Benchmarking Your Business: How Wedding Businesses Operate in 2022

The decisions you make for your wedding business have both immediate and lasting effects. So, when setting any plans into motion, it’s important to have data to back them up.

One critical aspect of making data-driven decisions is knowing where you stack up against other pros in your service category. This knowledge will not only help you remain competitive, but it will also give you a good understanding of the state of the industry and insight into what you need to do next in order for your business to thrive in this landscape.

But, as a creative and a business owner, we know that you don’t have the time to pull data, which is where Benchmarking Your Business comes in. This report is designed to give you detailed information about all this and more. We surveyed over 3,300 wedding pros throughout the industry to get a good look at different facets of their business operations, including how they made advertising decisions over the past year and how they anticipate those strategies affecting their businesses going forward. So, no matter where you are in your business journey, you’ll be able to use these insights to make smarter decisions with your time and money and set yourself up for a more successful future.

This report is comprised of data collected in the 2022 Annual Vendor Study conducted by The Knot Worldwide.

The top challenges pros face

The top pain point that 40% of pros experience is converting new leads into bookings. According to data from Ruler Analytics, on average, only about 5-10% of leads convert so to maximize your bookings, you need to focus on refining your lead replies. With better lead reply strategies in your back pocket, you can more effectively engage with your ideal couples to let them know why they need your services for their wedding day. Additionally, it’s important to follow up on your initial outreach. Your couples are just as busy as you are, so giving them ample reminders will likely increase your chances of them getting back to you.

Curious about other dos and don’ts of lead replies? You’re in luck! Here’s everything you need to know about responding to leads.

Another pain point pros feel across the board is finding new customers to get in front of. Every year brings more engaged couples into the wedding-planning landscape, but actually finding your ideal client among them is easier said than done. One of the best ways to extend your reach is to advertise. But, according to our findings, advertising strategies can look very different depending on the type of business a pro operates and how long they’ve been providing services.

Venues can solve one pain point right now

25% of pros get new business through referrals. And along with word of mouth, pros can also be placed on preferred vendor lists to get in front of new couples. 66% of pros are on at least one preferred vendor list, but if you dig into these numbers a little deeper, you’ll find that many pros—namely those from underrepresented communities—are less likely to be on them.

According to our findings, non-white pros are 14% more likely to not be on any preferred vendor lists than white pros. Additionally, among the pros on at least one list, white pros are 8% more likely to have proactively asked a venue to be added to them.

Taking experience level into account, pros with less than 4 years of experience are 22% less likely to be asked to be on a preferred vendor list after working with a venue than pros who have over 10 years of experience.

These numbers are staggering, but combatting this issue is simple—revisit your preferred vendor lists often and intentionally add diverse pros in your area that you know provide great services.

For venue owners, this work will make it easier to connect with more couples, especially those of younger generations. Couples are increasingly incorporating cultural and ethnic traditions into their events, and expanded lists will help couples because they will have access to diverse and relevant pros that understand their lived experience in a way others can’t.

For pros in other categories, if your wedding business isn’t on many lists, now’s the time to empower yourself to create those opportunities. If other vendors aren’t coming to you, go to them; proactively reach out to pros in your area to strike up a partnership that will benefit both of you.

Need more ideas when it comes to preferred vendor lists? We’ve got you covered. Learn how to get on preferred vendor lists today.

Even though pros share some of the same pain points, some challenges are unique to businesses at every experience level. Here are some of the other pain points pros experience.

Marketing and advertising strategies

To get in front of the most couples possible, pros at all experience levels advertise on multiple paid and unpaid channels. In 2021, for example, pros had a presence on six sites (paying for two), on average.

The top three channels that pros use to connect with their audience are wedding websites, social media platforms and search engines.

When researching which paid channels to use, roughly 60% of our respondents cited that they focus on the expected performance of the platform they are considering. In addition, 50% of pros ask couples their opinion on where they research vendors and the same percentage rely on the channels that have generated the greatest ROI for them in the past (which is the top focus for 55% of veteran pros).

The majority of vendors (55%) pay to advertise on online wedding websites. When evaluating online wedding websites, in particular, no matter how many years of experience a pro has, the quality and quantity of leads are the most important factors they use to determine where to put their advertising dollars. In fact, 80% of our respondents specifically look at lead quality when deciding which sites to include in their paid advertising strategies.

So, what does this mean for your business? There are a lot of advertising options available to you, so be sure to diversify your advertising channels and include online wedding websites when you’re evaluating which avenues to choose.

75% of couples use wedding websites to plan their event and research vendors who can bring their dream to life.

It’s essential that you meet your potential clients where they are already looking and make sure that you’re bridging every gap possible to increase your chances of getting quality bookings.

Looking for a paid advertising channel? Paid listings are the top business driver for pros. Ready to get in on the action? Schedule a demo with The Knot and WeddingWire today.

Ad spend and budgeting in 2022

Now that we know where business owners are advertising, let’s break down the dollar amounts behind these marketing and advertising strategies. 55% of pros, regardless of how long they’ve been in business, anticipate spending less than $3,000 annually on advertising. Business owners who have been in business for less than 4 years make up the majority of this cohort (67%).

On the other end of the cost spectrum, 4 in 10 venue owners expect to spend $10,000 or more on advertising. Along with venues, veteran pros are slightly more likely than their less-tenured peers to spend over $10,000 on their advertising.

When asked if their ad spend will change, 62% of pros answered that they don’t anticipate their budget changing this year. But, since 38% of pros continuously evaluate their spend throughout the year, the anticipated budgets outlined above could change, especially seeing that nearly 1 in 4 pros are considering upping their ad spend, with newbie pros being even more optimistic about increasing their ad spend in 2022 (29%).

How much should you spend on advertising?

No matter when you choose to go into your evaluation process, you need to have a good idea of both how much you can spend on advertising without breaking the bank (over 53% of pros devote between 0-5% of their annual revenue) and how many clients you need to book in order to make a profit.

Additionally, when looking at your advertising channels, specifically, it’s a good idea to calculate your ROI of each of yours to get a baseline on how many leads you need for your investment to be worth it. Then, compare your channels against each other by calculating the conversion rate (number of bookings you close ÷ number of leads you receive). Doing this quick math will help set expectations on which advertising channels will work for you.

So, what does this mean for you?

Right now, one of the best things you can do for your business is to evaluate your marketing and advertising budget and allocate some of it to diversification. Your peers are putting themselves out there for couples to find, and if you’re not doing the same, now’s the time to get a piece of that pie. 

Newbie Pros

As a new wedding business owner, you’re likely still learning about the industry and how your business can fit in it. Your business may be young, but armed with data, you can make big moves that will see it thrive.

While you’re at this stage, focus on finding the advertising channels that work for you and refining your lead replies to maximize your bookings. Then, once you’ve gotten your feet wet and secured more clients, consider increasing your ad spend to get in front of even more couples. Additionally, rely on your peers and your couples for insight into where they have a presence so you can be where the action is.

Mid-Career Pros

Once you’ve been in business for more than 3 years, you’re at a unique crossroads; you know a lot about the wedding industry but are likely still learning the ropes of owning a business in various ways. Continue to trust your instincts and dig into the details of your business operations because, right now, your job is to maintain the momentum you gained from your first few years and catapult your business to the next level.

Use this data to further your education surrounding which advertising channels work best for you. The majority of your peers are on wedding websites; be sure to have a presence on them to put yourself in front of your ideal audience. Additionally, take this knowledge and use it to justify implementing new process improvements, like investing in software, that will enhance your business for the years to come.

Veteran Pros

As a veteran pro, you’ve seen many changes in the industry and proven that your business can evolve to fit within them. You know a lot about your business (in fact, 70% of our veteran respondents say they are experts in their category!) so you can make your business decisions with confidence.

So, use this data to help not only make your marketing dollars go further, but also solidify your impact within your category through your advertising decisions. This can be through establishing more business locations, extending your services or adding more decision-makers on board. Whatever path you choose, be sure that it will continue to strengthen your business and move it forward.

No two businesses are alike. So, it’s important that you use this data in conjunction with what you know about your business and your specific category to define what success looks like for you. Then, make a plan to get to that goal sustainably. Setting—or reestablishing—this foundation will help you drive to results that will see your business prosper.

Special thanks: Colorjoy