Oh wedding show season. I have such a love-hate for wedding shows. hundreds if not 1000s of engaged couples and their friends and family all walking through a convention center getting overwhelmed by all the options available to them at every single turn. They are an extrovert’s dream and an introvert’s worst nightmare. Let’s be real. There are a great option for getting your name out in front of as many people as possible in a short amount of time. But are they really worth it?
The vendors in my area are in the midst of wedding show season right now and applications for the next round of shows in the fall are already starting to circulate. So, I thought it would be the perfect time to talk about why I decided to stop doing wedding shows! This is episode 27 of Keeping It Candid!
(Intro music) Welcome to Keeping It Candid. I’m your host, Sandra Henderson, an international wedding and family photographer and business coach. I help wedding photographers use systems to build out the back end of their businesses to gain control and continue to thrive no matter what life throws their way. And on a more personal note, I’m a strong Enneagram 3w2 (three-wing-two) who is obsessed with tacos, and my love for traveling combined with navigating chronic illness life are just two of the many things that drive my passion for all things systems, workflows, and beating burnout as a business owner. Join me every week for a candid behind the scenes look at what it’s really like working as a wedding photographer, where I’ll give you actionable steps to take your business to the next level. Absolutely no fluff here, friends. So go grab your favorite notebook and pen and let’s dive into this week’s episode. (Intro music fades out)
I started renting booths at wedding shows in 2014. And for the next six years, it was a major part of my marketing strategy. I did two to three shows a year and it was a key factor in growing my business from 2 to 12 to 27 wedding bookings within three years,
I laugh at myself every single time I think back to my very first booth. I was so nervous. I wanted everything to be perfect. So being the type-A person that I am, I use tape to measure out the exact dimensions of my booth in my backyard. I bought all of my furniture and decor outside and I set it all up exactly how I wanted it to look. And I’m pretty sure that I did this multiple times over. I’m a recovering perfectionist, what can I say? I had my pricing cards, business cards, sample albums, I was so sure that I was ready.
And it wasn’t until partway through the first day of the show that I realized that people kept asking me what it was that I did. And that’s when it hit me. I forgot to make any sort of sign to display my business name. Unless someone stopped to talk to me, they actually had no idea what kind of service I was offering. It was such a major learning experience. But truly, I loved every second of it, and I couldn’t wait to do it again.
Over time, the shows eventually really became more about hanging out with my vendor friends, and it was about connecting with potential customers though, if I’m being totally honest, I noticed that as my prices went up the people that I talked to seem less and less interested in what I was offering. But the thing is, I wasn’t too extensive. I was just using a method in marketing that was putting me in front of the wrong type of client. I was still fully booking out my calendar every year, but my clients were coming from other avenues like Google and through referrals.
One day, I decided to finally sit down and take a look at my numbers. I keep track of all of the inquiries that I get throughout the year in a Google spreadsheet, noting things like when the couple first reached out and how they heard about me. And it didn’t take long for me to see that the last three wedding shows I had rented a booth that over the last year and a half, I had booked exactly one wedding. That means I was about $6,000 out of pocket for these shows. I was so far from getting any sort of return on my investment.
Now, when I first started doing these shows the expense more than paid for itself. But now instead of spending money on the show to book weddings, I was actually booking weddings to spend money on the show. And that really defeated the entire purpose. I couldn’t justify the expense anymore. So in the fall of 2019, I did my very last show. And in hindsight, I made the decision at the perfect time because it was right before my diagnosis with endometriosis. And the fast onset of my daily symptoms that I have now would have forced me to stop doing the shows anyway. Now I don’t know about you, but I feel so much better about coming to a decision on my own than having one forced on me. So I think that everything played out exactly as it should have to make sure that I committed to it. I actually sold some of the decor from my booth to other vendors and I threw my backdrops in a dumpster at the end of the weekend and damn did it feel so good. Since then, I haven’t regretted not doing wedding shows for a second. Well, okay, I mean, they haven’t been running for the last couple of years anyway, thanks to the pandemic but I’m also I’m thankful that I had already started reframing my marketing strategies before I would have been forced to do it in the spring of 2020.
I started focusing my efforts on blogging and SEO instead, and I’ll be doing a whole episode on that topic later this season. As you start getting all of your records and finances in order for tax season this year, I want to encourage you to take an honest look at your numbers and see if your marketing methods are still giving you the same return on investment that they used to. If they are perfect, keep going. But if not, here’s your permission to shake things up a bit for 2023 and start spending your time and money on things that are actually going to help you out in the long run.
(Outro Music) Thank you so much for listening. You can find full show notes from today’s episode at simplysandrayvonne.ca/keepingitcandid in the meantime, let’s connect. You can find me on Instagram and Tiktok just search @simplysandrayvonne. And if you’re loving this podcast, I’d be so honored if you’d go ahead and hit that subscribe button and leave a review. Until next time! (Music fades out)
Sandra Henderson is a wedding photographer, business coach, and podcast host based in Ontario, Canada. She specializes in helping wedding photographers create strategic systems for their businesses to help them get their time back so they can spend it doing the things they love most. As an entrepreneur who also navigates chronic illness life, Sandra also takes a unique approach to using systems that will help businesses thrive no matter what life throws your way.
On a personal note, she loves tacos, 90’s music, travelling, and spending time at home with her husband, step-son, and two cats!
March 14, 2023