Wedding MBA: A sea of open minds, searching for nuggets

Wedding MBASince early 2008, the business of conferences has been in a funk (that’s a technical term). In the hospitality industry. Generally, when speaking with conference producers, one hears that the norm is being down about 20% from the prior year. Have flat attendance, plus or minus 5%, is considered great.

In the face of these statistics, Wedding MBA, in its second decade, has grown by leaps and bounds. Approximate attendance has tracked a consistent upswing in the last few years.

The conference’s final year in Phoenix, ten years ago, hosted about 350 people. This year, the Las Vegas conference should see about 4000.00

There are many reasons for this consistent climb in attendance, but it does contrast to other hospitality and wedding industry conferences. Industry-specific content on Monday has been a major factor in the last couple of years.

Wedding MBA: ANALYSIS AND OPINION

Moderate conference price, good airline access to Las Vegas, and rock bottom hotel prices are all helpful. A great assortment of national speakers and enticing session topics are of great importance. However, there is still the nasty business of committing 4-5 days away from one’s own business that asks for a strong belief that there is value in making the trip.

I assert the vast majority of attendees, no matter how successful, bring an open mind. They bring the desire to acquire at least one new, significant strategy, a piece of information, or technique that will provide fresh perspective or skill to vault their business to a higher level.

Having a standard of looking for one new bit of knowledge is NOT a matter of low expectations. The more success and experience one has, less presented information is new. Much of it feels recycled and unsatisfying.

Yet, sometimes that recycled idea, with a fresh approach, may set off sparks. An absolutely new technology, strategy, product, service or marketing avenue, properly applied, can open entirely new vistas for a business.

It is a privilege to make presentations to a sea of open minds at Wedding MBA. Along with my fellow presenters, exhibitors, and attendees, I’m certain we can move-the-meter toward immediate wedding prosperity for industry businesses.

If you’re not already registered, change your plans, and be at Wedding MBA. We’ll make room.

FYI: I will be making two short, WedTalk presentations on Wednesday morning, October 4th.

Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Authority

Where are you on the Wedding Marketing food chain?

wedding marketing food chainMany years ago, I read Robert Ringer’s ‘Winning Through Intimidation.’ One of his axioms was the ‘Theory of Reality:’ Essentially, things are as they are, not as you’d like them to be. Failure to acknowledge reality in business is akin to banging your head against the wall. You must accept the present reality and work with it, work around it, or develop other strategies.

Over time, reality changes slowly. When it has finally made a significant evolution, espousing the reality of a decade ago (or more) is incredibly foolish.

Your standing in the wedding marketing food chain is, essentially, your dependence or independence on the referrals, agency bookings, or simple goodwill of others. Living in San Francisco for 25 years, and now in Las Vegas since 2003, and talking with business owners everywhere, I observe a changing landscape. here. The change is more pronounced and is probably the leading indicator of changes, elsewhere. Take heed.

25 or 30 years ago, and even a decade ago, a wedding vendor that did a good job could just work their way onto the referral lists of a number of quality venues, and that was it. Just continue to do a good job and you would get a steady flow of excellent leads, many of which became bookings.

As part of this, you usually give some complimentary service, periodically, for the referring venue. All pretty loose.

Relationships

relationshipsThen, a few ‘situations’ began to appear and started to muddy the waters. The first one was a hotel’s relationship with Audio/Visual companies. It was not obvious to me, then, that this would have an effect on wedding referrals, but it has become a model for the changing scene.

The financial relationship works like this: Audio/Visual Company ABC pitches Hotel XYZ to be their exclusive in-house service. For that privilege, they offer the hotel a 40% commission (give back) on all the rental revenue. So, the customer who spends $100, actually spends $60 on A/V, and the hotel gets $40 (invisibly), as part of the transaction. This is, to coin a phrase, ‘invisible outsourcing.’

Often, to acquire this relationship, the A/V company would give a substantial advance on commissions, such as $25-100,000. This is a windfall for a hotel to deal with an unbudgeted expense. In fact, in some areas of the country, this model has been used for entertainment services, for a while … Read on.

Venues lead the way

Venues, particularly large ones, are always looking to become more efficient and earn revenue from every dollar spent by their clients. Consequently, over time, more venues have sought to create more in-house departments and/or use invisible outsourcing, in the quest of client control, quality control, and profit.

In Las Vegas, this food chain has become extended, for both good and bad reasons. For example, a large destination wedding is booked at a strip hotel. The hotel will act, effectively, as a full-service event management service.

Certain services, such as an in-house bakery, are now proprietary to the hotel. Flowers might be brokered through the hotel and marked up to the client.

When it comes to services such as entertainment or decor, life gets even more interesting, and expensive, for the client. Hotel XYZ tells the wedding client that they work with three, approved, DMCs (Destination Management Companies) to provide services at their property. This is the appearance of choice.

In fact, the three DMCs work with their own circle of approved vendors. Perhaps the client wants a live band. The food chain continues as the DMC calls a Talent Agency, that in turn books a band (from its approved list of entertainers).

Can you spell M-A-R-K-U-P?

The client may be getting a band that is priced at $3-4000, but they are paying $8000 or more, because of all the markups, along the way. You also see $40 centerpieces that sell for $95.

From an ethics point of view, I have no problem with middle-men earning a markup for booking a service; however, when the disparity between value of the service and the price paid by the client because so massive that the client feels ripped off, that’s a problem. One can’t forget the vendor has invariably been asked to discount their service to make these markups possible.

Often, your contact is in the Catering Department; however, these folks rarely make the policy decisions. Those decisions are made even further up the chain of command.

What to do about it: First, accept the reality. That’s right! If you think you are going to change the top-down policies of mega-companies, you’re kidding yourself. We all know no one sells your service as you do; however, you don’t always have that opportunity.

Here are some steps you should consider in re-evaluating your relationship and wedding marketing.

  1. You should reexamine your venue relationships and actively decide which are actually profitable, and which are just churning business, but not much more.
  2. Perhaps you should be dealing with more medium-size and smaller facilities that don’t have such extreme policies.
  3. Look at what you can do to improve selling directly to your prospect, to extricate your business from the food chain, as much as possible.
  4. Band together with other wedding vendors, formally and informally, to support ‘direct selling.’
  5. Scrutinize your website and make it your highest priority for direct contact with prospects. Websites are the pivotal screening tool for prospects, and you can’t afford to have any prospects overlook you.
  6. Take the time to look again at all your options for being in communication, directly with brides, such as wedding publications, direct mailing, bridal shows, and social media. Do not live with old experiences, it is today. Look again, in the present tense.
  7. Cement your relationships with facilities you like working with. Take the time to educate them about the relative quality and features of your service. In order to fully appreciate you, they must fully understand you.

If you represent a facility, and you’re reading this, some of the responsibility is yours.

The vendors servicing your clients are an extension of your venue, whether hired through you or not. At least, that is the way the clients and guests perceive it.

Ask yourself the following:

  1. Are you doing everything you can to understand vendor services, including the strengths and limitations?
  2. Do you really understand the difference between the price and value of various intangible vendor services?
  3. Are you acting in the best interest of your client, and your property, if you’ve reached a ‘lowest bidder mentality’ when subcontracting services?

These are the big questions and answers

Andy Ebon
Wedding Marketing Authority
The Wedding Marketing Blog

Wedding Leads Decline: What gives?

wedding leads decline

Fewer Americans are getting married. On average, the ones getting married are having slightly smaller weddings. Their celebrations are shrinking; however, not necessarily becoming less expensive. Wedding leads are an important part of profitability.

Wedding couples are deferring wedding dates. In 2015, the average American bride was just under 28 years old and the average groom almost 30 (Source: according to the most recent data available from the Census Bureau). A decade earlier, brides were 25; grooms about 27.

Wedding Statistics

wedding leadsThe number of new marriages per 1,000 people (The U.S. marriage rate) has declined for decades. It crashed especially quickly, in 2008 and 2009. However, there’s little evidence people began getting married at a quicker rate, despite the recovery of the economy. The marriage rate is unlikely to improve, significantly in the foreseeable future.

On the world stage, this is no shock. The United States marriage rate must plummet by about one-third to match marriage rates elsewhere. Recent data shows a U.S. marriage rate of 6.9%, compared with an average rate of 4.6% for countries in the European Union.

In the United States, couples are postponing marriage indefinitely, as it is more socially acceptable for couples to cohabitate and parent outside the bonds of marriage.

Year Over Year Statistics

wedding keadsWhile advertising costs continue to rise, it’s important to compare the cost-per-lead from the various sources of traffic. It is reasonable for prices to rise, commensurate with website traffic, but only if cost and activity are rising in tandem.

You will know, immediately if a proper relationship between marketing costs and click-throughs or leads exists.

As a wedding business, your website or storefront on sites such as The Knot or WeddingWire are key factors. Most of all, they should be in proper order. That means current photos, accurate copy, etc.. This goes for local and regional sites as well.

Review your wedding statistics and marketing costs not less than every three months.

Andy Ebon
Wedding Marketing Authority

Creative Coverings Hires Business Development Manager

Creative Coverings
Kelly Dalisa

Sparks, NV Creative Coverings, a national linen rental and sales company, named Kelly Dalisa as Business Development Manager for the Southern California Region.

Kelly joined Creative Coverings with over 15 years’ experience in sales, marketing, event logistics and customer service. “Kelly brings an extensive background in event design & production,” says Samantha Olson, Director of Business Development.

“Kelly will play an integral role in improving our market position by better serving our current customers. And reaching out to new customers to increase our presence in the Southern California region.”

Born and raised in California, Kelly graduated San Jose State University with a BS in Hospitality Management & Business. Kelly is a former business owner-operator of a successful event venue.


Creative Coverings

Creative CoveringsA national Special Event Linen Rental and Sales Company serving the event and event-planning industry. The company provides tablecloths, chair covers, sashes and napkins for rent and sale for weddings and events.

Creative Coverings is located at 87 Coney Island Drive, Sparks Nev. Phone: 775-359-6733, Fax: 775-355-9204. Website.