I’m a relatively new celebrant and just after some advice on the world of wedding directories. There seem to be loads. Apart from the obvious ones like easyweddings, ABIA, there’s lots of smaller ones like polka dot bride, wedding guide, celebrant society, etc etc & a huge variation on how much it costs to list with them. Have you any tips, recommendations on where to go and where not to go. I feel like I should be listing somewhere (shouldn’t I?) but where to go!
I’m going to address the most important aspect of Sarita’s question straight up: “I feel like I should be listing somewhere” because it’s a trap most businesses get caught up in. For years Easy Weddings advertised its services to celebrants on the back of “Josh Withers lists with us, you should to” and that is the worst reason to ever list with a directory, because someone else is there. The only thing you should be doing is telling your story in a way that motivates other humans to pay you money to be a part of that story. There are zero directories, blogs, websites magazines, fairs or expos that you should be in. There are literally thousands that you could be in, and the space in between is for you to navigate, let me lay out the map.
Directories in the pre-internet era
In 1999 I was a junior in a team that sold, installed, fixed, and configured point-of-sale (POS) systems for businesses. Point-of-sale systems was fancy industry speak for cash registers and stock control. If you were a business that needed a POS system you would find our business a very finite number of ways:
- Through relationship – one of our sales team would have knocked on your door, or met you at a networking event, and formed a relationship with you so that when it came time for you to get a POS system (1999 was definitely that year thanks to a little Year 2000 bug) you would contact your salesperson and start the process. Word of mouth is a form of relationship, just one step removed.
- Through a directory – like the Yellow Pages, the Bartercard (remember them?!), or the Chamber of Commerce directory. You would identify your own need for a POS, realise you have no relationship with someone who can provide one, and thus seek out a directory listing.
- Through advertising – we would advertise in places like TV, radio, newspapers, local magazines, and on billboards, forever impressing on yours (and everybody’s) brains that if you were in business you needed a computerised system to track sales and inventory, and we were definitely the people you needed to pay for such a system.
It was an easy system, our focus was on building relationships with potential clients, and those we didn’t form a relationship with would find us in a directory or through our advertising. We even bought competitors purely to increase the value of our relationships, in that we now had a wider range of POS systems available for purchase and we also had three different businesses and phone numbers listed in the directories. So we would receive three different phone calls from the same potential client, and three different sales staff would quote for three different systems, and the one we actually wanted to sell was always the best deal, so the relationship with the first salesperson was cemented because even after two other phone calls, the first one was the best deal.
That’s how local business operated before the age of accountability, relationship, and knowledge we access through the information superhighway we now call the internet.
Directories in the early internet
The transition period between not having the internet, and now, was a messy time for the internet. Every Tom, Dick, and Harry had the power to create their own directories – and they did – and the easy way to find out their effectiveness today is to ask yourself which directories you used?
I remember accessing the Yellow and White pages for a time, but that time has long passed.
Some of the directories really invested in SEO (hi, Easy Weddings!) so they actually did provide real value for many businesses, and some even invested heavily in offline brand awareness (hi, ABIA). But a quick survey of most couples being married today would tell you that the brand awareness (relationship) isn’t there anymore.
The world wide web that we know as the internet today provides a completely different basis for doing business, and every sector of business, at every level has had to re-think what it does in advertising and marketing and why it does it.
Many directories today have a modicum of success today because they had it yesterday, but a wise business investor doesn’t invest in a business because of past profits, but for future returns.
I believe the successful directories of the future will based on
- Relationship, as in “these are people I know and trust and I recommend them”, or
- Niche market segments, as in “these are celebrants that perform hand fasting ceremonies”, or
- Exploiting algorithms like Google’s, Facebook’s, and future algorithmic influences that we don’t even know about. A good example of this is how I list on a number of directories purely because my research has proven to me that those websites help lift my own website on Google’s pagerank algorithim.
But that’s not to say you shouldn’t advertise in a directory or on a website today, I just believe that we have the personal power to reach people directory, so we don’t need to be in directories, instead, we get to choose.
The attention gambit
The greatest currency in the world today is attention, and the fact you’ve read this far means I have yours, but most directories don’t have the attention you need them to have for you to have a return on your investment.
What should we do?
My regular advice in this respect is to remember that you as a celebrant have different sales goals than Coca Cola, so just because they advertise somewhere, it doesn’t mean you should. This even extends to others in the wedding industry. A popular wedding venue might have the sales goal of selling 150 x $20,000 wedding packages a year, and a photographer might have the goal of selling 30 x $6000 wedding packages a year, while your goal and mine will be different, so reaching those goals requires thought, research, process, and strategy.
Who are you hoping to attract to your business? What’s their world view and what kind of celebrant would they hire? Where do people like that find people like you? What influences their decisions? Do they care if you are an ABIA member? Are they scrolling through the 200 other celebrants on Easy Weddings to find you?
Ask the big questions, not on social media, but make the phone call or send the text, ask people what sources proved helpful in planning their wedding and the vendors they did hire, where did they find them? The websites, magazines, guides, expos, that are coming up as potential successful places to advertise in – what do they look like? Does your brand fit in there?
You won’t get this right every time, but start investing in advertising in a small number of places you’ve identified and track their success. Don’t commit long term, but if you are going to advertise, don’t get the cheapest and smallest package because you’lll get the smallest result. Watch your website analytics and see where the clicks are coming from. Ask your enquiries and bookings where they saw you online. Don’t ask in a form, but ask them in person when you talk, find out the whole story that a web form can’t provide.
With the information on advertising you’ve gathered, researched, and experienced, look at how it affected your business’ financial results, and then readjust and try again. If the biggest most intelligent businesses are changing and improving their strategy regularly, you should too.
What if we just ditched directories?
Directories, and most of the online websites, are not necessary to succeed in business, they simply provide and opportunity for you to jump on their back and ride their success.
But if you were feeling bold, and adventurous, and wanted to take your fate into your own hands – you could try reaching people directly.
My personal directory success
I’ll round out the article lightly detailing what has worked for me in the past.
- Directories that rank really high on Google. It’s a little bit like scraping the bottom of the potential-clients-barrel but it sells. Search for terms you want to be found for, and see who’s there.
- Directories that are run by wedding planners for specific regions and the wedding planner tells couples about the preferred vendors directory.
- My directory, the celebrant.directory, because it lists the small number of celebrants that are of a similar price-point to me, that are of a similar worldview to me, and everyone on there might be suitable replacements if one of the others wasn’t available. It’s a relationship-based directory where we all refer couples back to if we’re not available.
I can tell you that I don’t advertise on Easy Weddings or any of the other big directories because I’m certain that I won’t be found amongst the hundreds of other celebrants there, and even if I am, the couple haven’t identified my personality or worldview, and they’re not sold on brand me. They’re just scrolling through a massive list.
I also don’t list with ABIA or any of the award based companies because I don’t subscribe to there being a singular “best celebrant”. The world we live in today doesn’t allow for it. I might be the single best celebrant for a couple, or for a couple of couples, but the idea of there being a single awarded top-spot for such a personal service doesn’t suit my purposes in my marketing and advertising strategy. I’d rather people find me and book me because I am me, not because a third party I paid hundreds of dollars to said I was the best.