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The Importance of Your Website’s Copy

How much attention do you pay to the words on your website? The actual text in your bio and services information? Those words matter. They can make or break your business. Not only are people attracted to interesting verbiage, but also it is a reflection of your company, your culture, your brand. Does your website copy reflect your best self?

Today’s guest post comes from Astrid Mueller (designer extraordinaire at astridmueller.com) and Jessica Fox (wordsmith wizard at foxywrites.com).

The Key Ingredients to a Successful Brand!

Are you ready?

Here they are:

Unique Brand Concept


Great Visual Brand


Branded Copy & Communication

We know, we know. You totally get that a targeted, tailored, branded visual representation of your business is essential.

But what about branded copy? Why do you need that, too?  It’s just writing – unlike graphic design, anyone can do that, right?

We won’t argue with you there.

Just about everyone can write, and we’re willing to bet that many of you are fantastic with a pen when not knee-deep in weddings. But branded copy is another beast entirely. It’s not about lofty prose, killer descriptions, or perfect grammar (although that is a must).  And it’s not something that every writer (even super awesome ones) can execute well.

Copywriting is about communication. A good brand writer has a strong understanding of your brand and gets to know your business’s goals, what sets it apart, and why it’s special.  She thinks about what appeals to your customer and gets them to act. Through word choice and a little psychology, she creates horn-tooting text that speaks to your customer in a compelling, brand-unique voice.

As the first impression we have of a company, branded graphic design is a powerful thing. It gets customers to take notice, emotionally connect, and remember a brand…so you better make it count.

Without branded copy, your visual identity is like Wonder Woman without her lasso…you need it to rope ‘em in. Or, imagine if Wonder Woman spoke like Minnie Mouse. Naturally, each has her own charm, but wouldn’t we be utterly confused by her and what she stands for?  The same holds true for your brand.

We could blather on about why every step in branding needs to be powerful and consistent, but instead we’ll show you, thanks to our recent collaboration with Print Icon, a luxury printing and design boutique in New York.

Whether in-store or online, copy and marketing pieces should always be organized to help ideal customers navigate and understand the business’s offerings:

BEFORE the rebrand:

Drafts from the client for in-store posters to explain the boutique’s services:


AFTER the rebrand:


concise, branded copy on service posters for Print Icon’s retail location


concise, branded copy on service posters for Print Icon’s retail location

Special occasions, especially launches, are another instance where personalized text is key for professional, consistent brand presentation.


This was the text draft from Print Icon for their launch invitation:

Print Icon Gilded… New possibilities in the Art of Paper

You are cordially invited to the Grand Opening of Print Icon Gilded, a unique new store and gallery celebrating new possibilities in art, paper, and the art of paper.

Our debut gallery exhibit – Parviz Shapoor’s “Welcome to my Eyes” – introduces the art of the famed Iranian writer, poet and satirist.

I hope you will join us for wine and hors d’oeuvres at our Grand Opening reception.

February 10th at 5:00 PM.

Please RSVP to: RSVP@printicon.com


The edited copy, in the used VIP invitation card for members of the press:


The tagline of a brand is one of the first customer touch points and is another important opportunity to evoke emotion:

business cards

business cards

Last, but not least, when used in company communication, a branded sign-off can enhance a business’s image:

a branded company greeting for email communication

a branded company greeting for email communication

Interested in working with Astrid Mueller, brand designer extraordinaire, or Jessica Fox, copy writing queen? Visit AstridMueller.com and Foxywrites.com, and email Astrid at Astrid(at)AstridMueller.com or Jessica.R.Fox(at)me.com…they look forward to chatting!

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May 28, 2014 - 7:31 am

Roxanne Bellamy - Great article Michelle. It’s becoming more evident that our clients are very savvy and that they want a total experience from beginning to end which definitely includes brand identity and communication. It’s a daunting task but one that needs to be executed in order to put ones best face forward.

May 28, 2014 - 7:35 am

Michelle Loretta - You are so right about that! The client experience starts the minute that the client (potential client) lands on your website.

June 6, 2014 - 10:46 pm

Astrid Mueller - Thank you so much for the feature and the great article, Michelle! Appreciate it! Many greetings and much continued inspiration and success to you!

Gifting Services to Clients Kills Your Profits

Last week, we talked about profit margins and how important it is to know how much profit you make on each event. This was something that Todd Fiscus shared at Biz Bash in Florida a couple weeks ago and I completely echo his sentiment. This knowledge is valuable and without knowing your cost budgets per event, you’re putting your business sustainability on the line.

Credit: www.flickr.com/photos/intelfreepress

Credit: www.flickr.com/photos/intelfreepress

Another concept that Todd talked about was the idea of ‘gifting services’ to clients… intentionally and unintentionally.

‘Gifting services’ is when…

  • you go-above-and-beyond without charging accordingly
  • you throw in extra time or product without being compensated
  • you go WAYYY above cost budget to show off your skill without invoicing the client

You know how it goes… the client hires you to design their event, or take their pictures, or shoot their wedding, or design their invites…

Scenario 1: you fall in love with the client and you want them to love you… you become their slave


Scenario 2: your client hires you and you underbid their event… your brand is on the line and in order for your company to look good, you need to make up for their lack of budget

Any time that you go beyond your cost budget to gift the client (or show off in the name of your brand) you are putting your profitability on the line. This doesn’t mean that you ever cheap out, or do inadequate work. It doesn’t mean that you can’t give them an actual gift-gift for being your client. It means that you need to price your jobs accordingly so that you can do the best job for your client AND be profitable. You need to know what your price is for your services and you need to have that cost budget in place and stick to it.

What do you think about this idea of gifting clients on your services? Has this happened to you?

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May 14, 2014 - 8:24 am

The Mamones - Of course this has happened to us…hasn’t it happened to everyone? We fall in love with nearly ALL of our clients ;-) We have made a conscience choice to upgrade products like fine art gallery wrap sizes or album enhancements as a “gift” however we code the additional costs to “Marketing” since we believe that these art pieces go a long way to promote further sales. Clever or silly…thoughts? We also tend to see this when a couple waits a very long time to order their contracted products and the wholesale costs have increased. We almost never charge the difference…I guess we should be?

May 14, 2014 - 8:35 am

Michelle Loretta - I think this could be a good ‘marketing’ investment. (I love that you are tracking it, Don!) I think it could go a long way to promote further sales. Make sure to track the ROI on it. (Obviously, if you get a lot of client referrals, then it is working.) I think the graver danger is when photographers spend too much time editing/correcting – or throw in lots of extra hours ‘to get the shot’. I realize that sometimes we just do that (because that’s part of ‘good service’.) But – it has to be reasonable – or we’re killing our profits (and probably risking burnout).
Regarding the wholesale cost increase… can you give them a deadline to purchase their products? (Or have a ‘product prices effective for 3 months post contract’?) You do have to protect yourself a bit here.

Be Sage Conference Speaker: Jane Park, CEO and founder of Julep

We are thrilled to partner with a range of amazing speakers for our Be Sage Conference this August. When we sat down to set our curriculum for Be Sage, we asked ourselves: “What are the challenges that experienced business owners have in the wedding industry?” We came up with a list of questions and found the best people to speak on these topics.

We are thrilled to introduce you to Jane Park, CEO and founder of Julep. You may have seen Jane recently featured in Forbes magazine. (Not just once, but twice.) Or, maybe in Fast Company magazine. Or, maybe this INC magazine article. We’ve asked Jane to share with us about how to build a business around really knowing what the client wants. She’ll be answering…


How can I better capitalize on needs in the market?
How can I continue to develop innovative products and services?
How can I use social media for market research?
How can I gauge demand to ensure clients will buy what I sell?

JaneParkJulepIntroducing: Jane Park, CEO and founder of Julep Beauty, Inc.

Jane Park is CEO and founder of Julep, one of the world’s fastest-growing beauty products companies. Since founding Julep in 2006, Jane has expanded the company into a multichannel beauty brand. Julep creates and sells over 300 natural, toxin-free nail and skincare products per year, based on crowdsourced feedback from its tens of thousands of devoted customers. Prior to starting Julep, Jane was director of new ventures for Starbucks, where she worked in management roles for nearly seven years. Jane started her career at The Boston Consulting Group, where she was a strategy consultant in the retail sector. Jane holds a JD from Yale University, and a BA in Public Policy and International Affairs from Princeton.

5 Things You’ll Learn from Jane: 

  • How to utilize social media for market research and product development.
  • How to grow a business by listening to the market.
  • How to get the market to tell you what they want.
  • How to find untapped opportunities.
  • How to gauge consumer demand.

We feel pretty strongly about partnering with companies and individuals that mirror and augment our own core values. Here is Julep’s core philosophy:

We believe beauty is about connection, not competition.

Make sure to check out the Julep video to see why Julep is different from other beauty companies.

We hope you’ll join us this August!


Ticket sales are open for Be Sage Conference and limited to the first 100 people to sign up. We do expect this conference to sell out. Early rates close on May 31, 2014.


Here’s a little refresher if you missed our post last month about our new conference:

We want you to have a deeper business strategy that will take your business to the next level. This isn’t a business theory conference. And, while you will certainly be inspired, we aim to prepare you with actual tools to use in your business (not just a hope and dream.)

We will continue to add conference details at: www.besageconference.com

Greenhouse Loft, Chicago | August 3-5, 2014

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Event Profit Margins and Why You Need to Know Them

I had the pleasure of speaking at Biz Bash last week in Florida. I sat in on Todd Fiscus‘ Innovation Forum talk while I was there. He shared his thoughts on how to design events smarter.

Photo credit: Lending Memo - lendingmemo.com

Photo credit: Lending Memo – lendingmemo.com

Being the numbers girl that I am, I really perked up when he talked about event profitability… specifically managing your event budgets. I’m not talking about your client’s budget – tho it does apply. I’m talking about the budget that you have established for each event. You have that, right?

This is what I’m talking about…

client is paying you $20k to design their event
your cost budget for this event is $6k… meaning you have $6 to spend on materials, labor, etc.

If you track your profit and cost margins (and you should), you’ll know that a $20k wedding sale minus $6 k in costs, leaves you with $14k… or a 70% profit margin*. Nice!

You need to have a profit margin benchmark when preparing to service your client… this applies to you whether you are an event designer, or a photographer, or a filmmaker, or a stationer. If you’re a filmmaker, you need to know upfront how much money you have to work with when hiring a second shooter, when outsourcing to an editor for post-production. How much of a cost budget do you have to work with for a $5k job vs. a $10k job?

And… then… the trick is to manage that event’s cost budget… watch it closely. Being successful and profitable with events is so heavily reliant on that profit margin… the bigger the better. (We aren’t selling bulk widgets here at 10% margins… services need to have nice hefty margins.)

What’s a ‘good’ profit margin? Ahhh… it depends on so many factors: what you do, what you sell, who your clients are, what your overhead expenses are, how much you want to earn from your business. You need to find that profitability sweet spot that works with YOUR business model!

What are your thoughts on this? Have you seen this in your business? (Confused? Need help figuring out your profitability sweet spot? Shoot me an email and I can help: michelle@sageweddingpros.com .)

*Profit Margin is calculated like this:
Gross Profit / Sales = Profit Margin %
Profit from one event / Sales Price = Profit Margin %

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May 14, 2014 - 8:18 am

The Mamones - This was a great reminder of the “numbers” information we learned all about during the Simple Plan Workshop. We use this calculation ALL THE TIME now to ensure we are hitting our target margins. As a photography team our margins are typically between 80-90% since we offer a VERY personal service and can only work with one couple on a given wedding day. Thanks for keeping us inspired to watch the numbers ;-)


Business Plan Case Study: Sugarcomb

We feel pretty strongly that a business plan can help you to define your business goals and give you a road-map for the future of your company. But, what makes a company that has used a business plan different from others? How has a business plan made the difference for that business?

Here’s a pretty cool stat: of the 15 business owners who attended the very first The Simple Plan workshop in Seattle 2009, 14 are still operating (and THRIVING at leaps and bounds!)

Kelsey Eads by James MoesWe recently talked with Kelsey Eads, owner of Sugarcomb. Kelsey was in her start-up phase when she joined us. I’m in awe of the strides she’s made in 4.5 years. We don’t see a lot of business owners in the wedding industry make it passed the 2 year mark, let alone accomplish what Kelsey has in the last several years since The Simple Plan.

Kelsey shares what business planning has helped her achieve…

Why did you decide a business plan was important/necessary?

I wanted to develop a strong business and hop out of hobby territory as quickly as possible. A business plan was the perfect way for me to focus my outlook from one structured point-of-view and direction. It makes such a positive difference when your business has a firm baseline to help you make decisions and growth from.

What were some of the biggest ‘A-HA’ realizations you had while working on the business plan?

For me, the biggest eye opener was learning to map out and forecast finances the right way. It’s an honest face-to-face with money, the short-fallings and potential, and I think it’s the point that really taught me how hard I’m going to need to work to make Sugarcomb the success I was aiming for. It’s a reality check that every business owner should experience.

How have you used the business plan to move your business forward?

Every year when I revisit Sugarcomb’s business plan I realize how much everything has evolved. It’s a great checkpoint to look back on and to help you refresh and feel growth as you make updates and dreams for the next year.

What are some of the biggest improvements you’ve made in your business?

I’m very independent, but over time as my business grew, I came to realize how ideal it would be to have someone to collaborate with and to have the flexibility to take on more projects. I wasn’t actively searching, but in the past year I met Tara, Sugarcomb’s new Planning and Design Lead, and working together was the perfect fit for where we were both at in our careers. It’s been a great learning experience for me to hand off responsibility and to balance what the business needs from the two of us now. For a Type-A like me, it was a scary step to take, but the growth, benefits and new potential have made me so happy with this new direction and the way that Sugarcomb can grow from its new normal.

Have you had measurable improvements?

It has taken time, but every year has brought increased revenue. In the beginning there was a lot of testing and guesswork that went into advertising avenues, pricing my services, and deciding what expenses were necessary to uphold the integrity of Sugarcomb, and which were not. It’s a balancing act, but the best way to figure out what is right for you and your unique business is experience and, when available, great advice. I’m constantly learning how to streamline finances; being diligent about keeping records and notes on what is working and what is not is a great thing to have by your side when you revisit your business plan every year.

Thanks Kelsey!

You can read more case studies here. Find our workshop schedule here.

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May 18, 2014 - 10:24 pm

Naomi - Thank you for this case study! Insightful especially keeping notes about what worked and what didn’t.

May 27, 2014 - 9:58 am

Michelle Loretta - You’re welcome! Glad you liked it, Naomi.

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