Lori Nordstrom – 4 Vendor Marketing Tips for High-End Weddings
Ah, the wedding day. Many photographers get their start in the industry shooting them. Having a nice camera these days puts you in the category of being a “photographer.” You get asked to take some photos at a friend’s wedding. A few of your pictures get tons of likes, and a bridesmaid asks you to shoot her wedding too. Soon another friend asks, and before long, you’ve got your calendar booked. You’re thinking, I’m pretty good at this!
Reality is, you’re cheap or free, and that’s not very attractive. It hurts, but it’s true. There comes a point when you have to make the choice to raise your prices and start charging appropriately because working your butt off for next to nothing doesn’t stay fun for long. When you raise your prices, you also have to start marketing and getting in front of the right brides, because your current following isn’t going to be excited about the changes. The best way I’ve found to do this is by partnering with other vendors that are already working with your target client.
- Figure out your client
Before you start any kind of marketing endeavor, brainstorm whom your perfect bride is. Things to think about:
- Age range?
- First or second marriage?
- Parents paying or couple paying?
- Wedding planner?
- Church wedding, outdoor wedding or destination wedding?
- Formal or casual attire?
- Size of the wedding party?
- Bride’s personality?
The more clearly you can define your target bride, the more you’ll be able to attract that bride. You’ll know better how to communicate with her. You’ll know the things that are important to her and where you can find her.
- Build relationships with vendors
Once you’ve defined your target client, start thinking about the vendors she’ll be choosing. This starts with the ring. While you might think this is about the guy, you’ll find that your higher-end brides already have a favorite jeweler, and her soon-to-be fiancé knows all about it. In fact, he has probably already purchased a gift for her from the jeweler, so there’s already a relationship. Jewelers make great partners for your marketing. Offer select jewelers beautifully boxed gift cards for engagement sessions that they can give to their best clients. The card should be presented as if it’s coming from the jeweler (not from you) as a thank-you for a purchase and a congratulations. You’ll want to take the opportunity to get to know the couple when they come in. Talk to them about your wedding collections and get the sale started.
Another great partner is a wedding coordinator. This is usually where high-end brides start. You can find out who your target client is using by looking through local publications that feature weddings. Feature articles often list all the vendors that were used. Another way to find the right coordinator is through high-end venues. Make a call to select venues and ask what coordinators they recommend. Do some homework before contacting a wedding coordinator for the first time. You want to first let her know how you found her and that you love what she’s doing. Compliment first, and then ask for a few minutes of her time in person.
One of the best ways to get in front of people is with your camera. I tell business owners that I’d love to come and get to know them, take a few images of them in their location or with their product, and write an article about them. This article can be for your blog or theirs, for a website or even submitted locally. There aren’t many business owners who will turn you down when you make this offer. Wedding coordinators are also great for putting together a stylized shoot. You will both have great portfolio images, which is a win-win. Once you’ve collaborated on one of these, that coordinator is not going to forget you.
Think through the rest of the wedding-day vendors. Brides work with dress designers, tailors, cake makers, caterers, venues, bands, stationery designers, florists and more. Make a list of these vendors and offer to photograph and write a piece about them for your blog. While doing this, you can make a “preferred vendor” list for brides. Link to these vendors on your website, and provide brides with images and your article. Use a StickyAlbum for your preferred vendor list, and provide the link to each of them.
- Create a wedding-day worksheet
A questionnaire about the wedding day can be very effective. I call this our “wedding-day worksheet.” It asks about all of the details of the day, starting with basic questions like the bride and groom’s contact info and the address where they will be living after the wedding. It asks the name and role of each person in the wedding.
As the bride works through it, she will start thinking about her day and the most important images to her. I ask if bride and groom will be seeing each other before the wedding (something I try to talk all of my couples into). Reception details are also important, and I ask that any assistants and myself be seated as guests. The last page of the worksheet is all about vendors. I ask the bride for contact information for each vendor, and this is key. I contact each vendor about two weeks before the wedding. I let them know that we will be working together, and tell them I’ve heard such great things about what they do.
The call goes something like this: “Hello, Deborah? My name is Lori Nordstrom, and I am the photographer for David and Susan’s wedding, the Smith-Jones wedding, on the 15th. I’m so excited to meet you. Susan has told me all about the cake. It sounds like you do really beautiful work! I’d love to find out when the cake will be delivered so I can meet you and of course get some images of the cake for you as well.” We’ll discuss details, and I’ll ask if there are any special requests she has for me.
This step in the process goes a very long way in making you a preferred vendor yourself. You will stand out from other photographers, and vendors will tell you this over and over. They aren’t used to this kind of treatment, and they will quickly be endeared to you.
- Follow up after the wedding
After the wedding, I collect images from each of the vendors and send over web-size images (with my byline, of course). I send these to the vendors along with a note asking them to let me know if there is anything else they need from me. I also offer to print anything they’d like for their business and for any wedding shows they might have coming up. I’ve only done one wedding show. It was my last one, because I was already represented in about a dozen booths—just by being proactive in my networking.
When you network and build relationships with the right people who are already in front of your target client, you will attract the right brides through referral and recognition. This was the only marketing I ever needed to do while shooting weddings in a small Midwestern town that started at $8,500. I hope some of these ideas will work for you as well.