When Susie and I examined our options for jump-starting a wedding photography business, there really wasn’t a lot of help out there. All the available advice was about leveraging the clients you already had … which didn’t apply, because we didn’t even have any leads. The only option we saw for getting clients quickly was a bridal show. We didn’t relish the work or expense involved, but we can honestly say that it would have taken far, far longer to start our business without these shows.
We attended two bridal shows and booked 8 weddings off those shows at the prices that we had pre-determined to be right for us and our business. Just one booking covered the costs of the bridal show, so the bridal shows were absolutely profitable.
‘Go Big or Go Home’
This advice from Salle Photography rang in our ears as we planned for the show: “Go big or go home.” You HAVE to stand out and give brides a sense of place.
We hired (actually we bartered services) a friend of ours with a knack for interior design. She shopped with us for some rental furniture and helped us come up with absolutely amazing designs for the booth. The morning of the shows, she came along and helped us setup. Our booth was more like a living room than a booth – it was cozy and inviting and pretty. Here are the two looks:
The experience taught us two lessons:
1. Have a Plan to Engage Brides
Our plan was to approach a bride and to offer her a chance to win our prize (a $100 Victoria’s Secret gift card) if she would respond to a few questions. The questions included basic information and then three additional questions that were designed to get them thinking about photography in general and our photography in particular as very important . We took notes on our responses that we could use in follow-up
2. Try to book a meeting right there
After asking our three questions, almost all of the brides had really warmed up to us, and we asked if we could schedule a consultation. Many agreed there on the spot – make sure you have a calendar ready and have marked out the dates you’re available to meet! We found the brides who booked appointments on the weekend were much more likely to cancel than those who had booked during the week. I don’t know why, but that’s how it was with our experience. Follow-up within a few days of the bridal show with a confirmation email, then follow-up again the day before the meeting.
Finally, follow through – now we could finally apply all the advice we got about creating a great experience for our leads and clients. From those weddings, we formed relationships with venues and vendors, and started a referral program, and booked 12 weddings our second year with no bridal show at all.