Advertising for the Wedding Photographer Part 1 – Wedding Magazines
Lets talk ADVERTISING.
I’ve wanted to write this post for a while. But I wanted to make sure I’d exhausted all possible avenues before releasing it because what I’ve learned about the figures used to sell it, how it is sold, the perceptions people have about it, the mistakes people have made as well as the successes are worthy of not just a single blog post but several.
This is a chronicle of my (mis)adventures in advertising, It should save you money and if you’re in the position to spend out, it’ll help you make it go further.
First, some caveats before we continue:
1. This is based on my experience and mine alone. Everyone is different, everyone has a niche. Any information given is from my own personal experience. I’ll quote actual real statistical figures publicly available.
2. I’m not here to bitch. Seriously, I’m not. I’ve thought long and hard about mentioning names and companies involved and I’ve decided to do so when required. So if you’re reading this and your name is mentioned then sorry about that, please read point number 1.
3. I’m a firm believer in paying it forward. This whole photographer section of my blog is because when I started out people fell over backwards to help and assist me. So here I am, telling you about my mistakes so you can get to where you want to be quicker or at least with less financial grief. That’s all. Nothing more, nothing less.
4. This is something that nobody appears to talk about or more importantly….and I quite seriously believe…..are scared to. You don’t need to be and I want comments and interactions on this post. I want to believe that what I’ve experienced isn’t the norm. Prove me wrong.mo
5. These posts are subject to change. Young and old we’re always learning. I’m happy to be wrong and will adjust this post to suit.
Chapter 1: Wedding Magazines (You are here)
Chapter 2: Directories, Google and Facebook cold calls
Chapter 3: Google Adwords and Facebook Ads
Chapter 4: Social Media
Chapter 5: Wedding Blogs
Chapter 6: Facebook Groups and Wedding Forums
Chapter 7: Wedding Fairs and Bridal Shows
Chapter 8: What works for me
Advertising in Wedding Magazines, leaflets and printed media to promote your wedding photography. Spend: £2238. Ad cost per booking: £1119
As we all know, cold calls aren’t usually the bringers of good news.
If a service is worth having you wouldn’t normally expect people to jump out from bushes without warning selling you ‘widget x’.
That’s the first point. If something was really that good at generating business it would be talked about all over the place, Facebook groups, forums, Twitter and it would be talked about yesterday and already be over sold.
Not via a cold call at 9.45 whilst you’re signing for a parcel at the front door and your dog’s howling the place down to let me know someone is there.
And rest assured. In five years I’ve never had a call that was worth my while. Never.
Yet, they call, they grind you down and you think ‘I’ll give it a go’ and boom you’re in ‘Guides for Brides’ for a year. I believe in going hard or going home (sorry Will) in respect to advertising. I know how I look at magazines, (small ads will never catch my eye) so I paid £234 for a half page ad in Guides for Brides. Below is the ad I used:
As you can see, nice couple, not too busy or distracting. Details are clearly there and I had two enquiries from it (which would be ace if it wasn’t from other photographers wanting to assist me).
I get so, so many emails from togs starting out wanting to assist. This isn’t me beingshowy either. EVERYONE get’s them if they’re visible enough.
So that was guide for brides, nicest ad in their book, not a single result. POOF! money gone.
Next up was the Stylish Events Magazine which is handed out for 6 months at all their wedding fairs. For this I took out a full page A4 ad for £500. I no longer have the ad but as Stylish Events do a hefty amount of wedding fairs the magazine ad, whilst relatively costly had a targeted audience, was handed out to every show entrant and yet nothing came in as a result.
By this point many of you might quite rightly ask how I knew this. One thing I always do is qualify my sources of enquiry when I can. On my contact form there is the option to say where couples found me and also if it’s a direct call or email I’ll ask them at that point. So I almost 100% know for sure.
I also tried the ‘business cards in the bags’ at £50 per show and alas, nothing there either.
Lastly there was the biggie that is ‘Your Sussex Wedding’ – This has a range of my local competition advertising. So you’d think there must be something in it if they’re advertising month on month. One supplier stated they never got anything from it and that ‘magazine advertising is junk’… but that it’s ‘Good to be visible’ something which I’ll cover later at the end of this segment. Suffice to say the other advertiser said they received nothing from it either but the mailouts did net them something.
I was canvassed by Your Sussex Wedding and after repeatedly turning them down, I took on an ad. Essentially I shot this couples wedding (Elissa and Lukes Wedding) and they entered it as a feature. So I thought what the hell and placed an ad to run next to the four page spread of my photos.
Now, here is where it gets sticky. I got a booking. Ace.
From here I decided to up the ante and instead of the quarter page ad I thought I’d hit it with a half pager, same as the one I used in Guides for Brides.
Nothing. Now this ad was £702 for 6 months. Which says, features work, ads don’t IMHO which reflects my experience with blog advertising in Part 5.
From this I thought perhaps it’s not the media, maybe it’s me and Michael at YSW suggested my site was potentially putting people off and ‘was I using the mailers’? (They go to all the local wedding fairs an collect data from the couples there, I get sent the email address and mail chimp them via email). So no, I wasn’t mailing out to couples and tbh, my site was good enough to generate 54 weddings the previous year, prices hadn’t changed…anyhoo….
So I went and did some proper research, I contacted Tina Reading from Ultimate Wedding Mag and she helped to proof a new ad. She suggested a call to action, helped choose the photo and layout which resulted in this:
I also did the mailers, they used one of my photos on the cover (below), ran the ad for a further four months and spent several thousand on a new website (as it is currently today) guess what? Not a bean.
Then in an act of desperation (or moreover I’d just given up) I went for the shock factor that is the T-rex wedding meme of 2013 which has single handedly netted me a huge positive reaction anywhere it’s shown.
Yet, nothing…then suddenly…I get a legacy enquiry and booking from the older ad.
For me at least, print advertising sucks. I’m a very busy photographer, it’s not my work, it’s not my website. Out of £2238 paid I netted 2 bookings which means I paid £1119 per booking. This is an unacceptable cost to profit ratio. I may as well just halve my prices and sell myself on price. That’s the logic of it.
1. If a stranger is being paid to sell advertising space they do not have your best interests at heart.
2. Should small businesses and services even be advertising? Are you a person or a brand? A photographer isn’t Coca Cola. The continued exposure doesn’t have a cumulative effect other than your bank balance goes down in a consistent fashion. Branding is something more prolonged than the few months it takes to source a wedding photographer.
3. Magazines are something that get stacked up, kept and handed down. Who’s to say what enquiries I might receive a year or two down the line. But the above is where I am right now. As I said at the start I’ll edit this if it changes.
4. Don’t believe the hype. Don’t assume anything. Just because someone advertises somewhere doesn’t mean to say it works. It often means they have a budget to dispose of. Or they have cash to burn. Or they’re sadists.
5. Use due diligence. If someone is selling you space, PARTICULARLY via phone, be it a magazine or advertorial and they are that serious they will send you an example spread, either via PDF of post. This is GOLD and a great way to find out how good their claims are. Just pick up the blower and ask the advertisers. I’ve had people do this to me and I’m more than happy to help.
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