It’s that time of year. You have probably seen the abundance of marriage proposals on your news feeds, as I have. Before long, these newly engaged couples will be looking to hire a photographer for their weddings. Wedding expos are still an excellent place for these couples to find you, especially this time of year.
Wedding shows are hard work. There are so many preparations to make. The competition can make you feel like you aren’t good enough. Putting your work and prices in front of hundreds or even thousands of people who will decide if they like your photography is intimidating. On the other side though, there is much to be gained from shows like this. If you want to book more weddings, then there is not a better place to be then a room full of people planning their wedding. A second benefit is the potential to speed up your business growth. Word of mouth is the best form of advertisement that there is. However, when you are starting out, it could take years to build the reputation needed to rely on that as a full-time photographer. The wedding shows, however, can jump-start that by putting you in front of more people early on and allow your business to develop faster than it otherwise could have.
It has been a few years now since I started advertising at wedding shows. I was just getting started with my business when I attended my first one. My goal at the time was to be able to quit my job and be a full-time wedding photographer. Although I had a lot to learn, my first few shows went well enough. After my second show, I was able to quit my job and go full time. Now, over half of my bookings come from bridal shows.
I have learned a lot about advertising after years of attending these shows. These experiences have given me the opportunity to experiment with what works and what doesn’t for me, as well as observe dozens of other photographers who do the same. Below are three actions that I believe are musts for photographers who want to do well at wedding shows.
Make Sure They See Your Name Before the Show
Brand recognition is essential for bridal show success. From a potential client’s perspective, even if they are interested in you, you are still only one of the hundreds of other vendors they will see in a day. You have to find a way to stand out. In my experience, the easiest way to do this is by doing everything you can to make sure that your target clients see your name and work several times before the show. This is one way to make sure they pay attention to you when they find you at the expo. About a month before a wedding show, I put together a marketing plan where engaged couples could have up to ten potential touchpoints with my business. A customer touchpoint is any time that a possible customer comes in contact with your brand. For me, this includes things like targeted ads on multiple social media outlets, updating and optimizing my website, and encouraging word of mouth marketing by sharing images with other vendors I’ve worked with in the past. When I am actually at the wedding show, I continually have brides see my business name and say, “I’ve seen your work before.” That’s exactly what I want to hear. When they get home with a bag full of flyers, mine is now much more likely to stand out as one they remember.
Show Your Work
At my first wedding show, I was intimidated by people who spent so much time and money on booths that were more decorative than mine. That is great when it fits your personality and it can be a solid representation of your brand. The problem, however, that I see all of the time, is that a booth will often look incredible, but the photographer will only show a minimal amount of their work. I will never understand why photographers don’t feature their work more than they do at these shows. That’s the primary thing couples look for in a photographer. I’m not suggesting that I have the only method for how to design a booth, but I can say that I didn’t spend a dime on custom backdrops or furniture and instead put my money to have several large, quality prints and albums made and kept my booth focused on my work. This is one of the best decisions I’ve made. Not only does it allow my work to speak for me and grab attention as people walk by, but it also takes out the stress of transporting huge structures and essentially building them and tearing them down at the show.
You have to follow up after the show, and you need to be one of the first to do so. I have found that couples often want to start booking immediately after the show, while everything is fresh in their minds. Most wedding expos will send you a list of emails, but usually not until weeks after the show. That’s too late. I collect names of interested couples by giving them a chance to put their information in a drawing offering a deal or a discount. I only ask for their name and email. If you’ve done a show before, you most likely do something like this. However, the timing of the follow up is really what’s important. Immediately after the show, I send out an email to every name in the drawing. When I get home from a two day show, the very last thing I want to do is spend time typing out hundreds of emails into a spreadsheet, but it is essential and the majority of my bookings come from this one email. I spend time the week before designing it how I want so that it’s ready to go. I make it simple, only including a thank you, a couple of my recognizable photos, and an offer for a one day deal that encourages them that if they are interested in booking, now is the time to do so. My goal is to be the first person to get an email out. If I wait even a few days, their inboxes are likely to be flooded with emails from other vendors leaving mine less likely to be seen.
If you want to book more weddings, then few places could be as beneficial to you as wedding shows. After several years, I can tell you that every show I have done has been easily worth it financially. Hopefully, the tips above will help it to be worthwhile for your business as well. Let me know in the comments what has worked and not worked for you during your own wedding show experiences.