Okay my friends!! Booking season (or at least, ENGAGEMENT season) is right around the corner!! At the time of this writing, Christmas is just around the corner, and we know that Christmas, New Years, and Valentine’s Day are basically a wedding vendor’s best friend. So today I want to talk about how to start booking more, and SPECIFICALLY, how to book more word of mouth referrals from your past couples, your couples’ families and friends, people at the wedding, and so on. My business has grown to a 6-figure business for 3 years in a row ENTIRELY from word of mouth referrals.
When I started my business, I did some advertising but once I started that first circle of clients, I treated them like GOLD and in turn, I’ve been able to literally DOUBLE my business and my bookings every year. (Until this year when I decided I definitely did NOT want 56 wedding in one year! Oh gosh- that sounds horrible!!!)
So without further ado, let’s dive into some tips for booking more word of mouth clients!!
1. SEND A WELCOME GIFT + WEDDING GUIDE
Right off the bat, let your clients know that you appreciate them and that you’re going to take care of them throughout their time with you. I send a welcome gift that goes along with my brand as well as my printed wedding guide that walks them through everything they’ll need to think about when planning their wedding with photography in mind. Tell them they should use the guide to reference questions about engagement sessions, planning their timeline, getting their details ready, and everything in between (even though you’ll be helping with all of those things) but this will be a great resource for them to use throughout their planning process.
I had an engagement session the other day and I gave my clients their welcome gift (because their session happened shortly after booking their wedding-normally it’s mailed to them!) and my bride exclaimed, “WOW! Laura!!! My brother’s wedding photographer definitely did not do this! This is so special, thank you for making us feel loved!”
That’s all people want right? To feel loved and heard and valued?
Pro tip: Go the extra mile and give them a welcome gift that’s personalized! I have my couple’s last name printed on the gift I give them, and it’s a HUGE hit.
2. HANDWRITTEN CARDS
Along with my welcome gift, and all of my other gifts throughout the process, I give handwritten cards explaining the gift and thanking them for letting me be a part of their wedding. I personally LOVE when I get handwritten cards, and have an entire drawer full of them from couples, friends, etc. so I like to think this makes them feel really special too!
3. EDUCATE YOUR COUPLES
You know SO MUCH more than you think you do. You do dozens of sessions and weddings a year so you know all the ins and outs of a wedding day. You know how long things should take, how to survive family portraits without stress, and how to prepare for an engagement session (amongst a million other things!) It is part of your job to educate your clients on everything you know so that you can build up their confidence in you AND create less stress for them. You can educate them through a series on your blog, through email if you have a newsletter list, through a wedding guide branded for your company. Your knowledge is SO vast in this field. You need to remember that they’ve never planned a wedding before, so it’s your job to help them through it!
A few ways to education them would be blogs, or emails on the following:
Pro tip: Build emails into your workflow that share these blog posts! I have my entire workflow and all these educational emails built into my HoneyBook* workflow and scheduled throughout my time with the client. The Stress Free morning post goes out about 2 weeks before the wedding, the engagement prep email goes out 30 days before their session in case they need to go shopping, and so forth. I write emails that just link to my blog posts on these topics!
4. AWESOME COMMUNICATION WITH CLIENTS
I’m going to tag a few ways that I think you can better your communication with your clients, and I’ve found that good (or bad) communication can really make or break an experience or client relationship.
So first, be personal! Every one of my clients knows that I consider them to be a friend. And I know this isn’t everyone’s business model and that’s okay! But what’s super important is that you communicate how much you care about and appreciate them. Get to know their story, their quirks, their relationship history, why they love each other, etc. And then use this to document their story and trigger how you shoot.
A few ways you can do this are by:
Keep them in the know. This goes hand in hand with exceeding expectations in a lot of ways (which I’ll get to in my next point!). But one way I do this is by sending an email out directly after a session or a wedding creating the expectations for their online gallery to be completed. I tell them that it will be no longer than 10 weeks to receive their wedding images and then I deliver them in 1 week. When I do deliver them, I give a little applause that they’re getting their images 9 weeks early!! This REALLY blows them away!
Be Proactive. This tip is gold, Friends. Although it may not seem like it. But this is so important!! One of the best things you can do to position yourself as an expert and professional is to answer your clients questions before they even have them! This means educating them on the things that YOU know about your craft and telling them so you can make their experience easier.
Pro Tip: I do this by creating a workflow that has all of the educational emails above, as well as emails explaining what to expect in the process. Example: An email goes out after they book that thanks them for booking and explains that they don’t need to worry about I thing! I tell them I’ll be sending out a questionnaire soon to learn more about their relationship, and that I’ll also be reaching out with an engagement session questionnaire so that we can start planning that!
Want to avoid the trial and error of creating an incredible workflow? I have my complete portrait workflow and complete wedding workflow waiting for you in the shop! Click here to explore!
*These workflows include a checklist of all the recommended emails you should be sending throughout your client process- from inquiry down to album delivery! Written emails not included in the workflow, but my email templates are also in the shop! View them all here!
5. GREET FAMILY AND WEDDING PARTY
I recommend showing up 30 minutes before you are scheduled to begin shooting. I take this time to unpack my gear without being frantic, but more importantly, to greet the couple, their families and their wedding party (and any vendors that are there!) so I can learn their names, find out what their relationship with the couple is (for wedding party members) and just start a conversation with them. This time is VITAL to the entire experience. I don’t want the day to continue and have anyone feel like I’m a stranger when I’m photographing them.
Pro Tip: Ask the bridesmaids to help you out with details, or finding a spot for the dress! Most of the time, they’re doing a lot of sitting around when they’re not in the hair and make-up chair, so they love helping and getting “jobs-to-do”! I also take this time to ask them if they have a date with them at the wedding and tell them to make sure to grab me at the reception for a picture of them together all dressed up! This one tip alone helped me book an $8,500 wedding package with a couple! She was the bridesmaid I asked to help, I took a picture of them at the reception, sent it to them, and a few weeks later when they got engaged I was their first call!
6. HAVE GOOD ENERGY
For this one I’m just going to copy and paste a direct quote from one of my bride’s so you can hear it from her! I asked her why she felt confident referring me and this was (part) of her response.
“Energy- your wedding day may be the “best day” of your life, but it is absolutely one of the most intense (positive or negative). Having calm, positive, confident energy around me was what kept me going and together. Confidence in your craft … Knowing that you as my vendor (and my new friend), knew EXACTLY what had to be done, that you were there to guide me, take charge, and take the weight of the day off of me during pictures was worth every penny. Your guidance was also so key leading up to our wedding and afterwards moving towards a beautiful album <3 My two best friends and bridesmaids didn’t need a huge push to book you and that all came back to energy- your interaction with our friends, family, and wedding party was familiar, warm and fun. I have been a bridesmaid enough times to know that wedding photo time can be a HUGE drag (and photographers can be assholes/meanies when trying to herd together a wedding party)… and your approach is unique and inviting.”
So there you have it! Have great energy on the wedding day. Nothingggggg brings down a wedding more than a negative attitude on a wedding day.
7. REFERRAL PROGRAM
I like to reward my couple’s that refer me to their friends, and while I don’t think they refer me because of my referral program, I do think it’s a nice perk and way to say thank you! For every referral my couples send me, even if they don’t book, they get $25 of print credit. If the inquiring couple books, the referring couple gets $100 print credit, or (3) 11×14 prints! You can create any type of referral program you want! It could simple by a $10 gift card to Starbucks, a discount off their next session with me (maybe an anniversary, family, or maternity session?!) or anything you can dream up!
And there you have it! 7 ways to book more word of mouth clients! I literally use these tips in my business all the time, and they have served me so well over the years, bringing in nearly 90 word of mouth clients over the last 5 years!
If you found these tips helpful, you might want to check out The Marketing Quickstart Guide for Wedding Photographers in the Shop! This is just a small snippet of what’s shared in there, and there’s about 70 more tips waiting for you in there! I cover everything from:
Check it out here!
I hope you have a WONDERFUL booking season!!