Goal-Setting and Strategy Going into 2019

The end of 2018 is near, and we hope that as you read this you are wearing a comfy, colorful sweater, holding a cup of cocoa, and celebrating a year of successes and achievements. As realists, we know that is highly likely that you have had at least a few challenges that you need to address going forward. Before you switch those calendars and ring in the New Year, spend some time goal setting and strategizing for 2019.

End-of-Year Meeting

One of the best practices that we follow annually is holding an end-of-year meeting for our entire staff. This gathering allows us to wrap up the year’s loose ends, discuss our successes and setbacks, share suggestions that might improve things in the coming season, and include the voices of all of our employee stakeholders. Annual meetings help to identify concerns while simultaneously increasing employee buy-in, which builds loyalty and morale.

If the logistics of your business permit, definitely consider holding your own first annual end-of-year meeting before you launch into setting new goals.

The Goal-Setting Process

After you have had an opportunity to reflect on what went right in the past year and what needs improvement, begin the process of setting goals. These should be measurable and specific. “We will earn more money in 2019,” for example, is too vague, whereas, “We will improve our revenues by 25% by December 31, 2019,” is concise and actionable. You can easily break down the latter into quarterly targets with specific steps and review your progress regularly.

Be particular when choosing your goals for 2019. Think about the areas that you determined in your annual meeting need to be addressed most urgently. Every company will have different goals. Some might work on profits while others may want to scale up or open a new location. Improving customer reviews could be a priority, or you might decide that increasing the number of times your press releases get picked up by desirable media is top of the list. You can’t do everything at once, so select three or four goals that you and your team feel will make the greatest impact in the coming year, and commit to those.

Be reasonable. If you decide you want to make a million dollars by June 2019, you are likely to be sorely disappointed and demotivated when you are not even close. Use your past performance to help gauge your actual potential and choose attainable goals. 

Make a Plan

Once you have goals in mind, make a specific plan to achieve them. Spell out the steps you need to take, who is responsible for overseeing and carrying out those steps, when and how you will measure your success.

If you already have a comprehensive overall business plan, you may only need to tweak parts of it to fit your latest priorities. If you are newer to the industry or making sweeping changes, you might need to start from the beginning. There are many resources available through local professional associations and industry organizations to help you make or overhaul your business plan. 

Leaders who invest the time necessary in regular reflection, goal setting, and planning achieve the biggest business successes. Begin your end-of-year review today and start 2019 ahead of the game. 

Kevin Dennis is the editor of WeddingIQ and the owner ofFantasy 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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Sales Strategies to Help You and Your Team Be Successful

Sales are a team endeavor in many companies, but it’s not always treated as such. At the end of the day, every booked sale and lost lead has an impact on your business. That’s why it’s up to you to train and lead your sales team to success. Consider these strategies a way to jumpstart your sales cycle and get your employees on the same page.

Understand the stages of a sale

Making a sale isn’t just about reciting a script about your product or service — it requires a more fluid conversation to truly understand what a prospect need. The six stages of a sale are:

  • Ask and listen

  • Educate

  • Know the client’s needs

  • Present solutions

  • Gain trust

  • Close the sale

While all of these steps are important in their own way, the first three are arguably the most essential. Without taking the time to truly listen to a prospect’s needs, your proposed solution won’t always fit the bill and you’ll lose a prospect’s trust. Don’t rush into closing the sale — take your time on each of these steps to ensure full client satisfaction.

 

Schedule weekly sales meetings

Rather than spending time rehashing the past weekend’s events or looking ahead to the next, allocate some time for your team to focus on new business and building your client base. Work alongside them to monitor sales tracking, closing ratios, new leads, or educational opportunities that come up. Keep this time regular each week so everyone comes prepared. It can also help to use these meetings as a time to ramp up some healthy competition — weekly recognition or small prizes can keep employees motivated and empowered.

 

Assess your pay structure

Companies are likely to pay salespeople salary with commission more than any other pay structure, like hourly, salary only, or commission only. However, are you paying your employees the right amount? If you pay an employee too little, you risk disengagement and complacency; too much, on the other hand, can have an impact on your bottom line. Add your employees’ salary and commission together and see what you get — that total should be between 5-10% of their total sales pre-tax, give or take.

 

Reach out to lost sales

When a prospect books elsewhere, it’s important to understand why they didn’t choose your business. That feedback will allow you to tweak certain parts of your sales cycle in order to increase your team’s closing ratio. It could be something as simple as that you didn’t offer a certain dish, but you’ll want to know if it’s something more serious like not liking your food or not seeing the value in your price tag. The only way for you know to know is to ask, so don’t be afraid to check in with lost prospects to see what was missing.

 

As the leader of your company, prioritizing sales will show your team the importance of bringing in new business and will push them to focus on digging up leads. However, don’t lose sight of the importance of your team’s morale — whether it’s a little bit of healthy competition to keep them hungry or a friendly reminder of certain procedures, be kind and show your team how much they are valued.

With nearly 30 years in the special event and catering industry, Meryl Snow is the co-founder of Feastivities Events and the creator of The Triangle Method. As a Senior Consultant for Certified Catering Consultants, Meryl travels throughout North America training clients in the areas of sales, marketing, design and branding to help businesses get on their own path to success.

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Your SEO Strategy to be a Rockstar on Google in 2019

The start of a new year is always a great time to take a look at your marketing for your wedding business and decide where to invest.  If showing up higher on Google searches is on your must-do marketing list for 2019, it’s time to develop your strategy.

Search engine optimization can be a technical and overwhelming subject. If you’ve ever thought “I need to do some SEO” and then got lost in where to start, I get it.  Below is a basic SEO plan that you can follow step-by-step to improve your rankings in 2019.

Step 1: Understand Where You Rank Now

Any good strategy should start with an understanding of where you are now.  If you’re not sure what keywords your website ranks for as of today, I recommend signing up for a Moz account (it’s free) and using their Keyword Explorer tool.

In the Keyword Explorer, change the search setting to “root domain.”  Then, enter your domain name in the search box.

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What you’ll see in the results is your Site Overview, including the number of keywords ranked.  Make sure to click the link to “See all ranking keywords” to see the top 50 keywords your site is ranked for.

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Look through the keyword list to see which keywords you’d like to rank higher for and make note of them.  You can also save the results by exporting them so you can compare to your rankings a few months from now.

Step 2: Make a List of Keywords You’d Like to Rank For

To start better optimizing your site and ranking in search results, you now need to brainstorm a list of keywords that are relevant to your website and business. These are the keywords you’d like to show up for when they’re searched on Google.

Here are a few places to look for keyword inspiration:

●     The Moz keyword list you just generated

●     Run a high-ranking competitor’s website through the Moz Keyword Explorer and see what they rank for

●     Your own website—look for phrases you use and possible keywords in the descriptions of your own services and projects

●     Try searching on Google for a few of the keywords on your list.  See what Google suggests as you type, and what it lists as “related searches” at the bottom of the search results.

●     Look at what words customers use when they write reviews about your product or service

Once you have a big list of keywords, highlight or circle which ones are most important to you.

Step 3: Decide Which Page on Your Website Will Target Which Keyword

This is the step I see missed most often in articles about SEO.  They may tell you to “use your keywords,” but that might tempt you just to sprinkle the same keywords throughout your website. Instead, I highly recommend choosing one page on your website that you want to optimize really well for each keyword you chose.

Google is looking for the pages(not entire websites) on the Internet that are most relevant and helpful for a specific search.  Make it clear which page on your site is the best result by optimizing it well for your keyword.  That means you’re not just using the keyword “wedding planner” as much as possible throughout your site, but that you are optimizing one page really well for “wedding planning services.”

A few examples:

  • Optimize your “Wedding Coordination” service page for “wedding coordinator in Austin, TX”

  • Optimize your home page for “Asheville wedding venue”

  • Optimize your “Average cost of a Baltimore wedding photographer” blog post for “cost of a Baltimore wedding photographer”

Step 4: Make a Content Plan

I know that making time to do the work for SEO is the hardest part.  For your new year plan, commit a set weekly time to work on your content.  This may mean editing old content to optimize it or writing new content to target keywords. Plan out the work you want to do and give yourself due dates.

Here is the content calendar spreadsheet I use to stay organized in content creation. You might want to create one of these too! 

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As you’re writing your content, I recommend following these best practices for on-page content optimization.

Step 5: Watch Your Results

Put your head down, stop searching for yourself, and work on your website content for a few months.  Keep in mind that it takes Google time to recognize the changes you’re making to improve the content on your website.  After about 3 months, check out a few metrics to see how you’re doing.

  • Run your website through Moz Keyword Explorer again.  Are you ranking for more keywords? Are you ranking higher?

  • Review your Google Analytics.  Are you getting more website visitors? Keep an eye on Organic Search traffic over time.

Make note of any pages or posts that are performing well and see if you can create more content around similar topics.  

Not seeing the results you want?  SEO is an ongoing process of website and content improvement, so don’t give up!  Keep generating keyword ideas, adding to your content plan, creating helpful content your target clients would love to find, and monitoring your improvements and increased traffic.

Sara Dunn is a wedding SEO consultant at SaraDoesSEO.com, helping wedding planners, photographers, venues, florists, and more reach rockstar status on Google.

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What I'm Most Thankful For

It’s that time of year! Time for post-turkey naps, family reunions, and reflecting on what we’re thankful for as another crazy year comes to a close. The holidays can put a lot in perspective, and sometimes that’s exactly what we need to serve as a reminder of how lucky we are to work in such an amazing industry.

For example, we’re super thankful for another year in business (and all of the foster cats we’ve been lucky enough to have on rotation in our office!). When it comes to the industry itself, we’re thankful for: 

·      That innovation and ingenuity continues to abound and inspire in a time where so many companies are having a tough time evolving in the industry.

·      Despite being lovely and grand unto itself, that the second royal wedding of 2018 was far more low-key, giving us permission to sleep in on the Big Day, and simply catch the highlights.

·      That more and more industry events are embracing magnetic name tags, thus saving us from having to put holes in our clothing. 

We also asked around to see what other industry pros were thankful for this year, and some answers were surprising, but most were relatable.

Shannon Tarrant of Wedding Venue Map is grateful for creative partners that tag each other for credit on social media posts, even if they may have forgotten the first go-round.

Kristy Rice of Momental Designs gives thanks for “the death of the short-lived pop-up micro wedding”, and Paula Ramirez of Historic Mankin Mansion agrees. “I’m thankful a huge wedding is always in fashion,” she adds.

Tifany Wunschl, owner & lead designer of Gourmet Invitations, is grateful for something we can all agree on. “The number of grooms who are starting to get involved in the invitation process. Men typically make decisions fast, and I love that!” She continues, “Not to mention all of the couples who are looking outside of the ‘Pinterest’ box and are making their weddings unique and personal. Bring on the color and fun themes!”

“We’re thankful for the resurrection of Style Me Pretty!” Rice also notes of the wedding publication.

And as for the WeddingIQ editor Kevin Dennis, he’s thankful for #southwestfirstclass (as always!), as well as WIPA’s continued growth throughout the US, and now, internationally.

All in all, this was an incredible year for the wedding industry- we all have much to be thankful for.

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding PR and wedding marketing firm OFD Consulting. Ely is a sought-after speaker, adjunct professor in the field of public relations, and a self-professed royal wedding enthusiast.

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How a Company Can Authentically Give Back to the LGBTQ+ Community

‘Tis the season of giving — as a company, giving back to the community is an empowering act that provides care for those in need and also sends you some positive vibes for the year ahead. When it comes to being a genuinely inclusive company, giving back is such an important aspect. The LGBTQ+ community still has so far to go regarding equal rights, and it takes an abundance of resources to get there. From volunteers to donors to sponsors, there is always room for more help in the fight for equality.

So, how can you invest your time and/or resources into giving back to the LGBTQ+ community?

I always encourage businesses to donate a portion of their sales to a charity or nonprofit — it’s easy and doesn’t take up much extra time, but it makes such a difference. There are so many nonprofits in the LGBTQ+ rights sector — my favorites are Freedom for All Americans and Freedom to Marry International, two incredible grassroots organizations that I’ve worked with closely. I offer a 10% discount to all vendor guide members when they sign up, with the option to either save it or donate it to Freedom for All Americans. Many choose to give! Others that support our cause are The Trevor Project, HRC, ACLU, Lambda Legal, The Transgender Law Center, and the Ali Forney Center (among many others).

Another great way to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights is to sponsor one of the many charity events these organizations host throughout the year. Donate your product or service, whether it’s photography, calligraphy, planning, catering, or the like — every bit of help is appreciated. When nonprofit organizations can rely on volunteer event professionals as opposed to in-house employees, it allows them to produce bigger and better events (and therefore, raise more money for the cause!).

Spend some time researching to ensure that your chosen charity is authentic. Become well-versed in the organization so that, in addition to giving back, you can also be a strong advocate for their fight and share its mission with your community.

Giving back to the LGBTQ+ community does not have to mean donating a ton of money — your time and your voice as an advocate are invaluable to the cause as well. Speak up, get involved, and help the fight in the ways that you can.

Brittny Drye is the founder and editor-in-chief of Love Inc., one of 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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