Will Medina might be best known for moonlighting as a merman (seriously, you need to check the full transcript to see the video of him in his full glory—I dare say it rivals my T-rex impersonation), but he's an amazingly successful travel agent who focuses on destination weddings. How does he juggle ~23 group every year and teach comprehensive destination wedding workshops all while staying so positive? It's part mindset (he's positive, and claims there's no such thing as a "bridezilla"); he has a super focused social media marketing strategy (no falling into the black hole of Instagram and Facebook); and he automates his client contact process to keep his communication consistent yet personal. Read on (or listen!) and learn how Will works smarter, not harder, to grow his destination wedding business.
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🧜♂️ Will's Merman Video: Be ready to be inspired. Watch Will and his fin swim with near perfect technique across the pool. 🧜♂️
Sunset Calculator: An essential in ensuring brides who want the picturesque sunset as a backdrop schedule their wedding at the right time.
Trello: Will's go-to for sharing workflows and checklists with his destination wedding clients.
Acuity:A time management tool Will uses to schedule his free initial consultations, which saves a lot of back-and-forth in scheduling phone calls.
Appy Couple: Will is a travel agent, not a wedding planner, but Appy Couple is an online tool that helps his clients with wedding planning process (and is a part of his package).
Active Campaign: Will's communication with his clients is automated, yet personal. He uses Active Campaign to communicate with his clients.
Destination Wedding & Honeymoon Association (DWHSA): An organization that educates and provides resources for destination wedding specialists, DWHSA helped Will especially when he was digging into the industry.
Destination Wedding Playbook: Will's 15-week workshop for agents with some experience who want to dig deeper into a destination wedding specialty.
Steph: [00:00:00] All right. All right. Well hello hello all you fantabulous listeners. It's a beautiful day out and I'm so excited that you're joining us today. I'm Steph Lee, the founder of host agency reviews and your host for today's episode. Now what's different about it this time around is some of you will be listening to this via our podcast and some of you are going to be watching this on YouTube, because Will who I'll introduce in just a minute, had suggested that we go on Zoom and actually have videos, so like . . . That's a brilliant idea and voila here we are.
So you may have seen Will on social media. He's crazy active within the agent community and with his clients. And maybe you were like me and we're scrolling through your feed and suddenly you saw this man swimming underwater. In a merman— I don't want to say outfit like a Fin fin . . . it was like, "Who is this guy with amazing Merman technique." It is amazing and I will post it in our show notes and in the YouTube description. He uses video because he looks like a real merman.
Will: [00:01:16] [whispers in background] I am a real merman
Steph: [00:01:17] So will specializes in destination weddings and has an average group size of around 50 guests, and his agency sold around 1 million dollars last year. He kind of does a little bit by how they travel, so it's a little bit different. But to give you an idea of his growth, he started going really full time three years ago and that year he booked eleven destination weddings. Then last year he had twenty three on the books, and then this year his goal is to keep the number of weddings the same but to increase the value of the wedding. So he is he is he is not aiming to go for volume, he's aiming to go for quality.
And so what we want to do today is kind of tease apart what is making him so successful and how he books these destination weddings without his head exploding. Which . . .yeah, is mind boggling to me. But so for those of you that are listening, we'll list the full transcript and show notes at HostAgencyReviews.com/TAC And you can click on Volume 9.
So today's itinerary is, the first thing we'll talk about is marketing; Then we'll talk. about—I'm calling it type A agent it—But it's really just how Will is more of a Type A agent, and so we'll talk about how that has helped him in his business. Then we'll talk about some booking secrets and then we'll wrap it up with the warm fuzzy segment. So will welcome to travel agent chatter.
Will: [00:02:55] Thank you. Thank you for having me, Stephanie, I'm super excited to be here.
Steph: [00:02:58] It's very exciting. It's so exciting to be like face to face right now.
Will: [00:03:02] It is. Technology is amazing.
Steph: [00:03:06] So before our call we hadn't really chatted except over social media and we have a lot in common because you know while you like to wear the fin, I personally like to dress up an inflatable T-Rex costume.
Will: [00:03:22] So I just saw that.
Steph: [00:03:24] So I don't think people know this but it's like we're soulmates or something. So. So I have to ask you how often do you pull out the old Fin. Is this like a you know weekly thing? What is it?
Will: [00:03:41] No I don't have much time anymore for weekly what. You know I live in Florida so we do have winters as well—not quite like the ones you have in Minnesota, but you know the water gets cold but is too chilly for us to go out for a little summer unit then. Yeah. So I just actually I just go in the hot tub. So I pull it out, I would say you know once a weekend like Saturdays or Sundays just for an hour or so to go to the pool. But I've only had my tail for about a year and a half. So it's like a new thing for me. I've always had like secretly I wanted it like with the emoji. You know on you're on your phone. But like a year and a half ago I bought it and I absolutely love it.
Steph: [00:04:25] You're a natural. You really are.
Will: [00:04:28] Thank you.
Steph: [00:04:30] Well so speaking of social. When we spoke you said that social is your only marketing strategy. You don't do bridal shows, you don't do direct mail campaigns, social is the only way you market. So what platform are you getting the most leads from.
Will: [00:04:47] So for me social media is it. I do a combination of Instagram and Facebook. On Facebook, however, it's the Facebook page is just a little bit like cross posting from the Instagram page, and then I kind of drive the traffic to my Facebook group for brides. So it is kind of like a triangle, but it's—I would say primarily is my Instagram account and definitely my pre-school group like huge source of leads for my brides.
Steph: [00:05:14] And how many are in your Facebook group for brides again?
Will: [00:05:16] It's just over 500 members right now. I keep focus on quality over quantity, so I decline a ton of people because of how like the little questions you have to answer before you join. And I don't know if you've seen, like most of the consumer groups you have, you know you have one—for every hundred consumer you have twenty five or thirty vendors. Not in my group. So the majority of those people are. And then I have like a small curated group of vendors and I do recommend anything from the "Save the Date" invitation designs to photographers, to make the parties, and things like that that I to the group to be part of the collaboration.
Steph: [00:05:59] Gotcha. So if there is is there a turnover from the brides then after they've had their destination wedding they leave?
Will: [00:06:09] You know some leave. But what I've noticed is most of them actually stay in the group. You know they just love being able to like help other brides that basically are starting over in the process. And they like to, I would say sometimes they like to brag about what they did for their wedding and you know, share how cute their invitations were and you know brag about the resort they picked—With my help of course. Most of them stay in. It is nice because they do help, you know, which actually helps me with the workload of having to be the only person responding and then they're amazing advocates for my services. So it works out where they stay there and they just keep spreading the word.
Steph: [00:06:50] That's really cool. Well so one thing I found is that there's a danger in social marketing, and that if you're on it all the time it can be such a . . . such a time suck. I mean I'm. I go on social media and suddenly I find myself on a site that's telling me how to properly pet an ostrich and I'm like, "How did I end up here. What happened?" you know. And so how do you . . . how do you deal with that if you're communicating with brides via the messenger, and you're in the feed. How do you not end up on those ostrich pages? [laughter] I don't know how else to say it.
Will: [00:07:31] No I definitely understood because I hear agents that do that. To me . . . I will tell you like I'm more of an podcasters, so I love . . . I love listening to podcasts. I love listening to music, but most of my day I go like completely silent. So it is just me here on my computer focusing on what I have to do. And I don't really—I'm rarely on YouTube looking up stuff—So I'm always like so driven to staying productive and just basically you know getting what I have to— getting shit done. That, I don't really get distracted by those things.
I will say though, if you are in the groups especially because I have that group and that I belong to others, which you know sometimes if I'm scrolling through when I see a question I pop in an answer because it gives you exposure as well then he keeps me kind of current with the questions and you know the craziness of the bride's are thinking. What I will say it's just about just being really focus on what you're showing up to doing social media. For me it's all about connection and you know brand awareness. Like I'm not there like, "hey book me book me! You know, "Talk to me!" It's more about giving them value and I really share and sometimes even inspiration. From time to time I look at my Instagram and I'm like, "Oh my God I haven't given a tip in like so long." But it's OK because not all the brides are there or all the people that are there follow me just for the destination weddings piece of it right. So I focus it more around it's a brand or personal brand or on travel where you're coming here to be inspired, you know, to laugh and to be crazy with me. And it works. But in terms of like just not getting distracted you know going to those sides it's just not me.
Steph: [00:09:20] You don't care about how to pet ostriches?
Will: [00:09:23] I don't—No. I say I do spend a really big amount of time inside of other Facebook groups for travel agents that I manage and that I help manage or admin. You know again just helping other agents and you know we have one that we just laugh 24/7, and in those are like my co-workers because otherwise it's just me and you know my little Katrina there, and had a mermaid here that's so weird.
Steph: [00:09:54] Well you, you had said earlier that when brides message you and they're like, "I want to quote," via messenger because that's incredibly difficult to handle. I think via messenger . . . I hate writing out advice.
Will: [00:10:07] Yeah.
Steph: [00:10:08] So how do you handle that because you have some sort of a step that gets them to where you want right away.
Will: [00:10:14] Yes. So I'm kind of a nerd as it comes to like technology and systems. I have a system for everything right. So for example the bride contacts me and I generally first of all I use the auto responder that the Facebook business page gives you—which basically just says, you know, "Hey thank you for reaching out." You know, "We're so excited by your next travel event. Please send us your e-mails so we can contact you." Right. That's like the automatic in case, I'm not around I'm not on Facebook, or like right now I'm busy for the next couple of hours. It doesn't matter. They will automatically get the message and then they send me their email. So typically if I am around, I will like just chat them, you know, "Hey what are you thinking?" Or you know, "Thank you for reaching out. What do you have in mind?" I will have a very honest and real conversation with them where they don't feel like it's just a robot or a chat bot or whatever and just basically take it from there and I'll say, you know, "I will e-mail you information. But here is also the link to book my complimentary consultation which is how my process works." I explain to them, unlike any other agencies or most agencies I don't know I don't quote until I know your needs, so I'm gonna give you a free hour of my time so you can pick my brain we can discuss your needs. That's complimentary and then from there we'll discuss if we're you know, the right fit to work. It's a very quick—– It's a very quick process where again just connect, ask a couple questions so that—because I'm sure the private messages three other agencies at the same time, right? And someone, you know that they jumped in giving them a quote. I just give them my . . . let's call it my speech, my spiel, and then just send them the page to book the link . . . to the consultation. And then at the same time I go to my active campaign which is email marketing service that I use and then I have an automated follow up sequence that goes out to them.
Now these those two things, because I'm giving them though the link right away to to book the consultation. And I also—if they're not part of my Facebook group yet, because they found me in a different group—I invite them to my Facebook group. Right? So again they're coming to my territory, but they may not take action. Because they may be like, "I don't really want to talk to anybody yet." Right. Or they may be, "I don't know you know these other agencies gave me quote." No big deal. They may not take action, or they may be at work and just forget. Then I hit them via email. And then that email—that e-mail system hits them for about, I would say three weeks, with just tips and like things that basically build up not only my authority, but also help them with questions and things that they may not know. And other questions they may be wondering. For example one of them could be, you know, "What is the difference with booking with me versus booking online?" I wrote a heartfelt response Will-style that actually addresses that. So it's me, it's you know it's a template, but it's me answering that question to them. And that goes to them. So.
Steph: [00:13:26] Do you send them to your blog or is the whole message in the email?
Will: [00:13:31] I do a combination of both. So, some . . . some articles or some responses let's call it, frequently asked questions, they are shorter, so I just give it to them special at the beginning. And then that are others where I insert half of the blog and then "read more go to it to the website." So again that I'm hitting them from different angles. So I do a combination of both, but definitely I use the blog strategy a lot. Especially with a longer email—.
Steph: [00:13:59] Email is so key.
Will: [00:14:00] Yeah exactly, especially the longer emails because it's too much to, you know, too much to explain. So get into email, it's definitely key.
Steph: [00:14:10] And one thing I wanted to mention too is, so you use [00:14:13] Acuity for your scheduling software. Yeah right. We'll put a link to that and then also . . . the what is the name of the . . .
Will: [00:14:22] Active Campaign.
Steph: [00:14:23] Active Campaign, which I looked up and it had great reviews. So we'll put a link to those in the show notes in the YouTube description. And they're . . . they're really great—Acuity if you haven't tried it, it's $15/mo a month for the basic plan and then you think of how much time you spend back and forth with being like, "Will 3:00p.m. work for you? How about whatever on—?" Then you can just say, "here's my calendar, schedule it." And you can have different types of consultations that you, that they can sign up for so. It's pretty spiffy.
Will: [00:14:57] It is, and let me tell you one more thing about Acuity that a lot of agents don't think about, especially now during the training, you know it's stuff that I had to talk about—a little bit more in detail so they would understand. I have been using Acuity for about four to five years so excuse me . . . the plans have changed because I'm grandfathered into one of their older plans.
Steph: [00:15:18] Me too!
Will: [00:15:19] I believe they have a free plan but you start out, like if you don't need you know a lot of connectivity or whatnot. So they have the free one but listen let's just talk about the $15 one. So—.
Steph: [00:15:30] That one, that one, by the way just for everybody is a 30 days, I think, free. They ixnay that I think last—.
Will: [00:15:37] So it's the actual free one. OK but let let's say it's $15 right? I started paying for Acuity before I actually needed it all the time. Well there is something that I know I like to call opportunity cost. You have to think about the $15 ... I mean that's two trips to a Starbucksm sometimes is just one. The reality you know what it is doing to me, is doing two things. No one is putting—the three. Number one is putting the ball in your court right away. So where you're not like, "Hey are you available tomorrow?" "Oh no I'm sorry, I work at 5p.m." Then I have to be worried about the specific time zone that you're in, "Oh sorry I didn't remember that I have a meeting tomorrow." So there's a lot of back and forth. It puts the ball in your court. Sometimes I get appointments booked three weeks from now. Because I'm not available the rest of the week. They're not available next week, so next Tuesday's when he works for them. Right? So I get appointments booked way into advance because of that. Excuse me. The other thing that it does is that it allows you to control the time that you're giving away for free consultations. At the end of the day, to me it's worth every second of it because it is my sales strategy. That's where I bring you again into my territory. We have a one on one conversation without all the noise of social media, of other brides, or other groups and just speaking things that are so generic that I don't know, What is your budget? Where are your guests coming from? and what not. So it kind of allows you to control. When I started using Acuity, I was doing consultations four to five days a week. Now I only have two days a week that I do consultations and very strategically. I know my Mondays are swamped. I don't talk to anybody on Friday, in terms of like new clients and whatnot, so I have two days a week and if I'm out of town I have the ability to go in and adjust that and take away those days from there.
Steph: [00:17:28] Yeah that's fantastic.
Will: [00:17:29] And then the third thing that it does, is that it allows you to ask—kind of like intake— it has an intake form, so that when I'm showing up to these meeting I already know you're going to book me or not. Not . . .not a 100% right? But I have a really good feeling because I'm asking you key questions about, What is your budget? Do you have a passport? Where are you guests coming from? Have you done any other research with any other agencies? What is your vision? Right? Because All of these things are very important, so by the time I get to these phone phonecall I'm ready. Like I am prepared. Like, I just go and then I go have my regular conversation to dig a little bit deeper, versus sitting here like oh how can I help you?
Steph: [00:18:14] Yep.
Will: [00:18:15] It just gives you that insider information. And lastly, if they don't fill it out they're not interested in my time and I don't want them to waste it. So it just weeds out the shoppers as well.
Steph: [00:18:28] Yeah well OK. So speaking of marketing. So when I was Googling "destination weddings expert: and I think like maybe your name or something. Then it pulled up all these reviews. So you had you know double digits, maybe 14 reviews on Facebook and I think like 38 on Travel Leaders agent profiler and then . . . that's a huge problem for a lot of agents is getting these reviews from their clients. How are you able to get that many? What's your strategy and process there?
Will: [00:19:03] Good question. This has come up— this has been perfected over the years as well. You know, I struggle with these myself for a long time so I know it is . . . it is a real struggle, but at the end of the day it;s a numbers game. So what I've done at this point is I just have it automated—There is, there are two review requests review requests that go out to them. Once again, it's a template by now but extremely heartfelt. Written by me as if I was talking to you, Stephanie, and asking you for review after these these podcasts right? So very, very, very, personalized. Just asking them, you know thank you for . . . for working with me I know you have choices, and you know I had a blast or whatever else it says, I haven't read it in a while and then it just points them out to one site.
So I would say for me consistency has been key. So asking every single trip therefore is automated. So 10 people traveled only one give me a review, it doesn't matter, I do so many groups a year, that, you know, they are going to pile up eventually. So consistency . . . consistency has been key, and then just picking the one thing. Like if you—I've seen agents that send out four links. "Hey. Would you care to review me?" And they want to review on Yelp, they want to review on Travel Leaders, they want to review on Wedding Wire, they want a review on Facebook and it just doesn't work. They don't have that time . . .and clients, I mean they don't care that much. Let's be honest right? So you've got to catch them when they're hot. To me, it's exactly three days after their trip returns.
Steph: [00:20:40] Why's that?
Will: [00:20:41] Test—I tested it. I tried the day after, it was too soon. Nobody answered. I try a week later, people were ready to get back to their routine. So to me three days was that where like, OK you're you're really caught up—let's say you arrive home today from work, from my trip it's Wednesday. So tomorrow you get back to work is Thursday, you're swamped on emails. Then Friday, you're still going through the motions, and then Saturday you're ready . . . like really starting to miss you know that vacation life, and you know the breakfast in bed kind of thing. So for me I played with a lot of different days . . . three days, for me, has been the magic number to get those reviews. In in . . . again, just every single person that travels gets it. So that's really good because you get a lot more. And it also keeps me on my toes because I know they're getting that link no matter what. You know I'd better make sure that my service was up here every single step of the way.
Steph: [00:21:42] And then you do a follow up email if they don't.
Will: [00:21:45] Yes I have, on Active Campaign I have it again an automated one the goes as part of my travel tips about 30 days after, that one dosing get as many . . .like as much feedback, to be honest with you but it's there. Right. Yeah. Just goes out to everyone. So if it gets me on it one more a month, that's twelve reviews in one year that I didn't have.
Steph: [00:22:08] Yeah. Well since you're a self-described Type A personality, I figure we better better stay on task and start moving into the next segment which is "Type-Aing it," so you you kind of have a methodology and structure for a flow for everything in your business. And once a bride and groom have done their their hour-long free consultation with you and they've decided they want to sign on with you, you set them up with a premium website and a project management board, which we'll get to in just a second. But before we do that is it A) Is it hard to set up this premier website? Can non techie agents do it and what exactly is it?
Will: [00:22:58] Oh my God. It's super easy. Non techie agents can do it because my brides can do it like. So, you know not all of them are techie regardless of their age. Like it's everybody thinks millennials are like super techie and whatnot. So once again, I use four or five different sites. Anything from creating Facebook groups to creating my own Web sites for my couples in. I think I see us Weebly at one point, and I think I try Wix . . . like I've done it all, right? I have one of those free honeymoon registry that gives you a free website and whatever. None of it really looked and felt the way I wanted my brand to to be reflected, and they were a little bit less user friendly. So now I include in all . . . like all of my my bookings include a wedding website with Appy Couple.
Steph: [00:23:50] Is the cutest name ever.
Will: [00:23:52] I know. I Love it. And you know it's not free, hence the name "premium" but they're stunning. And what I really like about it is that they have so many different like upscale design, anything from really simple. . . you know beachy, to super floral or elaborated, or glitter. But you can choose. And I basically help them choose one that is going to like flow into their save the date. And it's kind of like the segue to telling their guests what kind of wedding affair they're going to have.
I'm a firm believer that you can't expect people not to wear flip flops you know, and shorts at your beach wedding if you have been casual Vista-printing it all the way from the beginning. You kind of have to set that expectation that just because it's a just because it's a beach wedding, you know, it has a theme that you have chosen as a writing and groom. So everybody gets that website and it's super easy to set up. I buy it for them as part of my package. They all—with their email—so they set up their stories, the pictures and whatnot. I used to do all that before, super time consuming, and then you have to chase them to get that information. No more. They could have spent a week or three months doing that. I don't care. I set up the travel page. And that has, you know, information anything from pricing, travel insurance, payment plans, resort photos booking forms like literally they have everything they need there to book if they need.
Steph: [00:25:23] And then so now we'll jump into kind of the project management tool that you're using because when we talked about it I had a little bit of trouble visualizing it because I'd never heard—I've used project management boards for our website but I've never heard of a travel agent use it. So can you walk us through what this board is and the checklist that you have and how you use it to communicate with the couple. Pre and during the wedding or I don't know if it's during but—.
Will: [00:25:55] Yeah, yeah yeah. During. So it's the they'll sit in the project management tools called Trello, T-R-E-L-L-O. This is not my system. This is a project manage— a project management tool just like Asana and on Basecamp and all those—.
Steph: [00:26:10] Yeah we'll link to Trello so people can check it out.
Will: [00:26:13] Perfect for those of you that are familiar with project management tools. Then what I did was, I . . .I started using Trello a few years ago when I was planning my own wedding and I had two other weddings happening like or being planned that were going to happen one was the day after in a completely different country than my wedding, and another one was about five days before, also in a different country. So as we started to plan our wedding and we were going to send a save the date. My father got sick in Puerto Rico. I live in Florida. He lives in Puerto Rico, or used to live in Puerto Rico, and he had a massive stroke and heart attack. So it was like an instant thing, but it was like if you don't get here today like you know he's not going to make it. So long story short, I ended up becoming his full time caregiver and I had to basically move to Puerto Rico for weeks at a time. And we were just about to send out the save the dates for our wedding. So . . . and I was booking more weddings and it was like, "Oh my god" like all these questions were coming in, which I knew, but I used to answer them via email right? It was just taking too much time when I was stuck at a hospital without a lot of signals. I'm like, I gotta get creative here, and I used to have these one page checklist with like you know 12 month, 11 month but it literally was just the check . . . though a task, and if you wanted to print it and put a check mark, go for it. Right? Well everybody has those, and it was not interactive. It was not . . . It didn't really have room for you to elaborate on what you meant or to share additional resources. So Trello came— came, around. I created this checklist based on the paper one that I had, and then as I started planning my own wedding. I started to basically build stuff into it. You know, that were very specific to destination weddings because none of the other stuff out there that you get from you know Wedding Wire the Knot and those big wedding companies are customized for, you know, weddings abroad. They're just your traditional wedding. And then that's you know that's kind of how it started. So I now sell, like essentially sell it, It's included but I'm you know explaining to my brides as part of the consultation. And just show them how you know this is basically my brain on a checklist that is interactive, so they have the option to check stuff on their own as they go. So I don't have to be you know become their wedding planner and then also we have the option to collaborate in it which basically takes them out of my email. So that I can, you know, just have a more organized collaboration with them. And what I mean by collaboration is you know a lot of back and forth when you're showing them the first round of hotels.
Steph: [00:29:08] Do you do that all on Trello? Like these are your resorts and then you give options and then there's cards or something underneath them?
Will: [00:29:14] No I have a card that is basically you know debt countries like destination destination options right. Because sometimes they come to me and they want you know the Maldives, St. Lucia, Jamaica, no Mexico, Puerto Rico . . . and they're all over the map, right? So we kind of start there. I use a tool [00:29:32] called Bright Yonder formerly known as visual itineraries for those of you that may be familiar with it. And that's what I personally my first round of resorts based on our consultation.
Steph: [00:29:45] OK.
Will: [00:29:46] And then I have one that talks about the resort. So like you know it's resort choices. So I post that link there, and then I asked them to come back and basically go shop it look around. I don't care. Like I'm not even giving them pricing at that time. Just look at it you know. Tell me what is your—What, how do you feel about them and less try to narrow it down to your top two. But basically you can go wrong with any of them because I've curated them for her . . . so it's not like I'm sending them the same resorts to everyone. Right?
Steph: [00:30:18] And you and you ask . . . like the one of the first questions you ask is their Pinterest page.
Will: [00:30:25] Totally. Yes. Pinterest—their Pinterest page or link so that I can see their vision in, you know, how a resort that may be a little pricier it's going to get it right or how the resort that they thought they wanted doesn't havethat rooftop terrace or you know that pier that they wanted, because of the end of the day, and I've said this for a long time to agents, "We cannot. . . " Or I would flip this and say, "We have to stop, as travel agents, as just being people that are quoting and sending out, you know random resorts without looking at the wedding part of it." Yes it is true that they're concerned about the budget price point for their guests and obviously the resort is going to reflect that. But there is a big part of their wedding that it's around the wedding itself, right? Before they worry about guests, everybody had a vision about what they wanted the wedding to look like. And let's be honest, not all hotels are created equal. I've been to over six, seven hundred resorts since I've been in the industry and some of them just don't cut it. It could be the cheapest one but they or they could be the priciest one but they don't have . . . Maybe they're really great but they don't have a night life of a couple wants right? Yeah For sure. I ask for the Pinterest so that I can marry the travel and the wedding piece.
Steph: [00:31:43] And then you have really specific things that are in there as well, like you talked about the Save the Date and saying, I don't know how long you're supposed to send that out, but, you know you say that traditionally you send it out at X amount of months—maybe you can explain it because I have never gone through a wedding, and so I've—
Will: [00:32:03] I've gone through so many. So, traditionally going back to how most check list and most bridal resources are for traditional weddings. Traditionally, you're supposed to send out like Save the Dates about like three months or so and then like, under six months essentially, depending on what source you look at. So let's say four to six months, and then you're your actual invitations are supposed to go out like six to eight weeks before the wedding. Well honey by eight weeks like this group got to be like almost paid in full right? Because we have a wedding to plan, and we have you know final payment due dates that are not 45 days when you're dealing with 50 you know 50 guests or 50 rooms.
So I give them that basically at the 12th month, which is right at the beginning. So whether they hire me at 9 month or at 19 month, that is their first card. But then talks about you know pick out your save a date and then I give them examples of basically the wording so I like now I added my own save the date so that they can see it. Another thing that I talk about there, is like sunset—essentially the sunset time picker. Like when you have those brides that they really want to sunset wedding, right? Well sunset is not universal. At the same time everywhere or you know every single day. So they may not know and they they . . . "OK. I want the sunset wedding," they tell the coordinator which at some hotels, let's be honest they do not know a damn thing about, you know anything outside of their spreadsheets that they're sending out. They're just salespeople to me. Not everyone, I love my resort partners but I'm just saying you have to be aware that you know those little things are important before you actually, before they commit to those things. And you know like, you know, pick the right time for sunsets or if you have a wedding of 100 people and sunset is 6p.m. You should not be getting married at five thirty or you know 6:00p.m. because you're pitch black at the beach.
Steph: [00:34:03] Beautiful.
Will: [00:34:05] You need to time it where, you know, maybe you do the 4:30 or the 5:00p.m. so that you have enough time for that cocktail hour and then for those pictures, you know, at sunset with your honey meaning you know for the bride in their partner. So yeah all those things are they are just not not familiar or even aware that they should know before picking the perfect time the perfect resort or the perfect location. Good stuff.
Steph: [00:34:33] Yeah. We'll link to— because you gave me the Website earlier— but to the sunset, where you can figure out the sunset, so if any other agents want to use that.
Will: [00:34:44] Yep.
Steph: [00:34:45] Well it's such an impressive infrastructure you've built for the—for communicating with the bride, and things like that, but let's move into the actual booking portion. So the first question is you have a non-refundable—Let me, I have to get this wording right, "Destination Wedding Management" fee for your services. So why do you call it a destination management fee? And how is it evolved over time.
Will: [00:35:14] Well it's evolved a lot. Especially around basically my confidence and my experience. So when I started I was charging, well first I was charging nothing. Then I was charging 250. Then I created 3 different packages and you know they included a bunch of different stuff. But there were like over time I just realized they were getting in the way of people hiring me, because they were getting—they had to make too many choices, to to work with me when they already were overwhelmed by all of these other choices. So I just brought it down to one fee. That they, you know, it's either, at that point after an hour, hour and a half that we have been talking, I mean it's very clear you either want my knowledge or my expertise or you don't, right? If your thing is the bottom number. Be my guest and you know bless and release. So I have that fee. That's my my professional fee that they pay me for it to coordinate that. And this is essentially, you know, just to pay for those tools that I use. I pay for Trello, I pay for their website,.
Steph: [00:36:20] Appy Couple.
Will: [00:36:21] yeah, for exactly, Appy couple.
Steph: [00:36:22] We're going to link to that just because it's just so cute and they are really beautiful templates.
Will: [00:36:27] They are gorgeous aren't they? Yeah. So that's my fee. And again it's really not tied to the booking portion of it. For those of you that don't know, I'm hosted. Which means, in the state of Florida I'm not allowed to charge fees for travel. So I don't charge fees for travel. So if you come to me for an FIT like the actual clients are coming to me, like they're guests, that are coming to me for bookings, I don't charge them a penny. I treat it just like any other travel booking. But again, before we even book travel, there is so much other stuff that we have to do to get all of that foundation or a structure as you call it infrastructure as you called it set up that number one, It's taken me a long time to build and to learn and to master. Number two, I truly believe, know and get it from the rights that I've saved them a ton of headaches, hours and, you know, complex complications down the road that I deserve the fee. I've earned. So that's my fee and again it also helps that when I'm getting these brides, you know, dealing with 15, 20, 23 groups at once it's not easy. Right. So in some of them cancel. Right. So they had it.
Steph: [00:37:41] Now you do non-refundable which is—
Will: [00:37:44] Yeah mine is non-refundable, so if you wake up tomorrow or like you know also your dad said he's not going to the wedding—alright I'm kidding, if it's tomorrow I may give it back to you. Right next week, and I've already bought stuff for you know I bearned my my keep. And again I explained it very clearly in person and then they get it in writing, and you know through the invoicing system where they can pay, sign for it so that we're both protected.
Steph: [00:38:09] And that's all on your website too, so people can check out how everything's on your website that people can sign up for their consultation, They can pay online, which is really nice and automated.
Will: [00:38:21] Yeah. The invoice for the wedding planning portion, of it or the wedding management. It's not in there. I use a separate invoice system invoicing system for that. Because again I want the signature and whatnot. And again, it's not travel related. The links in on my website are just my links, my reservation forms that link up to my Vacation CRM, which is the CRM that I use for like the actual travel portion of the business.
Steph: [00:38:50] Let's see. So just to let people know when Will was talking, he's hosted by K H M and if you're not aware of, kind of, what will was talking about where you're not able to charge fees when you're hosted because of the sort of Seller of Travel laws it's too much to get into here. But we do have a great article on it that goes over it by all the different states, so you can understand which states you need it in and if you're hosted what are the rules behind it. So we'll link to that in the show notes for you. But let's see so let's talk about—you have a really strong opinion on contracted or flex groups and you don't do one. Which one is that and why.
Will: [00:39:37] Which one I don't do?
Steph: [00:39:38] Well I guess or do.
Will: [00:39:40] OK. I do contract contracted groups, or room block as they almost most brides know it. It—you know though I think though the answer is simple yet is very complicated because he took me a lot of years to understand it. So the flexible group—some people some vendors call it a la carte, you know whatever flexible group is basically where the resort or the tour operator in this case is giving you a code and then you are just booking a bunch of FIT rooms, and then anybody that books under that group code, you're going to link it together and that's how they know it's a group.
However, there is no space guaranteed. There's no price being locked locked in, and though the perks are like way way less, meaning the comps that you can earn back for your couple.
For example most hotels will give you like one free room for every 10, or for every 11 or for every 16 or 21 if you're doing flexible groups, versus the contractor room block—it's just so much easier, because oh my gosh. Seventy nine reasons. But let me tell you just two to three. Number one is, yes it is more work. Because you have to really understand it so that you know that you're essentially taking on all the financial, you know the fiscal responsibility for the couple because at the end of the day you are the one signing the contract with the tour operator. So it is your job as the agent to a stay on top of those attrition dates and cancellation dates so that if those dates are coming up, let's say you're reserved 30 rooms and you have only sold twelve, you have a grace period where you can release all those extra rooms without bothering or stressing your bride, and without costing them any money. OK. That's number one. So yes they are a little bit more work upfront, but in the back end they save you so much more time. So one of the perks is that you can actually guarantee those 25 rooms that you're booking for these groups. So if you need 25 rooms and let's say, this is an example you'll hear my sales calls, let's say that Herbalife buys out the entire resort and, you know, you only have four rooms booked because we all know that guests will wait. Now of course even though they are buying the entire hotel there is a chance that the hotel may say hey we need to move you. Right?
Steph: [00:42:11] And you'll be like yes we want to be moved. We don't want to be with Herbalife.
Will: [00:42:17] So we get full buyout and it's just you know the hotel sells because it's smaller or because it's high season or so . . . Oftentimes what happens is, the entire hotel doesn't sell out. The entry level room categories is what sell out. So here are these people that waited 7, 8 months to book this room even though they have this invitation, and without a room lock contract now they're stuck with having, if they want to go, they have to book the suites, they have to book all this other stuff. So having a contracted group is going to guarantee the pricing won't change, it's going to guarantee that those rooms that those actual rooms are there for you. And again you can release them if you don't need them, or in most cases for my weddings, I have two add rooms to the block . . . and the resort what they do is—I'm very thankful for that—they will honor the original rates that we reserve last March for—.
Steph: [00:43:13] Do all resorts do this?
Will: [00:43:14] For me, they have all done it. You know I have a really good relationship with my mom my suppliers. So I don't know if that's, you know, what they do for every single one, but I have not a single hotel come back and say, "Oh sorry we're going to have the rooms but they cost more now." So you have all of that wiggle room. And, then in addition to that the biggest thing is that a lot of agents and a lot of brides think that when you book a wedding, you book the group you're done. Like oh my god they're going to rain now. They don't rain. You're going to get 10% of the clients that are going to book right away within the first four weeks. Then you get like six months and nobody talks to you. You get an e-mail here and there asking you questions and whatnot. Well you're not really booking a lot of them, and then they all rain, you know, they come pouring the day that you're supposed to have the final deposit days, which hopefully you padded. And, you know—.
Steph: [00:44:05] That's a good tip.
Will: [00:44:07] Yeah. Then hopefully it's only three four months down the road. So those are some of the perks that you can do. You earn a lot more comps from those and then the last thing is that, on the flip side when you do a flexible group, you are basically having to quote Aunt Mary five times.
Steph: [00:44:28] Yeah. Mmm Hmm.
Will: [00:44:29] Because I used to get these they will e-mail me and be like, "Hey we're attending you know the Smith wedding. Can you please tell me how much it is for seven night?" Everybody thinks that what they can afford seven nights, I don't know why. Right? So, they come with the seven nights. Then they disappear because it's too expensive. And they come back two months later, "Can you check for me five nights. If I come in on that Wednesday?" What are you doing when you have flexible rates? You don't have anything, you know, signed. You have to going in, into the tour operater and quote again.
Steph: [00:44:59] That makes a lot of sense.
Will: [00:45:00] So sometimes you've quoted one reservation 3-5 times and this is no joke. With a room block. I give them in the website from the beginning, 3-7 nights and then go book it.
Steph: [00:45:14] Well I know you said it. It's a little bit more work up front but it feels like less work to me because you I mean you have to read through the contract and make sure you understand any penalties, or where things are going to help you, and what the bride and groom are getting. But it seems a lot smarter to me. So—.
Will: [00:45:33] Lots.
Steph: [00:45:34] Well so you've, we talked about how you don't necessarily have a favorite tour operator based on their destination wedding programs. You use Classic a lot, but and you let—you do that because of your relationship with their sales rep, and they also have like a thousand dollar air credit or something you said?
Will: [00:45:54] Yes. So my my two favorite tour operators that I've used for for the last few years of you know all of my growth have been Funjet Vacations of Classic Vacations is definitely my number one. That they sign for my land groups as a release to contract.
Steph: [00:46:13] OK. And then so what are your favorite resorts for destination weddings?
Will: [00:46:19] I hate this question because I get it ask every day. By agents and by brides here is—.
Steph: [00:46:28] You ca direct them to this video or to this podcast. Say, fast forward to 38 40 and you'll hear the answer.
Will: [00:46:36] So here's the political answer, but it's actually be honest answer. To me the biggest thing is, you know, resorts change all the time. If you had been in the industry for any amount of time you know 4 or 5 years and you've been to a resort a few years ago and you come back you may see that they have changed a lot. Sometimes not for the better. Right? Whether there is service they're looking dated or whatnot. Other times. It doesn't mean that the resort has gone downhill. It just means they open another resort that has similar price point but he's now newer, better restaurants better quality. So it's all about giving your clients the best value, right?
I will note and say I am an independent agent. You know, solo. That I don't have a boss telling me that I have to sell these three brands because of overrides. So I get to choose it strictly based on my client's needs, and obviously something that matches my standard that I'm willing to put my name on. But you know really it's I will say if I have to give you a few names, I will say that the ones that I work with the most based on the value that they provide for my couples in terms of cost of the wedding events, and costs of the rooms for the guests. I will say Hard Rock or AIC and AM Resorts and Blue Diamonds or Royalton—Blue Diamonds or Royalton by Blue Diamonds. Those are my my three biggest sellers, and then I have you know high end and some Playa resorts, but those are the three biggest ones based on, again this time based on their current packages. Based on the level of quality that I receive from them and their support those are my my my top three.
Steph: [00:48:28] If you do, if you have a larger group, is there a resort that's better? Because your wedding parties are quite large. Because you've had up to one hundred or one hundred and ten or something. Do—if they have a larger group is there a resort that weighs better for those couples.
Will: [00:48:50] Yes for sure. Hard Rock hotels I think they're really hard to beat when it comes to larger wedding groups based on you know their free private events. I'll share with you, Palace also has some like that but it's a different story. But they also have that program. But you know in my experience once you really understand the value in in what it's going to ultimately end up costing these brides for the actual wedding because it adds up. Right. Like if you're happy if you're working with a hotel about their wedding packages are up to 20, 25 people. And you know they end up having 60. Well guess what. Yeah their package for twenty five was let's say $3,900 but then now every person is a hundred thirty dollars or one hundred fifty dollars so whatever the case may be. So you got to really quickly. Once again it goes back to a really really good solid initial consultation with your couples where you are understanding how many more are they bringing, or inviting in how many people will actually show up. In my experience, almost without fail, I've had a couple that have surprised me a few weddings, but almost without fail I would say 60% of guests of my wedding list will come. That was actually true for my own wedding as well.
Steph: [00:50:08] OK. That's a really good figure to have. So.
Will: [00:50:11] Yep.
Steph: [00:50:13] Well when when an agent is thinking about entering the destination weddings space, because it can be very intimidating, what can they do to make sure they have the best chance for success?
Will: [00:50:26] Whooo. Another one of those frequently asked questions. You know, first you have to understand that "Bridezillas" is it's a myth. Not all of them are like that. I always say my, my brides have bridezilla moments, but for the most part the rest of the time I don't if I just keep them in check. Or you know I—.
Steph: [00:50:49] It's the checklist.
Will: [00:50:51] Or is it the project management or whatever, but for the most part I've been very very lucky with brides that you know I adore. They are really really good to me, you know, give me glowing reviews and basically just have the wedding of their dreams. So I would say that's a myth. So if you're not afraid of booking groups. If you're not afraid of dealing with essentially understanding tho . . . those things that go before the booking itself. I always tell my students you know though the wedding is the hook, the benefit for us is the group. Right. Oh when I wanted to do groups and I didn't want to do anything with weddings, it was just hard because I was not connected with them at that level. So they were getting the information out there from God knows who. And then I was just basically competing with every other agent that was thinking like me and didn't want to get involved into that. When I flipped my mindset it was like like the bookings fly and then the consultations is I close, easily three out of four. So, "niching," it's super important because think about it from any other— any any other business perspective, travel is very visual but wedding industry even more. So when these brides are super overwhelmed with all of this stuff they're also being bombarded by the photographers. They're also being, you know, like flashy dresses and whatnot. So your brand has to reflect that, and it just has to speak to their needs. Otherwise if your website is just talking about cruises this and this and that, your you know you're just a general medicine doctor when someone needs a cardiologist or a dentist . . . like, it just like, where do I go here? When you need a dentist you don't go to the clinic. You don't go to the hospital, right? You go to the dentist office. so just having a niche or specialty is gonna be super important. And I want to say these so that it's recorded until even after I . . . the day I die.
"Having a niche does not mean that you do not sell anything else."
Steph: [00:52:55] Wow.
Will: [00:52:58] Having a niche does not mean that you do not sell anything else.
Steph: [00:53:01] Yes. Yes.
Will: [00:53:01] This is where you focus. I still sell other stuff to my repeat clients and of course that beautiful big database that I get from from all of these wedding groups every year having a niche just means you're going to exceed . . you're going to excel it because you're going to be in the know, and you're going to know these little things about more perks and what hotels have the rooftop or whatnot. So if you don't want to nail a niche down, it's OK but I don't think you are going to be able to compete unless you're competing on just rates. Or a one man show. That's not a business model that I want. I want to be the person that I want to work with because I've earned their trust. And then in addition to that then you know definitely we have, I've been a charter member of DWHSA which stands for Destination Weddings Specialist Association.
Steph: [00:53:54] Yeah, it's a mouthful.
Will: [00:53:55] So DWHSA, it was very very very nice for me at the beginning to have that resource, you know although not everyone was booking destination weddings just been exposed on a daily basis to resorts that did destination weddings and other agents that were in the romance travel arena was very beneficial, so don't expect them to do your work for you. But I think you know it's a really good networking opportunity to connect with with other agents inside of the Facebook group and some of their webinars
Steph: [00:54:27] Yeah we'll link to it. Beause that's, it is a great organization. We've partnered with them for a few things.
Will: [00:54:33] Yeah.
Steph: [00:54:37] Well speaking of training opportunities because the DWHSA has some but it's not like an A to Z guide on how to do destination weddings but recently—is it today that your, your first group of agents is graduating from your course?
Will: [00:54:52] Yes.
Steph: [00:54:53] Well congratulations to them, but—
Will: [00:54:56] Thank you.
Steph: [00:54:56] Yeah so tell us just really quickly what your course is about destination weddings and who it's good for.
Will: [00:55:07] OK so my workshop, it's called "Destination Weddings Playbook."
Steph: [00:55:14] OK. We'll link to that.
Will: [00:55:15] Yes. And essentially what it is is a hands on workshop where you are not only talking . . . not only understanding about the niche but you are also understanding the marketing piece of it and how to attract these brides the way I do with social media, so you don't have to be spending a ton of money on bridal shows or waiting only twice a year during engagement season. So I call it stay engagement season already. You also learn about the sales aspect of it because for those of you that are in the Midwest and the Northeast you get all these No . . . you have to drive like I know a lot of agents I still drive to Starbucks you know to, to, to clients to meet up with them. For those of us that our home based, I mean for me has been a blessing to create this system where I can, you know, meet with my couples online just like you and I are right now face to face. You can't hire me unless we have this, this interview so to speak. So just learning that actually listening to some of some of my very own sales consultations with couples so that you understand what their their their concerns are and how I overcome them and all that good stuff. And then the last piece is automation which is, as you know system nerd—system for just about everything which what I've learned is you know from from my students is that I not only has—-the program not only has built their confidence so much more in how much they actually know and how prepare they are to to serve as these brides but also the automation part of it that we built after creating all these foundational pieces and the blog and all that good stuff. It gives them these freedom to free up more time, whether they want to spend more time with their families because they were working 16 hours a day, or whether they actually want to use that time to actually sell and book more groups. So that's what it is is just you know it's a 15-week program. We teach it live once a week so on camera it's a meeting so people are able to ask questions—.
Steph: [00:57:23] And it's experienced agents right? This isn't for someone brand new to the industry with no experience.
Will: [00:57:29] Correct. I will say when I was creating this program, I will say if you have been in the industry for at least a year, or some of my agents have been in the industry for seven, eight, nine years but either were afraid to book destination weddings or you know just just didn't know how to handle the volume, you know, it would be ideal again whether you are starting out . . . Not new. I would say anything after a year all the way to super experience selling a million plus dollars to just overwhelm where you just need good systems. I think it's, it's a great, it's a great option for you.
The reason why I say not new . . .It's because at the end of the day, you are working on learning and mastering how to manage the destination weddings and the groups. So if you don't know anything about what's a charter flight, if you don't understand that 10 rooms makes —10 room makes a group is just going to be a lot of information for you to absorb. Not to say that you can't do it, but it is going to be a lot of information. However it's recorded I mean we're recorded every week so you know we did the course for four months because the key was implementation. But I have agents that go back and re-listen and you know just really like there were terms or concepts that were so new to them, that for them to implement them, they had to hear twice. So I would say ideally, get a little bit of experience in the . . . just travel, so that you would not hit with all of these you know, universe of information.
Steph: [00:59:04] Yeah. Well thanks for sharing that. It's getting to be wrapping up time, so it's time for the warm fuzzy segment which I had pre-warned you about. And I feel like we're your . . . your expanding the appreciation for the mer-people could be your warm fuzzy, because I'm sure they really appreciate it. But you know I think . . . I think that's a little too easy. So can you give us a non mer-people example?
Will: [00:59:35] Yeah. When you warned me that was like super hard. Well, you know. I love getting . . . two things for me getting the referrals that I actually use as wedding features for my website. It's really really really priceless when it comes from my couples because that means they're taking the time to select the photos, to fill out this survey, and all that stuff's for me to use them as marketing. They know that. So I really love that. But I think my favorite . . . oh and another thing that I really love is seeing my brides pregnant, and I —when they have their kids and they send me pictures to meet the baby.
Steph: [01:00:14] Oh that's so sweet.
Will: [01:00:16] It's like, yeah. Even if you don't book with me for another three years. I just I just love it. It's really really special for me to do that . . . to see that. But I would say about, well actually five years ago today, one of my first like bigger more involved weddings when I was starting to like you know really focus on this . . .they had their destination wedding in Mexico. They were a referral from a former co-worker's sister, and you know, I put yeah . . . it's like basically I didn't know them and barely knew the person that referred them too. But anyways they were super super amazing to work with. I learned a ton from them and, I . . . at the time I was living in Milwaukee and they invited us to the wedding. Me and my husband, and we're like, "oh okay we'll come." Why not? You know, it was February of course we wanted to get out of there. So we went to the wedding and we made so many amazing friends and I've planned so many weddings from that particular group, but the warm and fuzzy for me was the fact that his parents—the groom's parents were divorced, and like out of the blue they asked me to walk the groom's mom down the aisle to the wedding.
Steph: [01:01:35] That's so sweet. You made such good friends.
Will: [01:01:38] Yeah, it was just, you know, yeah it was super cool to do that and again you know to this day they're really good friends. They still send wedding referrals to me and it will forever be one of my favorite weddings.
Steph: [01:01:51] Yay. Well that's all for today but everybody stay tuned because our next episode is . . . we're going to be interviewing a V.P. of sales, and you'll hear about how she booked a196- person group in just four weeks on a cruise. I know. Super impressive. So. Will, it was a pleasure chatting with you today. Thanks so much for taking the time.
Will: [01:02:18] Likewise. Thank you thank you for inviting me and I hope this was helpful for many agents out there whether you just needed that little tech tool, or you know just encouragement to know that this is possible. When you and I were talking about talking about before the recording, you know to me this was such like life long dream, and I started so young. I was 24 years old. I was the kid that wanted to go on FAM and you know drink up and you know stay up until 5:00am and then—.
Steph: [01:02:48] Yeah, those were the days.
Will: [01:02:48] Right. And, you know, there was a part of me that really didn't know these could be a business you know like a real business that could support me for quite a few years, and you know it took me going the FAMs and meeting people that were actually making a living that were not in the industry for 50 years. You know people that, like me, you know, that were just five years older than me maybe, and they were really really doing it. And he just gave me the inspiration that I needed to really make this work and quit my 9-5 and I'm really appreciative for that. So if these interview can help anyone know that this is possible for you, and that you can make it happen with, you know, working a little hard and then really smart, there's definitely an ocean of clients out there that need people that are prepared, trained, that care about service and you know doing what's right for the client. And that's my hope that we got you started just little bit today.
Steph: [01:03:55] Yes. It's very inspiring and hopefully you'll get some . . . usually people will get calls or e-mails after like for advice and things like that. And we'll also link to that . . . Is it . . . to your course in the show notes for people too. So thank you again and have a good day.
Will: [01:04:12] thank you. Have a good day. Bye everyone.