Another beautiful Morais Vineyard Wedding. This place is incredible!
Being able to shoot weddings in Charleston is the best!
The First Dance!
These two and that light!
It doesn't get much better than this !
I absolutely love this!
A little bit of rain goes a long way!
In the darkness, she becomes my light
These two are perfect!
Big Sky. Big Love
Another beautiful day in Charlottesville at the BEAUTIFUL Farmington Country Club!
The beginning of the 2016 Wedding season is upon us and that means almost 200 weddings booked for Sam Stroud Photography. I am floored that so many choose to work with us, but it isn’t also by accident. I go out of my way and work hard on ensuring that we book that client that emails us. No, we don’t book everyone, and you never will (or should) but we book a lot of the brides we are looking for and I want to take a few minutes to share some tips with you on how to take that relationship beyond just the first email inquiring about pricing.
1. Be Specific - There is nothing more annoying than having to pull information out of someone selling you something. If someone emails you and asks for availability and pricing, give them your availability and pricing. It may seem simple, but do you know how many times a bride has told me how hard it was talking to other photographers? If they email you asking for something, GIVE IT TO THEM!
2. Be Thorough - Again, this may be the same as the first point, but be as specific as possible and be as thorough as you possibly can. Meaning, talk to them about who you are, what you do, how you do it and how much it’s going to cost them. They have contacted you, so they are interested. The first part, the hardest part is over. You have them interested. Don’t lose them by not being direct with them.
3. Sell Them Your Experience - Yes, they are paying you to photograph their wedding. But rarely do I talk about taking pictures with them. I highlight how I photograph. I talk about what the day is like and how I interact with my clients. Here is a snippet of an email all of my clients get on that first contact;
I love shooting at Pippin HIll! There are so many beautiful details and locations there to shoot and I am excited to take full advantage of it! Making a real connection with you and bringing out your personalities in my portraits is so important. We want more than anything to create images that tell the story of your wedding day in the best way possible and to help create images that will last forever.
4. Respond Quickly - This one right here is a no brainer, and it blows my mind how many people miss this one. According to surveys more than half of the people surveyed said that they expect an email within 12 hours of sending one. 12 hours! I also did an internal survey, and over the last 2 years we maintained a 90% booking rate of those we responded to within 8-12 hours.
We used to respond within in 24, but now try to get to every new inquiry before the end of the day. This may mean you rework how you respond to email. For me personally, I only check email 3 times a day. Morning, Noon, and close of business. But when I do, i respond quickly. Bottom line is, get back to your new inquiries as fast as humanly possible
5. Follow Up - And finally, follow up with your clients. Be creative with this. I sometimes use gift cards to Starbucks, or other gifts. But the point is to follow up. I usually wait 5-7 days and sometimes it’s just a simple two liner asking if they need any other information. But I can’t tell you how many of those simple nudges have turned into bookings!
What about you guys? What has worked for you? How do you handle bookings and what do you do to stay on top of them? Make sure to let us know and thanks for reading!
Got to spend the day with these two! Was such a beautiful day to photograph an elopement!
2015 was a big year for me and a big year for the business. We grew to 100+ weddings, and brought on new shooters and formed new relationships. Plus it was year 5. I feel like for some reason that is a big milestone but not sure i can really articulate why. Regardless of all of that, I wanted to take some time not only to reflect on the weddings we shot but also reflect on some of the the bigger things we learned as a business both in our failures and our successes.
1 . Profits, Not Growth, are What Matter - This was a big one for me. This sounds so sterile and so “corporate”. I constantly focus on growing, expanding and getting bigger. But the reality is if you aren’t making any money what’s the point? Why create something to sell if you aren’t maximizing the amount of money you can make. At the end of the day this is a business. And the business has to make money for me to create more business, create more margin and create more of the life I want to live.
2. My Photographers are #1 - The great Marcus Lemonis said it best, “The customer is not number 1. They are number 2, right behind the employee.” The photographers who choose to sacrifice their day to do work for me are the greatest asset in creating the absolute best experience possible. And we have to surround ourselves with the best. After every weekend when I cull through the images, I ALWAYS think to myself, “How in the world did I find these people?” I work with some of the most talented people I have ever encountered. And I am so grateful to get to do work with them
3. The Cure For Burnout is to do More - I have discovered burnout comes from 1 of 2 things. Lack of focus on what matters or lack of passion for what you do. This year I set out to fix burnout. Rather than previous years, I wasn’t going to step away. I was going to step into more of my work. But also, take a second to refocus on where my real passion lies in my work. The client relationship. And believe it or not, it worked.
4. I Don’t Care About Being Known - I felt like of all the things I learned this year, this one allowed the biggest “exhale”. It was a weight removed. We have a massive following online which absolutely boggles my mind. And I am so so so thankful that people care about what we do. And people love the work we do. But I am not defined by that. And neither are you. We as business owners are defined by the experience our clients receive.
5. Do Less and Do It Better - This one is simple...This year was the year we stopped offering more services. We got rid of a bunch of stuff and focused on creating great work.
6. Mistakes - The mistakes I made this year were a product of pure lack of discipline. One thing I am not is lazy. I am, however, impulsively compulsive. I am also obsessively compulsive. So process for me matters. If there isn’t a process, things just don’t get done. One of my friends describes me as “manic”. And that is so true. I have a crazy way of doing things. But I have to have a process to get them done. And this year I realized that process for me is almost as important as anything else. Things get lost quickly in my mind. Even if I write them down. They get lost. process, process, process… that is my mantra.
7. You Learn From The Success, Not The Mistake - We’ve always been told that we learn from our mistakes. That isn’t true. We just know what not to do. You LEARN from what you do right. You build on your success. Progress is made when we do something well and decide what to do next. If you make a mistake move away from dwelling on that and focus on what you do well.
8. I Love What I Do - I obsess about my work. I think that is a very cliche thing you hear. But I do. I think about it almost every part of my day. It can be a difficult thing to deal with at times. It gets in the way. But it is so deeply part of what I am, that I have a hard time separating myself from it. But there is no question, that i love it. And I wake up every morning with the gratitude that i get to do this for work.
This is a smattering of things I learned. Every day you should learn something new about yourself, and to boil 2015 into only 8 things is crazy. But these are the biggies. The ones that I will take into 2016 with me and make dramatic changes to. What about you? What did you learn in 2015? What are some things you would like to see changed for 2016?
Crazy how time flies!
Such a beautiful day to shoot a wedding!
The incredible space at Sierra Vista always allows for stunning images. And these two didn't disappoint!