Kath asks:

Hey Josh, Just wondering if you have any advice on what I should be doing in preparation to “move/expand” a celebrant biz interstate. I am moving to Hobart mid year and would like to make a start on some marketing now which will in turn affect my bookings for the end or the year and the beginning of next. Apart from reaching out to some lovely local celebs in the area to say hello and booking in to attend an expo, do you have any ideas on what I should or could be doing online (website copy, SEO, blogging, google listing, marketing, back end kind of stuff) while I am in this early transition stage.

Great question Kath, and it’s only a small sidestep from what anyone should be doing at anytime. I’ll dot point the actions I would take if I was making your move today.

Specifically, I would be making a lot of these moves today, because the underground of the internet moves like molasses, for example, just today I received a Google My Business verification card in the mail that I ordered at least six months ago. It must have been lost in the mail, but it still took ages.

  • Get a physical location (office) where I could receive mail and take meetings: For the first one to two years of the move I would rent a desk or an office at a co-working space. I would begin the tenancy today, months ahead of the move, so that you can change your Google My Business, Facebook page, Instagram page, LinkedIn, and website to the new address. On your website make sure you link to the physical address using the correct (schema and micro format)[https://schema.org/LocalBusiness] so that Google, Bing, Siri, etc all pick up on your relocation. I would ditch your old location and branding for the locality quickly. This also allows you to start planning meetings with potential couples without having to worry about opening hours of cafes you’ve never been to. You might even plan a trip or two ahead of the big move so you can start meeting people.
  • Location branding: If your website and social identity is linked to a location, like “Tugun Celebrant” I would make all of those edits real quickly. It’s a good time to move to a non-location brand, so instead of being “The Tugun Celebrant” rebrand to “Josh Withers Hobart Celebrant” or whatever works for you. I’ve never been a fan of the non-personal brands anyway, and this is a great time to implement this across all of your platforms.
  • Audit your identities: I’ve mentioned a few platforms and social networks, but I would make a list of everywhere you are active. Facebook, Instagram, Google My Business, Google search results, Bing search results, DuckDuckGo search results, LinkedIn, Byte, Snapchat, Mailchimp, Email signature, Email address, Personal Facebook, Twitter, your accounting software, your CRM, Youtube, Tiktok, Skype, Zoom, and others – and make sure that each one has the new and updated branding, their same profile photo, the same naming conventions, usernames, and if there’s room for that physical address, get it in there.
  • SEO: Search engine optimisation is a long game, so don’t stress about it now, but make sure you are blogging – always be blogging – and mentioning the new location in a few different but authentic ways. I would workshop 20-30 blog posts that share your expertise in a local way, but be authentic about the move. Maybe do a series of blog posts about Hobart venues you’ve found and loved, and perhaps you could even do an interview series with other Hobart vendors.
  • Marketing: Just to get a solid online presence in a new market I would do up a list of all of the directories and blogs that are present and active in the new region, find out which ones have advertising schemes and which ones have directories, and cherry pick the ones you love, plus the ones that are cheap, and throw a few dollars, in the $500 range, towards re-establishing yourself in a new region. There are directories I still list in today because they bring me zero business, but they weigh in on my search engine optimisation, telling the search engines that I am active in that region.
  • Your social media posts: This is a good time to lean into your personal brand and slightly away from your “local weddings” brand and start posting about yourself, your ideals, your beliefs, and your strong points as a celebrant, getting professional photos of yourself and you doing your work, in the meanwhile including some hashtags that have activity on them from the new region.
  • Other businesses social media posts: This is also a spectacular time to highlight 20-40 local wedding businesses that you think are awesome, and literally start moving into their comments section. Be authentic, don’t fake it and don’t be weird, but commenting, liking, and sharing posts from other wedding vendors is the new networking breakfast so get busy and start sharing 2-3 line comments on these local vendors work. Begin that working relationship by falling in love with their work, their art, and their style, and maybe one day you guys grab a coffee, and you’re best friends, and they refer some people to you – bam you’re local.
  • Wedding fairs: I personally have a real love/hate relationship with wedding fairs, but if I was moving into a new region I would put my big boy pants on and get over myself and hit some local wedding fairs for a while. It’s a solid way of networking with the industry, getting social media and blog coverage by other vendors and industry blogs, and also meeting couples.
  • Don’t compromise on your product and price: Despite being new to the area, you’re not new to celebrancy, so be strong about your product offering and price. It might be that in the new region, you might need to make some adjustments and some medications to suit the region, but ultimately, people love you for being you, so don’t let go of that.
  • Maybe be prepared to travel: Finally, this might be a good time to release yourself from the grips of the “working within a few kilometres of home” kind of celebrancy business, and becoming a little more of a traveller. Particularly in Tasmania, everything is no more than five hours away, often less, so I would broaden that scope and get some new tyres on the car, you’ll fall in love with the whole state really quickly.

A powerful element of the wedding industry many forget is that every customer is a new customer, new to the industry, new to the marketplace, and new to you, so it’;s a beautiful place to reinvent yourself and even move house, or move sea.

And of course, adjust all of these measures in regards to how important your celebrant income is to you. Mine provides for my whole family, so I would take more drastic steps and start doing wedding fairs next week if I was moving there in sick months, but for others you might be a little more relaxed.

My general vibe with local weddings is that most are getting planned 6-18 months away, so if I wanted to be working somewhere else then, I’d be making actions now.