Archive for April, 2009

Cost Cutting Thursday!

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Creative Commons License

Every Thursday, we introduce FIVE COST CUTTING TIPS.  Here are our favorites for the week.  (Some of this week’s tips were taken from SMB Blog, Information for Small Businesses):

  1. Cut the little things
    Adjust the temperature when no one will be in the office, invest in water filters instead of bottled water, use energy efficient light bulbs, save energy by trading in the big CRT monitors for flat screens or take energy saving a step further and trade you desktop computers for laptops.
  2. Rely on the internet
    Embracing the Internet can save you ink, paper, stamps and time. Emails all of your documents, flyers, and bills.  Many bill pay options are available through your bank which will eliminate buying checks and the cost of postage.
  3. Embrace telecommuting
    If you’re tempted to move into an office but aren’t sure given the economy, you might want to hold off for a little bit.  By working form home you not only save the cost of rent, but also the cost of driving to the office.  You’ll also save on the equipment to furnish that space and the monthly office expenses (phone, internet and so on.)
  4. Shop around your insurance
    If you have business insurance (and you should!) shop around to see if you are getting the best rates.  It’s easy to become complacent and pay that same premium every month.
  5. Pack a lunch
    Don’t become a total martyr… it is nice to eat out once in a while for lunch.  But, by bring your lunch to work, you save more money.  While this is a personal expense, it affects your ability to spend money in other ways: like dinner out on the weekends!

Have some cost cutting tips to share with us?  Email them to sage-wedding-pros@gmail.com .

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April 30, 2009 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

DIY: why it doesn’t always work (part 3 of 3)

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Creative Commons License

The do-it-yourself movement has EXPLODED in the wedding industry.  What began as a need to control the wedding grew into a passion for beauty and uniqueness and nowadays has become an economic need.  These days an engaged couple can:

  • make their own wedding invites
  • sew their wedding attire (and their groomsmen and bridesmaids)
  • mix their music on an ipod player (to play at the wedding)
  • have a relative become an ordained minister online (to marry them)
  • make their own cake
  • create their flower arrangements

And – guess what?  Just by following along with her magazine, Martha Stewart makes it all so easy in just 5 steps with scissors and a glue gun!  But, you and I both know that this just isn’t always the case.  Now, there are some people that are truly talented and might just be able to pull all of this off (without losing their minds) but the average wedding joe and jane find themselves a little in over their heads.

The pressure to be truly artistic and talented is mounting.  As an industry, we can stop the inanity.  I like to remind my clients of the following:

  • Have you ever crafted before and is this a hobby you care to acquire in the months leading up to your wedding?
  • What is your priority?  If you are faced with budget issues, where will you get the most bang for your buck with a DIY project and where will you just create stress and not save much money?
  • Calculate how much money you will be saving, and determine whether that is worth the time you will be spending.
  • Do you feel pressure to create a DIY wedding because of your peers?
  • Do you see yourself enjoying this experience?

When people get married they prioritize their most preferred wedding features.  For me, it was the food and the music above all else.  The last thing I would consider would be to ipod my entertainment.  But, there were other elements that were not as important that I would take on as a project.  It’s important that we remind engaged couples to prioritize and be realistic with their DIY projects.

April 29, 2009 at 6:00 am Leave a comment

How to teach our customers to hire the best and the brightest (part 2 of 3)

The wedding industry is made of some of the brightest individuals I have ever met. It pains me when I see under-appreciated talent. How do we change that? How do we teach the customer what to look for when they hire wedding vendors?  How do we teach customers to value experience and service at any cost?

One segment of the market that I think is often undervalued is the service offered by wedding planners.  I can’t believe most people think they can get away without hiring a planner.  Planners bring all of the magic of a wedding together.  Few people know how to throw a celebration quite to the scale of a wedding.  How do we teach the customer that this is a very important and valuable part of the wedding?  How do we teach customers to value wedding professionals?

Here are some ways we need to stand united as an industry:

  • Consider your pricing
    It’s common to make the rookie mistake of entering this industry with low pricing in order to compete solely based on budget.  However, this will not only have a negative impact on the profitability of your business, but also devalues the industry as a whole.  By setting your prices below market value, you are telling the customer, “I’m not worth it and everyone else in this industry is charging too much for their services.”  It’s important to consider your pricing and think of not only what your product should be valued at, but also how this pricing plays an important role in the market.  Read more about pricing, in this post I did a couple weeks ago.
  • Experience and novelty both have a place in this market
    It seems that most people are either a veteran or a novice in the wedding industry.  Veterans have years of experience and performance on which one can rely while novices have new and fresh ideas that are enticing to clientele.  How can the two work together?  Experienced vendors can do a better job of mentoring new individuals.  There is much opportunity in this market to mentor and coach more often.  Newer individuals can be proactive and take cues from experienced vendors.  There is a lot to be learned.  Ask, network, train with people in your segment that you respect and value.  If you are a newbie, make yourself more valuable by learning from the expert.  On the flip side, if you are a pro, work with others to become experts!
  • Get to know the customer and make sure they get to know you too!
    This might go without saying, but I’ll say it anyways: get to know the customer.  In the wedding business, it’s all about “a match” between vendor and client.  If you know who they are – and what their wedding is all about – chances are you’ll find a better fit for them.  But, just as important is that they know about you… and what makes your business a match for them.  Share with them, as they share with you.
  • Refer individuals that you value but that are truly a match
    It’s easy to refer someone to a friend.  But, it’s better to refer someone to a valuable individual that is a match with the couple’s personality and needs.  Before referring anyone, I always ask the the couple what they are looking for in a florist, photographer, or wedding planner.  A person who makes good referrals is like someone who is a good matchmaker.  Be a good matchmaker!
  • Be accountable
    There is no college degree or certification that is mandatory to be part of the wedding industry.  That is what makes this business a truly blended and beautiful assortment of talented and creative individuals.  But, this does not discount the fact that you need to be accountable to your profession.  Be professional and accountable for your business decisions.  By raising the bar of your business, you elevate the industry as a whole.
  • Teach the customer what they should look for in hiring their vendors
    I’ve seen some industry blogs that give their clients guidelines on questions to ask their wedding vendors.  This is awesome!  It’s important for engaged couples to ask the right questions.  These are some questions that are valuable for engaged couples (psst… you might want to post these somewhere… people should be asking these questions of their vendors!):

    • Why did you start your business?
    • How long have you been in business and how do you stand apart from the competition?
    • What sort of guarantees to you offer?
    • What is the most valuable part of your service or product?
    • Why should I hire you?

In a nutshell… in order for your product or service to be valued, the industry as a whole needs to raise the bar on it’s offering.  This begins with you.  Do what you can to elevate the wedding industry and your business will be valued for what it is worth.

April 28, 2009 at 6:00 am 4 comments

3 Things We Need To Teach Our Customers

One of the greatest things about the wedding industry is the close relationships I’ve been able to build with fellow colleagues. At an industry mixer last week, I had the opportunity to reconnect with people I haven’t seen in a while and meet new vendors I’d heard about for years. I had a very meaningful discussion with Shannon Lassen of Sublime Events and Greg Lowder of Affairs to Remember – DJ Entertainment. My question to them was, “What do you think needs improvement within our industry?

Shannon and Greg both agreed that we, as wedding vendors, need to educate the consumer. We need to be better about setting standards within our industry and communicating those standards to the customer. There are misconceptions regarding services and products within our profession and we need to have a strong unified message that provides knowledge instead of confusion.

This week, we are going to focus on 3 things we, as an industry, can teach the customer in an effort to cultivate positive change in our industry:

  • The myth of the summer wedding and why wedding business doesn’t need to be seasonal.
  • How the customer can be better informed and what they should be looking for when they hire wedding professionals.
  • Why DIY doesn’t always work for the engaged couple, and how it can work

So let’s tackle that first item…

The myth of the summer wedding

Up here in Seattle, people get married for the most part in June, July, August and sometimes September. You may be familiar with the fact that it rains up here A LOT. But here’s the thing: I’m from California – land of SUNSHINE – and people get married during the exact same months.

The general sentiment for having summer weddings is that people want bright shiny sun on their wedding. But the truth is that in Seattle (like in many places in the world) you may have less chance of rain in the summer, but there is still a chance. And, in California you’ve got guaranteed sunshine in the summer, but chances are it will be blazing hot. Have you ever been to a wedding in Pasadena in August? I have – and it was REALLY hot. Thank god we were indoors! And, what beautiful indoor venues there are in this country!

The point is this: no matter where you are in the country, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll need a “rain contingent plan” or a “heat contingent plan”. So with this in mind, why do people continue to marry in 3-4 months of the year?

How can we encourage and educate people that weddings can happen any time of the year? How can we get away from the seasonality of our industry? How can we streamline our business into more year-round revenue generation? These are some thoughts on how to do that:

  • Shift the mindset away from words like “off-season” and away from the idea that anything other than summer is “less than superior”. The perspective begins from within the industry. If we perceive these months to be prime months to marry, the customer will also. If we market it that way, the customer will follow.
  • Continue to push media to report on AWESOME fall and winter weddings. There has been improvement within print and web journalism in the last few years to highlight the beauty of these seasons’ weddings. As an industry, we can continue to feed them great content. Talk about your fall and winter weddings as much as you do your summer ones.
  • Incentivize engaged couples to marry in October-April. I’m not a big fan of offering unnecessary discounts to people. I think it is a more wise business practice to offer a bonus or an “extra” as a sales incentive.  For example, a photographer shooting in fall or winter could provide an extra hour or two of services.
  • Point out the obvious: there is much greater access to prime vendors during the October-May months. Engaged couples who marry between June-September are competing with gazillions of other couples for the same vendors.  They are often disappointed that these professionals are already booked on their wedding date.  The demand for vendors far outweighs the supply in summer months.  Why not have better access to a wider range of vendors?
  • It’s less expensive (for everyone).  In this economy, money talks.  Remind your clients that some vendors offer incentives for marrying in fall and winter months.  Also, guests traveling great distances to the wedding will not be faced with high-season travel costs.  This is especially gratifying to wedding guests who seem to find themselves on the wedding circuit in the 2-3 years when all their friends are getting married at the same time.

Our industry doesn’t need to be so seasonal.  The customer should know that many of the decisions that go into finding a venue for a June wedding are very similar to those of a November wedding. Changing this mindset begins from within the industry.

Tomorrow… we’ll talk about how we can educate engaged couples to make smart decisions when hiring wedding professionals.

April 27, 2009 at 6:00 am 4 comments

Insider to Insider: Michelle Loretta, Owner of mmm… paper

Someone pointed out to me the other day that I had not answered my own “Insider to Insider” questions.  (I think some bloggers like to hide in the anonymity of their writing.)   I am the owner of mmm… paper and people often ask me how I came up with that name.  It’s what I whisper to myself when I come into contact with gorgeous paper that feels oh-so-delicious to the touch.

Michelle Loretta, Owner of mmm… paper
Seattle, WA (and drops of other US cities)
www.mmmpaper.com
established in 2004

What is your favorite thing about weddings?

A wedding is most likely the only time in a couple’s life that they will have all of their favorite people in one room.  All of these assorted folks come together from all over the world to eat, dance, toast, celebrate.  There is nothing like this.

What is your best tip for time management?

I’m neurotic about scheduling things.  But, I try to give myself buffers of time when my calendar is open.  With an 18-month-old daughter, a business, Get Hitched Give Hope, and Sage Wedding Pros I have to put things on my calendar before they happen.  The drawback is that I can’t necessarily squeeze in too many last minute things.  The upside is that all of the balls get juggled quite nicely.  I also make sure that I am scheduling enough down time and “off” time so that I can recharge my batteries and come back with renewed energy.

What is your little marketing secret?

Much of my business comes from client and vendor referrals.  I’m very adamant about tracking all of that information and making sure that people get thanked.  The people who have supported my business are the life blood of the business.

What is the funnest trend you are seeing in the industry?

I love all the color happening right now!  YAY!  Finally!  After years of chocolate brown it is so fun to see all of these great combinations: magenta and chartreuse, cobalt and indigo, fuchsia and tangerine, curry and lime.  But, all love affairs are fleeting.  A turn to the muted tones is coming in the next few years… so take advantage of these bright shades now!

If you were starting your business all over again, what would you have done differently?

I would have been better about pricing.  With an accounting background, I have always been very studious about pricing.  But, in the beginning, I’m not sure I had in mind all the “hidden costs” of doing business and I know I was guilty of “rookie underpricing” of my goods.  I think I’ve finally found the sweet spot when it comes to this, but there is always room for growth and improvement.

Thank you, Sage Readers!  It’s fun conversing with you about all things business!

Do you have sage advice for wedding professionals?  Email us at: SageWeddingPros-at-gmail.com .

April 24, 2009 at 6:00 am 1 comment

Cost Cutting Thursday! (where NOT to cut costs)

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Creative Commons License

Every Thursday, we introduce five cost cutting tips for your business.  However, there are certain areas of your business where you should not cut costs.  These are areas of your business that if you skimp on (or change) during a recession, you will sacrifice the integrity of your brand.

This week, I want to present  FIVE COSTS YOU SHOULD NOT BE CUTTING:

  1. Branding
    Your brand is everything.  This is an area that you cannot afford to cut corners during a recession.  You can make decisions about how you spend your money to promote your brand.  But, I would not change the way you present your brand in order to save money.  For example, I love my business cards.  Being in a stationery business, it is important that they reflect our brand.  If I were to lessen the quality of the cards, I would lose my brand integrity.  I can change the style if I want, but I must remain true to the brand of my product.
  2. Service
    Good customer service is priceless.  The mission of your business should not change in good times or bad times.  This is an area where you can shine.  Give your customer a value proposition and guarantee them that your service is worth the price of your services.
  3. The “little things”
    Every business has those “little things” that make it different and special.  Keep up with the little touches.  It’s what has given your business its outstanding reputation.
  4. Quality
    Do not skimp on the quality of your product during a recession.  If you lessen the quality of your offering, you are threatening the market niche you have defined.  It will be difficult to regain your target clientele when the economy improves.  Let’s say you are a wedding cake designer and you built your business on the reputation of using the best ingredients.  If you decide to cut costs and replace your yummy delicious sugar with a generic brand, your customers will notice the difference (bleh!) and it will affect your profits.
  5. Appearance
    This is the “overall look” of your business.  Have you let your blog slide?  Is your website outdated?  Is your shop sloppy?  You can still cut costs without letting the overall appearance of your business deteriorate.  Appearance, like branding, is the first thing the client sees… and, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Do you have thoughts to share with Sage Wedding Pros?  Post a comment, or send us an email at SageWeddingPros-at-gmail.com .

April 23, 2009 at 6:00 am 7 comments

STOP! Are you checking your email?

Morning Coffee, Not Email (Creative Commons License)

Morning Coffee, Not Email

I love the time management book “Never Check Email in the Morning“.  In it, Julie Morgenstern gives some really great tips for being more productive.  One of her strategies is to never check email in the morning.  I can hear you now: “GASP!  Did she really tell me not to check email in the morning?  My customers would die.”

In her book, Julie explains:

Email is the biggest time-suck of the modern workday.  We interrupt ourselves every five minutes to check our in-boxes, hoping for something more interesting, more fun, or more urgent than whatever we’re working on in that moment.  How many times before making a difficult call, or starting a challenging project have you said, “Well, let me just check my email first”?

GUILTY.  I am guilty as charged.

Not so fast, Trigger…

Joanne goes on to say:

Email plays a leading role in the development of our supremely impatient culture, where everything has to be “now, now, now!”  People expect immediate responses, because an immediate response seems possible.    Not everything is urgent. You need to fight this unhealthy speed-freak impulse and press your internal pause button.  Don’t let technology take away your time to think and apply your higher-level self to tasks.

Again – GUILTY.  In fact, while writing this post, I checked my email at least 3 times.  (And, my facebook, and my twitter.)  I have a real sickness.  I need to get back in tune with this practice of not being so impulsive with the email trigger.

We have gotten into the habit of checking email because we think the world will fall apart if we don’t.  We have trained ourselves to think our clients will shrivel up and die – or worse: hate us – if we do not respond within the second.  The truth is that most people have a 4-24 hour response time on email turnaround.  Most things that are urgent are addressed with a phone call.

Avoid email for one hour in the morning…

Joanne goes on to say that we should completely avoid email for the first hour of the day and spend this hour doing a critical task. These are the benefits of doing this:

  • You will be taking control of your schedule and your priorities.
  • You will begin your day in charge of it, instead of your email in charge of you.
  • You will be able to start the day ahead of your to-do list, rather than behind.
  • You will have an hour of COMPLETELY UNINTERRUPTED work.
  • You will achieve quiet work, without the frenzy of your brain running towards all the tasks introduced by the emails.
  • You will complete your most difficult task before the day has even begun instead of being haunted by it all day.

An exception to the rule…

But, what if your business requires that you check email first thing in the morning?  Jean Louise Paquin Allen, the very amazing designer and owner of Juniper Flowers, threw a monkey wrench in my “no email for the first hour rule” by reminding me that her day begins with having to check email for orders placed by her ecommerce website.  Joanne goes on to say that if this is the case, do your checking and then create your “no email zone” during another time, possibly the second hour of your work day.  She does warn that it is hard to turn yourself off once you are open for business.

My challenge…

So I dare you… don’t check your email for an hour in the morning! Chances are it’s a little too late for that today… but try it tomorrow.  How much are you able to get done?  I’d love to hear from you and see what your morning is like!

April 22, 2009 at 6:00 am 3 comments

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