Wedding planning is a highly competitive field and it can be difficult to stand out in such a crowded marketplace. Simply being talented and skilled enough to produce incredible weddings for happy clients isn’t enough. Recognition, profitability, personal and professional satisfaction can only be achieved if the word gets out and the bookings roll in. To achieve this, you need to create and implement a strong, self-sustaining marketing and PR plan.
The task seems overwhelming, so where does a wedding planner begin?
Start by Setting Appropriate Goals
You can’t reasonably plot a course unless you know where you want to go, can you? Setting goals for your business helps you envision the destination and start to map out how you will get there. Begin by reflecting on why you are in business and what you hope to achieve. Are you determined to attain financial independence? Creative recognition? Do you want to become an industry leader? Are you hoping to travel to exotic destinations with luxury clients, or are you content to be the go-to planner in your hometown?
Goals should be ambitious, yet realistic. Make sure that they are measurable with metrics that will help you visualize progress and results. Incorporate a deadline for each goal so you don’t procrastinate, and identify any challenges up-front that might stand in the way of you reaching them. By going through the goal setting process and reviewing your progress regularly, you can make your marketing endeavors much more targeted and fruitful.
Craft Your Brand
Before you can launch a full-scale marketing program for your wedding planning business, you have to be certain you are projecting the right look, feel and message to prospective clients and peers. Your brand should capture your company’s personality and mission, giving your audience an idea of what they can expect from you. The stronger your brand, the more recognizable you will be, which is good when your goal is to be remembered.
The process of branding, much like goal-setting, starts with asking yourself questions. What kind of adjectives would you use to describe your business, products and services? What does your mission statement say, and how do you and your team project themselves to clients or peers? The answers to these questions will help you set parameters for your brand, so be thorough when considering your responses.
Next, think about your ideal clients. Who are they? Where do they live? How old are they? What do they do for a living? What do they do for fun? Where do they eat and how do they take their coffee? Be specific and highly detailed. Everything you do and say as a brand should be geared towards the clients you want to attract, so it’s important you understand everything you can about them.
Once defined who you are and who you want to attract, you’ll want to consult the experts you need to help you come up with your visual branding, website copy, social media identity and the like. Allow sufficient time for the initial branding process, and expect that you will need to revisit it several times throughout your career to tweak elements and overhaul when necessary.
Embrace PR Tools
There are four main tools that every wedding planner should embrace. These tools are a custom media list, a fabulous press release template, the AP Style Handbook, and HARO. If any or all of them are Greek to you, fear not. You can quickly learn what you need to know to leverage them for free publicity for your wedding planning business.
Your media list should include the contact information for all of the press outlets you’ve researched and have determined are good matches for your business. When something newsworthy happens in your organization, you can turn to your media list to quickly pull together the contacts you need to spread the word.
Likewise, you’ll be ahead of the game next time something exciting occurs in your company if you have already created a professional-looking and highly engaging press release template. Keep the contact information and boilerplate updated and know how to best format your release in order to attract the attention of the media.
The AP Style Handbook has long been the go-to authority on grammar and spelling for media-related articles. PR professionals, media outlets and broadcasters all recognize its authority so you need to become versed in writing in the “AP Style.” There are tons of magical websites that will answer your questions when you come up with an AP quandary, so don’t shy away from it. Embrace it to improve the reception of your PR submissions.
Finally, get to know and love HARO (Help a Reporter Out) a free subscription service that connects reporters in need of a story with experts like you who want to act as sources. You’d be surprised how often the input of an expert wedding planner is exactly what a reporter is looking for!
Build Authority through Awards and Speaking Opportunities
The impact of your marketing and PR efforts increase exponentially when you are able to add “award-winning” to your title, or “presenter” to your resume. When you are not only recognized by clients, but by peers as well, your name is top of mind to a much broader audience, potentially increasing the number and quality of referrals you receive significantly.
Start by thinking of the awards that you encounter during your day-to-day business. Who among your colleagues boasts titles and credits that you know you deserve too? Are you a member of any professional associations or local business organizations?
Target awards that are prestigious, but within your reach. There is no sense applying for every possible industry award when you know many are above your current station. Awards entries (done right) are time consuming and sometimes there are fees involved in applying, so the process can be expensive. Start small and work your way up to the biggest awards.
Once you win, make sure you promote your status through your social media, on your blog and on a page on your website reserved for recent press and honors.
Likewise, becoming a featured speaker at industry events can increase your exposure and your expert credibility. Local association meetings are a great place to start. Create some topic ideas and some takeaways and submit them for consideration to your industry organizations. Great speakers are in high demand, so once you get a few excellent presentations under your belt, you will find that you are asked to “perform” at more and more events. Always publicize your participation through your social media, website and blog to help your host attract prospective new members and to build your exposure within the industry.
Create an Online Newsroom to Feature Your Press and Published Work
As we’ve previously mentioned, sharing your press is an important element of any successful marketing and PR strategy. Set up a dedicated space where prospective clients and colleagues alike can read more about your accolades, features, recent press and published work. Include links to your guest blogs and to the original features to help drive traffic to the organizations and publishers that hosted you.
An online newsroom not only drives traffic to your website and to the sites of your hosts. It helps you build expert credibility that you can leverage to take your wedding planner business to whatever next level you aspire to. The more authority you are seen as having in the wedding planning industry, the more doors will open for new and exciting marketing and PR opportunities.
There are numerous ways to market your wedding planning business, and we’ve only named a few. Begin by spending some time exploring who you are, where you want to go and what you want from your wedding planning business. By preparing to seize them as they come, you’ll soon discover that great opportunities to spread the word about your company are more prevalent than you expected. Start your process today and get ready for an exciting marketing journey.