What’s frustrating your wedding couples

Show Notes:

Today I am chatting with founder of Wedding Dates and Wed Pro Ciara Crossan. Earlier this year Wedding Dates released their 2024 Wedding Industry Report and it was a great read. They surveyed over 1000 couples to find out more about the wedding planning landscape and discovered what frustrates them the most.

In this episode I find out more about Ciara’s journey and we digest the latest findings and how you can use that data in your own wedding business / venue.

Download the 2024 UK Wedding Report

Download the 2024 Ireland Wedding Report

Find out more about Wedding Dates and Wed Pro

Time Stamps:

Using TikTok for Wedding Business (00:00:00) Ciara discusses using TikTok for sharing expertise, tips, and personalization in the wedding business.

Introduction and Background (00:00:27) Becca introduces Ciara Crossan, CEO and founder of Wedding Dates, and discusses her background and the platform’s growth.

The Inception of Wedding Dates (00:01:58) Ciara shares the background and inception of Wedding Dates, including the idea’s origin and early development.

Challenges Faced as a Female Tech Founder (00:05:27) Ciara discusses the challenges she faced as a female tech founder and the resilience required to overcome them.

Experience on Dragon’s Den (00:09:03) Ciara shares her experience on the Dragon’s Den TV show, highlighting the preparation and the positive impact it had on her.

Hiring and Building a Team (00:13:07) Ciara discusses the challenges and benefits of hiring and building a team, emphasizing the importance of culture and longevity.

Wedding Dates UK Industry Report (00:16:11) Ciara talks about the purpose and history of the industry report, explaining the motivation behind its creation.

The survey and report (00:17:02) Ciara discusses the motivation behind conducting surveys and creating industry reports to share with wedding venues and suppliers.

The importance of data (00:18:29) Ciara explains the significance of conducting separate reports for the UK and Ireland and the value of the data for understanding industry trends.

Incentivising survey participation (00:20:00) Ciara reveals the strategy of offering a prize to incentivize couples to participate in the survey.

Couples’ feelings during wedding planning (00:21:04) Ciara discusses the surprising statistic that over 70% of couples felt underwhelmed during the wedding planning process and the opportunity it presents for wedding professionals.

Common frustrations and challenges (00:26:04) Becca and Ciara discuss common frustrations reported by couples, such as pricing transparency and slow response times, and how wedding pros can address them.

Resistance to change (00:29:58) Ciara explains the resistance to automation and price transparency as a fear of change and the importance of self-care in the industry.

TikTok for Wedding Inspiration (00:33:16) Couples’ use of TikTok for wedding inspiration and how businesses can utilize the platform effectively.

Trust Factor in Wedding Businesses (00:34:18) The importance of trust in wedding businesses, particularly in relation to staff turnover in venues.

Tech Solutions for Wedding Businesses (00:35:09) Addressing the challenges of education and tech overwhelm in embracing changes in wedding businesses.

Wedding Venues Management Software (00:35:35) Introduction and explanation of Wedge Pro, a software designed to support wedding venues in managing leads, follow-ups, reporting, and benchmarking.

Onboarding and Training for Venue Software (00:38:12) Discussion about providing onboarding and training services for venues to help them effectively utilize the management software.

Team Buy-In for Venue Software (00:39:52) Importance of getting the team on board with using venue management software and the benefits of integrating with other systems.

Community and Networking in Business (00:42:13) The significance of surrounding oneself with a supportive community of like-minded individuals in business.

Engagement on Social Media (00:43:22) Promotion of the company on LinkedIn and Instagram, encouraging wedding professionals to follow for industry insights and advice.

Transcript:

Ciara: It’s not all just dancing, okay. I suppose is my message about TikTok. You know, there’s ways to use TikTok to share your expertise, to give tips, to be really seen as an expert, to share beautiful images. You know, there’s lots and lots of ways that people can embrace that. And, you know, talking about personalization, we always talk about personalize it to the couples, you know, personalize it to them.

But also personalized to you. People want to see the face behind the brand.

Becca: I’m Becca Pountney, wedding business marketing expert, speaker, and blogger, and you’re listening to the Wedding Pros

Who Are Ready to Grow podcast.

I’m here to share with you actionable tips, strategies, and real life examples to help you take your wedding business to the next level.

If you are an ambitious wedding business owner that wants to take your passion and use it to build a profitable, sustainable business, doing what you love, then you’re in the right place. Let’s get going with today’s episode. Today I’m chatting with Ciara Crossan, CEO and founder of Wedding Dates, one of the biggest platforms in Ireland and the UK for wedding planning.

Since launching in 2008, Ciara has built the platform to where it is today with a team of 10. And as an inspirational tech founder herself, Ciara is passionate about championing young entrepreneurship. and women in business. I first met Ciara and her team while speaking at the Guys for Brides UK wedding conference and have recently taken a deep dive into the wedding dates industry report that they’ve created.

I knew as soon as I read it, I needed to get her booked in for an interview and I’m excited to dive into the stats. Ciara, welcome to the podcast.

Ciara: Hi Becca. Thanks so much for having me.

Becca: I really appreciate you being here. As I just said, before we hit record, I absolutely love the report that you’ve recently put out and we are going to get to that in more detail in a little while.

But first, what I always like to do in this podcast is get to know the person that we’re interviewing. Cause I think whenever we’re talking to someone and we’re trying to get expert advice, it’s important that we all understand where that’s coming from and how you have that experience in order to share this advice with us.

So take me back to pre wedding dates. Like where on earth did this idea come from? What were you doing and how did it come into fruition?

Ciara: Wow. I do have to cast my mind back. So wedding dates, we just celebrated 16 years in business actually in February. So really proud of the longevity, I suppose. But back then, so I started in 2008, but even, even slightly before that in end of 2007.

was kind of coming up with the concept. And to give you some background, my family, my, my mum and dad both grew up in hotels. So my grandparents on both sides of my family grew up in hotels. So I’ve always had a real love for, you know, the, the hospitality industry and, and kind of a, An interest or a curiosity of, you know, what goes on behind the curtain.

I was always curious about that. So that’s kind of my family background. But in, in university, I studied business information systems. So, you know, it was around all around the explosion of the internet when I went to college and that’s what I studied. So back in kind of 2007. It’s really kind of sitting around the kitchen table, chatting about different, different ideas.

I’ve, I’ve always had that drive, I think, to, or desire to maybe work for myself. And literally, like most good ideas, it came sitting around a kitchen table. They say it’s either good ideas are around a kitchen table or at a bar counter. Well, this, this one was around the kitchen table with my mum and dad.

And back then, it’s again, hard to even imagine this, but Back in 2007, hotels had websites, but a lot of them weren’t bookable. You know, you could just phone up or send a contact form if you wanted to stay there. But that was just around the time, 2006 2007, of booking. com and hotels. com. Those OTAs were just exploding, or coming on at that time.

So, the idea that you could book a bedroom online, Was kind of taken care of. So then we started thinking, well, what else do other people do in hotels? So I’m kind of very much coming from that family background in hotels and kind of love of the industry and my IT degree, and started thinking about what, what else do people do in hotels and in ar, I know it’s different in the uk, but in Ireland a lot of, a lot of people still, but especially back then used to get married in hotels.

So we just thought, well, weddings, that’s another thing that people do in hotels. And that really, the idea was. very simple wedding dates, allow people to search for venues based on availability. So that was the very baby idea. And then it expanded to vendors and other wedding suppliers as well. And they started with a very simple.

directory website back in 2008. I think we had like 30 venues on there. It was really simple. I think the only people clicking on it at the beginning was just like my mom in her work giving like, give us the traffic. It was very, very simple start, but it built from very organically from there. And after about a year, I went on the Dragon’s Den TV show in Ireland.

And that really helped get a lot of exposure, a lot of brand awareness. And the business just steadily grew and about a year after that, then I expanded into the UK. So we’ve been operating both Ireland and the UK for the last, you know, Oh my God, what, 11, 12 years in the UK, 16 years in ireland.

Becca: Yeah. You make it sound so easy and people will be listening to this and thinking, okay, so you just came up with this idea, then you built this website and now it’s really successful and you’ve got 10 team members.

I’m sure there’s been a whole lot more to that journey over the years. As you look back, are there some key challenges or key things you’ve had to overcome as even just as a female tech founder?

Ciara: I was. You read my mind there, Becca, because I was actually going to say, and I don’t know when this is going to air, but we’re recording it on International Women’s Day.

So it’s quite apt the, the, the day that’s in it. But that was definitely a challenge for me at the early days. I was only, I was 25 when I started the business and I had quite a baby face, kind of looked, looked very young anyway, and I was young. And a female and starting a business in the wedding space.

So a lot of rooms that I would walk into would be, you know, men in suits was, was a lot of those networking events that I went to, or, you know, when I went to pitch for investment or various government grants that were available to help start up businesses. And they looked at me like the little girl with the wedding business.

And I felt kind of almost like an invisible pat on my head. And I, I, I felt it and I, I know I haven’t dreamed this, I’ve been told, I’ve, you know, had many things said to me over the years, you know, bank managers have said to me, aren’t you great now starting your own business, that’s lovely for you now.

And you can hear the little patronizing tone and that used to drive me crazy, but it actually gave me a real fire in my belly of, of, you know, I’m one of those people that like, I’ll show them, you know, I’ll, I’ll prove them wrong kind of thing. So I think it was. Probably a thing to overcome, but also it, it, it fueled me as well in another way.

So that was a definite challenge, you know, having, I have twin boys, it was a, it was an unexpected pregnancy and then it was a surprise that it was twins and then they arrived nine weeks early, very premature and spent many weeks in the neonatal. So that was another huge challenge, which obviously was on the personal side, but of course, It affects your business as well because when you work for yourself, you know, where do you end and the business begin?

It’s a very blurred line. So there’s been many challenges over the years, but I think they do make you stronger. And that’s one of the things that I’m most proud of with the business is the longevity and the resilience, you know, to come through when we started in 2008, which was the recession. And we got through COVID and we’re still here, we’re still standing and I just think it’s such an achievement.

So,

Becca: yeah, absolutely stronger than ever. And I think as well, we see in this industry, I’ve seen it since I’ve been doing what I do since 2016, you see people come, you see people go, you see these new businesses pop up and fade away very fast. And actually to be able to look back and say, yeah, we’re still going, we’ve still got the same mission.

We’ve, you know, we’re evolving and growing, but we’re still here is an absolutely phenomenal achievement. And I love that you took that. those challenges and it made you stronger rather than make you want to give up. And that is particularly apt, as you said, on International Women’s Day as we record this.

Now, one thing in your story I kind of breezed over, but I want to come back to. You mentioned that you were on Dragon’s Den in Ireland. Now, if you You may not know this care, but my background is actually working in television. So I’m very skeptical about all things television, because I used to work in the studios at these programs.

So I would love to know from your point of view, because sometimes people ask me, should I try and go on dragon’s den? Was it a benefit to your business? Was it as good as it looks or you tell us more about that experience.

Ciara: So it was a phenomenal experience for me. And I totally hear you about the skepticism because you know, the, the It’s a TV show, it’s entertainment.

There’s a format, you know, the interviewer guy says, you know, today on the den, but actually they record the dragon’s den over the course of a week. The dragons wear the same clothes every day, and then they slice and dice the, the, the pitches so that, you know, every show has somebody who got the money, somebody who made a fool out of themselves, somebody who turned the dragons down, somebody that didn’t get the money, you know, they have this format.

So on my episode, when they said today in the den. In actual fact, it was only one person on my episode that was there that same day as me. So, you know, I totally get you about the, the kind of, the structure of it or the, the skepticism around it. But from my perspective, it was a really, really positive thing.

And the reason I think it went viral, I didn’t get the investment by the way. In my head I had a playbook that they were going, two dragons were going to offer me half the money each for double the equity and I was going to walk to the back of the room and have a little think about it and then I was going to come back and politely turn them down and I was going to be the girl that turned the dragons down.

This was in my head before it happened. My plan, it of course didn’t go exactly to plan. I didn’t, I didn’t get the investment. I didn’t have to turn anybody down. However, they were all overwhelmingly positive towards me and it, it, it came off really, really well. I was very lucky in the editing, you know, it’s, I was in there for over an hour.

It got edited down to six or seven minutes. And I was very lucky that I, I came off good in the editing, but I think the thing that I learned the most from doing that was, first of all, something my dad said, which I always reiterate is, you know, when I was so nervous thinking about it, he said, you know, the dragons, you know, they’re, they’re people just like you and me.

They put their pants on one leg at a time. And I just think it’s a lovely analogy. You know, when you, when you think of somebody getting out of bed in the morning and putting on their pants, you know, there’s no elegant to graceful way to do that. We all look the same doing it. And I think it’s a great leveler.

My dad is brilliant at kind of helping me reframe things like that in my head. But that was one of the things in terms of being daunted about meeting certain people or whatever. You know, I learned that from that experience. And the other thing was, preparation is so key. So before I did the show, I actually got media training.

And at the time, this is back in 2010, it was, I think it was a thousand euros for a day media training up in Dublin. Now I had never spent a thousand euros on a day’s training for myself in my entire life. Like it was just, I was a one man band back then. That was a huge amount of money back in 2010 for me to spend on on one day for myself.

But it paid dividends because they really prepped me so well. They did a fake thing with the camera rolling and got me to see where my strengths and weaknesses were, I suppose. So preparation, and I’ve really, you know, used that, I suppose, in my business going forward, that if I do have a big thing, then I like to be as prepared as possible.

So it’s really helped me with my media training in general, but, but kind of even in business overall, I think.

Becca: What an exciting experience. I love hearing about it. I am, I think I’m going to go on a YouTube search later today and see if I can track down your episode. Don’t worry, I won’t share it in the show notes though if I do, but I just love to see you do it.

I’m sure you smashed it and I love that you had the idea that you were going to turn them all down anyway. So who cares that you didn’t get the investment because you still walked away positive and the good thing is you weren’t the one that they made to look like a fool, which is probably would be my biggest fear on going on something like that.

So I I love hearing about it, so thank you for sharing it. Now, one of the other things I’ve been talking with some of my clients about recently, who are solopreneurs, have their own wedding businesses, maybe wedding planners, wedding florists, is about when they get to the point where they might want to grow a team.

Now, as we said in the intro, you now have 10 people in the team. When you were on Dragon’s Den, it was just you. Do you remember back to knowing like that feeling of, I’m ready to hire my first team member, because it is a bit of a scary thing to do.

Ciara: It is a scary thing to do for sure but it, for me, it was just, I suppose desperation pushed me there because I, I just needed the help.

I was totally overwhelmed. I couldn’t, I couldn’t do it all. My first employee was actually my brother, so that was a little bit of a gentler hire as well in terms of, you know, formality of it and the trust element, you know, you, you, there was instant trust there. But obviously then I, I, I expanded out to, to non family members and It just, it’s really shown me that like the only way I could grow the business was with a larger team and having those people around me because you just can’t be good at everything as much as I try to be.

You just, you just can’t. If you want to service your clients and grow, and grow in a scalable way that isn’t going to leave you burnt out. For me, for my, my business, which is very scalable, it definitely involved hiring hiring people. But I think, you know, you can, there’s no, and I’ve got it wrong as many times as I’ve gotten it right, Becca.

Okay. I mean, that has to be said as well, because. There’s a huge amount of trust, you know, you, you, you see somebody’s CV, you read it, you interview them, you do your reference checks, but at the end of the day, you know, how are they going to gel with you? How are they going to, you know, embody the culture of the company?

How are they going to perform? You know, it is a bit of a roll of a dice. And I’ve been very, very lucky over the years to have amazing people work for me. Not all of them are still with me, obviously. People move on for various reasons. I had one amazing woman work for me and she moved to Australia with her boyfriend.

So that was, you know, it was amazing. It’s devastating to see her go and, and other two women work for me who ended up leaving me to set up their own businesses, which is something that I actually felt really proud about because I felt like maybe I was giving them, you know, a bit of a confidence boost or that, you know, initiative or whatever that they could see, see it as, Oh, okay, I can do this.

So, you know, I, I take great, great kind of pride in that, but you know, my team with me now. I mean, God, Chris has been with me coming up 10 years. Alex has just celebrated her seven year anniversary. Sarah’s four years next week. You know, there, there’s longevity in the team, which is lovely. And I really value that.

I think it’s, it’s, it’s, it speaks a lot to the culture of the company and how well, you know, They work and support each other as well.

Becca: Yeah. And I have to say, I met some of your team at that Guides for Brides conference and they were all lovely. Everyone, everyone that I spoke to was super lovely, super friendly.

And I’m connected with a few of them on LinkedIn as well. And I always feel like they’re really positive over there as well. So you’ve done a great job with the team that you’ve got right now. No, here we talked in the intro about this industry report. So we need to get onto the industry report.

Otherwise I will be talking to you about your story all day. So you recently released the 2024 wedding dates, UK industry report. So before we get into the stats, I’d love you to just share a bit of background about what the report is, why you do it, how you do it, that kind of thing.

Ciara: Sure. So we started producing this report.

Oh my God, on the spot now. When will I, I think it was 2013, a long time ago, right? 2015, something like that. I think this might be our ninth one. The team in the office will kill me now for not knowing that off the top of my head. Ha, ha, ha. But the reason we did it is because we have clients that are asking us all the time, what are you seeing out there?

What are couples saying? And, you know, we provide a web platform for couples to inquire to venues and, and research suppliers. And we also provide software to, to, to venues as well to help them manage their weddings. You know, we’re not. day to day talking to brides, you know, I’m not a wedding planner.

People often assume that when you say, Oh, my company’s wedding dates, they’re like, Oh, you’re very busy now in the summer with all the weddings you’re doing. And it’s like, no, we’re not actually hands on with the wedding. So the only way for us to kind of hear what the couples are saying is obviously engaging with them on social media, which is kind of more on an ad hoc basis.

But the industry report was all right. All right. was the idea for that was let’s survey couples and find out their preferences and we’ll take that survey information and put it together into a digestible report to share with our community of wedding venues and wedding suppliers because they are at the coalface, they’re hearing these things.

you know, day in, day out. But a lot of wedding pros, they’re hearing things from couples, but then they don’t know, is this just me? Is everybody else experiencing it? Some people can feel quite isolated and not necessarily know, well, is this, is what I’m experiencing normal? And, you know, When, when COVID hit, you know, the amount of our clients that were ringing us going, what’s going on?

What are other venues doing? Are they, are they, you know, offering refunds of money? Are they holding money over what, you know, how are people dealing with this? You know, asking us for our advice and our opinion, because they know, obviously we talk to so many other businesses day in, day out. So. Instead of just giving kind of that ad hoc feedback, we thought, let’s collate the data.

So we survey over a thousand couples every year, and we disseminate all of that information, digest it, and compare it to previous years, and then we pull out some key trends and some key stats that we think will be of interest to our, our community.

Becca: And you, am I right in thinking that you have both a UK wedding report and an Ireland wedding report as well?

Ciara: Yes, that’s right. We do two separate reports because the, the markets are similar, but you know, there’s definitely differences for sure. You know, there’s, there’s even differences, you know. between North and South England, you know, without a shadow of a doubt. So we do, we do separate them because we do a thousand, you know, it’s two completely different surveys, two completely different reports, a thousand couples in Ireland, a thousand couples in the UK.

So it’s, yeah, it’s a behemoth. task and we don’t make any money from it but it’s something that I think is really important for us to do every year because it just helps us get our finger on the pulse as well you know and we we know when we go to industry events we get asked to speak at things or you know we’re pitching to venues you know we’ve got to be able to stand over what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.

And the only way to do that is to have your finger on the pulse. So we, we really proud of, of the report. And I think it’s really vital for the industry.

Becca: Yeah. And as I said, it’s really lovely how it’s laid out. It’s really easy to digest. So just for transparency during this conversation, we’re going to be talking about the UK industry report.

However, I will link to both in the show notes. So if you are based in Ireland and you want to look at the Irish version of that as well, then I will make sure you can get. To that, I have one question for you Ciara as well. How do you get a thousand people to fill in a survey? Because sometimes my winning pros find it hard to even get one person to leave them a review.

So how have you done that?

Ciara: We do, we offer a prize because exactly right, why would people fill out a survey? And, and this survey is quite long. It takes, you know, probably about five minutes on average to fill it out. It’s not a, you know, quick 30 second one. There’s 50 odd questions in it. So we really go deep.

So we want them to, you know, stay with us and complete it. So we do incentivize them. We ask our community of venues to give up a nice overnight stay, dinner, bed and breakfast, bottle of champagne, whatever it might be. So this year, our UK industry report was sponsored by Legacy Hotels, so they have a beautiful collection of properties.

around the country. So we like to do it with a small group like that so it’s not just one single venue in one place that people could pick or choose where they wanted to take their break. So just a big thank you and shout out to Legacy Hotels for supporting us with the prize this year.

Becca: Yes, I love a good prize.

Always a great incentive. Okay, let’s dive into the data then Ciara. So what I would love to know is what are some of the key things that you’ve seen coming out of this year’s report that are specifically useful for wedding pros and wedding venues to know?

Ciara: So one of the massive things that stood out for us this year, we asked couples, you know, how the whole wedding planning process made them feel.

And, Only, what was, God, trying to think of the exact number off the top of my head, but it was over 70 percent of couples said that they were underwhelmed. I think it was 73 or 74 percent of couples said that they were underwhelmed. They didn’t, they weren’t made to feel special when inquiring and going through the process.

And that figure just shocked me, shocked me, honestly. So that means like only one in four are actually like, Ooh, I feel so special, this is such a lovely experience. It is. You know, three quarters are like, meh, they’re not feeling the love and it just blew me away and I just think, you know, it is sad and it is a bit shocking, however, I always, I’m a, I’m a bit of a positive, positive person or try to, try to look at the positive glass half full.

I always think, okay, let’s flip that. What’s the opportunity there? You know? So if the majority of couples are feeling underwhelmed, then it’s very easy to stand out from the crowd. Right, so that’s what I would say to the wedding pros out there, because so many people are doing this at a very, either a bad or a mediocre level.

You know, standing out is actually not that hard to do. And, you know, sometimes when I come, we we, I do a webinar with the industry report every year and coming on your podcast, the people that are listening to this podcast are the people that are doing it right. They are the people that are exceeding people’s expectations because the other people wouldn’t be bothered listening to this podcast, right.

Or wouldn’t be bothered downloading our industry report or coming on the webinar. So I suppose that’s the, the. the secret sauce, I suppose, you know, if you’re, if you’re reading this industry report, if you’re interested in the data, if you’re listening to this podcast and listening to the tips from, from pros or in your community, Becca, you know, that’s the best of the best, that’s the cream of the crop.

So I think it’s really, I mean, not that we’re all just going to sit back and pat ourselves on the back, but it’s a really nice to think, okay, well, I’m doing, you know, I’m in the cohort that is actually doing what I should be doing to make couples feel special. But I think that’s really then. It isn’t too hard to stand out, but of course, then you can, there’s levels of that, right?

So you can, I’m always saying to my team, you know, what, how can we improve things by 1%? You know, I’m always looking for that 1 percent improvement. How can we do things just a little bit better than we used to do them yesterday or last week or last month or last year? So I think that’s a good challenge to any of the wedding pros listening is, you know Okay.

to, to, to seek those improvements in your own businesses and seek to wow the couples. Anything that you can do that’s just a tiny little bit extra to wow the couples is going to blow them away. And it’s going to make the difference.

Becca: I was really shocked by that statistic myself. I was saying to you before that I’ve been using some of these stats in some of my recent talks and I use that one.

74 percent of people were not feeling special on their wedding. Like when they, viewed it by vendors. And I actually said in my talk, I was like, this is a shame on our wedding industry because this is the most important day to many people of their lives and we’re not making them feel special. And you’re right.

The people listening are the people that do that and we can push it further. And that’s a massive opportunity. But actually we need to get the word out to a wider audience that we need to make people feel special if we want to make the sale or we won’t. survive in business. And one of the interesting conversations I quite often have with venues, if I consult with them, is I say, if a couple arrive on the day of their wedding, they walk into your hotel, having just got married, how do you greet them?

And they’re like, we put the red carpet out. We have a drink for them. We like make them feel like a million dollars. I was like, okay, now contrast that to how you greet them when they come for a show round. And their faces are like, Oh yeah, because I’m like they’re making that decision on and they think that’s how they you’re going to make them feel on their wedding day because they haven’t seen that experience.

And so I think there’s definitely space for all of us to do better in this area. So yeah, really, really shocking statistic, but one to spare us all for it.

Ciara: Absolutely. I couldn’t agree with you more, Becca. And I think, you know, It is busy in, in, for venues and for suppliers as well, you know, there’s a high volume of inquiries, particularly this time of year, you know, January and February, and it can be overwhelming.

And, and I think it’s just a challenge to, to just pause and not just think of it as another number. This is a couple that’s just bound up with their own, you know, love story, their own, you know, it could have been a long journey to getting, getting engaged. You know, they might’ve been saving for a long time or, you know, there, there could be, you know, everybody has a story.

And I think it’s, it’s just trying to move off that conveyor belt and actually kind of see the humans behind it and give that personalized experience. So that’s really what couples are craving is that personalization.

Becca: One of the most interesting parts of the report from me was where you got people to share their common frustrations.

And I actually shared this on my Instagram because I was so excited to see that everything I’ve been teaching for the last year was absolutely backed up in your report. So some of the common frustrations that came out to the top five, most were around pricing and price transparency and of course slow response times as well.

So what would you say to wedding pros and venues? based on those frustrations that they should look at moving forward.

Ciara: So yeah, that made me chuckle as well, Becca. And, you know, again, we’re, we’ve been talking about that to our clients, you know, for a long time now. And now it’s great that we actually have the data to back it up as well, because we, we all know it, right.

All of us in the, in the industry, or, you know, those of us that, that are on the other side, I suppose, training, training the venues and suppliers and that. So how, how to kind of overcome that, I think the big thing is, is, you know, Walk a mile in their shoes, you know, try to see it from the other perspective.

I mean, there’s, there’s venues and suppliers out there. They don’t even look at their own website. That’s just a basic starting point. Go through, use your own website as if you were a couple and actually go through the process of making an inquiry. You know, sending, sending mystery inquiries, for example.

How long does it take to be, for people to get back to you? So speedy, speedy response. is vital. The vast majority of people want email communication and they want the brochure instantly. You know, they don’t want to wait for the brochure to be sent to them. They want it instantly. Another thing I think is, as you said, around the pricing transparency, you know, it’s a venue that we work with, I was just looking at their stats the other day and they’ve got an absolutely woeful conversion rate and it’s a beautiful place but the feedback from couples is it was just way too expensive because they’re hiding all that behind the scenes so they’re getting a high volume of inquiries because they’re a beautiful place, they’re getting a really terrible conversion because they’re not telling anybody the price.

And it’s just, you know, it’s, it’s so indicative of, of why that pricing transparency is so important because that’s what people want, they want to be able to put themselves into that. category and, and no, and not be made to feel foolish or, or whatever. I think it’s vital at every sector. It used to be taught that, oh, well, only budget venues would advertise the price.

Whereas a high end venue, you know, price on request darling, you know, and it’s no, it’s that’s so outdated. I think that’s just gone. It’s, it’s just gone now and I, and I think all of those things are tied up together this, this, the speedy response, obviously for the initial inquiry, but also for follow up emails as well.

And, you know, one thing that we always advocate for with venues is to use automation and to use it cleverly. So if you can be sending out proactive emails to couples, even after they’ve booked, you know, with, you know, Countdown 12 months to the big day, six months to the big day, three months to the big day, using automated systems that will, will trigger those emails for you.

If you’re proactively sending an email to a couple with all of the next things they need to do, you’re probably saving yourself about four or five inbound emails from that couple asking you questions. So I just think, you know, kind of nearly cut them off at the pass, if you will, by using those. And obviously you can’t by say, Then you always send emails at 12 months, 6 months, 3 months, the countdown’s like, what I can’t be sending all those emails.

That’s why you need a system. You know, that’s why you need automation to make it, make it easy for you to do that. So automation is your friend, but it still needs to be highly personalized to give them that wow, and make them feel. Make them feel that you care and make them feel that they’re special.

Becca: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s interesting, isn’t it? Because the stats are telling us these things. We are both saying these things in our own talks and to our own clients. Yet, I don’t know if you’re seeing this, but I still get quite a lot of resistance from both venues and pros around both of these areas, automation and price transparency.

Are you seeing that same resistance? And what do you think it is that’s causing that resistance?

Ciara: I think I, so first of all, to answer your question, yes, I am seeing that resistance as well. And I think the reason is it’s very simple. It’s just fear of change. You know, people don’t like change and there can be just that fear.

That’s the way we’ve always done it, especially for people that have maybe worked in the industry for a long time. The other resistance to it, I think is As I said, the fear of change, but you know, you’ve, you’ve, you’ve heard this as well, Becca. Oh, well, we, we do it personalized. That’s why we need to do it manually, because we’re so personalized.

Which is a thing in their head, I think, but then, I mean, nobody is replying to emails 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I mean, or at least they shouldn’t. We actually did Karis on my team did a demo with a wedding coordinator recently and she said she worked 25, eight, 25 hours a day, eight days a week.

That was her way of saying that she just never switched off. And it’s like, that’s not healthy. That’s not good. And particularly for, you know, all of us trying to manage our, our, our, Mental health or emotional health or physical well being, burnout. These are all very real things. Whether you’re a solopreneur, whether you’re, you know, running a wedding pro, running a standalone vendor or supplier business, or whether you work in property in a venue, you know, it’s really, really important that we mind ourselves.

And that’s the only way that we can have longevity and sustainability in our businesses is if we mind ourselves. I, I love the phrase, you can’t pour from an empty cup. And I use it all of the time when I think about, you know, over the years, I have of course run myself ragged at various times and it’s the times then I’m like, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.

You’re not going to have a business if you keep doing this. You need to stop, you need to slow down, you need to ask for help, you need to delegate. And use systems and tools, you know, make work smarter, not harder. We’ve all heard it, but sometimes taking that first step into a new system is hard. And the other very funny thing we hear is, I really, I want to do the automation.

I’m, you know, they’re not afraid of change. They totally want to embrace it. But they just don’t have time to get the thing that’s going to save them loads of time.

Becca: Yeah, I hear that a lot as well. I’m like, well, just pay someone to set it up for you. Like, let’s just put some more budget against someone else setting it up for you.

Cause in the end, it is going to save you a huge amount of time. Now, when I was researching for this episode, Ciara, I was actually listening to another interview that you did and you told a story on there, which just made me smile when it comes to this fear of change. And you talked about how it’s back in the day you were teaching venues about Facebook and how they needed to get their hotels on Facebook.

And they all looked at you like you had two heads.

Ciara: Yeah, absolutely. That was back in, I think it was back in 2009. And I did a workshop for hotel years, all about social media marketing. And they were just sitting there saying, nobody’s going to be friends with. a hotel on Facebook. This is pre Facebook pages.

So talk about making me feel old. Instagram didn’t, it didn’t exist back then. And obviously that’s a huge, huge channel for wedding pros now to generate, generate leads and, and kind of capture people’s imagination. But what we saw from the industry report is that TikTok is now a massive, massive rising trend in terms of people getting inspiration.

And while I know there’s people out there going to be, have their head in their hands going, not another bloody social media thing that I need to learn. I’m not going dancing on TikTok. But 57 percent of couples are going on TikTok looking for wedding inspiration and you know you don’t, it’s not all just dancing, okay, I suppose is my message about TikTok.

You know there’s ways to use TikTok to share your expertise, to give tips, to be really seen as a, as an expert, to share beautiful images. You know there’s lots and lots of ways that people can embrace that. And you know talking about personalization, we always talk about personalize it to the couples, you know, personalize to them.

But also personalized to you. People want to see the face behind the brand. And I think it’s, they’re putting a lot of money and a lot of trust in you. And I think being on camera, if, if you can at all, or at least your voice or at least photo, whatever is, is comfortable for you. I think I just couldn’t encourage people to do it enough because people want to see who they’re doing business with, who they’re giving their money to.

It’s that trust factor. And, you know, Looping back again, because all of these things are, are, are, are linked to the frustrations that couples feel. One of the frustrations was when they were dealing with venues and there was like, they were dealing with like five different people and people, staff were leaving and changing all the time.

That was really kind of discombobulating to them because they were like, Oh, who’s actually taking care of me? So, you know, that’s why, you know, family run businesses often do quite well with weddings because, you know, People feel that there’s huge amount of trust in booking their wedding with them because they’re not going to let them down.

Becca: Yeah. And it’s that old marketing adage that people buy from people and we need to remember that and bring that to the forefront, even in the age of TikTok, which everyone listening to this podcast knows, I just absolutely love that we have to be on TikTok now, but people ultimately buy from people. And so we need to bring ourselves to the forefront.

Now, I think two of the things, the biggest problems when people are thinking about their own businesses. and how they can embrace some of these changes are twofold, education and overwhelm of the tech. Now, I know because I’ve done my research, there’s huge amounts now of tech solutions, people that will help you set up this tech.

So just tell us a little bit about about your platform and how you’re trying to help people solve some of these problems.

Ciara: Sure. Thank you. So our platform developed actually out of COVID. We got, obviously our business got very quiet and the phone stopped ringing and the emails stopped coming in. So we got busy working on something that we’d been kind of thinking about for many years previously.

And it’s a piece of software, it’s called WedPro and it’s designed to really support wedding venues primarily is our. cohort of customers at the moment, not to say it couldn’t work for wedding vendors as well, but our, our initial focus was, was venues. And it’s a tool that really allows them to capture all of their leads, all of their inquiries from many different sources, from their own website, if they’re on other third party websites, all their leads fed into one central system.

Most of them are using it. Excel spreadsheets for that at the moment and it requires manual data entry. Of course, it can be prone to human error or if staff changes, et cetera. So this is one central system. We’re calling it, it’s a. It’s a source of truth. So all of the leads are in one place. All of those triggered follow up emails are in there, the countdown to the big day for the bookings, the nudging them to book the show round for the inquiries, etc, etc.

And then the reporting is, I’m a total stats junkie. I mean, if you didn’t already know from the industry report. So I love the numbers. And for me, I really want to see in my own business, what’s working and what’s not working. And then for the venues. That we work with, we want to show them, okay, well, you’re, this is all your, all of your, your marketing that you’re doing.

Well, what’s actually working, what’s not working, you know, where are your leads coming from? And also then where are your conversions coming from? And conversion rate, I think is so vital because, you know, some venues will be more or less popular than others in terms of, Just the, the reputation of the venue or whatever, but the conversion rate is so much to do with the person that they meet when they come through the door, how that person makes them feel.

And we have, we, you know, I’ve worked with airport hotels that have really strong conversion rates because they just have a dynamo wedding or events coordinator, you know, so it’s, it’s, it’s not always. The tip, the venues that you would expect, which is quite interesting. So I, I think the reporting side is, is really key because as you just said, back in knowledge is power and we can only make decisions to improve our business when we have that knowledge.

So the reporting and then the competitive benchmarking, because obviously we’re working with. So many different wedding businesses, we can show them what’s average, what’s normal, what they can expect in their location for a venue of their type, etc. So it’s quite cool that we have that insight and can share the bigger picture as well as what’s going on for them specifically.

Becca: Sounds amazing. I’m sure that there is a lot of venues who really do need to move away from working from spreadsheets, especially when their team members are changing, you know, all this stuff is changing and it gives a central location. If they’re then having that second resistance then of, yeah, but we don’t have time to set it up.

It. Do your team offer a service to help them set it up? Is that how it works?

Ciara: Yeah, exactly. So we do the full onboarding. So importing all of their inquiries from, from their spreadsheet or from their other, other sources, we will do that import for them, get, you know, the, the little bit of tech installed on their, on their website that the lead capture forms and then just train them up.

So it’s, it’s, you know, it’s, Kind of a handholding training call, but we also just launching this week, actually, the Web Pro Academy, which is a training e learning platform for our for our clients to help them upskill on, you know, how to get the most out of the system, how to earn kind of their their expert level, you know, we’ve kind of gamified it a little bit so that they, you know, will will kind of Yeah, upscale on, on the platform and really use it the best it can be because you often have people who sign up to these things, or you might have an owner or a general manager that signs up to something and they’re actually only using a fraction of it.

And that’s probably true of all of us in our businesses, you know, and you, you want the, the more that they’re using it, the more that they’re going to get out of it. So we’re always trying to encourage them to use the new features because we’re constantly, we’ve built the software in house. So we’re constantly adding to it and improving it all the time.

And we want them to embrace those new additions as well as. the features that they’ve been using and loving.

Becca: It’s so true and it’s so important as well. If you’re a venue owner listening to this, it’s not just a you decision. You’ve got to get your team on board with these platforms and get them to buy into it because I’ve been on venue visits, and I’m sure you have as well, Ciara, where I asked about their system and they’re like, well, the manager paid for this really expensive piece of software, but we don’t really use it because we don’t understand it.

So we’re still working from these paper files. And I just think I put my head in my hands. I think like, just get your team together for a couple of hours, teach them how to use this system and everything is going to run so much smoother.

Ciara: Absolutely. Absolutely. And, you know, we’ve just built an integration with property management systems that hotels use as well to, because you know, those, But with those systems, they’re so massive, they’re such a huge investment.

There absolutely has to be buy in from the team. But sometimes it’s other smaller, you know, there might be an email system, there might be a CRM system, there might, whatever. And that not everybody has embraced them. So I think it’s really important, you know, for us to kind of position ourselves that, you know, this is a significant investment, you know, you want to be getting the most out of it.

And we’re also integrating with the other significant investment that you made in terms of your property management system. So that’s really. It, you’re so right. It’s so key to get the, get the support. But our, I want to give a little shout out to one of my team members, Jasmine. She’s our customer success specialist, and she is just amazing.

The, the venues love her. The wedding coordinators love her. She’s a millennial bride herself. She just got married last October. So again, she knows exactly what it’s like to be in the bride’s shoes. So she gives really great insight and feedback. Venues ask her all the time. What do you think about this?

What do you think about this? And she’s able to give her opinion as a bride. as a kind of a fresh, freshly minted bride, which, you know, I can’t give that perspective. You know, I’m a 42 year old mom, so I’m coming at it from a different place. But yeah,

Becca: I love that it’s 2024 listeners. So it’s time to embrace the system, whether you’re a venue, whether you’re a small business owner, just start thinking about the system and stop telling yourself You can’t do it because you can’t understand it or you can’t do it because it’s going to cost you money because I promise you the amount of time it will save you will save you money in the long run as well because you are spending so much time repeating these processes over and over again.

Ciara, I could talk to you all day about all of these things, but we do need to bring the episode to a close. So thank you for your time. Thank you for being here. I always end my podcast with the same question. So I’m going to pose that one to you now. And it’s this, what’s one thing you personally wish you’d known sooner in your own life?

Ciara: Well, as I said, I’ve been in business for 16 years, so it’s a long time and something that I wish I knew earlier on was really about that tribe, about surrounding yourself with other people that are in the same kind of situation as you. I was a good few years into my business and I was completely on my own, wasn’t really involved in any, in any networks or any groups.

And it was only after a few years I started. Binding other women in business groups and now I have a couple of different lovely, lovely groups that I’m involved in and I get so much from those women when I meet them, when we go to events together, if I’m struggling with something, I have people at the other end of the spectrum.

phone that I can just pick up and call and that for me has been an absolute game changer and I wish I knew it, I wish I knew it sooner because I went through a few very lonely years at the beginning. The only person I could call was like my mom and dad.

Oh, it’s better now.

Becca: Yeah. Community is so, so important.

I definitely agree with you on that one. Ciara, thank you so much for your time. If people who’ve been listening, want to find out more about you, about your platforms, where’s the best places for them to go?

Ciara: So we’re very active on LinkedIn. We have a LinkedIn page for wedding dates and also my own LinkedIn page.

You should be able to find me easily, or we just launched our new Instagram. So the handle is getwedpro. on Instagram. So we’d love all the wedding pros out there to follow us. We share all our, you know, the stats, the industry report is linked there. Lots of different information, advice, tips, and encouragement, I suppose, for wedding pros that are listening.

You’ll find us on Instagram.

Becca: Amazing. I will make sure I put all of those links as well as the links to the two wedding industry reports in the show notes. Thank you for your time. I hope that I can see you in person somewhere very soon.

Ciara: Hope so too. Thanks for having me, Becca.

Becca: I love talking about wedding industry reports.

I could have had a conversation all day about those stats, but hopefully that’s given you a bit of a deep dive into that report. And you can go now and read it in more detail yourself. Some of the key things that have come out is we need to make sure we make our couples feel special. We need to embrace the price transparency and we need to get back to people sooner.

And as much as I don’t like to say it, we really need to be on TikTok. I’ll see you all next time.

Becca xo

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