Nearly 40% of engagements happen between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day, making the holiday season a special time for romance—and, for those in the wedding industry, a busy time for sales and marketing (The Knot, 2020). With couples embarking on their wedding planning journeys, engagement season is the best time to increase brand awareness and attract new clients.
Yet, making an impression in the market is easier said than done, especially as the industry grows saturated and presents more competition than ever before. So before peak season arrives, it’s wise to dedicate some time to improving your business inside and out.
If you want to have the most productive engagement season yet, make sure to add these eight tasks to your to-do list.
Do some (almost) spring cleaning
While you might still see snow in the forecast, it’s never too early to start spring cleaning. Since your calendar will undoubtedly fill up when the season changes, spend some time behind the scenes to ensure you get a fresh start when events pick up.
See Meghan Ely LIVE during Catersource + The Special Event. The Catersource Conference & Tradeshow, co-located with The Special Event, is heading to Orlando March 27-30, 2023. With fresh keynotes, new networking opportunities, eye-popping showcasing events and never-before-seen industry speakers, prepare to be wowed. Learn more
Garter Girl Creative’s Julianne Smith recommends that business owners “start the busy season with a clean slate.”
“Dedicate the time to clean out and organize your e-mail inbox, desk and workspace,” she encourages. “Starting the new year and the busy engagement season with a freshly cleaned and organized workspace (both physically and digitally) will help you focus on the things you do best!”
Start by creating a list of areas that need attention: your inbox, CRM, desktop, and smartphone apps—but also your physical surroundings, like your desk, bookshelf, file cabinet, and the junk closet you avoid opening at all costs. Then, put on your favorite upbeat playlist (or try this one) and get to work!
Revisit your offerings
As you focus on optimizing your business, start with your current offerings. Evaluate how they sell, run cost comparisons, and adjust your pricing accordingly.
“Now that engagement season is upon us, it’s important to update your offerings and pricing to ensure you are marketing yourself to the right audience,” reminds Sandy Brooks of Timeless Event Planning.
While reviewing your offerings, consider whether they need to change. Do you still enjoy everything you sell? Are there opportunities to adjust your packages or introduce add-ons to upsell? If your assessment calls for an overhaul, it’s best to start now while there’s still time before peak season hits.
Run a messaging audit
Just as crucial as your offerings is how you present them to your audience. Your brand messaging can (and should) evolve over time in response to market shifts and business growth. Spend time listening to your ideal clients and evaluating how you speak to them in return. For instance, if you aim to be an inclusive brand, you must be mindful to avoid assumptions and use gender-neutral language.
“Remember to use the proper terms when speaking and posting about this engagement season!” urges Jennifer Sulak of Weirdo Weddings. “You might forget the initial fun and excitement of the first moments before the massive wedding planning begins for couples, but mind the words you are saying on social media and typing.”
Likewise, consider how the language you use speaks to your brand. For example, does your website copy make it clear you provide luxury design services? Or do your social media posts demonstrate the decades of experience you bring to the table? An annual messaging audit will help you attract the right clients to your business.
Update your website
Websites are digital storefronts and often the first place a prospective client will go to learn more about your business. Make sure everything is updated and easily accessible, including details about your offerings, galleries of work, and contact information.
“Your website is the most important marketing tool you have,” confirms Adrienna McDermott of Ava And The Bee. “Your website is the core of your marketing–every single piece of your marketing is to lead couples to your website so they can learn more and contact you. So if your website doesn’t work, your marketing won’t work.”
Cathy O’Connell of COJ Events recommends taking time to “review your marketing materials to ensure they are up-to-date and fresh. Now is a good time to ensure your best events from 2022 are featured on your website and that those amazing testimonials you received are also posted!”
If possible, ask a few trusted friends or family members to review your website and offer suggestions. You can get insightful feedback from those outside of the industry!
Run your numbers
Your bank account balances are important, but they don’t provide nearly enough insight to influence your business decisions. Instead, dig deeper into your data to identify strategies that work (and don’t work) for your business.
Marissa MacLeod of The Treasury on the Plaza encourages all event pros to track their business performance. “If you aren't already tracking how many leads you receive and how many leads turn into bookings, now is the time!” she says. “The best way to know whether engagement season is successful for your business, year-over-year, is to have data to look back on. Tracking important data can tell you whether you need to increase or make changes to your advertising, make staffing changes, and much more.”
Google Analytics can provide a treasure trove of valuable information about your website’s performance and e-commerce sales. But don’t forget to run reports from your CRM to uncover booking trends, as well as your accounting software to look at your finances from a bird’s eye view.
Refine your processes
When peak season rolls around, you will have your hands busy with client work. There’s no time to implement a new workflow or adjust a system when you’re wrapped up in floorplans or banquet menus, so focus on getting through the internal work now.
“This is the perfect time to create and refresh systems that will help streamline the planning process and ensure clients are taken care of throughout their journey,” agrees Katie Mast of Rock Paper Coin. “From creating customized client proposals to providing a fantastic onboarding process, this is the time to take the initiative to go above and beyond.”
Christina Lovelace of Lovelace Design adds that “wedding pros should also refresh their standard operating procedures, known as SOPs. Your refresh should include new procedures for anything you struggled with over the last year or anything your client struggled to understand.”
An organized and streamlined backend provides a high-level experience for your clients while reducing stress and overload for you and your team. So avoid cutting corners when it comes to your systems and workflows!
Create relevant content
After tightening up your internal operations, it’s time to set your sights outward. With so many newly engaged couples looking for wedding planning advice, make sure that your voice stands out as an authority!
“Couples are craving advice on how to get started and what to look for, so you want to help them by providing actionable steps and educating them on what to look for in your area,” confirms Wendy Kidd of Each & Every Detail. “Create a blog or schedule social media posts intended to educate those that are newly engaged. Be the expert that helps them, and in turn, they will look to you for help with their wedding!”
Keep in mind that you can produce plenty of relevant content that isn’t wedding-specific. So even if you typically book couples closer to their wedding, you can still be part of the conversation in the early stages of wedding planning.
Jacqueline Vizcaino of Tinted Events Design and Planning offers a suggestion for wedding pros to “give engaged couples ideas for great engagement gifts or date night activities so that they can enjoy their time together throughout the season of celebration.”
Developing new content isn’t just for digital marketing, either. Twickenham House’s Jocelyn Hunter shares that her team uses engagement season to produce marketing materials for onsite sales. “We look at designs trending this year, then clean out our wedding planning closet and make room for this season's decor,” she explains. “We then photograph and catalog the items to create a lookbook for brides to help with their design. The lookbook helps showcase our work to potential clients in addition to getting ready for this season.”
So whether you have a list of pending blog post ideas or are long overdue for a printable one-sheet with advice, consider how you can demonstrate your expertise and readiness to support couples on their wedding planning journey.
Nurture your network
In a perfect world, networking would be an easy year-round endeavor for event pros. But when busy season strikes, sometimes you’re lucky enough to share lunch with a fellow vendor during an event. That’s why it’s critical to capitalize on the quieter times of the year to focus on business-building relationships.
In particular, put in the effort to “stay top of mind for your venue partners,” recommends Wedding Venue Map’s Shannon Tarrant. “All venues will do more tours and see more couples during engagement season, and you want to be the company that comes to mind when someone asks them for a referral.”
Tarrant encourages wedding pros to “make a list of the venues that refer your business or that you work at all the time. Share a helpful tip by email, tag them on social media posts, drop by with a coffee, or send them snacks. Think outside the box and let them know you're there to support them!”
Of course, networking isn’t just about industry connections. It’s also essential to maintain relationships with past clients in a position to refer your business.
“You can send them a personalized email or message through social media to catch up and let them know you're available to help with any upcoming weddings,” says Jaclyn Watson of Jaclyn Watson Events. “This is also a good opportunity to ask for reviews or testimonials that you can use in your marketing materials. Bonus tip: Ask for a video review for your social media posts!”
A well-established network can sustain your business throughout the year with qualified referrals, saving you from investing as much in marketing. After all, we are in the business of people, so don’t lose sight of those supporting you from all directions!
While it might seem tempting to lay low until peak season, working through these to-dos will ensure your business is primed and at its best before your schedule starts bursting at the seams. Today’s hard work is preparation for tomorrow!