The High End Bride-More Trouble than it’s Worth, or Worthwhile? Part 2

Last week we looked at some of the benefits to marketing your photography to a high end bride  Today we’ll be looking at the other side, the cons of serving a high end clientele. We’ve built our studio around high end brides, and while it has its ups, it also has its downs. Consider these issues before you decide which market to go after.

High End Brides Have High Expectations

One of the things that is most important to consider before you even consider marketing to high end brides-can you perform consistently at that level? You don’t actually need to be a highly talented photographer, contrary to popular opinion. You can be “pretty good” and still get by. I’ve seen it many, many times. In fact, if you think of the “rock star” photographers, have you ever felt disappointed to see it was more “average” than “awesome”? That’s ok. Many photographers built their success on their marketing savvy and their personality.

However, you do need to be able to perform at a higher level consistently, and produce work that is consistently good no matter the circumstance. What I mean is that you have the experience to handle whatever comes your way. You can show your best wedding or your worst wedding, they both look gorgeous to an untrained eye.

Ugly venue? No problem, you’ll find gorgeous lighting somehow. Shutter stops working during the ceremony? Got a backup. Plus-size bride? You know how to make her look great. Hail storm? You make the most of it, creating moody images that the bride will love. Portrait time eaten away by a slow makeup artist? You’ll be faster and get those same shots in less time. With a smile, of course.

If you cannot perform consistently every time, you are not ready to go after the high end bride. If you book a high end bride from a highlights portfolio that is not consistent with what your average work looks like, you will live to regret it, believe me.

Smaller Client Pool

When you are servicing the high end bride, the simple fact is there are fewer of them. If you are the only high end studio in your area, great, those brides will have no problem finding you. But if you are competing with several (or several dozen) high end wedding photography studios, you’ll have to work harder to book them, and constantly stay ahead of the competition. This can be quite exhausting and requires a focused commitment of time and money.

Takes Longer to Build Up Clientele

One of the biggest challenges to going after a high end bride is that it takes much longer to build up a profitable clientele base. Because you are offering a more expensive service, there are fewer brides who can afford your services. Many of the traditional marketing methods will not work for you. Online ads, SEO, local advertising (search engine optimization), bridal shows, mass market wedding blogs and websites etc. will do little to nothing in terms of bookings. Even client word of mouth is much less effective, as all the brides friends and family are not likely to automatically be able afford your services. You’ll have more inquiries and consultations that end in no, as it turns out the bride cannot afford you. This means a lot more time spent dealing with leads that go nowhere. And let me just assure it, it doesn't matter how many times you ask the bride if she's looks at your packages, half the time the bride doesn't care about the costs, and so she sets the meeting hoping whoever's footing the bill will go for it.

As a high end wedding vendor, you are much more reliant on vendor marketing and referral lists, and these take time, often years, to build up. This is something that many new photographers don’t take into account. If you need to be profitable right away or within the first couple of years, you’ll seriously need to consider if this route is right for you.

Higher Costs & Time for Presentation Materials

When you are going after a high end clientele, you’ll need to present a high end experience to your clients. They need to feel the value in all the “extras.” All those presentation materials help to reinforce the value of your work and the good decision the client made to invest in you.  Everything from your studio says “quality.” The downside to this? It can become incredibly expensive and time consuming. Labs are always coming up with creative ways to offer us new high end presentation materials.

I have seen “couture” albums bags at over $50 a piece. When you add in custom proof boxes at $25, quality shopping bags, ribbons, tissue, nice boxes for prints, name brand waters for your consultations, etc. it adds up fast. And the problem is, as creative, we LOVE the packaging. So it’s easy to lose site of how it’s all adding up. Before you know it, you’re spending upwards of $100-$200 per client just on these extras alone. That’s a big chunk out of your studio profits. And it doesn’t end there. This kind of thinking can quickly get out of hand. You begin to think you need nicer clothing for your consultations. You need a nicer car to show up to weddings (even through they’ve already booked you by the time they see your car). Many “high end” wedding photographers unknowingly drive themselves right out of business as these costs simply sky rocket. So always keep an eye on the bottom line, and make sure your still profitable.

What do you think? It is worth it? Or is it more trouble than it’s worth? Let me know why or why not in the comments below.

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