How to Fish for Brides ~ Without Advertising

Mar 11, 2009 | Business, Wedding | 13 comments

Marketing is one area of a photography business that isn’t easy to grasp. Other tasks like taking pictures, making albums, doing sales, generating invoices and filling in tax returns are all tangible activities that deliver predictable results. Marketing however is a big grey area that is hard to quantify. It is the uncertainty of results that make it the most challenging sector of a retail photography business.

There are several truths and a few rules to marketing:
• There is nothing new in marketing, the techniques used just go in and out of fashion. We can all learn from, and use marketing systems that have been around for literally 1000’s of years. So keep your eyes and ears open for compelling marketing strategies and ask yourself can I use those in my business?

• We can buy ourselves leads using clever and expensive advertising or we can earn leads in many other ways by investing our time. We have to weigh up what is our most abundant asset, time or money, and steer our marketing effort to our available resources.

• Marketing effectiveness is directly proportional to levels of action or activity invested. Here is an example of this in it’s simplest form – if one advert generates 5 wedding enquiries that eventually convert to 3 wedding bookings, and we need 30 weddings for the season, we know we will have to place 10 adverts to meet our target.

• It is vital that we repeat our marketing successes and not our failures. So we need to test and measure everything we do. I would suggest that it is wise to concentrate most of our marketing activity on proven methods for maximum effect. Leaving marketing to chance can be a costly mistake. Always keep your mind open to new marketing ideas. Dip your toe in and test the results before committing lots of resources to unproven methods.

A lead generated by marketing effort must be filtered before it becomes a prospect. The filters are: Your product price, your availability on the wedding date, your photographic style, and your personality compatibility. You certainly don’t want to attract a potential client you dislike or one that doesn’t love your style of photography.

Here is a quick note about product pricing…

Ensure that your prospects can really afford your products and there are absolutely no price objections. It’s easy to lure people into buying a low priced package that includes just a few pictures hoping to up-sell more pictures at a later stage but my experience has shown it is better to quote for the best album including the number of pictures the client ought to be buying. Aim high and fill your diary with just the clients that won’t have a financial stretch at the viewing stage. By quoting high you are likely to generate far fewer leads for the same marketing effort but at least you know each one is worth having as a client.

It’s a wasted opportunity and commercial suicide to shoot a wedding on a key Saturday in August only to find that of the 300 wonderful pictures you show your clients at the viewing they can only afford to buy 80.

Just because we are in a global depression it doesn’t mean you have to trim back your top packages. The sales of BMW ‘M’ cars (the most expensive range) went up a staggering 50% in 2008 and Mercedes AMG sales (again, the most expensive ones) went up 19% in 2008 while the mainstream car industry was in sharp decline. {Source ‘Top Gear’ magazine March 2009 p39}

Once you have a qualified lead or ‘prospect’ it is up to the sales process to convert that prospect into becoming a customer. Marketing uses many strategies in simultaneous action. This is called the marketing mix.

Raving fans
In order to create a sustainable business that is not dependent on a massive marketing machine you need to give your clients the ‘wow factor’ at every contact. From their first glimpse of your advert or visit to your website your clients need a continual supply of ‘oh that’s nice’ moments. A wow is absolutely fundamental to a business that serves an army of raving fans. These raving fans will become your core clients and will ensure that you are successful for a whole generation by providing you a constant stream of referrals.

There are no excuses for not exceeding your customers expectations. It’s often the small things that make the difference.  Nice soap in the loo, fresh coffee presented beautifully, a friendly smile and a sense of fun are all key elements in creating a desire to return in the future as a repeat client. A clean car, a sharp suit, and smart premises all impress your clients too.
If you can’t deliver the wow within your own resources then use someone else’s. When I worked from home, I used to buy a cheap day return train ticket to London and used the lounges of 5* hotels to meet and greet my prospective clients. You don’t want happy clients; you want delighted ones. A delighted client is keen to recommend you and asking for referrals is a simple process without feeling pushy. The delighted clients eventually become raving fans after several great photo shoot experiences and further referrals just keep coming.

It’s all too easy to focus all your marketing budget on advertising. How to advertise is a massive subject in it’s own right, so here I’m going to consider the other big option – networking.

Networking is a time hungry and relatively cheap process. It certainly pays to cross promote your brand with other wedding and retail suppliers. A good place to start is to ask your existing clients what suppliers they are using. It may surprise you to find that the same names keep cropping up. An initial telephone call will open up opportunities. Here is an example for wedding photographers.  “I understand from my client, Iona Ferrari, that you are the florist for her wedding. She is so excited about your creative ideas. I would love to come and see you. Can I treat you to lunch next week?” Have a clear objective of what you want to achieve at the meeting. Before the appointment, write down on a sheet of paper an ideal outcome, then a worst-case scenario. Detail any ‘history’ you may already have, shared past clients, venues and so on. It’s always good to reinforce your mutual alliances in this way. Think through what you can do for the florist. Perhaps you can offer him or her complimentary pictures of their flowers from every wedding you work on together. If you have yet to work on a wedding, then offer them a half-day photo shoot to revamp their brochure. Your name will be credited on their website and in the brochure that goes out to all their enquiries. In return ask them to mention you to all new leads. The process of shooting a brochure should be a fun rapport-building exercise. Do this type of networking with as many partners as you can. Always be sure to make detailed notes after each meeting and use the information wisely. Soon, your name will be the talk of the industry.

Dress designers love photo shoots. Offer your services to them, get into their brochure and get mentioned in their store. A simple letter after a wedding saying ‘How lovely Iona looked on Saturday. Your dress made her sparkle and it shows in my pictures. Please accept these pictures on CD with my compliments. I have checked with Iona and she is happy for you to use them for marketing purposes. Please credit me if you use them, Thank you.’ Then follow up a week later with a call. The object of the call is to arrange a visit to their shop. If you get on well with the designer and they have lots of wall space above the hanging rails, offer to give them display materials with cross branding.

Brand Association
Another marketing opportunity is to associate your company with another strong brand. We did this in 2005 with both Estée Lauder and You and Your Wedding magazine. The exercise started with a trip to London where I took the editor of You and Your Wedding magazine to lunch. Other team members joined us and we brainstormed the whole idea. Carol Hamilton, the editor at the time, managed to get Estée Lauder on board as they were launching a range of bridal cosmetics, and we provided the prize. The system was simple: we ran a joint competition to find the ‘UK bride of the year’. The payback was enormous credibility through association with a top international brand, while the massive exposure generated in the media and in over 100 stores gave our own brand yet another boost.

When you reach the point of generating all or nearly all of your business by referrals from raving fans and editorial exposure you have cracked the marketing system. This will happen if you build your business on trust, honesty, integrity and wow.

Damien Lovegrove.

Why not join us on the next Evolve training programme and see your profits leap into life. Email Laura for more information.


  1. Fiona Campbell

    Hi Damien

    I was wondering, do you and other contributors have favourite companies that you’ve found reliable and good for printing marketing materials? I have used Sim 2000 and found them to be very good for cd sleeves, I’m also addicted to, a very reliable company who do multiple image business cards and mini cards and such. At the moment I need to sort out my post production presentation products, such as CD cases, compliment slips and so on. Inspired by this article on, I want the unwrapping of my wedding products to be an exciting moment and part of the marketing of my brand. I was wondering who other photographers use and recommend?


    • damien

      It’s a good question Fiona. Most high end shooters have their own bespoke packaging and marketing materials. The companies you mentioned are mainstream and widely used by the majority. Our DVD boxes are bespoke etc.

  2. damien

    Thanks Mike,

    Get off to a great start and when you need the extra push or advice on which path to take you know where to find me.


  3. Mike Adams

    Hi Damien,

    Here’s proof already that I followed up your advice.

    I am deepy impressed by the quality of your website blogs and looking forward to putting some of the ideas into practise for a turbo charged 2010. I particularly like the statement “build your business on trust, honesty, integrity and wow”. That’s a great antedote to cynicism and is my bible.


  4. Denz

    If you target cheapskates you get cheapskates – as I was memorably told once.

  5. damien

    Hi Bob,

    Thanks for your enthusiastic comment. Monitor calibration and preparing files for print is a big subject and one that needs a video rather than words alone. We will shoot the video this year for sure.

    I’m glad my post triggered some activity. Great ideas are not thoughts they are actions.


  6. damien

    Thanks Christine and Kevin for your words of wisdom.

    Hi Luis,

    I would use the words ‘reassuringly expensive’ to describe my products and services. The language of retail is very important and I feel a blog post coming on just that subject.

    Great comments, Thanks.

  7. Luis

    One more thing… IMHO, referencing “Top Gear” in a blog post about marketing is brilliant in my book. Cheers!

  8. Luis

    Thank you again fr the insights Damien,

    Your point about filtering your clientele is refreshing. I like the idea of tailoring your services to the the needs of your client (it seems so elementary now that I wrote it :) but many seem to automatically start at the bottom or the top of their package offerings and then concede down or up sell their clients to another offering that is almost certainly uncomfortable for them.

    I am thinking that staying squarely within your client’s financial comfort zone is key to gaining referral business and staying profitable. If you are pushing the upper bounds of that zone, the perceived value of your services is diminished and you’re labeled “expensive” (which I’ve always considered a term reserved for things one can’t afford.) Underpricing is a different issue entirely, IMHO one should always avoid being labeled “cheap,” regardless of the circumstance. If I were able to choose the words that client’s use to describe my services when being recommended, I think I would choose…

    “Worth every penny.”

    There’s a sense of value and satisfaction in that phrase that makes me think of it as a goal to strive for. What are your thoughts?



  9. Coventry Bob

    Great ideas again Damien – just got off the phone after reading this blog and I’ve agreed to do a live photoshoot at a wedding fair. We think it could be a first for the Midlands so perhaps I should have patented the idea. The organiser is really excited and I’m really outside my comfort zone so should be a good session.
    Spoke with Marko at the NEC and we discussed Monitor Calibration and working with the guys at ProAm Imaging – could this be a subject for a future blog?
    Excellent work as ever.

  10. Kevin Mullins

    Great post Damien. I recently read a book called the 22 Immutable laws of marketing and whilsta little dated, the concepts really do apply to wedding photography. A lot of your advice reflects those sensible points. Thanks again for being such a good resource.

  11. Christine Boulton

    Damien, I couldn’t have said it better myself. Your thoughts on networking are spot on. If you can find a wedding and event association in your area it makes the process even easier.

    Another point on that is to be sure and add detail shots to your blog and highlight/link to the vendor that created that detail. They will love you for it and reciprocate in their blog.


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