Oh, wedding inquiries. If there’s ONE question that every wedding photographer desperately wants to know the golden answer to it’s this: “How in the world do I get more wedding inquiries???”
Believe me, my friend, if there was a simple answer, I would share it with you in a heartbeat!
But the reality of running a wedding photography business is that there is no ONE silver bullet that will make or break your bookings.
Instead, getting more wedding inquiries is like creating a web – it’s a multi-pronged marketing strategy.
You have to engage in a BUNCH of different of marketing threads in order to create a strong network of clients and referrals to get more wedding inquiries.
Strategies vs Tactics
In business, there are strategies and then there are tactics.
A strategy would be engaging your audience in a personal way on social media.
A tactic is using Instagram stories to take your audience behind the scenes on your shoots.
Strategies are big picture game plans. Tactics are the individual tools used to achieve that game plan.
In this mega-post, I won’t be talking about individual tactics to get more wedding inquiries.
Instead, I’m sharing how to build a solid marketing STRATEGY – the same one that has continually brought high quality wedding inquiries to our business for the past ten years.
The Rule of 3 Touchpoints
There’s an old marketing rule of thumb (that I read a long time ago somewhere in the depths of the internet) that says:
A customer needs to experience at least three touchpoints with your brand before they will buy.
In my decade of shooting weddings, I’ve found this whole three-touchpoint-idea to prove empirically true over and over and over again.
I constantly hear from my dream couples some version of this same story:
They first got our name from their venue, their coordinator recommended us, and then they saw our photos on Pinterest.
We shot their friend’s wedding, they started following us on Instagram, then a featured wedding of ours popped up in their favorite magazine.
Based on this feedback, here’s the pattern:
- Direct Touchpoint:
- They interact with a Strong Direct Referral (i.e. Referral from a friend)
- Supporting Touchpoints:
- They interact with a secondary Soft Supporting Touchpoint (i.e. They start following our Instagram feed)
- Then they come across a third minor supporting touchpoint (i.e. Our work pops up when googling their venue)
These Strong Direct Referrals or Soft Supporting Touchpoints could be any of these marketing strategies:
- Direct Referral (Venue, Friend, Vendor, Past Client)
- Reviews (Yelp, Wedding Wire, The Knot)
- SEO (Google, Your Blog, Online Features)
- Paid Advertising (Magazines, Blog Listings, FB/Instagram/Google ads, etc)
- Social Media (Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube)
- Portfolio (Website, Instagram, Email Newsletters)
So the three-touchpoint-rule-of-thumb means that a potential client needs to come into contact with your brand in at least two, if not three, of these different ways before inquiring. The more touchpoints your wedding inquiries experience, the better.
Which means that your brand needs to show up in a bunch of those different touchpoint areas above if you’re going to get not just MORE wedding inquiries, but HIGH QUALITY wedding inquiries.
Here’s how you make that happen.
Step One: Track Your Direct Referral Sources from Past Wedding Inquiries
The first direct touchpoint (the first time a bride hears about you) will probably be the one that she lists on your contact form as the referral. Start by evaluating those direct referral sources first.
First things first – are you tracking where your current wedding inquiries are coming from?
And friend, I DON’T mean:
“Where do you FEEL that your brides are hearing about you?”
I DO mean:
“Are you gathering and tracking CONCRETE DATA on where your wedding inquiries are coming from?”
This is where investing in a customer management software like Tave or Honeybook does BIG things for your business.
On all of our contact forms for our brands, we ask the client to list how they heard about us.
(This is SUPER important. If you’re not doing this right now, then stop reading and go put this in your contact form NOW.)
Then in our client management software, Tave, we tag each lead with a referral source from a comprehensive list that we’ve created.
This list includes our most common venues, our favorite coordinators and vendors, each of our advertising campaigns, Google, etc.
We can then run reports in Tave (Tave is AMAZING with reporting) that tell us the conversion rates for each lead source and how much revenue each one has generated.
This means, we can accurately assess which vendor relationships or which advertising campaigns are worth investing more resources toward, instead of relying on our “gut feelings” and throwing more money towards an online listing that hasn’t actually brought us any business.
Do the same in your business.
Do you have a client management software that allows you to track referral sources? If not, invest in one.
Or use a spreadsheet, a Google doc, or SOMETHING to track your referrals.
In fact, make it a project to go back through your past six months to a year of leads (whether they booked or not) and tag all of them with referral sources and then start tagging new inquiries moving forward.
Also, create a list with all of your main referral sources and use that comprehensive list instead of only relying on what your brides write in the contact form.
In other words, if a bride writes “my coordinator” in the referral field on your contact page, change it to “Starlight Events” in your system so you can accurately track all referrals coming from that particular vendor.
Step Two: Evaluate Your Supporting Touchpoints
A big objection that I hear from photographers about spending time on blogging or posting to social media is that they can’t directly attribute wedding inquiries to those things, so “why even do it???”
I get it – spending HOURS posting to Instagram and then not seeing “Instagram” listed as a referral source – EVER – in your contact form is disheartening at best and maddening at worst.
But remember, things like social media, blogging, and online features are not Strong Direct Referral sources – they’re Soft SUPPORTING Touchpoints.
What’s the first thing a bride does when a friend gives them your name at party?
They check you out on Instagram.
But when they fill out your contact form, they’re going to list their FRIEND as the referral source, even though it was your magical Instagram feed that made them fall in love with you.
So put yourself in your bride’s shoes and do an honest audit of all of your brand’s supporting touchpoints.
Ask yourself questions like this:
If one of my dream clients just got my name from a friend…
…is my work showing up on Google if they search their venue? Or are similar venues with the same type of feel, class, and style showing up on my Instagram feed and website?
…is my Instagram feed and website filled with work that she will love? Does my website scream YES to her?
…are my images showing up on the Instagram feed or website of her vendors? OR is my feed tagging similar vendors as hers?
…how do my reviews look on WeddingWire, The Knot or Yelp? Are they good reviews? Bad reviews? No reviews? How is my brand comparing to other listings in my area?
Now put yourself back in your own shoes as the business owner and ask yourself honest questions like this:
- How is your SEO going? Are you blogging and posting regularly so that your images show up when a Dreamie searches for photos of their venue?
- How are your vendor relationships? Are you regularly investing in relationships with vendors that are already working the weddings you want to shoot?
- Are you giving vendors images to use in their portfolios and social media?
- What does your social media feed look like? Are you posting amazing work on a regular basis and tagging vendors?
- Are you regularly asking your best clients for online reviews?
By doing an honest audit of how you’re showing up online to your Dreamies, you’ll get an honest picture of the current reality of your business.
Step Three: Create Your Marketing Action Plan
Once you get clear on the current reality of your Direct Referral Sources and Supporting Touchpoints, then you need to create a marketing action plan to get your brand in front of your ideal clients to generate more wedding inquiries.
Here’s the thing with marketing when it comes to a wedding photography business…
You are not going to be perfect in every single marketing strategy at all times.
In fact, if you’re just getting started, you’re going to be especially weak in certain areas, and that’s ok.
Some marketing strategies are long term, and these reap the BIGGEST benefits.
- Things like building SEO through blogging and creating vendor relationships are long term strategies, and they have to grow organically over a period of time (sometimes a LONG period of time), but you need to actively begin cultivating them on a consistent basis NOW in order to reap huge benefits later on. These long term gains are what will keep your business growing and profitable over the long haul.
Other strategies are short term and the impact is immediate wins.
- These are things like cleaning up your Instagram feed and getting rid of posts that don’t fit. This is also investing in bridal shows to quickly generate leads or asking recent clients for online reviews.
Focus on checking off a few short term wins right now, and then start working on long term marketing strategies as you go.
So choose THREE AREAS of marketing that you want to strengthen over the next six months to a year and include at least one long term and one short term strategy. Focus only on those three things instead of trying to tackle #ALLTHETHINGS all at once.
So based on what you’ve identified to be the areas you want to improve, your marketing action plan could look like this:
- Take some courses on SEO (long term gain)
- Connect with an amazing vendor once a month (long term gain)
- Create and follow a social media calendar for your Instagram (short term win)
- Invest in a bridal show (short term win)
- Ask all of your favorite past clients for online reviews (short term win)
- Implement three new ways to gift your clients with an incredible experience to generate referrals (long term gain)
Step Four: Systematize It (Workflow, Yo!)
Once you have your marketing action plan in place, let’s make it as EASY as possible on yourself to make those action steps a reality!
With most of these marketing strategies, it’s not a one-time-magic-bullet-thing.
Instead, you need to keep up with your marketing regularly in order for it to grow.
Think of marketing systems as putting a shiny new brick in the big foundation of your business every time you pick up your camera.
So how can you easily incorporate your marketing into your day-to-day workflows?
For us, it’s built into our Tave workflows that every time we shoot and cull a wedding:
We pull images for Instagram and Facebook, send them to vendors, and blog the shoot a week later with links to the vendors and optimized SEO for the venue.
When we export and deliver a wedding to our clients using our online proofing gallery, Shootproof, we also export a separate set of images and upload them to a separate gallery on Shootproof and send it to vendors to use.
We also use a blogging and social media calendar in our task management app, Asana, that keeps us accountable to posting to our blog, Pinterest, and Instagram on a regular basis.
And more recently, we’ve added email newsletters to that social media calendar using Drip, so we can keep in touch with our audiences more regularly.
The more simple and automatic you make your marketing, the more it will actually get DONE.
Remove the Roadblocks
For me, when I realize that I’m not doing something in my business that I should be or I’m putting something off that I know is really important, it’s usually because there’s some kind of roadblock that’s tripping me up – either mental, physical, or emotional.
I’ve learned that I need to figure out what these roadblocks are for me and then get creative with how to remove them so I can get more wedding inquiries.
For example, with Instagram, it’s really hard to know what to post, right?
For me, we have plenty of beautiful images to post, but knowing what to write in the caption trips me up.
So I keep a log on my phone that syncs with my computer (I use Day One – love it!) of inspirational quotes, writing ideas, quick thoughts, and questions to ask my audience so that I have inspiration to pull from when writer’s block makes me want to put it off for another day.
So if the word “workflows” makes you want to cringe, then what I’m really saying is that you need to remove as many roadblocks as you can that are preventing you from doing something important.
Simplify and systematize, my friends.
- Getting more wedding inquiries is like creating a web over time – there isn’t ONE silver bullet. It’s a multi-pronged STRATEGY.
- A customer needs to experience at least three touchpoints with your brand before they will buy.
- These touchpoints are Strong Direct Referrals followed by Soft Supporting Touchpoints.
- FIRST, track your Strong Direct Referral sources so you know where your leads are coming from and where to allocate your resources. (We do this in Tave.)
- SECOND, evaluate how strong or weak you are in the different marketing areas of Soft Supporting Touchpoints (ie social media, ad campaigns, online reviews, SEO, etc)
- THIRD, based on where you’d like to be stronger in your marketing, create a marketing action plan that includes at least one long term strategy and one short term win. Commit to this plan for the next six months to a year.
- FOURTH, simplify your systems and incorporate the action plan into the current workflows you’re already doing.
- Lastly, remove all roadblocks that will prevent you from executing on your marketing action plan!
Finally, watch your business grow!