As a wedding DJ, one of the toughest decisions to make is if to invest in the somewhat pricey ad spots from Wedding Wire and The Knot. Let’s dive into the topic a bit further. (This article was first authored in 2019, and updated in 2023).
First, A Merger
The industry is in constant flux, and back in late 2018 Wedding Wire and The Knot were acquired by two private equity forms Permira and Spectrum Equity. This has in essence created a near monopoly in the “user discovery” side of the wedding market. And while there are a couple other companies that compete, their market shares remain small at the time of this article’s writing. And as with almost any merger, there are going to be losers, and it’s safe to say that there will be an increase in prices to businesses to place ads and fewer customer choices in the end. Wedding Wire and The Knot now live under one brand, The Knot World Wide (TKWW), and services for businesses are tied into one login experience now under Wedding Pro.
As with most things, there are some regional aspects to consider. Be it a DJ, Photographer, Videographer, Venue, etc., there tends to be a gravitation towards a brand that had dominated the market. It could be that Wedding Wire had a greater presence or maybe The Knot was the dominant player. There can even be dominance of a business type by one brand while others have more luck with the other.
Your best bet is to try to find businesses in your area that have invested in one or both and listen to their feedback.
Single Op vs. Multi Op
Simply put, if you are a single op you are more likely to get inquiries that you are already booked on versus not. This is of course if you get any quality leads to begin with they are just fewer in number. Naturally a multi op can handle multiple dates and in general have a broader range of price points they can service, so there is a better fit for them.
However one has to still weight the costs and benefits of such an investment. I had a discussion with a friend in my market, Joshua Lask who is an owner of the Hudson Valley Entertainment Group, and they noted that after using The Knot and Wedding Wire for some time they had decided to drop their advertisement in 2021 with TKWW and use those funds for other ad needs and they saw not a single dollar loss in their bottom line. And this is a multi-op who handles 10-14 events per night.
So, at a minimum, some introspection of how you get your leads, the number of leads, even trying to track original source behavior of those leads could allow you to come to a conclusion that it’s not worth the investment.
Not to mince any words here, but you tend to find more activity on the lower-and-mid tier price points through Wedding Wire or The Knot. This is not to say that you can’t find higher value clients through these services, but from personal experience I feel that clients in the upper price brackets tend to go towards venue and vendor recommendations, or just put forth their own search and not use Wedding Wire or The Knot.
Two Ads For the Price Of Two, Or More
Since the merger there was speculation that one brand would die off at some point. As of 2023 this has not happened yet, part in due because The Knot and Wedding Wire are treating their ad space somewhat separately. And they have raised their prices significantly as of late. So, thanks to the lack of competition, in order to advertise on either site has gotten more expensive and in reality for some people they need to advertise on both if they are going to do it. It’s not a winning proposition for a business.
Fake Leads, Fake Analytics
It is no secret that many people have complained about the fake leads that they get from these sources. Worse, the numbers that they publish as traffic does not seem to have any correlation to any real leads one will get. In 2016 I caught both Wedding Wire and The Knot with significantly inflated numbers (5x roughly) that they were reporting versus what inquiries I got or what web traffic I ended up getting. And not to be arrogant or ego-based but my storefronts were very much on point and I have a quality website to boot. It was to the point I demanded a refund that after some arguing I did get back after six months of abysmal traffic.
If you do subscribe you will find that they will pick a market that they feel is your service area. Problem is this is not always aligned well and sometimes you may need to be in two or three markets. For instance at the time of writing this I was part of a very large market called Westchester which meant I was competing with downstate and some city DJs. Also my next nearest market was in Albany and I do service Albany and other covered areas like Hudson. To be effective I would have to spend considerable more money to be placed.
A point on your your peers/competition, there is a possibility they are on The Knot, Wedding Wire, or both. Because of that, certain markets can have dozens if not even hundreds of placements. Be mindful of how many placements you will be competing with.
The Killing Of The Free Side
While not completely eliminated, there has been a lot of users that have said that their free placements are not even possible, and for those that have free The Knot and Wedding Wire has threatened to kill their storefront which also means the elimination of their reviews. It’s a big reason why I mention you should always collect your reviews. But either way it’s shady business practices.
Analysis Of Real Numbers
I had a discussion on 9/11/2023 to get a sense of the current numbers and tactics the are employing to attract businesses either to or back to the platform.
As I mentioned above I am saddling between two defined regions from TKWW where I am just a few miles away from a different market segment, Albany and some of the Adirondacks is just north of me, and I am just in the edge of the Westchester market which includes a lot of the extreme southern downstate that I normally don’t go to often. So in reality I should be in both. But at the same time they have coverage in parts of their regions I normally would not travel to.
I should also note they indicated they have a “special” going on and who knows if it really will only last a week (almost certain it wont) but I am going to post their prices and then my cost benefit analysis.
When buying advertising you are buying for The Knot and Wedding Wire. At one point you could purchase either option but now deeper into their merger you are buying for both. That also means that the count of professionals should be nearly identical (which it was in my case) for both platforms.
They have four tiers, a spotlight/top tier, a featured tier, and a pro tier, and finally the free tier. In the free tier they advertise competitors on your page. Pro is almost useless because you are already sunk to the bottom of page 1.
The current pricing they list is as followed:
Westchester (80s DJs)
Albany (64 DJs)
So what would be the cost benefit analysis of my single op? Well I average around 29 events a year, and the reality is that I can probably only take on 10 more without going crazy, especially managing 3 other careers. This is not to say that they would net me 10 conversions however I am skeptical they can because the max I ever got in the past is 6 conversions in a year. But we will play all these numbers out in a best condition.
And to make it known, they are going to offer me “for a limited time” a featured spot at a pro price. I’ll work up both numbers sets below.
So lets say I can gain a net of 10 events. Now I may even book more out of it, but we already know that I baseline close to 30 events a year without the assistance of TKWW, so the reality is this would be a max net gain of 10.
Westchester: $5688/yr (discount) * 10 events = $568/conversion
Westchester: $9360/yr (regular) * 10 events = $936/conversion
Net revenue gain: $35,000
Less cost (discount): $29,312
Less cost (regular): $25,640
Now I could save a little and focus on the Albany market but frankly that would be potentially less lucrative given the stats like household income and the like. And sure they may select addons but it’s more reasonable to assume a baseline $3500/event.
But yeah, even at the best savings and hoping I make 10 conversions which I never did in the past, I am spending over $500 per converted lead and in normal cases spending well over $900 per converted lead. And let’s not start if I added the Albany market as well.
I definitely feel my potential ad dollars could be utilized more effectively.
A 2023 News Cycle
In mid-2023 a couple articles were released from the news of unsavory tactics from The Knot and Wedding Wire (Forbes, NY Post). Much of this information has been circulating in the vendor side of the world for a number of years now, but more of this information is being brought to light.
Unless you are a new business an investment in either Wedding Wire or The Knot is a risky proposition. Even as a multi-op it’s a dubious net positive in all this. I feel there are better options like targeted PPC ads or better yet a real focus on local word of mouth but there still could be some value if the stars are aligned right for you. Add to that the supporting of questionable business practices, it’s even a bit more problematic.
Personally I stopped my advertising with them in 2016, and I have been very satisfied with that decision.