Have you ever wondered what it would take to become THE most requested or referred wedding officiant in your area? Or, have you been asked by a friend or family member to officiate their wedding and you're freaking out a bit? Mark has created a framework to help you create and deliver a fun and powerful ceremony that your couples, and their guests, will be talking about for years to come.
Some of this weeks episode highlights are:
22:46 Once you have the skill, and you have the tools built in, add the referral sources and you have a side-hustle, or perhaps a full time business.
40:25 When you meet a couple and start developing a relationship, your likelihood of booking them goes through the roof.
42:31 Branding is a way of ""screening"" potential clients in order to focus on the population you want to serve.
--- Full Raw Transcription of Podcast Below ---
Welcome to the Side Hustle Lounge. If you're looking for flexible ways to earn income, grow your mindset, and live the lifestyle you've always dreamed of, you are in the right place. So lower the lights. Grab your favorite beverage and join your host. Founder of NotaryCoach.com and Amazon bestselling author of Sign and Thrive: How To Make Six Figures As A Mobile Notary And Loan Signing Agent, Bill Soroka.
Billy Soroka (00:00:41):
Cheers to my guest today, Mark Allan Groleau , the author of ""Wedding Zero to Ceremony Hero"", an Amazon best-selling book already, also founder of the Unboring Wedding Academy. Mark, thank you so much for being here.
So good to be here, Bill. I'm excited. Thank you.
Billy Soroka (00:01:11):
Yeah, no problem. I always enjoy when we get to hang out a little bit, you deliver so much value. So for those of you who are listening today, by the end of this podcast, we're going to be talking about three specific funnels that will help you become a book solid wedding. Officiant. Mark is the absolute pro at this and Mark, you're still a very high in demand wedding officiant today, right?
Yeah. I officiate weddings all summer long, but you know, living up in Canada it's not that popular to get married outside on a golf course in November. So where I might have colleagues in California can do weddings 12 months of the year. I definitely have off seasons. And that has certainly helped me build the other side of my business, which is the course, the coaching, the, the helping of other officiants. So I get to kind of straddle two worlds where I married couples and serve them. And the other side, I have all these clients, officients, celebrants, all over the world who I help. And that's, that's the side we're going to be talking about today.
Billy Soroka (00:02:20):
Yeah. I love that. And what a gift, you almost have this forced time period because of your limited season where you can work on your, what probably started out as a side hustle as the coaching and coirse side, right?
A lot of Canadian officiants can't just can't do this year round. Can't do it full time. Once I started down the rabbit hole of doing weddings, loving the weddings you know, I fell into it because people started asking me, how do you do what you do? What's your process? How do you charge what you charge? Why are you so high in demand? And so, you know, I, I started to have a side hustle to my side hustle of telling people, oh, this is how I do it. This is my process. And then just, just had a, you know, an epiphany moment, like, I'm wonder if I could make a business out of helping people do unboring weddings. And so here, yeah, the rest is history. Let's go back. Right.
Billy Soroka (00:03:22):
As my friend, Laura says she was an overnight success and it just took her 17 years to get
There. Yeah. It's lots of long dark nights of the overnights.
Billy Soroka (00:03:32):
Yeah. Nobody sees that part too, but that's where the, where the magic happens. I'd like to go back a little bit further too, because I'm just trying to picture you little Mark Allan Groleau in third grade, raising your hand when the teacher asks, what do you want to be when you grow up? Did you say, I want to be a wedding officiant or how did this play out?
I was usually out in the hall because the teacher tossed me from class. So often, literally it's funny, you mentioned third grade. My, my first grade teacher and my mom became really great friends and are still friends to this day because my teacher had to call home so often because of my behaviour, so anyway, a little bit of school background on me. Now I get to stand up in front of people and perform. And you know, that'll give you a hint of no, of course, nobody chooses or knows that being a wedding officiant can be a job and make you a living and be something that you love doing that said, if you enjoy standing in front of people and making, you know, people laugh and, and just making people feel really great. And you have some sort of public presence, like I seem to have back in grade one, which got me in a lot of trouble you might be right for this role.
Billy Soroka (00:04:54):
I think you have just inspired so much hope. So, well, tell me how, how did that come about?
Well, it's, it's funny cause I so I man, how do, how long do you make this story? I thought I was going to be a teacher. Like I really wanted to teach school, like when you're a teacher and you're in your teens and you think you got to go to university, if you love teaching, which I clearly love doing, you know, you don't think, well, I'm going to teach a specific skill. You think I'm going to be a teacher. So I was going to be a teacher, a couple of things, few things happened. Then I decided to well I got an English lit degree and thought I was gonna pursue, you know, becoming an English teacher or whatever, but you know, a hard turn in my life. I decided I wanted to pursue philosophy and theology. So I went to seminary and just loved learning.
I learned Greek, I learned Hebrew. I just, I loved hitting the books and I love presenting and teaching with my master's degree. Then you get out of seminary and you say, okay, I guess I'm going to go into ministry, become a clergy person. And so I actually did that for a few years and did not love it. So I realized I'd spent 30 grand on a master's towards, you know, what it spits you out to do is not something that I love to do because through a lot of soul searching and introspection, I learned I am an entrepreneur. And so that's why I love having landed on your podcast today. Somebody an actual, a pastor coach told me Mark, when you're in seminary and that you keep hearing the word leader leader you're in leadership in the church world is all about leadership leadership, but a leader is not necessarily an entrepreneur.
And I realized it was a poor fit. I didn't know why it was a poor fit, but it's because I liked to build something I loved building and getting a new idea of building it. And church work is so much not that it's a lot of handholding and arbitrating and moderating and you know, guiding a congregation and a group through challenges. And that just wasn't me. So I quit that about being a minister. And then I really kind of desperately had to think what is my only marketable skill now that I have two degrees I'm in my late twenties, I have a, I have a daughter and another little one on the way what do I do now? And I was listening to business podcasts the Fizzle Show, Pat Flynn, people like that. And one day the penny dropped. Do you have something you, you are good at?
And you really enjoy doing that. You can teach and that somebody will pay you money to learn. And so I was doing weddings. Didn't like them as a minister because they're, they're boring. Most people don't like weddings. I didn't like foisting them on people. But when I started to learn about, oh my gosh I can tweak weddings. I can tell the couple's story. You get 150 people sitting there who absolutely love this couple. And you tell their story and make it about them. And you're all laughing and you're all crying. It is an electric incredible experience that I can't wait to get to. And that my couples can't wait to get to. And then I was word of mouth spreads about you as an officiant. People can't wait for you to be the officiant. They can't wait to go to a wedding you're officiating.
Cause you put on such a great experience for everybody. Once that started to build and I was starting to build that side of the business. That's when I started to become really high in demand. People started asking me, how do you do what you do? And that's where I started to realize, oh, I can jump is entrepreneur side of me. I can jump to another Lily pad where I can both serve couples and then serve this other audience who wants to learn how to create the Unboring Weddings. That's how I kind of came up with the name of my own business. I didn't start out that way. I was just officiating as a minister, but people want the stereotype wedding is so boring. People just have to get through it. And so, you know, my marketing says it all I hope. And I think if you want a, a really incredible ceremony, I'm your guy. And if you want to learn how to do it, I'm your guy. So it's been super fun. Entrepreneuring. I just absolutely love it. It took me, you know, a few decades and a couple of degrees and a couple of career turns to find it. But that is the long origin story. Answer to your question to how did I get from sitting in a hall in grade three to, to where I am today?
Billy Soroka (00:09:46):
What a, what a great story. And I love that you shared that because I think, you know, when you hurt, when you hit a certain level of success, people just think you haven't figured out the entire way. But clearly not the way. So I honor you for the courage, it took to step away and shift perspective, but what I'm also super grateful for, and I can't wait to attend an Unboring Weddings at some point, because weddings are so boring to me, I've stopped accepting offers to attend because they're just, I can't do it anymore. But what you described and what I've seen you teach, and I've seen and heard from your students it just sounds like, like a party, like something that you do, you want to be a part of. And I love that you've shifted that perspective. Yeah.
And it's, I'm just so glad you said that on two fronts. I mean, first of all, the origin story, I mean, we don't have to go as far back as grade three or grade one for me to say, of course I never thought about being a wedding officiant. I mean, I'm talking like 12 years ago, 10 years ago. And I started officiating. I was like, this is the pits. Like it everybody's uptight. Everybody is nervous. It's another thing I have to do. People can't wait for the ceremony to be over. I'm boring myself. So if you had told me 10 years ago, mark, do you know that your thing is going to be doing wedding ceremonies? I would have thought it was a life sentence systems or discovering that that it can be, story-based all about the couple and just send everybody into peels of laughter and you're just stirring up all the love and the positive regard in the room.
It is it's so, so fun. So yeah, I I'm surprised that I'm here. And I also love that you said that you've turned down wedding invitations because that I'm working on book two right now, which is my unboring wedding formula. And that is my introduction. We'll see if the editors see fit to keep it in and you know how editors you've written a book, you know how it is that my intro is like, what, you know, imagine yourself getting in, getting a wedding invitation in the mail, your first thought, maybe when you get past, okay, this is money out the window. Cause I got to buy a gift on the bridal registry or whatever. Your second thought is usually like, Ugh, wedding ceremony. I got to sit through a ceremony. It started as a one man mission, but now I've got hundreds and hundreds of Unboring Wedding members inside my course, all over the world, helping me out here.
I would love to see a day and I think it can come. I don't think it's pie in the sky where you get a wedding invitation. And now the new standard is, you know, you're going to have a great time at the ceremony. You don't have to sit and enjoy the day until the, the wedding reception. I'm seeing living proof of that every single weekend with reports that I get back from not just my couples, but people who take the course and I think weddings can, can turn into something amazing. There's definitely a revolution happening.
Billy Soroka (00:12:46):
I love that. What you're describing is having a higher vision that pulls you forward no matter what you're doing. And that is, that's a huge bite to take, but I love that you're taking it. The other thing that you mentioned, and I'd like to just explore a little bit, because I can relate in my own business. When I first started out as a side hustle and mobile notary, I dreaded my work because I don't know if I was in it all the way. Number one, I didn't respect it. It was, it was a side hustle. I feel a bunch of other things at the same time. It wasn't until I systemized my approach that freed my mind enough to focus more on my customer, where it was almost like I had a script for every signing, every appointment kind of float a certain way. And that just changed. That was a game changer. What did you, did you experience anything similar to that to help bring the joy to your business? Yeah,
Absolutely. Yeah. I couldn't have said it better myself. It's the same thing for me. It did start as a side hustle when I was, you know, quote a minister. So I didn't feel like I needed a flow. Then when I realized, oh gosh, I want to do this for quote unquote clients. I need a workflow where, you know, the intake, the booking, the signing, the payments that I had to get a system in place. So that's kind of the logistical nitty gritty. I needed to get a flow and a system in place for that, the professional side. But in terms of, again, whenever we talk about weddings is different spheres, there's like the professional side. And then there's the actual performance and ceremony delivery side. I cast about a little for a little while knowing I knew how to do a fun ceremony, but within about a year, year and a half, two years, I realized I can turn this into a formula that the ceremony side, where I basically write a structured story that, that sounds similar has the same ending.
I engage the guests in the same way. You basically don't want to reinvent the wheel for every single wedding. And the great news is you don't need to I started to get couples that would get married for example, by me. And then two months later they would be guests at another wedding that I'm doing. And I would see them again. Oh my gosh, how are you? And they couldn't wait to sit in the, in the seats and, and observe the experience they had experienced two months before. And then I would see them eight months later at another wedding, because this is going to happen. As people refer you in the seats, that's one of the funnels we're going to talk about later. Nobody is going to say, you know, from the back row of a wedding, what are you, oh, I've seen him do this before.
This is a shtick. It's like when we go to McDonald's or Tim Horton's here in Canada or whatever, you kinda like, if you love it, you know what to expect at your favorite restaurant. If you have any sort of household budget and you look at your spending every month, you're going back to the same stores and same experiences again and again, you're spending money at the same places. Cause you, you like it. You take some comfort in that. I have done the same thing with weddings and that has helped me not hindered me. It has helped me get booked because of vendors know that they can refer me, couples know that they can refer me wedding guests know that I'm pretty much going to do the same thing. The story is totally unique. The content is completely different every time, but the, the way that the ceremony looks is I don't want to say predictable.
That's a bit of a too pedantic word or pejorative word, but you know what you're going to get. And, and what would you rather have, like a boring ceremony that everybody knows is going to be boring or a super exciting ceremony? No, one's going to get sick of it. In fact, quite the opposite. They're going to see that you're the officiant in the program and be so excited because they know what you can deliver and they know that you deliver that level of quality products and performance every single time. So that's worked out huge for me. Like I say, getting a, a system down in a formula down and that's what I teach. Of course.
Billy Soroka (00:17:04):
Yeah. I love it. And you do such a great job in the course. And your book Wedding Zero to Ceremony Hero really is packed. I could not believe how much value you packed into that book of just really detailing what people can do to basically build that framework. And the key is it's just a framework where you can plug in the couple's story and still make it extremely unique, but also meet that organizational standard that people, the, the referral network can count on.
It's like how well the book literally teaches a spreadsheet, but the system has metaphorically, a spreadsheet where you've got like blank boxes, your ceremony doesn't sound cookie cutter everybody. The feedback that that I get and that clients get is always getting guests, ask the couple, oh my gosh, how long have you known your friend, Bill who officiated your wedding? And they think, they think you guys are friends. You and the couple are friends because of the level of intimacy and depth of the story that you told. But really that's just part of the system. People are shocked when they, when the couple says, oh, we hired him. We just met him six months ago. We literally met one time for a planning session. We answered some questions on a survey and, and, and he delivered the ceremony that guests are shocked. And, and so that is part of having a formula where it's high touch with the couple you know how to guide them.
That's what book one is about sitting down with them and extracting from them, the perfect ceremony that they want, but just getting the perfect ceremony it's hugely important. But then the other box, a piece of that puzzle is learning to tell their story in a way that, you know, will succeed where you can basically guarantee the success. And that's what I'm saying early on. And when I was casting about, I think a lot of officiants, because I learned from mentors, it was just, oh, ask the couple, some significant parts of their story, and then you'd get all kinds of answers, you know, a trip to Bali this other missive this other anecdote. And so when you're telling the story is sort of like some of it's connecting with the wedding guests, some of it's not because they just gave you kind of a, a dog's breakfast of memories.
Whereas once I figured out the formula of telling the story is how they met. I started seeing this recurring theme, what their first impressions were of each other, how the first date went, because it's loaded with awkwardness and maybe disaster, and then how the proposal happened. Every couple that standing in front of you in a wedding has a proposal in common. That kind of three story arc is a part of the formula that I teach in the course. And every couple has in common. And once you narrow it down to that, and you tell every couple story the same way again, that is part of what people can expect from you. And it delivers every single time.
Billy Soroka (00:20:05):
Oh, I love that. I want to shift gears a little bit, cause we want to move into how to help the wedding officiant and get booked solid now. But I still want to talk about what brings people to you and for my story obviously I came to you because I see a perfect fit connections, symbiotic between notaries and wedding officiants. But beyond that, the reason that I've loved taking your course is I have been asked to officiate a wedding and of course a yes, I say yes to a lot, but I say, yes. Oh crap. What have I done? I don't know how to do this in your core. I know that's a lot of how people come to you. So can we talk about that and then also merge into who actually decides to stay and build a career or a business out of
This. Okay, sure. You might have to remind me of the second part of the question, because as you've gathered by now, once I get going, I can forget part two of the question, but people who find me, and again, this is part of entrepreneuring. I know this is the side hustle podcast. And so it, it really is a sense of entrepreneurs are just solving a problem, right? That really is, I mean, that's business in general, but a successful entrepreneur notices a gap in the market. And one thing that I noticed several years ago before I built the course, it's kind of what inspired me to build the course when I was thinking about my only marketable skills and, and what I might do with them and who I could serve is I was noticing on the internet. There's lots of like celebrancy institutes. There's lots of like schools for people who want to become professional wedding officiants, for example.
And, and that's usually months of courses and a cohort and a tuition and all that stuff. What I saw though, when I scoured the internet is the panicked one-off friend or relative. And this is a huge growing market in the UK, all over the world where open source weddings are kind of becoming open source to people who, anybody who can officiate weddings. It all depends on your state and your province. Canada is a lot more locked down than the us but still even, even Canada, starting to open up to the couple is able to ask their, you know, uncle Bob to officiate their wedding. Well, uncle Bob says, yes, he's honored. And then he turns to the internet kind of like you were saying, oh crap or stronger language. I have no freaking clue how to do this. And what are they going to do?
Join a celebrancy Institute and take six months of courses? No, they are more likely to just go on the internet and start downloading as many crappy Frankensteined copy paste, cookie cutter ceremonies as they can and then sorta make something that works and get up there and just like, you know, cross their fingers and toes and hope they don't screw up. That is the, I saw no where was any website talking to that person. A lot of those people had to go to resources for brides and grooms. It's amazing out there that there's way more websites and books aimed at brides and grooms and their wedding ceremony then actual first-time officiant. So I just started creating a courses, putting up YouTube videos and talking to the panic friend or family member the first timer, the person who is not necessarily interested in making this a career and taking six months of celebrancy courses or lifecycle, funerals, naming ceremony, they just want to crush a ceremony for their friend or relative.
And, and, and move on. The irony is most of them experienced the thrill of it. They can't believe it. Everyone at the reception is you know, falling all over themselves saying I was the best ceremony I've ever seen. And then they come back to me on Monday and say, okay, I got, I got asked three times at the reception to officiate a wedding for somebody else. And then it goes from there before a lot, it's a slippery slope when you officiate a ceremony that well like it or not, words going to get out about you. And a lot of people end up doing this as an accidental side hustle. And so, and so that's really how that ends up happening. See ... I told you what's the second part?
Billy Soroka (00:24:39):
That's actually perfect. That works perfectly. So who stays in this business and who really builds a business out of it?
I think, I think the people who stay in it are, are the people who because once you, once you do this, once you officiate and then you, like I say, you have the referrals in the room after you officiate a slam dunk wedding ceremony, the unboring way you have the formula, you get this course, the word of mouth is already out there. It really just becomes a choice of whether or not you want to do this. A lot of notaries people in your audience, Canada doesn't have notaries that much. So, you know, you're the one who really put that whole culture and industry on the map for me, but it is a perfect offering in the suite of notaries. A lot of retired people you know, like uncle Bob, for example, who I said, he's in his late fifties, he owned a business, but he's, you know, just sold it or retired, but he still loves getting out there.
A lot of folks in their fifties, sixties, they start realizing that they want to do something meaningful like that. And so once you have the scale of a ceremony and and then you you've realized that you can't, you have the tools right there built in, you thought it was a one-off, but now you have the capacity to do a side hustle. You just have to get three kind of referral streams going firing and then you can very comfortably have a side hustle or depending on the climate, you're in a full-time officiating business.
Billy Soroka (00:26:14):
Right. Well, that's, that's perfect. And let's dive right in there. You've mentioned the three specific funnels. This is exactly what we're going to talk about. Three specific ways to generate referrals and help a wedding officiant get books solid. What's the first one.
Okay. So I'll just give an overview of the three and then we can kind of drill down into them. So, first of all, I mean, this is, once you get these three referral funnels going you are going to be pretty busy. And so you want to, you have to maybe focus on more on one than another, as you build it and get going as an entrepreneur. But once, once they are delivering for you pretty smoothly, that's when your inquiries are going to start coming in. So there are three of them. The first one I would say is you want couples to be able to find you, of course. So, because you're serving couples. So how does a couple find you just, you almost have to think like your customer when you're an entrepreneur. So, you know, this couple, they get engaged. They're so happy.
They realize they need a venue and a photographer and oh yeah. So crap. We also need somebody to do that ceremony. What are they called again? And so they sit down and they start Googling wedding officiant in my area. That's typically where they start is on Google. So you want to be where your customer is searching. And so it's very important. First of all, to be able to have couples find you the second funnel that you want really firing for you is you want vendors to be referring. You vendors are an even better source of customers coming in than just couples finding you. So you want vendors to be able to refer to you. And I have a whole strategy around that, that we're going to talk about. And then the third thing is you want wedding guests to remember you it's cause it's one thing for couples who are seeking you out, they have a wedding that they need to get done.
Vendors can be talking you up all over town, but vendors typically are going to be, they eat, breathe and sleep weddings. You know, the, they have a wedding venue, a barn, the wedding florist, the wedding photographer, all they're doing is talking weddings six days a week. What about that huge, you know stream of people in front of you, the a hundred people every time you officiate a wedding, when you deliver a great ceremony, you're doing it in front of prospective future customers everybody who knows, everybody knows somebody who's getting married or is going to get married. And so you want to really have that stream going as well. Number three, we don't need to spend a ton of time talking about because of course it's a pretty short answer where when you absolutely we've already covered it in our conversation, when you totally deliver an incredible ceremony that the uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, friends, and plus ones in that wedding guest group are never going to forget you.
They're going to leave saying that was the best ceremony I've ever seen. I wouldn't want anyone else ever to officiate a wedding. And so they're just going to remember your name. I always say, when you officiate a wedding like that, don't do the typical officiant marches out with a couple of things. That's tradition. It doesn't happen much more. I stand there at the front. After the couple goes down the aisle, the wedding party goes down the aisle, the two front rows, empty out. I stand there and I smile at everybody. And right then and there so many times people come up the aisle straight to me and asked me if, if I have a card. So that is super important to deliver a great unboring ceremony and have guests remember you and get cards right into their hands right then and thereafter a ceremony.
So do you want to jump right into funnel number one and two, the couples to find you number two vendors to refer you, because I really want people to leave this podcast with actionable steps that they can put into practice right away. Yeah, I think that would be perfect. Let's do it. Okay. So first of all, the first one to get couples to find you really basic stuff. If you have any kind of entrepreneuring background, as we said before, you want to be where couples can find you, you want to be where your customers are. And so right off the bat if you do nothing else and do it today, if you're starting today, go to Google My Business and follow the steps to get yourself listed on Google My Business figure out your name. And, and I know a lot of people in my community, they just start with their name ceremonies by first name, last name.
You don't have to do anything to elaborate. You can think of a name later, work on your brand name, but right away, you want to get yourself listed on Google My Business because that is where couples couples do not know where to look for an officiant. Typically this is not like going to the grocery store. This is not something they've done their whole life. So they'll just jump on Google and hope something comes up. You want to be there when they do that, which typically means the second thing for couples to find you is you need some sort of website or landing page, something really simple. It doesn't have to be overly elaborate. But you may, even if it's just a one page and if you have a notary business or any other kind of business, you can just add that on.
As part of your package, literally create a new tab on your website, but you're going to want some sort of presence that says I officiate weddings in this area, your location and we can get more into detail on, on websites. If you'd like, I want you to steer this conversation, but the third thing that you want third and final thing for couples to find you, is there a lots of directories and wedding platforms, officiant, or wedding professional directories and wedding vendor platforms, if you're not in the industry, and this might be news to you but things like a wedding pro or the knot or wedding wire wedding pro is the knot and wedding wire just combined. But these are websites where wedding vendors like myself, I'm listed on wedding wire. You can sign up for a free plan and a lot of them or a paid, and it pushed you higher to the top, but you just want to create a profile on these websites.
Because again, when a couple Googles they're likely to land on a well-known wedding directory or well-known website. So I know in the U S a website called the officiant directory just started where officiants are, are putting a profile up. And so it's coming up in Google. And so a couple we'll click that and then basically have a menu of officiants to to choose from. So that's three ways that I would say when couples sit down and fight and are looking for an officiant, if they haven't connected with a vendor yet, if they haven't been referred to anybody by a friend or family, you want to be where they are looking, Google My Business, some sort of website and a directory or platform.
Billy Soroka (00:33:28):
I love this. This is really great advice. And I I'd like to spin off of it a little bit too, because, and we don't have to spend a lot of time on it. This is not a search engine optimization course, by any means, but for those who might be listening that are intimidated by technology, I think it's important that they understand that Google My Business is a free suite of services offered for businesses by Google it's free, and it can be step by step. If you just go to Google My Business, just type that into Google, the Google platform will pop up for you. It is completely free. They have pages, they have other things, but what Mark's really talking about here too, is search engine optimization or SEO. And it's using certain key words that your couples are actually going to be searching for. And there are tools that can help you identify the words they are using to type into Google. And I encourage you to explore and learn about those because that alone will help you rank in local SEO in the, in the top three or in the Google maps department, which is kind of where you want to be without having to pay for advertising.
It's going to take you a long time. Like in my experience, having done this for your website, like I started in Toronto. So it was, it was pretty competitive to get in the top search results of the actual websites, but Google My Business is great because if you use Google, you're familiar with the bar on the side that really lists local businesses. And so it, you're going, you're, you're more likely to show up there than you know, trying to get the right SEO for your website and show up there quickly. That'll take months, whereas Google, my business can take just days or weeks once you activate it.
Billy Soroka (00:35:20):
Yep, exactly. The other thing I wanted to touch on too, is your directories. And again, this kind of ties into SEO one-on-one kind of stuff, but if you stay consistent in your directory listings, using the using keywords, strategic keywords that help drive the listings, a lot of these amazing directories in the wedding industry, they already have SEO in place, so they rank really high, but you can tack tag on to that by using some of those strategic keywords in your directory listing, as well as your LinkedIn listing, LinkedIn ranks really high on SEO. And if you're going to be a wedding officiant that takes this seriously, you can update your LinkedIn profile and that will help get your SEO results up when people search for you. And the last thing I want to talk about mark, and I know you, you've got some great advice on this is the actual website. I love that you said basic, just a basic landing page, but there's gotta be a call to action on it. Right. Can you talk a little bit about that call to action?
Yeah, one thing I've learned, you know, going from knowing zero about this stuff to having a website that converts is you want your every single web page that you create. So even if it's just a three-page website, one of them shows your web services. One of them shows reviews, whatever it is, two, three, four or five pages in. And I always say, check out mine, I'm boring. Wedding.Com as a template. You, you want every single web page to have a single purpose. It's not a vanity project. It's not a place to just put up a whole bunch of stuff. Look at this, look at that explore you know, like walking into a store, I'm just looking around. No, you want to drive people to a certain action, like you say. And so think when you're building your website, what do you want this to do?
What do you want a visitor to do when they're here? I would recommend as a wedding officiant, if you're starting out, you want to drive every single visitor to fill out an inquiry form. And that means you don't want the inquiry form to be onerous. You don't want it to be 65 questions. There are some websites out there from efficiency. It just boggled my mind. I would sit there and I would, I would just say, I don't have half an hour to do this. You want it? You want it super simple. Just name, email address. When are you getting married? Where are you getting married and click submit basically. So you want to drive people to very easily fill out an inquiry form, which means you want buttons all over the place. Okay? Not all over the place, but at the bottom of every page an inquiry form inquiry inquiry.
You see that on my website. I want people to be very clear when they hit that page of what their next step is and what I'm trying to get them to do the purpose of your website as an officiant, you want one overarching purpose for your website? I would say, so the action you want visitors to take is to inquire, but your purpose is to get them to have a face to face meeting with you. I call it the chemistry check. I call it that right on the website. Let's meet for a chemistry check. The best advice I can give you as an officiant starting out is just in general, face to face meetings, period, with couples and vendors. We'll talk about the vendor thing and the next funnel, but you would not believe how many couples meet with me at the coffee shop because my website converts them to fill out an inquiry.
Then I get back to them. I say, let's meet at the local coffee shop and yes, make them come to you. You don't have to travel all over your city meeting couples, choose your favorite coffee shop at the end of your street. And Toronto was Starbucks that only five houses down from where I lived and they would meet me there. And so many of them told me that they inquired with multiple officiants and Toronto is very competitive and vibrant space for wedding officiants. But a lot of officiants would reply with a thank you very much. I'm available. Here's a PDF of the ceremony that we will do. Let me know how you want to pay. So what I would, what I would call that is just you're, you're trying to be expedient. You're trying to rush the sale without any relationship. When you say let's meet up, I want to hear about your vision for the day.
I'll share with you my process. I want to meet you and just, and just get to know you and see if we want to work together. You're miles ahead already. Once you get to, once the couple has made the effort to come and sit down with you for coffee or tea or a beer or whatever you choose you already have so much going for you in terms of meeting them and booking them. So make sure your, your website is very clear. You want them to meet you, which means don't put too much information on your website. That's really important. Some websites, again, there's tons and tons and tons of information. I don't do that. Be sparing, answer some burning questions. Maybe give people an impression of the kind of ceremony you do, especially if it's on boring, but don't answer too much. I always deflect this couple, say this, that, how do we this? How do we that? I say, oh, we'll cover all of that. When we meet and have our coffee, when you meet a couple and start developing a relationship, your likelihood of booking them is just through the roof head and shoulders above sending them a PDF and saying, how do you want to pay? Yeah. I
Billy Soroka (00:40:34):
Love that. You talk about that. Number one, I'm huge into relationships. And I love that you focus so much of the, on, on the relationship aspect of this. And I find that when you, when people do have that relationship with you there's lots of barriers that start to come down, price being a major one that you just mentioned that you'll be head and shoulders above and getting yeses. Have you calculated like what your conversion rate is when you meet with a couple? I mean, are we talking, is it 80 90% say yes. Versus 20%, if it was just an email,
I literally, this is going to sound like bragging, but you asked, I literally think only five couples have said no to me and all the years since I started on boring wedding. And, and I remember who they are and I'm still quite troubled by it because it's when it's so few some couples mistakenly sat in front of me. He made all the effort, get there and say, we just want a wham bam signing. And, and again, that is a quote debate that happens in the officiating community. If you want to just do quick signings, I know a lot of notaries do that. You can, and that's a good way to make quick money, but the risk of doing elopements, I used to do elopements, but then I started kicking myself because I'd be booked for a four o'clock quick, $150 elopement where it's just the two of them and two friends.
But then of course, I'd get an inquiry for somebody who wanted my $800 package. And I would be like, oh, I accepted $150 booking, you know? And now I have to say no to this major package. So I just started saying, I just took it off the table, off my website. No more elopements, no more quick signings. Some officiants. Say I'll only do that, like quick signings or low payments Monday to Friday. So that's a good, a good thing. You want to figure out the, the package that's right for you. And, and this really to your question, branding plays a lot into it. So in my website, I started to realize that my branding was a way of screening clients actually. So if you go to my website unboringwedding.com, there's lots of pictures of me laughing with couples.
I only offer the big packages. I describe a big ceremony. I make them click the package ""Full Blown Ceremony"". So right away a visitor is going to get the impression that if they want a quick wham bam, $150 thing, I'm not your guy. So, you know, using your website and your branding to screen out people who are not going to go with you is important to not wasting your time and their time. Right? So part of that formula of having a 99% conversion rate that I have is sitting down with them, but also making sure that the right customer is sitting in front of me at that coffee to begin with.
Billy Soroka (00:43:29):
That's huge, just knowing who your ideal customer is, I love that your website screens these out. And what you're also describing is I think a beautiful part of any business, right? That you own it, whether it's a side hustle or full on business, you can make it what you want. You want to be the signing, go a wedding officiant. There's nothing wrong with that. It's just a different business model than what we're talking about here.
Yeah, that's the one thing I would say is, is the scalability of sign and goal is never going to change in terms of price, typically what you can command for that. Whereas once you do an unboring style, tell the couple's story, vendors, couples, guests are all referring you. A price starts to become no object for people. So you can start charging 300, then you can move it up to five and, you know, a lot of Unboring Weddings officiants after they take my course and do a year of pounding pavements and blowing people's faces off with amazing ceremonies, they charge double what the rate is in their market. So that is one thing to consider where the fast cash grab of doing signings and quick elopements. It, it feels good at first, but you're never going to, to move past that. Do you know what I mean? Does that make sense? Yeah, totally. Yep.
Billy Soroka (00:44:54):
All right. Great. Thank you for sharing that. Let's I think that's kind of perfect to talk about referrals because the, probably the, the signing go and the elopements probably don't get as much referral business. So we're going to talk about these blow your minds ceremonies and how they get
Referred. Yeah. So the second funnel. So again, to recap, the first couple of the first funnel is you want couples be able to find you on the internet when they're looking the second funnel and most valuable funnel is vendors referring you because as we all know, Google and SEO, it's great, but it takes some while a while to gain traction. It's a competitive thing of keywords and whatnot. When vendors are referring you, it is the most valuable source of business you will have. So what you definitely want to do is get out there. And I teach this as, as a formula. Again, I formulize everything. So having these conversations, pounding the pavement and getting out there and meeting vendors, referring you essentially, you want three things. You want to go out there with a three-fold strategy. When you want to meet wedding planners by by vendors.
I mean, planners, photographers, venue, owners, even DJs people who are serving the wedding industry and wedding couples. You want them to know that you exist a fatal mistake that a lot of new officiants make though, is Googling up these vendors, going out there with a stack of business cards and just desperately saying, hi there, my name's so-and-so please refer me, please refer me, please refer me and vendors have no interest in that at all. They can almost smell the blood in the water and, and that will set you up for rejection. I know we're, we're scared to meet vendors, especially Titans in the industry, in our area, because we are scared of rejection, right? And so one of the important things to make sure we don't get rejected is to set ourselves up for success. When we get out there and pound the pavement and try to meet these vendors.
So I have a kind of a structure. First of all, you want the vendors to know you. I'm going to just run you through three things here that I think are important to keep in mind. You want these wedding vendors to know you. And that means having a face to face meeting with them. I don't mean like a one hour. Let's become friends, kind of meeting that's way too intimidating. It can be 15, 20 minutes of saying, Hey, I would love to pick your brain about weddings. I know that you're a very accomplished person in the industry. Can we have coffee? If they're a planner or something like that, can I swing by your office? If they have a venue, can I come by your venue and take a look around? And so you want them to know who you are and you want to have a face to face meeting with them.
Second thing you want is ultimately for them to trust you a way to build that trust is to have a meeting with them and for them to get a sense of who you are and that if they do refer you, their couples are going to be in good hands. No wedding vendor wants to refer somebody out. Who's going to let a client down or ultimately proved to be a disaster, right? So a way that they can trust you is, and as you, this is, this is kind of a longer game. As you officiate weddings, you want to chase every couple down for a review and put it on your website. That's that's, that's that street cred that you start to develop that online crab. And you want photos of you in action. Again, if you go to my website, I just paste everywhere. I can photos of, of me and the couple as I officiate weddings, having a great time.
That's just the way I choose to brand myself. But it's that immediate proof and credibility that I do. Officiate weddings. And look, these clients are having a good time. So you want vendors to trust you. And that means the third thing you need before you go out to meet these vendors is you need some sort of materials to hand out. And again, don't make the fatal mistake though, of throwing a whole bunch of things in your, in your briefcase, showing up in front of this wedding vendor and handing them a stack of material and saying, please refer me. I will tell you when and how to hand those out. I recommend though handing out when you do prepare these materials, creating a rack card, a rack card is way more efficient than a business card. This is another mistake we make is we just have business cards made up because who doesn't love owning a business card.
It makes it feel so legit and cool, but businesses are great when you're in person standing there. Hey bill, nice to meet you at this mingler thing. Here's my card bill. Can I have your card? There's no real information that the business card doesn't sell business cards are designed to be handed out by you when you're standing in front of a person, what you want to create as a rack card. Think about when you go on vacation and you don't know what to do. If you go to on a resort somewhere in Mexico, there's a zip line. There's a jungle safari. There's not business cards in the hotel lobby. There's rack cards. You pick them up, you turn it over. You get a sense right away from a well-designed rack card. What the adventure is, what the company does even how much it is, the area they serve, phone number, easy way to contact them.
So you want to create rack cards that represent your services, whether it is a quick signing, maybe you do some elopements, maybe you do a huge ceremony, put them all on there, give people a real sense of what it is you do. And then you are going to want to, with those things in mind and those materials ready, you're going to want to start reaching out. So Google up in your area, who are some big vendors and venues. And again, this is where you can look on the directories and you can Google because now you're looking for vendors the same way a couple would. So you'll learn a lot just by doing that. But what I would say is the first thing you do is, you know, when you get an appointment with a planner say, and you just, you just say, I'd really love to reach out to you and pick your brain.
And you, you have to make sure you're not tell yourself as you drive there. I am not doing this to, you know, get this person to refer me. It'll happen naturally, if you develop a rapport with this person. And so really I just have like quick five quick starter questions that you can keep in mind when you meet a wedding vendor. Cause I know some of them are quite intimidating. The first thing I would do, and I went when I grabbed my coffee and I did this in new Brunswick, I had to move from Toronto where I knew everybody. I moved to new Brunswick to associate destination weddings by the sea, bought a house, all that. And I had to start over, which means I had to do exactly what I'm telling you here. Cold call all these vendors in the area, local barns, the big local Marriott resort on the sea and meet the wedding coordinator there.
And I just said, can I, can I stop by, can I just pick your brain for 15 or 20 minutes about weddings in the area? And they are so happy to do that for the most part. So here's five questions you can ask. This, this to me will get you through like a 20 minute to half an hour conversation with a, with a wedding, with a wedding vendor. First thing you just asked them, how did you start out the same way you did bill with me to get this podcast going? And you opened me right up because who doesn't love talking about themselves, ask the vendor, how did you start out? Why do you do what you do? Tell me your origin story. How did you get into weddings? How did you get where you are? They'll tell you all about your themselves.
And then the second thing you can ask is something like, can you tell me about the kinds of weddings you work on in the area? What do weddings look like? Are they big? Are they small? What kind of clients do we get? That kind of thing. The third thing you might want to ask is something like what makes an officiant, great to work with vendors, love sharing about other vendors. And so when you say what makes an officiant, great to work with, I think very quickly, you'll start to hear more horror stories than anything. And that'll give you a lot of learning as well, but cause people will likely say, oh my gosh, some officiants come here and they're a hot, sweaty mess. They're late, they're disorganized, they're this or that. You get to hear what they hate. You remember ask they like about working with certain officiants and you'll get both sides of the story.
And that'll give you an idea a, of what kind of officiant you want to be. But B the fact that you asked this wedding vendor, that question will be huge in their minds that you want to be the best officiant you want to be just by virtue of the fact that you're asking that question. The first thing I would say you could ask is, are you a part, are you a part of any wedding groups that I should know about wedding vendors are likely already parts of communities, chamber of commerce things wedding shows that are coming up local weddings, support groups. So ask them, are you a part of any group that I could join locally to get into the wedding community? And you'll likely get one, two, three recommendations from every vendor you meet and then before, you know it you've, you're networked into all these groups.
Billy Soroka (00:54:18):
Yeah. Great question.
The fifth thing, final thing I'll just say is, do you have any other advice for me as a wedding officiant, you want to come in with a posture of learning? I hope I'm really getting that impression here. You're not coming in with a posture of weakness again, please refer me. I'm starting out and I don't have any clients that I'm desperate. Don't do that. Come in saying, I want to refer you. That's the posture you're taking. I want to learn from you and I want to refer couples to you because you're clearly a big deal. You're an amazing planner. You're a really well known DJ. Your venue is one of the hottest wedding venues in the area. And so please let me learn from you. And let me refer you to couples. When you finish that kind of conversation with a wedding vendor, you are going to have such positive regard from them.
That's where you say I'd like to refer you. Do you have a card? Do you have a rack card that I can give my clients? And then now it's an exchange. They're going to give you a card. Then you can say, if ever you need a wedding officiant here, oh, look, I have some rack cards here, but you can distribute those. If you'd like, again, you didn't come in hot saying, please, please, please give this stuff to couples. You just learn from them. Pick your brand. You made a great impression. And as we said at the top of this conversation, the relational piece it is, I would say is paramount in most businesses, but especially the wedding industry.
Billy Soroka (00:55:45):
Yeah. That was huge. Mark, excellent advice. And there's a few, a couple of takeaways too. On top of those top five amazing conversation tips is the desperation piece that desperation, that tracks rejection. And I love that you talk about that because they, and you said it as they go they're sharks that can smell that and you can feel when somebody's there or inauthentic, purr, purr purpose. So the main point, and I love we were recently on clubhouse when we got the chance to talk about this too. But the, the overall bow wrapped around these five questions is how can I, you and we approach the conversation that way. It does it, it tears down walls. Yeah. Otherwise be there absolutely excellent advice.
And so it really, that's probably as deep as we want to get into it in, in terms of the three funnels. So to recap again, you got couples finding you when they're looking for you, but then you have those vendors because you've met six, eight, 10. And when I teach this as a course, I do it as a challenge. I say your challenge this week is to Google up and set up some coffees or walkthroughs. If it's a venue, you just say, can I come to your barn, take a look around, can I come to the hotel, take a look around you show up there, you've had a few meetings and you're just establishing those relationships. Once you get that funnel starting and referring you that will start delivering and converting. And then the third thing, like I said, wedding guests, remembering you, you just have to put on a great wedding ceremony, which sounds daunting.
It sounds difficult, but I have a course that literally guarantees that you can do that. And once you get all those three funnels firing on all cylinders before you know it, you will have a more business than you can handle. And that's when you have a really great problem of deciding, do I want to become a wedding officiant? Full-Time another great side benefit of this. As you have to start referring out when you're booked, it's so fun to say to a couple, oh, I'm booked on this date, but I know another great officiant. You start networking with officiants cause they're vendors, too vendors who you get to know what all these this networking you've been doing, you start referring out and you start building positive regard with other officiants, and then they'll start referring to you because when your book, you refer them, they will reciprocate. And so you see how it just keeps building like a snowball. And it really just took me a couple of years of building this formula, officiating, great ceremonies like that. And following the steps that I just described here today, where I was in a position where I was just booked from may to the end of October, that's Canadian wedding season. And, and I just couldn't handle any more business. Great. And that's what I just want to share with you. Yeah, yeah,
Billy Soroka (00:58:36):
No, I'm so glad that you did. And I love that we've talked about the Unboring Wedding Academy for our listeners. You can visit the VIP room at SideHustleLounge.com. Mark has extremely generously discounted his access to the Unboring Wedding Academy by 50%. And there's a link inside the VIP room. So you can get access to that. But mark, I got one more question before we wrap up here, because I know there's, there's still people maybe listening, maybe rolling their eyes, thinking they can wing it and they don't need this level of training or commitment to step number three, which is delivering an incredible ceremony that is remembered a ceremony. Can you, can you talk to that? People who are maybe on the fence and maybe trying to decide if just winging it is okay, or should they go pro
Well, I, I, I think just based on the experience, I mean, it's anecdotal evidence, but it's also really objective in the sense of black and white. Every Monday. This is the way that I built my business when I was winging it, I wasn't sure that I was nailing it every single time. The way that you can guarantee that you are going to do great, whether it's a one-off for a friend or family member or you want to do this regularly for vendors and couples who will know what you're going to deliver, the way that you're going to guarantee that is to formularize it. As we, as we talked about every successful business, I think does that you don't buy a bottle of Coca-Cola crack the lid open and hope it tastes like the last time you buy Coca-Cola. So I really think that's just a part of, of successful business for one thing.
But you know, I'm, I'm trying to offer, and I do offer the recipe that that can guarantee that you will deliver a great ceremony. That is a huge part of this, because the confidence that you get from knowing you have worked through a system that works is it's electric, and it is contagious. That might not be a great word to use during a pandemic, but it is contagious on the wedding day when you show up and you're well put together, my course teaches how to run a rehearsal super well. And you know, every single detail, my course teaches how to show up on the wedding day when everyone else is stressed out and running around and disorganized that you, you know, if you have a checklist, you know exactly what you gotta do. You just have to read the script. You're not, you know, I get a little bit nervous before every wedding, the jitters that you get, but I know I've just got to stand up there.
I've done all the work. I'm going to read a script that I have agonized and meticulously planned every single word, and I know it's going to deliver. So, you know, it's the confidence piece. It's the guarantee piece for yourself and the peace of mind for your couple. And that's where, whether it's a one-off or whether you want to turn this into a full-time business it is crucial to, I would say, not, not winging it because you're not going to feel great five minutes before the ceremony. If you're just thinking I'm going to get up there and see what happens the same way. You don't want to do that with, with any product you purchase yourself, you don't want to purchase it and say, oh, I'll see what happens when it gets to my door, or when they put that plate in front of me at the restaurant, you want to know what you're getting and you want to know other people would vouch for it. And and so the best way to do that is to work the steps, have a plan and follow formula that works.
Billy Soroka (01:02:20):
I love that. I love that. And I think too, there's a, there's gotta be a certain reverence for the role that you play in this couples day, right? Yeah. It's a pretty big deal.
Yeah. Yeah. And, and it's great when they feel confident in you. That's the funny thing about officiating a wedding is it's not like if you've been asked to speak at a conference or something to get up on stage and you bomb this, I mean that, that can happen and it's happened to me, but when you get up and officiate a wedding, you're thinking, oh my gosh, I don't want to ruin their day. You know, it's such a, it's such a weight of responsibility that they have invested so much trust in you. You're not, you're trying to not mess up for them. It's unlike any other public speaking situation. Conversely, when you get up there and make it all about them, their story, what they love about each other, you're just shining the spotlight on them the whole time you're talking. It's a dynamic unlike anything else, which is why I absolutely love it to come full circle in our conversation. I could never have picked this for a, a job, but absolutely. There is nothing like it. And I'm so glad that it picked me or I picked it or something happened in the universe. And, and here we are, cause I love what I do. And I love helping others find their way.
Billy Soroka (01:03:38):
Well, that just, it just rings true in your voice, your passion, your enthusiasm for what you do. And I'm so grateful that you did find your calling for this period and that you've taken the time to create something that shines a light for those who are on the path behind you. So Mark Allan Groleau, thank you so much. For those listening. Mark Allan Groleau is the best-selling author of Weddings Zero to Ceremony Hero plus two additional books in that Unboring Wedding system on their way. He's also the founder and instructor at Unboring Weddings Academy. And if you go to the VIP room at www dot side hustle, lounge.com, you can get access to his course and those books. Mark, thank you so much for being here, joining us in the Side, Hustle Lounge.
Thanks a lot, Bill. This has been a blast.
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