The event industry will come roaring back in Spring 2021. So I wanted to share modern, useful marketing tips for wedding planners that will actually work and won’t take you a ton of time.
Now, I get it. Really, I do. Because I do the marketing for ThymeBase, amongst a million other tasks. And the one thing about most marketing tips out there is that they never seem to consider you. They’re always idealistic, require about 25 hours a day, and don’t even seem to have a clear pay-off. So when I sat down to write these marketing tips for 2021, I wanted to share the types of activities I’d actually do myself.
Just to be thorough, I did a quick Google search for small business marketing tips. The tops results were junk and consisted of such gems as “have a website” or “do social media.” What utter dreck. Frankly, if your marketing strategy isn’t measurable, doesn’t have a clear goal, and doesn’t state what a “win” looks like, then it ain’t marketing – it’s a waste of time.
The thing about most marketing tips for wedding planners (and in general) is that they’re not practical. The advice never seems to consider that you have a family, clients, dinner plans, or need to sleep from time to time. So I’ll try to avoid that. Everything I’ll advise should be achievable in minutes each week, rather than hours each day.
One more little note; I wrote these tips for wedding planners specifically, and not event planners. Why? Two reasons. First, while there are plenty of similarities, wedding planners have very different clients to corporate planners. Second, I take my own advice. Search Engine Optimization works, and I want to rank for this keyword. I’ll explain more about this when we get there.
There are a few things to discuss before we get into the practical tips. Bear with me as I set the stage. We’ll get to the tips eventually.
Why Five Minute Marketing Tips For Wedding Planners
Small business marketing advice sucks because it assumes you’ve got infinite time and energy. It’s written by marketers, not by busy entrepreneurs. So when it comes to my own work, I try to figure out how to build a consistent, achievable marketing routine rather than aim high and achieve sweet bugger all.
I absolutely hate marketing advice I’ll never actually take to heart. You know, the advice that requires you to understand five kinds of specialized software, a degree in data analytics, and be a graphic designer. Nope, nope and nope.
I’ve spoken to many event professionals who say, “I wish I spent more time marketing.” But when asked why they don’t, well, it’s because they see marketing as a huge undertaking. And that’s why certain paid advertising rackets do so well. They tell you that if you just spend $1300 on an advertisement in this magazine or that radio station, you’ll reach 50,000 people. And you’re stressed, overworked, and it sounds like a dream. The problem is that those 50,000 people aren’t engaged, they tune out the ads and are not your target market anyway. So we’ll avoid that too.
See where I’m going? This article is about quick, doable, and (mostly) free marketing tips for wedding planners.
Understanding Your Customer Journey In Two Questions
Terms of art like “customer journey” are annoying. I know, and I apologize. But in the next section, I’m going to recommend you do only one marketing activity at a time. To decide which action is the best one, you need to plot out how your clients behave. Don’t worry, I’ll keep it brief.
Personally, I use a question framework. I write down the answers to these questions. I’ll tailor it to wedding planners. So let’s get into it:
Question 1: What do potential clients do when they realize how stressful planning a wedding is?
This isn’t universal, and couples might behave differently in New York City from Bangor, Maine. But you’re trying to understand the journey your clients take. Do they call a recently-married friend? Do they go online to a Reddit group? Or do they use Google to search for a wedding planner and land on the Wedding Wire? Knowing this will allow you to focus your energy on being visible when your clients need to see you.
Don’t make this up – ask your past clients what they did. Marketing is way more manageable when you know how your clients behave before you ever meet them.
Question 2: What can I do to insert myself into this journey?
If potential clients call a friend, you’ll know that referral marketing is the best bet. However, if they’re inveterate Googlers, you’ll invest your time in search engine optimization. If clients in your area start with the photographer, then you’ll need to schmooze with photographers. See? Pretty simple, but it’s all about simplifying your marketing efforts.
Do Only One Thing
Okay, here’s the first marketing tip for wedding planners: do one thing. And do it consistently, and do it well. Despite what you might think, marketing works like this: slowly, slowly, then all at once. Or, to put it another way, all overnight successes take years to achieve.
The best way to win at your marketing in 2021 is to start right now. Choose one marketing strategy, and do it consistently, over time. Then, by the time the event industry recovers, and couples get ready for those big parties, you’ll be light years ahead of the competition. Marketing for wedding planners in 2020 is all about positioning yourself for a big 2021.
Then there’s the whole “do it well” bit. Practice makes perfect applies to marketing. When you start out with any new initiative, you’ll be mediocre at best. Use 2020 to get real good at whatever marketing tips for wedding planners you decide will work for your business.
And if I haven’t convinced you yet, how’s this. It’s way easier to do one marketing activity than ten. So, choose one marketing strategy and wear it out.
Marketing Tips For Wedding Planners: Things To Not Do
Last week, I spoke to a wedding planner in Pacific Northwest who shared a marketing horror story. Just as she was starting her wedding planning business, she talked herself into paying for an ad in a magazine. Sure, it had a large readership, which served to inflate the cost of the ad. But guess how many clients she got from it? None. Now, she gets all of her clients from one channel – the Knot.
And yes, the Knot is a paid marketing channel, but the magazine ad cost almost a year’s fees in the Knot. So learn from that mistake. Don’t pay for offline ads.
Don’t pay for ads at all, in fact. I mean it. No Google Ads, no Facebook Ads, and no Insta ads. That’s not to say they don’t work, they can. But they take a tremendous amount of time to get right. Considering how crappy 2020 has been for the event industry, let’s focus on lower-cost, higher-reward marketing channels in 2021.
Marketing Tips For Wedding Planners: Set A Solid Foundation
I was just reading about a photographer’s marketing experience. She wrote that 80% of leads used her contact form on her website, even though they found her on The Knot. So, you’ll need to make sure your website looks good. And that’s what I mean by a foundation.
Marketing is about getting potential clients into your sales funnel (blech, I hate that term, but let’s go with it for now.) And often, the first thing that clients see is your website. Make sure your website is up-to-date, showcases your work well, and has client testimonials.
Instagram is the next place potential clients will look. So your Insta profile should be active and contains a mix of lovely wedding images and pictures about you. Because clients hire the person as much as they hire the skills.
Make sure your website is mobile-friendly too. Your clients are likely on their mobile devices and will expect a functional website.
And lastly, check that your contact form works. You’ll want to check it regularly, as in weekly. Trust me. Especially if your website is built on WordPress. A simple theme update can create bugs with everything else, including your contact form. And the client will never know if their message doesn’t reach you. They’ll assume you’re a jerk who doesn’t respond to inquiries.
Marketing Channel 1: Listings
You know this channel already, I’m sure. No one needs to tell wedding planners that The Knot, Wedding Wire, and others are valid sources of client leads. But let’s lean into this as a marketing strategy in and of itself. Because doing listings well can be a long term undertaking, with excellent results.
According to Kyle Goldy, the success of listings depends on your region, and your price point. And he’s correct about that. Remember how we discussed the customer journey? Well, if your clients use The Knot, but not Yelp, then you should invest your energy in building your presence where your customers search for your services. Price point matters if you’re paying the $150 and up for a premier listing. You want to make sure you actually get a return on your spend. But let’s look at some popular listings sites:
Then you have the non-wedding specific listing sites:
There are many, many more listings websites, bridal, wedding focused, or for small businesses. But most of them don’t have the reach, audience, and size, but you may want to get on them nonetheless. There are destination wedding listing sites, LGBT-focused listings, state-centric listings (like this one), and other niches.
Now, here’s my advice. Get on every single listing you can find. It’s great for your search engine optimization. But you still want to choose one to three primary listing sites.
On your primary listing sites, you want to work your butt off to get reviews, as many as possible. Update your photographs regularly too. You’ll also want to put time and energy into crafting the right text for these listings, describing your specialties, showing your personality, and building a real “storefront.”
Reviews Will Make All The Difference
It’s not only about ensuring a perfect 5-star rating. The volume of reviews matters when it comes to ranking your wedding business. I’ve analyzed several listing websites. In many cases (not all), their ranking appears to be based on ranking multiplied by the number of reviews. Thus someone with a 4-star average, and twenty reviews, will outperform someone with 5-stars but only 12 reviews.
That’s why you need to choose one main listing – that’s where you’ll direct your clients (and past clients) to leave their review. Odds are you can’t get them to review you on every site. So pick one.
If I had to make a hard choice, I’d choose one of the XO Groups sites like The Knot or WeddingWire or Google My Business. Google takes reviews seriously. If you put energy into your Google My Business listing and have plenty of reviews, you’ll also crush the search engine results in your area. Read Google My Business For Event Planners for more info on this.
Get Your Listings Game Ready for 2021
If you haven’t already, it’s time to start reaching out to past clients. Ask, beg, plead, and, if need be, coerce them to review you on your listing site of choice. And if you spend 5 minutes a day soliciting reviews over the next 6 months, you’ll hit 2021 ready to rock.
And sure, you could pay for a premier spot on those sites, and that’s cool. But even so, your reviews will prove to potential clients that you deserve the top spot, even if you’re paying for it.
Marketing Channel 2: Search Engine Optimization
I absolutely love search engine optimization (SEO). And I have plenty of SEO-centric marketing tips for wedding planners. In fact, I’ve written about it all before. Read Google Search for Event Planners to learn more.
Funnily enough, listings are a massive part of search engine marketing, so you might consider search engine optimization a sort of stage 2 strategy. But it will work just fine as your primary, and first marketing channel going into 2021.
Apart from listings, there are two other areas of search engine optimization that will pay off. And in keeping with the theme, you can incrementally make improvements over time. But let’s briefly cover how listings play into SEO.
Yelp, The Knot, PartySlate, etc., all have excellent SEO – the kind of SEO that takes years to build up. So when you’re listed on their site as a “Portland Wedding Planner,” then that’s what will show when someone types that query into their Google search bar. While it won’t be your business’ website that ranks, it’s still you.
Sure, the big sites like Yelp will rule the search engine roost, but, especially on mobile, Google does tip the scales toward local businesses. Which is why Google must know you’re a local business. So sign up for a Google My Business account and then do some on-page SEO.
Search Engine Optimization begins at home. At your homepage, to be precise. At it’s most basic, search engine optimization is about making sure that Google grasps the content of your website. And much of on-page SEO is about teaching Google what it is you do.
I strongly recommend you read 4 Steps To Great On-Page SEO for Event Planners for the more advanced tips on on-page SEO. But I’ll go over the absolute minimum here.
First, make sure that your headings describe what you are, not who you are. The most prominent title on your website should be “Portland’s Top Wedding Planner,” or something like that. Google assumes that if it’s in a heading, it’s important.
When it comes to the text on your site, you’ll want to use the keywords a few times. So mention on every page that you’re a wedding planner that services Portland. Synonyms are fine too. But make sure that you’re repeating yourself a little bit (provided it doesn’t ruin your writing quality).
In the article I linked a couple paragraphs above, I share a few more on-page SEO tips that are crucial. The best reason to tackle this stuff is that it’s once and done. There’s very little upkeep, but it pays off in the longterm all the same.
Blogging for SEO
Google thrives on content. So if there was ever a reason to write more for your blog, it’s for search engine optimization. It works like this. You’re a wedding planner serving a specific area. Again, let’s use Portland. Say, each week, you post articles describing the “five best venues for weddings in Portland,” or “why Fall is the best season for weddings in Portland.” Over time, Google recognizes you as the authority on weddings in Portland. And you’ll rank higher.
The key here is the frequency and keyword optimization. You’ll need to post to your blog regularly and consistently. And your subjects will have to be highly relevant to your customers. That’s easy, though. Just think of the questions your clients typically ask. Then answer that in an article.
If your clients turn to Google as their primary source of finding vendors, you’re laying the groundwork to be seen. So if you believe that SEO if your best bet for getting clients in 2021, then your path is clear. Nail that on-page SEO, and get blogging.
Marketing Channel 3: Referral Marketing
Referrals are one of my favorite marketing channels. It’s low-cost, high-conversion, and a genuine pleasure. Wikipedia describes it as:
Referral marketing is the method of promoting products or services to new customers through referrals, usually word of mouth. Such referrals often happen spontaneously, but businesses can influence this through appropriate strategies.
And when it comes to marketing tips for wedding planners, we’re talking two types of referrals (or maybe, three). There’s the past-client referral, then referrals from other vendors. Depending on your personal outlook, you might consider venue referrals as their own category. I do. Driving those venue referrals has a slightly different process, and I believe it to be a unique sub-category.
“Indirect experience—that is, hearing about other people’s experience—is actually much better than direct experience in many ways.”George Silverman, The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Overall, referral marketing is word-of-mouth marketing. But that doesn’t mean you need to leave it to chance. You can, with a little regular effort, bolster your referrals. Let’s take each category in turn.
Client referrals are fantastic, but perhaps counterintuitively, they’re the least powerful source of new business. Luckily, it’s also the most accessible type of referral to nurture. It won’t take too much effort.
In most communities, or circles of friends, weddings happen around the same age. While that differs from circle to circle, it does mean that each couple you work with will likely know a few other couples getting hitched soon.
So during the planning phase, while you’re working with a client, don’t be bashful. Ask for a referral. But don’t do it all willy-nilly. You can be strategic and get more out of it.
Time The Referral
Timing the referral ask is essential. It’s best to ask for a referral at the right time when the client is feeling wowed. Every wedding planner has heard a client say something like, “Oh my gosh, I don’t know how I could have done this without you.” That’s your cue. Ask them if they have any friends who you could help too.
And remember, frame the request from their perspective. It’s not about the client bringing you more business, but about how you can help their friends.
Craft A Referral Process
If your clients do know people who are getting married, ask for an intro. Don’t leave it up to the client, who will likely forget. Getting a warm email intro will allow you to manage the process and ensure you’re doing it well.
For example, once you have the email of the referred potential client, send them a one-page, branded PDF of pre-wedding tips. This page will remind them of the many things they’re probably forgetting to do and will be super helpful. But it will also highlight how you can help with all of that stuff.
Then follow up with an offer to talk about their wedding. See where I’m going with this? You’re turning a passive idea of word-of-mouth referrals into a repeatable, manageable, and measurable sales process.
And it’s easy! We’re talking a couple of hours designing some shareable materials, and a handful of emails. And if you use a CRM, or an email marketing tool like MailChimp or Mad Mimi, you can even automate a lot of this.
Referral Marketing For Wedding Planners in 2021
And while this is all good during a regular year, looking to 2021 changes things slightly. Many DIY Brides have seen their weddings postponed, canceled, or in limbo. They’re desperate for guidance. Consider reaching out to past clients (and present clients waiting for 2021), and ask if they know anyone who is struggling with COVID-related event problems.
With the warm intro, you could send a tip-sheet that focuses on contracts, postponements, and rescheduling tips. Again, you’re creating a funnel for potential clients and showing them how complicated navigating everything is. And let them know you’re available to help.
Vendor referrals are a little different but can be very, very profitable. It’s about volume. Photographers, caterers, and florists do a large number of events each month. My marketing tip is to build a network of vendors who listen for these words: “Oh my gosh, I’m so overwhelmed with everything right now.” That should trigger the vendor to make the warm intro to you, to help coach, advise, and plan.
Again, have material ready to share. But here’s where it gets more complicated (just a little).
As you know, some vendors enter the wedding planning process earlier than others. Getting an intro from a photographer (often the first person a couple talks to) at the 12-month mark requires a different sales process to an intro from the hairstylist one month out.
So your sales process needs to be flexible. With the early intros, your material and advice are about the lengthy planning period, the event design opportunities, the costs, and contracts. Closer to the day, it’s all about coordination, enjoying the party, and ensuring everything run smoothly.
Asking For Vendor Referrals
But how do you get more vendor referrals? There’s no clear answer here because you know your local wedding community better than I can ever. And yet, there are some basics of human nature that are worth considering.
First, it’s about value. A photographer wants the couple’s event to be perfect too. So help them help their clients. If you’re going to help make an event portfolio-worthy, then a photographer is more likely to refer you. The same goes for the florist etc.
So talk to your vendors about it. Ask what you can do for them, sure. But more importantly, ask them what you can do for their clients. Then do it. And they’ll make those referrals.
The venue is often the first “vendor” that a newly engaged couple books. And as such, they’re in the best position to make referrals. Many venues actually have a coordinator on staff or an event planner that “manages” the planning process.
But really it’s about relationship building over time. Now, I’m sure that every venue you’ve worked loved you. But did you stay in touch? Like all relationships, it requires nurturing. So when you leave the site after an event, make sure to follow up with the venue coordinator afterward. Check-in to see how the event went from their perspective. They’ll appreciate it.
But looking forward to 2021, get in touch with venues. Ask if they need help with clients struggling to reschedule. Don’t be shy. If you don’t ask, you won’t get anything!
For more on the venue-planner relationship, read, Planner & Venue Relationship: What Venues Wish Event Planners Knew.
Marketing Channel 4: Social Media
Sure, any marketing tips for wedding planners would have to include social media, right? And yes, this is about social media. But no, it’s not about posting pretty pictures on Instagram. I figure you already know how to do that. But frequent posting on Instagram isn’t a marketing tip to grow your business in 2021. I’m talking about more interactive channels – groups and forums.
In many locales, you’ll have a local forum. It might be wedding-centric, but it might not. It doesn’t necessarily matter. If it’s a forum, you can start discussions. So consider starting a wedding board discussion. Then you’ll be a resource to the local community. And you’re not only sharing advice, but you’re highlighting your expertise.
I’d wager that for every town, there’s a Facebook group for brides and weddings. If there isn’t, start one. Then get active. Even if there isn’t much activity, posting a few times a week (which takes mere minutes), will give a sense of action. Over time, it will build, and you’ll get in front of people who need your advice when it matters most.
Don’t skip Reddit, either. There might be a subreddit for your town. Again, if there isn’t, consider starting one. Reddit’s user base is massive and highly engaged. Over time it will likely grow, and it doesn’t take much nurturing. The odd post every other day is a decent start. But what Reddit does have is an excellent internal search engine. So if you’re sharing Portland wedding tips in a Portland subreddit, you’ll be there when someone needs you.
Related article: Event Planner Marketing in 2020: The Expanding TikTok Demographic
Don’t Oversell Your Business.
When posting in Facebook Groups or on Reddit, the trick is to prioritize helpfulness, not sales. Trust is gained when you help for the sake of it. But that’s why I recommend creating some materials like a tip sheet or blog posts like “10 outdoor venues in Portland.” You can safely share valuable information in the group, but it functions like classic advertising. Your brand, phone number, and email are visible, and potential clients can call on their own time.
But if a discussion springs from the posts, offer to take it to a direct message. Because there you can answer a couple more questions before escalating to a phone or in-person consultation.
Bonus 2021 Marketing Tips For Wedding Planners
There are a few other interesting marketing tips for wedding planners that don’t really fit anywhere but are worth considering. These are slightly quirky, but who knows? You might love them!
Marketing Channel 5: Meetups And Event Marketing
Hosting events to market event planning – what a wild idea, right? But really, I’m talking about low-key gatherings, once a month. Here’s the concept. You could create a group on Meetup that focuses on wedding planning tips for couples. Or you could create an event professionals network event. Either way, it takes little effort but sets you up as a local leader in the industry.
All you need to do is create a group. Meetup will do much of the work in finding you attendees. But there’s a broad audience on Meetup, and you can tap into it. Costs are low, too – you can even get sponsors (like other local vendors). At the very least, you’ll need to spring for some snacks.
If you don’t want to do Meetup, but still want to host your own event, posting on Eventbrite is a great way to get the word out there. But here are other tips to market your event.
Marketing Channel 6: Legacy Media & PR
This might sound crazy, but it just might work. Did you know that your local media is absolutely desperate for content? By local media, I mean your local newspaper – even if they’re digital-only. Reach out and talk to their editor. Pitch a regular column about the wedding industry in your town or region. You’ll be able to highlight venues, build your local profile, and bring attention to your wedding community.
Publishers need to sell advertising space to exist, and a focused column like this will be perfect. I think you’ll be surprised at how receptive they’ll be.
Sure, writing a monthly column is more than a few minutes, but it’s not a full-time effort. Give it a shot. But before you pitch do the following:
- Read their other columnists – this will give you an idea of the style and length of articles they publish
- Write 2 or 3 example articles. They’ll want to review your writing-style and concept.
- Edit it closely. You’ll be judged on your writing quality as much as the concept. So use Grammarly and maybe hire a freelance editor for these first examples.
Marketing Tips For Wedding Planners That Suck But Still Are Important
Above, near the start of the article, I wrote about what not to do. This final section is similar to that. Bear with me.
Posting daily on Facebook and Instagram, or having a Pinterest board won’t actively get you new clients. You might get lucky from time to time, but it’s not reliable. And yet, it’s vital.
Potential clients will absolutely visit your Instagram profile. They’ll probably even follow you. Past clients will refer you by tagging you in posts on Facebook. All this means that you’ll need to maintain a social media presence because it’s part of the sales process. It’s not necessarily the top of the funnel, but it’ll help close the deal.
So while other article’s marketing tips for wedding planners include things like Instagram, it’s essential to understand their role. When it comes to booking clients, these won’t be your rainmakers, so organize your time accordingly.
Marketing Tips For Wedding Planners Have No Rules
Look, we build event planning software, and I absolutely love helping event planners rock their business goals. I’ve seen how hundreds of event planners handle their marketing. And the one thing I know for sure is this. You know your clients better than anyone else. And they’re unique. Marketing a wedding business in Montana is very different from marketing in Miami. So take these marketing tips and make them your own! You got this.