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.


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 Sales Fable of Goldie-Bride and the 13 DJ-Bears

mixed-signalsOnce upon a time there was a bride named Goldie. She had met her prince charming and couldn’t wait to start the process of planning her wedding. She stopped at a bookstore and came home with an armload of wedding magazines. Goldie was inspired.

Goldie set her DVR and recorded many wedding shows. There were shows about cakes, shows about brides-behaving-badly, shows about wedding dresses, and shows about planning the almost-perfect wedding… including one with a white knight named David Tutera who rides in on his trusty steed, Marky Mark (named after his favorite actor), to save the day from incredibly amateur wedding planning. Goldie drank gallons of coffee and watched the wedding shows until the wee hours of the morning. Goldie was jittery… and further inspired.

Goldie took her inspiration to the internet where she registered at every wedding website known to humanity… local sites, regional sites, and national sites. She read many message board postings of incredibly uninformed and self-centered brides, most of whom had not yet married, and therefore knew little of what they spoke. Nevertheless, having logged dozens of hours, swimming in information and data, Goldie was convinced she was becoming a wedding expert. She now forecast a career as a wedding planner, as soon as she completed her own wedding.

Like a college student, cramming for final exams, Goldie‘s head was ready to explode. She had consumed seemingly unlimited amounts of information, but hadn’t made one decision. Poor Goldie. A bridal show… that would be the answer. She could meet many wedding professionals, under one roof, on one day. Surely this would make decision making easier. Go Goldie, Go!!

disc jockey bearGoldie started with wedding disc jockeys, knowing how important they would be in the success of her reception. She was quite excited after meeting the first couple of DJ’s. And then, at each aisle, it seemed, there was yet another disc jockey. They were all dressed in bear suits and had matching accessories from a local tuxedo store.

Goldie learned a new word… commodity.

And with each successive encounter she filled her wedding basket with a treasure trove of CHOICES. Choices of music, disc jockeys, wedding entertainment directors, uplighting, dance floor lighting, gobos, party motivators, more equipment, less equipment, CDs and vinyl records. Goldie’s eyes started to spin like a cartoon character that had been conked on the head with a frying pan. Poor Goldie…

Goldie was no longer inspired. She was confused.

Goldie wanted fewer choices.

There weren’t too many bears… uhh, DJs. Though each of them offered too many choices. Goldie’s head was splitting with options. She couldn’t make one decision, until she met the 13th bear. That bear offered a single choice, an appointment.

“I’m sure you’ve met many other bears and DJ’s, today. I know we all have a lot to offer. Perhaps it would be easier if you came to our office, brought your fiancé, and enjoyed some porridge. Then we could answer all your questions without your head exploding. Would afternoon or evening be better?”

bear-coupleAnd so, Goldie deferred her decision until she met with the knowledgable and professional 13th DJ-Bear. Goldie was able to clear her head, at least for a little while, and decided to hire this particular bear to entertain at her wedding.

Goldie was no longer inspired. She was content and relieved.

As she made her way around the bridal show floor, Goldie made appointments with other wedding professionals who understood the wisdom of how to work a bridal show.

Morale: Disc jockey wedding bears and other wedding professional bears that make appointments at wedding shows, make more sales. Any other strategy would be… well, unbearable.

Andy Ebon - signature



Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Authority
The Wedding Marketing Blog

Kate Patay, CPCE Wins CIC Pacesetter Award

Convention Industry CouncilSparks, NV – Creative Coverings, a Nevada-based, national linen rental and sales company, is pleased to announce Kate Patay, CPCE, Executive Director of Sales & Marketing, has received the distinguished Pacesetter Award from the Convention Industry Council. This award is given to emerging leaders who are making a difference within the events and convention industry.

Kate Patay, CPCEKate Patay joined Creative Coverings in 2009 with experience in F&B design, hotel/casino catering sales, special events and convention services. In her current role, Kate oversees the growth of the rental and sales division, as well as brand integrity. Working closely with the design team to stay ahead of fashion and décor trends has contributed to the rapid and successful growth of the company.

“We are thrilled to see Kate recognized by the Convention Industry Council.” says Bonnie Fedchock, CAE, and Executive Director of the National Association for Catering and Events; “She is a true industry professional, always supporting her colleagues through education, training, and insight. Kate excels as a professional, volunteer and leader. She will continue to do amazing work in the industry.”

Creative CoveringsAs Executive Director of Sales & Marketing, Kate helps represent Creative Coverings as the NACE National Secretary/Treasurer, a NACE National Business Partner and Social Media & Trend Expert. She is an active member of ISES, ICA, ACCP, ARA, EPA, and is on the advisory board of The Solace Tree. She has also been a featured educational speaker at numerous conventions & organizational meetings around the country.

The Convention Industry Council will honor Kate during the Hall of Leaders & Pacesetter Awards Celebration on October 13th in Las Vegas, Nevada. For more information about CIC please visit www.conventionindustry.org.

The Wedding Marketing Blog offers its highest praise and congratulations to Kate Patay, CPCE, and her sponsoring organization for this honor, NACE.

Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Authority
The Wedding Marketing Blog

Bridal Show Exhibiting

Bridal Show ExhibitingWedding businesses seem to experience recurring cases of amnesia, at least twice annually. Regardless of the effectiveness of exhibiting in a bridal show, many companies review the buying decision, every time.  Other businesses just renew for the next series of shows, without missing a beat.

Describing a Successful Wedding Show

Bridal show staff members have an impossible job. Planning the show, selling exhibitor space, developing sponsorship participation, continually improving the event, itself, with new wrinkles, and attracting solid attendance from brides, grooms, and their entourage members.

As part of their show-day duties, members of staff will circulate throughout the show floor and check in on exhibitors to make certain everything is to their liking and see if they have any immediate needs or issues. This proactive work can head off bigger problems often spoken about (for the first time) AFTER the show. Seeking brush fires and putting them out is good show management protocol.

And how’s the show going for you, so far?

When asking this question to 100 exhibitors, a show producer will get a variety of answers. Most responses are of little value. The value is in showing genuine concern for the perceived success at the show.

As a past exhibitor, I would bristle at the question. Particularly, if the show staffer was accompanied by a clipboard and contract for the next show (usually accompanied by a discount). My standard response was: “It’s too early to tell. Take to me 30-60 days.”

My brusque response was based on the notion that primary show accomplishments are measured by the number of appointments booked. Some businesses will book business, at the show, and that’s fine. But they are the exception.

Other than day-of-show sales, the main goals should be:

  • Booking appointments
  • Appointments – Utilizing email, snail mail, and telemarketing – POST SHOW – to confirm existing appointments and book new appointments
  • Reinforcing company branding within the local wedding market
  • Showcase new services, staff

How to Shoot Yourself in the Foot

Perhaps the most frustrating discussion a bridal show producer can have with an exhibitor who elects to take part in the next show because ‘We did so well from the last show, we thought we’d sit out and see what happens.’

The show producer will try to talk the exhibitor out of taking a sabbatical for a variety of reasons, both for the benefit of their customer (you) and themselves.

Suffering from Success

Bridal Show ExhibitingSuffering from Success is an Ebonism describing a state of overwhelm from too many inquiries or bookings. It has been my experience, both personally and by observation that suffering from success is a temporary condition, often resulting in excessive optimism.

Circumstances change quickly. Referral relationships can change overnight. People can relocate, get fired, or transfer in the blink of an eye. You can fall out of favor with a peer by your own hand or an employee gaffe. It can and does happen. Believing you are somehow immune is blue sky optimism.

Wedding Shows are a lead source, Year Round

Virtually all show websites provide leads to their exhibitors, both from the live events and sign-ups on websites. Sadly, advertisers/exhibitors rarely take advantage of this ongoing influx of prospects. There are different ‘wedding seasons’ (as far as months when people get married), but engagements occur every month of the year.

Yes it’s true the most engagements happen Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve’. The next largest engagement period is around Valentine’s Day. If you limit your wedding marketing activity to those time frames, you are shorting yourself.

Out of Sight, Out of Mind

In our burgeoning internet and social media world, many wedding professionals have scaled back their face-to-face wedding marketing and networking; either unwittingly or by choice. Your absence from wedding shows speaks more loudly than your presence.

Suffering from Success: Part 2

Other than becoming more efficient in handling business, there are other options at your disposal.

  • Expanding your business
  • Developing improved strategic alliances with friendly competitors
  • Enhancing your target audience – including RAISING PRICES

The pricing test

If you are effectively sold out at the appropriate times on your calendar, then ask yourself this,

“Am I turning away any business for the stated reason of ‘being too expensive’?”

If the answer is NO… or sometimes, but I’m able to fill those dates with then next prospect, THEN, you should consider raising your prices. It’s a step to consider thoughtfully.

Any price increase, without expanding capacity, is money headed right for your bottom line.

Saturdays Sold Out through June 13th

At the next wedding show, why not declare your success by letting wedding couples and wedding professionals about how solid your company is. It will be a motivator for wedding couples and professionals.

My Recommendations

Don’t ever sit on the sidelines to ‘see what happens’ if you don’t exhibit ‘this time’. Don’t be Passive! Proactively build on your success and direct your company to scale even greater heights.

Andy Ebon

Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Authority