses to name struggle with impulse purchases because they're not following a budget.  And you are no different.  Without a clear idea of what you can spend based on needs and incoming revenue, businesses (and employees) fall prey to a staggering number of impulse buys.  Purchases that spend any bottom line faster than you making it.


First things first... you need to create a budget.  One that allows you to reinvest in your business, have fun  money and still retaining profits.  Any employee that has buying power should also be working with a budget.  This not only gives money value, working with a limited amount of resources, people will often take more care to manage those resources.  Shiny Object Syndrome in remission, creating purchasing rules for your company puts you one step closer to plentiful profits.
    
(2) You're not tracking ALL your expenses.  Not almost all, skipping minor things like a puny $25 water bill, but all expenses, down to the stamps used when you sent your bride a thank-you letter.  I'll admit guilt, overlooking these minor bills.  Wedding vendors are generous by nature... you have to be to work with brides.  But this generousity can come back to bite you.  Trivial expenses add up over the course of a year and a wedding vendor may find that their profit margins have been entirely eaten up by the special meetings, extra trips to Sam's and poorly priced all-inclusive packages .  When you spend more money than you make or more importantly, do not charge fees high enough to cover all your costs, the math simply does not add up.  You are broke and will continue to be broke.  Successful business know where every penny is made and spent and have a clear indication as to their profits.  Refer to said budget above.

Insider Trick: Stagnant inventory reserves are like cash sitting on the shelves.  How do you flip inventory, limiting the cycle of trapped cash?  Make sure operations is talking to sales. Think of these enities as the two halves of your brain.  Except, in most businesses, the corpse collusium has been cut and they just don't communicate like they should.  I made a point to check wine and food inventories weekly as a venue director.  Knowing what was on hand (and needed to be sold), I guided clients towards these items.  As a result, we only bought things when we absolutely needed it and quickly sold it.
 
(3) You've stopped marketing.  Leads are drying up, no one is calling and revenue has taken a steep decline.  In a panic, many business yank marketing and advertising dollars, hunker down and hope for the best.  Here's what I know for sure... When twenty-something brides can't find your company, they book someone else.  The same fate awaits companies unsure how marketing impacts their sales, companies with too much ego or sense of entitlement and companies unwilling to take on the risk.  They teeter between almost broke and broke, until...

You don't need to continue spending thousands and thousands to stay in front of brides and grooms but you do need to make a effort to stay in front of them.  Like everything else, you're marketing plan must be based on a budget (yep, that word again) that takes sales and revenue flow into consideration.  When one marketing tactic is no longer producing leads, take a moment, weigh the ROI  and make changes.  Even the most successful companies, worldwide brands known the world over, still market.  Many spend millions to keep their brands in front of consumers and search out relevant ways to do so.  When you stop investing in your future... not much of future awaits. 

(4) You're making excuses.  I could hear your inner but... but.... but so I save this one until the end.  The hard truth about life and business ownership?  Customers, opportunity and money are simply not going to fall from the sky because you've opened for business.  One must actively pursue the life they want.  I hate finding myself in conversations with defensive vendors making excuses that brides are buying differently... we're in a recession... I am just not reaching the right brides... I can't afford the advertising I need to grow... blah, blah, blah.  Guess what?  Excuses don't breed confidence, solve entitlement issues, increase your time management skills or make for successful wedding businesses.  Just imagine where civilization would be if progress was consistently stalled by one excuse after another.  Steve Jobs was fired from Apple in 1985. He didn't make excuses or wallow in perceived failure.  Instead over the next decade, he took over the world, his former company included.  Excuses act as a cherished, yet oppressive burden that keep us from our best life.  

The wonderful truth about America?  It allows the weak, the tired, the poor to pull themselves up  by their bootstraps and open a business... no pre-requisites required.  Driven by passion and entruprenial spirit, everyday folks set out for Emerald City.  But what these daring and passionate souls are not protected from the cruel reality of how complicated, difficult and daunting opening and keeping open a small business.  But the other great news?  You can make the changes to overcome diasterous blunders and find our happily ever after. 

Fearless steps of caution, dear readers.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

So, you want to be a blogger... 15 Steps to Success!


By Krista Chapman
krista@thepinkbride.com

Truthfully, I never set out to be a blogger.  Just like you, my trek down the arduous Blogger Way started because someone determined if you had a business... you had a blog.  With my job responsibilities, fully consuming a non-stop schedule, writing for my company blog inevitably happened on my personal time.  Pounding keys with demonic haste blogging occur during commercials breaks of The Good Wife and I was lucky to post twice a month.  During busier months (a.k.a. wedding season), I was lucky to post at all.  However, I would come to realize that I looked forward to my alone time... just me, a computer screen and my expert ramblings. 

After leaving my previous post, I thought to take up my long-ignored and recently reinvigorated passion for the written word.  Fred Jacob would present a rare opportunity of creative freedom providing real wedding solutions, advice and inspiration to the bridal masses, one day at a time.  I quickly learned blogging is so much more that crafty hooks, proper punctuation and past experience.  Learning to hone my ramblings, I amassed a list of do's and don'ts related to successful blogging from the more seasoned Blog Gods.   I offer them here for your easy reference.  Ready, set... Blog! 

Lay the Groundwork... Who, what, why and when.



1. Why are you starting blog?  Increasingly, clients want to connect with the business they buy goods and services from and a company blog can be the ticket to just that.  But only if it has a clear purpose for existence.  Like all your other marketing choices, you need to hone in the purpose and goals you hope to achieve as well as understand the investment expected.  With our Pink bridal blog, I strive to create honest and genuine content that would educate couples on how to more efficiently plan their wedding, work with vendors and maximize their budget.  With a dash of pretty things... just for fun.

Insider Bonus Tip:  Blogging helps with your company SEO but only drives traffic to your website if your blog is captured within your own website.   Using a free resource like Blogspot or Wordpress is a good place to start but ultimately the goal should be to host your blog on your own website. 

2. Who is your target audience?  Successful wedding bloggers long ago realized the sun does not rotate towards their gravitational pull and write to serve a target audience.  Enlightened to the stark reality that Bride A cares only about Bride A's wedding day, one must write to suit her needs.  This means a lot less about you and your company and a lot more about her and her wedding day.  Additionally, the more targeted you can make your audience, the more likely you'll entice loyal followers.  Rather than speaking to the average blushing bride, use your blog to speak to your Ideal Bride.

3. About the author.   Readers want to connect with a blogger and the best way to do so is with a clear point of view.   Readers need to forge the human connections for long-term dedication and this happens when they feel like they know you.  Different from my purpose, I write in a witty, conversational tone that offers serious advice while still recognizing there are more important things than planning a party.  And yes, I do slip in occasional vague personal references for context.  My readers know I have a long-term boyfriend (i.e.  I have/can commit to a serious relationship) but they don't know his name.  Keep in mind your POV should be likeable to your target audience (see above).

4. Can you commit?  Occasional and haphazard posting will do you no good when trying to secure an avid following.  Unwilling to wait in pins and needles for your next blog to drop, readers move on to other authors able to instantly gratify.   Most company blogs require bi-weekly posting, increasingly moving towards daily posts.  Does your schedule honestly have room for such a time suck or could (and should) it be spent elsewhere?   My biggest pet peeve?  A blog happily displaying a welcome-to-my-blog message... posted more than 6 months ago.  Dead on arrival, readers are writing you (and your company) off before opening the door.  If you're serious about being a tour-de-force in the bloggers sphere, you need to contribute consistently.  If you can't do that, you can't have a blog.

Now your need Readers... Tricks to attract brides.

5. Content is King.   Good blogs have good content.  Amazing blogs have amazing content.  Amazing wedding blogs, solve problems, inspire brides and share clever trends and tips.  While you need to have a reasonable level of expertise, beyond that a bride cares about her problems, her wedding budget and how-to pull off a fabulous wedding while holding down a full-time job.  Be her problem solver with posts addressing solutions, tips to save and stress reduction techniques.  Such tactics will ensure a well-read place among wedding-information overload.

6. Clear Title With SEO.  I thought clever always triumphed, until I realized brides weren't typing my clever catch phrases into search engines.  Use basic, SEO-friendly, search words in your blog's title.  And don't be afraid to use numbers... Numerals are not only eye-catching; readers are much more likely to click through to a post with a number.  Consider the title of this post... I bet you noticed the number and quickly calculated if you could steal enough time for 15 tips or postponed reading until later.   

7. Write in bullet points.  Simply, this allows readers to skim your post and quickly determine if the information is applicable.  The best blogs are easy to skim, quick get to the point and have a title that communicates the topic being address and how much of my most precious resource - time, will be lost.  Limit yourself to 750 words, outlining the topic at hand, add a catchy introduction and conclude with a call to action (which can be as simple as asking for comments).  If you find you have too much to say on a topic, break the blogs into separate posts.  And yes, I am totally breaking this rule with the post at hand.  Realistically, I could have easily broken this into three sections but since I aim to interrupt once a month, I opted for a complete report.

8. Create a Posting Calendar.  Posting daily, I aim to have the day's discourse infiltrating the social media airwaves by 8:30am (CST).  Additionally (and more recently), I created a topical calendar of reference.  Prior to this, my blog posts were haphazard, based on whatever struck me as interesting or timely.  Since my switch (and subsequent OMG moment), I am better able to manage my blogging and accomplish more in less time.  Promotions and upcoming events will slightly disrupt my strategy but I am often able to push content to the following week, putting me ahead of the curve.  See my topical calendar below:

Monday - Real Wedding and Wedding Products, Ideas or Clever Things
Tuesday - Pretty Things: Decor, Wedding Day Style and Inspiration
Wednesday - Wedding Etiquette, Traditions or Commentary
Thursday - Real Wedding and How-To, Wedding Planning Advice
Friday - DIY Projects, How-To Advice

9. Be (a little) controversial.  If I know one thing about Homo sapiens, it's that we like controversy.  Without it, the train-wreck better known as Bridezillas, would not have become the reality TV juggernaut it is, literally consuming well-intended Sundays with repeat marathons.  Better judgment tells us to look away, but innate curiosity kills our productivity.  Guess what?  You too can take advantage of this intrinsically human tendency.  Air the wedding industry's dirty laundry, share secrets and have an opinion - even if you expect dissenters.  Nothing spikes blog traffic better than a strong, albeit careful dosed, opinion on a hot topic. 

10. Don't forget to promote your blog!  Seemingly obvious, if you lack the means to promote your blog to the information superhighway by way of a solid social media program, well... no one's going to read it.  This is where the additional time commitment can become daunting.  Not only am I asking you to come up with amazing content and write (as well as edit, upload, add pictures to) a bi-weekly post, I also want you to maintain a healthy band of merry facebook fans.   Realistically speaking, this takes time but so start with your small circle of connects, prospects and leads... growing to a more larger following over time.  Post new posts to your facebook wall, send a recap of your past blogs in a monthly newsletter to brides and submit guest blogging content to more highly traffic blogs.      

Not a writer?  Simple solutions for everyone.

11. Be the expert.  Just say no to timid writing.  Brides need to see you as the expert, otherwise what's the point spending time reading what you have to say.  If your writing stumbles over second-guessing by the author about their own advice... I'm done reading and done seeing you as any sort of expert.  Write with conviction and curtail personal self-doubt. 

12. Write in the present tense.  Readers will engage more with your writing when written in an active voice, rather than a passive voice.  For example:

  "The bride was stressed by her mother."  PASSIVE
   "Her mother stressed the bride."   ACTIVE
   "Her penny-pinching mother frazzled the bride with an absurd wedding budget."  ACTIVE with a better editor

13. Readability Statistics.  Yes, there is an app for that.  Turn on this helpful tool in your Microsoft Office (Office Button, Word Options, Proofing, Check Readability Statistics) to measure your writing's general readability.  Aim for 14-18 Words per Sentence, Reading Ease ranging from 60 -70 and Grade Level of around 8.  This also checks how much of your work uses passive writing (see above). 

14. Thwarting Writer's Block.  Some days I trip into a dizzying maze of topics and ideas, words flowing from my fingers, faster than I can type.  Other days, I stare longingly at a blinking cursor on a blank page, urging words that won't come.  How much can one repeat the same wedding advice?  I do have few tricks... I surf bridal boards for ideas, frustrations and trends (Weddingbee.com is my favorite).  I take inspiration from vendor rants - your aggravations allow me a vicarious look to current bridal behaviors (that may change with a post or two).  Finally, I use the comments, questions and feedback of my readers to keep the content pantry well stocked.  And when you are targeting renewing brides, consider revisiting old blog posts and reworking content from different angle.

15. Have another staffer manage your blog.  Just because you're the business owner, does not require you to be the voice or face of the company.  Our Pink leader, Fred Jacob, does not post to our blog.  When he has a clever idea or comes across something of interest, he does what every good business owner does... he delegates (but way of email at all hours of the night - and you're laughing because you know Fred).  Your blog needs a voice and established point of view that will best connect it to your target bride.  Your witty and clever assistant may be a better fit.

One last point... blogging is not for everyone.  Time-consuming, painfully slow to show results and requiring sense of purpose, failure is more likely than success.  Blogging may not be the best use of you time, company resources and expertise.  As with all you marketing efforts, find success by obsessively targeting the bride that most fit your company.  Use the tools that best work to convey your message to your ideal bride, rather than jumping on the bandwagon of the newest, latest and greatest.

Do you have additional questions about blogging? Contact Krista Chapman at Krista@thepinkbride.com
Questions about our Pink Program in general?  Contact Fred Jacob at Fred@thepinkbride.com

Monday, July 11, 2011

The Good, the Bad, the ROI

By Krista Chapman
krista@thepinkbride.com

What started as a cheerful saunter, has you entering a murky forest.  Trees tower above, dense brush encircles your feet and it is difficult to see where next to step.  A sharp snap of a branch, then an unfamiliar noise... fear starts to set in, uncertainty and doubt.  On the hunt for brides and you have seemingly lost your way.  The emails have slowed, brides are not booking and money is tight.  Now you're scrambling, buying on impulse and throwing money at cheap bridal shows or last minute advertising promotions, hoping to find the right path.  You're in survival mode and the forest conspires against you.  Marketing to bride is far from a walk in the woods... you need a plan, you need a goal and you need to make sure you're maximizing investments.  How do you find the meadow over yonder, the one that promises safety and success?

Rule number one.  The money you spend on marketing and advertising is not about actions taken, the number of times you have tweeted within the last 24 hours or feeling accomplished because you rattled off an email to a lead list in less than 20 minutes (with no apparent purpose).  It not about blaming others when you can't close a sale or ignoring the changes in the market because your reputation should speak for itself.  It's not about a haphazard marketing plan that simply has you showing up. 

It is about ROI...  Return on investment.  How much return will you get on the money spent for a magazine ad, online upgrade, Google Adwords, bridal show booth or that membership to a vendor organization?  How many potential clients need to find your company through these investments for it to pay off?    How much money do you need to make?  Only kind-of, sort-of know... wrong answer.  You might as well put your moody Tween in charge of company marketing because her impulse purchases of trendy clothing and Hello Kitty camping gear are likely to last as long as your next revenue surge.  One needs a map before they head off to the forest.  

So...  where's your map?  You know, the map that you follow to continue growing (or more simply staying in) your business.  Seriously, do you have a sense of direction beyond the first turn?  I'm willing to bet that you left that map in your car, thinking that instinct will lead the way.  When the course feels right, we stay the course.  But how do you know what feels right if you don't know where you're headed?  The good news?  The car is behind you and you're on a trail; you're buying advertisements, participating in a bridal show and networking with other vendors.  The bad news... following this dimming instinctual feeling, you're no sooner lost, trampling expensive paths, far from your bridal oasis.  Hiking the Appalachian Trail is generally unsuccessful without having taken the time to plan your journey.  Likewise, creating and understanding a marketing budget is crucial to the success of a business.  In addition, repeating previous mistakes (like leaving that map in your car) seems somewhat silly, now doesn't it?  But if you haven't taken the time to research, revisit and rework, I'm betting the same fruitless advertising method will again eat any profits it produces.

Ideally, a marketing plan to brides will have your company in as many publications, online resources, bridal shows and boutiques as possible.  Being such a fickle brunch (and unlikely to become a repeat client), brides produce a lower ROI than marketing to corporate clients so the more exposure the better.  But when times get tough, one should not simply decide to cut to more meager portions across the board.  If you have your plan and have done the math, the answer is simple.  You cut those programs that give the lowest (or worst) return on your investment.  How do you know which are working?  Create a how-did-you-hear-about-us chart listing the places you have advertising dollars invested.  As a bride calls or submits an online request, note how she found your company.  Are most of your brides coming from one source?  It's probably time to upgrade your investment for increased exposure here.  Assistant spending all her time promoting your company on facebook with no results?  Maybe it's time to shift her time to something that works.  Did a bridal show cost you $400 less but the return was a dismal number of brides?  It's not rocket science... it's basic math, A plus B does not equal a good use of your marketing dollars.

More Bad News... yes, there's more bad news.  Question:  What two things kill you the quickest when lost in the woods?  Answer:  pride and impulse.  The answers are the same when you consider how a marketing plan strays off course.  Remember our sales chain and the weakest link?  If you have hundreds of brides ringing you up but only book a small number, you need to swallow your pride and look at your closing strategies.  A humble survivor will recognize when they are to blame for choosing the wrong direction, turn around and try another way.  Additionally, the humble survivor increases his chances of success by thinking carefully about their next move, considering the risks and rewards of investing in this path versus that one.  While you will make mistakes, spending money on programs that don't work, the key is recognizing when you're being impulsive.  Buying something because it's the newest, latest and greatest or your friends say it's cool, brings us back to our pre-pubescent girl scout.  Even she knows not to jump off a bridge if all her friends are doing it.

All said, perhaps I am a bit bias... after all, I work for a marketing company that, in my opinion, does a bang up job bringing brides and businesses together.  I saw tremendous success working with The Pink Bride as a vendor and now see overwhelming dedication working with The Pink Bride as an employee.  More than anything, I see a company that only finds success when others do.  Our job is to show you the path to your personal meadow of success, leaving you to enjoy the walk.
 
Contact our sales team to find out how The Pink Bride can maximize your ROI, 865-531-3941   Images courtesy of Getty Images.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Just Say No!

To brides that are NOT the right fit for you, your wedding services and your sanity.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Who is the Weakest Link in your Sales Chain?

by Krista Chapman


How do brides find your business and services?  More importantly, what information (or lack thereof) along the way is causing you to lose the sale?  Savvy wedding vendors will not only know where the brides they book are coming from but what's their weakest link to make sure their marketing dollars are making them money.

Did you know?  

You have little to no influence over 60% of your potential customers and their decision to buy from you or your competitor.  This is because with every 10 brides you meet, three will book no matter what you do and three will never book no matter what you do.  This means all your efforts should be focused on the 40% of undecided buyers and how you can get them to stay on your path to wedding sales.

The Path to Wedding Sales

BRIDE ~ ADVERTISING MEDIUM ~ AD ~ WEBSITE ~ POINT OF CONTACT ~ YOU!

The Bride is the Weakest Link...

If she is not ready to buy.  Wasting time, energy and money will not close this sale.  If a customer is not a buyer, you should be wasting energy trying to sell to them.

What about your advertising medium? 

This constitutes anywhere you market or advertise your business, including bridal shows, print and online advertising.  Making sure the third party that you invest in is reaching the brides and more importantly the right brides for you is an important step to ensure that this is not the weakest link.  Beyond analytics and demographics, vendors need to take this to the next step.  Probably most important...track the number of brides that find your company through this source.  The easiest way to determine a marketing and advertising budget is to determine how your ideal bride is finding you.

Could your advertisement be the weakest link?

 Bad Ads do not attract good clients.  A good ad attracts your ideal clients, communicates your service and calls people to action.  Seems simple but your ad should engage a prospective client or bride to visit your website or call your office.  This makes a phone number, email address and website is crucial to every advertisement.   Just as important, think about your ideal bride... does your ad attract this type of bride or something else?  Now is not the hope for the best.

What message is your website sending? 

Does your website speak to your ideal client? Can a bride easily find the answers to her questions?  Is your contact information (including phone number, email and social media links) prominently listed, particularly when you call for action?  Are you calling her to action?  It is time to look at your website with a critical eye.  Is this helping or hurting you close the sale?

The first point of contact... is this where you lose a bride?

 If a bride has gotten to this step and is met by rude, impersonal or disinterested point of contact, you're dead in the water.  Choose carefully when assigning a gatekeeper to inquiring brides.  Slow response times will weaken this link as well... today's bride wants an answer and she wants it now.  Make sure you're always putting your absolute best foot forward, even if you screen you calls (to never be caught off guard) or set your email to auto-respond to inquiries.  A bride must feel heard or she will look for someone else that will listen.

Are YOU the weakest link? 

What is your closing rate?  As much as a bride buys your product, she is also buying the person that is selling to her.  Be honest with yourself... if selling is not a strength of yours you can do one of two things.  Audit your selling tactics and look for ways you can improve (which may involve investing in training) or hire a sales person.  A good sales person will make a business owner their salary back and much, much more.

What is your weakest link?  Let's our team strengthen your sales chain... email your concerns and questions to info@thepinkladies.com

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Sparkle and Fade...


By Krista Chapman

It is the middle of wedding season... weeks of tireless work awaits you.  Are you feeling tired, overwhelmed and look forward with dread?  Has your giddy fervor been replaced by a need to just push through to the other side of October?  Where's this elusive freedom, personally and financially, that was waiting for you on the other side of creating a business?  Passionless and surrounded... Have you lost your spark? 

Once upon a time, a bright, dedicated worker, full of zeal and ideas decided to start their own business.  Successfully escaping the corporate grind, this was to be your first step to leaving behind the world of bosses, pointless policies and TPS cover reports.  Starting your business was the first step to living your life on your terms!

Charge ahead a few years... how's your new life?  When was the last time you took a vacation (without your Blackberry)?  How many hours are spent on the busy work of running a business... bank deposits, employee drama, relentless emails, phone calls and paperwork?   Is your day run by not-yet-done lists?  Are you really listening when your spouse tells you about his day?  Do you have any hobbies that are not somehow tied to your business? 

Am I telling your story?  Because it was mine...

Having not owned a business, per se, my story is one of dogged ladder climbing and career goals.  Rising to second in command at an event venue, success was mine and I was being worked to the bone.  Like a busy business owner, employee problems, emails, deadlines, linen orders, invoices, deposits, china patterns, broken copiers and board reports chipped away at the precious minutes, hours, weeks...  I regularly work late nights, trying to get ahead but never took the time to stop to check my map and make sure I was on the right path.  Instead, I worked and worked... and worked.  My personal life fell apart, my live-in-lover was a stranger and there was always an event, a client that kept me from friends, birthdays, my family... my life.  I was so busy with being busy, that I completely lost sight of why?  Why was I working so hard?  But I didn't have time to dwell... there's a bride on Line One.


Am I telling your story?

But this is what I set out to do.  What I wanted, had to do, to be successful... work a bit harder.  So, why wasn't I having any fun?  Where was that thing called fulfillment... had I taken a wrong turn?  For many of us in the event and wedding industry, our work is thoroughly personal, all-consuming and never relents.  Why?  Because the vast majority of us goes into business for ourselves, rather than the purpose of serving potential customers.  Without realizing, you are essentially building the business that will become your prison.

But, that's not true, you argue.  I love my job... my business is my life and I am totally dedicated to my clients.  Everything I do is for them.

Exactly.  How many times do you talk about yourself, when talking about your business?  Smashingly successful practice... if you're the one buying the product.   To be truly successful (and by successful, I mean free to partake in the pleasures of life), one must create a business that runs without them.  Be honest...  After all your countless hours and dedication, what more do you have than more work?  How much time do you spend keeping all your plates spinning, rather than wondering why you're spinning them in the first place?  Is the shine and excitement, the sparkle, now fading?

So what can you do?  How do you possibly have time to fit in more work and escape your hamster wheel?  Like an addict, the first step is making the decision to leave what you know, your comfort zone.  Hi, my name is small business owner and I have lost my spark. 

It is time to get help.

It is time to find purpose...  Why did you start your own business in the first place?  Did you take the time to figure any of this out before you opened for business or rushed headlong into your career?  It is not too late!  Ask yourself... is your business serving your greater life or using it up?  Crucial for your long-term success is to find your authentic purpose and the function of your business.  Here's a hint... your purpose is greater than you and so is your business.  Otherwise you have simply created a job for yourself that without you would not otherwise exist.  A job that serves you and not your purpose.  There will never be freedom in that.  I found my freedom with a stack of books and a complete disconnection to my current life in favor of my past life by way of a road trip and mini-crisis.  Most importantly, I asked myself the icky questions ... What matters most to you in life and how does your current path make this a priority?  What is you secret dream job and what are you waiting for?  Are you really happy? 

It is time to let go...  While you may be whole-heartedly convinced that you are the only person that can correctly and completely bring your bride's vision to life, I am betting that this is not entirely truthful.  Let's rephrase this to say that you are the only person that can bring your version of her vision to life.  See where we are?  Back to serving yourself and not your client.  And this is where I lived for years.   Successful (and long-term) business owners instead communicate and train others to replicate their work and purpose.  I doubt that Martha Stewart pours over every detailed decision of her empire.  No more that Bobby Flay is slaving over a blistering stove at Mesa Grill.  They, like other small business owners grew into mega business owners by embracing the power of delegation.  This is mostly about knowing your strengths and limitations and then delegating to others.  Yes, this costs money... but so is your time.  Time away from your family, kids, self... can you put a price on that?  How much time do you have to waste?

 It is time to be brave...  It was through a very painful process over a few months of realizing that staying the course, while beneficial to those directly supported by me, would be the end of me.  I had to save myself because no one else would.  I had to let go of the prestige, hefty paycheck and fancy title because I took a wrong turn.  While I had lost my spark, I was not meant to go down with the ship.  One must shelve their personal pride and obligation and be brave enough to walk towards your purpose because you only have this one short life.  For a business owner, this may mean taking break and closing your doors, doors you may never reopen.  Even if your path turns into a detour bringing you back to where you started, you will be awarded the necessary time to evaluate the pieces of your life and find your best life, your spark.  Find your freedom and fulfillment that I promise is out their waiting for you.  But first, you have to be brave.

It is time to change the story and write your happy ending.


Images Courtesy of Getty Images.