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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