The High Cost Of Integrity and Independence

Being RightSince returning from three and half weeks of business travel, for speaking, I’ve been in a somewhat contemplative state. I admit to having tuned out most of the ‘debt ceiling debate’ while on the road. Hopping from city to city, and country to country, in major chunks by car and plane, gives you quite the opportunity to be introspective.

At a relatively early age, I think most of us learn that life isn’t fair. Recently, I’ve become more aware of the plummeting value of integrity and ethics. I know… this is a wedding marketing blog. Somewhere along the line, I made the declaration that…

“…marketing is everything that touches the customer.’

In the wedding industry, it has become far more complicated than that. The interactive dance of bride-media-venue-vendor-et al has become a conglomeration of overreaching, on too many occasions.

Code words such as: “my bride” or “my couple” are mindless inferences that a single business has ownership of the bride or wedding couple and their decisions.

When someone says “I recommend them because they always follow our rules.”, it may be code for: “We don’t want anyone’s creativity interfering with our ability to get home in time for Saturday Night Live.”

“I’m not a public service, I have a business to run.” is code for: “I know I’m doing business with a jerk, but if it brings me business, I’m going to employ situational ethics.”

“The percentage we take for referring business is simply the cost of doing business.” is a ham-handed way of saying, “We narrow the field of leads for you, and if the value of business is worth it to, your business will happily pay it.” – Fair enough, but with the absence of transparency (revealing that percentage to the customer), I’m not sure if the policy passes the complete smell test.

I continue to look for fairness or reasonableness from time to time, but mostly find abuse of power, situational ethics, and lack of integrity.

You’d think I’d be used to it by now. Not so… I continually seek to do business with like-minded people.

How about you? Do you think about who (and what companies) you do business with? What bugs you? What makes you happy?

Share YOUR wisdom… and philosophy.

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Andy Ebon
The 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.

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Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Authority
The Wedding Marketing Blog

Pricing Service Strategy: Is it time for a change?

pricing service strategyWedding professionals are often frustrated by brides and grooms don’t appreciate the value of their services. Ultimately, aside from ‘customer service,’ there are three major factors that come into play.

  • Hours of service
  • Price for product/service
  • Quality and Value of the result

One problem is traditional wedding service pricing structure. For example, DJ Entertainer and Photography pricing is quoted within the framework of ‘time in direct service with the client.’

While customary in the wedding industry, linking pricing only to face-to-face service at a wedding, or wedding and reception, drastically understates the total service time. 

A wedding couple doesn’t know how many hours it takes to prepare custom introductions, tracking drown obscure music, travel or a host of other event-specific tasks. It’s hard for the couple to understand why the price is so high (in their eyes). Hours of work at a wedding and reception are a specific measure of your effort; however, grossly incomplete. The result is more subjective. Hours of performance do not equal the value of your work.

It is not enough to show a prospect video clips of successful events and expect an instant understanding degree of difficulty. All special events have their own degree of difficulty. It’s unreasonable for your prospect to know that, going in.

If one doesn’t explain situational differences in equipment, lighting, skill level, etc., you are just hoping the prospect figures it out. Likely an unreasonable expectation.

A disc jockey, photographer, or videography service (among others) usually prices itself for a specific number of  performance hours. Travel and set up are typically not mentioned not in discussion or noted in an agreement (unless the event is outside the local market area).

What effect might occur if proposals and agreements included a ‘simple informational statement’ indicating a summary of unseen work, associated with your event service, not occurring during the reception time frame?

Effective service implementation, meeting or exceeding client expectations, includes explaining the total scope of your service, at some level.

  • Maybe this approach should become an industry-wide standard for wedding marketers?
  • What would change in the process of selling if every prospect understood you total measure of service, and its impact on a successful outcome?

I know, I’m turning wedding industry pricing and selling approach on its ear. Maybe it’s time to do that.

Andy Ebon - wedding marketing expert

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