You love photography and nothing would feed your soul more than having a calendar booked with fresh clients every week.
The only problem? You're not sure how to attract enough clients to stay booked up.
That's why, in this post, we'll explore 17 creative ways to get more wedding photography clients...offline.
Some of these strategies I've seen successful photographers use in their business and it made me wonder "Why didn't I think of that?"
Some have been proven to work by other wedding professionals, which could easily be adapted for photographers. Others are unusual tactics that I haven't seen used before, which leaves a big fat opening for you to swoop in and make them yours.
1. Turn Interests into Income
Most wedding professionals try to market to everyone, which is why they are overwhelmed and underfunded.
Marketing to every prospect is costly because you have to reach a lot of people before your message reaches the right prospect.
But when you know your "ideal client" inside and out, including their interests, you can narrow your marketing focus, reduce your budget and get a lot more results with less effort.
In other words, when you get face time with the right kind of prospects...the ones most likely to be attracted to you and your work...you'll more easily turn them into clients.
Marketing to the Masses = Expensive
Marketing to Ideal Clients = Profitable
Stop wasting time trying to get in front of just anyone. Start deliberately putting your business in front of prospects who you already know tend to hire you. Here's what I mean...
Case Study 1
One of my photography clients does a lot of civil unions for same sex couples. So she decided to put up a table at a recent gay and lesbian fair with free giveaways that would lure them over and get her portfolio in front of them. Simply brilliant!
1. To make this strategy work for you, first investigate what type of couples tend to be drawn to you and your work. consider hobbies, interests and favorite activities.
- 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?
2. Then, use that insight to brainstorm ideas for where and how to reach them
- What do these type of people do on the weekend?
- Are there annual local happenings they would likely attend?
- Scour your local papers and community websites to get more ideas
3. Make a list of all the interest-based events in the coming year that present an opportunity
4. Research costs, logistics, number of attendees, demographics of attendees etc.
5. Compare the events, choose the best ones and register to exhibit at as many as you can afford
Case Study 2
Many years ago when I had my bridal jewelry business, I knew that my customers were environmentally and socially conscious because my pieces were made with eco-friendly and recycled materials, which appealed to them.
So when I was asked to speak at a local town hall on the topic of recycling, I jumped at the chance.
I brought a sampling of my best work to display next to me as I presented and made sure to have plenty of business cards there as well.
I also rented out my pieces for eco fashion shows all over the country to receive additional exposure to my ideal audience.
(Photo credit: Fitz Carlile Photography)
Maybe it's a town hall, fashion show or some other event that brings your ideal clients together. Whatever the cause, look for events that are highly specific to a certain crowd, either by religion, cause, heritage or culture, interest, lifestyle etc.
- citywide marathons
- sporting events
- farmer's markets
- neighborhood bar hops
The better you know your best client's personality and interests, the easier it will be for you to identify where they might hang out. If you're just not sure, ask them! Pick up the phone or type up an email and ask your top clients what types of events they frequent.
The idea is to get visibility, either through speaking, an exhibit, a sponsorship etc. If you want to get more wedding photography clients, you have to become more visible to them. This is a great strategy for doing so.
2. Tease for Leads
Can you imagine how many more clients you'd capture if you could give prospects a taste of your work first?
Take a cue from one of my hair stylist clients.
To give her brides a more luxurious experience, she includes "trial photos" into her wedding updo trial sessions. When brides come in for a trial of their wedding hairstyle, she takes a few shots of their look from every angle so that the client can actually see what her hair will look like in photos on the big day.
Now, it might not make much sense for a photographer to step in and take these shots because, chances are, by the time the trial session comes along, the client has probably already booked their photographer.
However, this same idea could be applied to vendors who come earlier in the wedding buying cycle.
For instance, many brides hunt for the dress before they even hire their wedding suppliers.
Why not partner up with bridal shops and offer to drop in during weekdays for a couple hours and take complimentary photos of brides who find 'the one'?
Not only would this allow brides to get a preview of what it's like to work with you, it also gives you an opportunity to get your business card in their hands and capture their email address for follow up early in the planning process.
Plus, they'll get to see a sample of your work using them as the model; making their perception of you a lot more personal.
Here's how it might work:
- Set up a schedule with local bridal shops for on-the-spot dress photo shoots when customers find "the one"
- Offer to email the bride her photo in a few days
- Get the bride's permission (in writing) to also send her email updates, news and service information
- Following every photo shoot day, upload your new leads to your ongoing email marketing newsletter list and email each bride the photo of them in their wedding gown plus quick info on your service and what makes you different
- Continue sending your ongoing newsletter or tips by email to your entire email list, including the new brides you add from bridal shops every week
3. Charm Your Way into Preferred Vendor Lists
As a photographer, one of your best sources for quick clients is referrals. And, naturally, venues can be one of the best sources of referrals since they are often the first wedding business couples meet with.
But how can you get your foot in the door with venues who already have a list of favorite photographers?
Whether its a venue you've shot at in the past or not, you can create a prime opportunity to get your name in front of them, if you approach it with their best interests in mind first.
- Make a list of the top 10-20 venues you feel your ideal client is most likely to host at. Get creative too by exploring unconventional or converted spaces, like lofts, museums, galleries, botanical gardens and barns too.
- Get on the phone and reach out to the Events Manager. Let him or her know that their venue seems to be a favorite among your clients and you'd love to drop by sometime to meet the staff on a slow day. Tell them you always have your equipment with you anyway, so you'd be more than happy to take fresh headshots of the team and any property images they want to update, complimentary, while you're there.
- Set aside plenty of time that day, so you won't feel rushed and come with business cards and a giveaway portfolio they can keep on hand, if they ask for one.
- Don't push for referrals or directly ask to be on their preferred vendor list. If they like you, they'll probably offer. If they don't mention it, ask them if they have a preferred vendor list and leave it at that. Let them make the offer.
- Follow up, follow up, follow up. Whether you're on their list or not, staying front of mind and letting them know you care is key to growing the relationship. Remember, they want to be promoted too. So let them know when you've referred clients their way or when you have a wedding on the books for their venue. And if you don't have client crossover yet, then try some of the fun gift drop tactics from this post to stay on their radar.
4. Partner for Prospects
Your peers don't have to be your competitors if you choose not to look at it that way. Instead, they can be one of your top source of client referrals.
Whether you're a fan or not, Jasmine Star has had tremendous success as a wedding photographer and, for that reason alone, I think her tips are worth listening too. I truly admire her perspective on peer-partnering.
In this video, she reveals how partnering up with other local photographers grew her business faster than she ever thought possible. They swapped leads and gave each other overflow work when booked up for that date.
5. Leverage Local to Lock Up More Leads
When you do spot a chance to connect with your audience offline, it's not always at a wedding-related event or even an interest-specific event.
Sometimes, engaged couples are just hanging with friends at general community events.
And, if you play your cards right, you can meet them there.
Even if these folks aren't actively looking for a photographer in that moment, it doesn't mean they won't need one soon or even know someone else getting married; it just means they aren't hunting for one in that environment.
That's why you need to have a strategy for capturing attention and showcasing your work. Otherwise, attendees may be too engrossed in the main attraction to notice you.
As a photographer, one of the easiest ways to stand out at a local event is to utilize your talents and create fun photo ops for the attendees.
For example, let's say that your ideal clients love spending time on the beach and outdoors so you decide to sponsor or exhibit at a surfing event to expose the locals to your wedding and event photography services.
You could set up a mini photo tent where attendees come to get a free, cold lemonade and a photo with their friends and family next to an artistic surfboard.
Collect their email address so you can email them their photo and stay in touch. Remember to specifically ask for permission to send news, updates and other info by email.
After the event, email a link to download their photo link and continue marketing to them by email on a regular weekly or bi-monthly basis to generate new business.
If your clients love neighborhood fairs and city 'tastes', you can set up a cute Kissing Booth for couples, babies, pets, families and more.
Since most of these are hosted during the Spring and Summer months during your busy season, you can enlist the help of a second shooter to handle the event. Then, follow the steps I outlined previously collect email addresses and stay in touch post-event.
This allows you to keep up your marketing throughout your hectic time, ensuring you have fresh leads heading into the slower months.
6. Turn Holidays into Pay Days
Some local events are natural photo ops that give photographers an easy "in", like seasonal and holiday events. Think fall festivals with pumpkin patches and corn mazes, Fourth of July parades and downtown winter holiday celebrations.
These happenings don't just attract families with kids; they are favorites of engaged couples too.
These are the types of events that people want a nice memory of, which gives you a prime opportunity to give it to them.
Whether you're roaming the event on foot with your camera and an assistant (to record names and contact details) or taking portraits in front of a holiday-inspired scene, the potential is there.
A single day or full weekend of shooting portraits either for free or for an affordable flat rate could result in hundreds and even thousands of new leads.
With every photo opp comes the chance to add another email address to your lead list. As your list grows, your bookings do too!
7. Give to Get with Charity Events
Getting involved in local charities has its own set of rewards, outside of what you get in return. However, with the right approach you can get both benefits: a chance to give back and get new clients!
When you volunteer your photography services for a charity event, you get the chance to reach a whole new audience that other photographers are likely ignoring.
The key to making this idea work is to ensure you will have the kind of visibility that gets attendee's attention.
Simply having your logo printed in the event brochure won't cut it. There needs to be guest interaction so people can experience your presence first hand. Otherwise, they may not remember you.
Suggest to the event coordinator some type of guest photo op, such as a pop-up photo booth with props and scenery. This will allow you to have meaningful interactions with guests and get your business card in their hands; not to mention, collect email addresses to which to send their photos.
If the event is looking for full coverage of the mingling, milestones and presentations, have a second shooter on hand to assist during times when you are interfacing with guests.
8. Let Your Art Attract Inquiries
When couples start actively searching for a photographer, overwhelm sets in and every portfolio starts to look the same.
So if you can get your work in front of them at a moment in time when they aren't comparing you to 5 other photographers, you can stand out.
Consider lending your photography in print format, royalty-free, with local brick-and-morter businesses as wall art, with proper credit of course.
It's like turning their office or boutique into an art gallery; only without having to pay rent or consignment fees. Think about places where engaged couples hang out who may accept your work as art for their space, such as:
- Local wedding all-in-one suites
- Bridal boutiques
- Beauty salons and spas
- Local professionals, like chiropractors, dentists, lawyers etc.
I found a local family photographer this way. She gave a whole set of her lifestyle photography on canvas print to my chiropractor, who posted it all around her facility. I fell in love with her style right away and had to find out who was behind the lens.
Here are a few tips on making this one work for you:
- Make sure the shop or office agrees to carry a stack of your business cards or postcards. My chiropractor actually placed the photographer's business cards and postcards on tables right in the waiting area next to reading materials.
- It's a lot easier to get shop owners and office managers to agree to this if they have empty wall space or decor that isn't as eye-catching, so watch for that.
- Don't make your partners work for it. The photography should come finished and ready to display. Choose a presentation that fits with the style of their location. If their decor is more modern and minimal, go with a simple print-to-canvas style. If there is a luxurious feel to their space, choose ornate gold frames.
- If you can find a classy way to place your contact information at the bottom of the print and get the store owner to agree to it, this increases your chances of getting a call.
9. Speak a Little, Sell a Lot
These days couples are bombarded with wedding vendor choices; it's overwhelming. One of the simplest ways you can help them see you in a fresh light is by offering free advice, in person.
In the sales process, there is just no replacement for in person interaction. Most photographers I speak with tell me that if they can just get a prospect into a meeting, they are confident they'll book the event.
The challenge is, of course, getting prospects to a meeting in the first place.
So a great alternative is to give them a low-commitment, pressure-free way to connect with you in person by hosting free expert talks on topics you know they care about.
Whether it's how to look great in front of the camera or questions to ask your photographer before you book, couples value expert guidance as they navigate their way through a stressful time.
Ideally, the best way to promote any talk is by partnering with wedding-related vendors who actually have the space to host the talk, such as venues, bridal shops, all-in-one suites and floral shops. Alternatively, you can set it up at a neutral space and invite a few others to present a short talk too.
Regardless of how you execute, the trick to making this successful is promotion:
- Whoever is involved needs to promote the event to their email list, social media following and on their website.
- If you're partnering with vendors who have a physical location, print up save-the-date event postcards with details, contact info and RSVP info and have them displayed prominently at checkout and front desk areas.
- Promote the event in local newspapers and online community event listing sites.
- If you have a small budget, consider run targeted local Facebook Ads too. Choose a radius that makes sense for where you're hosting the talk and advertise to currently engaged couples who are fairly early in the process (0-3 months).
10. Reach Paying Parents with the Local Paper
It might seem like print newspapers are dead these days...and some practically are...but online media is thriving and many micro local papers are still doing well. Which means you can leverage the offline-to-online combo that many local publications offer to get your name out there.
Remember, millennial couples may not pick up the local paper, but their parents do!
My friend Natalie, a wedding planner in Athens GA, has leveraged this strategy time and time again to keep her phone ringing. She has confessed to me that it has been a powerful part of her offline client attraction plan.
Swipe this strategy from Natalie and reach out to your smaller, local papers to find out how you can share your expertise with local couples and families. Simple topics such as how to dress for your engagement photos will probably do.
To give yourself the best chance for acceptance, here are a few additional tips:
- Scope out who your local editor is. This is the editor that covers your topic, such as Events or Society.
- Start paying attention to their writing style, popular topics and any clues you can find that will help you suggest a winning topic they won't want to turn down.
- When you pitch yourself, make it about their publication first. Be clear about how they and their audience will benefit from your piece. Only after you've made a case for what's-in-it-for-them, you can tout your credentials, such as other publications you've written for, awards etc.
- Be sure to follow submission guidelines to a "T", if available
11. Book Yourself Solid with Boutique Bridal Shows
I realize that sometimes the larger, cattle call bridal shows make it hard to stand out. So why not try a smaller, boutique style show on for size?
When I was marketing my jewelry business, micro bridal shows were my absolute favorite. From elite, invite-only high end bridal events at high rises downtown to tiny eco-friendly city wedding fairs, my best customers always came from the lesser known happenings.
(Photo credit: Kenny Kim Photography)
The challenge in finding these types of events is that they often fly under the radar. Here are a few ways to discover them:
- Ask your vendor peers
- Run a Google search for events in your city using search strings such as ["bridal show" + "city"], ["bridal event" + "city"], ["bridal fair" + "city"], ["wedding show" + "city"], ["wedding fair" + "city"] or ["wedding vendor meet and greet" + "city"]
- Run a Google search for bridal events hosted by local venues that tend to attract your ideal type of client using search strings such as ["wedding show" + "venue"] etc.
12. Use Co-Ops to Close More Contracts
This tip may not be groundbreaking, but it's certainly under-utilized by most wedding vendors. Bridal suites and wedding co-ops can be a great opportunity to get in front of engaged couples in real life.
If you're not familiar, the concept typically involves a shared physical location by several wedding vendors, where a bridal consultant or wedding planner plays the role of sales person. Like a traditional bridal shop, couples can come into the bridal suite and view services, products and options for their wedding.
Usually, there are only one or two vendors represented in each category of service, reducing competition drastically.
Implementing this tip is easy. Simple research whether a bridal suite or co-op exists in your area using a combination of online and offline tools. You can drive around your local neighborhoods and downtown areas to see in person which physical businesses have opened recently or use search engines and online business directories for research.
If a bridal suite or co-op doesn't exist in your area, consider launching your own with a handful of premier, all star fellow wedding vendors you feel comfortable collaborating with.
13. Convert Snail Mail into Steady Sales
Years ago, every small business was jumping ship from direct mail marketing to email marketing, in an effort to stand out.
These days, couples email inboxes are cluttered with more email messages than they'll ever have time to get to. Which makes good ol' fashioned snail mail attractive once again.
And since hardly anyone in the wedding industry is taking advantage of this medium, you've got their undivided attention!
One of my clients and I experimented with this recently. I suggested they drop monthly "lumpy" packages to a mailing list they received from a recent bridal show they exhibited at, rather than rely on email marketing.
The results were phenomenal. Every single time a mailing dropped, they got a flood of new sales.
In contrast, the email marketing following the event barely brought them any clicks or traffic.
The fact is, with snail mail, they were on an island. No one else was investing in this method to reach prospects, giving them far more exposure.
Here are a few tips for making this work:
- Hand-address each mailing; the more personal it looks, the more likely your mail will get opened
- Skip the boring postcards and go straight for mailings with substance. You can try greeting cards, formal invitations or even a "lumpy" package that has something bulky inside to tempt your recipients to open it up.
- Your mailing should have one, clear, direct call to action so that recipients are not confused about what action to take to respond to your mailing.
- Your call to action should be simple, low-commitment and enticing. Asking a total stranger to buy from you upon first contact is usually too forward to expect a decent ROI. You'll probably get a much higher response if you simply offer something free that is highly beneficial to them, but also gets your unique message in front of them. You could invite them to attend one of your upcoming talks (see tip #9), ask them to visit your space at an upcoming exclusive bridal event or invite them to go to your website and download a free, helpful guide.
- Send your mailing to a qualified list. You can utilize your lead list from a recent bridal show or work with a direct mail expert to purchase a qualified, segmented list of engaged couples that meet certain demographic (income, background, ethnicity) or sociographic (interests) criteria.
14. Motivate Past Clients to Send You New Clients
Your past clients are your raving fans and they are eager to refer you...if you remind them!
At least once or twice a year, plus once initially a few months after a client gets married, ask your clients if they have any friends who are engaged or likely about to be engaged. Then, incentivize them in a way that means something.
The usual incentives, like gift cards, are nice of course, but not very motivating.
What you want is to get innovative and consider what your past couples are experiencing right now as newlyweds or a well-established couple, such as pregnancy, adoption, rescuing a puppy, watching their kids enter school, buying a new house, renovating an existing house etc.
All of these life events are cause for updated family photography, which might make for a better incentive.
A free mini family or maternity photo shoot with a few digitals included could be a desirable incentive for your clients to pass on a wedding referral. If you're not a family or lifestyle photographer, then partner up with one. They send you wedding referrals in exchange for a free mini engagement shoot for those clients and you send them past client family referrals in exchange for a free mini family photo shoot for those clients. Win, win!
15. Ship a Surprise, Get a Referral
If there is a venue, event planner or other vendor you’re trying to get an introduction with, the right gift may give you that chance.
I'm not suggesting that you guilt or bribe your peers into referring you. I'm only consenting to the fact that people are busy and, occasionally, it takes something out of the ordinary to get their attention.
Do a little private investigating to find out what your target colleague loves before jumping out to pick a dozen daisies.
If you have a mutual acquaintance, you could ask them if they have any insider info.
If not, try your hand at social spying. It’s not as creepy as it sounds.
I used this tactic to gift a colleague a Vera Bradley handbag she’d been pining over. I received a very nice referral from her and wanted my thank you to be extra personal. So I hopped on Pinterest and scoured her personal pins to see what was on her wishlist.
Here is the thank you message I got in return:
But you don't have to wait to receive a referral to send a thoughtful gift. If you believe the relationship could be a highly lucrative one, it might be worth it to invest a few of your marketing dollars toward a quality gift tailored for them.
16. Turbo Charge Your Lead List with Giveaways
The Quick Giveaway
If you're looking for a quick-fix giveaway to engage your existing prospect mailing list (from bridal shows and other sources), consider a micro prize, such as this adorable heart shaped puzzle from Portrait Puzzles. It's perfect for engagement photos!
Offer a quick 30 minute engagement photo session at a location that you choose with this fun puzzle included.
The Elaborate Giveaway
Wedding businesses small and large alike have been launching full blown wedding service and product giveaways online for years, such as Clay Hill Farm's Green Wedding Giveaway and Minted's Save The Date Giveaway.
But giveaways can be held offline too! Can anyone say 'free press'?!
Partner up with a few other vendors or go solo on a fabulous wedding giveaway that brings you both leads and brand exposure. Here are a few tips for marketing your giveaway:
- Collaborate with a handful of other vendors to increase exposure (assuming they do their part in promoting the event)
- Print up pre-stamped giveaway registration postcards for couples to mail in, then distribute to any physical wedding related brick-and-mortar you can find (bridal shops, bridal suites, venues, vendor offices and studios, salons, spas, floral shops, catering facilities, bakeries, rental warehouses)
- Type up a formal press release and get it into the hands of all the right "society" or "wedding" Editors of your local newspapers and magazines far in advance to land a few article features
- Submit the event to all your local newspapers and magazines to to ensure placement in the 'local happenings' sections
- Pin flyers to Community Boards at any library, coffee house or sandwich shop that allows it (ex. Panera, Starbucks)
- Bring flyers and mail-in postcards to the local colleges, universities and sorority/fraternity houses
- Send a mailing to your existing list of prospects and past clients to spread the word. If you're partnering with other vendors, ask them to do the same
- Go door-to-door at apartment complexes and ask if they'll let you leave your stack of mail-in registration postcards at their front desk or even distribute to their residents
17. Cash In on Holiday Humor
So you've got an awesome wishlist of vendors and venues you're dying to connect with so you can start tapping into new referral business, but getting your foot in the door is intimidating.
Not afraid to get in touch with your corny side? Great! This unconventional strategy will be right up your alley.
You can leverage official and funny unofficial holidays to make unexpected connections with colleagues and prospects. Laughter is a universal language, right?
January 3rd is National Chocolate Covered Cherry Day!
For less than $15, you can make someone's day when you drop off a surprise box of chocolates with a 'getting to know you' card.
February 11th is Make a Friend Day
A simple greeting card with a $5 coffee shop gift card will probably do the trick.
March 1st is Peanut Butter Lover’s Day
This one could be tricky with unknown allergies. Aside from that snafu, you probably can't go wrong with a gormet brand of peanut butter or a nice box of chocolate peanut butter cups.
May 31st is National Macaroon Day
Most wedding professionals, especially bakers, caterers, planners and venues. appreciate a good macaroon. Colorful, tasty and downright fun.
June 22nd is National Chocolate Eclair Day
You can knock off more than one vendor with this networking idea when you buy your eclairs from a bakery that also specializes in fantastic wedding cakes and pastries. The gift comes from one vendor and goes to another.
September 28th is Ask a Stupid Question Day
With this silly holiday, you can drop off a greeting card with a gift of a box of chocolates, bottle of wine or some other perishable item your target vendor loves. In the card write "Happy 'Ask a Stupid Question Day'! Apparently, there's an unofficial holiday for everything. So, in that spirit, here’s my stupid question to you: “If I bribe you with chocolate, will you let me buy you coffee…and more chocolate? I know it’s a stupid question because, of course, the answer is yes!" Then, proceed to invite them to a coffee date (or tea or whatever) and you promise to buy or bring them more chocolate.
October 31st is Increase Your Psychic Powers Day
Along with a card, send them a magic 8 ball toy. In your card, introduce yourself, wish them a happy psychic powers day and tell them that your highly questionable psychic powers are telling you that there is a coffee date in your future. Then, invite them for a friendly vendor-to-vendor get-to-know-you meet up.
November 7th is Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day
Much like chocolate covered cherries day, this silly holiday is pretty easy to plan for and afford as a foot-in-the-door strategy.
November 23rd is Eat a Cranberry Day
For this gift-giving idea, a simple card accompanied by a bag of dried cranberries or chocolate covered cranberries will do. For peers that are known wine lovers, a bottle of cranberry wine might make a bigger impact.
December 5th is Bathtub Party Day
It's a bit out there, but those are the ones that get the biggest chuckles. For this goofy holiday, drop off a greeting card with a luxurious bubble bath kit. In your card, you can write a message like “It’s Bathtub Party Day, an unofficial national holiday! I’ve been wanting to reach out and this holiday seemed like as good an excuse as any!” and then briefly introduce yourself.
Get More Wedding Photography Clients Starting Today
You don't have to be a perfectionist to profit from these ideas.
Just pick one.
Choose one strategy from this list and commit to implementing it, starting today. See it through. Make it the one marketing goal you have for this month.
Action is what yields results...not knowledge.
Then, when the results start to roll in, drop on back here and tell me how it went in the comments below.