Let’s face it, marketing your wedding venue can be hard. When you ask most successful wedding vendors how they grew their business, the most common answer you’ll get is “word of mouth”, but that’s not always entirely the way. In fact, I recently stumbled upon George Street Photo and Video, the largest wedding photography company in the United States and I realized that a huge part of their marketing budget is something anybody can replicate. George Street Photo is an interesting case study because in about 10 years time, they went from 3 young guys in a basement apartment, to the leading photography company in the US, doing about 8000 weddings and over $20 million a year (they charge $2500 a wedding). Given that they book so many weddings, one thing is for sure: we can all learn something from their marketing strategy. This strategy can work very well for venues like yours. The businesses are different – the marketing is the same.
After I discovered this company I immediately became curious. How did they do it? As they say, success leaves clues and I knew that with some careful detective work, I would be able to uncover at least 75% of their marketing strategy. It took me quite a few hours to uncover what I believe to be the majority of their strategy, but I think I have it mostly now and I want to share how you too can marked like the nation’s largest photography company.
Note, this blog wasn’t approved by George Street and I haven’t contacted them to see if they are in agreement with my research. It is just what I found when I personally did some research into them online and is designed for educational, entertainment purposes only. There is of course a chance they do other things I am not aware of.
Without further adieu, here is the list of how I believe they get 8000 wedding bookings a year:
1) Google Adwords
I began my search by looking for “City + Wedding + Photographer” in google (I used google chrome’s incognito to get more accurate results). I tried Austin, San Diego, Seattle, and Kansas City. For each search I did, I always saw a city-specific advertisement for George Street Photography at the very top of the search results. They offered $500 off any one of their photography packages and also gave a deadline as to when the sale was ending right on the ad. They also included the chance to win a free photography package on their ad. I also noticed Complete Weddings (another national franchise) was using google adwords in much the same way. If these big companies are spending the money here, then the chances are high that the advertisements are working.
2) The Knot “featured listing”
I found that they had a knot featured listing (showing in the top 3 search results) for wedding photographer in the Knot on every single city I searched. The Knot was also showing at the top of the google search results for every single city I searched. I feel confident that this means a lot of brides are going to the Knot after googling wedding photographers in their area. After they click on the Knot, the top listings are getting the most clicks. I found that they used the Knot so much that it must be a major part of their marketing strategy. They also had over 1700 reviews on the Knot when I checked, showing me that they had invested a significant amount of time (as well as a lot of money) into this marketing channel.
3) WeddingWire National listing
I found that they also had a WeddingWire listing but to my surprise, they only had one listing, unlike the Knot where they had many. As well, I didn’t see WeddingWire as high in the search results as the Knot for the cities that I searched. Having said that, I did notice they had over 1500 reviews on WeddingWire and this made me assume that it was a national listing, though I could be wrong. I didn’t find any evidence that they were paying for WeddingWire though, so this made me believe it was a far less important part of their marketing strategy than the Knot or Google adwords.
I’m not sure if their listings are paid or free but I did find Yelp pages for nearly all of the cities I searched. Each yelp city page for their business had anywhere from 3-30 reviews. I also noticed that they took the time to personally respond to every single review on yelp, whether it was good or bad.
5) On-Page SEO – Targeting Local Venues
On their website, I did a quick search of their site map to see the types of pages they were creating. I noticed that they had a webpage dedicated to every single city they provided their businesses services in. As well, I noticed that for each city, there was a link to venues that they had worked at before. When you clicked the link to the venue, it would show pictures of weddings at that venue, the venue’s address, a map to the venue and a link to the venue. I thought this was very smart because it means that when bride’s to be are searching for a specific venue in their city, the photography company’s website would also show up, getting some extra clicks from brides who might have missed them. Having said that, I almost never saw this company rank for organic SEO search results for the first 10 pages when I searched “city + wedding + photography”, which I also thought was smart. Why spend all the time trying to rank for the main keywords when you can pay the Knot and Adwords to do it for you? Instead, spend your SEO energy on long tail, easy to get keywords that you know brides are also searching.
6) On-Page SEO – Targeting Engagement Locations
Just like they blogged about wedding venues, they also had countless blogs about engagement shoot locations in the various cities they are in. This helped them rank in long-tail search results but also positioned them as experts AND created content brides were already looking for.
7) Facebook/Website Contests
I read in some of their Yelp and Knot reviews that their past brides found them through contests on Facebook and their website. As I mentioned, their Google Adwords campaign mentioned a contest to win a free wedding and I have no doubt they ran similar contests through their Facebook page and Facebook ads after reading the reviews. Brides can’t resist the chance to win photography for free and so they enter the draw. The company though gets way more leads through running the contest than they would normally get, as even if the brides don’t win, they can still be contacted with another offer that is still enticing.
8) Style Quiz On Website
If you visit their website, you’ll see a link to a “Style Quiz” in the top menu. It’s actually the first thing I noticed when clicked on the link to their site. What’s fantastic about this is that basically every bride wants to take a quiz about what their style is. Planning a wedding is so much work and any way you can refine what you are looking for (even in your own mind) is worth doing. It’s kind of like a quiz in Cosmo magazine. It’s fun AND informative. In order to access the Style Quiz though, you need to enter your email. Every email that gets entered becomes a lead and therefore someone they can try to sell a wedding to. It’s a smart way to capture more leads than the average website.
9) Special Deal/Discount Pop-Up on Website
As soon as you land on their website there is a pop up, asking you to submit your email to enter a contest, win a special deal, get a discount, etc. You can setup your own popup like this through sites like www.convify.com (free) or www.sumome.com (paid) to capture the emails of people who visit your site. You are far more likely to capture emails this way than the standard/traditional contact form and they know it. Once you have the emails, they can contact the leads directly to arrange a call or consult, or they can send them additional email marketing to warm them up for a sale through sending the brides educational information and building trust.
10) In-Person Consultations
This one blew my mind more than anything else they did. I noticed they have inside sales reps who are based in their office and handle inquiries via telephone and email and that seemed pretty normal. But what really shocked me was that they over 100 (yes 100) in person sales reps who are paid roughly $15 per hour to go and meet couples in person at various Starbucks shops in the cities they operate. You can schedule a meeting in a matter of seconds right from the homepage of their website on the top menu. You just click schedule an appointment and then enter your city and you see some available times. Then, it emails you to confirm and also lets you know who you’ll be meeting with. You don’t meet with the photographer however, just with a sales rep. I read a little bit online about their in person consultation and I learned that they have a 3-day contract expiration to add a bit of pressure to make a decision and buy. I thought it was a great idea as most of the time giving more time just means couples will have more time to talk to your competitors and change their mind. As well, they bring a look book to the meeting and you get to know someone from the company which builds trust. They wouldn’t be paying over 100 people $15 per hour to do consultations if it wasn’t absolutely necessary and effective, I can guarantee you of that, so this strategy really sent home the power of consultation-based selling for me.
Bonus! – Following Up
I read that they follow up with brides A LOT. I’ve said it before but I’ll say it again, companies that are successful follow up more. If you aren’t following up at least 5 times, then your competitors are. Throughout my life I’ve learned by watching what the big companies do, because they have their systems dialed. So if this huge photography company is following up 5 times, you need to do the same. In fact, you probably need to follow up 10 times. In all of the reviews I read on this company, not a single bride I found complained that they contacted her too much. I know they use Salesforce, which I budgeted for my own company a couple years ago at $2500 per month to automate their follow ups. Luckily for you, you can use www.eventtemple.com for only $40 a month to automate yours and you’ll have a more modern, easier to use product to work with that is just as powerful.
So to sum up, you may not want to grow your company to this size, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t learn from them. What I loved about studying this business is that so many small wedding business owners just starting out can copy these strategies for as little as a thousand dollars. Most people in this world have the ability to save that much money up. If it works for them, there is a very good chance it will work for you as well. Whenever you see a great big company doing something across a variety of cities, they just took the guesswork and risk out of your marketing. You can be sure that it works. You even know how to run campaigns as effectively as them.
I hope this article helps you take your wedding business to the next level!