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Wedding Planner Muriel Saldalamacchia On How To Grow Your Business or Brand By Writing A Book

An Interview With Theresa Albert

Photo credits: Valery Villard

…Writing a successful book is nourishing your personal brand, with a solid impact on your brand because you create something special with the reader who has your book in hand. And when you receive positive feedback, that gives you the energy to produce and write more. And if negative, that also helps you improve your message, the way you share it: all combined, this is your whole brand that is growing.

As a part of our series about “How You Can Grow Your Business or Brand By Writing A Book”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Muriel Saldalamacchia.

Muriel Saldalamacchia is an internationally acclaimed wedding planner who provides an unsurpassed guest experience to a discerning clientele in search of excellence. With her taste for aesthetics and creative experiences, she has been providing unique wedding experiences in Europe since 2008. The Muriel Saldalamacchia brand also offers professional training courses, effective masterclasses, and technical workshops. In 2020, during the pandemics, she has launched the book “The Anti-Ghosting Method: 10 mistakes to avoid making when a prospect contacts you”. Also, she created the 1st France Wedding-Planner’s Syndicate last year.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive into the main focus of our interview, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share a story about what motivated you to become an expert in the particular area that you are writing about?

Before embarking on my business adventure, I was cozily working for large French and multinational corporations that spoon-fed us ready-to-use work processes that did not need to be questioned nor improved since others were paid to do that. If we failed to reach our goals after following the procedures in place, well, surely the problem was not ours… it most likely stemmed from that guy in charge of marketing or the one in sales…

Okay… but then I started wearing my own business hat, so all of a sudden it became harder to hide behind the corporate ladder. If I failed to turn a lead into a client, my revenues quickly reduced to virtually nothing, which defeats the whole purpose of running a business, right?

Besides, I hated it when my reply to an inbound inquiry from a potential prospect fell on deaf ears and remained unanswered. I was convinced that if a couple took the time to engage with me, regardless of the rather disinterested tone of their initial message, they were surely sending out a strong buying signal.

In any event, back in 2000, the act of being ignored by a potential client did not really have a name to go by. In more recent years, this phenomenon was coined as “ghosting”. In plain English, ghosting is when the person you’ve been in contact with suddenly falls off the radar, stops responding to your proposal, and simply disappears into the ether.

This of course makes no sense since they are the ones who reached out to you in the first place clearly in search of a service you can provide them.

That’s my nature. To organize and take the necessary steps that lead to success. That’s how — among other things — I became an entrepreneur. I needed to create my own processes and my own methods to avoid repeating mistakes when a prospect contacted me. And I made it. No more ghosting! Surely if it

worked for me, it had to work for others.

It’s only later on, when meeting in my academy with a great many wedding professionals from across the country -most of the wedding planners- that I realized the following: too often, professionals faced failure from the very first contact with their prospective client because of recurring mistakes, a fact that over than 85% of them were completely unaware of.

While expanding my business, I had the opportunity to work on other continents, with different cultures by becoming a conference speaker -always in the wedding industry — specializing in destination weddings. Just to spice things up a bit.

And you know what? The mistakes that we tend to make with the prospects who contact us are exactly the same whether we are American, European, Indian, or Emirati entrepreneurs.

So in 2014, I decided to write a white paper very en vogue back then- in which I defined my own personal added value, my seal, namely my expertise and wholehearted commitment in getting a contract signed with almost every single prospect who contacted me.

In the space of three years, from 2014 to 2017, 6,681 wedding industry professionals downloaded my white paper, “7 mistakes not to make when a prospect contacts you”. That’s a success I had, of course, hoped for but I have to say that to this day, it still gives me a bit of a high when I think that this publication was initially intended for wedding planners only.

When I wrote it, I dared to hope that it would become the backbone of my academy’s blog at the time “Succeed in the Wedding Industry©” #RDLM (an acronym based on its original name in French “Réussir dans le Mariage©”). It was the very expression of the fact that I could offer relevant advice that would become useful to many colleagues.

“We are now in 2021, I decided to go over this topic with a more detailed approach, and much more well adapted to what we’re living now. At a time when social networks make it every time easier for potential customers to find and connect with entrepreneurs while dealing with an increasing number of professionals on the market, it became apparent to me the need to fill the gap by providing new, powerful, and efficient solutions, readily accessible to most.

Can you share a pivotal story that shaped the course of your career?

I would say two stories brought to one as the pivot came in two times. Did you know that I’m multiple, ha!

  1. The first stage in my career as a Speaker. Nobody knew me, it was for a travel agents’ conference, I was young compared to the audience and other speakers. And I was the only European girl in the audience. My flow was super fast, and I wasn’t able to catch one eye in the audience and engage them. Wow. I was petrified. I said what I wanted to say but looks like I did not captivate the audience. At the moment. Then came the next speaker and I started to feel all the anguish. I had not been able to create any contact. This is what I thought. Then, came the coffee break: and suddenly I was under a wave of people who wanted to ask questions, to connect with me. They were queuing.
  2. Thirteen years ago, as I first founded my company to promote corporate events as a DMC, I have been asked to organize a wedding. After refusing to do it four times, I finally accepted the challenge, with the only promise that this wedding would not be boring — I hated all the clichés since I was a young girl. The young girl had grown up, but I still hate boring weddings. This helped me create one of the core values of my company: you won’t book me to copy the weddings I already produced. You’ll want to work with me for the very unique wedding experience you’ll receive. The exact one you deserve.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? Are you working on any new writing projects?

Aside from the great weddings, we’re finally allowed to prepare and celebrate for our clients, I’m currently creating the next range of Workshop & next training, including one regarding the sales method initiated in the book “The Anti-Ghosting Method: 10 mistakes to avoid making when a prospect contacts you”. This is really exciting as it is something new for me to create a workshop from my book, but also (and mostly) because it comes from a request from my audience. They are excited to participate in a live workshop to literally train their skills and change their mindset on this specific topic.

Yes, and I am very enthusiastic! It is about something that I love most in my job: client service. The book topics will deal with everything to create, and how to make a profitable business while providing a unique client service experience when you’re a service provider’s business. It deals with hospitality travels, weddings, etc. A lot to say and write.

Thank you for all of that. Let’s now shift to the core focus of our interview. Can you please tell us a bit about your book? Can you please share a specific passage or story that illustrates the main theme of your book?

How do you feel when you’re being completely ghosted — ignored — by a prospect, a customer, a professional who previously engaged with you and showed interest in what you have to offer? You don’t take it too well. None of us. That’s for sure. I wrote this book for every entrepreneur or salesperson in need to sell their services. I imagined this book as a method to follow, like an ABC. Each section contains a “ keep in mind” and a “note to self”

The core of this book is dedicated to the 10 recurrent mistakes to avoid when a prospect contacts you. Imagine: you’ve been contacted — that means you’re sort of the chosen one for this lead! Each of the 10 mistakes listed in my book is so easy to do, sadly: we’re all overwhelmed and are pushed to be more efficient, proactive, and message to message we’ve been told to go fast, as time is money. Let’s have an idea on Mistake #2: to ignore an inquiry based on wrong assumptions made regarding the quality of the project. There are so many reasons the prospect did not make clear his expectations. For example, not everyone is at ease while sending an email or leaving a voice message. Bearing in mind the lead/prospect is not a pro like you definitely helps to change our mind on how to react. So you just received an Inquiry that simply doesn’t rock your boat? It’s okay to feel that way. But as an entrepreneur, as a salesperson and simply being a human: you have to share an interest with a reply, to learn more about the prospect, its project.

Ten mistakes that we all make, for many reasons that are way far ahead of us sometimes: this book is the exact answer to get a method, and as results will be instantaneous, the way we look at inquiries and requests is changed forever. Without forgetting one of the bonuses in the book: the art and skill of following up! So many things to say about the book when you’re its author, isn’t it?

You are a successful author and thought leader. Which three character traits do you feel were most instrumental to your success when launching your book? Can you please share a story or example for each?

  1. Ever since I started my professional career, regardless of the position I held or the field I worked in, I always felt the need to convey and share my knowledge and the concepts I discovered along the way. Why do I feel compelled to share the technical and professional knowledge I’ve acquired for over a decade with my colleagues and peers of the wedding industry? Simply because I am being true to myself, this is my ore essence. I founded my company back in 2008, and despite the solid training I acquired in both marketing and business management, I felt a gap in the wedding industry — at least in France. Through my French-American cultural background and my deep attachment to NYC, I realized that sharing your knowledge and being a caring person was of utmost importance. The road seemed to be all laid out for me: I started my first professional training after a few years on the field as a wedding planner.

This characteristic helped me create my community of entrepreneurs, which is one of the most precious things I can rely on as of today. Engagement is not something only to succeed on social media. It’s a human thing. Nurturing exchanges, valuable ones, and some only personal because as solo entrepreneurs you need to rely on someone who can listen to you without any judgment. And when it was my time to say “hey, I have something great for you, I wrote all my ideas and methods in a book that you can buy right now”, trust me, it was a real craze. Not only have I managed curiosity, but I mostly gained engagement, and testimonials. People we’re not feeling alone with the “ghosting” issue. I bet it was a relief to them. And so there came the success from them.

Also, my various relationships with peers across the globe are another character trait that increases the word of mouth. Since 2015 I am lucky enough to share some stages globally with very valuable and experimented peers. When one of us has something new to share, empowerment is natural. We are always so happy for each other because we all know the hard work it implies, and so we’re all ready to share the news with our mutual community. This character trait is one that surprised me the most. But happy that it is working that well.

2. I place every couple right in the heart of our attention. Never mind with « how many » couples I work with, our relationship is unique and we do not like to speak about what is happening with other couples. Most of our customers are couples with strong professional careers. Furthermore, what we also underlined is that our customers are all accustomed to consuming service. This allows the fair value, and to be able to estimate to every turn, the quality of our services and our devotion.

A good example of that was Alexandria’s wedding. My client was an excuse to finally create and get what I literally wanted for her wedding, to achieve her vision. It was not about a dream to achieve. It was her vision to be achieved. And all means should be employed to accomplish what she / I wanted for her wedding. For example, we managed to reach out to the biggest company in France to buy for us a range of light blue/greyish style of glasses as it would be the perfect match for the aesthetic we were creating. Looks insignificant or futile. But this is where we meet our clients’ expectations. Organizing a wedding is an ABC. Making it fun, memorable in a world of + is the norm, we need to think the impossible is not an option.

3. Being a fact-person with a process could absolutely bring joy and satisfaction. When you have a whole industry built on fairy tales, dreams, and ideal relationships with clients, it is hard to say you care about facts, processes, and professional relationships.

A very good example of my processes is the following-up. I take it very seriously, as it is mentioned in the book. Once, I was contacted by a couple who live in Dubai who wanted me to organize their wedding in one of the regions I particularly enjoy working in. We went through all the usual stages of selling, and when I hung up the phone, I was convinced that they were absolutely on board. In this particular instance, I could tell that the groom was reassured as the bride had already totally fallen in love with my brand and what I could offer. And all of a sudden… Ghosted… Radio Silence 101… I wait for a few days as I’m very busy with another project. And I felt guilty about it. Almost 10 days later, I decided to send them a voice message through WhatsApp, with a simple: “hey… I’m surprised to have not heard back from you. Is there anything wrong, are you having second thoughts? I remain at your disposal to discuss and answer any additional questions you may have.” I was aware that I was competing with four other wedding planning agencies from several different countries. I saw it normal at this stage for them to get cold feet and hesitate.

The immediate answer from them: “Muriel, many thanks for taking the time to follow up. This just reinforces the choice we made in picking you. If you know how to follow up on us, surely you’ll be great at following up on every aspect of our wedding. Send us your contract and we’ll send it back signed by return. “At this point, I’m ecstatic. They simply had a lot on their plate and did not have the time to get back to me.”

To get this contract signed, there were a total of six contacts including two follow-up messages. A total exchange of eight different messages.

In my work, I have found that writing a book can be a great way to grow a brand. Can you share some stories or examples from your own experience about how you helped your own business or brand grow by writing a book? What was the “before and after picture?” What were things like before, and how did things change after the book?

A book is the Holy Grail of credibility for people, mostly when you’re an entrepreneur, still on the ground with clients. When someone is able to write down each experience that could help you in your own business, this is pure credibility, with a sense of generosity on top of it. When I write about how many times you can (have to) follow up someone who is trying to ghost you, while giving you exact sentences and ways to do it: it is credible because it works, it’s efficient.

It’s also a different exposure. I usually sell training and courses. That means that you have to follow a course, to be involved with a group at an exact date for a fixed period. The courses/ training business have a “calendar limit”. But with a book, it is very different: the exposure is unlimited. It’s not selling a course. With a book, you also give the chance to your readers to live something very personal. Every reader has his own rhythm and reason to read. This is why we can read so many different books, many different posts, and articles…. . Writing a successful book is nourishing your personal brand, with a solid impact on your brand because you create something special with the reader who has your book in hand. And when you receive positive feedback, that gives you the energy to produce and write more. And if negative, that also helps you improve your message, the way you share it: all combined, this is your whole brand that is growing.

If a friend came to you and said “I’m considering writing a book but I’m on the fence if it is worth the effort and expense” what would you answer? Can you explain how writing a book in particular, and thought leadership in general, can create lucrative opportunities and help a business or brand grow?

The first benefit: is for me — I did it! For many years I dreamed to make it, and thanks to Covid-19 and the free time that it gave us, I finally proved to myself that I could achieve a life dream so the 1st benefit is personal.

The second and immediate benefit of being an author is that you are legit to express yourself on the topic you care for.

Then, promoting your work as being an author is such a new path to embrace. Promoting a book is nothing related to “sales”. It is about “sharing”. It is about meeting people you would never have been able to reach out in your life, from your sofa, or your regular job. The more energy you put into your book promotion, the more people you meet. And that is such a relief and commitment to yourself: you decide to become an author for many various reasons. But… to me, I guess that the more energy you give, the more you share, the biggest you receive energy back. It is a virtuous circle. And I don’t know many things that can offer this.

A book brings you to the legit level. This kind of level allows you to price up your mentoring fees, your webinars, your training. Same if you go on stage for conferences. So this helps on every single aspect of you / your business and your brand. The winner of all of this combined is your Personal Branding. Anything you want to do, create, innovate? Just do it: and charge for it. You wrote a book, you’re an expert!

What are the things that you wish you knew about promoting a book before you started? What did you learn the hard way? Can you share some stories about that which other aspiring writers can learn from?

You need to have a calendar with decisions to make. I remember I was so excited last year amid the pandemic, that I wanted to launch it without considering whether it was the best moment to do it or not. Do the people need it right now? Will the people understand what I want to share without being able to organize round tables and discuss it? In fact, I was so obsessed to have it available for purchase so I could start writing the next book, I simply decided to launch it. I was saying to myself: writing and publishing a book is not for fortune, it is about knowledge to share so readers could change their business when they wanted to make it.

I also learned that you need to tease and orchestrate the book’s arrival. I mean more than 2 days on Instagram ha! Honestly, I’m blessed to have a strong community. But my mistakes could have ruined my will to go for the second book to write. Readers warmly welcomed my book. I’ve been lucky because I literally had no clue on the timing, the expectations, and the mediums to use for it.

Based on your experience, which promotional elements would you recommend to an author to cover on their own and when would you recommend engaging an expert?

The first is to consider pre-launch sales for the community you have. Aways that if you become an author after sharing hundreds of valuable essays, valuable posts all months long, and that your community grew with you: keep this promotion special for them. Being authentic is key to last. Whatever you’re doing. Wherever industry you’re navigating in. A book publicist will never be able to reflect the exact emotions, with the exact tone you would use. SO keep your audience privileged.

Also, to be 100% on top of the game nowadays, social media channels are an absolute and effective weapon for any promotional process. It is one of the best ways to share your news, to propose a tone and have your voice heard loud. Your presence online is key and where your audience is certainly super keen on reading news like the one you have to share. Be social! It is your time to shine and shout!

For everything else: rely on the expertise of your book publicist. They have relationships that will change the game. They will have your book entering new audiences, new circles that you would not even imagine, or think would have been too far away from you.

So definitely, split the two kinds of audiences, keep the emotional side. And place all of your trust in your book publicist. She/He will rely on you and your book more than you would even dare to believe yourself.

Wonderful. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your own experience and success, what are the “five things an author needs to know to successfully promote and market a book?” If you can, please share a story or example for each.

  1. Stay focused on the initial and unique message of the book. If you miss this, you’ll get lost, and so you’ll lose the audience.
  2. Decide what angle for each media outlet. Your book is not linear. It brings many different ways to think and act. So there are plenty of magazines, blogs, TV shows that could be interested in a certain aspect of your book when another journalist will want to go with another specific topic.
  3. Choose the 1st line of target / then a second one and adapt your message for each. They need to feel unique and well-targeted. They can’t lose time. And nor can you. As for an example, we have different press releases depending on the media we decided to share the information with. You’re trying to convince an entrepreneur’s magazine? It is smart to choose to focus on a niched-angle from your book: about the entrepreneur issues most of them have to face, and how your book is solving the problem. You can then decide to promote your book to a community of salespersons. Some of them are not entrepreneurs, but here the ghosting method is universal. So this is why we have another level of press releases, with another angle to promote.
  4. Evaluate the market you want to invest in and so the language./ French and then American (process to hire). Easy story to share with you for this very specific advice. I am French. And so my book was firstly written in French. But as I had in mind to have it translated to American English I knew my tone had to be well adapted to my American fellows. Generating a plan and clearly establish your end goal and start the end in mind. This is key to success.
  5. Invest in professionals in each step: proofreader | creative designer for the cover | typesetter | translator

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US, with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we both tag them :-)

Don’t think I’m foolish: but Barack… yes, Barack Obama. Everything in this human echoes in me. And I am not a man, I’m not black, I’m not American, and… I’m not President (for the moment, ha !) But I am so aligned with every single choice, speech, the reaction he has. I’m far from how grand he is. But I believe a discussion with him would give me the strength to believe in humanity while not being weird-optimistic. I’m very intrigued by how he is able to keep being strong in very tough moments, (whatever for his country, than for his wife, daughters..) — He is really the Human to be inspired by. No matter who you are, what gender, at what stage in your life. He’s the one. He is my Beyoncé.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

Thank you for these excellent insights, and we greatly appreciate the time you spent. We wish you continued success with your book promotion and growing your brand.

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