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Question: What lead generation companies will provide worthwhile leads for us?

“Hi Stephanie & Jeff,

We have centered our marketing efforts around resellers, as in caterers, planners, etc. offering them preferred vendor status on our website, etc. in exchange for referrals and have found this to be, for the most part unproductive.

Either those vendors / venues  have established relationships with photogs / videographers or their clients have already found those service providers elsewhere.
In short, the competition is very stiff and we are feeling that for us to be successful, we have, for the most part , to cut out the middleman / woman and generate leads and business that will come directly from the end user.

So we want incoming calls, from those who have done searches,and so forth and have come up with our business.

One source is SEO for our website and we have engaged an expert to assist us.
Another might be from wedding and event lead generation websites that we subscribe to. Problem is, the good ones, that will produce leads that turn into contracts for us seem to be limited. The scam factor is huge.

We are wondering whether you have any tips or recommendations  for other such lead generation companies that are likely to produce worthwhile leads for us.—or any other ideas whose fees are based on performance, or otherwise a good risk?

Our budget is limited our skills and experience, are not.”

Sincerely,
Charles

Answer: Your success with leads from lead generation companies will vary widely based on many factors; most wedding pros find these to be very poor quality leads.

Charles,

A few comments on what you’ve shared in your email.  (Thanks for sending this detail, by the way!)

The best referral partnerships are not based on a “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” situation the includes commission percentages or conditional arrangements; the best referral partnerships are relationships you have with other vendors who would refer you regardless.

Since the venue is typically one of the first wedding pros the bride/groom book when planning the wedding, they have plenty of referrals to give, and they know it.  Wedding pros, including your competitors, know it, too, and everyone is trying to get on their preferred vendor list.

Unless you have an extremely vibrant website and blog with lots of bride and groom traffic, you don’t have much to offer the venue by putting them on your preferred vendor list.  So from the venue’s point of view, you’re trying to get something from them without giving anything in return.

You CAN get extremely high quality leads from venue referrals, but you may be going about it in the wrong way.  Instead:

1) Identify the top 3-5 venues in your area who work with the type of clients you’d like to attract.

2) Come up with a way you can help them first, without asking for anything in return.

Examples:

– Make a Sticky Album that the venue can use to promote themselves.

– Interview the venue for their best tips, then publish and promote them on your blog.

– Offer to take photos specifically designed to show off their best features: food, landscape or catering photos.

– Shoot a gorgeous promo video for them to use for promotion and help them install it on their website.

3) Once you begin to build a relationship like this, follow up with them on a regular basis (every 1-3 months) with a call, gift or visit to nurture the relationship.

You have to give before you expect to get in these relationships, and it takes time to see the results, but they have a big pay off.

Your attitude really has to shift so that you help them without expecting anything in return in order for this type of referral relationship to work.

You can learn more strategies to become the #1 recommended photographer and how to get on a venue’s preferred vendor list here.

I agree that attracting your own leads to your website is an extremely effective way to get high quality leads.  However, hiring someone to “do SEO” isn’t going to automatically increase your traffic and ranking unless they are creating regular content for you, and if they are using any backlink schemes, it may backfire and get you banished from the search engines.

The best low cost and high return marketing strategies include:
1) Power networking relationships.

2) Website leads attracted by blogging about local wedding topics 2-3x per week.

3) Reviews online where brides and grooms are searching for vendors.

4) Word of mouth promotion by your couples on Facebook.  (This can be done with referral incentives, photos on Facebook, and interactions with other wedding business pages on Facebook.)

Check out this article to learn even more strategies from how three different marketers answer the question, “If you only had $100 to market your wedding business, what would you do?”

Finally, for your last question:

We are wondering whether you have any tips or recommendations  for other such lead generation companies that are likely to produce worthwhile leads for us.—or any other ideas whose fees are based on performance, or otherwise a good risk?

The leads you get from lead generation services are typically very low quality because these brides and grooms don’t ask to receive information from you specifically.  As a result, you often tend to attract more low budget clients.

I’m not aware of ANY lead generation services that allow you to pay only for the leads you book because there are simply too many variables that lead to a successful booking that they can’t control and guarantee your results.

A lead generation service can send you leads, but you might not book them because:

  • The leads are not a good match for your business; either they are the wrong budget, style or personality.
  • Your website drives them away.
  • Your follow up is ineffective.
  • Your sales presentation is ineffective.

If you REALLY want the highest quality leads, you need to attract them yourself through highly targeted relationships with other wedding businesses, content on your website and ads targeted specifically that drive your ideal client visitors to a website that turns them into real leads.

See my answer to the question, “Do Bridal Lead Lists Actually Work?” here.

More feedback from Charles:

“Strangely enough, since i wrote to you (and thanks for your feedback) we have started doing something that you caution against:

We have started offering a definite % finders fee / commision for referrals, and two a detailed plan on how we will list them as recommended vendors, quite afar from the typical yellowish pages, laundry list that stops at contact info, website link, etc, but rather an opportunity for them to submit short video clips and links, etc.

Our reception has turned much warmer, as a result. We are giving them something: Free advertising and $!

I will look at the “How to” links you said and our plan of action is likely to be a hybrid of your thinking and ours.

Thanks again for sharing!”

If it’s working, use it!  That’s the only real proof you need, regardless of what anyone says.

Presenting a specific plan to promote these venues increases the value of what you’re offering tremendously.  Great job!

What do you think about bridal lead services?

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Stephanie Padovani

Stephanie is a Hudson Valley wedding insider, blogger, writer, and wedding business coach. Want to book more weddings at higher prices? Quit dealing with price shoppers? Transform your wedding business so that it supports the life you really want? Look her up! They don't call her the Wedding Business Cheerleader for nothing. :)

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