Keeping in mind that most couples will start looking for and book a wedding photographer months before their special day, now is the time to start reevaluating your marketing strategies to ensure you’re getting inquiries for next year (and even 2019). It might seem like ages away, but it’s the steps you take now that will reap benefits down the track and ensure your business thrives in 2018.
In this episode, we’ll chat about four main strategies you can utilize to ensure you’re getting inquiries for the coming year. First and foremost you should make sure your website is SEO optimized. From blog posts to images and page metadata, this is what will ensure your website is found on search engines like Google.
If your budget allows, you can also do some advertising on sites like WeddingWire and Yelp. In my experience, the money I have invested in this type of advertising has more than paid off in bookings.
Networking and helping out other vendors can also lead to inquiries, particularly when it comes to sharing your blog posts or slideshows in which their work appears. It might be the floral centerpieces from a wedding, the DJ in action or the overall setting that resulted from the coordinator's hard work, all of which can be shared on their website or social media channels as free advertising for you.
Speaking of social media, this is the fourth way you can help to boost your inquiries for next year. I post to Instagram almost every day and (to a lesser extent) Facebook, which is a great way for couples who are searching for wedding inspiration to find your work through particular phrases or hashtags.
This is a $40-50,000 question. It’s the difference between booking 5, 10 or even 15 more weddings a year. What am I doing right now to get bookings for 2018 and 2019?
Firstly, I don’t want you to think I have this magic formula or strategy. Unfortunately, it doesn’t exist. But there are four areas that I deliberately focus my marketing energy and resources on to get results:
Perhaps you’re already doing those things but need to go back and see how you can improve or maybe you haven’t tried one of those techniques before. Then this article is for you.
For most wedding photographers, getting enough inquiries is the biggest challenge and when I say that, I mean whatever “enough” is for you.
In my business, I have the 2000/40/4 rule. 2000 visits a month, 40 inquiries a month and 4 bookings a month.
Now that’s a little higher than what I really need, but that’s what I aim for.
And of those inquiries, how many actually turn into bookings? For me, it’s anywhere from 10 to 12%. So for every 10 inquiries I get, I’m probably going to get one booking.
Maybe I’m not available on their wedding day or my pricing is too high or they prefer the style of another photographer. I encourage all of us to have something like that and determine what the “enough” is for you when it comes to inquiries and bookings.
Why wait a bit longer, procrastinate or put this as a lower priority? If you need to get bookings for 2018, right now is the time to do it! Yes, there’s going to be some inquiries that are “last minute” or within 3-5 months. But I’m not going to wait until I get into that “danger zone”.
The sooner you can make a more conscientious effort to be working on your marketing, the sooner you’re going to see the rewards.
You cannot just get a website, take some beautiful photos, upload them and forget about it, hoping that the inquiries will roll in. I can guarantee you that will not work.
And in a competitive market, there are always going to be other photographers actively marketing their businesses who are going to get the clients that you miss out on.
That’s what it’s all about, the marketing of your business. It’s not the photography we’re talking about and it’s not the finances. How are you marketing your business so that prospective couples can find you? And how can you track that?
Each of these strategies that I’m doing I can track on my spreadsheet and see what’s working and what’s not.
Another important point is that even if one of your marketing strategies works really well and is leading to the majority of your inquiries, don’t put all your eggs in that one basket.
When prospective clients find your website, they’re not going to just all of a sudden hire you based on that one source. Even if you have the most amazing reviews in the world and even if a wedding vendor/venue have you on their preferred list.
Those are some really strong leads. But chances are, it’s not going to be enough. You’re going to have to be in two or three other places before they feel confident enough to hire you.
You want to make sure you leave no doubt in the minds of prospective couples and that’s where being in a few different places is so important.
This is also why it’s so important (I cannot stress it enough) that you keep track of your analytics and website traffic, as well as the inquiries you’re getting. However you’re getting inquiries or wherever you feel that’s a potential lead, you need to keep track of that.
I use Google Sheets. It’s free, it’s easy. I always have this open, every single day. If I get an inquiry, I put that in my spreadsheet.
Wherever they found me, I want to keep track of that data. Even if it’s not the exact place. Maybe you spend money on WeddingWire but they first found you on a Google search.
However, they go on WeddingWire and they see you’re on the front page and the reviews you have. Then your WeddingWire advertising is paying off. Just because they didn’t find you that way, does not mean your WeddingWire advertising isn’t going to good use.
Let’s get into the four main ways that I’m getting inquiries and bookings for 2018 and 2019. The order of importance for me would be:
Around 40% of the traffic to my website is through web searches. That’s people typing in certain phrases, long-tail, short-tail keywords, maybe also my map pack.
Those of you who are not sure what a map pack is, just type in any local business and you’ll see at the very top there are three listings that are in that area.
I know that through looking at my Google Analytics and Google Search Console. What phrases are people typing in to end up landing on my website? I highly recommend all of us spend some time optimizing our website.
SEO - making sure people can find your website after typing in certain phrases. It should be part of your workflow, like color-correcting and blogging. If you’re blogging, you should definitely be optimizing your images and the blog posts.
This is where I get the majority of my inquiries from - paid advertising. WeddingWire and Yelp are the main ones. Of the 125 inquiries I have for the coming year, 80+ come from wedding resource websites.
If I wanted to I could do that for The Knot as well. I just don’t have the funds to budget for that. I’m already spending several hundred dollars on Yelp and WeddingWire combined, so I just can’t afford to have a third one. You can pay to be on the first page and be upfront and prominent with prospective couples looking for wedding photographers.
The other commonality between these three are the reviews! The number of reviews I’ve had over the last decade has really helped. I have around 120 on Yelp and WeddingWire is around 235. For the sake of simplicity, I ask my couples for the same review at both places. The words of past clients are really powerful in building the trust of prospective couples.
Referrals can be word of mouth from former clients, family, and friends or from wedding vendors and venues. Sometimes I know exactly who referred the couple and if I have their email address, I’ll contact them to say “Thank you so much.” and send them a little something.
I prefer that if I do get a referral, it’s mainly because of the person genuinely like my work, customer service, they had a great experience working with me. and they want the best for their loved ones. I want that to be the main reason, not because they had a monetary incentive. That’s why I will never push for that.
So when it comes to family and friend referrals, there really isn’t a trick strategy. It just takes great photos, provide amazing customer service, do an outstanding job and, more likely than not, your past couples or whoever comes in contact with you will see how amazing you were and want to refer you.
That’s always the best case scenario and why I really recommend you always have your best foot forward, as you just never know who might be watching you and who might be recommending you down the line.
Same with referrals from wedding vendors and venues; if the couple ends up hiring me, I send them a little thank you gift card or at the very least notify them. These days I really want to take things a step further and send them a little something as a small token of my appreciation.
And a vendor referral comes with high credibility - the words and the confidence of a trusted person of the bride and groom. When they vouch for you, it has such high validation.
So my recommendation, always take care of the vendors you work with. Don’t do that for the sake of getting potential referrals and inquiries. Do that because you feel that it’s the right thing to do. When you take care of your vendors, everybody wins.
They not only want to work with you again, therefore recommend you, but you’re probably going to get better photos. The coordinator’s going to ensure that things are running on time. The florist delivers the bouquets and boutonnieres and has the ceremony and reception set up done on time.
So when you take care of your vendors, they’re going to take care of you. The brides and grooms you work with are happier. It’s just a much better experience for everyone. Not to mention, after it’s all over, you can share those photos with the vendors you work with.
Probably of least priority to me is social media. While it works for some, I don’t spend money advertising on Instagram. I tried Facebook Ads for about a month and I did get three inquiries but none of them worked out.
That’s when I went “Okay, I cannot pay for Yelp, WeddingWire, and Facebook”. Let me cut off Facebook. If I had all the money in the world, maybe I’d spend some money on Instagram and Facebook advertising.
So the inquiries that I got were so-called “organic”. They found me through (probably) hashtags or maybe it was a post that a wedding venue shared featuring one of my images. I’m sure all of us have some kind of social media account - Facebook, Instagram.
I would say to steer more towards Instagram, not only because that’s where I’m investing my energy but there’s not much organic traffic reach with Facebook fan pages anymore.
I basically just post once a day, maybe twice. Sneak peeks, a little bit of detail, some portraits. Mix it up. A little bit to showcase my work, my brand and all. And of course, tagging the vendors I work with plus the bride and groom.
And maybe when my couples repost the photo, their friends will see it. So you can see how this could spread pretty quickly and your brand could be seen by lots of people.
Like with the web searches, advertising and referrals, you want to keep track of how your Instagram account is doing. The great thing is, if you tie that in with your Facebook fan page, you’re going to see the insight on the account of your Instagram.
You can click on "Show Insights" right below each of your posts and see the number of reach and interaction.
I always want to make sure that I have a few alternative means of getting inquiries and bookings on the off chance that one method doesn't work. What if all of a sudden WeddingWire goes down? Or maybe Google changes their ranking methods completely and I can’t count on web searches?
As we know with Facebook and Instagram, they’re always changing their algorithm. You just don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket in case something like that happens. It’s good to have a few alternatives and a backup plan.
It’s really important to know exactly how many inquiries you’re getting, when and where they are coming from and if they translate into bookings. Have a spreadsheet or somewhere you can keep track of all this information and access it, so you know what’s working and what’s not.
And don’t forget to show your appreciation for the ones who helped you get these bookings. Who knows, it could mean a few thousand dollars more in income for you in the coming year.
Watch my FREE video explaining how I made $150k+ in the second year of my wedding photography business.