If I was starting as a celebrant today I would do so many things differently.
This article is hopefully timely for our readers, after all it is enquiries season! My rough research tells me that more people are engaged in between Christmas Eve and Valentine’s Day than any other period through the year. Many couples engaged last year decide to start planning their wedding “in the new year” which is only days away.
We’ve also had a number of questions about marketing ourselves as celebrants, from new and existing celebrants, and I wanted to wrap up that conversation into a personal one for me, that will hopefully help you too: if I was starting as a celebrant today, knowing everything I know, what would I do?
You’ve got to get the foundations right
So many Australians consider the basic foundations of a business to be a logo, a fancy business name, business cards, car signage, name badges, brochures, and a yellow pages listing. But if I was starting today I would have none of them. Today I would consider the basic foundation a celebrant business needs before they start marketing to be: your name, a simple, culturally relevant, informative website, social media accounts that have the same username as your domain name and are branded the same way, an email address at your domain name instead of email@example.com, a system for taking enquiries, bookings, and payments, and finally, a purpose. We’ll get to that soon.
I’ll detail how to get your foundations right first because before anyone enquires you need to be able to process that enquiry, plus I have an expectation that before enquiring with us our couples are doing their due diligence and researching you, finding out what kind of business person you are.
Why no logo or business cards?
In a world where most communication is electronic, and we’re trying to use less paper and waste materials less, a paper business card is out of fashion. At expos I’ll set up an iPad app so instead of handing a business card I’ll send them an email, and at client meetings they’ve hopefully already got all of my contact details in my emails.
As for logos, they’re fine, but distracting. If you’re starting fresh today investing the time and engergy into creating your own logo will probably result in an ugly logo if logo design isn’t your daily job, and paying for a good one is fine, but I’d rather put that $500 into paid marketing so you can make $5000 then spend the $500 on a good logo.
Your business name
Much like a logo, inventing a cool and fun business name (in my humble opinion) is a distracting exercise on day one. Plus in a world where our couples are being marketing to about 7000 times per day (look around you, at the brand computer you’re using to read this, the watch on your hand, the car you can see, there are logos and brands everywhere all day long), I think it is a bridge too far to ask our couples to remember our personal name and our business name. It’s double the work.
A basic website
The easy way to identify whether your website is a winner or a failure is to see if you can answer these questions in the first 10 seconds of viewing your website:
- Whose website is this?
- What do they do?
- Where do they do it? (I get it, you do destination weddings, but where do you actually live?)
- What does the celebrant look like?
- How can this celebrant make my life better? Not just my wedding day, but my life between now and then.
- How can I contact you?
- Bonus question: Price/package information.
Your website is a failure if you can’t answer those first six, and it’s definitely a failure if you’ve only got stock photos of rings, flowers, brides and pretty dresses. Couples are visiting your website to hire a celebrant, not to receive an empty and inauthentic “congratulations!” alongside stock photography.
It’s important to remember the purpose of your website, it’s your storefront, the place where you are 100% in control of how your brand is perceived. Don’t waste this fleeting opportunity.
People visit your website to verify that you’re a real person, not a scam or a fake business. Impress them with your “you’ness”.
Social media accounts branded the same
I’m not going to detail an all encompassing social media strategy in this article, but if I have your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest pages all in front of me, along with your website, I should be able to tell that they’re the same person.
Hopefully you’re using the same usernames, display names, and profile photo, and the profile photo isn’t the logo of the latest popular awards system, but it’s a stunning photo of you and your cake hole showing teeth inside a massive grin.
A professional email address
Your website is hopefully something along the lines of yourname.com.au and I’m hoping and praying that your email account is firstname.lastname@example.org. There are some other clever email addresses like email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org and they’re awesome, in fact there’s room for your to become even cleverer by utilising all of your personality and using email@example.com. Whatever you do, please don’t use firstname.lastname@example.org. It is a well researched fact that the brand perception of emailing a professional at their yahoo.com or hotmail.com or gmail.com email address is a negative.
Enquiry and booking systems
This is a whole other conversation, but before you start trying for enquiries and bookings you need to be able to receive and act on enquiries and bookings.
I use Dubsado, Sarah uses Tave, others use Studio Ninja and 17Hats, and some craft their own systems. Whatever you do, figure out what that customer journey looks like so when someone responds to your fancy marketing, they don’t fall into a pit of no reply.
So you’ve got the foundations in place, and you’re about to spend your first $100, we’ve just got one last hurdle to complete: your ‘why’.
Why are you a celebrant?
Why would people hire you?
What difference do you bring to couples lives?
How can you help them?
There are the other 99% of celebrants who simply advertise the fact that they exist and they cost this much, but you’ll be the 1% who have as story to tell. A reason for existing. A purpose for being a celebrant.
Identify the kind of people you would like to marry, and then imagine how you can help them. Write down a bunch of dot points and ideas on how you can be useful to these people and these notes will form the basis of your marketing.
If I was starting today, I would do everything I’ve just talked about, and then I would start creating content in a way that was natural and fun for me. Here’s some places to start thinking about:
- If you like to talk, a podcast might be for you (check out Anchor)
- If you like to talk and you’re not scared of the camera, a video blog might be for you (heard of Youtube? or even Facebook Watch!)
- If you’re a writer then Medium and your own blog is a good start. You could even pre-write some content that you think other wedding vendors and venues might like to publish and offer it to them.
- If you have a knack for answering questions, create a Quaora account and start answering questions in your own flavour on Quora or even Reddit, and build a brand that showcases your expertise and knowledge.
- If you’re handy with a camera, hit up Instagram and start creating the most valuable content Instagram can take: original content (because everyone else is busy re-posting everyone else’s content while you can create your own)
Start creating content that is helpful to people you’d like to hire you. Whether it’s recommending other vendors or sharing ideas on writing vows, start being useful.
Then once you are useful, start promoting and cross-promoting that content in places that matter.
So firstly, publish to Anchor, Youtube, or Medium, but then share those links on your own website’s blog so that as people research you they see that you’re active online.
Then on the platforms that allow it, boost those posts to targeted audiences that match the people you were thinking of earlier.
Rinse, and repeat.
If I was starting today I wouldn’t bother with all of the directories and the magazines, I would go straight to the people and prove my worth and value by creating content that is helpful and useful to them.
By backing that content up with paid advertising on the different platforms like Instagram, Facebook, Google, and even on Quora, you’re going into uncharted ed territory for celebrants, which is a brave and fruitful place to go. If “every celebrant” is advertising on blah blah weddings.com then that’s the last place I want to be. But if I can be useful to my target demographic I’ve got guaranteed sales plus I’m building a fanbase that will evangelise for me.
If I was starting today I’d stop wasting my money on the maybes and start spending it on reaching real people that are in my target demographic.
And you can too!