REGISTER FOR MY UPCOMING LIVE TRAINING SESSION

WPP 102 - Strategies To Boost Your Wedding Photography Inquiries For Next Year

LISTEN:

 

OVERVIEW:

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 through search engines like Google.

If your budget allows, you can also do some advertising through 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 slide shows 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 coordinators 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.

 

TRANSCRIPTION:

As always, I like to ask the big question. Why on earth do I want to talk about this topic? It’s a no brainer - how am I going to get inquiries, how am I going to get bookings? That’s more than a valid question. It’s a 40-50,000 dollar question. It’s the difference of booking 5/10/15 more weddings a year. That’s why I want to talk about this.

A lot of what I’m going to go over is not anything brand new. I don’t want you to think I have this magic formula or strategy or a secret sauce. No, it doesn’t exist, so sorry to disappoint anybody that might think otherwise. A lot of what I’m going to talk about - there are four main ones, that’s web searches, advertising, referrals and social media. Those are the four.

Spoiler alert - I just gave it away! Those are all things we know - I’ve talked about it in past episodes and webinars, on my emails. It’s not like you’re paying for advertising or web searches and doing SEO and it’s actually working? You mean you’re getting referrals from vendors. Those are nothing too surprising and I’m sure most, if not all, you’re implementing in your business.

So hopefully it’s like a) those things should work, maybe I need to go back and revisit how I’m doing my marketing and see where I can improve or b) I haven’t quite tried that technique and it’s good to hear that it’s working for somebody else and maybe I’ll give it a try.

 

The four areas I focus my marketing energy and resources on.

If what you’re trying is not quite working or you haven’t yet, you can also see that these are the four - I don’t do 6,7,8,10 things - I really just focus on these four. And of those four, it’s not like each of those are 25% of my energy and my time and my money. But that’s why I want to talk about this because this is that magical question, that answer we are all looking for. How many of us are really like “Oh, I’m getting so many inquiries and bookings, I don’t know what to do with myself. I need to find myself some associates, raise my prices”.

Well, if you’re in that boat - congratulations! With the nature of weddings, it’s really difficult to be fully-booked in the first few months of the year or when the next season starts. Naturally, couples are going to be looking 6,8,10 months out. So no matter how well we’re all doing, we all have to start with 0 right. I talked with that around 10 episodes ago, that we all start with 0 weddings every single year. So naturally, we’re going to have to check that our marketing strategies are on point. Basically, every season or so, because we need to start from 0.

But I imagine a lot of us are in the other boat, in the other camp. We’re not getting enough inquiries. And whatever that “enough” is for you. I always have that benchmark (I talked about in episode 101 about website traffic). It’s 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 my metrics. I encourage all of us to have something like that. What is the “enough” for you when it comes to inquiries and booking?

For that matter, of the 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. Not to say the other 9 didn’t like my work. I’m sure some end up finding another style of better photographer etc. But it could be a variety of reasons: from availability (I’m not available on their wedding day), pricing, maybe they decided to head in a different direction for whatever reason. But the numbers are right there.

I have around 110 inquiries as of now for 2018 and of those, I have 15 weddings. So look at how the numbers worked out! It’s roughly that 10 to 12%. Magically, it just works out that way. It’s not like I’m intentionally trying to make it that way. Now I hope I don’t have to get 20 inquiries for one booking. Even a ratio of 10:1 is not that great. I would like it to be 5:1 or somehow (very crazy) 1:1, which I don’t think will ever happen. But those are the numbers for me and I’m going to get into a bit more detail of exactly how, where, why those ratios, those different types of sources are making up that 110 plus.

 

11:39 - Why we need to start thinking about this now.

And the other big reason why I want to talk about this right now or rather, I really need to - early October here - is that it’s truly that now (I don’t want to say never) but it’s going to be really difficult. Why wait a bit longer or procrastinate or put this as a lower priority. If you need to get bookings for 2018, right now in the next couple of months, can you really afford to wait until December or January? Yes, there’s going to be some inquiries that are “last minute” or within 3-5 months. It happens to me. I can track and see all the information. But I’m not going to wait until I get into that “danger zone” for me. It’s like the yellow, pre-cautionary right now.

A lot of what I’m going to go over, the web searches, the social media - I’ve been doing that for a couple of years. It’s not like I started this a few months ago. And the work that I’m doing now, that I’ve been doing, that I’m going to continue to do, that’s going to pay off in another year, 2-3 years. So the sooner you can make a more conscientious effort to be working on your marketing, the sooner you’re going to see the rewards. And quite honestly, the reality is, if you’re not doing it, someone is also doing it. Other photographers, particularly if you’re in a competitive market. So you actually have to do these kind of things in order to stay afloat, to even get a chance of being considered. If you’re not working on your SEO, if you’re not paying for a bit of advertising, connecting with vendors and really making sure you take care of your past clients so they’ll refer you to their family and friends. Even posting on Instagram, on social media a little bit. I’m not saying you have to spend all the time in the world on all these things, and there’s many others that you can do that, well, I’m not going to talk about, as I’m not doing those things.

But there’re other things you can do. You have to be having that conscious effort because that’s what it takes these days. You cannot “set it and forget it”. You cannot just get a website, take some beautiful photos, upload it and, that’s it. The inquiries will come. I can guarantee you that will not work. Prove me wrong. If somehow we’re not doing any of these things. In the last episode, the website traffic is going to very much tell you all those things. If you’re only getting 100/200 visits a month and you’re hoping to get 30/35 weddings booked a year. That’s just not going to happen. The numbers are going to speak for themselves.

That’s the other thing - a sense of urgency and hopefully after you listen to this, you’re going to spend a bit more time or be a bit more careful with the time that you are already spending to ensure you’re doing your marketing correctly. That’s what it’s all about, the marketing of your business. It’s not the photography we’re talking about, it’s not the finances. Yes, you’re going to have to spend a bit of money, maybe on advertising and all. But how are you marketing your business so that prospective couples can find you. And you’re going to be able to track that.

Every single one of these strategies that I’m doing, I can track it in my spreadsheet and that’s how I got the numbers I told you a while ago. I have 15 weddings booked for next year, I have 110 inquiries. I started getting them right around the beginning of this year. I think my earliest one was the end of 2016. But now it’s picking up as next year is right around the corner. So, that’s a bit of the background why I want to talk about this.

 

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

The other point I really want to make is going to why I want to be discussing a couple of things and why I’m not just focusing on one marketing strategies. Now somehow, if one works really well, for example web searches, I’m getting 13 of these 15 bookings because of Google searches. Then absolutely, I’m going to put all my eggs in that basket. But the sources are not just in one area, they’re in a few. It’s because prospective couples, when they find your website, one way or another, 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 - you are on a prefer list. Those are some really strong leads. But chances are, even though that’s the case, it’s not going to be enough. You’re going to have to be in two or three other places.

It certainly helps, coming from a referral source or you have the most reviews on WeddingWire or your validation on social media, they can see you have tens of thousands of followers. That helps a lot. But if you want to get that booking, the signed contract and all. You want to make sure you leave not doubt in the minds of prospective couples and that’s where being in a few different places is so important. They might check “The Knot” box on your contact form or “word of mouth” check box or they found you on Facebook. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t look at those other places.

Now the data I have in front of me, I’m only going off what my couples told me. If they met me in person, I’ll ask them again. But the contact form they filled out (you can go to aevitasweddings.com/pricing). You’ll see there’s 8 or 10 different boxes, various ways that a prospective couple can find me. So when they fill out the contact form, part of that is to check out the boxes. Now most will only check off one, but a few might check off two or three and whatever they do list, I’m going to put that into my Google spreadsheet. But you can see, just because they don’t check a box, doesn’t mean they didn’t find you at one or two more places. They could very well have forgotten that they first found you on Yelp, but later on they stumbled upon your WeddingWire profile or The Knot or even feature on another wedding resource website and they only check off that box. Never the original source. Whatever the case might be.

So the more reputable places you can be (not just online), of course in person. The preferred vendor list for various venues. If you work with certain planners, florists and you have your work featured on their website or on their preferred list, that’s very high validation and reputation that’s going to increase your odds of being booked. So keep that in mind as well. Just because you are explicitly only getting the referrals from a certain place or two doesn’t mean you should disregard the other ones. I’m not saying you should just pick one and disregard the other five or six. At the same time, I’m not saying you should do all five or six. But figure out what the stats are showing for you and your business.

 

Keeping track of your Analytics.

That’s why it’s so important (I cannot stress it enough) that you need to keep track of your Analytics and website traffic, as well as the inquiries you’re getting. Every single one. A phone call, an email, a text maybe, a social media/Instagram message. However you’re getting inquiries, any time somebody (it doesn’t even have to be the bride and groom, it could be the mother-of-the-bride or a wedding planner asking on behalf of the couple). Wherever you feel that’s a potential lead, you need to keep track of that. I use GoogleSheet. It’s free, it’s easy - I’m looking at it right now. I always have this open, every day. If I get an inquiry, I put that in my spreadsheet. I keep track of things like, the wedding date, when they first contacted me and, course, the referrals. I have three columns in case they check off more than one box. Maybe they check off The Knot, then they also saw me on Facebook and Instagram. Maybe it’s a wedding vendor and then they Google me and they find my reviews on Yelp or WeddingWire and they check that one as well.

Wherever they found me, I want to keep track of that data. Even if it’s not the very place. That’s also really important. Just because 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. Well, 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 go use. So that’s where I want us to have this mentality and way of looking at where our leads are coming from and deciding what’s working, as well as what’s not.

 

Know your numbers.

So now that I’ve got all of that out of the way, let’s get into the four main ways that I’m getting inquiries and from there bookings for 2018 and hopefully, in the coming months, especially around the turn of the year, 2019. I want to go over the numbers again really quick. As of now (the end of August) I am crossing my fingers that I have a good start to September and through October. My goal as always is to have 20 weddings booked for the following year by the end of the current year. So right now I’m at 15 - I need to get to 20. So can I get five more bookings in September, October, November, December? That’s on average, 1-2 per month (you can’t have 1 1/2 bookings). Those are my goals and as long time listeners of my podcasts know, that’s because I look at it as how much income do I need to bring in each month, what are my expenses, what do I need to save. My personal business expenses and how much on average I make per wedding. That means I need to book around 35 weddings per year and that’s how I come up with the numbers. 3ish/maybe 4 a month.

Now going back to the numbers. Next year I have 15 weddings booked. Of the 15, I so far have 110 total inquiries for 2018 as of right now. For that matter, I also have 3 for 2019 but none of them ended up booking me, I don’t think I even heard back from them. Then I have one for 2020 and I don’t know if that was a mistake or joke - I never heard back from them.

Now one thing I do want to note is the sheer number of inquiries I’ve been getting over the years, from 2009-2017, it’s actually been decreasing. There were a few years, like 2009, 2011/12. I’m going to look at my numbers so I don’t give an overly-inaccurate number. I want to be as precise as possible. I’ll check my Googlesheet - so 2012, I had a total of 373 inquiries. Then somehow in 2013, I don’t know how this happened, it jumped up to nearly 500 (482). I should note that sometimes when I get phonecalls, it’s pretty rare, maybe 2 or 3 times a month, I don’t actually track those. But then the following year - 2014 - that year was pretty insane, I had nearly 700 inquiries (672). You can see the numbers were increasing, then dropped slightly in 2015, then 2016/2017 it was decreasing to around 350/400. That comes out to around 30ish per month. So you can see the numbers have not been increasing. But it’s not all about the number of inquiries, it’s about the number of bookings and, for that matter, then income/sales you can bring in. You can have one wedding that brings you $100,000 or 30 weddings that each pay you $3,333 dollars. I know that’s a huge exaggeration, but you can see my point. It’s more about the quality than the quantity.

But in my case, the number of inquiries were increasing 2012-2014, then slowly coming back down. I attribute that to a number of things. I had to rebrand two years ago, so everything I had from henrychenphotography.com got wiped out and Aevitas Weddings was born and, naturally, the sheer number of wedding photographers in the market, that could be another reason. But some of the things I wanted to talk about here also took a hit. The web search where my previous website branding, images, all the SEO, that got wiped out. I had to start from scratch. So that was huge. And I’m sure back then, a good 30-40% of my traffic came from web searches. But also maybe that I wasn’t getting enough referrals from my vendor colleagues or venues or a lot of my past couples, their friends were already married. It could be a change of style, maybe something different is a little more popular now. But who knows, right?

Related to that, the number of bookings I’ve been getting has slowly gone down a bit. There were a few years it was in the high 40s and I think two years I had 52 or 53 and boy, did that wipe me out. I was definitely overworked and burnt out. In the last few years, it’s been around that 40ish. But before it was 43 to 46/47. The lowest I think I’ve had was 2015 I had around 34/35. This year, I’m a shade under 40 again. So once again, the numbers are not everything, but I want to share that with you so you know I’m being completely transparent. I am not able to get into the details of how this 400/500 inquiries for these past years are. I’m sure if I did a bit more organizing of my numbers and data I could get that to you. But for the sake of this episode, let’s get back on track for 2017/2018 and those are how I’m getting the inquiries and the bookings.

I mentioned 110 that did not book me, so let’s add the other 15 on top. So 125-ish inquiries for 2018. 110 for whatever reason did not end up hiring me. 15 did hire me. Hallelujah! Any chance that couples are listening, thank you brides and grooms so much, I really looking forward to working with you and capturing your special day.

So the four main ways, they are 1) web search 2) advertising (paid advertising) 3) referrals from vendors/family and friends (you can count that as two - I want to lump them into one) and 4) social media (that is the least). The order of importance would be 1) advertising, 2) web searches, 3) referrals and 4) social media.

 

Getting inquiries through web searches.

I’m going to start with web searches. 40% of the traffic to my website, almost half come from web searches, that’s people typing in certain phrases, long-tail, short-tail keywords, maybe also my map pack. Those of you not sure what a map pack is, type in any local business and you’ll see at the very top there’s three listings that are in that area. In my area, “los angeles wedding photographer”. Now that’s been a game changer the last year or so, I went from 0 reviews on Google to 45. So I was able to cut in line, if that makes sense. Instead of being on page three and four for “los angeles wedding photographer”. Having the map pack with the quality and quantity of reviews allowed me to be at the very top of the first page under the map pack. I have one of the most reviews for “los angeles wedding photographer”. Not a big deal, but every little thing adds up.

Going back to the inquiries and bookings. First to inquiries. 20 of my inquiries for 2018, specifically came from web searches. As in, the couple checked off the web search box on my contact form. So I know explicitly that they found me, whether it’s at the very beginning or in the middle, it’s through web searches. So attribute that to a couple of different things. Namely, SEO search engine optimization. Now some of you guys know, I didn’t have Aevitas Weddings a little over two years, 4/5 months ago. It’s coming up 2 1/2 years. I had to start from scratch. No blog posts, no pages, no images, no SEO. So going from absolutely nothing, to 40% of my traffic every single month, 45 reviews on Google searches, that’s progress right there. That shows me the transition from nothing to having something now.

So that’s looking at my Analytics, Google Search Console, what phrases people are typing in and landing on my website. That’s one of the main ones. Web searches. I highly recommend all of us spend some time optimizing our website. I’ve talked a little about that in past episodes, as well as some of the webinars I’ve done. SEO - making sure people can find your website after typing in certain phrases. It doesn’t always have to be the city name or the venue or the type of wedding. It could be long-tail keywords. Off the top of my head, I have 200ish blog posts and let’s say each one has 30 images (that’s being a bit conservation, there have been some recent weddings where I’ve had 70 or 80 plus images). Engagement sessions around 20-25 images. So even if it’s 30 images, every single one has been optimized with captions and alt tags. So 30 times 200 is 6,000. 6,000+ images on my website. My entire website is about 15GB of data on there. Not to mention the pages, the words and all that stuff.

So there’s a ton of SEO that I’ve put into my website in order to be found. And I highly encourage all of us to be working on that. 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. But that’s number one. I’m going to get into how many of the 15 bookings came from web searches, but 20 of the 110 that I did not book came from web searches.

 

Advertising on wedding resource websites.

The second one (and I should have started with this one) this is by far where I get most of my inquiries. So of the 110, 70 came from advertising/wedding resource websites. I should include the 15 that I booked. So of the 125 inquiries for 2018, at least 70+. 50 came from Yelp, actually it’s a little bit more. 3 of the 15 I booked for next year came from Yelp. So technically, it’s 53 of the 125. And then 20 WeddingWire plus two of the other 15. So 22 of the 125 came from WeddingWire. Once again guys, if I give you a source, it’s because the couple check that box on the contact form or told me through an email. It’s not me guessing. Literally, it’s them either telling me or it was an inquiry via Yelp or WeddingWire or via The Knot. I actually got 8 inquiries and free ones, as I’m not paying for The Knot. But 8 of the 125 came from The Knot. So paid advertising will be the 50 from Yelp and 20ish from WeddingWire. So 70+ and if we add in the other 8 from The Knot, that’s 78/80+ of the 125 came from wedding/general resource websites. I keep calling Yelp a wedding resource website when it’s not just for weddings. A lot of us in the United States know, it’s to find restaurants, any other type of services. You name it, you can go on Yelp. I’m sure 90+% of business are on Yelp. I’ll go out on a hunch and say everyone’s on Yelp.

So that’s insane, right?! Of the 125, 80+ comes from wedding resource websites. What do all three of those have in common. Yes, paid advertising. 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 really be up front and prominent with prospective couples looking for wedding photographers.

The other commonality between these three are the, you guessed it, the reviews! The number of reviews over the last decade has really helped. I have, I think Yelp is around 120/125, WeddingWire is around 235 and even The Knot, I have never once asked any of my couples to write a review on The Knot (mainly because I’m already bugging them at three other places - Yelp, WeddingWire and, of course, Google with web searches). But The Knot, some of them have been so kind to go there and voluntarily do so. It’s not a lot by any means, but I have around 10 reviews on The Knot. I’m guessing if I’d really bugged some of my past couples for four different places of reviews. Now, they could post the same review, there’s some discussion about that. But for the sake of simplicity, I ask them for the same review at all places. But if I really pushed them, maybe I would have had 35/40 reviews on The Knot. And if I started even sooner, right at the very beginning, one of my first reviews was around 2008/2009, who knows, I might have had like 100 by now.

But still, the reviews and paid advertising, that’s the commonality between that. And with the reviews, of course, it’s the words of past clients and that’s why it’s so helpful, so vital, that we collect quality reviews. So that’s the second way - paid advertising and these resource websites - Yelp, WeddingWire and even The Knot I get some inquiries. So that’s 80 of the 110/125.

 

Word of mouth from former clients, family and friends.

The third and the fourth - word of mouth from clients and their family and friends. So it could be guests at weddings, their bridal party members. Just whoever found out about me through a wedding that I photographed. I would say that that’s number three and number four. I could say there’s five things - I kind of group three and four together. But number three, word of mouth from clients and their family and friends. So of the 110 inquiries I did not book, 11ish came from family and friends. Some of them, I do know exactly who were they referred. I’ll ask the couple if I hear back from them. If I don’t, it’s nearly impossible to find out. But I will ask the couple. And this is even if they decide not to go with me, they didn’t want to meet with me. But just the fact that someone recommended me to them means a ton to me, so I want to find out who it was. Was it a past bride or groom. That’s a little easier as I have their email address and can contact them to say “thank you so much” and send them a little something, particularly if the one they referred to actually ending up booking me.

The other would be a bridesmaid, maybe a groomsman or a guest at the wedding and there is no way I have their contact info. But some way, somehow if I can get in touch with them, that would be a great way. I actually have a wedding coming up in the middle of September, it was the maid-of-honor of the bride that found me, I don’t know who she is, she might be a photographer, I don’t know how she found me, I don’t have that information. I was thinking about reaching out to her and get her information from the bride. But I thought that might be a little creepy and unprofessional. So let me wait until after the wedding is over and I have the chance to meet her friend and the maid-of-honor and thank her. Then maybe I can get her contact info a few weeks later and send her a little thank you for referring me to her friend, my bride and of course her groom.

So that’s another way family and friends, as far as what we can all do to increase the chance of getting referrals this way. Now of course, I don’t recommend we try and kind of sleazy, salesy tactics. Like hey, my past couples or any of your family and friends, maybe you’re spamming them on Facebook or emails and saying “if you recommend someone to me and they hire me, I will give you this, I’ll give you a discount on that”. Okay, maybe that can work for some of us. But for me, I’m just not really a fan of that. I prefer that if I do get a referral, it’s mainly because the person that referred me, they genuinely like my work, my customer service, they had a great experience working with me and they want the best for their loved ones, their family or friend. I want that to be the main reason, not because they had a monetary incentive, like if they book Henry, I’m going to get 5% off or a complimentary album. I don’t want that to be the main reason. That’s why I will never push for that.

So there really isn’t a trick strategy, it’s just take 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 - the bridal party, guests - they see how amazing you were working at the wedding and they see the photos later on and they want to refer you. That’s always the best case scenario and that’s why I really recommend to 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.

 

Referrals from wedding vendors and venues.

The fourth one (or 3a/3b), that’s word of mouth, but this time from vendors and even venues. This is definitely my lowest one of all the different sources that I get inquiries from. Of the 110 or so, only 3 specifically came from wedding vendors and venues. Not a lot! Less than 3%. I should also mention, this is explicitly. So if they didn’t check the box “wedding vendor” but somehow the planner or venue did vouch for me. Maybe it wasn’t the originally source or it was and the couple forgot about it. Then yes, that would still count. But I would never know about it unless I really asked my couple, “okay bride and groom, tell me all the ways you found me” and then I can find that out. But I don’t want to push them that much. If they check it off, I would at least like to know which vendor that was. Particularly one that I work with before, I want to reach out and thank them. Once again, even if the couple did not end up hiring me, the fact that there was a planner/coordinator/florist/DJ/ wedding venue that vouched for me, that means the world to me. So no matter what happens afterwards, I want to make sure that I not only thank the vendor/the venue but yes, if the couple end up hiring me, 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.

Similar to the previous one when it comes to how to get vendor referrals. Keep in mind that I only have three, it’s not like 30/40 or every single month I get 4 or 5 different vendors recommending me. I should mention in the last couple of months, especially since I restarted the wedding planning podcast and have the opportunity to work with some incredible planners, that I did get already 6 inquiries (three different planners and each of them sent me two) and two of them booked me. There you have it, just for next year I have 2 bookings, 2 of the 15 are from wedding vendors. That’s where you can see, it’s not just about the quantity. Sure, I can get like 50+ inquiries from Yelp, but only like 3-4 bookings from there. But then with vendor referrals, maybe it’s only 8-10 the entire year, but 5 or 6 of them end up hiring me. That shows the high credibility that a vendor referral has. It really doesn’t get better than that. The words, the confidence of a trusted person of the bride and groom. When they vouch for you, it has such high validation, that could very well be all you need. So it’s not about the quantity, it’s the quality.

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, as I do, 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 set up, the reception set up done on time. The MC, the DJ is going to give you a heads up before the next event comes up so you’re not eating your vendor meal, in the rest room or not quite ready yet. So when you take care of your vendors, they’re going to repay you and you’re going to get better photos, the brides and grooms you work are happier. It’s just a much better experience when you do that. Not to mention, after it’s all over, you can share those photos with the vendors you work with, with the online gallery, a slide show, maybe a blog post.

So it’s a win-win-win all over the map when it comes to working really well with vendors. I do it because I feel it’s the right thing to do. I get a satisfaction knowing that I’m always making sure my brides and grooms are the top of my priority. But it doesn’t hurt to also look out for the colleagues, the wedding professionals you work with. And anything that comes out of that, it’s gravy. Never ever expect it or even hope for it. That’s why for me from a business standpoint, with inquiries and all, yes, it’s always wonderful to get referrals from vendors, venues and even my past couples. But I do not count on it. I’m not like “I really hope this month I can get this many”. Whatever I can, it’s just gravy, it’s icing on the cake. I don’t expect it, I’m very grateful when I do. But because of that, I do need to count on the other ways, like web searches and wedding resource websites - the Yelp, WeddingWire and even Here Come the Guide (I almost forgot to mention I have a listing on there). I’m counting on these other ways and some of them yes, I do need to pay for the advertising, like Yelp and WeddingWire. That’s why the majority of my inquiries still come from there. But hey, any referrals, the word of mouth, that’s always wonderful and I always greatly appreciate it.

 

Getting inquiries through social media.

So the fifth and last sort of way I get inquiries and bookings, and I would say this is probably my least priority of the 4/5 I’m mentioning here, and that’s social media. Of the 110 inquiries for next year I did not booking, 6 came from Instagram. Hallelujah! I’m actually live here on Instagram and it actually works. I actually got one of my 15 bookings from Instagram, because the bride told me, I found you, I’m not sure if it was through a hashtag or whatever it might be, but the bride found me that way and she ended up booking me. The other ones I’ve gotten, there were like 2 or 3 that could have worked out. I know one, the couple really wanted to hire me but I was already booked. The other was an out of town wedding and I thought it might not be the best idea to take that on, especially with a little one arriving and all.

So, it works and do I spend money on advertising with Instagram? I do not. I tried Facebook ads for about a month and I did get 3 inquiries but none of them worked out and that’s when I went “Okay, I cannot pay for Yelp and WeddingWire and Facebook”. Let me cut off Facebook. If I had all the money in the world, maybe I’ll retire. But maybe I’d spend some money on Instagram and Facebook advertising.

So these 6 that I got were so called “organic”, that they found me through (probably) hashtags or maybe it was a post that a wedding venue shared one of my images and the couple was getting married there and the venue was nice to tag me. So thank you all vendors and venues that tag their photographers, it’s a great help. And we want to do the same thing. So any case of vendors that I work with and forgot to tag you for certain posts, let me know. I want to tag all the vendors but sometimes I don’t know who they are.

Getting back on track here, something like that. Maybe they saw my photo from a venue post and they found my profile and they clicked on the website and they filled it out, the contact form, and they checked the Instagram box. I think it’s great. I think we should definitely be doing this. 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 using. The Facebook one, it’s kind of just there right now, especially with the fan page. You sort of have to pay to be seen or otherwise, I’m sure other photographers that are paying to get the priority. But there’s not much organic traffic reach with Facebook fan pages as they were back in the day, with hashtags and tagging and stories and all.

Instagram is the way to go. If you had to pick between the two and for me, that’s where I put most of my eggs, in the Instagram basket. And I basically just post once a day, maybe twice. Sneak peeks a little bit of detail, some portrait. Mix it up a little bit to showcase my work, my brand and all. And of course, tagging the vendors I work with, the bride and groom. And maybe they will repost my photo, their friends will see it. So you can see how this could spread pretty quickly and your brand, your company, your feed, your account could be seen by lots of people.

Like with the web search, the traffic, all this good stuff, you want to keep track of how your Instagram account is doing and the nice thing is, if you tie that in with your Facebook fan page, your business page, you’re going to see the insight right on the account of your Instagram. You can click on the little bars at the top (it’s like these little vertical bars) and it will tell you the number of impressions, the number of people who have seen your account, your feed in the last seven days or so. The number of clicks to your website from the link you have. Even the stories, you can see who’s seen them. So lots of great insight that will showcase if your social media work, your marketing for that is working.

 

Always maintain a backup plan.

So if you add up the numbers of these 4-5 different ways - the web search, the advertising, the word of mouth (both clients and vendors/venues), as well as social media - that will come out to the 110 inquiries for 2018 that I did not book. If we now talk about the 15 I did book for 2018 and, once again, I’m dating this to the end of August (you might be listening to this in early October). I think I got through most of what I wanted to talk about but these are the sources of the 15 inquiries I ended up booking. I’m just going to go right down the list from top to bottom: 1) wedding vendor 2) Yelp 3) web search 4) family/friend 5) Yelp 6) venue 7) family/friend 8) Instagram 9) WeddingWire 10) WeddingWire 11) wedding vendor 12) family/friend 13) Yelp 14) web search 15) The Knot.

So you can see the four areas that I just talked about - web search, resource website/paid advertising, word of mouth, Instagram - they are all right there. And looking at it, I don’t know there’s one that dominates (there’s only 15, so it’s not like I have data points of like 50/60+). But there’s a good mix. I know that Instagram is just one. Yelp there’s 3. Wedding vendor/venue there’s 3. Web search there’s 2. Family/friends there’s 3. WeddingWire there’s 2. That should add up to 15 or so. And that’s really my main point right there. You can see that there’s not one that dominates over the other. Now, who knows, in hindsight, if I put all my eggs in one basket, probably (it should be if you’re spending all that time and money, all your resources). But that’s just way too risky for me. Even if something is working really well. Yeah, I’ll probably put 70 or 80% of my resources into that. But never 100%, not even more than that 80%.

I want to make sure that I have a few other alternative means of getting inquiries and bookings from there in the off chance that the other way doesn’t work. What if all of a sudden, WeddingWire goes down. Yikes, that would be really bad. Then what happens then? What if all of a sudden, all my family/friends of clients are all married and nobody needs a referral for a wedding photographer. Or maybe, Google changes their algorithm completely (hopefully not) and I can’t count on web searches. As we know with Facebook and Instagram, they’re always changing their algorithm. Maybe there was a time when we really depended on the fan page and over the page, that algorithm where you really have to pay to get seen, that changed. I’m not sure if some of these will ever happen in any drastic ways like that. But 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 back up plan.

 

Conclusion.

So that will do it for this episode, my friends. I hope it was of help to you and you got to see a really good insight into the inquiries and the bookings from there. How many, the resources and all and I encourage all of us to understand that level of detail for our business. You need to know exactly how many inquiries you’re getting, when and where they are coming from and (for that matter) the bookings. You shouldn’t have to guess around. 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. Don’t go off of memory or trusting your gut instinct or like, last week, I finally booked one from The Knot so it’s always working, when in fact you haven’t got anything there for 6/7 months. Don’t fall into that what have you done for me recently trap that we can sometimes get into.

And lastly, really important. Especially for the referrals one, the word of mouth. Don’t forget to take the time to at least thank them. At the very least, I would even say acknowledge that you got the inquiry and if you get the booking or not, thank the vendor, the venue, if you have point of contact information for the family friend of the couple. However you can, take the time to acknowledge, thank them. And if you do get the booking, to show a small token of appreciation. After all, what’s another $50, $100 maybe a thank you gift card, going to the spot, a gift basket. Whatever it might be. You wouldn’t have gotten this few thousand dollar booking package for this couple if it weren’t for that vendor, venue, family friend, whoever it is. So don’t forget to show our appreciation for the ones who helped us get these bookings. Or even the inquiries. So let’s not forget about that.

So that will do it and I’m going to slowly wrap it up. Friendly reminder - keep track of our inquiries, our bookings. Let me know if this episode was of help to you. Good luck. Remember, start implementing as much of the marketing strategy, the ones you think will work, right now. Don’t wait another day. We want to do what we can right now to take advantage of inquiries and bookings for the following year.

 

Subscribe and leave a rating and review on iTunes.

Looking to become a full-time wedding photographer?

Watch my FREE video explaining how I made $150k+ in the second year of my wedding photography business.

Close

50% Complete

Two Step

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua.