Advertising for the Wedding Photographer Part 2b
Advertising with the Hitched.co.uk Wedding Directory
In this section I’m going to talk about my long term results from using Hitched to obtain bookings for wedding photography.
Chapter 1: Wedding Magazines and Print Advertising
Chapter 2: Directories, Google and Facebook cold calls
Chapter 2b: The Hitched.co.uk Directory – You are here
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
It seems like at least once a week I get cold called to register my business as a listing with a directory that’s popped up out of nowhere and in almost every case the directory just sits there, lacking investment to gain any traction and never growing big enough to be a relevant website. There’s a lot of fly by night directories.
Hitched.co.uk isn’t like that though, they’re massive. I was with them for over 10 years. If you’re considering using them read on.
There were a few reasons I used Hitched:
- Exposure. I felt I had to be advertising SOMEWHERE and visible in places other than Google.
- I liked the idea of having a backup source of revenue in case my other sources dried up and I had to drop my price by a lot.
- Hitched is generally at the top or near it for every Googled search term ‘Wedding Supplier in xxxx’
- I preferred to throw some money there so I didn’t have to sell my soul on social media.
10+ years is a long time to be with Hitched and for the most part it ‘just’ about paid to be with them. As of right now though it no longer is. Certain changes over the years have come in that just gives paying them any more money a great big thumbs down and certain things, simple, obvious issues are being ignored.
Listing on Hitched is itself a fairly easy process. You pick the areas you’d like to show up in, pay your fee and the algorithm shows you in rotation in that placement unless you pay a different rate for premium positioning. Nothing too special there. This is always put in place via an account manager vs a simple pick and pay signup process.
Where things start to come unstuck though is the way the enquiries from the couples are served and the admin side for the supplier dealing with them.
The problem with Hitched.co.uk enquiries:
When you have a (paid) listing on Hitched couples can either contact you through the Hitched website itself via something called an RFI (Request for Information) or directly through your website. Website enquries are always preferred because the couple will have had the opportunity to explore your work beyond the basic information shown on Hitched because they’re right there. On your website.
Most of the time though enquiries come as RFI’s and the RFI’s have a problem as they are auto completed nearly every time.
The only mandatory information that comes through on a Hitched RFI is the name of the person, their registered phone number and the date of their wedding. Other than that, the opportunity to fill in details like where they are actually getting married is completely absent. As far as first contacts go, it’s very impersonal and because the required information I need to quote them is completely lacking I can’t really respond to them with anything of value.
As a result, nearly every supplier receiving an RFI has to email back asking for more information. This would be a simple fix. Just tell us where the wedding venue is and if they don’t have one, tick a box that says ‘no venue yet’. Every supplier would be grateful. Frustratingly and against common sense, it’s mandatory for every enquiry to put their phone number in, but not the venue.
Here’s three variations on a Hitched RFI enquiry:
We’re planning our wedding and would like more info about Chris Giles Photography. We’re getting married on 18/06/2022. Could you please send more info about your wedding packages and services?
We are currently planning for our wedding on 28/09/2023 and would like to learn more about your business. Could you send us some additional information? Thank you!
Hello! We’re getting married on 02/04/2022 and would love to get more information about your services. Looking forward to hearing from you!
The quality of Hitched.co.uk enquiries:
My listings were for the Topslot in London and a National listing. I considered my listings the best Hitched offered for coverage and exposure considering the localised demographic. I was spending £250 a month, so £3000 a year and had, in my final year, 392 enquiries through Hitched.
392 sounds good, and it would be, if the quality was there. Out of all those enquiries I received 8 bookings and most of those came via my website.
This equates to £375 per booking and for me that’s really poor. I also factored in ‘Google’ as a source of enquiry / booking where there wasn’t a specific modifier, like ‘Googled Weddings Cripps Barn‘.
Cost per booking aside, the main issue I want to discuss here is the terrible enquiry / booking ratio. With any other source of enquiry my booking ratio is more like 3:1 but with Hitched it was around 50:1
Here is why I think this happens:
When a couple send an enquiry via Hitched the next screen allows you to contact six other suppliers at once. Then after that, another six, ad infinitum. One enquiry can easily turn into 6+ and no supplier I speak to likes this or the idea of it.
It makes the process soulless and wedding suppliers aren’t toasters. Don’t get me wrong, I want (decent) enquiries but if a couple looks on Hitched, sees someone they like only to be spammed by other suppliers they’ll probably just nope out due to the sheer number of replies, follow ups, texts and phone calls from them due to being overwhelmed. Meaning the person they originally contacted gets drowned out. Not only that, for those who reply via the Hitched admin panel the couple get a nag to reply to the suppliers reply about 48 hours later. That’s a lot of admin to put on a couple.
It’s been this way for years. It’s also a great way for the sales team to propose how well your listing is doing and also bad for yourself because you question your sanity as ‘nobody is booking or even replying’. Most Hitched vendors I speak to are not aware of this being a thing and are surprised when they find out. Well, it’s a thing.
Is anyone there? Hitched RFI’s responses:
Whenever I reply to a Hitched enquiry through my website they nearly always come back to me. When they come directly through Hitched though it’s hardly ever. On the surface, arguments can be made that my price is too high or too low and I have taken this on board. So to factor this in, and because couples never send any information through other than just the date, I reply like this:
Thank you for emailing me about your wedding.
I am available on your date but as I travel all over the UK prices vary depending on the venue location, as well as the ceremony start time (if known).
If you could please let me know the above details, I’ll be able to quote you.
Kind regards to you both,
If these were motivated, serious enquiries I would get a reply but out of 100 RFI’s where I ask for further information in order to answer their initial enquiry I get 8 replies. That’s a 92% ghosting rate. My emails are tracked so I know they’ve been received. I’ve not said how much I charge for pricing to be a modifier, yet, no reply.
Why is that? Could it be they’re overwhelmed by the number of replies they’ve got back from sending out so any generic emails via Hitched in the first place? Possibly.
Another reason this sort of bulk communication is bad. We have to respond to them all.
We’re told in business to respond as quickly as possible to enquiries as this increases the chances of getting a booking and generally this is correct. But if you get 60+ enquiries directly through Hitched in a month all at random points during the day you are constantly going back and forth to your computer to respond to them. It puts you in a constant state of alert only to be (in my case) ghosted 92% of the time. That’s frustrating and bad for your mental health. It also leads to ill feelings among vendors towards Hitched and rumors of fake enquiries start floating around, rumors I don’t personally believe are true.
Other Things – The Admin panel I’m paying for doesn’t work properly for enquiries.
Hitched has an admin panel so that when an RFI comes in you can reply via your email client and it goes through the admin panel. At the time of writing this doesn’t work properly and hasn’t for over a year despite advising Hitched of this.
An email sent like this:
Gets turned into something like this:
The only way around this currently is to do this via the Hitched Admin panel itself. Which involves logging in, navigating to it, replying etc. The problem here is that I prefer to keep discussions like this backed up on my email. I can keep a record of the things I talk about with couples that way, but it comes at a cost of god awful formatting.
This isn’t a good look if you’re trying to gain the trust of a couple of whom you’re asking several £100’s from in regards to a major event in their life.
Because it’s like this I have to reply to rfi’s via manual emailing which involves copying over their email address to replace the one that would otherwise connect to your admin panel, changing the subject header to be more personal and also change the page colour so it’s white instead of grey. This sounds picky, but I’m representing my business through a third party website and paying them so don’t expect this sort of thing to be happening.
My long-term standing was being used by the sales team to sell listings:
Just because I renew my listing every year doesn’t mean to say I’m happy with my ROI. I was getting calls from wedding suppliers who had been told by the sales team at Hitched that I was very happy and I renewed every year. I don’t appreciate words being put into my mouth by the sales team. I don’t mind helping fellow suppliers out when they call but three times in one week was excessive because it always ended up as a drawn out discussion and I’ve got stuff to do.
The listings change or are superseded by new features without warning:
The best example of this would be the London Topslot. When I first took it on, this Topslot would sit at the top for all the areas in London. Then the Hero slot came along and sat above it.
Then later instead of being in the main London category and the subs of West, South East, North, Central London etc I was no longer there, just under ‘London’.
There are 8 areas covering London and I’m no longer showing at the top of them. I had to find this out myself. There was no reduction in my fee or offer of one.
They killed campaign analytics:
I love data. Especially off site data because it’s a good measure. I found sometimes my hitched website / impression figures could be inaccurate and inflated but Google Analytics allowed me to see my Topslot, Spotlight and National listing website clicks separately so I could see what my numbers were really like over the course of a year. Then when it came to renewal, I would be able to look at my numbers and decide if renewing would be worth it. Spotlights had the worst ROI but I think the London Topslot probably threw those numbers a bit (when it was in its original format).
While it can clearly be agreed upon that website clicks aren’t representative of all the traffic due to many enquiries coming from the Hitched website itself, considering the poor response with RFI’s the Website visits were my true measure of Hitched as a source of bookings.
Anyhoo, all I see in my analytics now is ‘Webclick’ so I’ve absolutely no idea what each listing does for me anymore. I don’t know if the Topslot was worth it so I don’t know if renewing was a good idea. It’s like asking somebody if they want what’s in the mystery box. You can of course see data in the Hitched Admin panel but you have never been able to see the split betweeen listings there.
Hitched have rewritten every supplier’s ‘About me’ without warning or advisory. Twice. So far.
When TKWW (The Knot World Wide) bought Hitched the website was redesigned, revamped and for the first time in 10 years loaded at a decent speed. They also rewrote all the supplier information for SEO purposes. It sounded obvious, robotic and a blatant SEO grab using words I’ve never spoken in my life. This action removed anything personal and it left me wondering what is the point of giving suppliers the ability to fill this section when it’s only going to be rewritten anyway?
Why I didn’t renew with Hitched:
In the end I didn’t renew because I felt I was being mugged off.
All through my years with Hitched I’ve had a good relationship with my account managers. There’s been around 5 or 6 and I’ve always felt empathy, understanding and that I was talking to them ‘on the level’. My last one (JL) clashed with me. I felt that I was being gaslighted on occasions and I was lied to twice. I asked for information several times and was told I’d be supplied it. It never arrived and when pressed was told it was never something they could supply in the first place.
When I related that I would have difficulty considering renewal because things were untenable and that I’d need a different account manager the email exchange became fractious and hit a dead end. So I noped out.
That, and the cumulative effects of the above was enough.
‘So you’re now saving £250 a month but losing 8 bookings a year. Doesn’t that mean you’re losing money’?
Sort of but not really. An average wedding cover is £2000. My Hitched yearly fee was £3000. Any salesman would argue that ‘I’d only have to shoot a couple of weddings to get a years worth of advertising and advertising comes off of my gross income.
Here’s the thing.
- 8 weddings = 16k
- Take off £3000 in Hitched advertising = £13k
- 13k @ around 30% Tax + NIC = £9,100.
- Each wedding has a running cost of about £300 (equipment, electricity, travel etc) so take another £2400 off = £6700
- I use an external editor for the basics, that’s another £200 per wedding, – £1600 takes things down to £4900.
- I’m left with £4900, for 14 weeks worth of work (on a 40 hour pw basis).
- That’s a take home pay of £350 per week.
Those numbers alone are bad but as the only free time I have is paid time, once you factor in the hours spent with the constant replying (and ghosting) from the Hitched enquiries it’s just not worth it for me. As in obviously so.
That’s also before I even consider that some of the bookings I did get I could have booked the same date through other sources anyway.
Remember you’re dealing with a sales person.
The terminology used to influence a supplier to make a purchase is fairly robust because it’s sales talk. Their end point is to get you to list or renew and their terminolgoy is designed to fit that outcome.
We have a number of clients very keen indeed to take on the prized London Top slot in photography and so it would be helpful to know if the decision you made previously still stands before we let it go
It’s been 5 weeks since I left Hitched and at the time of typing this the ‘in demand’ Topslot still hasn’t been filled. I take it the number of very keen clients has dried up?
I can see a time HItched.co.uk does away with the personal sales representatives and sell positioning in an automated way. There won’t be any variation in prices and listing price comparisons among other suppliers won’t happen. If this were to happen, because it’s no longer involving a human being, there’s less of a chance of latent ill will between them and the supplier if/when things don’t work out. Finding out someone is paying 25% less than you for the same listing is pretty upsetting.
Is advertising with Hitched.co.uk worth it for you?
So look. Hitched is a place for couples with a range of budgets from 50p and a bag of quavers to £4000+. Most couples I serve are in the top 5% of wedding budgets and as such I’m fairly irrelevant to the other 90-95%.
But, the RFI ghosting is a real worry when I’m not even touching on price when I reply to couples through Hitched. If the emails coming in are trash it doesn’t matter what you’re charging.
That being said, if you’re an aggressive marketer who chases leads hard. Texts the numbers supplied on the RFI’s or even phones them and are priced sub £1500 then you’ll do better than me on a like for like listing basis. I had to spend hard to get the level of enquiries that I did. The money was one thing, all the attached frustrations were what killed it for me.
Hitched has changed their listing structure now. Casting a wide National net is, at the time of writing, unavailable meaning suppliers have to pick areas to list in instead.
I personally think the staff there have their hands tied by the people above them and if anyone high up from The Knot is reading this the suppliers have been raising the issues above for years. Fix some things and I’ll update this page.
Finally. Please take everything I say here at face value. I liked being with Hitched until the last couple of years but in this last year, particularly the cumulation of increasing listing fees, a fall in bookings and my personal issues with my account manager I had to walk.
The best way to find out if Hitched is for you would be to find suppliers similar to you in style and price points and to phone them asking how they are doing with their positioning because if they’re doing great then what I say above doesn’t really matter.
It’s the gold standard rule with any advertising, the answers are out there, you just have to ask.
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