June 13, 2022
Wondering why planners aren’t referring you? Do you want to build connections with planners and venues so that you can get referrals?? There’s an art to really building up a referral relationship with these folks, so I’m going to share the biggest reasons wedding planners aren’t referring you —and how to get started so you can get referrals from them.
It all starts with the couple. Someone popped the question and someone said yes. What’s their first step? Is it calling a photographer? Typically…No.
Most of the time, your potential wedding clients start their process with either a wedding planner or a wedding venue. As a photographer, it’s really important to have good connections with planners AND venues in your area — because they’re your ideal client’s first point of contact.
There are a few ways that you can get on the referral lists of planners and venues in your market so that when newly engaged couples come to them looking for a wedding photographer, you and your services are top of mind. These probably aren’t what you’re thinking, though.
How do you get to the top of the referral lists for your local wedding planners and venues?
If you’re like most people, you probably think about getting them gifts, taking them out to lunch, or sending them marketing updates consistently. While these are great bonuses to show conscientious professionalism, it’s really so much simpler.
All you need is to show them you can do a fabulous job. Whether you work directly with them or your name comes through word of mouth, they really just care that, when they refer their clients to you, these couples will be in great hands.
What does it look like to let your work do the talking? Here are a few things that planners look for in wedding photographers.
When a wedding planner gives you a timeline, it’s imperative that you follow it. As artists, it can be so easy to think that we just need one extra shot or one more location. But those “one more shots” quickly add up, causing a delay in timelines. That will make the wedding planner’s job far more difficult.
Additionally, you’ll be setting the client behind on one of the most important days of their lives. Now, sometimes things do happen. If you know that something’s coming up that will be setting your timeline back, you need to communicate that to both the client and the planner in advance of the wedding day.
Always ensure that you review the timeline the moment the planner sends it over, and communicate if anything feels like a time squeeze, unrealistic, or goes against the creative image you and the client have discussed.
On the day of the wedding, I regularly check in with the timeline and make sure that I’m staying on target and on schedule. For the important moments, like the cake cutting or the first dance, I set a timer on my phone to ensure I’m always present for the important moments and keep the client or wedding planner from having to look for me.
Your most important task on the day of the wedding is to beautifully capture the important moments. But one way to go above and beyond expectations and give both the client and wedding planner the best experience possible is to look for ways to be helpful and supportive outside of the photo shoot.
Sometimes, little things will come up that won’t slow you down or prevent you from taking images, but they will really help the planner out. For example, if you’re walking to or from the wedding location prior to or after the event (when you aren’t planning on taking photos), and you see the wedding planner struggling to carry something… help them out! Or they might need help corralling people and members of their team.
Little things like this will make you stand out from the crowd of photographers and keep you top of mind on their referral lists.
Most often, clients hire a wedding planner before hiring a photographer. However, sometimes a previous client might refer you, and you’ll have prospective clients asking YOU for referrals to wedding planners. This is the perfect opportunity to create a reciprocal relationship and let your wedding planner connections know that you appreciate both their business and the referrals they give you.
While we’re photographing first and foremost for the client, every shoot you do is also for the wedding planner. Why?
Wedding planners are often in charge of the design of the event as well. As the wedding photographer, you’re not only giving the couple lasting memories, but you’re also giving the wedding planner marketing tools and photos to post to their social media feed.
If you don’t have the capacity to photograph the details of the wedding on your own, hire a second or third photographer that you can send ahead to photograph the details. This ensures that the design that the wedding planner is putting forward can be used in their own portfolio. It’s the greatest gift you can give a wedding planner!
Not every wedding planner in your market is going to be a fit for your work. Some will absolutely love it, while some won’t. One of the best ways to help bolster your referrals is to familiarize yourself with the planners in your area and connect with the ones who are in alignment with your photographic style.
Know what they like, what they look for, and the sort of photos they might need to add to their own portfolio. Sometimes, wedding planners might not be referring you simply because your work isn’t a good fit — and that’s okay! Invest yourself, your time, and your energy in planners who fit your style and who would love to recommend you to their clients.
When a planner refers a client to you, they want to know that the client (and the planner themselves) can rely on you to put out a product consistent with what they’ve seen online. That’s why it’s extremely important to make sure that the photos you put out online and in your marketing content are not only great photos but also have a clear and consistent style to them.
If your photos lack consistency, they can’t be 100% sure that your end product will fit the client and the style they have.
If you feel like planners just aren’t referring you, even if you fit their style and do a great job, it can be discouraging. Often, planners already have a history with other photographers in your area, and those photographers are simply top of mind for now.
But if you keep showing up, being consistent, and doing a good job, you WILL get noticed (even if your referral initially comes from the client and then boom! You have your chance to work with the planner). And when you do, follow the tips above and I promise you they’ll be interested in working with you again!
If you’re ready to learn exactly how to price yourself to stay competitive in your market and be paid well for your skills, then you’ll want to click here to access my grab my Pricing for Photographers mini-course.
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