bride and groom at the couch

Marvin’s Story

by Marvin de Guzman

2 years ago, an idea was formed to get a side business going in photography, not in weddings at first but rather cars!

The car industry can be lucrative once you are established, which means that you have to do a lot of traveling every week to cities and shows that may be out of your financial reach. We tried to stay local, but usually there were no jobs.

So we went back to the drawing board. We had personally invested in our equipment, so what could we do with it?

Our first real client was a portrait photo shoot, then a birthday, then an anniversary. It wasn’t until the anniversary shoot the idea of shooting an engaged couple came to mind. This was mid August and we were on the fast track to no where.

bride and groom dancing

More research was needed to know what it takes to be a wedding photographer. We started going to class, buying books, and soon fell in love with creating memories in digital.

We set out to find a willing couple to get us as their wedding photographer, but in this industry you have to have a lot of wedding photography under your belt already. We felt defeated yet again and almost thought of quitting because no one would even pay attention to our work, even if it was FREE.

Then we had an idea. We decided to hold a contest to give us the best love story and the prize was a full wedding photography package, complete with album!

We knew that this was quite possibly crazy. Who would even think of giving away a wedding photography prize that would probably cost us half of what a real wedding photographer would charge?

We were after the experience, even if we had to break our savings account just to provide the materials creating the best custom designed wedding album you can get.

Only four couples actually entered our contest! We picked our winner.
The winning couple initially questioned our ability (we only had one previous ‘wedding’, which was actually a 50th wedding anniversary!)

Then they saw our work and agreed to hire us for their November wedding, with these words we will never forget, “Everyone deserves a chance to prove themselves.”

As November fast approached, we knew that we were ready, but then no one predicted the weather.

This wedding was the most challenging photographic experience we’d ever had, and we found out how quickly we should adapt to any given situation. Armed with gear for rain, we were brave enough to just go with the flow even though the weather was unforgiving.

The result: a perfect wedding photography experience that the couple’s Facebook friends and family are still talking about. That’s a huge success in my book!

bride walkingLessons for Hosting Your Own Contest

Marvin turned his contest into a success by delivering amazing photos to the contest winners. They were so grateful and thrilled with those images that they told friends and family, and that word of mouth led to more business.

But how can you avoid a contest flop?

1. Don’t hold a contest unless you ALREADY have a big audience.

100 Facebook fans isn’t going to cut it. You need thousands of eyeballs on your contest to get real entries.

Either you need to have brides and grooms coming to your website and blog already, or you’re going to have to buy or borrow that traffic from someone else.

Before you hold a contest, make sure you have enough eligible people seeing it to make it worth your while.

2. Make it extremely simple to enter your contest or no one will.

The harder it is to enter you contest, the fewer entries you’ll get.

People are inherently lazy, even when they can get something for free. The closer you can get to “just click to enter,” the better response you’ll get. Don’t make your contest involved unless you have thousands of brides viewing your offer.

3. Establish your value or no one will want the prize.

If you’re brand new and no one’s booking you, and no one enters your contest, couples are going to be very suspicious about your work.

Marvin ran into this problem with his contest winner. They almost refused to accept free wedding photography!

The couples with weddings gorgeous enough to be an asset to your portfolio are going to be skeptical about anything that’s totally free.

You need to overcome this by proving your value. Put a dollar value on the prize. Post testimonials from happy clients, even if they weren’t brides and grooms. Make it crystal clear why your contest is such an unbelievable deal.

bride and groom sittingTreat yourself as valuable or no one else will.

Contests can be an amazing way to spread the word about your business, but they aren’t for everyone. It’s an investment, like any other form of marketing, and it’s best undertaken only when you already have an audience of bride and groom fans.

Are contests a good way to promote a wedding business? Leave a comment and tell us what you think.

All photos in this post are from the contest winner’s November 2011 wedding taken by Ron and Marvin de Guzman of Sigmasix Photography.

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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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