How many times have you heard, “oh, since it isn’t the wedding season, you must not be working too hard”? However, we know that our reality is something quite different.
With 40% of engagements taking place between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day, it is peak booking season for most of us! It is also a time when we feel that we can more easily carve out chunks of time – more than the minute or two that might feel feasible in the midst of your crazy season – to work on our business, not just in our business.
Lots of New Year resolutions seem to focus on personal makeover items. Yet, this applies to our businesses too – and trust me when I say that every business needs at least a little bit of a makeover each year, be it with changes big or small.
So no matter how good this past year was for you, and no matter how good your bookings are looking for next year, you want to keep your business relevant and up-to-date. As you set aside time to give your business a makeover, below are things that I always encourage my coaching clients to think about:
1) Take time off
Wait, what? Didn’t I just say that now is the time to work on our businesses? Yes, but taking some time off is working on your business since, for so many of us, we are one entity. It is very easy to burn out doing what we do, and if we burn out we are less useful to our couples and our businesses. Put an out-of-office email responder and get out for a few days to recharge, because your business’ health is only as good as yours!
2) Evaluate the year
Can you easily answer the question of how well you did this year? Now, can you easily answer the question of how well you did this year… with supporting numbers and not just a gut feel? Knowing your numbers not only helps you determine how well you did this year, but it also gives you a good idea of how next year is likely to shape up while giving you quantitive support for making decisions to improve your business. Numbers that I recommend knowing – in addition to your gross revenue and net profit – are:
- Number of inquiries and their source
- Number of bookings and their source (yes, your bookings are different from your inquiries!)
- Income and expenses by category/type
- Average cost and average profit per wedding
I also recommend looking at data from the different groups of clients you serve. In my case, I look at weddings vs. elopements, the number of LGBTQ, military or destination couples to analyze how far out I was booked for each to find my own average and busiest booking times.
3) Some strategic thinking
Once you know your numbers, you can start to make some important strategic decisions based on data. Think about, for instance, how many weddings you want/need, how much each of them will cost you to execute, and how you most effectively go about getting them. Doing this will allow you to focus your important resources, both time and money, to their best effect. After all, do you often get in your car and just start driving, hoping to get where you want to go, or, do you plan your route first?
Our businesses should be the same way — we can’t determine our route without having some real idea of what will get us there. Knowing the numbers allows me to start making decisions about where to put my marketing dollars, which referral relationships I should focus more time on, and if there are certain areas of my business to either cut out or put more into.
Knowing how very powerful reviews are when doing a business refresh, you should think about reviews as well.
- Follow-up with couples who haven’t yet left you a review, because the more current your reviews are, the better. I’m using awards as a great excuse to get back in touch to ask for reviews, since reviews from couples up to a year ago help me qualify to win!
- Review your reviews part 1: Are there positive and/or descriptive keywords, phrases, sentiments, etc. that keep appearing and can be used to update marketing materials?
- Review your reviews part 2: If there are criticisms that appear in more than 1 or 2 reviews or something you thought was important but is never being mentioned, you might want to take some time working on business processes and your customer experience.
How much you do in this area just depends on how deep your makeover is going to be. At the least, I recommend doing the following two tasks:
- Review and refresh marketing text and pictures: Remember, the pictures and messaging should represent what you want to do and speak to your ideal couples. And when doing this, make sure you not only update your website and the website listings you created, but also any other places you may be listed, such as your storefront.
- Use your numbers to evaluate what marketing tools are working for you and which ones aren’t: For those that are, would more resources there make them even more successful for you, like upgrading a listing or adding on an additional wedding show?
For those that aren’t, are there changes you can make to improve your return or would those marketing dollars be better used somewhere else? Please don’t forget to factor in your time. “Free” tools don’t mean that your time isn’t going into them – as many of us have learned over the years with social media – so make it all work properly for you and your business.
6) Customer experience
And, of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t talk about one of my favorite business areas, the customer experience. Business makeover time is the perfect time to make changes to your business processes, including your communication tools and messaging–whether it be updating the text in your templated emails or adding questionnaires to your process. I’m going through a lot of this now myself, using this year’s learning experiences to further improve my couples’ experience with me.
Don’t feel overwhelmed with all of the things that you could do in your business makeover. I expect that, based on the age, condition and pain points of your business, you can probably pick at least a few to work on over the next couple of months. Even doing a mini-makeover will help you create a wedding business that is more attractive, smoother-running, more profitable and more enjoyable. And that’s definitely worth the time and attention!
Bethel Nathan is a San Diego based wedding officiant, business coach, and industry speaker. Combining her years of corporate and small business experience with a love for marrying awesome couples, Bethel built Ceremonies by Bethel, a successful and award-winning Officiant business. And although still officiating, Bethel now has another love… helping others turn their passions into successful and sustainable businesses. Learn more at www.elevatebybethel.com.