Here’s a fun twist of fate: Dave Cavanaugh found Thumbtack planning his own wedding, then used it to build his business as a wedding officiant. Dave left high-tech to follow his heart and marry his dream woman in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The move coincided with the opening of gay marriage in Idaho and he saw an opportunity for officiants like himself who were willing to provide same-sex ceremonies to couples – and now he runs his own successful company called Joyous Vows. Here’s how he uses Thumbtack and a little marketing savvy to expand his business and differentiate himself from competitors.
How did you find Thumbtack?
I knew about Thumbtack from my own wedding planning experiences. That’s why I got involved. As I was starting my own business, I knew the key was how to find customers. How do I get in touch with people looking for wedding officiants? Thumbtack made that happen.
What do you suggest for people just getting started?
Follow up. Thumbtack suggests that when our quotes are read to immediately follow up with the individual. When I get those notices, I follow up and say, “Hi, I saw you read my quote, is there anything else I can provide for your decision making?”
Flesh out your profile as much as possible by explaining who you are and what you do. Upload photos. Get certified with the Better Business Bureau. Do everything you can to differentiate yourself from other vendors.
Get people to fill out reviews.
Be as complete as possible without being overly detailed in your quotes. At first, I was trying to be cost competitive and show how my costs broke down, but it was too much information. Now, instead of using the first email to explain the ceremony is $200, but travel is $100. I just say the total cost is $300, including travel.
How much of your business comes from Thumbtack?
By the end of 2016, with what I currently have on the books, 30 percent of my work will have come from Thumbtack. Last year it was 15 to 18 percent of my work. Thumbtack is a substantial piece of what I do.
My first ceremony ever was February 2015. April 2015 was my first Thumbtack job. By the end of 2015 I had officiated 89 weddings. As of now, I have 100 weddings on the books for the remainder of the year. As I book more, I will be well over the 100 mark for the 2016 year.
How can people expand business on Thumbtack?
Work for the credentials that are awarded by Thumbtack, such as the Best of 2016 award which I have put on my website. It differentiates me from the competition. I was also rated the number 2 wedding officiant in Spokane, so I took that and use it as a qualifier in my quotes. I also use it on my business cards and my website.
Understand your competition. Who else is bidding wedding officiant jobs in the Spokane area? Who is the number one person and the number three person? Who is serving Northern Idaho and Eastern Washington? I’m relatively new to the area and profession, but as I learn, I get an idea of who the others are and see what they’re doing.
Pay attention to the Thumbtack reports. It’s important for me to know how quickly I respond. I need to make sure I’m staying competitive in my industry.
What are your success tips for writing great quotes?
As much as you can, represent who you are. This is your first contact with potential clients. I tell them what I can do to help them be successful. I say, “I’m here to work with you to create something wonderful together.”
I include links to get more information, such as my website. Be positive and supportive, and build a relationship with them, don’t just sell them a service.
Any guidance for other wedding officiants on Thumbtack?
Make sure you’re following up and treating it as a relationship, not simply a job. Raise the quality and expectation of the entire profession. Unfortunately, I hear a lot about experiences where wedding officiants are no-shows. Even if you’re unable to make the job, communicate with the client. Be professional.
What role does Thumbtack currently play in your business?
Since I’ve started, I’ve more than doubled the number of ceremonies I’ve done through Thumbtack. I ran the numbers and my percentage of jobs from Thumbtack is increasing. I’m getting a sizable chunk of my business through the site.
What are your other marketing tools?
In our town, the courthouse wedding recorder has a list of people who perform ceremonies. I got on that list. Surprisingly, I have one of the few functional websites of the people on the list, so I end up getting jobs from there. Word of mouth referrals also bring me jobs.
Surprisingly, those people you think are your competitors are actually your allies. I’ve gotten a lot of referrals from one of the largest providers in Spokane because you can’t be everywhere at once.
I’m also part of a professional association here in North Idaho and another in Spokane. Locally, there’s a printed Wedding Resource Guide that I’m in for the 2016 edition. My next step is expanding via social media and connecting with wedding planners.
Will you share a special Thumbtack story?
I was an officiant for an older couple, probably in the 60s, who found love later in life. They wanted something simple and were holding the ceremony in tandem with her father’s birthday. Her father was in his 80s. It was an intimate family affair. After the ceremony, the woman invited me to stay, celebrate, and become part of this beautiful family affair. We connected on a much richer level than just on a client basis.
I always do a follow up after the event, to let clients know their paperwork has been sent in, etc. When I did so, the bride said she wanted me to come back and do a renewal for them each year at their house in Spokane. It was such a special connection that was more than I ever expected.
What’s the key to being a Top Pro on Thumbtack?
Be the first or early in on the quotes. Understand your target client. Set prices so they’re affordable. And follow up.
[Photo via Dave Cavanaugh from Luba Wold / Photography by Luba]