Branding for High-End Weddings: 3 Things You Can Do Right Now with Vanessa Joy
One of the biggest challenges photographers face is finding high-end clients. People expect me to have some sort of pat answer that tells them how to start charging $10,000 per wedding or get that wedding that runs $18,000 or $19,000. There are no magical steps to reaching that kind of clientele. I can’t give you a surefire method to promise that in one year you will grab that kind of income. A lot of it has to do with finding who you are rather than finding where they are.
The majority of photographers who ask me these questions don’t have a stable business yet. The way our culture is, with social media and beautiful imagery constantly in front of our potential clients, we can’t just fake it till we make it with branding. Consumers know what a good, solid brand looks like. So, when a potential client looks at a photography company, or any company, and it isn’t up to par, the client feels wary of it, even if only subconsciously. If a company can’t fulfill the high-end experience, there’s a network of sites that will help that client rant and rave about that company until no one wants to work with it anymore. But there are things you can do right now to start building a high-end brand.
Analyze Your Client Experience
Take a second to walk through the life cycle of your clients. Start with when they first contact you, when they meet with you and then when they book with you. Then take a look at the engagement session and wedding, and how the pictures and products are delivered. How often do you communicate with them, and what does that communication look like? Are you giving them high quality? Are you surprising them or finding ways to exceed all their expectations?
Here’s the thing. Your clients expect to get the things you’ve taught them to expect, like good photography. Delivering that to them is nothing to write home about. It’s only when you find ways to exceed those expectations and give them something that is wow-worthy that they feel they’re getting more than their money’s worth, and that they find a reason to talk about you with their friends and family in person and, hopefully, on social media.
I’m always looking to improve how I communicate with my clients. Just two weeks ago, I added a new point of contact. The day before the wedding, my brides get an email that says I’m looking forward to seeing them the next day, and if they need a Starbucks run, to just let me know what they’d like and I’ll pick it up for them. I’ve never had anyone take me up on that, but most brides are worrying about all the details the day (and night) before their wedding. I like to jump in and give them a little bit of reassurance so they feel like, “Hey, the photographer’s definitely showing up. She just emailed me.” At some point, I’ll add a link to a blog post that I plan on writing that talks about three ways to fall asleep when you can’t sleep the night before your wedding, but that’s in the future.
By the way, these kinds of emails that I send multiple times throughout my relationship with my clients are automated through my client management system, 17 Hats (which you can get for free, or use the code “vanessajoy” to get discounted paid services). I don’t recommend trying to remember to email your brides manually the night before their wedding. That would not be very efficient.
Analyzing your client experience is an excellent way to build a high-end clientele. The unique experience you give your clients helps you shine through.
Do Market Research
As small business owners, we can’t spend $100,000 on market research, but we can certainly spend a few minutes on Instagram or Pinterest. Think of the types of high-end companies you want your company to be like—think Free People or Anthropologie, Louis Vuitton or Gucci. These companies have $100,000-plus to spend on research. If you spend a few minutes of your time looking at what they’re doing on social media, you can reverse-engineer a little bit of it and find some things that could work for you.
In addition, you’ll probably end up finding some things that are share-worthy on your social media. After all, when you’re posting on social media, you don’t want to post only about yourself and your pictures. You want to post some popular content that you know your audience is going to like. Share content on high-end sites like Buzzsumo that you know your clients like. It’s a great way to reach those clients and appear more relatable to them.
You’ll notice that my suggestion for how to get upscale clients comes in last. That’s intentional. Before you start taking on luxury weddings, you need to have the company, the product and the experience to support them. There is no point attracting clients that you won’t be able to make happy.
When I first started my photography business, I wasn’t attracting high-end clients right away. My brand didn’t scream luxury to the people that were there. However, my clients had friends who got engaged and who were in the demographic I was trying to reach. I developed a same-day edit process (more on that at www.breatheyourpassion.com/sde). I got in front of all the guests at the wedding who either were potentially getting married or had kids getting married. At the same time, I was working on my brand image and raising my prices to slowly start attracting higher-end clientele.
Simultaneously, I worked like crazy developing relationships with wedding planners, going to industry events, getting published in magazines and making friends with other wedding vendors. I found unique ways to stand out. After the wedding, I contact the florist and say, “Would you like copies of the pictures of your floral arrangements? You can use them for your website or social media (just tag me, please), and on top of it, I’d love to make you brochures with your floral arrangements and your logo on one side.” It’s a perfect way to network.
To reach the luxury wedding clients, you have to cast a wide net and network as much as you possibly can.
When I first started my photography business, I didn’t begin by charging $10,000, instantly attracting upscale clients. I had to work hard over eight years, and now average $10,000 per wedding. Wherever you are in building your business, I hope that you take the time to put the legwork behind it and create a product and client experience that attract the clients you want to work with.
For more on ways to create a high-end brand, don’t miss my talk at ShutterFest 2017. In the meantime, check out this video to see how pricing matches up with a high-end experience.