Reflecting and Planning for the Year Ahead

By Emily Sullivan, Emily Sullivan Events

This year is coming to a close, which means it’s time to put plans in place for the year ahead. As a wedding planner, this delights me to no end, but it’s not lost on me that for most business owners, it is a dreaded task.

To make things more manageable, I am going to walk you through my tried and true processes of analyzing 2017 and preparing for 2018.

Money, Money, Money

Finances are crucial to the success or failure of your business, but you shouldn't just be looking at the money as a whole. Instead, you need to break it down to find out when bookings are usually slower or what was your best time of year. When you look at these, you might be pleasantly surprised at what you discover. More importantly if you can thoroughly understand your earning cycle, then you can set realistic goals and plan for the slower time periods.

Marketing

Marketing normally makes up a significant portion of one’s business, so it deserves a proper review at least annually. Carve out time to take a look back at the number of leads you received from each promotional strategy, and then see how many of those actually turn into clients.

You’ll need to have an honest talk with yourself and decide whether you truly took advantage of the tools and perks that come with your advertising packages. Did you maintain your respective online profiles? Follow up with their leads lists?

This type of analysis will allow you to make better informed decisions about what investments make the most sense to continue in the coming year.

Team Members

Do not forget about the key players in your company. When I took a good hard look at my team, I realized that one of my members was exceptional at social media, blogging and search engine optimization. It is where she wanted to focus her attention, so we made the switch and it has equally benefitted my business as well as her own professional experience.

Also, get their opinions on how they feel execution of an event or daily processes can be simplified or delegated. Have them look at their productivity and schedule, and see how they think it can be improved. Take yourself and your team off-site to a retreat or lunch. Sometimes getting outside of your typical work environment will allow you to dive deeper and think clearer yielding exceptional results for a fruitful year!

Calendar

Before the start of the year, I always like to look at the calendar year ahead and see how it is shaping up. This will allow you to plan out a better work-life balance of knowing what months you are already overextended so you can plan around it. You can also see if you need to hire part-time employees to execute everything without sacrificing quality of work.

If you are looking to make the process even easier for 2018, I suggest breaking it down throughout the year. My team and I meet seasonally to discuss how we can improve and to reevaluate procedures. The worst thing is when you go an entire year struggling, when little things can be tweaked and changed to make it a more prosperous year for you.

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Handling Travel Expenses

By Kevin Dennis, WeddingIQ

Being able to travel for work is something that always sounds really fun and glamorous to people, and don’t get me wrong, sometimes it is. However, there is a lot of back-end work that goes into it. From scheduling to booking and of course, managing expenses. Your trip can quickly go from exciting to stressful, but with a few simple tips you’ll have no problem handling your travel expenses.

Get Organized

Good organization is the secret weapon for most seasoned travelers. For your hotels and airfare, using an app that stores everything in one place for quick and easy access is key. I use TripIt, which has been a huge time saver. As for other expenses while on the trip, be sure you’re keeping all of your receipts. I found that having a designated folder in my suitcase makes it easy for me to empty out my wallet at the end of each night. That way, I know everything is there and I can refer back to it when I’m home in the office.

Additional Employees

If you have additional employees joining you, you’re going to want to have some way for them easily get around, buy meals, etc. Issuing a company credit card has worked well for me. They are given a strict spending limit and are required to complete an expense report immediately following the trip. If you aren’t comfortable with that, the next best option is to simply reimburse them. Be sure they are keeping their receipts and have them fill out an expense report for everything they put on their card.

Set a Budget

Set a budget before your trip of what you’d be comfortable spending and stick to it. Remember that you’re there for work and not fun. I’ve seen a lot of people blow off conference classes to go out and see the sights, which means they’re spending money instead of learning how to make money. You paid to be there, so it’s your responsibility to get the most out of it.

Determine ROI

After the conference/trip, sit down and look at how much you spent and determine if the ROI is worth it. It’s going to be hard to evaluate, because results may take some time, but taking a close look at your finances can show you some changes you can make on another trip.

The only question left now is, where are you headed to next?

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Why Forecasting Should be a Priority in Your Business

By Audrey Isaac, 100 Candles

As wedding professionals, we know to start checking our weather apps weeks in advance for upcoming events. We plan rain and/or snow backups plans, because we see the issue coming and want to make sure it’s been taken care of beforehand. But are you doing the same thing for your business? Forecasting is critical to the success of a small business, and for those who don’t have a plan can find themselves in a place that they cannot recover from.   

Meeting Goals

Not meeting sales goals? It might be because you aren’t setting them effectively for yourself and your team. Look back on where you were the same time last year and you will probably find that you were having the exact same issue. It isn’t because your business is failing, it is because you are not properly setting it up for success. You need to communicate with your team exactly what goals they need to meet, but then also give them the tools and the knowledge to reach and exceed them. The only way to foreshadow and think through these issues is to evaluate what happened the year prior. Then you can share them with the team with a clear focus instead of “just increase sales.”       

 Challenges and Pitfalls

Forecasting can be a great way to alleviate some of your stress. You can effectively see where your company might encounter an obstacle by taking a look backwards at previous years. Look into things like, what time of year you normally see a dip in inquires or revenue, and create a plan ahead of time for a push on marketing and advertising to combat the problem. This will help minimize any future damage or setbacks. The next year you can look back and see what solutions worked and which ones didn’t, that way you are improving year after year.

 Stay on Track

Creating and implementing your plan for upward growth is necessary, but are you sharing that information with your employees? Do they know what your five or even 10-year plan looks like? This is extremely important so that they know what they are working towards with you, and can visualize the growth and know what role they play now and what role they can see themselves in in the future. Sometimes business owners and employees alike get too focused on the day-to-day tasks, and it can get mundane and even a little boring. But they need to see what track you’re on and where you’re headed so that they remain passionate, creative and striving for success.

Forecasting should not be saved for just at the end of the year. You should implement it as a practice each and every month to look back and assess your successes and failures. If you always wait until the end of the year, you are so far removed that you will forget. So add forecasting to your ‘to do’ list, you will be happy you did.

Audrey Isaac is the spokesperson of 100 Candles, a wholesale market for candles and lights. Since 2002, thousands of wedding and event professionals have entrusted 100 Candles with their wholesale candle accounts. For more information, please visit https://www.100candles.com/.

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Top Trends in Weddings for 2018

By Kylie Carlson, International Academy of Wedding and Event Planning

Wedding pros take note – the 2018 International Wedding Trends Report is here! Our annual conversation with the industry’s most influential experts provides savvy wedding business owners with everything they need to know to anticipate the demands of prospective couples- including insight from WeddingIQ's very own Kevin Dennis. Here are some highlights of the report that you can take with you into booking season!

 Photo Credit:  Summer Rain Photography

Personalization Is Still the Key

Over and over we hear our experts saying loud and clear that clients want personalized events, not cookie cutter parties from Pinterest. According to Sarah Chancey, Wedding Planner, Educator & Creative Director of Chancey Charm, all of her “full planning clients for 2018 want something that’s completely unique to them – it doesn’t have to be décor and all, just something unique in the food or experience.”

Venue Personalization

This demand is consistent in the 2018 venue trends as well. Amy Parfett and Melany McBride, Co-Founders of WedShed observe that unconventional properties like campgrounds, orchards and industrial commercial spaces will rise in popularity in 2018. Most owners of these venues say, in fact, that they would never have considered hosting weddings if not approached first by couples with the question “do you do weddings.”

Couples choosing alternative sites want the freedom to personalize their events. “In line with current trends in the industry, couples expect to be able to have a good degree of flexibility in tailoring their wedding day, and any venues that can’t offer this will struggle to compete with emerging venues that have this ability,” say Parfett and McBride.

Cakes and the Guest Experience

A focus on experience dominates the most exciting trends in catering. Wedding desserts, for example, are a huge focal point at weddings and it is becoming increasingly popular to create stunning “dessert rooms” as part of the great reveal,” says Elizabeth Solaru, Founder of Elizabeth’s Cake Emporium. “Elaborate painted backdrops, mirrors, flowers, flower walls, cherry blossom trees, and even balloons are commonly used to dress the area in coordinating colors to create impact. Also, couples want the dessert area to be interactive and immersive and occasionally, alluring scents are used to draw guests in,” continues Solaru.

 Photo Credit:  Cream Photography

Photo Credit: Cream Photography

2017 Floral Design Trends Evolve for 2018

Design in the New Year will continue to be heavily influenced by the most popular themes of 2017 according to most of our contributors. “Following the move towards texture and greenery we saw in 2017,” says stylist Dee McMeeking, “I believe that we will continue to see the use of greenery but the scale of designs will get bigger.” McMeeking predicts that “statement pieces including round arches, hanging florals and decorated staircases will become more common at all price points.” She also points out that wedding professionals should anticipate that the May British Royal wedding will have an influence as well.

These are just some of the incredibly exciting trends we can anticipate for 2018. If you take the time now to prepare for the demands of the upcoming season, you will set your business up for the best booking season yet. Happy New Year!

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What You Need for Your 2018 PR Push

By Meghan Ely, OFD Consulting

The end of a season is a time for celebration, reflection and naturally for looking forward to what is coming next. If you’re starting to think about 2018 and what is in store for your business, you’re not alone. This is the time of year that successful businesses prepare to take their message to all of the couples that will become engaged in the next two months. Are you ready to take the press plunge or to ramp up your PR efforts for the new year? As 2017 draws to an end, it’s time to take stock and decide what you will need for your 2018 PR campaigns. 

Look Back Before Moving Forward

First things first – you can’t put together your 2018 PR strategy until you invest a little time reflecting on your successes and challenges in 2017. What went right with your PR efforts? Which pitches were accepted and which were declined? If you experienced some success with publishers, did it yield bookings? 

As always, you need to go into the new year with a clear picture of your message, your target audience and which media channels best reach them. Looking back to see what has worked so far and where you need to dig up new opportunities will help you with the next step.

Create a PR List

Take the information that you gathered during your reflection and create a targeted PR list of publishers that you want to successfully pitch in 2018. Organize this list in a spreadsheet with the contact information, known deadlines and submission guidelines all in one place for quick reference.

Organize Your Potential Submissions

Long before your couples make their grand exits, you can begin preparing to submit their stories to targeted media. If you anticipate a great wedding worthy of sharing, prepare in advance by connecting with the photographer and sharing your intention to publish. Get your clients’ permission in advance and collect the details about their love story and planning experience that you will need to fulfill publisher submission requirements. 

If you will seek guest posting opportunities or plan to submit articles to various blogs and magazines, take the time now to develop a list of topic ideas about which you can write as an expert. The easier you make the process of idea generation on publishers, the more appealing your participation will be. You’ll be the apple of every editor’s eye if you can not only pitch relevant, insightful content but also be prepared to deliver great writing quickly.

The best PR campaigns take time and effort to construct and execute. Use your down time now to reflect, organize and prepare for your PR efforts in 2018. You’ll thank yourself very soon for thinking ahead.

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