Here on WeddingIQ, we've always been passionate advocates for what's truly in business - beyond the pretty Instagram snaps, the glamorous branding, the cheerful small talk at networking events. And what's more real, honestly, than realizing your business just isn't keeping up?
Starting a wedding business is such a whirlwind of excitement, and if you've got that perfect combination of skill, connections, and pure luck (which really isn't so much luck as good timing and good market conditions), your business can take off quickly. At least, that's what happened with my primary business. My former partner and I happened to launch it at a time when our region desperately needed upscale, polished, non-cheesy DJs, and we benefited tremendously from the fact that many of our would-be competitors were still embodying the bad DJ stereotype.
That was over 13 years ago, though, and today the wedding entertainment landscape is very different. In fact, the landscape for every wedding service category is very different. Between the overload of visual inspiration that's out there, and the wealth of DIY tools that allow even newbie entrepreneurs to create stunning websites and marketing collaterals, there is more competition than ever, often with overlapping brand aesthetics and service standards. It's simply not that easy anymore to stand out.
Many business coaches, motivational speakers and eternal optimists would be quick to point out, "That doesn't matter! You do you! Build your business and the clients will come!"
To which I'd reply, (sadly) that's bull.
The fact is, if you need your business to succeed - and unless you're a hobbyist with someone else paying your bills, you do - then you need to make sure you're staying on top of it. That means constantly evaluating and re-evaluating everything from your marketing strategies to the "look" of your brand to your sales procedures to the system by which you're executing your events. Not only do you need to regularly assess your business in this way, but you need to be willing to make meaningful changes.
This isn't exactly ground-breaking advice, I realize. So why do many wedding professionals (not to mention business owners in other industries) hesitate to take inventory of their company in this way?
I think it boils down to a few reasons.
When things are good as a self-employed entrepreneur, they're actually great. Nothing feels better than having formed a business that really seems to be working. However, it's important to keep in mind that trends evolve. So do prospective clients' priorities, expectations and buying habits. Not to mention the fact that, as hungry as you were when you were first starting out, there are equally hungry (or even hungrier) budding entrepreneurs nipping at your heels. While you're coasting on your recent success, they're plowing full steam ahead with their own business plans, and can easily take your place if you're not staying aware.
I should probably mention that this isn't condoning some cutthroat, anti-#communityovercompetition mentality. This is reality. If you choose to stop paying attention to what's going on in the market, as well as your clients' response to what you're doing in your business, you'll start to backslide. It's happened to me, it's happened to Kyle, and I promise you don't want it to happen to you, because clawing your way back up to the top is way harder than just maintaining your spot in the first place.
Entitlement is an ugly word, isn't it? Still, I can't think of a better one to describe the feeling many seasoned industry veterans have that they've earned their place, and clients should just appreciate the opportunity to do business with them, period. If I had a nickel for every coaching client or audience member from a speaking engagement who griped to me about how what their couples "should" be doing, saying, valuing or willing to pay for, well, I'd be entitled to retire early!
The other form of entitlement is when we, as hardworking business owners who probably put in tons of overtime hours while building our brand, feel entitled to finally take a break. The business is formed, the calendar is filling up, the positive reviews are pouring in, and we've earned the right to live the carefree life of the self-employed, right? We deserve it!
Unfortunately, as legitimate as the veterans' complaints may be, and as much as we do deserve to enjoy the fruits of our labor, entitlement does nothing good for our businesses. Rather, it gets in the way of us examining our practices and strategies with our eyes open, and we're the ones suffering for it.
This goes hand-in-hand with entitlement - often, business owners are so emotionally invested in the brand and business model they've created, that they stonewall any notion that it's time for an update. Rather than evolving their businesses over the years, they expect clients and referral sources to accept their original concept with open arms, indefinitely, because by God it's genius.
I totally get that it's hard to accept that a business name, logo, website, service model or any other part of our business has become dated. Still, every successful company needs a refresh sometimes - the biggest names in business have done it - and I personally know a number of hugely respected wedding businesses that have completely rebranded, with their new identity being more well-received than anyone could have imagined.
Any change we make in business or in our personal lives involves taking a risk. After all, what if our ideas and instincts are misguided? What if we lose all the momentum we've worked so hard to achieve?
Let me be the one to tell you, that isn't going to happen.
You, my friend, are smarter and more capable than you take credit for; after all, you're the one who built your business in the first place. You'll bring that same talent with you as you assess your business and brand for updates going forward, and when you do it thoughtfully, your clients and colleagues are going to support you.
Sometimes, we know we need to make some major changes - and if we don't, things like silent phones, empty inboxes and plummeting bank balances will inform us - but we just don't know where to begin. After all, by the time our sales and marketing start to be a little shaky, we're already waist-deep in carrying out events.
If you're not sure how to start the process of tweaking your business model and your brand, you may want to collaborate with a trusted business friend and colleague: someone whose opinion you respect and who understands your target client and the service your business offers. Another option for getting in gear is to attend an educational conference, or to invest in a consultation with a business coach. Sometimes, just hearing a different perspective is enough to get your wheels turning and help you create a structured plan for what you need to do.
I know that both Kyle and I are in the process of re-evaluating many things about our own businesses, and we hope you'll join us in doing the same for yours. In the meantime, you might check out our workbook, Be the Boss of Your Wedding Business Brand - it's a complete step-by-step guide to redefining the clients you want to reach, the way your want to work, and what your wedding business is all about. Be sure to use promo code BETHEBOSS for 25% off!