Establishing Connections with Wedding Venues
Photographers who are just breaking into the wedding market frequently ask me how to establish connections with vendors from desirable wedding venues. This question applies to any connection you might be looking to make, whether it be an art director, a photo editor, or an event planner. While every situation is different there are a few hard and fast rules to consider that will always help you to stand out.
What’s in it for them?
Very few people are willing to take the time to build a new relationship if there isn’t something in it for them. Simply asking to take them out to lunch with the hopes of wowing them with your charm is not likely to get you a lunch meeting. You need to think about what you can do to help them. How can you make their job easier? How can you help them be more successful?
Reaching out to say, “I love your venue and I’d love to shoot there more often. Can I take you to lunch?” is almost guaranteed to get no response. On the other hand consider an email like this, “I really enjoyed working with you and I’d love to work with you again. I captured some lovely images of your venue that I think you might find useful in showing off your space and the hard work of your team. Let me know if I can help in any way.”
Instead of requesting something from the person (their time at lunch), you are offering to help make their job easier with little to no effort on their part. I’ve yet to meet a venue manager that doesn’t like fresh images of their spaces looking beautiful. I’ll often follow up a correspondence like this with a small (but useful) gift.
How often do we see stacks of canvases, frames, albums, etc. laying around the venue’s back offices because photographers never took the time to figure out what would be helpful to the venue manager? My gift of choice is sweet and simple: Pinhole Pro’s custom note pads. I’ll grab a few beautiful images of the space and personalize the notepad with the manager’s name at the top of each note. My logo is featured discreetly on the back. It’s a tasteful gift that will be used on a daily basis.
High-end venues are looking to make relationships with people who are as polished as they perceive their venue to be. This is where your branding comes in. Pinhole Pro offers some great, tastefully designed products to help you support your brand like custom stationary and return labels. The ability to use your own fonts and order products directly from the Pinhole Pro Studio makes it easy to keep your branding consistent. When liveBooks designed my custom website a few years back, I was insistent that the fonts in my logo match the fonts of my website menus, contact forms, etc. My website, business cards, correspondences, and even gifts all use the same fonts. These subtle distinctions are very important in establishing new connections.
People like working with people they enjoy being around. It’s as simple as that. For someone like a venue manager who is going to spend the bulk of their weekends with rooms full of strangers, they don’t want the photographer they have to deal with to be a prima donna. It amazes me how I’m often thanked by the venue manager for being so laid back and easy to work with. Remind them of how great you are by sending a little gift like the notepads!
When all your hard work pays off and the venue manager starts referring your name and getting weddings booked for you, show your gratitude. Perhaps a bottle of wine (with a Pinhole label of course)!
This is people skills 101, but I find that the little things make the biggest differences. With a little effort, you’ll create a mutually beneficial relationship that is developed organically and will last longer and produce more fruitful results.
A commercial photographer since 2001, Ned’s passion for the camera began in fine art. His work has been shown in galleries through the East coast and is part of numerous private collections. Ned Jackson works to capture a wedding day in an unobtrusive photojournalistic style. He maintains a balance of creativity and energy while portraying the unique essence of each couple on their wedding day. His images are classic, clean and timeless.
Great article! I especially like the comment that venues want to be in a business relationship with a company as polished as they perceive themselves to be. SO TRUE! No one wants to be in a business relationship that isn’t going to benefit them… And if you’re underdeveloped or look sloppy in your corporate image it doesn’t matter what else you’ve got to show. First impressions are everything.