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INTRODUCTION

Betting that things will stay the same is a bad bet. I am sure of that. - Fred Wilson
A few years ago I sat in on a presentation given by the owners of a company in the event industry. They are talented and their experience spans several decades. As they talked about their work and process, the thought that kept running through my mind was that although they are some of the most incredibly creative artists in the world, very few people outside of their city know they exist. They have built a company that has traditionally rewarded them with new business via word of mouth, but those referrals are dwindling, in part because of the economy and in part because of new competitors setting up shop. They have other dreams as well: they want to document the best of their hundreds of weddings and social events with a book. They would like to give back to the industry they helped pioneer by teaching and sharing their hard-earned expertise. They have not been able to accomplish these tangential goals because they have not built a platform that supports them. Even though they have been doing amazing work for more than thirty years, they are losing lucrative opportunities to people who have been in the industry for much less time. This company is arguably one of the best at their craft, but their talent is no longer enough. Because they have not adapted to how society has shifted in the way it communicates, they have not been able to tell their story in a way that resonates with today's world. Over the past several years, I have had the unique opportunity to meet more than a thousand wedding professionals in person and an even larger number of them online. No matter where I travel, the stories are similar: every time a wedding entrepreneur looks up from their desk, a new company has hung out their shingle. Photographers complain about weekend warriors and their spray and pray approach to capturing fleeting emotional moments. Wedding planners joke that brides go straight from the honeymoon to Kinkos to pick up their new business cards. Stationers lament the growing number of people with no graphic design training selling invitations created with Microsoft Publisher and a penchant for Scriptina. I was even once told, over lunch with a group of caterers who each own multi-million dollar businesses, that anyone with the Food Network and a kitchen now thinks they can cater events. It is not just small start-ups who have become smitten with weddings: large corporations with deep pockets are getting more involved. In 2010, J.Crew, which had previously only offered a small selection of wedding dresses online, opened a brick-and-mortar bridal boutique in New York. Urban Outfitters launched their own wedding line, BHLDN, in 2011 and made waves when they announced plans to incorporate in-house bridal consultants in Anthropologie stores across the United States.1 Every segment of the wedding industry is feeling the pressure of increasing competition and the ability to stand out in an oversaturated market is more important than ever. Technology has changed the way marketing needs to be done because it has transformed the way people distribute information. With the advent of social media and mobile commerce, people are now able to research, share and shop from anywhere in the world at any time of day. With the ability to instantly view portfolios of bridal professionals from around the globe, geography is no longer a barrier to a couple having the wedding of their

dreams. For millennials, the generation that comprises the majority of brides and grooms today and the first to grow up with the Internet, technology has done more than give unprecedented access to information: it has physically changed their brains on a microcellular level.2 What worked in bridal marketing just ten years ago is no longer effective because the way today's engaged couples think and process information is actually different than couples of generations past. Like a marriage, the wedding industry is a living organism that needs to evolve and grow in order to stay healthy. Ignoring a changing world and the values of a new generation in favor of what worked in years prior will cause a business to stagnate. Companies that found early success with online media often had it dismissed by colleagues as a lucky break. Some argued bitterly that social media was a chicken versus egg scenario (which came first: the blog or the business?). Just a few short years later, the businesses who incorporated online marketing in a strategic fashion have proven involvement to be profitable and those that hesitated to join are now seeing their companies being passed over for opportunities. Social media is a return to old-fashioned conversations, not a race to keep up with the next big thing. The technology used may be intimidating to those unfamiliar with it, but at its core social media is about human connection. Not participating in the conversation either out of ego (I am too good to use social media) or fear (learning this new technology is too difficult; you cant teach an old dog new tricks) will only cause you to be ignored in the future. Your business may be doing well right now, but it will not continue to grow if you do not speak up in a way that is relevant to todays generation of brides and grooms. Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace is not a book on shortcuts. It is not a book about pretending to be something you are not. This book is written under the assumption that you would not charge for your products or services if you did not believe in them. It assumes that the foundation for your business is already in place and that talent is a given. I firmly believe that everyone has a story and that it is a story worth telling. My purpose in writing is not to help you create a business from scratch, but rather to show you how to tell your story to the world.

THE CLASS OF 1997 GETS HITCHED


Every generation laughs at the old fashions, but follows religiously the new. - Henry David Thoreau
Millennials, the generation that makes up more than 70% of todays weddings, are a complex group. Born between 1979 and 2000, they grew up playing video games at home and The Oregon Trail in a computer lab at school. Technology is not something they have had to adapt to; it is something they have known their entire lives.1 Learning how to market to this generation is a task every industry is grappling with but it is of particular concern to the bridal industry. Up until 2007, the majority of people getting married were members of Generation X.2 With the arrival of a new type of customer, wedding companies now need to pay attention not only to the impact technology is having on their businesses but to the different values and perspectives their millennial clients are bringing to the table as well. Like any generation, millennials are often misunderstood by those that came before them. They are commonly described as lazy, selfish, and entitled, and marketers and employers alike are easily frustrated by their seeming lack of loyalty. Despite the cynicism stacked against them, this young generation is already re-shaping the world. A growing number of influential businesses - including Groupon, Mashable, Design*Sponge, and Facebook - were founded by millennial entrepreneurs. In addition, this was the generation responsible for Barack Obama winning the U.S. presidential bid in 20083 and a group that is one-third more likely than older generations to volunteer their time for causes they care about.4 Three times the size of Generation X and more populous than the post-war Baby Boomers, millennials are currently the largest generation on the planet.5 Many consider themselves to be old souls and this groups value system is more closely related to that of their grandparents.6 Millennials fiercely guard their relationships with family and friends and actively seek a lifestyle that allows them to enjoy more time with the people they love. They view their jobs as something that should enable the quality of life they seek and being a slave to the cubicle is not seen as a viable career path. Their work hard, play hard attitude equates to an even splitting of their time, with the average millennial taking four business trips and four leisure trips each year.7 With more than 40% growing up in broken homes8, many are waiting longer to tie the knot in an effort to avoid the mistakes their parents made and 65% choose to live together before marrying9. Even with their reticence to walk down the aisle, millennials tend to hold more traditional views when it comes to marriage: over 80% believe they will only be married once and 91% consider couples who have had successful long-term marriages to be examples worth following.10 Dubbed the learning generation, millennials are intellectually curious and will soon be the most educated generation alive today, with women leading the way. By 2016, females will hold 62.9% of Masters degrees and 55.5% of Doctorates.11 It is not unusual for a person in this age group to have attended high school, college and graduate school in three or more separate states or countries. The relationships built over the course of these experiences result in millennials having a higher number of long-distance friendships that are maintained through free or inexpensive services such as Skype, Facebook, and Google Chat.

Todays brides and grooms also have a finely tuned truth detector. Having grown up in an age of endless advertising and consumerism, they can see right through snake oil gimmicks and marketing made up of smoke and mirrors. They have little patience for anything inauthentic or dishonest and the fake it til you make it mentality of Generation X does not resonate with them. It is important not to underestimate the depth of these particular values as millennials carry them in their wallets: 90% will take their business elsewhere if they feel another company acts with more integrity.12 They will spend more on items they believe in,13 such as fair-trade products or cruelty-free meat, and view being responsible with money as more than simply stretching your dollar as far as it will go. When it comes to parting with their cash, this group does their homework. They will research everything they can about your company and their other options before making their purchase decisions, and they will turn first to the Internet to do so. Due diligence is a way of life for millennials.14 While Boomers are known for racing to keep up with the Joneses and Generation X has been labeled the me generation, millennials have different motives for wanting a high earning power. 83% consider having a high income to be important, but their desire for a larger bank account is tied more to the experiences that money can provide for themselves and the people they care about and less to the brand cache that material items can bring.15 The prestige of having bigger and better does not drive them and appealing to a desire for more is not an effective marketing angle for this group. While older generations spend money on toys as status symbols, millennials spend money on experiences and items that keep them connected to a larger world.16 Contrary to popular belief, millennials are loyal, but their loyalty is to the people in their social circles, not to corporations or brands with which they feel no personal connection.17 Because they grew up in an era of prosperity, they are accustomed to and expect an abundance of choices tailored to their needs. Perhaps the most striking quality of a millennial is their confidence. This generation was taught that everyone is a winner and kids were awarded trophies for merely participating in competitions.18 Millennials believe that everyone is a VIP and treating others as less than equal is a concept that has no place in their world. Part of their confidence stems from being a wanted generation: according to the Census Bureau, more than half of the children born in the United States between 1990 and 2000 were conceived through fertility treatments.19 They were shuttled to athletic games, dance recitals, and music lessons in minivans with baby on board stickers alerting everyone on the road of the need to drive with an extra measure of caution. Millennials were constantly told they were special and they had no reason to believe otherwise. They were taught that they could be anything they wanted and that if they set their mind on something they could achieve it. Indeed, when it comes to millennials, there is no dearth of self-esteem. Another mark unique to millennials is the way they share and process information. Many people credit social media with changing the way this generation communicates when in reality it has not. Social media simply allows millennials to easily communicate in a way that has always been familiar to them. Educational curriculum for this generation embraced the motto of two heads are better than one. From pre-school through twelfth grade, students were assigned to groups where decisions were made through consensus. Hypotheses were formed, processes mapped out, and solutions were found not through individual study but through collective brainpower.20 Millennials learned the value of seeking the opinion of their peers early on and the Lone Ranger mentality was banned from their classrooms. When it comes to making plans, millennials tend to ask, what are we going to do today? rather than what am I going to do today?21 This lifelong emphasis on groupthink has had a profound impact on how this generation makes decisions in every aspect of their lives and is a key factor that businesses cannot afford to ignore. Hiring a wedding professional is no longer a decision between a bride and her mother; it now involves an entire network of friends and family, and in the case of samesex male weddings and commitment ceremonies does not involve a bride at all.

The Boomer slogan, dont trust anyone over 30, is not a belief shared by this younger generation.22 Millennials are willing to work together with people both older and younger and they do not equate age or paying ones dues with talent or ability. Being in business the longest is no longer a competitive advantage nor is being older a detriment. A millennial will hire a young professional who has been in business for a short amount of time if they feel a strong connection to them. They will also hire an older vendor over a younger one for the same reason. Couples today are not concerned that a professional outside of their generation will not understand where they are coming from because of an age difference. They will, however, skip over companies that appear to be behind the times or slow to adapt to new technology. With the arrival of a new generation comes a different perspective on weddings. In 1980, 70% of couples married in a church. By 2009, that number had dropped to 35%.23 Millennials are less religious than any other generation today yet a significant number consider themselves to be spiritual.24 Because of this, they still value a meaningful wedding ceremony but are redefining what that looks like. Gender roles at weddings are shifting and it is increasingly common for brides to choose a man of honor rather than a maid or matron and for grooms to have female attendants. 95% of grooms are now involved in the registry process25 and 65% of grooms are active in the wedding planning itself.26 This generation is also more diverse and one in five millennial marriages is interracial,27 with their weddings reflecting a blend of each partners respective culture. Even with a new generation tying the knot, one thing has not changed: a wedding is still one of the most expensive purchases a couple will make in their lifetime. When you strip it of its glamour, everything about putting a wedding together can be broken down into a series of both emotional and pragmatic decisions ranging from what the weddings color scheme will be to which professionals get hired to which friends will receive an invitation. You will have far greater success converting potential clients into paying clients if you take the time to understand how todays brides and grooms view the world, what they value, how they communicate and why they arrive at the choices they do. Wrapping your mind around how this generation thinks and acts will enable you to make relevant marketing decisions for your wedding business over the next fifteen years.