Once the holidays are over, wedding photographers tend to get a flood of inquiries. It's a combination of people getting engaged over New Year's and the holidays, as well as people that have been engaged for some time, and with the start of the New Year a feeling of “betting get going on the wedding planning” starts to take over.
So with booking season in full swing, I thought it might be a good time to talk about how to make the most of your wedding inquiries.
When an Wedding Inquiry Comes In
When you get an inquiry for wedding photography, the first thing you should do is CALL them back, as soon as possible. If you have the good fortune of catching the bride at the right time–when she is looking for information, you have a much better chance of talking to her on the phone.
On the phone, you have the opportunity to get to know someone a little, ask them questions, and engage them in conversation. In email, you are competing with the 10 other photographers she emailed, and yours might slip through the cracks.
If you don’t have the opportunity to speak with them on the phone, respond to email inquiries right away. If you can get a jump on other photographers responding, you may have a chance to stand out before getting lost in the sea of photographer emails. Understand that you are likely one of several or one of many she has contacted. The photographers she actually meets with may be random chance or who made appointments first.
The Follow Up
After you get that initial inquiry, your best shot at booking that bride is by getting a consultation with them. She will likely meet with only a few of the wedding photographers she initially contacted, so if you can get a consultation, your odds of booking may have gone up to one in three.
So how do you increase your chances of getting a consultation? Your goal from the moment you get the inquiry is to book a consultation. If you simply email your pricing and then wait for the couple to call and set the appointment, you are not going to get very many clients.
Don't let you r ego get in the way-if you want to make it as a photographer, you need to be aggressive in getting business. In this economy, with so many photographers out there, I assure you business isn’t coming to you-another photographer will surely snatch it away first. So that means you have to be a go-getter and go get it. The soft approach, the “you call me when you are ready to make a decision” approach no longer works because the market is simply too saturated. Who can choose when there are a hundred options? It's overwhelming for the bride. Stand out from the crowd and make it easy to remember you.
Following up is simply key to getting more bookings; there is no other way around it. I suggest you develop a system of following up that you can track with each lead, so you know when to throw in the towel and when to hang in there. A follow up system might look something like this:
- Email response
- Phone call
- Mail out brochure or packet
- Email response with consultation dates and times
- Phone call
- Email response with consultation dates and some type of promotion, such as free engagement sessions for weddings booked this month, or free print credits, etc.
You don’t want to bother them, I get that. But if they are truly interested, you won't be bugging them, you will be helping them move closer to their goal. And if they aren’t truly interested, who cares if they think you are bugging them? All they need to do is say so and you will stop contacting them.
Schedule as Many Wedding Consultations as Possible
You want to schedule as many photography consultations with clients as you can early in the year. By getting the bulk of your bookings taken care of in the beginning of the year, you can make some better financial forecasts.
What is your booking rate? How many consultations do you need to do in order to book one? If you've been in business for at least a year or more, simply count up the number of consultations you've done and divide by the number of bookings you have, and you'll have your booking rate. It might be 1 in five; it might be 1 in 2. By having an understanding of your booking rate, you can get a sense for how many consultations you'll need to schedule in order to get to your booking goals. So don't be afraid of wasting your time with consultations that might be tire kickers—instead, work on your presentation skills so you can close more contracts.
Photography Consultation Tips
To ensure clients show up to the wedding consultation, email reminders the day before with time and directions. This will cut down your no show rate-there's nothing worse than spending an hour getting ready for a presentation only to realize at the last minute that the client is cancelling, or worse, simply not showing up.
Be sure to be dressed to impress-you are representing your brand. Taking the time to make sure you look great is important because yourself as an artist. When you go to buy a new microwave, you don't factor what the salesperson is wearing into the decision making process. But if you are choosing a hair stylist, their personal style (or lack of it) can defiantly play into your selection.
If you are a bit of an introvert, it helps to have some conversation starters ready. For example, I like to ask what made them choose that particular location to get married. After they answer, I can agree with them on the beauty of that venue, and then highlight my knowledge of the location and how it photographs.
After the consultation is finished, you want to be sure and give them some sort of a take-home. A brochure, pricing, a slideshow-anything to remind them of your brand when they are making a final decision.
Ok, enough talk-go get on the phone and schedule some consultations, pronto.