Book Your First Elopements with These Marketing Techniques
January 7, 2021
In a market as saturated as wedding photography, beautiful photos aren’t enough anymore. But there are other ways to stand out—they just require intentional planning as you build or update your portfolio and website.
First impressions are extremely important. Before someone ever gets the opportunity to speak with you, they’ll look through your website and answer the question: Can this business give me what I want?
Optimizing the homepage of your website means crafting a space "above the fold," or the part someone sees without having to scroll or press any buttons. That space should answer a couple’s first question (“Is this someone who can help me?”) and lead them to your inquiry form.
We all love to hate social media, but complaining about the algorithm won’t build your audience. The most successful strategy that results in the highest quality inquiries is one that provides useful information for exactly the couples who would want to hire you for their elopement.
Social media is built in a way that encourages relationships, but also provides the opportunity to foster new interactions. Write captions in a way that educates but also opens the door for questions or reactions.
Getting creative with the images you’ve taken in the past, even if they weren’t actually at events like those you’re marketing for, is the cheapest and easiest way to immediately diversify your elopement portfolio.
One of the most common questions I hear from photographers is: How do I specifically market for and book my first elopement inquiries? You see, many photographers who have decided to niche down and focus on elopements already have the technical skills in their pockets to do the job. They simply need to bridge the gap and connect with clients who are interested in the service they can provide.
This is where things get a little harder for some photographers I know: We’re artists, and the number-crunching needed to grasp most marketing materials isn’t how we think. So, how does a creative personality develop an optimized marketing strategy that will bring in more inquiries?
The solution is threefold. First, optimize your website. In a market as saturated as ours, beautiful photos aren’t enough anymore. There are other ways to stand out that require intentional planning as you build or update your website. Second, you’ll want to utilize social media to connect with potential clients. Third, you’ll need relevant content to use in your marketing strategies that really attracts couples who are looking to elope.
If you follow the tips I’ve outlined below, you’re going to see a significant increase in the quality of inquiries you get, but you also might see an increase in the sheer number of inquiries as well! During the last two years of implementing these tactics, we’ve seen a 171% increase in inquiries (from 45 to 122 inquiries per month, in the last three months of 2018 and 2020, respectively).
Something I tell photographers all the time is that quality is more important than quantity. If you’re getting more inquiries than you need but none are booking, it would be better to get fewer inquiries and have a better connection with couples more likely to book.
1. Optimize Your Website for Client Inquiries
A beautiful website is not always effective. It is much more important that you prioritize the simplicity of a user’s experience over the design aesthetics.
Make a Good First Impression
The first impression someone gets from your business is often on the homepage of your website. Unless they are long-term followers of yours on Instagram, couples will discover your brand through word-of-mouth or internet searches that land them on your website homepage first. First impressions are extremely important! Before someone ever gets the opportunity to speak with you, they’ll look through your website and answer the question: Can this business give me what I want?
Even if you can technically provide the service a couple is looking for, your website has to prove it. You need to build trust and answer questions for this couple quickly. The average person spends only 15 seconds on a website before making the final decision to stay or move on. That is obviously not enough time for someone to read every page, dig through all your content and, ultimately, get the full picture. Instead, you need to build your website in such a way that couples don’t need to dig through every page to decide to fill out your contact form.
This isn’t the time to be “cutesy” and use language that isn’t straightforward. For example, if your contact button on your homepage navigation says “Let’s hang out,” that’s not clear enough for a couple to realize that is the button they need to click to inquire about your pricing guide. Simply saying “Contact” or “Inquire here” is a much clearer message. Don’t assume that an inquiring couple knows as much about the wedding photography world as you do. As obvious as a term might seem, you should define it on your website.
Prioritize Content “Above the Fold”
Optimizing your homepage means crafting a space “above the fold,” or the part of your site someone sees without having to scroll or press any buttons. That space should answer a couple’s first question (“Is this someone who can help me?”) and lead them to your inquiry form.
Your space above the fold is prime real estate. It’s the space where your first impression on a couple will determine if they dig deeper or leave. It’s where you have the opportunity to explain what you do and where a website visitor should go. This is the perfect place for a tagline that gives a clear picture of your services.
Provide Clear Calls-to-Action (CTAs)
You should be providing clear CTAs throughout your website. Think of every page scroll as an opportunity for a couple to bounce—they’ll either leave entirely, or decide to reach out.
For every scroll-length, I’ve provided a button or link within my website copy that is some variant of “click here to contact us!” In the same way that you want the first CTA above the fold to be painfully obvious, every other CTA throughout your site should be equally clear.
Lead them through your site. Make it clear that your goal is for them to fill out your contact form.
2. Hone Your Captions on Social Media Toward Educating Couples
Social media is an incredibly powerful marketing tool that I don’t believe enough elopement photographers are using to their advantage. Too many photographers are using their social media channels to talk about themselves.
An Instagram post is an opportunity to educate potential clients on all aspects of elopements—from what eloping really looks like, to how to begin planning, to the benefits of hiring a professional photographer. Again, don’t assume couples have hundreds of other photographers’ images coming up on their feeds. It’s entirely possible you’re the first elopement-specific account they’ve scrolled through.
If this is the case, what would you want them to know about elopements? How could you take them on a journey from being totally ignorant to elopements to deciding that is how they want to get married?
When clients are deciding who they want to photograph their wedding day, they aren’t deciding from your perspective. They aren’t looking at the minute details and differences between poses or presets. With the increase in accessibility to photography education and technology, more and more work is beginning to look the same. The fact is, most photographers simply don’t see the tiny differences between good work. They can see massive differences between styles, but ultimately, it’s going to be your message that sets you apart.
Social media is built in a way that encourages relationships, but also provides the opportunity to foster new interactions. Write captions in a way that educates, but also opens the door for questions or reactions.
We all love to hate social media, but complaining about the algorithm won’t build your audience. Instead, we’ve found that the most successful strategy that results in the highest quality inquiries is one that provides useful information for exactly the couples who would want to hire us for their elopement.
We write captions about everything from our favorite locations, to how couples hike in their wedding attire, to choosing the right footwear for an adventure elopement in the Colorado mountains. Whatever your specialty is, or what you want it to be, talk about that.
3. Create Relevant Elopement Content for Inquiring Couples
Before you can really convince someone you’re the elopement expert they need, you need to be able to show them. If you’re just starting out or switching gears professionally, a lack of content relevant to eloping couples can really hold you back from connecting with potential clients.
Repurpose the Photos You Have
If you don’t have the time or means to produce multiple elopement styled shoots, you can curate relevant content from past galleries. For instance, a photo of a couple getting their portraits taken at a traditional wedding can absolutely pass as content from an elopement. No one except you and the couple knows it was a bigger wedding! Getting creative with the images you’ve taken in the past, even if they weren’t actually at events like those you’re marketing for, is the cheapest and easiest way to immediately diversify your elopement portfolio.
Do Styled Elopement Shoots
When you are crafting styled shoots, consider ways to showcase events just like those you are trying to capture in real life. Create the totally intimate picnic setting and ask a couple to hike up a mountain with you. Prioritize real couples and diversity, so inquiring couples can see themselves in your work!
Styled shoots are the perfect way to develop a portfolio of work that showcases what you want to do. Couples planning real weddings and elopements might appreciate some input on their plans, but ultimately who books you and what they do is 100 percent up to them. You’ll never be as in control of how a real elopement looks as you can be during a styled shoot, so craft your dream events in this safe setting!
In Conclusion: Set Yourself Up as the Specialized Problem-Solver
Motivating a potential client to inquire about your services requires you to develop trust that you are the person who can fulfill their need, and you must communicate why you are the best choice.
To persuade someone to inquire or hire, you need to make it clear that it is in their best interest to work with you. Your website and social media channels are an opportunity to tap into the pain points that inquiring couples are experiencing and prove you can fix their problems.
A good trick I use when writing anything from website copy to Instagram captions, is to see whether I can replace “I” statements with “you” statements. As you write your content, ask yourself, What does this statement mean for the potential client who is reading this?”
One of the ways you can be extremely clear about how you’re the solution your couples are looking for is to specialize. Too many photographers are afraid that niching down will reduce their appeal to potential clients, but the opposite is actually true! Brands that are trying to do too much—who don’t have a clear specialization—can turn off clients who can’t answer the simple question of what you do. It’s extremely hard to speak directly to multiple target markets on one website or social media channel. Instead of appealing to more people, you end up appealing to fewer.
I’d encourage you to dig deep and do the work to discover a targeted niche and stick with it. Specializing in elopements was the best thing I ever did for my business. By clearly defining what I do for myself, I was then able to craft a plan that clearly communicated what I do for potential clients.
By following the steps outlined above and optimizing your website and social media to speak directly to your target audience, the couples who inquire with you will know exactly what makes your business perfect for them.
Maddie Mae is an adventure elopement photographer through her business, Adventure Instead, based in Colorado. She was named one of Rangefinder’s 30 Rising Star of Wedding Photography in 2018. Join a community of adventurous wedding and elopement photographers and take your business to the next level with tons of free trainings, collaboration and genuine connections by Adventure Instead.