I’ll be honest, I just don’t know if I can do it anymore.
I’m now 5 years into creating a movement within the wedding industry aimed at challenging over-consumption, waste and environmental harm. I must have been high on motivational quotes when I first started, because I thought it would be achievable. I thought that given enough positive messaging, bringing vendors together so that we can support and refer to each other, providing a sh*t load of information for free, and even providing scientific evidence around how we can improve wedding consumption, that it would become a no-brainer. I mean why would we want to start our marriage at the expense of the environment? Once you know, it’s a pretty easy decision.
But here’s where capitalism f*cks us over. I gotta make money off this thing don’t I? “How will you monetise this?” I would hear in the beginning…so I started a Directory. Humble, yet bringing together the most awesome like-minded people, many of whom have become friends. I mean, if we want couples to have an eco-friendly wedding, we need to make it easy for them…bringing together eco-vendors into one space so that couples can find their tribe, makes a lot of sense. Sounds great in theory, but it turns out the almighty dollar always stands in the way.
“I love what you’re doing, but….” If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard this, I could start offering it as one of our products and voila, monetisation done! “I love the message, the brand association, what you’re trying to achieve etc, but I can’t see the ROI (Return on investment). “I didn’t get any leads from the directory/I only got a few referrals/I got referrals but they didn’t book”…Value is a matter of perception.
Targeting your ideal couples through strong messaging might be a benefit of being a directory member, but how does one quantify that? Getting referrals from others within the community…well that didn’t come from the directory so does that count? And what about those couples who read our content for inspiration and create an eco-wedding but don’t book anyone from the Directory…how do they fit in with ROI?
The thing that I want to tell people is that marketing doesn’t work in a linear way. It’s not: 1/ see a listing 2/ meet the vendor and 3/ book them. If you read about marketing, you’ll hear that it takes several interactions with your business before people will book, the average being 7 times (The rule of 7).
As Seth Godin says; “The goal of a marketing interaction isn’t to close the sale, any more than the goal of a first date is to get married. No, the opportunity is to move forward, to earn attention and trust and curiosity and conversation.”
Realistically a wedding booking looks a bit more like this: 1/ couple searches some hash tags or googles key words 2/ someone they know mentions you on instagram or in conversation, which confirms your validity 3/ they follow you on socials for a while 4/ the people they see on your website and socials are similar to them, so they feel like they fit in 5/ they love what you stand for 6/ they read some testimonials and that confirms their trust in you 7/ they meet you and you click as people and so it feels like the right choice. (This process might be cut short when they receive a personal recommendation from a friend or a source they trust).
Ironically, I am now considering whether doing this work is bringing me a return on investment. When I first started LSMM 5 years ago, I used some savings, and a lot of bartering to make things happen. I traded photo shoots and wedding photography for much of the website and all of the Mindfully Wed E-guide design. I offered my first wedding expo for free for vendors, so definitely didn’t make any money off that, and the second event I just broke even. I offended far too many people along the way with way overdue bills. It was less than 2 years ago I started paying myself. Right now I pay myself around $200/week.
I was lucky enough to receive a COVID business payment which funded the Wedding Footprint Calculator. That’s been a missing link as far as I’m concerned, as it gives scientific validity to our message. It has created media interest, including podcasts, an interview on ABC News and soon a social media video on 2040 Film instagram. All really great for the ego, validating and encouraging, yet this still doesn’t make LSMM a viable business.
For LSMM to be a viable business I need more than approximately 80 members across Australia and New Zealand. I need for couples to come to the directory with plenty of options, not just a vendor here and there in their area. It seems totally achievable when there are 110,000 + weddings each year in Australia, right?
But it always comes back to “I love what you’re doing, but…”
What this means in practice is that I need to keep doing this work by myself, and other determined eco-businesses are also working in isolation. A movement isn’t created by one person, it’s created when lots and lots of people are having the conversation. We need at least 3.5% of weddings to be eco-friendly for the movement to create real cultural change. By all of us pitching in, we are actually creating awareness, a new trend, accessibility, and our very own target market. This is a far bigger job than one person can achieve.
Also, I’m tired, so very very tired. I’m not a cool cat in the industry, I’m just a single mum who is passionate and stubborn and feels called to do this work. I can’t keep being an alternate voice in the wedding industry, by myself. I need a tribe. You need your tribe. The movement needs a tribe.
If you’ve joined Team Less with the expectation of receiving referrals and that hasn’t happened yet, please consider the value that has been brought to your brand. By joining our Directory, you are supporting the movement as a whole, which in turn creates a market for eco-ethical weddings for all of us. This is not a “what’s in it for me” space, it’s a “what’s in it for us” community.
Lastly, thank-you to the supporters who have stuck with me since the get go. I see you and I appreciate you.