10 TIPS FOR SUCCESSFULLY BREAKING INTO THE WEDDING INDUSTRY
Photos by Bespoke Bride
I felt a little uncomfortable writing today’s post as I wasn’t sure if I would class myself as having enough experience or knowledge to give advice on how to ‘break into the wedding industry’. I am by no means an expert and although our blog is now 3 years old I would say we are still very much in the learning phase, in fact I don’t think we will ever stop learning? I am sure many owners of businesses, big or small, will agree that a lot of owning a successful company is to keep acquiring knowledge on your industry. Things change all the time and so it is vital that you are open to new ideas and not afraid to try something new in order to keep up with this ever changing, crazy world!
So what spurred me to write today’s post? Well, to our surprise over the past few months we have received a lot of enquiries from businesses, from fledgling to much more accomplished, looking to break into a new industry. Questions have ranged from who they should network with? What events they should go to and How should they market their product?
As I said before I am not an expert and the only advice I can offer is based on personal experience, so if you are reading this and think you can offer even more help, then hop on down to the comments section and feel free to share your pearls of wisdom. After all that is what this blog is here for. Now lets get started!
1. Get Some Experience
This is more for the newbies but I suppose this could also apply to those more established businesses looking to break into a completely different sector? For example if you are a fledgling photographer looking to go pro, why not enquire with a couple of photographers about second shooting, not only will this help build up your portfolio but you will pick up some great hints and tips from the pro’s that you might not have learnt anywhere else, not forgetting to mention making some super valuable connections. If on the other hand you already own a well established company but are thinking of adding wedding packages to your repertoire, then make sure you do your research first. Is there a real need for you in this market? Will you have the extra time, staff, money needed to take on extra work? You might even want to offer your services to a friend for a trial run (the wedding industry isn’t for everyone!) or maybe offer a discounted rate whilst you build up a bigger portfolio in that particular niche.
2. Define Your Brand
This is something we are particularly passionate about. Your brand is so important for attracting the type of potential customer that you would like to work with. For example when considering our branding, we chose bright colours,geometric shapes and bold fonts. Why? Well, first we wanted our brand to reflect our personalities and second we wanted to attract the more modern couple, those that weren’t afraid to stand out and be different, those looking to make a statement.
Not to blow our own trumpets or anything, but I think we did pretty darn good job too, as we have achieved exactly what we wanted!
3. Get to Grips with Social Media
Personally I think every business should have at least a Facebook page? I know there may be tonnes of business out there without one and they might be doing perfectly fine with the clientele they have and that is ace, but in order to get new clients and spread the word I really feel that your business needs to be on Facebook. Personally I don’t think it is difficult to set up and it requires minimal input, so even the busiest person can keep it up to date. Ideally I would look at posting at least 2-3 times a week if you can manage it, if not, just try to be consistent and use it to network when you have time, then you won’t go far wrong. If you are already a well established business consider setting up a wedding specific page that promotes the services you offer for this particular niche.
Again if you have time, I would suggest Twitter being the next platform you log into. I can honestly say that we have made some of the best business connections through this platform and I would highly recommend it for building relationships with others in your industry. It is especially good for being helpful so Twitter gets a big thumbs up from us!
Another note I would like to make on social media, which I have mentioned before, is to make sure you are keeping it professional at all times. I not only speak for myself when I say I can’t stand to see business pages slagging off other businesses, it gives me a bad impression immediately and I am scared to build a relationship with them, in fear I will one day be the subject of their latest rant. It is a huge no no!
If you really are ready to go full steam ahead with social media other platforms you might want to get involved with are Pinterest, Instagram and Google +, however I would make sure I was at least a master of one before I started on another. There is nothing worse than seeing a bunch of social media platforms, with some half arsed attempts.
4. Build a Portfolio
I don’t know about you but I will never book or order anything without seeing it first. So why would booking for a wedding be any different? Couples want to know they are getting value for money, so they will want to see examples of your previous work before they consider hiring you. This is where a portfolio comes in, some businesses display this on their website whilst others will have good old fashioned hard copy. If you are a fledgling business this might prove to be a little problematic but this is where experience comes in handy. Try to get involved with as many projects as you possibly can? Talk to other newbie suppliers about setting up a styled shoot, this will be a great way of you all showcasing your skills without any added pressure and who knows, if it turns out to be successful you could also get it featured on a blog and then you will have a shiny ‘featured on’ badge to display on your website.
5. Create a Website
Personally I think wedding space is hugely driven by vision. For example, most couples wouldn’t book a venue without seeing it first, they wouldn’t book a photographer without seeing a portfolio and they wouldn’t book a band without seeing them in action. First impressions are crucial and in a time when everything is so easily accessible it is important to have a good quality website up and running for when you launch. You want clients to be able to find you as quick as possible, you want to catch their eye, draw them in and make them want to know more about you.You will also want to include your portfolio or a gallery of images here to show off some of your best work – this really could be the difference between getting that booking and not.
If you are already a well established business looking to break into the wedding industry, again I would consider setting up a specific page on your website dedicated to you wedding packages, clearly displaying the services you offer, along with a gallery and even some customer reviews, if you have them.
6. Don’t Underestimate the power of Blogs!
Easy for me to say, I know, but I am seriously impressed by the role blogs now play in advertising. Ten years ago, marketing was hugely driven by large glossy magazines charging hundreds, even thousands, for advertising space, which meant that small independent businesses rarely got a look in. With such a huge range of blogs now in existence, it is possible to find one that matches your niche, your style and even your budget. More impressive is how owners of blogs are now becoming personally associated with their brand. This is great for independent businesses and potential clients alike, as bloggers are now only likely to be associated with those brands that have a good reputation, meaning clients are far more likely to trust a recommendation from a blogger.
On the subject of blogs you might also want to consider starting one for yourself. Not only is this great for sharing your work with potential customers, it gives clients a little insight into how you work, what goes on behind the scenes and helps others get to know you. Again great for building potential relationships with customers and other business suppliers. You can also post your blog posts to your facebook page to engage with fans there too.
With all this time spent being a keyboard warrior, tackling social media, websites and blogs as well as running your business, I couldn’t possibly be suggesting that you also take time out to go out and physically meet people, in the flesh could I? Well, I’m afraid I am but it really it isn’t as scary as it seems! Great places to start are wedding fairs – do your research and try to attend those that best suit you and your type of business, preferably one that is also likely to attract your type of clientele. You might also want to attend social events like tweet ups and other industry shows. If you are having a hard time finding out about them, then reach out to wedding specific PR companies and enquire about any events in your field that might be happening. I would also suggest that you pick a few blogs to read regularly as very often they will be the first to let you know about an upcoming industry events that might be right up your street.
I know it can sometimes be scary going along to these things alone but don’t ever let that hold you back, you can always invite someone along for support, no one is going to judge you, we all need a hand to hold from time to time.
8. Make Friends (Real Friends!)
So I have told you to network and now I am telling you to make friends, I don’t ask much do I? When we first started networking, every face was a potential client or collab, we become so immersed in getting our business out there, that we forgot to have fun with it, which looking back now was silly. Once we took off our business heads we began to see people rather than potential and for us that was a big wake up call. We are now proud to call some of the best in the industry our friends and that has been extremely valuable. With these we can share our experiences – good or bad, we can ask each other for sound business advice when it is needed and we have been known to share a glass of wine or two together (ok three, oh ok a bottle!) when we have needed just to let our hair down. Self employment can be lonely whatever the industry so it really is amazing to have the support of friends who know exactly what you are going through. So go on find a chum!
9. Don’t Ever Stop Learning!
Don’t ever think you have learnt all there is know about your industry because I can guarantee you 9 times out of 1o you haven’t. Weddings, trends and people change quickly and it is important that you are able to keep up if your are going to be successful at what you do. There are always courses available for you to attend that not only provide valuable information, but will also give you access to some of the very best professionals in the industry. Whether your business interests lies in blogging, styling or photography etc, I would suggest attending even just one a year to keep you updated with the what’s going on in your industry and who is in it.
Finally, you might remember that I mentioned earlier about collaborating with other industry suppliers on a styled shoot. If you are a newbie and have no idea what I am talking about then you might want to to take a look at some of the styled shoots we have featured here to get an idea. The basic jist is that wedding suppliers come together to create something really unique, which can often be interpreted for a wedding, in order to showcase their styles and talents. Personally I think styled shoots are an amazing way of suppliers being able to show off what they do and get creative in an industry that can sometimes be a little samey and they are especially great for portfolio building. If you are looking to get involved in something like this, have a chat with people at events and fairs and put a call out on Twitter asking for like minded suppliers to get involved. You never know where it might lead…
I hope our journey into the ‘wedding industry’ has helped those of you that have emailed over the past few months and I look forward to seeing where your own journeys take you in 2015!