Sage Wedding Pros

Hello friends, fans, collaborators!

WOW!  What tremendous feedback we have already received.  THANK YOU!

The name of the blog has been change to
Sage Wedding Pros

Follow here:

May you prosper,

Michelle Loretta


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What is your mission?

What is the mission of your business?  When is the last time you looked at your mission statement?

I’m hoping your answer to the latter question is, “Michelle, I just looked at it an hour ago as it is emblazoned in hot pink on my walls.”  But, if you are like most small business owners (myself included) you just winced with the thought of it and mumbled “Make the bad man stop.”

But, it’s time to face it: you need to know what your business is all about and what the purpose is of your business.

We’re going to do two things today: break down a successful mission statement and craft one of our own.  EGADS!

Starbucks’ Mission Statement

The Starbucks Experience: 5 Principles for Turning Ordinary into Extraordinary is a great read.  The book breaks down the secrets of all that is Starbucks.  The company has an amazing mission statement:

“To inspire and nurture the human spirit— one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.”

WOW! That’s a lot of pressure for a little cup of coffee! The book goes on to talk about how the company’s five guiding principles direct everyone in the organization to achieve this mission.  They are:

  1. Make it your own (Be welcoming, be genuine, be considerate, be knowledgeable, be involved)
  2. Everything Matters  (It really is the little things that count)
  3. Surprise and Delight  (What is the extra something? The je ne sais quoi?)
  4. Embrace Resistance (Learn from criticism, Challenge skepticism, Do not avoid conflict)
  5. Leave Your Mark (Leave a powerful and positive mark on the community)

By having this clearly communicated mission statement – and the five guide principles – the company has been able to achieve unbridled success.  Employees know what to do and how to do it.  Clients understand the product and the company.

YOUR Mission Statement

Now… drumroll, please!  What about your mission statement?  Dust it off and let’s get started.  Here are questions taken from Entrepreneur Magazine’s Start Your Own Business to help you in the construction/re-construction of your company’s mission statement:

  • Why are you in business?
  • Who are your customers?
  • What is the nature of your products and services?
  • What level of service do you provide?
  • What roles do you and your employees play?
  • What kind of relationships do you maintain with suppliers?
  • How do you differ from competitors?
  • How will you reach your goals?
  • What underlying philosophies or values guide your business?

Spend some time fleshing these out.  They will help refine the backbone of your business. On Tuesday, we’ll work on fine-tuning these and helping you turn them into a working mission statement.  We’re on a mission!

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Insider to Insider: Kelly Simants ~ Sweet Pea Events

Kelly SimantsKelly is one of my favorite people in this industry!  She is smart, positive, creative, professional, and committed.  We have similar business philosophies and similar business executions.  Kelly was my business planning partner when she lived in Seattle (and my business planning has never been the same.)  Now in Dallas, she takes the state of Texas by storm!  Here’s a little bit more about Kelly…

Kelly Simants, Owner of Sweet Pea Events
Dallas, TX & Seattle, WA

What is your favorite thing about weddings?

I love the actual ceremony!  To me, this is truly what a wedding is all about – making a commitment to the person you’re going to spend the rest of your life with!  The specific part of the ceremony that is my favorite is when the bride is getting ready to walk down the aisle – usually it is such a surreal experience for the bride that I love being there to help calm any nerves, be excited with her, make sure her gown looks perfect, etc.  Most of my clients end up becoming good friends as well, which I think is why it’s such a special honor for me to be right by their side at the ceremony, during such an important moment in their lives.

What is your best tip for time management?

This is one of the trickiest parts for me of being an entrepreneur because I love what I do….so if I wanted to spend 12-14 hours a day working on my business I could (and in the beginning I did).  I quickly learned that is not a sustainable business practice, or good for my personal health or social life!  My remedy for a more balanced work week was two-fold:

oSchedule Time Off: I realized that since I worked a lot of weekend days (often both Saturday and Sunday since that’s when a lot of wedding related activity goes on), it was imperative for me to schedule Mondays off completely for myself.  It was hard at first, so another wedding planner friend and I tried to keep each other accountable to keep Mondays open and we would grab lunch together, treat ourselves to a massage after a long wedding weekend, etc.  I was much more energized and my batteries were recharged the next day.

oSchedule Office Days: The second way that I decided I needed to manage my time better was with how I was scheduling meetings.  I would spend my entire week in meetings, driving all over the place to meet with clients or vendors, with no rhyme or reason to how I was scheduling my calendar.  Basically, I would work around the other person’s schedule instead of managing mine.  Since I would be in meetings all day, I would then spend every evening catching up on actual work I needed to get done…so there was literally no “office time”. So, Tuesdays and Thursdays became my meeting days and Wednesdays and Fridays became my office days.  I made certain is was flexible, but having a more structured calendar led to being more productive, happier, and healthier!

What is your little marketing secret?

It’s all about networking! The wedding business is all about trust, so it’s imperative to develop solid relationships with all different types of wedding vendors…not just surface relationships, but a genuine rapport and support system with them.  I always try to offer to support other vendors however I can (especially other wedding planners who are peers!), by giving referrals in return, sharing business advice on things that have worked well or not so well for me, etc.  I truly believe that sharing knowledge and helping each other out is one of the most successful marketing tools you can benefit from in this industry.  I’ve found that the time I’ve spent networking far outweighs any print ad or online marketing ad that I’ve spent money on.

What is the funnest trend you are seeing in the industry?

Specialty lighting! This is a huge trend in the Dallas market, and I believe will be making a bigger presence in the Seattle market soon.  By using specialty lighting, a venue can come alive and add a dramatic effect to the space.  I love suggesting that clients consider “pin spotting” where you illuminate each specific table arrangement, or illuminate the cake table, etc.  A “room wash” is also a great option for people who want to incorporate a lot of color all around the room and create a really dramatic effect.

If you were starting your business all over again, what would you have done differently?

Without a doubt, I would have been more confident in pricing my packages.  I was so nervous to over-price or that clients would balk at my costs, that I gave so much of my valuable time away and did not charge what I believed I was worth.  I absolutely believe in going above and beyond for clients and delivering exceptional service, but I gave away too much.  Over time, I have changed my philosophy on pricing as I’ve realized I’m running a small business and need to create and sustain a profitable business model.  I still think pricing is one of the most challenging aspects of owning a wedding business, but have learned what I’m worth in the industry and that I should not sell myself short.

Thanks Kelly!

If you’d like to share your insider tips with the world… answer the five questions listed above and email .

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Cost Cutting Thursday!

Every Thursday, we introduce FIVE COST CUTTING TIPS.  Here are our favorites for the week:

  1. Cut your rent!
    In this economy we are hearing from people around the country telling us they have been successful in asking their landlords for a rent decrease.  With businesses downsizing (or going out of business), commercial property owners have an incentive to keep current tenants in their offices.
  2. Cut your internet cost
    I was surprised a few months when I called Comcast to tell them I was going to switch providers and they all of a sudden had a really great promotion for returning customers.  I was able to decrease my internet charges from $75 to $50 per month – a 33% savings!
  3. Shop around for better pricing among your suppliers
    Stardream papers are carried by a wide range of paper distributors nationwide.  These papers can range from $0.30 – $0.60 per sheet.  (When you multiply that in the 1000s, that’s a lot of $$$.)   Stationery suppliers and designers could be paying more than twice from one vendor to another.  Finding the lowest price supplier can have a direct impact on your profit margins and your bottom line.
  4. Reallocate work (and payroll costs) among your employees
    How do you allocate tasks among employees in your office?  Are the higher paid hourly employees spending time doing mundane or unnecessary tasks?  Having your sales associates take out the trash isn’t the best use of their time (they should be selling!) nor the best use of your payroll dollars.  Would you be better off hiring a high school student for a few hours each week to do little tasks (take out the trash, organize the desk space, file) for $10/hour versus paying $18/hour for your other employee to do so?
  5. Take a nap
    Here’s how I see it: tired people work tired.  When people are working tired, they make mistakes.  Mistakes are costly: supplies are wasted, inventory is wasted, time is wasted, sales are lost.  It’s a lose, lose, lose, lose situation.

Got a cost-cutting tip for us? Email us at and let us know!  We’ll publish your tip… let us know your name and business if you want us to post your info.

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The Art of Distribution

courtesy of Little Red Glass:

courtesy of Little Red Glass:

Today, in the last segment of our three part series on marketing, we uncover the Art of Distribution.  We’ve covered the glamour of promotion and the secrets of selling.  Distribution answers the question: how will you get your product or service to clients? The ability to deliver and to do so efficiently and effectively is the cornerstone of marketing your product.

Here are some questions to get you brainstorming on your distribution:

  • How do you distribute your product or service: online, mail-order, appointment-only, retail?
  • What are the costs associated with this distribution?
  • What time frames are relevant to this distribution?
  • What personnel (if any) are required for this distribution?
  • What is the transaction process involved?
  • What sort of training of employees will be required?
  • What sort of payment is accepted?

If you’ve been in business for at least a couple years, you are pretty familiar with your distribution plan.  But, have you dissected each of these elements to ensure that you are distributing your product in the most effective, most efficient, and most lucrative method? Are there alternatives to your current method of distribution?  Are there costs you can cut?  Are there services you can upgrade for your clientele?  Are there outlets you haven’t explored?

Do any of these sound like potential trouble spots to which you can relate:

  • You continue to exhibit at the same wedding show, but aren’t sure of its returns
  • Your website traffic isn’t what it used to be
  • Your store employees don’t seem too jazzed about the product they are selling
  • A vendor who keeps shipping late and has become less and less reliable
  • Freight on inbound shipments is quite expensive
  • Your client wants to pay with VISA but you only accept cash and checks

We’ll explore these scenarios in future posts, but until then here’s a thought: sketch it out.  I am a huge fan of flow diagrams. A flow diagram is helpful in visualizing the chain of events relating to your distribution.  Here’s a simple version of one:

It can be simple or complex… anything that will help you make informed business decisions.  Sketch out your distribution plan.  Put it on your wall.  Admire your artwork!

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Shhhh… secrets of selling…

In our second of three part series on Marketing, we explore the art of selling. recently did a study that found that the average cost of a wedding in 2008 fell by 24%.  The wedding industry has often been touted as “recession-proof”, but this is proving to be untrue.  With today’s volatile economy, garnering sales is more important than ever.

Yesterday, we discussed promotion and the ways that a solid marketing plan can drive your sales.  Today, we are going to break down easy and inexpensive things you can do to turn an inquiry or appointment into a sale.  These are small things you can do that will tip your client into the category of “gotta have it!”

Portuguese Oil Salesman

Portuguese Oil Salesman

Here are a few creative things that help make the sale:

Give them VALUE
People aren’t as price resistant if they understand that they are getting A LOT of value for their money.  In addition to your proposal, include a punch card that details the value your business will add to their wedding experience.  The items on the punch card will give them enough information to choose you over a competitor.  Your punch card could include the following:

  • We will respond to all email inquiries within 12 hours (typical turn around for email during work hours 9-5 is 30 minutes)
  • Since 2005, our clients have rated us 4.9 out of a potential score of 5 for customer service
  • There will be no “hidden costs” in your final invoice; what you see is what you get at the time of the proposal

A guarantee is an assurance that you will perform as agreed upon.  In the wedding industry, brides and grooms are terrified with horror stories of vendors not delivering.  Assuage this fear by letting them know exactly where you stand. lists some helpful ways to write a guarantee.

Everyone loves a CHECKLIST
Give your clients a “checklist” of the items they’ll need to purchase from you over the next several months.  For example, if you are a photographer, some of the items that your checklist might include:

  • engagement portraits
  • boudoir session
  • rehearsal dinner session
  • wedding ceremony and reception photography
  • prints for bride and groom, families, and friends
  • photo books

(An alternative would be to provide them with the list of “shots” they’ll want to capture the year of their engagement and their wedding day.)   The expectation is rarely for them to purchase all of the items (though there is certainly nothing wrong with that!)  The expectation is that they see one additional thing on that list that they can’t live without other than the day-of wedding photos.  Alternatively calling this something other than a “checklist” can have more marketing appeal: the planner, the budgeter, the dream sheet, the wish list, etc.

Make it PRETTY
Packaging can make or break a sale.  It says everything about the service your provide, the passion you have for your product, and the care you have for your customer.  This can be as simple as tying a ribbon around your checklist (above), presenting your business card in a petal enclosure or boxing your photos in vintage wrapping paper.

Packaging all three of these together would give you client a little “gift” to take home with them.  Can you see it now?

Envision: A pretty little blue box with fuchsia ribbon that holds the secrets of your business:

  • a “punch card” that lists how the client will benefit from doing business with you
  • a guarantee statement that ensures your client can count on you, no matter what
  • a “planner” (the checklist) showing all the awesome services and products you provide
  • a business card from YOU

Do you have any secrets of selling that you want to share with us? Shoot us an email at .  If you’d like to be credited, please include your name and the name of your business.

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What’s your marketing plan?

Ahhhhh… marketing… fun, slick, glamorous, shiny… images of Mad Men come to my mind…

Marketing is defined as the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service.  Over the week, we’ll break this down with how it relates to your wedding related service or product.  First up: Promoting!

Promoting:  What is your Promotion Strategy and how successful is it in bringing returns?

Many wedding related businesses advertise across a wide range of print and web media.  Given the social nature of our industry, networking and public relations, are also key.  But, what are those marketing methods bringing in terms of business?

Here are some questions you can ask to determine the effectiveness:

  • How do clients find you?
  • What is your best method of promotion?  (The one that leads to the greatest amount of revenue.)
  • Are you spending money on advertising that does not benefit your business?
  • How many clients who contact you make an appointment?
  • How many clients who contact you place an order?

Not so sure on some of these?  For the next month, try this:

  1. Make a sheet (spreadsheets are awesome, but pen and paper work too) that lists 4 columns:
    • client inquiry
    • referral
    • appointment
    • order
  2. Client Inquiry Column: Keep a list of every client that phones or emails you – note the date and their contact information
  3. Referral Column: In your first conversation, ask them how they found you (ad, client, other vendor, etc)
  4. Appointment: When they book their appointment – make an X under “appointment”
  5. Order: When they place an order – make an X under “order”

Keep working this tracking sheet until you have a firm understanding of your return on promotional investment.  You may find your wasting money on promotional efforts that don’t lead to any rewards.  And, you may learn that you are not maximizing certain promotional tools. Rethinking your marketing and promotional plan can be a money maker and a money saver.

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