How We Stay on the Referral List of a Top Wedding Hotel

Case Study: Referral ListsA lot of photographers ask me how to book weddings. It's one of the top problems faced by most wedding photographers. Photography marketing tends to be a big black hole that sucks up money without giving much of anything back.

Where does our business come from? Today I'm going to share with you a story about how we get bookings and clients for the amazing weddings we are so fortunate to be able to document. First, I have to let you in on a little secret. Most of our wedding business comes from venue referrals. 75% to be exact. Interested? I bet. Read on for the juicy details.

Because so much of our business comes from our vendor relationships, we treat these relationships like gold-these are business partnerships that generate serious revenue for us, and we do everything we can to be good partners.

For most vendors, that involves being a partner in their marketing efforts. They need sales tools to help them sell their services. Once they do that (sell their services), then they can focus on selling you-but not before. Just like us, their main job is to sell themselves. So if you can create tools to help them do this, they are going to like you. Some of them may want to hug you. Repeatedly. And send you all their clients. Bingo.

Here's a concrete example of how working as a partner led to incredible bookings for us.

We sent a hotel we work with a link to an online slideshow we had created for it specifically. It featured the various settings people could choose for their ceremony, as well as the different rooms available for receptions. Each image in the slideshow was specifically chosen to “sell” the venue and how great it would be to have a wedding there.

The sales manager loved the slideshow, and she began sending it out to her out-of-town clients so they could get a taste of the hotel and a wedding experience without being there. After a while, the sales manager asked us to make a different version of the slideshow, only featuring smaller weddings in the locations they used for intimate gatherings. She felt it would help her sell the smaller spaces better to have a tool that focused on that experience exclusively. She found that to be so successful, a few months later she asked us to separate the images from the main ballroom into two categories: lavish events and the more modest affairs. That way she could help her clients visualize the type of wedding they were considering. We were careful to include images of the types of upgrade experiences the hotel offered—dessert bars, special cocktails, upgraded appetizers, and so forth. Kind of like planting the seeds for the catering manager of the types of add-ons she could offer the clients.

Obviously, we got a ton of business from this location. Every client that ever comes through there sees our work in multiple places such as sample albums and slideshows. Sometimes we have to play by corporate rules, meaning no photo credit or logos in some cases. Are we OK with that? Absolutely. We aren't stock photographers making our living off selling a single image. We are wedding photographers, and we make our living from weddings. And we get a lot of business from this hotel each year. So why would we do anything to jeopardize that? You have to see the big picture.

Apply this scenario to another dozen venues, and you can see how that might add up for us? Think about how you can develop this kind of strategy for yourself and you will soon see your bookings soar.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Photoalbert September 19, 2012 at 11:57 pm

Such a great idea. I am going to try !!! Thank you for sharing

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Kerri Singh July 12, 2012 at 5:27 pm

Hi Lara,

I love what you are doing and want to thank you for sharing!
I do have a question regarding this initial venue. Did you approach them with this idea? Did they book you for these specific photographs first and then you did up the Slideshow? I am not afraid of cold calling I was just wondering if that is how you were able to get all of your images to show off the venue in a slideshow.
Thanks again!
Kerri

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Lara White July 13, 2012 at 10:25 am

Actually, in the case of this particular venue, here’s the story behind how we first got involved with that venue and how we got on their list to begin with:

http://www.photomint.com/photography-business/how-a-single-networking-event-landed-us-2-famous-baseball-player-weddings/

I don’t recall if they asked for a slideshow or I suggested it, but at that point the relationship was solid enough that we had a mutually beneficial working partnership in place.

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tonya May 9, 2012 at 5:44 pm

ah yes venues do love it when you show them off and have great photos that show how wonderful they are

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Lara White May 9, 2012 at 6:26 pm

It’s just a matter of taking the mindset of helping them. Once they start talking about how great you are to all their brides, the referrals will start pouring in.

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Barry Andrew Mather February 8, 2012 at 1:55 am

Great information, I’ve a wedding coming up next week using a stately home and a town hall so I’ve got a double chance of pulling this off.

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Lara White February 8, 2012 at 8:44 am

good luck Barry! I’d suggest getting there early and thinking about taking shots specifically to sell the venue. Shots beautifully framed of the exterior maybe with flowers in the foreground, and later during blue hour, those types of shots are easy to add in and can become a centerpiece of your work there.

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