In this day and age, social media has transformed the way newly engaged couples are finding their wedding vendors. With Instagram becoming a mutated version of Yelp and Pinterest, Facebook algorithms changing left and right, and website views reaching a new low, clients must search through a winding maze to find their perfect wedding photographer.
The lifeblood of any service business is its leads pipeline. This means the number of people you have contact with who have indicated an interest in your services. Despite this being the aspect that can make or break a business, the biggest struggle that photography business owners say they have is not getting enough leads.
If asked, a business owner usually describes a lead as someone who has reached out to book their service. However, if you’re waiting for people to reach out to book you, it’s probably already too late. Unless you have an amazing steady stream of referrals from raving fans, you’re missing out on an entire realm of prospects that you could nurture into leads. This means that you need to be able to reach people before they reach out to you to inquire.
Most of the time, when someone reaches out to ask about your services and has never had contact with your business before, they are just price shopping. Business owners hate this and lament the fact that their ads on Facebook or their SEO aren’t working because all they get are price shoppers. As we already discussed, if your content is created correctly and for your ideal client, you’re already well on your way to dissuading the wrong types of prospects from reaching out to you.
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Table of Contents
- 1 Why Leads Aren’t Booking
- 2 Do your homework first.
- 3 Find a mentor.
- 4 Make friends in the wedding business. Lots of them!
- 5 Use your inexperience as an asset.
- 6 Consider online ads – but cautiously.
- 7 Start a blog and write at least once a week.
- 8 How To Get More Wedding Photography Clients
Why Leads Aren’t Booking
You’re Attracting the Wrong Prospects
While you may think your business can serve everyone, you’re not a good fit for every single type of customer, and they’re not always a good fit for you. If you haven’t yet, go check out the ideal client avatar exercises and customer journey map in our Digital Marketing Strategy Guide. Once you’re clear on who you are meant to serve, take a hard look at all of your recent opportunities, meaning people who inquired about your services.
When you compare them to your ideal client avatar, were these opportunities a good fit? Why or why not? What differentiated them from your ideal client avatar? What were some of the similarities that they had with that ideal client avatar?
If you see a lot of divergence between how you’re presenting your business online, and what your ideal client might look for, you have answered one part of why your leads aren’t booking. It’s also important to take a long hard look at your business’ online presence. Is it geared towards attracting your ideal client? Does the content on your website answer a demand from your ideal client avatar? Does your social media educate, inspire or connect with that ideal client?
Sometimes it can be difficult to look at our businesses with a clear eye. So take a step back and ask a trusted colleague who they think your ideal client is based on your online presences. Areas, where you’re not connecting with the right kind of people, are opportunities, so take note of them.
Also, take some time to visit the websites and social media profiles of your competitors. Based on their content, can you guess who their ideal clients are? What words, images, and subjects are they using to attract that kind of client? Without copying them, look for ideas that might translate into your own business and for your ideal client.
You Have No Lead Pipeline
Larger businesses break their sales pipeline into various stages and lead qualification stages. While you don’t need to go this far, it’s helpful to understand those stages and envision how they might look in our businesses. Let’s take this example pipeline from SmartBug:
Within their example of the pipeline, they have six different stages. The first is when someone subscribes to their blog. The second is when someone has provided their email address for a contact form. Then the acronyms MQL and SQL stand for Marketing Qualified Lead and Sales Qualified Lead respectively.
This example shows how if someone still in a research phase downloads a buyer’s guide for a piece of software, they are considered a qualified marketing lead. This means they are currently in the market for the product this company is selling. However, when someone signs up for a software demo, they are a sales qualified lead. It’s only when someone reaches out after the demo stage that the lead moves into the opportunity phase.
Most photography business owners only consider two stages of their pipeline: when someone becomes an opportunity and when they book as a customer. Without having gone through any qualification process, this opportunity might not be the right fit for your business. This is why we get those price shoppers and, sometimes, those nightmare clients.
Having a pipeline for your business culls out the people who are not a good fit for you and your business. It also helps nurture the people who are right for you.
You’re Not Nurturing Leads
According to Salesforce, it takes between seven and 13 marketing and sales touchpoints with someone before they are ready to make a high-ticket purchase. In the early stages of a customer’s journey, they are either building awareness of your product or services, or they are beginning to collect information. Most companies don’t consider these stages to make someone a qualified lead because the interaction up until this point isn’t in-depth enough. Either the potential prospect isn’t educated enough about your services, or they are not ready to convert yet.
According to this definition, even someone who is contacting you for a price may not be educated enough to be considered a prospect. This is despite the fact that they are closer to making a decision than someone who is in the awareness stage. So, what’s a business owner to do?
By now, you know you need a lead pipeline. Now it’s time to talk about how to put that into play using SEO best practices, a strong social media strategy that creates healthy backlinks to your content, and newsletters and email marketing to nurture your leads.
If you’re getting people to sign up for your newsletter but are not engaging with them on a regular basis, you’re not nurturing your leads. And if you’re waiting for someone to reach out and book with you before you’ve invested in the first, you’re not nurturing your leads either. So think about how you can begin to develop a relationship with ideal prospects before they’re ready to book – that way you’ll nurture them to the point where booking with you is a no brainer!
If you’ve got a new wedding business and don’t know where to start getting leads, here’s what to do:
Do your homework first.
Use The Wedding Report to find out the real stats about your local wedding market: how many weddings, the average price for your services, average wedding budget. This is vital information you’ll need to figure out what to charge and if there is enough demand in the market to support your new business in the first place.
Scope out your competitors online. You’ll need to be different to get business. If you can find a need in your market that isn’t being met, you’ll have an instant edge over your competitors.
Find a mentor.
The fastest way to get referrals, jump start your business and starting making money is to get a mentor behind you.
Use the Power Lunch strategy to pull this off: Identify five respected wedding professionals in your local area. Ask friends for recommendations of super nice people because a personalized introduction is a great way to start the relationship. Someone who isn’t a direct competitor will be easiest but don’t rule out someone who already does what you want to do, especially if you have a connection with them.
Call them up. Tell them that you admire their work (be sincere!) and that you’re just starting. Ask if you can take them to lunch to get their advice and help with your business.
Not everyone will respond, but you’re just looking for one person to teach you their secrets, give you advice and eventually send you referrals.
Check out our extensive list of Wedding Photographers in Melbourne to help capture your special moments.
Make friends in the wedding business. Lots of them!
Look for Facebook groups for local wedding pros, start following local pros on Instagram or identify the local wedding associations in your area and join them.
Make it your goal to meet three new people at each networking meeting, or to reach out to three new people through direct message on Facebook or Instagram each week. Find a way you can help them, and you’ll become fast friends. It’s a quick way to get your first referrals.
Follow up with everyone you meet.
When you meet someone, especially if they work in the wedding industry, start following them online or take their card. Jot down a note about your conversation or reference it in your first direct message to them.
After that first message, consider sending them a video or voice message and ask about their most recent wedding – what they loved about the couple they worked with, what they didn’t and if that couple was one of their more typical clients. And make sure to respond when they do! Don’t leave them hanging – reply with your thoughts on their response to keep the conversation going.
If you stay consistent, people will remember you and the referrals will start coming. It’s the best cheap marketing you can do!
Use your inexperience as an asset.
One of the trickiest questions to answer when you’re just starting is, “How many weddings have you done?”
Eeek. You don’t want to lie, but who wants to be your very first wedding?
First, don’t tell them you haven’t done any weddings unless they ask. If they do ask, use your inexperience as an asset.
Explain any related experience and work references you have and then say, “We can offer you an extreme discount because we’re still building our portfolio. We’re just starting, so we work even harder to make sure you’re happy!”
Practice your answer to this question until it’s smooth and natural. That way you can relax during your meetings.
Consider online ads – but cautiously.
Many a new wedding pro has thrown money at Facebook or Instagram ads – or even Wedding Wire or The Knot – without doing some research first on who exactly they want to serve, and how they can stand out a bit.
Just advertising that you’re a wedding photographer/DJ/planner/fill-in-the-blank on these platforms won’t get you a good return on your money; instead, you need to make sure you’re sending them to a high-quality lead magnet or download piece – something they’re interested in for their wedding, AND relates to your service. This will also help you better narrow down your audience profile for your ads so that you’re attracting the right couples.
Do your homework on your ideal client before running your ads, and you’re much more likely to see a return on your investment instead of regretting an expensive, no-return ad spend.
Start a blog and write at least once a week.
Having a blog on your website is essential to capturing FREE “organic” search traffic, those are the people out there searching for someone like you who haven’t heard of you yet…which is pretty much everyone when you’re brand new.
How To Get More Wedding Photography Clients
Here’s our formula for attracting more inquiries and bookings of wedding clients. This is what has worked for us for over the last 12+ years of photographing weddings. It continues to work in an organic and aligned way that feels true to our business and who were are. Every photographer is different, and every business model is different. So take the parts that work for you and leave the ones that don’t behind!
(Organic search and SEO, we don’t do any paid advertising). Google is our number one way we attract new clients and leads to our business. We make sure to blog at least every other week with useful information. We write blogs that are current, helpful, informative, and relevant to our wedding photography clients or coaching clients, (such as this blog post!). Posts that are relevant to our wedding clients are one’s such as: How to Plan an Elopement, Where to Elope Near Buffalo, New York, Where to Elope in the Adirondacks, Where to Elope in the Catskills and Hudson Valley. These are just some examples of content you could share that could be helpful to potential wedding and elopement leads. This establishes trust in you while also showing off your beautiful imagery and letting the clients get to know you more!
Referrals From Past Clients
Referrals from our past clients are the second way we get more wedding photography leads and bookings! How do you get a good referral?
Our secret is to underpromise and always over-deliver. We go above and beyond to make our clients feel special (because they truly are)! And we make sure they know how grateful we are for them with booking gifts and constant communication and attention.
To help generate some buzz, you can ask past clients to leave you a review on your Google business page. (Don’t have a Google business profile yet? You should! See our #1 way to attract new clients above to know why!)
Referrals From Other Wedding Photographers In The Industry
When we were first starting, this was the biggest way we got new wedding leads. We connected with other like-minded wedding photographers in the industry and passed them weddings when we were booked for dates. As a sign of appreciation, they started to refer us to weddings they were already booked for as well. Now that we photograph fewer weddings per year, our calendar isn’t as booked. We’re unable to refer as many clients to other photographers, and in return, our referral rate from other photographers has also dropped. Those photographers with our same experience are also taking on fewer weddings or hiring associates to take on extra work.
Referrals From Other Small Businesses
In the last 12 years, we’ve formed genuine business connections with other wedding professionals. This includes wedding planners, florists, and other local businesses that we admire, who refer us to their friends and family. This might soon jump to our number 3 way to get new clients as we’ve been investing more in our community over the past few years! Connecting with other like-minded business owners that also have similar visions and esthetics as yourself can prove very valuable! Get involved in your community business groups and start developing relationships with business owners you admire. This helps expand your network larger.
Check out our post on Are wedding photographers worth it?
Social Media Including Instagram/Pinterest/Facebook
When we first started our business over 12 years ago, Facebook used to be the #1 way we booked new clients, (which also intersected with referrals from past clients posting our photos), but since they have changed their algorithm, it just doesn’t work the same. Now we use a combination of Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest to share recent blog posts with the world and between those three, we tend to book 2-3 additional weddings or coaching clients per year with consistent sharing. Even though social media is constantly updated the way it works, it still should be something you tend to with updated imagery so that if someone happens to find you through there, they know you exist still!
Make sure you use the names of local cities, towns, regions and venues in your posts. This will help more people find you, and you’ll see your traffic increase over time.
As a new wedding business, you bring passion and enthusiasm that the old-timers just don’t have, and your clients will respond to it. Make friends meet the brides, and your business will be off to a great start!