Time off from my photography business and my photography education business is important to me. During a recent three-day vacation, I was able to book sessions without lifting a finger!
By the time our weekend away was up, I ended up booking seven sessions in those three days, and they all came from businesses I had been creating relationships with for the past few months.
Let’s talk about how and why this works.
Vacation is important.
I’m a firm believer in time off. Every month, I take one week off from calls, clients, and work in general. If I feel called to do it, I might post on Instagram or do some backend things. That’s it though.
The foundation of my business is around time off. I’m not here to work my life away, and I hope you aren’t either. I want to encourage you to prioritize your time off and your vacation time within your photography business.
When I go on vacation, I literally check out. To be honest, I’m one of those people who are either 100% in work mode or 100% not in work mode. There’s no in-between for me.
Booked sessions in the NOLA security line.
In February of this year, we went on vacation. We were standing in the New Orleans security line at the airport, which if you haven’t been is ridiculously long and not efficient.
When I got a minute, I looked down at my phone. I received four booked sessions in the 45 minutes we were in line. They had all come from different businesses I had been collaborating with this winter and spring!
Side note, I’ve created ways to track where bookings come from because I want to know what’s working so I can nurture those relationships.
By the time our weekend away was up, I had seven booked sessions in those three days, and they all came from businesses I had been creating relationships with for the past few months.
Business Relationship Marketing
What I’ve found with boudoir photography is there are typically two different ideal clients. A specific photographer’s version of this ideal client is typically different. In general, there are basically two different types of ideal boudoir clients.
One type of client is a bride who books a session for her fiance. The second is a woman who books to celebrate herself.
My ideal client for my boudoir studio happens to be a bride.
Conveniently, I happen to be a bride this year, which means I have been and am currently shopping at and booking wedding vendors who ALSO serve my ideal client in my local area.
It’s been really great for business because I am building a ton of new business relationships.
The hardest part of this type of marketing
The literal hardest part of marketing with other business owners is making a connection and building a relationship to the point where you feel comfortable asking for referrals.
My introverted coaching clients put this off all the time and come up with all kinds of excuses to not try this type of marketing.
Whereas my extroverted coaching clients sometimes ONLY rely on this type of marketing and absolutely avoid the behind-the-scenes marketing strategy… I want you to know there IS a balance…
… and a good long-term strategy requires BOTH types of marketing.
Why does business relationship marketing work to book sessions for photographers?
If you’re working with a bridal boutique, and they recommend a particular seamstress, you’re probably going to hire that seamstress. If a venue recommends a certain photographer, the bride is probably going to go with that photographer.
So the short answer is, it’s because the client TRUSTS that business and whatever they recommend.
What happens after you build a connection with the business?
Once you’ve built the connection and you’ve secured the “yes” to work with the business, it’s time to come up with some sort of offer. This offer can come in many different ways. I’ve tried percentage off, print credits, and session fee discounts, and they all work to a point.
The one thing I find extremely important is the presentation. That’s where a gift card comes in. Create a beautiful gift card in a fancy envelope printed on nice paper… that’s how you set yourself apart with this strategy.
How do you approach the topic of creating an offer with the business?
Unfortunately, I don’t have an exact script. It’s different in every single situation because we’re all different.
In the past, I’ve built the connection in 10 minutes. Other times, it’s taken me a year to feel comfortable enough to actually approach the topic.
Occasionally, I invite the business owner into the studio to experience a session with me so she can talk about it with her clients. Other times, I don’t feel it’s necessary to go to those lengths.
The important thing is to have confidence in your service and skills. You know that you deliver an experience like no other photographer. You know that you will deliver to the business owner’s clients as well, so you deserve the referral.
How do you know a business is a good fit?
The main question is do they serve your ideal client? If the answer is yes, then go visit with them to see if they’re a good fit. You won’t know until you actually meet with them.
What if the business owner says no?
Welcome to the wonderful world of business. I know hearing the word “no” is hard and really hurts your confidence, but it’s just part of business.
When I first moved to St. Louis, I went to DOZENS of businesses introducing myself. Every single week, I made a list of all the businesses I wanted to go talk to so I could introduce myself.
It wasn’t until 5 months in(and about 25 no’s) that I heard my first “Yes, let’s work together.” After that first yes, the momentum just kept building.
I want you to know that you’re probably going to get several no’s. All you need is one yes to get the momentum going for you. Put yourself out there because the results are worth it.
The best way to book sessions
While this type of marketing works, it’s also important to have a well-rounded marketing plan.
This formula is specific to photographers and guarantees that you have a well-rounded marketing plan which includes both short and long-term strategy and does NOT include Facebook Ads.
You want to have leads coming from all directions now AND later, and not just from word of mouth.
The Short term strategy includes:
- In-person events such as bridal fairs or vendor shows
- Client referrals
- And what we talked about today… relationship marketing with other businesses.
The long-term strategy includes:
- A good, high converting SEO optimized website with blogs that warm the audience up and prove you’re the authority
- An email nurture sequence
- A social media strategy that keeps you top of mind
- Possibly an annual sale strategy… NOT a flash sale, model call, or ads strategy. An annual sale strategy is just a way to nudge your already warm audience into booking.
The long-term part of this strategy is the thing that will keep clients coming in for the long term, which is exactly why we need to be working on the ENTIRE strategy early in the business.
Get your very own gift card template to book sessions
Because I want each of you to succeed, I’ve actually created a gift card template for photographers. Be sure to grab it here!
If you want the exact instruction on how to make this marketing strategy work for you, I cover this in-depth in all of my coaching and in Six-Figures Simplified, which you can access to right now.