Business Trends
Marketing Your Wedding Photography

In last month's column I addressed the marketing of "personal vision" for the commercial photographer. I made the point that the marketing must be broadcast to the great number of commercial clients who buy this type of photography. Then, they can call you when they want your particular style. Though selling wedding photography is a completely different marketplace, sold directly to consumers instead of commercial clients, it also uses the traditional broadcasting method of marketing. This column will look at traditional and new methods of marketing to the wedding photo buyer.

As reported last year in Target Marketing magazine, an estimated $35 billion (yes, billion) is spent on 2.4 million weddings each year in the US. At an average of $15,000 per wedding, you are looking at a very lucrative consumer market. With the average age of brides increasing and second and third marriages accounting for 60 percent of all weddings, selling your photo services needs to be more adult and sophisticated to reach your buyer and get a profitable competitive edge.

New technology makes this possible using the finely tuned tool of database marketing. This technique of direct mail marketing uses compiled databases of information on potential wedding photo buyers. Traditionally, wedding photographers have always promoted and advertised to get the photo buyer to call them at the point they are looking for a photographer. Database marketing allows you to reach out to this consumer before they start looking for their wedding photographer. This outreach to potential wedding photo buyers is best used together with the traditional marketing that promotes your work. You want to still advertise and get the bridal buyer to call you at the same time you are using database marketing. First, let's review the traditional methods. Then we will look at this recently developing tool for marketing wedding photography.

Check List For Traditional Marketing:
·Start with a mission statement. What do you have to offer? All successful businesses use their mission statement as the steering wheel for their marketing efforts. A mission statement is critical to marketing because the wedding consumer must make a choice of photographers based on what they "imagine" the photos will look like after the wedding. The words used in your mission statement must make an immediate visual for prospective clients so they can make the decision to hire you instead of your competition.

·Decide on your geographic coverage. Will you reach out to local wedding prospects? Will you try for a broader, regional area? The big prize is the national (or international) marketplace. Make sure your style matches your goal. If your style is basic wedding coverage, you will be most successful with local clients. With a strong and unique style, you can cover a broader market.

·Your choice of prospective clients will direct your traditional marketing. A high-end income group of clientele does not respond as well to direct mail or advertising. Their decisions are more influenced by personal endorsements and referrals.

·No matter what level of wedding client you market to, publicity is a very important element in your marketing mix. They need to hear about you and read about you from a third party. You can say how great you are, but interviews and features in publications have a lot more influence.

·Be sure to have all of your retail connections in place and ready to refer work to you. Retail connections are other businesses that complement yours and sell to the same buyers. Traditionally, these include florists, limo services, wedding cake bakeries, wedding coordinators (both free lance and staff), and wedding stationers.

·Don't forget the traditional venues for advertising wedding photography including bridal shows and other opportunities to buy display space.

Database Marketing. Basically, a database is complied information. It can be demographic information such as age, gender, job title, and address or it can be behavioral such as subscriptions to publications, membership in associations, catalog requests, or purchases. Buyers of wedding photography are perfect for database marketing because their behavior and all of their purchases revolve on or around a major lifestyle change and a wedding date. It is a fixed point in time that identifies a potential photography client.

When renting these bridal lists (see resources below) you have two selection criteria to use for getting the names. One, sign up for a monthly or quarterly service to get new names. Two, target a window of time most popular for wedding dates and buy the list of names three to eight months ahead of the big day. Either way you will be promoting to prospects that you know are ready to buy. This does not mean you give up traditional marketing. Databases allow you to reach out to buyers as well as using your ads and publicity for them to call on you. Besides the wedding date, some services allow you to select additional criteria such as level of income or lifestyle purchases.

Since consumers are buying more products and services using the Internet, consider marketing online. According to Target Marketing magazine, the Wedding Channel (www.weddingchannel.com) is now working with R. R. Donnelley's Select Source. This is a service to integrate merchandising into web sites and will combine wedding editorial material with related products and services. Here are some other database marketing resources for reaching the wedding photo buyer.

Thanks to Target Marketing magazine (www.targetonline.com) for permission to reprint this list of resources.

Modern Bride magazine subscribers; American List Counsel, (800) 252-5478
Bride's magazine subscribers; Millard Group, (603) 924-9262
American Wedding Album Ride-Along, catalog requesters of wedding
products and services; L.H. Management (914) 723-3176
Weddingpages, requesters who have asked for a free wedding planner; Rubin Response Management Services, (847) 619-9800
Brides-To-Be, requesters of wedding invitation and accessories catalogs; Rubin Response Management Services, (847) 619-9800.

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