Scaling Your Business with Technology

A common small business goal is expansion. This could mean adding additional staff members, increasing the number or complexity of bookings you are able to take, or diversifying your products or services to maximize revenue streams. Growth involves taking what you do well now and scaling it up to achieve new personal and professional goals. It can be challenging, for sure, but thankfully, there is so much technology to assist that the process can seem almost easy these days!    

Are You Ready to Add New Tech? 

While technology can revolutionize your business, there are a few key things to keep in mind to make it a smooth transition. When you are researching new programs be sure to note that is taking care of the majority of your pain points. Be sure to reach out to your team as well to see if they think it would be helpful to their workflow. Then evaluate not only your personal ability to adapt to new products or procedures, but that of your team members as well. Make sure that you support your team with training, and regularly evaluate and share data measuring your ROI.  

Take Your Time

Don’t change everything all at once. Introduce one new program, piece of equipment or procedure at a time and collect a reasonable amount of data before you determine what will work for you, what is better left out of the equation and what you should consider changing next. Use collaborative apps, tools or software to keep your entire staff on task and to share the results of your efforts with opportunities for everyone to reflect. 

Free or Fee? 

Not all apps and software are free, so you will likely have to invest some money in the tech you need. Before you shop, be certain your business can bear both the initial investment and any subscription that might be required. Evaluate free options versus paid ones and decide if the difference in value is worth the investment. Track your ROI so you can determine from year to year whether paid services should continue. 

Don’t Neglect the Human Touch

No matter how efficient and effective your tech integration is, never neglect the personal touch. Our world is rapidly becoming one of isolation and illusion. Clients want human contact and the ease of getting important answers to burning questions. Demonstrate to your clients that there are humans behind your technology and that their experience is your primary concern. Respond promptly to inquiries, emails and social media comments and provide top quality experiences 

  Technology has the potential to take you and your business to levels beyond your imagination. Seize the moment! 

With over 20 years of experience in the international events industry, Sandy Hammer is the co-founder and CMO of AllSeated, a collaborative network for planning events that offers tools including floorplans, 3D view, Guest List, RSVP, Seating, Timelines, Mobile Check-In and more. 

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Top Apps of 2018

I don’t know how a business today could possibly run effectively without employing some time-saving, economical, efficiency-boosting apps. Wedding clients expect faster and more accurate responsiveness from service-providers, customized to make them feel valuable, along with unprecedented access to account details, event plans and easy billing methods. If any one of these things is even a little “off,” couples are acutely aware.

Thankfully, great apps exist in free and inexpensive, user-friendly forms to help every events business meet this new level of demand. Some of the apps that you might find most useful for 2018 include:

Square Point of Sale

Square is one of the best apps to happen to small businesses, ever. This point of sale system is free to install and charges a small percentage of each transaction that you process. It allows you to accept electronic payments via your phone or device and receive those payments quickly (in some cases, instantly) in your bank account.

TripIt

When you travel frequently for business, you know how much time you can waste trying to track down itinerary information. TripIt stores everything you need in one place, making it easy to stay on top of all of the critical details without worrying about carrying around a stack of printed reservations or searching through your email every time you need a confirmation number.

Doodle

I’m really not sure how we survived before Doodle. This meeting scheduler allows you to crowdsource availability and interest when you plan important appointments and walk-throughs. Using links, each participant can check the possible options, input conflicts or preferences, and ultimately contribute to the selection of the perfect date and time for your most important get-togethers.

Adobe Document Cloud E-sign Services

Contracts are a necessary part of doing business, but they can be a total pain. Obtaining signatures, issuing copies, retrieving details when needed. E-sign services like Adobe allow you to create and verify electronic signatures that hold up in legal proceedings. It simplifies the process of sending, revising, signing and sharing contracts which accelerates your ability to start serving your clients as soon as they are ready to book.

Later.com

Instagram has become the gold standard for wedding business social media. Couples find service providers and share information with them on “Insta” making it an important source of leads for many businesses. It can be incredibly time consuming to post on a regular basis to keep your content updated while managing the operations of your business. Later allows you to pre-schedule your posts so your feed stays current and relevant at all times.

Dropbox

In the wedding industry, we uniquely have the need to share large files like photos frequently. They can drain our available memory on devices and various programs quickly. Dropbox offers cloud storage that is affordable and easily accessible from practically any device. It has numerous applications for PR, marketing, file management and more.

These are only a few of the thousands of apps available to address the needs of your wedding business. Evaluate your unique opportunities and match them with the apps that best address them, and your business could soon be operating with increased efficiency and even profitability!

Kevin Dennis is the editor of WeddingIQ and the owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California. Dennis is the past president for Silicon Valley NACE, and national vice president for WIPA.

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Become a Good Leader

We spend a lot of time focusing on how to gain recognition as an industry leader, but it can be a lot more difficult to hone your skills as a leader within your business. The way you work with your team every day, the opportunities and nurturing you provide, and the environment you create all determine how satisfying your business culture is and what kind of talent you attract to your team. If you want to provide the best product and services delivered by the best in the business, you must start by becoming a good leader.

Characteristics of Good Leadership

The best leaders are concise, inspirational and collaborative. Where some leaders try to lead by intimidation, a good leader builds trust through strong communication, honesty and an open door policy. I try to be as approachable as possible, and have found that when people aren’t afraid of me, they are more open and sharing. The best ideas and biggest advances in business result from great collaborative relationships.

Build a Strong Culture

Having a great business culture is definitely the way to stand out among other businesses and feature your leadership skills to attract great talent to your team. Allow your business culture to shine through in your social media, but avoid singing your own praises. Be special enough that others will sing them for you. Such praise has more credibility when it originates outside of your organization.

Handle Challenges Gracefully

Your business should have a mission statement to which you can refer in tough times. Resort back to it whenever you need direction and have difficult decisions to make. This will help you avoid allowing emotions to take over your decision making process. Keep your mission statement in mind, and encourage your whole team to do the same, always. Doing so will keep your business on track.

Include Team Satisfaction as a Measure of Success

You can count your social media followers, engagement, review, bookings and awards as measures of your business’ success, but they shouldn’t be the only areas you focus on. Are your clients AND your employees happy? When everyone is happy, we trust that we are doing something right.

Productivity is Key

A team that achieves greatness together stays motivated together. Make efficiency and productivity priorities. Time mapping is so important – schedule appointments with yourself to ensure that everything stays on track. We try to do that across the board at Fantasy Sound, and have found that when we all do it, we are more productive overall.

Have Fun

Finally, remember that a team is made of more than talent – it is made of people. I keep my team motivated by treating them with respect, being flexible with their schedules, showing a genuine interest in their lives and by intentionally keep the office environment fun. A daily Sound Off meeting including as many games as possible keeps the mood light. When people have fun at work, they stay motivated.

A highly productive, effective and happy team starts with superior leadership. Make becoming a good leader one of your most important goals and enjoy the satisfaction that comes when a group of talented professionals works together to create great things.

Kevin Dennis is the editor of WeddingIQ and the owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California. Dennis is the past president for Silicon Valley NACE, and national vice president for WIPA.

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Using Social Media to Market to LGBTQ Clients

The LGBTQ wedding market has been around much longer than marriage equality, but following the 2015 landmark legislation, it took off like few other market segments in the history of our industry. Engaged LGBTQ couples both need and want services from wedding professionals who understand and respect their relationships, and who are willing and able to market to their community.

Social media is key to promoting wedding businesses to nearly all couples, but it can be particularly useful in reaching niches. You can leverage your social media presence to reach out to and attract LGBTQ clients by applying the following suggestions and practices.

Know Your Platform

The two most prominent social media platforms today are Facebook and Instagram. Both have different personalities and different options for promoting a business.

Facebook is a platform built around sharing information, even if it’s not your own. You can showcase your stance on LGBTQ weddings by sharing applicable articles on a regular basis that will be appreciated by your followers, regardless of their orientation and identity. Content such as viral proposal videos starring a same-sex couple, or roundups of same-sex wedding content, are easy and organic ways to share inspiration with your followers while also subtly displaying your equality-mindedness.

Unfortunately, as many of us know, Facebook has become extremely “pay-to-play,” but Instagram is a platform that can still be used to organically target a specific audience with hashtags (at least for the moment!). On Instagram, my rule of thumb is to have one same-sex image in each row of my Instagram grid. Depending on the size of the phone and whether or not you use Instagram Highlights, users can either see three, six or nine images of your content at first glance on your profile. Be strategic with the images that you decide to post — you may not have LGBTQ-specific content, but be wary of overdoing it with opposite-sex couples. Break hetero imagery with decor shots, groom details and wedding party pictures.

Employing Hashtags

Hashtags are one of the primary methods of attracting new followers on Instagram. While normally I advise against using terms like “LGBT Wedding” and “Gay Wedding” in your client-facing marketing efforts, these hashtags are being searched for by LGBTQ couples. Use them to identify your business as inclusive. As with any hashtag strategy, try to choose terms that hit the sweet spot of search, usually the 2,000-1,000,000 uses range. Also, integrate your favorite LGBTQ wedding publications’ (like ours at @LoveIncMag -- #loveinc).

Examples of hashtags searched by the LGBTQ community include #gaywedding #lgbtwedding #lgbtqwedding, #samesexwedding #twogrooms #twobrides #mrsandmrs #mrandmr #samelove #gayweddings.

Styled Shoots & Stock Photography

Styled shoots are a fantastic way to develop imagery for your social media accounts, make your portfolio more inviting to LGBTQ couples and gain exposure by submitting to publications. A challenge that is specific to same-sex styled shoots is ensuring that the romantic chemistry between the models feels real. I suggest making sure your models are either very experienced and can comfortably sell the love as part of a same-sex couple, or, a real-life LGBTQ couple.

Another option for imagery, depending on your profession, is stock photography which has really increased in quality within the last few years. Unfortunately, stock imagery featuring LGBTQ couples is still rare, but Unsplash and Canva are great sources for free or inexpensive downloads that have same-sex options in their library.

LGBTQ Appropriate Verbiage

The wedding world is filled with heteronormative language, so be wary of using terminology that is gender-specific. For example, wedding party instead of bridal party, wedding suite instead of bridal suite, and bach party instead of bachelor/bachelorette are all inclusive options. For your clients, replace “bride and groom” with gender-neutral terms such as couple, client, partner, significant other, or, if your branding is more playful, you can use terms such as soonlywed of nearlywed.

The first step is awareness and once you begin making these small but mighty changes in your marketing, you will certainly stand out in this swiftly evolving world of weddings.

Brittny Drye is the founder and editor-in-chief of Love Inc., the leading equality-minded wedding blog and digital publication. Her inclusive efforts have been celebrated by the New York Times, The Advocate, OUT Magazine, Refinery29, NY Daily News, Cosmopolitan, and more. She serves on the 2018-19 North American Advisory Board for the International Academy of Wedding & Events.

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Finding Your Voice in the Social Media Sphere

Social media exposure can be a gift to an event business, but creating a presence that is natural, reflective of your desired message and compelling enough to cut through all of the other noise takes work. Honing your approach can help you find your voice in the social media sphere.

Be Natural

There are some things in social media that make sense for nearly all events businesses, like posting photos of your work so prospective clients can see you in action. Finding your unique voice, though, requires that you put your business personality out there.

For example, while we are strategic about the work we post, we try to give our stories a freewheeling, casual feel. We’ve found that our clients like the behind-the-scenes perspective and enjoy seeing how we create things. It gives them a sense of who we are as a company. This approach has a lot of value for us. We have people coming in all the time saying “I saw this on Instagram and I loved it!”

Be Selective

Make sure you curate your timeline to ensure that you’re staying true to your brand. Only show images that you are proud of, and that reflect who you are as a brand as and as a business. Feature the kind of work you want to attract.

Be Consistent

In order for social media to be effective, your content has to be timely and current. Users notice when you haven’t posted in months and wonder if it’s a reflection of being too busy to connect with your audience, too aloof to spend time engaging, or too unorganized to say on top of your presence. Neglecting your social media can also give the appearance that you have nothing interesting or notable to share.

Create a content calendar and commit to a reasonable posting schedule. Also, take advantage of the many apps that allow you to automate and pre-schedule posts so you never seem “absent” from your platforms.

Be Generous

Tag everyone who contributed to an event and make sure you have permission to share each image. Your network of creative partners will not only appreciate that you acknowledged their efforts – they will likely tag you in future posts to reciprocate. Together you can build an audience that seeks out and supports businesses like yours.

Whether you focus on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or another platform, applying these suggestions will help you find your social media voice and show off your personality. When you do, you can expect to attract exactly the kind of like-minded prospects you desire for your events business.

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