What’s a Wedding Worth to You?

PBH_Whats_a_Wedding_Worth_to_YouIn my previous article we strategized that maximizing profits beats reducing costs.

But a lot of photographers have tunnel vision when it comes to how much their average wedding is worth to them.

One of the things that trips us up are the standard “rules” for determining how much of your sales should go to photography marketing. You’ve probably heard them. I know I’ve heard it said often to earmark 5%. That is, if you want to gross $100,000, for example, that 5% of that ($5000) should go to your marketing.

I think there’s a better way to figure this stuff out.

Grab a piece of paper right now and jot down what a wedding’s worth to you. Let’s not be concerned about hard goods cost for the moment, and let’s just work with gross revenue numbers, ok? What’s the value of your average wedding?

Under that number, write down what it costs you in advertising and marketing to get that one wedding.

Tuck those numbers aside for now. We’ll get back to them later.

If you’re like most wedding photographers, chances are you thought of your initial wedding booking average as the value of your wedding. That is, the average amount you write the contract for when someone books a wedding with you.

But your average wedding has more value to you than simply that.

For instance, you might do an engagement session. There may be a pre wedding bridal session. There may be those session fees plus whatever goods they purchase from the sessions on average.

There’s another buying opportunity for them after the wedding, when they add more purchases to what they’ve already contracted in the way of additional albums, prints, etc.

How about their referrals? The weddings you wouldn’t have gotten if you didn’t get this wedding first? What’s that worth to you on average from each client?

What about the weddings you get from having uploaded this wedding’s images on your blog? Bookings you get from random couples who’ve happened upon your blog post and contacted you because of these images from this one wedding? Or who’ve come upon this wedding’s images posted elsewhere?

What’s the value of developing a working relationship with the venue and the other wedding vendors you may not have had the chance to meet and work with if it weren’t for this wedding? And you now have the opportunity to provide them images because of this wedding?

Add all this value up.

If you could assign a monetary value to all this, it may look like the following (I’m making the numbers up just for illustration purposes, but please do yours):

Initial Booking: $3000
Engagement Session: $500
Sales from Engagement Session: $300
Bridal Session: $500
After Wedding Purchases: $2,000
2 Wedding Referrals on average: $6,000
More Weddings from Website Visitors: unlimited
Weddings from Networking with Vendors: unlimited

When you add it all up, you could be making up to around $7,000… with referrals even more, on average.

That’s the actual value of your one wedding.

Most photographers think about their client’s value today. That one booking. That first number.

That’s short term thinking, my friends.

You want to think of your client’s long term value. The actual value of your average wedding client is its long term value.

Now, what was that “client value” number of yours you jotted down earlier?

Chances are your average wedding’s value is actually far more than you originally thought?

So here’s the thing:

Like our example shows, if you originally earmarked 5% to market for weddings, you would’ve invested no more than $150 per wedding (5% of their $3,000 initial contract).

But if your client’s long term value is actually $7,000, then 5% of that is $350.

There’s really no rule saying it should be 5%. It could be more if you want or need it to be. But even at 5%, that’s more than twice the amount you were putting into marketing before. Just by realizing what your average wedding’s long term value actually is.

And with being able to invest over twice the amount into your marketing, what do you imagine your reach into your wedding market would be like?

ge_masana-headshotThis week’s article comes to us from G.E. Masana,  a NYC based wedding photographer and author of “Advertise and Sell Your Wedding Photography” published by Marathon Press. His roster of clients have spanned from the Beauty Editor of ELLE to actors, cinematographers, and even a NYC art gallery owner. He was previously was on “The List” of contributing photographers for Martha Stewart Weddings. NYC Wedding Photographer.

RECOMMENDED RESOURCE:

Do you want to build relationships with vendors that will turn into a steady source of client referrals and double your studio’s income? Check out Get Connected: Build Relationships to Drive Your Photography Business below:

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Mark Thackeray September 13, 2014 at 1:17 pm

Excellent article on the single biggest aspect of your photography business, in my opinion. Certainly quality product and service are a key component. But if you can’t reach the right market, does it even matter that you are great at what you do?

HUGE takeaway: Understanding the LIFETIME value of a client. This is something that has helped me better understand what I can afford to spend in order to acquire that client.

For example, in my business, I have seen that I can expect each of my clients to provide me with at least one referral that I will book within 3 year of their shoot. So instead of their lifetime value being only $3000, it automatically gets doubled to $6K because I can expect one booked referral from them in the next 36 months. Then there are obviously all the other opportunities for upsells as mentioned by the author.

Quick note about using Facebook, Magazines, etc: the media is NOT the issue. It is your marketing message. If you are targeting the right market (ideally a narrow niche) with the proper message (crafted specifically to that market based on their wants, needs, concerns, etc) then you will likely have measured success. From there it is up to you to evaluate and further tweak your ads to boost your conversion rate.

Excellent article and discussion! Cheers – Mark

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Mike Davis August 5, 2014 at 9:00 pm

Great post, I completely agree I always view my sessions as not only as a session but as marketing. You make the customer happy and they will tell their friends no matter what the session is for, weddings, family pictures, senior pictures, ect. Your sessions have to be a part of your marketing plan even if you don’t see it that way.

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Angela Armstrong April 19, 2014 at 5:58 am

good information

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Dan Waters September 27, 2013 at 11:10 am

Great article as always. Don’t forget the trash the dress session too. Funnily enough I just booked a divorce trash the dress session which was a first for me! I have to agree with Masana. Jason, you can’t rely on one source of leads (referrals). It;s like an octopus with one arm – it doesn’t catch many fish. That said, you don’t want to do 10 marketing activities half heartedly, it’s better to do 5 really well.

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Corporate Photographer August 23, 2013 at 9:29 pm

I agree with a lot of what was said in the article and also many of the comments. I likely re invest way more back into marketing than what I should be. Certainly spending more than 5% likely it is 10-15% some months. But I have an issue of spending money on marketing that is not working well. I try so many of the online marketing and ppc and seo companies to do the marketing for me. But they have seldom done enough to have a positive ROI. I still have found that developing relationships with vendors and direct WOM has been where my best highest paid jobs come from and they cost me very little in ways of vendor photos, and sometimes some really nice prints or photo books for them.
Can you recommend some effective seo / online marketing company that seem to produce the results that all of them promise too?

Thanks for your time

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G.E. Masana September 13, 2013 at 10:34 am

I think invariably at times we all put money or time into marketing that doesn’t work well. Nothing’s perfect. In this world we live in, it’s easy and common for things to break down, age, fall, get dirty or lose money. But to fix something, keep it young, climb up, stay clean and profit – that requires work! It’s backwards from how things ought to be, I tell you.

Seriously though, SEO has its advantage in bringing people to your site, in which you expect a portion of those people are potential clients. But SEO isn’t “marketing.” SEO is comprised of tactics to do one function: bring traffic. The real marketing is in what you communicate and to whom you communicate it to.

I can’t recommend any company per se but I’d suggest you look into known SEO strategists with the resume to back up their claims. Some of them have informative blogs and you can pick up some great pointers there.

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Dave Thielen August 18, 2013 at 8:20 am

While I agree that referrals are probably the most important part of any wedding business, I cringe everytime I see a comment similar to Jason’s because it shows a basic misunderstanding of advertising in general.

There is no question that proper newspaper and magazine advertising works. The problem isn’t with the medium, it’s with the message that most photographers put forth in their advertising.

In general a photographer’s print ad will consist of one or more pretty pictures and then their contact information and they only run it once, maybe twice and then call it quits because it’s not working.

Here are a few basic truths about advertising in general.
1 – repetition is far more important than size, so if you have a limited budget then a number of smaller ads are far more effective than one larger ad. If you are going into an annual wedding guide, then instead of taking out a full page, or a double page spread – run a series of 1/8 page ads on different pages.

As a general rule people need to see your business about nine times before they will be moved from somebody that has never heard of you, to somebody that will contact you. Unfortuneately the odds are that unless you have a really compeling headline and graphic they will only see you 1/3 of the time that you are in front of them. Which translates into 27 ads to start to see a response. The longer you run, the better your response begins to get.

2. Headlines count – actually the headline is probably the single most important part of an ad. So it needs to be compelling. How compeling? Well it should reach out to the target grab them by the throat, slam them up against the wall and yell “Pay attention to me”

3 – Graphics – pretty pictures are not enough. You need to couple a good graphic with some good body copy that gives the reader a number of reasons to call you.

4 – Urge to action – you have to tell the reader what to do – So pick up the phone and call today. – Go like my Facebook page – whatever. But you have to tell them what to do.

The above elements have to be in any print ad if you want it to be effective (as in make the phone ring) yet if you look at most ads for photography studios they have none of those elements, and then when it doesn’t work, they blame the medium.

2 –

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Cramer Imaging June 11, 2013 at 3:10 pm

That is well put. The referral contacts that you receive are of far more value than the actual booking is worth. The trick is to find the right advertizing to reach the base you want and then have the correct amount of money invested to benefit from the returns. This is a hazy and delicate piece of math and prediction. Thanks for putting it so well and so specifically.

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Elspeth April 26, 2013 at 10:34 am

Love it! Brilliant break down … and commentary on what it means to be a business person first, and second in order to equal your own success.

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G.E. Masana March 27, 2013 at 11:18 am

Jason, what you’ve described is about creating word of mouth (WOM) by exceeding client expectations and that’s terrific. It sure is part of the mix. But WOM can dry up from time to time because it’s totally dependent on outside circumstances. Eventually referral circles can also dry up as people move onto other stages of life, or move away, and no longer have friends getting married to refer. You can’t wait until the phones stop ringing to market. So investing a portion of revenues into marketing strategies today to keep leads coming in tomorrow is a prudent thing for any business to do.

Print advertising, Facebook ads, all that, are merely media, that which takes your message to your target market. There are those who do get results so it’s not because of the medium but because of the message and whether that’s aligned with the recipient. Whole ‘nuther topic.

What this particular article focuses on is to view your clients for the long term, and understand that value. It’s so often missed. We think in terms of only today’s booking and what that’s worth. When you start to see the long term potential of a client relationship it shifts as well one’s perspective from seeing marketing as an expense to that of an investment. In other words, I’m not marketing to get a one time wedding; I’m marketing to get a life long client.

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jason March 27, 2013 at 9:20 am

I`ve never really earmarked any monies from each individual wedding. I think more along the lines of what marketing I think is of value. For instance, I wouldn’t put any money into advertising in magazines or papers, as they don’t work. I don’t particularly think facebook ads work either. I would rather concentrate on perhaps giving more than what was expected to the married couple. If I have quoted them a price for my time plus an album, then I would deliver more, such as added extras like a canvas for their wall and some strut mounts to give to some of their family or friends. That couple are going to be very happy that not only have you met their expectations you have exceeded them. Then they are going to do your marketing for you.

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London professional photographer April 4, 2013 at 1:03 am

Absolutely agree with Jason. Here in UK the marketing for photographers follows different paths than in other parts of the world, especially USA.

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