Online Advertising & The Wedding Industry: When is it worth it?

The last thing I’m about to say is that print is dead, because I truly enjoy a real magazine and full of the hard work that editors, writers, photographers etc put into these amazing works of art.

But, the reality is-online is SO very much alive. Duh. 

The internet is a wedding inspiration monster that moves faster than fast.  Everything is so static and a simple online feature can affect a small business’ web traffic and affect sales (and therefore success) directly and more substantially than ever before.

I constantly hear from wedding vendors that they spend little to none on advertising. But, I as I browse the online world, I can’t help but notice that there is a very real amount of online advertising happening. And every week, I chat with someone from a digital publication or online wedding network about how their platform can help my clients, who again, just don’t want to spend money on advertising.

So, the question is, when is online advertising worth it?

The wedding industry is so much different than other industries, and the rules just don’t all apply.

It relies so very heavily on reputation, referrals and reviews that sometimes, it’s true-it doesn’t make sense to advertise online, because weddings will come to you anyway. So what’s the point?

For example, if a vendor is already fantastic, and their work often gets featured on a blog-what’s the point of paying to have a banner ad, or an upgraded listing?  

While there is no absolute answer-it comes down to the answer to this:

Are the types of brides / clients the demographic you want to be working with?

If yes, then keep doing what you’re doing-with the understanding that without an actual paid ad or listing, there isn’t a guarantee that you’ll always get the same results. A blog can stop featuring a vendor anytime they want, or a wedding network can make severe changes to their free listings at any moment. This can directly affect your business, and it’s always possible that even though your demographic has found you before, it could stop at anytime.

With a paid ad or listing, you have more control over where your business is noticed. In addition, many publications do try to pay attention to vendors that are advertising with them, and will attempt to make sure their paying vendors are getting some feature love.

If you’re not getting the types of clientele that you want, then, (in addition to a whole number of other factors that we can discuss), it’s time to look at where you’re advertising (or if you’re not at all), where you can shift your focus and spend your dollars in a place that is going to expose your business to the clientele that you’re looking for.

You can’t expect possible clients to find you if you aren’t where they are looking. Remember-YOU ARE NOT YOUR BRIDE.

Just because you wouldn’t have a Grace Ormonde opulence level wedding, doesn’t mean your bride won’t look there for inspiration. If she’s looking there, she’ll probably also look at other publications of that caliber.

Also, think about how brides in your demographic spent their time, and what methods they’ll use to plan their wedding. Is it a DIY bride? Will she be booking her own vendors and using a tool like Wedding Wire to locate vendors and manage her wedding planning?

Or is it a luxury bride who would have a planner and will look to some top tier publications for inspiration and let her planner handle the rest because she’s just way too busy.

These are factors that directly affect where you should put your advertising dollars.

This is where it’s time to have a serious chat with your local wedding magazine sales team, and ad reps for the online networks and publications around you.

Do some research. Find out things like real web traffic for specific search terms for in your area on their sites. Look at what their average demographics are-see what the income bracket for their readers generally is, look at the types of other vendors that are advertising on their sites. Find out if they have discounts, or any special advertising packages. Learn how having a paid ad / upgraded listing will affect your feature opportunities.

Ask important questions, like how many other vendors are in that specific category in your location and find out if you have any control over ad placement (example: if you’re a florist, you don’t want to be placed next to a Costco for wedding flowers ad!).

Once you sort out WHO you’re trying to attract, then you can sort out WHERE you need to be and then you can work out HOW MUCH you’re comfortable spending and WHICH publication or listing you want to focus on for the year.

One thing to be wary of, is this idea that you just don’t ever need to advertise. The wedding industry is moving faster than ever, in a very digital way, and even when things seem to be always great, a mindset for running a business that worked 5 years ago can very quickly stop serving you and you can find yourself coasting. And of course, we all know, you can only coast downhill.

The best place to spend advertising dollars shifts year to year, but currently, my top favorites are (keep in mind, each has a different demographic and some are worth having an online ad vs. an upgraded listing and vice-versa).

First and always-check your local bridal magazine-supporting your local community goes SO much farther than you think!  

Martha Stewart Weddings

PS-one last thing to keep in mind: You don’t always get direct and completely trackable ROI on advertising and marketing. Much of the time, a bride will book you because she keeps seeing your name, an ad here, a blog there, a referral list there and it will all come together to help her make her decision to book you. So even if she says she was referred to you by so and so-it’s entirely possible, seeing your logo multiple times actually helped sway her choice to reach out to you or book you.