How To Grow Your Wedding Business; Pros Share Their Winning Strategies Page 2

Andrew Niesen: We rely on word-of-mouth referrals for all of our business. Developing strong relationships with other vendors, such as wedding planners, is the best way to get referrals. When a lead comes in from a trusted wedding coordinator, we already know that the prospective client is pre-qualified to hire us. Good relationships are the key to good business. Taking a wedding planner out to lunch is a much better investment than advertising, in our experience.

We also publish a mini-magazine two times per year, which we send to our mailing list. This is an effective form of advertising for us, since our mailing list is highly targeted.

SB: What seems to work best for building business--especially given the new technology tools available, such as e-mail and websites?

JB and DeEtte Sallee: Our website is an important tool to get wedding clients to contact us. We have a handful of brides who contact us through the website every day. In this day and age e-mail is an easy tool to correspond with clients. As photographers we feel it is important to show as many great images as you can on the website. We also like to include some galleries with our album designs. Since our reputation has been developed on our designs we like to showcase these to potential brides so that they can see the quality they get by hiring us.

Andy Marcus: Our website certainly is one of the best ways we bring in clients. We can have our albums that we create uploaded to our website password protected for our clients to view. They in turn show their friends who look and browse and then call to set up appointments. Our website generates approximately 50 leads a week. Plus, we are constantly in touch with clients through e-mail. We send them slide shows and guide them to areas on our website where they can see albums from the venue where they will be having their wedding. We also work with various venues in New York to provide them with images, video and slide presentations featuring the wonderful events that we photograph.

Andrew Niesen: One of the best new tools for marketing is slide show technology. From a marketing and branding perspective, slide shows are revolutionary. Since brides can conveniently e-mail slide shows to friends and family, they are a low-cost, high-impact method of spreading the LaCour brand name. Bookings based on referrals have increased dramatically since we started creating slide shows. We routinely receive calls from brides saying they were "wowed" by their friend's slide show and want to commission LaCour for their wedding, based on the emotional reaction they had to our slide show! Slide shows are much more effective than print advertising because they are more specifically targeted. Most of our potential clients are pre-qualified to hire us, before they even contact us, since they have already viewed our slide shows. Many wedding photographers are realizing the power of slide shows and are including them as part of their standard packages.

SB: What recommendations would you make to a photographer looking to make a career move into wedding photography?

JR Geoffrion (www.jrgeoffrion.com): My key advice would be to really understand why you are making such a move. For example, an advanced amateur may want additional income and is looking to do this on a part-time basis, while an experienced photojournalist may be looking for a more permanent change of pace, focusing on the joyous event that is a wedding celebration. These motivations should then be examined closely to decide an operational business model. In the earlier example, the advanced amateur may not be interested in becoming a "full-service wedding photographer" and may prefer to exclusively photograph weddings for an existing business. On the other hand, the experienced photojournalist who would like to build a business will have to consider building a portfolio, determining and pricing offerings, finding and selecting vendors, conducting sales meetings, posting files, designing albums, making, packing, and shipping proofs and prints, creating and maintaining a website, finding a studio, hiring and managing employees, performing accounting functions, etc.

© 2007, JR Geoffrion, All Rights Reserved

Running a full-time photography business is probably 95 percent business/5 percent photography--this is probably what most photographers entering the business do not anticipate.

Andrew Niesen: First, write a good business plan. Thinking about where you hope to be in 20 years is critical. In order to create a successful business, you must know what your long-term goals are. Also, foster good relationships with other photographers in your market. We believe that creating a community of colleagues is very important. When a colleague is overbooked they can refer a job to you. Establishing strong relationships also allows you to collaborate with fellow photographers and learn from their experiences. It's easy to work in isolation as a photographer, but it impedes growth. Connecting yourself to colleagues will ensure that you always have a support network.

SB: Any additional tips on being more successful in this market?

Andy Marcus: Being a successful wedding photographer is being a consistently good wedding photographer. Whether the wedding is large or small, indoors or out, whether a bride is late or a groom is uncooperative, one must be consistently good and cool under pressure. Our business is based on referrals. I am located in one of the largest cities in the world, but everyone knows everyone and you are only as good as the last wedding you photographed.

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