Being the bride, not the business owner

Show notes:

Today I am welcoming back the head of strategy for Guides for Brides – Nikita Thorne. This time we are not talking about wedding directories – instead we are talking about her recent experience of planning her own wedding, and how it’s changed the way she thinks about wedding business marketing.

Find out more about Guides for Brides

Time stamps:

Instagram vs TikTok (00:00:00)

Comparison of social media platforms and potential content strategies.

Chat with Nikita (00:01:02)

Discussion with Nikita Thorne about wedding planning experiences and changes in views.

Budget and Surprises (00:02:34)

Reflection on wedding expenses and unexpected investments.

Upselling and Trends (00:04:30)

Discussion on upselling and last-minute additions to wedding budgets.

Initial Wedding Planning Steps (00:06:20)

The first steps taken after getting engaged, including guest lists and venue inquiries.

Venue Availability (00:09:45)

Challenges and ease of obtaining venue availability information.

Choosing a Venue (00:11:43)

The importance of marketing and customer service in selecting a wedding venue.

Narrowing Down Suppliers (00:13:56)

Criteria for selecting trustworthy suppliers and the importance of online presence and responsiveness.

Supplier Response Time (00:16:57)

The impact of fast or slow supplier response times on decision-making.

The excitement curve (00:17:43)

The diminishing excitement after inquiry and the importance of fast responses.

Pricing transparency (00:18:23)

The impact of not having prices on listings or websites for wedding services.

Importance of timing for reviews (00:23:34)

The challenges of leaving reviews after the wedding and the impact of timing on getting reviews.

TikTok as a marketing platform (00:28:41)

The growing influence of TikTok in wedding planning and its potential impact on marketing strategies.

Adapting to new social media trends (00:30:28)

The need to adapt to new social media platforms like TikTok for marketing to younger generations.

Couples Taking Longer to Inquire (00:35:56)

Couples are taking longer to make decisions, impacting the wedding industry’s advertising and booking patterns.

Changing Trends in Engagement (00:38:23)

Engagement and wedding planning trends are shifting, with more spread-out inquiries and a longer-term strategy needed.

Utilizing Wedding Planning Platforms (00:41:07)

Couples use wedding planning platforms in diverse ways, emphasizing the need for consistent and accessible information.

Importance of Transparent Pricing (00:41:42)

The significance of transparent pricing and the need to regularly review and synchronize pricing across all advertising platforms.

Transcript:

Nikita: Instagram isn’t quite king anymore, is it? So I would say if you’re not yet on TikTok, maybe it’s time to think about whether it would serve your social media strategy and potentially think about the kind of content you could be posting.

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 Nikita Thorne, Head of Strategy at Guides for Brides. Since she last appeared on the podcast back in 2022, she’s been through the wedding planning process herself, so I wanted to get her back to find out how her views have changed since planning her own wedding and how it impacts what she now tells other wedding pros to.

Having had this conversation multiple times over coffee, I decided it was time to hit record and let you all listen into our conversation. Nikita, welcome back to the podcast.

Nikita: I’m back. How are you, Becca?

Becca: I’m good. It’s so good to have you back. You are one of the very few people that has appeared on this podcast twice, but I know it’s going to be a great conversation, which is why I wanted you to come back again.

Nikita: What an honor. Fab. Fabulous. And I mean, we’ve been spending a lot more time together recently, haven’t we? I think you’re doing a lot more stuff with Guides to Brides, so it’s great.

Becca: Yeah, I absolutely love all of the things we’ve been doing, the networking, awards, this in person conference. We’ve had a great year together.

So as I said in the intro, we’ve talked a lot about over coffee, about these things and it’s time to bring it to the podcast. So first of all, huge congratulations because you are now married.

Nikita: Thanks? Yes, now a wife, which is really weird. It’s not one of those things that you kind of can transition to very easily.

I’m still not used to calling my husband my husband, which is, well, very, very odd.

Becca: You get used to it eventually, you get used to it eventually, but what’s been interesting for me is As we said, we’ve been spending time together and I feel like I’ve almost walked through your entire wedding planning process with you from right at the start when you got engaged through to actually getting married and seeing you after the wedding day.

So I wanna talk to you to start with about some of the lessons you’ve learned. Now you’ve been on the other side and been a bride. So the first thing I’m gonna ask you is when you reflect back on your wedding day, what do you think was the best thing you spent money on?

Nikita: Oh God. All of it? No, yeah, the whole day was great.

I mean, we were really pleased with how we spent our budget and, you know, we, we came across quite a few things as we were planning, which was something I didn’t expect to happen, that we decided to then add to the budget as we went on. So I think probably, you know, the things that I’m, I’m happy we invested in were photography, videography.

Those things sort of stay with you throughout the rest of the time that you have together. And that’s a really great thing for, for us to have is amazing photos and a lovely video. But I think in terms of things that surprised me, I was, I was so happy with my wedding flowers. I didn’t expect to care about them so much, but I did.

So I was really happy with that. And we jumped on the newspaper trend for our wedding as well, which was, I’m not sure if you’ve seen it, Becca, the wedding newspapers, which have just completely taken over TikTok. And, yeah, I’m really happy we spent money on that because that, that was actually a really big hit with our guests.

They thought it was so cool. So, yeah, to be honest, everything, really happy with everything. The venue was amazing, the food was amazing. The entertainment was amazing. Like, you know, we had an amazing band that it just, it was just all amazing. That’s the word.

Becca: I love that. And one of the things that’s jumped out to me from what you’ve said then is that you added to your budget as you went along.

And I’ve been talking to my members recently about how actually now is a good time to start thinking about upselling or, you know, it’s not too late to pick up summer weddings, especially for people like photo booths and that kind of thing. Because actually I do think there is a trend of people having this set budget, getting all the main things in line, but then actually realizing, Oh, there’s a few extras and saving up a bit of extra money and throwing it at those extras last minute.

Do you think that would be a fair representation of what happened?

Nikita: Yeah, I would say that’s definitely a fair representation of what happened. I mean, I, I, I understand that I’m slightly biased because I am in the industry, but. I think I’ve seen it happen to my friends as well. You know, you come across things, you see stuff on TikTok, you see stuff on other social media platforms.

You, you talk to people about what they’re doing for their wedding and the ideas that they have just sound amazing. And it’s so easy to replicate, or it’s so easy to, you know, Bring into your own day that you think, oh, fantastic. I’ll, I’ll, I’ll sort that out. Like, for example, I went to an event after, after getting engaged and booking the majority of my suppliers within the space of about three months, I went to an event with work and there was a magician there and I hadn’t even thought about having a magician at our wedding.

Having the Magician there and chatting to him and sort of working out, actually, do you know what? This is a really good way to break the ice between people. And we didn’t have it on our budget to begin with. And so, yeah, we, we, I brought it home. I chatted to Matty about it and he, he was really keen on it as well.

My parents were very generous and so were his, but they, particularly my parents, generously sort of said that they could cover that for us or help cover that. And, you know, it, I just felt like it was a really good idea.

Becca: I love a magician at a wedding. Absolutely. So if you’re listening to this and you’re thinking, oh, I still got some gaps for this summer.

It’s not too late. So keep marketing those additional services, keep talking about it and tell people it’s not too late. They can add it on to their wedding day. Now, I think one of the interesting insights from when people get engaged for us to know as business owners, as venue owners, is how people make decisions when they first get engaged.

So I’d love you to just talk me through, obviously you get engaged. What was the first steps you personally took towards planning your wedding?

Nikita: So the next evening after getting engaged, we, we sort of had a conversation. We worked out that the date that we wanted 10 year anniversary. And so it was a very specific wedding date that we were looking for.

So. October 7th was going to be our 10 year anniversary. And we thought, Oh my gosh, it’s on a Saturday. That’s amazing. And so I knew like, okay, this weekend we’ve got to start planning because at that point we’re about 15 months away from that. And so we sat down, we brought out our guest list to get an idea of numbers.

And then I started inquiring with wedding venues and. For me, I knew, I knew a lot of the suppliers that I did want to secure in the initial stages anyway, just from the work that I do and who I knew and who I knew was good because I’d seen them at shows or I met them through guys for brides or I’d, you know, done a few other things with them over time, you know, I’ve got, The Guides to Brides wedding podcast.

I had quite a few people who were guests on that podcast because I was able to chat to them. I got to know them. So it was, yeah, we knew what we wanted, but the venue for me was the biggest question mark. And it was also about like finding one that suited us both. And so, you know, I started inquiring on Guides to Brides and looking on Google and on social media.

And I found loads of venues and I quickly started inquiring with a handful and got those back and there were a couple that were too expensive and that was fine. And there were a couple that, you know, just didn’t really quite fit what we were looking for. But the biggest overwhelm point for me was because I wanted that specific date.

A lot of people were booked and that was stressful. Like finding, and that was because that date was so meaningful to us. And we had discussed like if there really wasn’t anywhere that we were happy with that had that date available. Then we would be flexible on it. But, you know, I think I sort of sold it on myself and during COVID, you know, we saw that that was a really big deal for a lot of couples and, you know, we were sitting there going.

You know what guys, it’s just a date, it’s fine. If you have to move it, that’s okay. And you know, and now I really understood where those couples were coming from and why they were so like, aligned with that. And I hadn’t realized that before, but you know, I had one day where I came into the office and I had like, so little sleep.

And this is the benefit of working in an office full of wedding professionals and people who know the industry, because I basically sat down at tea break and I just had a little bit of a cry with everyone. And they were like, right, Don’t worry. We’re here. We’re going to help you find something and Alison was there saying like, don’t worry.

Honestly, it’s fine. It’s just a date. Just need to remember. It’s just a date. And all of my colleagues were like, right, well, I can recommend this venue and I can recommend this venue show. Oh, and I’ve actually got this venue on my call list today. Let me, let me ask them the question if they’ve got that date available.

And it was, it was just so nice to work in an office full of wedding professionals on that particular day. Because they were all just so helpful. Because like, I was just so stressed.

Becca: Yeah, and it’s interesting hearing that the date was so important to you because I think that comes back to remembering that for some people the date doesn’t matter, but for some people it does matter.

So if we are a venue or a supplier, how easy is it for people to know very fast the availability because you didn’t want to waste your time talking to people if you already knew their date wasn’t available. So was it hard to get that availability from people? Was it easy? How did that work?

Nikita: So thank, well, thankfully on, on Guides for Brides, I know other platforms do it as well.

There is the opportunity to sort of put the specific date that you want in there. And so all of the initial responses I had genuinely had a either, here’s our availability calendar, take a look. Or it was a, yes, we have that date available or no, we don’t. So it really helped whereas on the websites, I did find that they didn’t have that very easily, and I wasn’t able to inquire about a specific date, which at the end of the day is not an issue because I could just put it in the message, and again, the response was very specific, but I think, I think for me that was really important, but I know I’m probably in a minority in that.

So for example, my best friend’s getting married this year. When she was looking for her venue, she really was not bothered about the date at all, and it was more for her about trying to get, find a wedding venue that could give her the most for her money. And if she was going to have a summer wedding, how could she make the most of that opportunity?

Would, what did the venue package include, et cetera, et cetera. But for me, it was very much the date, but you know, we found the venue in the end and it was the perfect venue for us. So yeah, that was, that was great.

Becca: And I love the venue that you chose because for me, It’s a really good example of marketing because we had both actually met the venue, hadn’t we, when we were speaking at a national wedding fair and, and they were exhibiting, this was even before you decided on your venue or anything, we’d met them, I think it was before you were engaged and they’d given out this beautiful tote bag.

They’d given me some honeycomb. And so like from a marketing and visibility and positioning point of view, they had a really strong brand recognition in my mind. So as soon as you said to me, the venue I’ve chosen is this, I was like, Oh, they’re the people that gave me the honeycomb. And so it’s, it shows you the importance of doing those little things when you’re at a wedding fair, when you’re online, having those things that people remember you for, because it makes the recall so much better.

And I love that you got married there in the end.

Nikita: And you know what, Becca, I actually, The, it was in that stress period of, I haven’t, I can’t find anywhere that I really, really like and just sort of clutching at every straw to try and find somewhere. And I turned around and I looked at my work bag, which was that bag, and went, oh yeah,

And that’s the thing. And I, and then I looked at them, I looked at their website, I looked at their listings, I looked at their social media, and it just ticked so many boxes. And you know, the, the real selling point I have to say, and I think. This is the right sort of message across the board, the selling point for me and for, and for Mattie, was the, the customer service.

Because we walked into that venue and we were really early because we had seen another venue in that day. And I just went up and said, we’re here, but we’re really early, so we’re just going to sit down and we’re just going to order a drink. And they were like, oh, don’t worry. If you’re here for the show round, have a drink.

Like, you know, really easy. And then they were able to sort of, we were, we were sitting down. We were just, we ordered a bag of crisps. Like, you know, just caught up on it. Wedding coordinator came over and said, I’ll be free in 15 minutes. Nice to meet you. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And yeah, it, it just felt like they actually cared about the both of us.

And that was really important to me as well, because I went to wedding venues where they only spoke to me and not to my partner and I did not like that at all.

Becca: Yeah, really, really interesting. And I do think, especially with venues, I think people make decisions on venues, a bit like we make decision on houses.

Almost the moment you walk in the front door, you feel that feeling whether it’s right or not. And if they get that. first impression wrong that sets the whole tour, then they’re on an uphill struggle. But if that first impression is right, it makes the whole process a whole lot easier. Now you’ve said already that you work with a lot of suppliers in your job.

I always say to my members and the people I work with, I’m so glad I got married back in 2010 because I wouldn’t be able to narrow it down. But you obviously had to narrow it down. I talk on stage a lot about how I from the research think that couples are narrowing their choices down. I would love to hear from you.

How did you narrow those choices down? What were the kind of things you were looking for, not just in venues, but across the board? So

Nikita: if we focus on suppliers, I think the main thing I was looking for was someone I could trust or people I could trust to do a good job. And when it came to things that I had to research, like, for example, when I thought about my wedding prior to getting engaged, I, I knew in my head, right, I want, I would really want this band or I would really want this photographer and thankfully I was able to get them, but when I, but I hadn’t considered things like hair and makeup, I hadn’t considered things like flowers.

It was those details that I hadn’t previously considered and therefore hadn’t like, And I, for those particular elements, the things that I was looking at were reviews. I was looking at their listing pages, you know, like across the board, not even just on Guides for Brides. Like if they’re on multiple platforms and I saw them a couple of times, I would be like, okay, these guys are, these guys are serious about their business.

And I would be looking at that, I’d be looking at the photos they’d share, how recently their last social media post was. I mean, it’s something that granular of a detail. I mean, if I saw that, I got engaged in the summer, so understanding that it’s very busy at that point. And so I would, I would look at their last social media posts.

And if I saw it was in the last sort of month, I’d be like, great. You know, they’re obviously a very active business. I’d follow a couple of people before even inquiring with them just to see if they added to their story, which, you know, is something that is. I don’t think people realize that others do.

And I spoke to a couple of friends about this and they were like, Oh no, no, we’ve done that too. So I think that’s quite an important thing to note. Like they’re not just looking at your grid posts. They’re looking at the way that you enter, they interact with their audience. Even if it’s like a tiny audience of 20 followers, I want to see how you interact with them.

And then I guess as well, the speed of response for the inquiry. Great. If I’m waiting for weeks on end to hear back from you, I’m sorry, I’ve already booked someone. You know, I had it a couple of times where I sent inquiries and I got no response at all. And if I really liked a business and I hadn’t heard back from them, I would actually like, for example, if I sent it on a wedding platform and I hadn’t heard back from them, I would then go to their website a couple of days later and send the inquiry on their website as well.

Because, you know, I know that sometimes, you know, if you’ve edited a platform and you’ve forgotten to change an email address or something like that, it’s very easy to do. But other brides wouldn’t necessarily know that. So if I hadn’t heard back from someone within a couple of days of sending an inquiry, I probably would have disregarded them.

And I know that’s also happening with my friends. as well.

Becca: So do you think time of response, was that a common problem that you came across? Were most people good at responding fast or did you have a lot of people that were slow or just ignored you entirely?

Nikita: I had a, I had a good percentage of people that were responding within like a day and that was perfect.

You know, I’m not going to sit there and sort of keep refreshing. If I really wanted that supplier, the faster they responded, the better. Because I was, I was at that point where I was like, oh my gosh, I love this. And then I would email, and if I heard back from them within the space of like 40 minutes, an hour, I’d be like, oh my gosh, they’re so good.

And I would then sort of go through the process a lot faster. Because in that, by that point, by the point you send an inquiry, I You basically know that you want to book them, like my makeup artist, for example, I sent an inquiry on my tea break at work, and by my lunch break, I had a response, and I booked her on my lunch break.

Becca: I love that, and that backs up what I talk about, so I talk about the excitement curve, which is basically the moment someone inquires is when they’re at their most excited, and the more hours, minutes, days, weeks that pass, that excitement curve just drops off, because when you send that inquiry, you’re like, In like full wedding planning, excitement mode, you’ve done your research.

You just want to know they’re available. You want to know their prices. And if they wait two or three days to get back to you, life has got in the way. You’ve, you’ve gone back to your job, you’re doing other things. And so that excitement level is a lot lower and therefore it’s harder to get those responses.

So absolutely back you up on the faster, the response, the better. Were there any other common mistakes that you saw? You obviously did a lot of research. Were there common mistakes, common frustrations?

Nikita: Common frustration, I would say is. And we talk about it a lot, is not having prices on your listings or on your website.

And that’s not true. I understand why big, I understand why that is. I think there are places where it’s important to make sure that you have got at least some sort of indication of price, because I had set a budget and I had written down in that budget, approximately how much. I wanted to spend, and I wasn’t afraid of going over what I had.

If that person was really, really good, like what I had allocated, I wasn’t afraid of going over. I would then, I would, I would hit that as a challenge when it came to it. So couples always have an approximate idea of a budget in their mind. If you are 500 pounds more, and I really, really like you, then I’m not afraid to spend the extra 500 pounds and take it away from something that’s less important to me.

So I just wanted to know how much it would be almost and the ones that did have pricing or did have a some sort of indication of like starting from X or going or like between this and this, you know, even just that was a helpful indication for me to know that, okay, these guys are in that range. But it’s, it’s not something that I could like, if, if it was totally out of my range, then I wouldn’t inquire and I wouldn’t waste your time.

Becca: Yeah, exactly. Which is why it’s so important to have those prices on the website. And if there wasn’t prices on the website, so if you went on a supply website, you like their work, you like their reviews, there were no prices. Did you just inquire to get the price? Did it put you off? Did you just make a judgment based on what you could see in front of you?

Nikita: I think it’s a mixture of all three. To be honest, if we’re talking about supplier websites as sort of rather than the listing pages, but just as websites, I think for me prices, if your website looks really high end, I’m going to assume you’re high end. And if you don’t have prices on your website to suggest that you aren’t in that luxury, luxury market, I probably won’t inquire with you.

You know, sometimes putting your best work on a page can be detrimental if you don’t have. That key information that’s going to help me understand that you are in my price range and I and thing is if they even if it was like I wasn’t afraid of for example if I went on to a videographer’s website And I saw that they said oh enter your details to see my packages or something like that I’m, not afraid of that because I know that i’m enter the details And then I see all the pricing and packages and then if they email me I can just reply going, really sorry you’re out of my price range or yeah I’d like to find out more please.

So that didn’t put me off but I think for a few of my friends it has put them off. And I think, you know, it’s just important to be aware of the potential snap judgment because We all want to represent ourselves in the best way possible, but if, but if we’re giving a different kind of perspective that to what we actually are and we’re upselling ourselves to the point where we think we’re in the luxury market and you are aiming for a different kind of couple, then it’s probably important to have some sort of prices there.

To show that indication and to show who you’re trying to reach.

Becca: Yeah, absolutely. And it’s a dangerous marketing game to play because actually if you’re good at marketing and you can make yourself look expensive, that’s great. But then you might also be scaring people because they think, well, they must be so good.

There’s no way I can afford them. Whereas actually you might be, I was talking to someone who charges a lot for their work and they said, I’m not getting inquiries because people can’t. think they can’t afford me. But actually, if they were getting married on a weekday, then I would do it at a lower cost.

So I said to them, well, do you tell them that anywhere? They were like, no. Well, how are they going to know? They’re just assuming, they are assuming, and we don’t want to put the power or the assumptions into other people’s minds. The clearer we make it, the easier it is.

Nikita: I think, I think that is the core of it.

Assumptions. Because people will make a judgment about you. And often if you don’t have prices on your website, I am going to assume I can’t afford you. And that’s, and that’s probably a lovely judgment to have, like, yes, you are way above what I can afford and, or you work in the luxury sector. Fantastic if that is what you’re trying to showcase.

That’s the judgment I’m going to make. If you show me that, I’m going to make that judgment. So yeah, as you say, just even if you can say something like, you know, prices start from X, then That is going to help me make a better judgment of whether I can afford you or not.

Becca: Absolutely. Now one of the other things we talked about that I want to touch on, we talked about over coffee, that I found really interesting was actually after your wedding.

So you went through the wedding planning process, you had the wedding, you did the honeymoon, and we talked about reviews. Now you are in the industry, and so you went into this process like, I’m in the industry, I’m going to leave. Everyone amazing reviews. I know how hard it is to get reviews from people, but the conversation we had, I thought was a really interesting insight.

So let the listener at home know a little bit more about that.

Nikita: So I feel really guilty about this now, but when I, when I got married, I had a mini moon and then I went straight back into work after that and I only have my honeymoon in January. So we had waited to give ourselves that bit more time. And I had taken, for the wedding and the, and the mini moon, two full weeks off work.

So when I got back to work, which was a few days after landing from the mini moon, I, I just was thrown straight into it. I was catching up on everything. Life got in the way. It was so busy. And at that point as well, it’s October. So I’m starting to think about Christmas. I’m starting to think about other things that I’ve got coming up in life.

How my best friend’s wedding is now less than a year away, and I need to help her with the planning, and all of, like, just life, just happened, and I had suppliers, like, remind me, like, oh, could you please leave a review, and I went, yep, absolutely, and I made a note, and I left the review that evening, but others that didn’t, and then, or did, and I was, like, I was in the middle of my work day, and I, I see something pop up on my phone and I have to like, ignore it because I’m at work, you know?

And so I would then forget because I’m busy. And I think it’s important, like, it was an important insight for me because I thought, yeah, I’m going to be this perfect customer and I’m going to leave everyone a fantastic review because they all were so fantastic. And then I just totally forgot. And it was with the best of intention.

Becca: Yeah, exactly. And I think that’s the point, isn’t it? I think that’s what’s the interesting insight because you also have the best of intentions, which most people probably wouldn’t even consider before they get married. So how much harder is to get a review from them? But I think the interesting insight for me is that actually it wasn’t that you didn’t want to leave a review, Yeah.

or that you weren’t willing to leave a review. It was just actually the people that reminded you a few times or reminded you a good type of day actually were more likely to get you to do it because it wasn’t that you didn’t want to. It was just that you kept forgetting.

Nikita: Yeah, and that’s the thing. If you like, for example, I work a nine to five.

Understand your couples. Do they work a nine to five? Do they work shifts? Like what is their work style, work lifestyle like? Because if you send them a message at 11am in the morning, the likelihood is they might see it and then they totally forget to do anything with it because they’re too busy to do anything.

Cause I’m not going to stop working in order to like, you know, being paid for this, not for this. And I think if they sent me that message at 7pm when I was on the sofa watching TV. Yeah, nice and easy, you know, because I’m there and I’m not doing anything.

Becca: Yeah, absolutely. And if you’re listening to this thinking, but I don’t want to send that message at 7pm on a Friday night.

Schedule it, send it and schedule it to go at 5, 7 o’clock on a Friday night. It doesn’t have to be organic. If it goes out and send a reminder for someone to do a review, that’s going to be really helpful for you. So yeah, I, I love that. Perspective. I think it’s a really interesting thing to have thought about.

I don’t know you’re embarrassed talking about it, but actually I think it’s really helpful for people to realize because I think sometimes people take it personally. Oh, they obviously didn’t like it because they didn’t leave a review. It’s not like that. I know that you loved every single part of your wedding is actually just people have lives.

You don’t know what’s going on in their lives. You don’t know how busy they are. And so actually just giving them that little reminder and making it really easy for them. So they can just click one button and leave the review, not trying to make it really complicated for them.

Nikita: Yeah, I mean, I think I’ll give an example of my, for my honeymoon, actually, the, that I used a private travel agent to plan our honeymoon because we were going, we were going to have a Lapland honeymoon to Finland and I was like, I don’t want to get this wrong.

I hired a a private travel agent to help me. And the day after we returned, she sent me a lovely message saying, I hope you had an amazing time. Would you mind leaving me a review here, here and here? I’m really sorry. I know it’s three separate places, but. You know, it would be really helpful to me. And I was like, yes, of course, because the timing is right at the moment in time.

And I hadn’t yet gone back to work because, yeah, she saw that I landed on a Monday. She then, she chatted to me like, oh, what’s your plans after? While having the day off on the Tuesday. And then we’re going back to work on the Wednesday. So she messages me on the Tuesday night.

Becca: Very smart. And did you leave her a view in all the places?

Nikita: Yep, I did. Every single place.

Becca: Wow. That is, that is impressive and well worth her asking you those questions to get that back from you. Yeah. Now, Nikita, it would be remiss of me while I’ve got you here to Not taught you a little bit more about the wider wedding industry. We talked a lot about your wedding, which I love, and I could talk to you about it all day.

But actually the fact that you are here, you work for guides for brides, I think gives you a unique insight into data, into what’s going on in the wedding industry. Cause you’re working at it at a bigger picture place than most people who are listening to this podcast. So I would just love to know from your perspective, as we look at 2024, What is going out on out there in the market?

What are people looking for from their suppliers? Have you got any trends that you’re seeing or things that we should be knowing about?

Nikita: So I think one of the biggest trends that I mentioned this at our recent UK wedding conference and it, it’s not really a surprising trend when you think about it, but it’s definitely one that sort of caught my attention.

Is we ran a survey in November to couples, which asked them the question of which social media platform has the greatest influence on your wedding planning. And TikTok actually came out on top. It was 33 percent of audience said it was the most influential. And for me, as I say, it shouldn’t really be a surprise because it’s a massive growing platform.

It sort of made me realize that, Hmm, it’s Instagram isn’t quite King anymore, is it? So I would say. If you’re not yet on TikTok. Maybe it’s time to think about whether it would serve your social media strategy and potentially think about the kind of content you could be posting. I’m not saying you have to be on there because if it doesn’t work for your business, it doesn’t work for your business and that’s fine.

And we Ideally, we, none of us need another social media platform to be using. Cause there’s about five or six than that we need to sort of think about and strategize for. But if you can, and if it’s going to benefit your business, I think it would be worth investing time in thinking about TikTok and even if you think about it as well, like food recipes, for example.

Where do I, where do I go? I don’t go to Google anymore. I go to TikTok. If I want some ideas for a country wedding, I might go to TikTok, wedding ideas, country or country I, wedding ideas or something like that in, in the, in the search box. Because it’s so visual and I’m a, I’m a very visual person. And if you capture my attention, you’ve got it for a good 10 minutes.

Becca: So, yeah. And I think I was really taken aback by that insight when you shared it at the conference, because I remember you saying it’s overtaken Pinterest and it’s bigger than Instagram. And I’m like, Oh no, I’m really going to have to start paying more attention to TikTok. And I think for me, I’m a millennial through and through I’m not a TikTok user.

And so I think. out there in the industry. There’s a lot of us that were a little bit resistant to that change. However, we have to look at the data. We know more Gen Z are going to start getting married. We know that that demographic are using TikTok. You’ve just given examples of how you use it yourself.

And therefore as marketers, as people trying to, you know, market to this demographic. At some point soon, we are going to have to get over it and start paying more attention to TikTok. And I think I’ve started trying to post on there occasionally, but I do think if you’re listening to this and you’ve gone nowhere near TikTok, at least just start by Set up an account and just look, just go and look, go and have some inspiration, see what other people are doing.

You don’t have to dive in straight away, but I do think we need to start moving ourselves slowly in that direction. I saw it with Instagram. There was a lot of people that were resistant to go all out on Instagram. They were still sticking with Facebook, but over time they’ve all had to move over there.

And I think it same with TikTok. So be an early adopter and start understanding it now.

Nikita: I think, yeah, I think so as well. I think, I think from our perspective as well, the, actually, do you know what? I’ll give a couple of tips with TikTok because I’ve started managing TikTok accounts for a couple of my venue clients.

So for TikTok, a couple of things to remember. It’s about the sounds. It’s about the trends. And it’s about community engagement. So those are the three big things to consider. Now, trends is a little bit harder if you’re a venue or you’ve got, I’ll put this in like quotation marks, but like a, a serious side of your business, because a lot of the trends are comedy based, so you might want to just take that one with a pinch of salt, but sounds and the trending sounds help push your content to a wider audience and then community engagement is really important because.

TikTok will not share your posts to a very wide, wide reaching audience without you actually engaging with that audience yourself and with the other, other people’s posts. So if you’re scrolling through the For You page and you Like a video or you comment on a video or you follow a creator. Those are really good ways to enhance that community engagement side and have a few, ask your, ask your work, working friends and your other supplier friends.

Do they have Tik Tok? Follow them, interact with their posts because they’ll do the same for you. And it’s all measured based on. The community engagement that you do, the, the sounds that you use, obviously the, the content’s got to be engaging as well, and there’s tools to help with that, like CapCut, which has got a partnership with TikTok.

It’s very easy to use. And additionally on that as well, the more engagement you get, the wider the reach of your video. So it’s all works together in tandem, but those are your elements to consider.

Becca: Amazing. Love that. Some quick fire TikTok tips for those of you that are thinking, oh no, I don’t want to go on TikTok.

It’s, it’s time people, it’s time to start embracing a little bit more of TikTok. Hey, I’m a Zillennial. The other thing,

Nikita: I’m a Zillennial. I love that. A Zillennial. I am, I am literally on the cusp of millennial to gen Z. I remember dial up internet, but I also have had the, I’ve had an iPhone since they first came out, you know?

So. The people that are now coming through, there’s a much, much bigger group of people that are using these platforms because They’re more interested in the visual, they’re more interested in the quickfire, they’re more interested in these elements. So it’s really worth considering if you can, but I do understand why if you don’t think it’s going to work well for you.

Becca: I absolutely love that. Zillennial. I think that’s the first time I’ve heard anyone use that, but it’s such a good description. You can help me bridge the gap because I heard someone describe me the other day as an elder millennial, and that made me feel very depressed. So I will, I think zillennial sounds a lot more young and fresh than.

Elder, millennial, which I think is what I fit into, sadly but I do love thinking about all these different things because actually we think everyone’s like us, but actually the reality is different people are coming through, different generations are coming through and we have to pay attention to it.

Now Nikita, another thing that’s coming up from my suppliers a lot is that we’ve gone into January this year, 2024, all excited for proposal season. And for some people it hasn’t been maybe as exciting as they’d hoped. They’ve seen a little bit of a dip in their inquiries for some people. Some people are seeing more.

inquiries in February rather than January, which has bucked the trend a little bit. I’d love to know some thoughts from you about what’s going on out there in the big wider world and whether there are some changing trends that we’re seeing.

Nikita: So I think it’s important to know about the January sort of trend that you’re seeing.

I don’t think people are alone. I think this is actually something that is not to panic about. And it’s better to focus always on the long term strategy and the things that will assist you with that, rather than panic buying lots of Google ads or Facebook ads and just thinking, Oh my God, my inquiries are much lower than they were last year at this time, and I need to get more.

Okay, fine. Invest a little bit more in that, but don’t go full hog, because As you say, you know, we’re seeing a bit of an uptake in February as well. So, you know, it’s always going to change and we can never determine exactly when the audience is going to. inquire with us. I think that couples are taking longer now to make a decision as to whether or not to inquire.

I think, you know, as I said, like, if I was inquiring with someone, I had enough information at that point to know that they were right for me, and it was just about ticking a couple of final boxes before booking them. So I think they’re doing a lot more research, and I think they are looking at a lot more places than they were maybe five years ago.

So In terms of how they send their inquiry and when, but I’ll give you an example of actually that recently, my colleague, John runs wedding fairs at a few venues around the Thames Valley area. And he told me this week, actually, that one of the suppliers at those, at the fairs, they had exhibited at the same wedding fair a few times they’d exhibited last January, February ish time in the autumn.

and again this year. And they saw the same couple come in the door in that January 2023, or Autumn 2023, and then again this year in January, February 2024. That couple has only just booked that supplier. So it’s a really interesting pattern that we’re seeing is that, you know, couples are taking a lot longer, I think, to make that decision.

And by a lot longer, I mean they could be taking a couple more days, or they could be taking, in the case of this couple, like, Yeah, to make that decision. So, you know, I think we just have to go, go with the flow a little bit. Don’t panic with what you’re experiencing, but always think about the long term plan because, you know, we saw it during COVID where people stopped advertising for, cause they had full bookings for 2021 and 2022.

And when they stopped advertising, they stopped getting the same number of interest for later years. And we’re seeing a big dip in weddings in 2024 because of all of that. And it’s always worth considering the long term plan. If you are planning to be here for another five, 10 years in the wedding industry, what Where are you advertising?

How are you making sure that you keep that flow going?

Becca: Yeah. And also not everyone is getting married or engaged, sorry, over Christmas. I mean, when I got engaged way back in 2010, I got engaged in May. I think it was, so it was nowhere near Christmas. Yeah.

Nikita: I got engaged in June. Yeah. June was my, my engagement.

And that’s the thing I think as well, like, you know, I’ve got a couple of friends who also got engaged in the summer and actually speaking of that. Last summer, we saw a much bigger intake than we had before of inquiries. You know, I think people are starting to spread out a little bit more in terms of their inquiries.

And I think as well, like, you know, October 2023, we saw quite a big hike. In inquiries that we didn’t really expect to see. And I think that is because people are aware of how this works. Like I saw quite a lot of suppliers posting towards the end of the year, October, November time. Like if you’ve got engaged this summer, don’t forget to try and book your suppliers before the January rush.

You know, what percentage of those people would have waited until after Christmas to start their wedding planning if they hadn’t had that information? So, yeah, I think. I think it’s always worth looking at the long term plan and thinking about actually the way people inquire is always going to change.

And we’ve always got to adapt and we just adapt with the way the times are going. And right now it seems like. They’re taking a little bit longer to inquire, and that might be because they want to make sure they can trust your business before they send that inquiry. It may be because they’ve got plenty of time.

Like, a lot of people are inquiring for 2027 on our site already, so they’re not in any rush. So we can just sort of think about, like, take a step back. look at the wider picture and think about your long term strategy.

Becca: Really helpful, and I think it’s important for us to remember we can only control the controllables.

We can’t control when people are getting engaged or when they’re inquiring, but we can control not panicking, is a big theme coming out from what you’re saying, and also just remaining visible. all year round, making sure we’ve got all the information available all year round so that whether someone gets engaged at December, February, June, August, September, they get the same level of service and they can find all the information from you.

So if you’re listening to this and you are feeling that panic, actually just reset yourself and think, no, it is a longer term strategy.

Nikita: And I’ll just add to that as well, Becca, I think The way people are inquiring, I, I, I think it’s getting more spread out in terms of on wedding planning platforms, on websites, on social media, because they’re looking at so many places before they inquire.

And, you know, guides for brides wise, part of what we do is to act as a launch pad for your business. So, you know, the platform is there as a shop front, people can access your website, they can send you an inquiry, they can look at photos, they can look at a video, they can look at your social media.

Directly from that page. So I think it’s useful to remember that couples always are going to use those platforms in very different ways. They’re not all just going to go on there and straight away sent an inquiry. They are going to use it as a way to find you in different, different ways. So it’s always worth just remembering that.

Becca: Fantastic. Nikita, this has been such an interesting episode. I think it’s given people lots of food for thought. Now, I always end the podcast with the same question, but today I’m changing the question up. And the question today is this, what’s one thing you want the listeners to do having listened to this week’s episode?

Nikita: Hmm. I think I’ll go back to my big bride frustration, which was around pricing. And I, thing is, I listened to this podcast quite a lot and that gets preached quite a lot, and I know people are going to be fed up of hearing it, but it’s so important to have some sort of indication at the very least of your pricing, because you know, from my perspective, I was looking at photos, then I was looking at price, and then I was reading things.

If your price didn’t fit me, I moved on because I didn’t want to waste my time. And I think, make sure that you set some time aside to look at all of the places that you’re listed on, to look at your website, to look at your social media, if there’s any information on there, make sure it’s all joined up, make sure all the prices are the same or, or at least reflect the same thing.

And yeah, just make sure you, you set, set that in your diary, set it every six months to just have. A check over and make sure you have all of those basics in place in all of the areas that you’re advertising.

Becca: I love it. And we will keep preaching it on this podcast, Nikita, because I know from marketing, you have to hear a message at least seven times before you remember it.

So you’re hearing it again today. Go check your website, make sure you’ve got transparent pricing on there. And if you haven’t, you’ve got to have a really good reason why you haven’t. So go and reflect on that today. Nikita, thank you so much. I look forward to seeing you somewhere very soon. Thank you for being a guest for the second time.

Nikita: Thanks for having me again, Becca to maybe interview this time again.

Becca: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks for being here. Cheers. Bye.

I love that conversation with Nikita. Isn’t she fantastic? I feel like you’ve had a little insight into all those coffees that we’ve had over the last year and all the things we’ve been talking about. Now we’ve brought them to you on the podcast. And I think it’s helpful for us to see things both from a bride’s perspective, but also from a national perspective with guys for brides.

And if you’re interested in knowing more about Guides for Brides, go and check out my previous episode back from 2022, when me and Nikita went into that further. I’ll see you all next time.

Becca xo

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