Wedding advertising offers an irresistible promise: pay money, get leads.

Unfortunately, it’s often not as simple and effective as wedding pros would hope. Without a smart strategy and a compatible advertising source, you might as well flush that money down the crapper. (Pardon my French.)

I polled some advertising experts to get their best advice for advertising spend that creates real leads you can book.

#1 – Carefully evaluate an advertising source before you spend.

There’s no guarantee of a return on your advertising. However, you can dramatically increase your chances of success by asking the right questions and doing your research before you invest.

Audience: is the medium reaching the people that is your audience? Reach vs cost: how many of that audience do you reach with every dollar that you spend? Source: does this medium create the appropriate image for my company? Waste: how much of the medium’s audience really isn’t my prospect? If you’re located in California and half of their subscribers are in New York, probably not a good fit. Size and location [of the ad]: you want a big enough ad to stand out and you want it where people will see it. A small ad buried several pages in doesn’t do you any good.”

– Randy Gunter, GunterAgency.com

Get everything in writing. Before investing your limited ad budget, make sure it’s very clear what you’re receiving for the fees you’re paying up front. It’s important they clarify all of the details:

•    Who are the publication’s readers?

•    When will the ad run? Will it be in multiple issues?

•    Who provides the ad copy and artwork?

•    When is the ad copy and artwork due?

•    What results have previous advertisers seen in the past?

•    Do you have any previous advertisers you can talk to?”

— Erika Taylor Montgomery, ThreeGirlsMedia.com

“Small Businesses should make sure you are aligning with the right advertising partners. Some questions that we advise our clients to always ask are:

•    How many readers (print) or visitors (online) does the publication garner?

•    Does the publication have the ability to geo-target? If your small business is just servicing a certain state or area that might streamline your advertising dollars.

•    Can you try out the advertising for a 3 month test to determine if you will go long term?”

-– Connie, Vitality Branding

#2 – Facebook Ads retargeting is a secret weapon.

Facebook Ads provides the easiest way to retarget your website visitors. Showing ads to these warm leads will be the most effective and least expensive advertising you can possibly do.

“You might find 1 – 2 % of your visitors actually buy your product/services, which might be great, but you have 98 – 99 % who leave your website, and you might never see them again. They already know about your brand and what you are selling, so why not reach out to them again and tell them why they should consider coming back to your website… We have seen returns of up to 30x our investment come back in revenue with this simple tip on multiple online websites.”

– Kristian Larsen, Paid Social, PL & Partners

#3 – Send advertising traffic to an educational piece or giveaway offer before you sell them.

Most couples won’t be at the booking stage the first time they see your ad. If you send them to your website and invite them to schedule a meeting, they’ll leave and never come back.

Instead, offer these visitors some valuable information in exchange for their email addresses. It gives you the chance to build a relationship, establish your expertise, and be there when they are ready to book. This yields a better return on your advertising investment than trying to sell the meeting right away.

“Give them some good stuff right away (like a comparison study or a how-to report) in exchange for an [email] subscription. Then start to figure out who they are, what they want, and when they want it by interacting with them. Once you know enough about their needs, *then* start selling.”

– Shel Horowitz, PrincipledProfit.com

#4 – Invest a small amount in PPC (pay per click) advertising before making a larger investment.

Advertising isn’t an instant win. You’ll need to test and measure your results with different headlines, offers, images and copy to discover what works.

Online advertising makes this a simple and affordable options for small wedding businesses.

“The beauty of digital marketing is that you don’t have to make a long term commitment for an advertising campaign. If you have $200, you can test out pay per click (PPC) advertisements or a Facebook advertisement…the key component is to test different channels with a small initial budget to ensure you are generating quality website traffic and leads. Once you find your ‘Sweet Spot’ you can invest more money. If your first campaign wasn’t successful, it is time to go back to the drawing board to reevaluate advertising copy, imagery, landing page experience and more.”

– Jason Parks, The Media Captain

#5 – Integrate your advertising over multiple mediums and channels to get the best ROI.

A single organic post on Facebook will only be seen by 6% of your fans, if you’re lucky. On the other hand, a strategy that uses multiple sources and allows you to capture leads so you can follow up with them later by email, retargeting and the like will be much more effective.

“Put together a Facebook sweepstakes where you are giving away something of tremendous value (some research, a free product, trip to Jamaica) and require that entrants provide their email to enter…This integrated strategy will now grow another of your marketing channels with an audience that is obviously interested in your product/service. This would only be a first step into a fully integrated strategy, but you get the idea. If you can integrate this promotion further into ads, website, public relations, etc. your marketing will be much more successful.”

— Adam O’Leary, EnciteInternational.com

“The biggest mistake most small business owners make is to put all their marketing eggs in one basket.  What wedding vendors need is not simply ‘more SEO’ but a marketing strategy that doesn’t require a huge budget but allows them to dip into many channels. Test local bridal shows and a few ‘per month’ large directories. Use your free Adwords credit and free LinkedIn for $50 one month. Put $100 or $200 on some out-of-the-box Facebook ads targeted specifically to your target audience. (Pro tip: you can add estimated salary ranges to your audience using “income: US” as your search term and then adding the higher salary ranges to your ad.)”

— Matt Antonino, UltimateShutter.com.au

#6 – Test and track your results to determine what works.

Don’t invest in advertising until you know how you’ll track your results. Very few ads work on the first try; you’ll need to test various approaches before finding a profitable strategy.

“Never assume what appeals to your customers. There is no reason to guess blindly anymore, so be sure to test and analyze your results. One big mistake that many owners/businesses make is they advertise to what appeals to themselves and write in a way that would make them buy. However, as the owner of a business, you are more disconnected from the customer than you think. You must really put yourselves in their shoes.”

— Carlos Castro Miranda, Fit Small Business

#7 – Partner with other wedding businesses to increase your advertising budget and reach.

A small business typically comes with a small advertising budget. Join forces with another business who works with your ideal client base and you can both expand your reach at an affordable cost.

“Partner with a non-competitive partner of high to medium profile. By teaming up on projects that provide win-win opportunities, there can be cost savings benefits in advertising ventures that provide greater visibility and increased sales.  For example, the wedding photographer and florist can team up and cross-advertise a mutually beneficial package…Once you’ve identified an ad package that is favorable, negotiate. If you’re focusing on print, ask for online ad time within your budget, and vice versa if you’re focusing your efforts online.”

— Nayita Wilson, NVisionsCommunications.com

#8 – Hire writers to interview your couples and feature their weddings.

Why risk your advertising dollars on an investment that might not work?

Instead, pay writers to create compelling blog posts and articles featuring your best clients. Your couples will be so thrilled to be featured that they’ll promote these posts for you, which ends up cheaper and less expensive than paying for advertising campaigns.

“Having tried all the traditional advertising channels, including Facebook, Promoted Tweets and Adwords, over time, I found organic interactive campaigns work best. At Scan My Photos we shifted all advertising budgets to hire professional copywriters, who engage and interview customers. They become our loyalist advocates and use their own social media influence to share their story why digitizing photos was so important.”

– Mitch Goldstone, ScanMyPhotos.com

Once you’ve identified an advertising source that generates quality leads for your business, you can scale your efforts. It’s worth taking the time to test these and other strategies for sustainable wedding business profits.

Which advertising strategy will you implement? Leave a comment below to make it inevitable. 🙂