Thursday, May 31, 2012

Business Day Thursday: Secrets of Booking Today’s Wedding Client - “The Psychology of a Photographer from a Marketing Standpoint”


Good Morning Everybody,

I am really stoked this morning.  A few days ago I received an email from Matt McGraw, one of the most talented wedding photographers east of the Mississippi, heck, one of the best anywhere. Matt and I have stayed in touch via email for a number of years – in fact he did a web program for our photography association a few years ago to “rave” reviews.


Matt sent me a quick note describing today’s wedding client and defining his new approach to booking the new generation of bride’s looking for photography services.  In today’s world of super connected everything and everybody, the new “playing field” demands a brand new approach in booking these new customers. But first, allow me to digress….

What Today’s Wedding Customer Wants

Modern CustomerToday’s customer wants to connect with someone on a more personal level before ever considering that vendor’s product and service.  For many photographers who have been running successful businesses for many years, that new customer has been quite elusive to book. The fact of the matter is that so many of the “old school” photographers failed to change with the times, that is to embrace what the new social media technologies bring to a company’s continued success.  Most of these companies have looked the other way hoping the whole Facebook,Twitter etc. thing would just go away.  Well, at 900,000,000 on Facebook and growing, that just is not going to happen.

On the other hand, many of the new wedding photographers are willing to settle substantially lower commitments from the bride and groom at $1,000 – $1,500. Sadly, many of the newly minted wedding photographers have difficulty building a sustainable successful full time business in this profession. Twenty years ago successful wedding photographers – full and part time - were averaging over $2,500 on nearly every event offering top quality product in a gorgeous custom bound album!  That’s an average most of today’s wedding photographers would “die” for.

What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate

FAilure to communicateWhat I see is a generation gap between photographers on one hand and wedding customers on the other. On one hand we have a group of photographers whose wonderful talents are lost on the new generation of brides and groom’s because, to borrow a line from the 1967 film Cool Hand Luke , “a failure to communicate.”  And on the other hand, we have the new crop of photographers that are really challenged to run a successful, ongoing business and only see contracting a wedding weekend event as “extra dollars” in their pockets.  The reality is that most of today’s wedding photographers are part timers, with little to no aspiration at ever turning it into a full time profession, who enjoy photography, and have week-end time available and enjoy the extra income from their event endeavors.

OK, let me say upfront – I am trying to make the point that the business has changed enormously in the past five years – lots of talented pros are out of business and lots of new shooters have little or no idea have to effectively sell their imagery. As a result, today’s bride settles for a lot less, let’s say, “Good enough photography” just to get the “booking chore” behind her. And today’s wedding photographers, most of them at least, will never create a successful, creative, vibrant, profitable, SUSTAINABLE business. There, I said it, now I’ll step down from my soap box.

DigitalProTalk Is A Wonderful Business Resource

Success tipsFor the last 5 years I have spent every Thursday sharing with our DPT readers tips, techniques, and strategies on just that – running a sustainable photography business.  Many have written and told me how the business advice has turned their business around.  Many others have told me how, because of the over 500 business posts that they have quit their day job and taken on their new found profession of photography full time.  For these realities I am truly honored. But that doesn’t mean that we resting on our laurels at David Ziser Photography either.

I too struggle with connecting with the new wedding client, but have been extremely lucky to have built up a very loyal following of clients over the last 25 years that continue to return excited about our imagery and photography. But what about so many other other photographers out there?  What about the “new kid on the block” wanting to kick start their business.  What about the seasoned pro who seems all hope is lost when trying to book today’s younger, more hip, super connected bride and is actually angered by that fact?

The “Must Read” Business Article Of The Year!

Folks I think a BIG part of the answer lies in Matt’s article below.  Please give it a read and then re-read it. The advice is golden for any photographer of any age wanting to not just connect with today’s wedding client but run a successful and thriving business as well – IT’S A MUST READ!!!!

Folks, please give it up for Matt McGraw, my guest blogger for today’s very important Business Day Thursday post.

“The Psychology of a Photographer from a Marketing Standpoint”… by Matt McGraw

I hate business meetings!!! 

With clients, new clients, potential clients, old clients, you name it I hate it!!… So I’m not a sales person you say. How in the heck do I have a business if I hate to meet with clients? After all, that is sales isn’t it? Well the bad, mean, and ugly word here is!?!?! … “BUSINESS!!”

You see I don’t meet my clients in my office. We meet at restaurants, bars, coffee houses. We meet on a social level, instead of meeting on a business level. Interesting eh? What I call this is social selling. Social selling!?!? What? Think about it, the world nowadays is all about?? … Social media, right?

The workshops regarding the selling tactics selling scripts etc. are a thing of the past.

Dead ideasOr they should be. You need to throw them out the door!!! Nowadays we know people we’ve never met. Why do we know them? Because of Facebook!!!! Everyone knows everyone… the 6 degrees of separation has really dropped down to the 3 degrees of separation. I can’t sneeze without 100 people telling me “bless you”. Take advantage of this my friends!!!

With social media, we can pre-qualify like we never have before. We’ve all been through workshops and they talk about the money pre-qualifying … blah blah blah… again throw that out the door. Pre-qualifying shouldn’t and isn’t about money anymore.

Let’s go through an inquiry I got a week ago or so…..

It’s a simple email that read…

I’m getting married October 20th, 2013 and want to inquire about your packages, please email me

We’ve all got this email…… Now a normal email back might be “Dear client thanks for inquiring attached are my packages…blah, blah, blah…”  People, that doesn’t work anymore !!!

You have to make it personal.

It all starts out with finding out a little about my client or who my clients are via certain phrases etc. WOW question is, What the heck can I pull from that?… SO what do I do? I cross reference the email address on Facebook and even went as far as a Google search. What I learned was by the 4 photos I was able to view on this potential client was that this client is kind of artsy, a little hippy, liked micro brewed beer from what I saw in a camping photo. So my impression was these were simple people not really into the whole big glamour wedding.

Matt4There was also a travel photo from Costa Rica! So they like to travel. I also noticed on her about page she went to UNC Chapel Hill. She is also local, from my hometown! I was able to obtain all this on her about page and by a few images on her profile pics. WOW!!! I have a foot in the door.

So below is what I wrote her…. Now remember all I got in this email was “I’m getting married on October 20th and want to inquire about packages”…

My response --

Hi Potential client,

Congrats on your engagement. I’d love to shoot your wedding!!! Below is a slideshow that features a few images from 2010 and 2011. And attached are a few recent images that are some of my favs!

DAZNOTE: Please hit this link above and enjoy some very inspiring and exciting wedding photography.

Can you meet sometime in the next couple of weeks? Idea - lets meet socially instead of a business setting. I can help you guys with your wedding. I know all the good guys in town – vendors, that is. I can also give you some suggestions like the do’s and don’ts and must do’s and try to avoids, and can probably give you some money saving tips…. Let me know. : )  Also forward this email to your fiancé… definitely want him to see my style… If you can lets meet at this cool pizza place I know. And chat it up about your wedding….

That’s it.  Keep in mind; I don’t want to mention to her yet that I’ve stalked her on Facebook…. So I made no mention of that….

Matt3When It Comes To Wedding Samples, Forget About The Classics!

Now the photos I included were a wedding photo of the bride and groom in sandals and his shirt unbuttoned her laying in his lap sort of laughing, a wedding couple that got married on a farm, a bride that wore a little makeup, or in other words a simple bride. What I wanted to show her were photos that she might like or relate to.  I did include a destination wedding photo shot in Italy, What I’m trying to do is put us on the same level. Keep in mind, I have never talked with this bride either. This is just from my glancing at the few photos she has on Facebook before I was friends with her on Facebook.

I got a reply back almost immediately, within 30 minutes

We’d love to meet with you!

We exchanged a couple of more emails to schedule our meeting, etc. I haven’t sent her a package attachment or anything yet.  BTW, we were all a go for the meeting!!!!.

We meet at the awesome pizza place in town. Why? Because they have great draft beer! Remember I saw a camping photo with good micro brewed beer. In the meeting we talk about everything and a wee tiny bit - get this … photography too.

You’ve Got To Talk About Them!

What we talk about is her wedding details, talk about family! That’s important! I gotta know the drama! There isn’t a wedding without drama right? We also talk about hobbies, etc., education… not what they majored in but where they went to school. The point here is I’m adapting to who they are….. and somewhere in there…. we’re gonna talk about photography. Now remember I haven’t sent her or talked about a morsel of a price. No packages or anything.

So what does all this do?… what this does is establishes that they can depend on me. I am their friend. I put their mind at ease as just not a photographer buuuut someone she can depend on someone that’ll make her smile when the goings tough. I will absolutely take wonderful photos.

Photography Is #2 With Today’s Clients!

It really comes down to the actual photography is the 2nd most important thing about your job. It’s about relating to your clients. Feeling who they are on the inside… I’m gonna be friends with them. I’m gonna know their likes, dislikes, their comfort levels! They can call me about whatever they want. Not just photography related…. Nowadays you can’t just be the business person making a sell. It goes way beyond that. It’s establishing a relationship from the beginning. It’s adapting to who they are inside.

Matt2I want to go a step further with my couple… she asked me about doing a bridal portrait. Of course I photograph bridal portraits. I gave her the run down of what the process is, etc.…. but paused a hot second and said. You gotta bring your mom. I’d love to meet her. You see, bridal portraits aren’t just about the photos. It’s also about the bonding experience between bride and her mother. She’s gonna tell her mom I said this.

What this does is let the “traditional” mom know that she has a role in this wedding. That we certainly want her to be involved and “I” as a photographer am gonna hand hold her. I put a positive spin on her roll. It’s hard for a mom. Her daughter is independent. How much will her daughter let her be involved? How much will the daughter involve her mother? It’s not easy on a number of levels.

Matt5A wedding can bring out the good, bad and the ugly. Mom expectations, daughter expectations of moms might be different… We as photographers have the opportunity to relax everyone and make all these family annoyances easier. You’re hand holding sort of during the whole wedding process and it really starts from the very first email.

Now on To The MONEY!

Notice I’ve talked little about the money aspect….. So I finally talked money at my meeting…. Oh my!!! their budget was only $1500….. I’m toast!!!

Guess what? I wasn’t and the budget for photography just went up 2 fold. They booked me on the spot and … they now know and I made sure they know that I was an important hire…. get this… I said “I” I didn’t say photography. I, as a photo psychologist, am the hire and not the photographer… : )

Matt, Matt McGraw Photography

Watch the slideshow right here to view recent Wedding Images!  : )

Folks, how about a great BIG Thank You to Matt McGraw and his very insightful article on booking today’s bride. Way to go Matt – keep them smiling!!!


Hey gang, that’s it for me today. I hope the sun comes up shining and you have a fabulous day.

I’ll see everybody real soon.

Adios,  David


  1. Thanks David and Matt. A lot of food for thought here even for my non-wedding business. Great information as always David!!

  2. Hey David, Thanks again for taken the time to blog...
    Matt, you information is up to date with today's clients. I will wait for part II ~ more commets about "the Now on To The MONEY!"... Have a Bless Day!!

  3. Do you show albums/packages when you meet at the Pizza place? How do the ("business") details of explaining the packages play out when you meet?

  4. A very good read and certainly something I will try! Thanks for sharing!