Wedding Photography Marketing Made Easy: 10 Ways to Get More Wedding Clients For Years To Come
Finding and keeping wedding photography clients is a whole new ballgame compared to creating amazing photographs.
To fill your schedule and hit your target revenue goals, you need to get creative in your efforts for finding new clients.
So we at PhotoVisual have asked wedding photographers from around the web for their best tips to help you get started.
Why Am I Not Booking More Clients?
This is really the magic question. Or the most puzzling question, depending on how you look at it. You may be working very hard on promoting yourself and your work, and despite all your efforts, you haven’t booked a wedding client in months. It’s surprisingly a very common scenario for wedding photographers – even very established ones.
The wedding photography industry is full of photographers trying to grab the attention of prospective clients, and choosing a wedding photographer can be a long and thoughtful process for many couples. They want one of the most important days of their lives to be remembered. Every photographer has a wonderful opportunity here: to make their business stand out in a way that’s honest, authentic and desirable.
To do this successfully requires that you get your work in front of the right eyes, and have it be attractive enough to prompt clients to either ask for more information or outright book your services.
Here are just a few facts about the wedding photography industry:
- It is estimated that there are at least 100,000 wedding photographers in the U.S. alone
- The number of wedding per year hasn’t increased at the same rate, and remains a little over 2 million per year (in just the U.S.)
- The average number of bookings per year is 21
- So, more photographers are competing for the same amount of weddings
- Cheaper photographers can undercut you because many couples don’t know any better
So what can you do about it?
- Don’t slash your prices. Competing on price isn’t a good long-term strategy for your business
- In fact, it’s better to charge higher fees and find the right clients who will pay them, so you don’t need as many bookings to be profitable
- Your business should serve to demonstrate the value that you provide in exchange for hiring you. You need to educate potential prospects about the value of your services and why paying more is worth the professional quality they’ll receive
- Working on your SEO is important, but SEO alone will no longer guarantee new clients
- Building relationships with other vendors and marketing in creative ways will ensure that your business gets noticed
So, let’s jump in! Here are 10 ways successful wedding photographers keep a steady stream of clients coming through their doors.
1: Focus Your Efforts
Every business has to define their market – who they will serve and what they can offer them. This helps you stand out and attract people who will rave about your services, instead of finding yourself lost in a sea of cookie-cutter photographers.
If you haven’t defined your target customer already, look at who you’ve already booked for wedding photography. Is there a certain type of person who finds your work appealing?
For example, Alexandra Tremaine, a photographer based in Connecticut, defines her brand as “clean and sophisticated.” Doing this allowed her to attract clients who are typically working professional women who don’t have an issue paying high-end prices. This is exactly where she wants to be in the market.
Trying to market to everyone can leave you feeling overwhelmed and under-booked. Work on defining your audience, and you’ll discover many unseen opportunities to reach them and get them interested in a consultation with you.
For instance, your work may attract young millennials, or older professionals, depending on your style and how you present your work. The content you create for your website and the copy you write will vary greatly depending on the type of clients that you want to attract as well.
Create A Visual Representation Of Your Brand
Consider making a Pinterest board (or collage, if that’s more your style) that represents your ideal clientele base. Choose images, articles, and products that might relate to your audience. What do they like? What do they buy? Who are they? What influences them? What kind of styles do they like?
Here are some questions to ponder, via the folks at Bride Appeal:
- Are they idealists who volunteer a lot of their time?
- Are they nature lovers who join hiking clubs and climbing groups?
- Are they foodies that obsess over finding the best family owned, local grub?
- Are they obsessed with trying every craft beer around town?
- Do they treat their pets like kids and spend all day at the park every weekend?
From there, it gets interesting. When you have a good idea or picture of your “ideal client,” imagine having a conversation with them. If you brought them in for a consultation, what sorts of questions would they have for you? What are their main concerns?
You can also look back at what your previous clients have asked you if they already align closely with who you’d like to attract. The answers you find from these questions can make some awesome blog posts, and help inform the copy that you write for your website, social media and pricing guides.
Marketing your work to every potential client will quickly drain your time and financial resources because you have to reach a lot of people before you reach the right person. But when you have a clear idea of your “ideal client,” you can achieve much better results with less effort.
Once you know who your ideal clients are, you can then use this info to brainstorm ways to reach them. Think about what they might do on a typical weekend. Are there annual events or gatherings they are likely to attend? What businesses would they patronize?
Some events to consider:
- Sporting events
- Food Festivals
- Farmer’s Markets
- Music Events
- Holiday Fairs
- Neighborhood bar/nightlife events
Perhaps your work appeals to young, active couples who want an adventurous shoot and you see that many potential clients may be attending a local outdoor club event. Registering to exhibit at the event and showcasing your adventurous style would certainly help you appeal to the right people.
Getting more wedding photography clients requires that you get yourself out there in front of the right people. Whether it’s a well-placed sponsorship, an event booth, marketing materials in the right places will help you become more visible to the people that matter.
2: Network With Other Vendors
Back several years ago, when the internet was younger and blogs were relatively uncommon, you could book lots of clients simply by having a searchable website with basic SEO.
Times have changed as far as SEO is concerned, but networking still remains a time-tested way of booking new clients. Strong relationships and collaborations with other wedding vendors can make a huge difference in the success of your own photography business.
One way to do this is by offering sample albums to vendors you have previously worked with. By showcasing both your work and theirs, such as from a particular wedding you both worked on, you offer them a great marketing piece that can book future clients for both of you. You can do this with event planners, florists, caterers, or even the venue management.
These albums should be of a similar feel and quality to the albums in your product offering, since the couple may be interested in purchasing a similar album from you.
Create Images For Them
You can also look for new and emerging vendors that are in need of marketing photos. For instance, there may be a new wedding venue that just opened in your area. All wedding venues need marketing images, so you could talk to them about putting together a styled shoot with a model bride at their venue.
The images from this would be great for them to use in print and online advertisements for their venue. Just make sure to ask that you be credited every time they use your images. Another idea would be to print a small postcard or brochure of their venue with your images, and include your watermark or something with your business information that includes ‘Compliments of _____ Photography.’
What about vendors you already know and like? Think of ways in which you could work together that would bring you both new clients. You could host a ‘get together’ night once a month to bring vendors together outside of a working environment. This is a great way to spark new ideas and get to know them better.
If you have a vendor you’ve already worked with who has sent you a lot of referrals, be it a florist, wedding planner, or another photographer, send them a gift – something nice that they will appreciate. They deserve it!
Partnering With Your Peers
Evening partnering with other photographers can bring you new business. Instead of seeing your fellow photographers as your competition, you can partner with them, swap leads, and give each other overflow work when already booked for that date.
Partnerships like these can form easily the more often you attend local photography meetups and events.
3: Make Sure You Leave Samples
Every wedding you shoot is also an opportunity to have your work seen by many new eyes – some of which may become new clients and referrers of your business.
An easy way to market yourself is with a sample album. Like we talked about earlier, a sample album showcases your photography and shows potential clients what you’re all about. When seen by the right people, it will entice them to find out more about your business, so it’s essential to leave your contact information and website url so they can easily find you if they’re interested.
Where do I leave sample albums? There are several places in which it would make sense to leave them, but if your budget prohibits you from printing many of these, then pick the wedding venues you have already photographed at and can provide a good display of work from.
Wedding venues are usually receptive to at least some form of photography – because your photos also act as a visual marketing tool for them! This can also strengthen the relationship you have with them and may lead to more referrals from them in the future.
Justin and Mary Marantz, a powerhouse wedding photography couple, illustrate this point beautifully:
“We left a 10×10 maroon album at a wedding venue about eight years ago. That one book that we left at that location eight years ago has brought us in just under $50,000 in bookings ever since.”
There’s a good chance that at least one of the attendees at any wedding you shoot may be a potential client that may want to engage in your services. This is a great opportunity for you to get your work in front of them, and a sample album, save the date cards, or even a wedding sign-in book can be a great way to showcase your work.
You can also add an incentive such as a special sign-on bonus if someone decides to purchase your services after seeing your work at a wedding.
4: Use Snail Mail Instead Of Email
These days, your potential clients’ inboxes are completely flooded with more emails than they would ever want to read. While you can certainly still get lots of bookings and inquiries through an email list, it can be far more valuable to send potential clients good ol’ fashioned snail mail.
Snail mail is so underutilized these days that your competition is virtually nonexistent. Plus, snail mail that looks relevant and personal is far more likely to be opened than an email that may get lost in a crowded inbox.
Here’s how you can use this idea to stand out in a sea of competition and get the bookings:
Step 1) Utilize a mailing list.
Bridal shows often have lead lists that you can either get for free or at a low cost. These lists are a good testing ground for your first mailing, but it’s far more valuable to work on creating a list of your own. If you already have an email list signup, give people the opportunity to also add their address. Look at your network and ask for referrals that you can mail to as well.
Another good option is to work with a direct mail expert to select a lead list that will yield the best results. These lists are usually segmented by several demographics (i.e. engaged couples who meet certain income, area, and interest requirements).
Step 2) Make it personal.
It’s worth taking the time and effort to hand-address each mailing. The more personal your mail looks, the more likely you are to have it opened, read, and responded to. You can opt for sending greeting or holiday cards, sample wedding invitations, or a small package that contains a simple gift (these “lumpy” packages work really well).
Step 3) Include a clear Call To Action.
Before you head to the post office, make sure each mailing includes a clear, direct CTA that lets prospects know exactly what you want them to do.
It could be as easy as asking them to visit your space or download a free guide from your website. It may be tempting, but it’s usually not a good idea to outright ask for a sale with a mailing, especially if they’ve never heard of you before.
Use this opportunity to introduce yourself, just like you would in person, and create a connection with them while offering them something good in exchange for a small commitment. Once they hit your website, you can have all your work and price packages laid out for them to see.
5: Work On Your SEO
Every wedding photographer these days has a website, so staying ahead of the competition comes down to a few key things. One of those keys is knowing a little more about search engine optimization so you can drive targeted traffic to your website.
Without good SEO, it’s difficult to get traffic to your website without doing a ton of work with other forms of marketing and social media. What’s nice about setting up proper SEO is that you can start to get leads for free while you’re busy focusing on other important things in your business (like catching up on editing work after a long week of shooting …or sleeping!).
Either you can hire an expert to help optimize your website or you can roll up your sleeves and learn how to do it yourself. Either way, you’ll want to invest time and/or money into optimization if you want to get clients online.
A great option for most WordPress websites is the free plugin for SEO called Yoast. Their free version offers nearly everything you need to get your website ranking higher in Google, and lays things out in a way even non-techies can easily understand.
Another essential step to getting a foothold online is to register your website with Google Business listings. Google is now showing these listings at the top of the page for local businesses, even before top ranking pages. So this is an easy way to quickly shoot to the top of the search results for wedding photographers in your area.
It’s a good idea to fill out your business listing as much as possible so clients can get a feel for who you are and what your work is like. You can add lots of photos, and these sometimes show up in the search rankings as well as your general contact information.
Ideally, you should be able to ask previous clients to leave helpful reviews of your business to improve your rankings even further. For more on how to fill out your listing, check out this 12-step article here.
So What About My Website Design?
Your website design doesn’t have to be extravagant. In fact, it’s almost always better to keep things as simple and straightforward as you can, so visitors can navigate around easily and find what they’re looking for without a hitch.
Remember the target audience you defined for your business? Your design should appeal to those people, just like your photography style would appeal to them. A bright, cheerful, colorful website that appeals to young creative couples will get you far more business than a generic wedding album website, if this is your brand. Likewise with a clean, sophisticated website that appeals to successful businesswomen.
Your template choice should be able to work with basic plugins such as Yoast (if you’re using WordPress), but be careful with using too many plugins. You shouldn’t need more than 10 to get the look you want. Going crazy with multiple plugins is a recipe for a website crash in the future.
So, keep things as simple as possible and get a good template that works well with the plugins you need. X Theme is a great choice if you’re looking for a highly versatile, customizable theme.
6: Display Your Work In Person
When searching for a wedding photographer, it can be overwhelming to couples who end up sifting through dozens of different portfolios from separate photographers.
You have a much greater chance of being chosen if you present your work to people when they aren’t overwhelmed by multiple photographers. One of the best ways to do this is to have your work in in local brick-and-mortar businesses.
If you do this well, even just a couple well-placed photos can get you lots of new clients.
Many local businesses would be happy to use your work in their space. It’s like offering to turn their waiting room or office space into an art gallery, without having to pay for the art or consignment fees.
One photographer even tried this strategy in a boutique coffee shop. In the powder room, he hung two of his best wedding portraits, in cute antique gold frames. Since most people aren’t multitasking in the bathroom, their eyes will naturally wander to what’s hanging on the walls – believe it or not, this can be an excellent place to hang your work!
Give some thought as to where your ideal clients and engaged couples might be hanging out. Good places to start would be:
- Local dress shops
- Salons, spas, or hairdressers
- Bridal boutiques
- Furniture stores
- Coffee shops and Cafes
- Local service professionals such as Chiropractors, Lawyers, Dentists, etc.
Here are a few more tips to help you find new clients by letting your work speak for itself:
- Businesses that have already decorated their space may be harder to convince than businesses with empty wall space or lackluster art – look for opportunities here but don’t take it personally if they decline.
- Be sure to ask the business where you display your work if you can leave a stack of business cards as well. Clients need an easy way to contact you if they like what they see!
- Make sure your work is ready-to-hang, so the business doesn’t have to spend extra time framing your work themselves. Choose frames or prints that work well with the space they will be occupying (see the gold leaf frame example from earlier). If the office is clean and minimalist, your work should match.
- If you’re able to include your contact information in a classy way on the prints themselves, this is a great way to increase your chances of getting an inquiry.
7: Start Building An Email List
You have probably been beaten over the head with this advice, but it still holds true. Building an email list from the very start is one of the best ways to create a steady stream of clients who will want to book you now or in the near future.
Email lists act like sifters that easily sort through your website visitors and separate those people that are already interested in your work and possibly purchasing from you.
If someone gives you their email address, they already like you enough to want to hear more from you. These kinds of lists are far more valuable than some random list of email addresses that you can purchase. This list is your gold mine for new business.
If you have a new product, package, or service you’re rolling out, why not email your list about it in advance and offer them a special preview or early sign-up bonus! This works especially well with low-risk services such as mini-sessions and a la carte photo packages.
There are several decent email list management programs out there. One of the easiest to use is MailChimp, which offers a free version to new businesses. Aweber and ConvertKit are also good choices if you want a bit more versatility, though both have a small monthly fee.
8: Experiment With Pricing A-La-Carte
If you haven’t already, it’s worth a consideration to try a la carte pricing. This basically means offering photo packages that clients can customize as another simple way to increase your chances of getting a sale.
A La Carte pricing lets you decide how much to price each individual service that you offer, but clients can decide in the end how to put them together. With this pricing tool, clients get to know exactly what they are paying for, and will often build packages that are more expensive than your previous package prices may have been.
Justin and Mary Marantz have enjoyed a significant uptick in revenue since switching to A La Carte pricing:
“Not only were we getting clients in the door, not only were we booking 90-95% of them, but once they had made the choice to book us, fell into this ‘may as well’ mentality. They figured if they were going to hire us, they may as well add on an album and extra hours of coverage. By the time they were done, they were building packages that were as big, or bigger, as when we had set packages.”
Interested in making the switch yourself? Check out this article for tips on how to set up your own a la carte pricing table.
9: Try Picking Up The Phone
Jennifer Hejna, a German wedding and portrait photographer who works internationally, offers some useful advice to new and emerging photogs who want to get their first bookings:
“My father (who was one of my first fans) found two photographers online from my region and told me their style would be pretty similar to mine. I looked them up and really liked their work. Instead of stalking them and thinking of them as competitors I just called them. I asked them that I really like their style of photography and I would love to meet them.
They were very hesitant in the beginning as they weren’t sure if I was just a competitor. We met up and talked about our way of working, we compared our prices and I told them that I would love to recommend them to the wedding couples that inquire me when I am already booked for the day.
I gave them my best smile to convince them of my good heart but it wasn’t until I send them the first wedding couples who actually booked them that they believed me. And they started referring me as well to all couples that inquired when they were booked. This was my second source of income when I started. A coffee and a smile and a promise to refer them.”
If you know any other photographers in your area, try giving this a shot and meeting with them for coffee or lunch. Sometimes, you never know who will be a valuable referrer and ally for your business.
10: Treat Your Current Clients
Your current clients are just as valuable as new ones, if not even more so. They can be the primary source of valuable new referrals that get you bookings for years to come.
Once you book any new client, you need to take care of them! A great way to do this is to give past and present clients thoughtful gifts that are non-photography related.
The Marantz photographers love to give their wedding clients a copy of the William Sonoma Bride & Groom Cookbook, which is always well-received. Some clients will share your gift on their social media, which can even drive more traffic to your website. But in the end, it’s important to give just for the sake of giving and saying “thank you!”
Focus On Your Customer Service
It’s a far better strategy to charge higher prices and limit the number of weddings you take on in a year, than to lowball the market and attempt to book as many weddings as possible for cheap.
The latter strategy leaves you exhausted with hardly enough time for good customer service, which also results in fewer customer referrals. In the end, you want your clients to remember the pleasant experience they had with you and want to recommend you to other couples they know. If you’re stressed out, overworked, and running all over the place, this isn’t likely to happen.
Focus on high-level customer service and watch how it pays off in your business. Make sure you can devote as much time as necessary to the needs of your clients and go the extra mile to make working with you a great experience for them. This alone will do wonders for your brand and future business!
If you choose to do just one small thing every day to market your work, you will see results. Just one! No less, no more. Make it your priority, for example, first thing in the morning when you sit down to work. If you’re willing to roll up your sleeves and do the work, it can pay off tremendously. You may even find yourself overbooked!
Once you know exactly who you’re marketing to and what you want to achieve, you can just go for it and see what works for you. It may be a combination of strategies that ultimately brings in the clients you desire, but the results are well worth your time and effort.