Learn how to generate leads for your wedding business and discover easy marketing tips you can use right away to increase your bookings.
I’ll define what a lead is, but I want to mention one minor point before we do. There’s no cold calling involved. Most of what we’ll be discussing is inbound lead generation, whereby potential customers reach out to you to get the conversation started.
When it comes to generating leads for your wedding business, inbound leads are the best kind. It indicates a high degree of interest, but don’t let that make you complacent. Couples will reach out to you at different stages of their buyer journey, and you’ll still need to finesse your interactions to get the booking. But you won’t be interrupting anyone’s dinner or invading their privacy to drum up business. We’ll look at some “interruptive” marketing ideas at the very end but primarily as a cautionary tale.
Anyways, now you know generating leads for your wedding business won’t be icky, let’s get into the weeds.
In this article:
- What Is A Lead?
- Why You’ll Need To Nurture Leads
- Conversion Rate Matters. A Lot.
- Put Your Energy Where It’s Most Effective
- Where To Find New Leads For Your Wedding Business
- Approach With Caution
- In Summary
What Is A Lead?
A lead is someone who indicates interest in your service. That’s it. A lead is a potential customer, but here’s the thing…
Usually, a lead is someone that has actively taken a step to give you their email address or phone number. So while your wedding business might open the conversation, the interaction was triggered by the (potential) client. There are several ways someone can indicate their interest in hearing from you. And we’ll go over these ways below. But the most basic example of a lead is when someone fills out a contact form on your website.
The wonderful thing about a lead is that you often know what their need is. You’ll likely have some idea what service they’re interested in, which means you can tailor your response. Thus you can avoid wasting their time and yours.
Not all leads are equally good, and you’ll still need to make some decisions about how to respond to the lead, but no worries! We’ll discuss that below too.
Why You’ll Need To Nurture Leads
The idea of nurturing leads really belongs in a sales article, but it’s worth touching on here. See, not every couple who reaches out to you is at the same stage. Some brides won’t be ready to commit to hiring you yet – they’ll need a few months to make a decision. That’s where nurturing comes in.
Once you’re able to reliably generate leads for your wedding business, you’ll also need to stay in touch while they come to a decision. You’ll want to “nurture” the potential client, so when they’re ready, you’ll already have built the relationship and trust.
Conversion Rate Matters. A Lot.
Let me illustrate this. Consider a leaky bucket. No matter how much water you add to the bucket, it just drains away, making the bucket useless. Leads are the water (duh!), and if they’re just draining away, then there’s not much point to the entire exercise, is there? And that’s why we need to discuss the conversion rate.
Conversion rate is the proportion of leads to closed bookings and money in the bank. So a 10% conversion rate means 1 in 10 leads ends up becoming a bonafide client of your wedding business. That’s actually a pretty good conversion rate. But if your rate is 1 in 100 leads, then you’re wasting a ton of time.
Your goal is to increase the conversion rate, which ultimately translates to less time spent on people who aren’t going to pay you, and more time spent with people who will pay you. You do this by taking some steps like:
- Improving your sales process
- Following up
- Improving the quality of your leads (no buying junk lists)
- Sharing resources
Let’s take a whirl through those ideas quick.
Improving your sales process
When you generate leads for your wedding business, do you send the potential client a massive form? Well, they might not be ready yet to answer all your questions. Or when you’re trying to book a call with the bride, are you putting the onus on her to find a good time?
Things like a speedy response time, improving sales language, missing a call-to-action in your email, and other conversion optimization tricks will all increase your chances of converting a lead to a customer.
It’s not nagging when your service is invaluable to your client. If they reached out to you, it’s totally okay to follow up multiple times. I recently hired a business because they followed up with me. I’d been swamped and had forgotten to write to them. Their follow-up closed the deal.
When a lead drops off, it doesn’t always mean they’re uninterested. Especially if their event is a long way away. And if their wedding is around the corner, they might be frazzled and stressed, leading to absentmindedness. Follow up!
Improving the quality of your leads
If you want to increase your conversion rate, then get rid of lousy leads. That means don’t buy lists of people who haven’t asked to hear from you. Or watch out for poor online advertising (this one wastes money too). The better your leads, and the more interest they show in you and your wedding business, the higher your conversion rate will be.
Sharing free resources is an excellent way to generate leads for your wedding business and nurture leads. What I mean is, even if a couple reaches out about your wedding planning service, share a one-pager with wedding timeline tips. Or a photographer can share a PDF of “the best wedding photo poses.”
By giving something for free, you’ll cement your business as trustworthy, confident and you’ll showcase your expertise. It’s a tried and true way to improve your conversion rate. And it feels good too!
Put Your Energy Where It’s Most Effective
To generate leads for your wedding business, you can grind through a lot of work, do lots of things, and hope it somehow pays off. Or, and this is my recommendation, you can test out ideas and lean into what works best.
The 80/20 rule is a cliche by now, but when you have finite time, you might as well put your efforts into what brings you the most clients with the least work. Let me give you a little example. A while back, I was exploring a solopreneur’s analytics with her. We looked at her conversion rates, and I noted that her conversion rate from referrals was 1 in 5. Her conversion rate from social media marketing was 1 in 100. And yet, she spent three hours a day on social media and about 1 hour a month on soliciting referrals.
She was putting a ton of energy into a marketing channel that wasn’t working for her and neglecting her best opportunities. Frankly, it makes about as much sense as running your heating with all your windows open.
The point? Don’t try to do everything at once. And don’t invest in channels that aren’t working for you. When you find what works for you, focus most of your energy there.
But how do you know what works?
Look For Interest Indicators
When it comes to your wedding business, you’ll get a sense of which leads are likeliest to become clients. Often it’ll be because the lead does something which indicates their interest in a meaningful way.
For example, a lead might say: “Please send me your pricing list.”
Or, they might say: “I remembered your amazing catering from my friend, Alison’s, wedding and I had to reach out. Do you still offer the blue cheese sliders?”
It won’t often be this clear cut, but if you’re able to note interest, you’ll also be able to dedicate more time to the more promising leads. So look for indicators like:
- They scheduled a consultation
- They browsed your website and referenced something specific
- They followed you on social media when reaching out
Anything that denotes a little more interest than someone shopping for a deal will allow you to send a form response to some and a custom response to others. If you want to overthink this a little, then read up on lead scoring, but I think you’ll do just fine relying on your instincts at first.
Where To Find New Leads For Your Wedding Business
Finally, we’re getting down to the core of the article. The actual channels you’ll use to generate leads for your wedding business. I’m going to keep things somewhat high-level, but if you find one of these lead gen channels speaks to you, invest in learning more. You can do any marketing strategy as a novice or an expert, and it often doesn’t take much to move from one level to the next.
Google is a lead generation powerhouse, but I’m not only talking about search engine optimization. I’m actually mostly referring to Google My Business.
Getting set up on Google My Business can help you own your local search results, ensure your business stands out on Google Maps, and showcase your portfolio too alongside search results. If you keep your GMB profile up to date, Google will reward you by sharing your images, reviews, and details when potential clients look for your service.
But beyond GMB, there’s search engine optimization (SEO). I freaking love SEO! And I’ve written about how SEO for wedding pros before:
- SEO Hacks For Wedding Planners
- SEO For Wedding Planners In 2020 (Updated for 2021)
- 4 Steps To Great On-Page SEO for Event Planners
Each of those articles has actionable and do-able tips to rock your SEO. So let Google do your lead-gen heavy lifting.
2. The Knot & Wedding Wire And Other Listings
These two giants are the leaders in the wedding industry lead generation. While not everyone I’ve spoken to has loved them, they work well for many wedding pros.
“For me, I’ve found that The Knot and WeddingWire have been my best sources of leads.”Ashley Griffith of Grit City Weddings
But does it matter if you use one or the other? Should you use both?
“It’s regional, it’s different depending on your price point, it depends on how well you use it, and it depends on your booking volume goals. It also depends on how well you’re marketing yourself in different areas.”Kyle Goldie
You’ve also got other big listing sites like Zola and Carats & Cake, but there’s more. You’ll find local wedding listings sites wherever your business is based. And you’ll also find LGBT wedding listings. So get your business listed everywhere.
But these listing sites do require work. You’ll need to update your portfolio regularly, ask clients to post reviews, and make sure your business details are up to date. And if you want to guarantee pole position, you’ll usually need to pay. And it’ll get pricey if you’re paying for featured listings everywhere.
The best way to rise in rankings is by volume of reviews and an overall star rating. The more reviews you get, and the higher your overall rating, the higher you’ll rank in the listings on most sites. And if you find some places give you great leads, then you might consider paying for a featured spot there.
Non-Wedding Industry Listings
But there are also plenty of relevant listing websites that aren’t wedding industry websites. The biggest is Yelp, but there are Thumbtack, PartySlate, and many others. They sometimes have different business models but, in general, work broadly the same.
You’ll need to keep your profiles updated, foster reviews, and be active to rank higher. That takes effort, but I can’t repeat this enough – if you find this channel works for you, spend time on it!
Referrals are one of the most efficient marketing options out there.
According to Barry Berman in Business Horizons, “Referral marketing relies on motivating satisfied/delighted customers as a referral base, seeking current customers that can provide referrals with a high lifetime value.” He adds that referral marketing has significant advantages over other marketing channels because friends and family’s recommendations carry greater credibility than other marketing.
“Major advantages of referral marketing programs as compared with traditional marketing programs include greater credibility of friend/family member recommendations over paid advertisements, access to new customers that traditional marketing programs may not reach, and better matching of referred customers’ needs to a good or service.”Referral marketing: Harnessing the power of your customers
Three types of referrals
Overall, referral marketing is word-of-mouth marketing. But that doesn’t mean you need to leave it to chance. You can, with a little regular effort, bolster your referrals. And when it comes to generating leads for your wedding business, we’re talking about two types of referrals (or maybe, three).
There’s the past-client referral, then referrals from other vendors. Depending on your personal outlook, you might consider venue referrals as their own category. I do. Driving those venue referrals has a slightly different process, and I believe it to be a unique sub-category.
“Indirect experience—that is, hearing about other people’s experience—is actually much better than direct experience in many ways.”George Silverman, The Secrets of Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Client referrals are fantastic! In many communities or circles of friends, weddings happen around the same age. While that differs from circle to circle, it does mean that each couple you work with will likely know a few other couples getting hitched soon.
So during the event planning phase, while working with a client, don’t be bashful. Ask for a referral. And remember, frame the request from their perspective. It’s not about the client bringing you more business, but about how you can help their friends.
Of course, stay in touch with past clients and offer to help answer their friends’ questions. Or send over a wedding budget they can use just to build the new relationship.
Asking For Vendor Referrals
When it comes to your local wedding professional community, you’re all in it together. A photographer wants the couple’s event to be perfect every but as much as the florist. So help each other help their clients. If you’re going to help make an event portfolio-worthy, then a photographer is more likely to refer you. The same goes for the florist etc.
So talk to your fellow wedding vendors about it. Ask what you can do for them, sure. But more importantly, ask them what you can do for their clients. Then do it. And they’ll make those referrals.
The venue is often the first “vendor” that a newly engaged couple books. And as such, they’re in the best position to make referrals. Many venues actually have a coordinator on staff or an event planner that “manages” the planning process.
But with venues, it’s about relationship building over time. Stay in touch with the coordinators at venues you’ve worked at. And when you leave the site after an event, make sure to follow up with the venue coordinator afterward. Check-in to see how the event went from their perspective. They’ll appreciate it.
For more on the venue-planner relationship, read, Planner & Venue Relationship: What Venues Wish Event Planners Knew.
4. Bridal Shows & Wedding Expos
Whether you call them wedding expos, bridal fairs, or whatever, these events gather a ton of potential clients all in one place. But you’ll need to do a little work to turn a casual passerby into a lead.
Getting a prime corner location is the best booth option, but your budget might not extend to that. Regardless, the trick is to be welcoming, ask to stay in touch, and always offer something for the couple to take away with them.
It’s an old sales trick I learned back when I sold old records at flea markets. If you get something in a potential customer’s hand, they’ll stick around to talk. More importantly, though, if you give them something of value, they’ll be more likely to hear your pitch.
My recommendation is to have something cute and fun (champagne, macarons, etc.) and give them something that will help them plan their wedding. For example, a florist might share a booklet on local wildflowers and bouquet ideas. They’ll hold on to that, and you’ll be top of mind when they take the step and commit to a vendor.
Also, have two people at your booth. One person to draw in attendees, and another to actually “pitch” your services. People don’t like to interrupt, so this division of role avoids that issue.
Pro-tip: You absolutely MUST get an email address and phone number of anyone who shows interest. Be bold in asking for that. Also, keep a repertoire of questions you can ask the bride or groom so you can reference something personal when you follow up with the lead. For example, ask the bride about her fave TV show. Then, when you follow up, share ideas on how to add a Bridgerton flare to their wedding.
5. Social Media
It’s probably not a surprise that social media can generate leads for your wedding business. But there might be more to it than you’d first expect.
I like to break it down between passive social media, in which you post your portfolio pics on Instagram and wait for clients to reach out, and active social media, in which you seek out leads in Facebook groups and Reddit.
Passive Social Media: Instagram
Sure, there’s Pinterest and Facebook, but I feel confident saying that most to-be-weds are heading to Instagram for both inspiration and sourcing. And you don’t need me to tell you that you should be sharing photographs of your events on Instagram.
Do take time to investigate hashtags. Not just the big ones, but make sure you know your local wedding-centric hashtags. Brides will use the local hashtags to find wedding vendors local to them.
Then, in your profile, make sure you’ve got an excellent way to grab that lead. It’s one thing to send potential clients to a website but consider linking directly to an appointment scheduler (like Calendly).
Also, the best Instagram portfolio won’t matter if your website sucks on mobile devices. To benefit from social media, your website needs to be mobile-friendly.
Active Social Media: Facebook Groups And Reddit
Getting married and planning a wedding is stressful, confusing, and high-pressure! And where do brides turn to for help? Facebook and Reddit. And that’s where you ought to be too. I bet there’s a group or two local to your service area, and it will be an excellent way to generate leads for your wedding business. You don’t need to lurk in the group all day and night, but checking in once a day is worth your time.
Be proactive, share free advice, and get involved. You’ll build excellent relationships, and if someone looks like they need more help, you can take the conversation private and work on booking them as a client.
Wedding planners do this, but many other wedding businesses do not. But who better than a caterer to answer questions about food costs? Again, it’s a neat idea to have a resource you can share with people who are getting married. Also, you can offer to connect to-be-weds with vendors in your network if you see they’re looking for a referral.
And if you find there isn’t a Facebook group or subreddit in your area, start one yourself. It’ll take time to get going, but in the long run, you’ll be THE local expert.
Approach With Caution
There are other ways to generate leads for your wedding business, including paid ads online and in magazines. I want to caution you to approach these lead gen channels with a lot of skepticism.
Now I know online marketing and am very comfortable with Google Ads and Facebook Ads, and even I’m hesitant to go down that path without committing time and a significant budget. If you’re not an expert in digital ads, then you’ll waste oodles of cash on low-quality leads. Take a look at this image:
I searched Google for event planners in Chicago, but one of the ads is for events in Little Rock, Arkansas. Someone’s wasting hundreds of dollars a month!
Digital ads can be very effective, but only go down that path if you have the expertise yourself or can pay for the expertise.
It’s super tempting to buy ads in bridal magazines to generate leads for your wedding business, and it’s sometimes worthwhile. But I’ve heard some pretty emphatic negatives.
“I made a three-month commitment with a local magazine right before the holiday season, and I got zero hits off that,” Ashley remembers. “I was trying to go with my gut, and it turned out in that case that my gut was wrong, and what I should have done was conduct some more research about what magazines might have been the best fit for my clientele.”Ashley Griffith of Grit City Weddings
“Nicest ad in their book, not a single result. POOF! money gone.”Chris Giles Photography, Advertising for the Wedding Photographer
When I worked as a musician, I also advertised in magazines in New York City and got no results. I absolutely LOVED seeing my name in print, and I felt like a star, but I never made a single dollar from it.
But I want to disagree with myself a little and mention destination wedding magazines. For example, a magazine like Every Pretty Detail, which opens up Montana’s wedding scene for couples who don’t live there but plan on getting married there, can indeed pay dividends. Usually, advertising in hyper-niche magazines is cheaper, more targeted, and people reading it are highly interested.
Perhaps instead of taking an ad in a magazine, submit a styled shoot instead and aim for an editorial feature. That works really well!
There are many ways to generate leads for your wedding business, like Google My Business, SEO, Instagram, referrals, and bridal shows. But before you worry about the volume of leads, try to aim for quality first. And always spend your limited time on the channels that work best for you. That way, you’ll get a return on your investment.