New look for Madison wedding planning website

To mark its third anniversary, lovemadisonweddings.com underwent a complete rebrand and makeover of its site, while maintaining its free comprehensive vendor list for couples on the verge of marriage.

Three years isn’t a long time for a company to be around, let alone to launch a full-scale rebrand, but that’s just what lovemadisonweddings.com has done to celebrate its third anniversary.

The local wedding planning website began as Love, Madison Weddings in June 2015 with the intention of becoming south central Wisconsin’s most comprehensive, free wedding planning site. Featuring a list of vendors and venues alongside real wedding galleries and planning advice, the website has quickly become a go-to choice for Madison brides.

However, after surveying some of their readers, along with current and prospective vendors, owners Jodi and Chad Everts identified functional changes that they needed to make to the site to compliment the design changes they already in mind. “As a result, nearly everything changed!” says Jodi.

Anatomy of a rebrand

Jodi received a grant for the Entrepreneurial Training Program at the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at UW–Madison to write a business plan for another idea the couple was entertaining. After researching it further, they decided not to pursue that idea, and asked if they could instead complete the program focusing on the growth of lovemadisonweddings.com.

Of several options for changing the branding and logo for lovemadisonweddings.com, Jodi and Chad Everts chose Option 1.

“Looking at the long-term goals of the business through this lens shifted our focus into growth mode at a time when we really needed to,” notes Jodi. Right around the same time, the Everts met with Chelsey Dequaine, then at DesignCraft Advertising, for a social media brand audit, and she made some points that led to the slight name change from Love, Madison Weddings to lovemadisonweddings.com to clarify that it’s a website right away.

“Overall feedback was to simplify our site and reduce the amount of work/clicks for users to get to the information they need,” explains Jodi. “Vendors and readers wanted to get from our website to featured vendor websites quicker, as the housing of featured vendor information on our site encased them in our branding and didn’t allow readers to get a sense for each vendor’s style quick enough. It also caused confusion as to who each vendor was in relation to lovemadisonweddings.com.”

The Everts hired a graphic designer to design the company’s new logo and worked with a videographer to create the video for their homepage, but other than that Chad and Jodi did everything for the rebrand — from concepting to choosing a theme and writing code to customize it, to creating graphics and copywriting, as well as creating a communications plan to share the new brand with readers and vendors. In addition to all of the user-facing changes, they also completely revised their profit model and streamlined the process for new vendors to join the site.

“Our goal was to make the site more visually dynamic but also simplify it at the same time,” says Jodi.

To that end, lovemadisonweddings.com made the following changes:

Changes to the brand

  • New logo is an evolution of the former logo, which is a salutation. The new logo has more of a handwritten feel to evoke the conversational tone of the brand.
  • Introduction of new brand colors. Prior to the rebrand, the site was very neutral to create a blank canvas for the variety of wedding galleries and imagery that is posted. “We finally chose brand colors for lovemadisonweddings.com to establish our brand first,” Jodi notes.

Changes to the website

  • Transition to a parallax format
  • Addition of video in the header that highlights Madison weddings
  • Addition of icons to help guide readers
  • Addition of a search bar
  • Featured vendor profiles link directly to the vendor website (as opposed to a featured vendor profile page on the lovemadisonweddings.com website.)
  • Featured vendor photos now include price range on the category landing page to allow for more vendor information at a glance on each category page.

Changes for vendors

  • New featured vendor pricing (pricing reduced due to restructure of featured vendor landing pages)
  • Expanded service area. In the past, vendors needed to reside in the Madison area to be included in lovemadisonweddings.com’s general and featured listings. Now vendors must simply serve the Madison area, regardless of place of residence.

“We’ve already had readers and vendors reach out to us with positive feedback on the use of the site,” notes Jodi. “In fact, one reader said, ‘It’s SO good. Love the look, style, and feel. So modern/minimal and still elegant.’ So overall the site is more appealing to the eye, but more importantly it also flows in a way makes it easier for couples to choose vendors, which is the primary use of lovemadisonweddings.com.”

(Continued)

 

Wedded bliss

Despite undergoing a complete rebrand in just year three, lovemadisonweddings.com is still firmly in the honeymoon phase of its growth. Like all marriages, that doesn’t mean it’s all highs and no lows, but thus far Jodi says she and Chad have been able to meet all the challenges facing the young business.

Among its high points, Jodi points to partnering with a team of local vendors to give away a complete wedding.

“We called it the Marry Me on Main Wedding Giveaway and the prize package was valued at nearly $20,000,” explains Jodi. “Couples had 200 words to tell us why they should advance in Round 1, and then we picked a top three and brought them in for interviews and photo sessions. From there we chose the winners — Mike and Ann — who have since become dear friends to us.”

Jodi notes that working as a husband and wife team and pushing each other to grow and challenge their skill sets has also been a high point. “Chad unlocked an amazing talent for web design and coding that he would not have otherwise known, and I’ve drawn upon advertising and marketing experience — locally at Lindsay, Stone & Briggs and Meriter Hospital, as well as at Milwaukee-area agencies — to create a robust strategy for lovemadisonweddings.com.”

Jodi notes the couple wants their brand to continuously evolve and best serve their readers and vendors, so they’re always researching new ways to interact with each, streamline processes, and bring value to the market. However, the challenge is knowing when to rest.

“As an entrepreneur, it’s tough to take a break and enjoy the fruits of your labor, but it’s so necessary and something we have not done enough of until now,” says Jodi. ‘[Additionally,] while we have gained awareness, it will always be a challenge to make sure our readers know who we are and what we do immediately upon reaching our site. We still occasionally get emails from people who think we are planners or photographers, and so that education component is on us. This is one of the main reasons we changed our name from Love, Madison Weddings to lovemadisonweddings.com.”

One thing the couple was not prepared for was how difficult it would be to make updates and changes to the site quickly if they worked with a developer. “We quickly grew frustrated with our own impatience because we were excited and wanted to keep moving, so we began taking online and in-person courses to fill in the gaps we needed to in order to keep our pace,” explains Jodi.

In their first two years they invested a lot of money into developing the site and educating themselves in coding languages like HTML and CSS, so that moving forward they’d be able to take on any design updates and changes on their own. 

“Additionally, Chad and I have worked with and know other business owners who have served as mentors to us throughout the past three years. When we found ourselves questioning the direction to go, we first looked at our data and then asked some of those people we know and trust. The very nature of the internet is fast-paced change, so we know that our website is going to constantly be evolving — it’s not personal or a reflection of our work, things just get outdated. That’s the way the world is so we don’t get in our own way thinking something needs to be this way or that. We look at the data, we ask our users, and then we make changes. It’s not about us — it’s about what our readers and vendors want and need.”

That flexibility has led to some solid growth.

The Everts’ profit model is based on featured vendor advertisements. Year over year they’ve seen a nearly 30% increase in gross profit. And since their first year, they’ve seen a more than 100% increase in vendors and 55% increase in site traffic.

“Considering our target audience is always changing based on the wedding planning cycle and number of new engagements, we are really encouraged by this readership,” says Jodi. “In fact, one vendor recently noted that lovemadisonweddings.com is becoming a household name — and while it’s not a statistical fact, we are encouraged to know that word-of-mouth advertising is working.”

While the business is still run by Jodi and Chad, they’ve added a freelance editorial assistant and an independent sales rep to the team. With the expansion of their vendor service area to include any vendors who serve the Madison area, their short-term goal is to increase awareness to vendors in the outlying areas. “As we do so, we anticipate an increase in readership, as well,” Jodi notes. “We also intend to utilize our freelance editorial assistant and sales rep more to free up time and energy for other entrepreneurial endeavors we are currently considering. There are a few directions we could go right now, so it’s an exciting time for us!”

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