Creating a Need Where There Isn’t One

Today’s guest post is written by Morgan Montgomery, the co-owner of Paisley & Jade.

Three years ago, my business partner and I launched a vintage & eclectic rental company in the mid-size market of Richmond, Virginia. You may know Richmond as a southern city, home to the moMorgan Montgomery Headshot by Hope Taylor Photographynuments and the former capital of the confederacy, but here, we call it the land of “we do things this way because that’s how they have always been done”.

When we opened for business in June of 2012, we were met with a lot of confused stares. How could a company who rents things like vintage taxidermy, chaise lounges and candlesticks succeed? Now that we have three years under our belt, we’ve heard from numerous folks that while at the same time they were congratulating us on launching a business, they truly didn’t think it could be sustained in our market, and we are proud to have not only carved out a niche for ourselves, but grown our business exponentially year over year.

Before we launched, there wasn’t a company like us in our market, nor was there demand for one. By implementing a few key strategies, we built a successful business fulfilling a need that didn’t exist!

Invest in Branding (but be open to change!)

Since our business model didn’t exist in the market, we knew that in order to capture our audience and ideal clients that our branding would have to be 100% on point, as we would not have the luxury of our clients being able to reference something they already knew. We invested heavily in the branding and website design of our company, a move that has paid off in spades. When potential clients visit our website, it is immediately obvious what it is we do, and our biggest strength (our depth of inventory) is prominently on display. When we launched, we loved our brand and company identity, but realized within a few months that we had to correct a crucial mistake. In the process of developing our business plan and identity, we had purposely stayed away from the word “vintage”, worried that it pigeonholed us and trapped us into what ultimately could be a passing trend. We opted for the word “eclectic” instead, but since we had created something unknown, we had to relate it to verbiage our potential clients and vendor partners understood – so back to “vintage” we went! This tweak made a huge difference, and taught us a valuable lesson about client perception.

Your Network is Key

One of the biggest mountains we’ve had to climb in creating our niche is that our service is not something our clients NEED, but rather what they WANT. As a luxury service, our clients do not need our items in order to have their event. Guests can sit on standard folding chairs as opposed to our mismatched wooden ones, and a cake will display just fine on a 3’ round with a linen instead of on a vintage sideboard – and because of that, we needed a way to reinforce our clients’ desire to utilize our collection as much as possible. We worked with our vendor partners to show them how much of an asset we could be to them – for photographers, we sold them on the idea of having something “different” to photograph, and something that would help their images stand out if they were pursuing publication. Caterers and bakers want their displays to look as best as possible, and our inventory allows them to enhance their presentation. We worked with and educated our vendor friends and partners (through casual conversations, over lunches and by participating in styled shoots) on how we could all work together to create a better and higher end product. They, in turn, relayed the benefit of our services as it related to the quality of product they would provide to their clients – increasing the number of times our business was referred by them, and increasing our exposure and bookings.

Show Confidence in Yourself & Your Ability to be a Trendsetter

It sounds simple, but the more confidence you have in what you do, the more confidence others will have! Do your research, and have conversation points prepared for when you inevitably are asked “…and you think people will pay for this?”. When you’re launching something that hasn’t been done before in your market, you are already a leader and a trendsetter, so it’s important to live up to those expectations. When we have a crazy idea about something new & different that we’d love to see our clients do with our inventory, we do it first! And then we photograph it, and blog about it, and share it on social media – all demonstrating to a wide audience that we have confidence in our ideas and in ourselves!

Just because something hasn’t been done before doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be done at all. By having a clear vision, utilizing our professional contacts and having confidence in our own abilities, we’ve turned our once-critics into our some of the biggest fans of our thriving niche business.

Morgan Montgomery, CPCE, is the co-owner of Paisley & Jade, a vintage & eclectic rental company based in Richmond, Virginia and serving mid-atlantic engaged couples, event planners, photographers and filmmakers.

Meeting the Needs of the Destination Wedding Couple

Today’s guest post is written by Rebecca Hochreiter, VP of Marketing & Customer Engagement for Destination Weddings Travel Group.

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Want a change of scenery? Where wanderlust meets hopeless romance you will find today’s new brand of destination weddings, and the generation of couples who host them.

Not obligated to take their vows ocean side, wear flip flops, or adhere to cookie cutter templates, couples choosing today’s destination weddings seek personalized adventures off the beaten path that reflect their cultures, values, and unique love stories. In this emerging market, “typical” has changed. Business leaders who want to enter or grow their share of the destination wedding market need to know a few important things about this evolving niche.

First, millennials make up a majority of this market, and are often tech savvy and globally-minded. Promotion should be geared to appeal to their needs. They are seduced by the ease of planning a destination wedding, and reassured by growing flexibility in both available locations and opportunities to personalize their celebrations. They grew up seeing destination weddings as exciting – and not out of the ordinary, which explains in part why these events make up more of the market today than you probably realize – 25% to be exact!

It is imperative to recognize that destination weddings aren’t the same events that traditional couples hold, typically within 100 miles of their homes. Yet there are features of the customary celebration that couples are unwilling to sacrifice. Many still want to honor their cultures and values, and venues worldwide are starting to catch on to this. Savvy ones offer specialized menus, décor, and services. You can now find Hindu wedding packages, eco-friendly accommodations and Kosher kitchens at resorts around the globe.

The destinations themselves have also evolved. While island escapes continue to be popular, even more exotic locales are chic. Popular spots include Tuscan vineyards and private castles, along with countries such as Spain, Ireland or Iceland, and epic backdrops like the South of France.

Perhaps the best news for many events professionals is that couples are starting to bring their vendors with them on the road. Budgets are continuing to increase, and as a result, we are seeing those willing to bring favorite event professionals from home rise in number as well. If you are eager to travel, make sure to emphasize this on your website and in your marketing materials.

If destination weddings are part of your target market, make a point of cultivating an intimate understanding of the motivations, resources, and habits of the couples that love them. The time and attention you invest will most certainly yield success.

Rebecca Hochreiter is the Vice President of Marketing & Customer Engagement at DestinationWeddings.com, the world’s leading destination wedding and romantic travel planning company. DestinationWeddings.com has worked with over 20,000 couples and half a million guests to plan dream destination weddings. DestinationWeddings.com is one of the award-winning brands in the Celebration Travel Group collection.

The Business of Multicultural Weddings – Niching Yourself

Today’s guest post is written by Preeti Moberg of The Big Fat Indian Wedding. Preeti has some business savvy tips on how to niche your business and to find your market sweet spot.

With a market value over $20 billion dollars, multicultural weddings are the sleeping giants of today’s wedding scene. To successfully appeal to this subset of brides and grooms, however, it’s important to recognize the distinct cultural elements involved in these weddings. We’ve laid out five tips below to help you break into this market and uphold the traditions and customs valued by this emerging client base.

  1. Add a little color to the white dress regime. While bridal magazines and websites have embraced beautiful ivory-laced gowns for decades, it may be time to diversify the content with some multicultural threads and spreads. A section devoted to multicultural weddings alongside fusion wedding elements throughout a website or e-zine is an excellent means to cater to a broader audience. A banner or sidebar of photos should showcase a wedding with distinct cultural elements, such as a henna-clad bride or a Persian wedding’s Sofreh Aghd (an elaborate spread of food and décor).
  2. Collaborate with multicultural wedding blogs. There are a number of wedding and beauty blogs that target specific cultural groups, including, GayWeddings.com, The Big Fat Indian Wedding, Munaluchi Bride, and more. It would be beneficial to tap into this subset of blogs with a co-written article, review, or advertisement. These blogs are also a great learning resource for industry professionals to better understand the marital customs and traditions specific to certain cultures or religions.
  3. A picture is worth a thousand words. Organize a styled shoot to showcase what you have to offer multicultural brides and grooms. Try collaborating with other industry specialists to appeal to a broader audience. A single photograph can convey cultural elements of designer gold jewelry, professional décor, catered food, decadent desserts, and ethnic fashion.
  4. Attend ethnic events and wedding fairs. To branch into this market, it is important to meet and befriend experts in the industry. Bridal exhibitions are an excellent way to gauge what ethnic minority communities need to plan weddings. By attending and participating in cultural events and wedding fairs, your company can gain both inspiration and contacts!
  5. Increase your social media presence in cultural spheres. While we’ve discussed the collaborations with other cultural wedding blogs, social media also plays a major role in breaking into this niche. Applying the appropriate hashtags on twitter or instagram that appeal to certain cultural groups, such as #shaadi (Hindi for wedding) or #dulhan (Hindi for bride), can help give your company the edge it needs to succeed. Broaden your cultural vocabulary and use it to your advantage on all social media platforms.

Breaking into the business of multicultural weddings is a transition that is necessary for an ever-diversifying world. There may be challenges, but with these tips in hand, you will be an expert on multicultural weddings in no time.

Head shot- Preeti- web size copyPreeti Moberg is the founder of The Big Fat Indian Wedding, an online bridal resource that inspires with South Asian Wedding traditions, trends, fashion and real weddings.

4 Tips for Staying Profitable in the Off-Season

No matter how successful your wedding business is, you probably still see a decline in business and profits during the off-season. The fact of the matter is that more weddings occur in the summer and fall than any other time of year. (If you are in Florida or another hot region of the US, your seasons are likely opposite.) Even though your business may be in decline during these months, you still have bills to pay. So what can you do to stay profitable during the off-season? Below you will find four tips for maximizing profits outside of wedding season.

Offer Off-Season Incentives

If you want to entice potential clients to book their off-season wedding with you, you may want to consider offering some incentives. Incentives don’t necessarily need to come in the form of ‘discounts’. (A word that I like to stay away from, particularly when trying to show the value your bring clients.) You can incentivize potential clients in the following ways:

  • Offering an additional service, free of charge
  • Offering additional product, free of charge (As a stationer, throwing in thank you notes was a great way for me to book an invitation job and didn’t cost me too much.)

Become a “Winter Wedding Expert”

A way to identify yourself as THE go-to person for winter weddings is to feature your winter work. Show potential clients how lovely a winter wedding can be. The key with marketing a new idea/service/niche/etc is to broadcast it loud and proud. This means: put it on your website, put it in your blog, get published, do style shoots, introduce yourself as “I specialize in…..”. Take advantage of this challenge! There are still people who marry in the snow. You have to help them identify with what YOU do.

Expand Your Offerings

While it is important to identify and maintain your position within a particular niche in the wedding industry, there is no reason why you can’t expand your business to increase your off-season sales. To increase business during the off-season, you might consider adding corporate events, birthday parties, and holiday parties to your docket for a little extra income. You can always limit these events to the off-season if you want to reserve the busy season for your most profitable events — weddings.

Manage Your Cash Flow

You still have to pay your bills during the off-season, but there may be some easy ways to save money, and manage cash, so you stay in the black all year long. If you take a deposit and a final payment, one thing to consider is taking a ‘middle payment’ (3 payments in total). Here’s what I see happening:

  • Cash comes in the Fall when client pays deposit/retainer
  • Cash comes in Spring when client pays final balance

WINTER is painful with little money coming in.

A way to fix this is to look at your slowest time for cash inflow and schedule a client payment during that time. In the Midwest, it’s likely January & February. In the South and Southeast, it’s likely July & August. (Email me if you need help managing cash flow.)

Just because most weddings happen during the summer and fall doesn’t mean that you have to let your business die during the off-season. Fortune favors the bold, so go out there and find new and exciting ways to make your wedding business profitable even in the off-season!

How do you stay profitable in the off-season? Share with us in a comment below.

2015 Action Plan – Sage Wedding Pros’ Business Strategy for the Wedding Industry

Friends, it’s time!

It’s time to slow down a bit.

It’s time to reflect on 2014 and look forward to 2015.

It’s time for our annual (world famous!) 2015 Action Plan.

Ta-da….

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This is the 4th year of our action plan. We’ve made a few updates… but you’ll find that the majority of our action plan is the easy-peasy planning workbook that you’ve come to know and love.

THIS YEAR – we are introducing a word doc version to go along with the workbook. We know that some of you are ‘type-rs’… if you’re like me, you want to type out your action plan. Now, you can go through the exercises in a word doc. (We also have the pretty formatted version in PDF to guide you – and if you prefer to handwrite, this is all you will need.)

Here is the easy-peasy workbook + word doc supplement ($20):

 Add to Cart

And, here is the easy-peasy workbook + word doc supplement + spreadsheets, templates, downloads ($45):

 Add to Cart

ABOUT THE 2015 ACTION PLAN WORKBOOK…

The 2015 Action Plan is a 34-page book that will help you chart out the upcoming year.  (When you click to purchase, you’ll receive a file emailed to you with the workbook, etc.)  It includes everything to review 2014 and plan for 2015 in a tight little workbook:

  • SOUL-SEARCHING
  • GOAL-SETTING
  • MARKETING REVIEW
  • SALES REVIEW
  • OPERATIONS REVIEW
  • FINANCIAL REVIEW
  • MARKETING PLAN
  • OPERATIONS PLAN
  • FINANCIAL PLAN
  • Identifying Accomplishments

The workbook with downloads includes the workbook PLUS all templates and spreadsheets you need to work thru the plan if you don’t care to put together some of the spreadsheets yourself.  (They are sold separately in our Toolbox for a value of $57, but we are offering the bundle for $45.)

The downloads include:

  • Sage Wedding Pros – Tracking the ROI on your Ads and Other Promotional Activities ($10)
  • Sage Wedding Pros – Financial Review – Excel Spreadsheet – $5 (Profit & Loss Report SPREADSHEET)
  • Sage Wedding Pros – Pricing TEST & Sales Plan (how many weddings to make as a sales quota) ($10)
  • Sage Wedding Pros – Promotional Plan & Goal Sheet – $10
  • Sage Wedding Pros – Accounting 101 ($2)
  • Sage Wedding Pros – Expense Budget
  • Sage Wedding Pros – Expense Budget for start-ups (if applicable)
  • Sage Wedding Pros – Cash Flow Plan ($5)

Have a fantastic holiday season and a prosperous and healthy 2015!

PS – are you thinking of hiring employees in 2015? Make sure to check out The People Plan.

PPS – are you in need of a new business plan or business plan revamp? Make sure to join us at The Simple Plan.