IMAGE CAPTION – While not a wedding business, the Instagram feed @MarriedInNY does an excellent job of capturing the diversity of couples marrying at the New York City’s City Hall.
Over two million marriages take place in the United States each year. How much of that market are you capturing? If you find that your clients tend to be very similar, it could simply be that your target customer is a particular type of person. There's nothing inherently wrong with that if you're satisfied with your amount of business. But if not, there could be a significant number of potential clients out there who never approach you because your image doesn't fit with theirs.
Realtors will say if you want to sell your house, remove all family photos and other personal effects, and "stage" the house. Removing the distraction of uniquely personal stuff and creating a clean slate makes the house more appealing to a broader range of prospective buyers, by allowing them to picture themselves in your home.
Conversely, potential customers want to see themselves - or people like themselves – reflected in the pictures and words featured in your portfolio. Why? Marketing today isn't necessarily about selling a product. Sure, you want couples to book your venue or buy your services. But increasingly the way in which you achieve this goal is first to get those couples to engage with your experience. It's called "brand affinity" - when the image portrayed by your messaging appeals to the self-identity and values of a consumer, making them feel like you're on the same wavelength. If they see themselves in your marketing, they're more inclined to feel this affinity for your message.
So if you want to appeal to your maximum number of ideal customers, it's important to ensure that your marketing is image-inclusive. Some examples of image-inclusive marketing include Coca-Cola (languages from around the world), and Crate & Barrel's wedding registry and Campbell's soup (couples of various ethnic and gender compositions). How can you achieve inclusivity? First, showcase diversity within your existing clientele. Diversity can be defined in a wide variety of ways: ethnic origin, religion, gender, age, ability. Need to expand? Consider a styled shoot that widens your portfolio. Another option is sharing the work of wedding professionals that feature a more diverse clientele (who doesn't love the compliment of a share?). Or, look for partners in your community who are already reaching a more inclusive audience and see how you might work with them.
It's also important to look beyond the physical image. For example, talk about "couples" instead of saying "bride and groom" in your marketing materials. Refer to the "wedding party" instead of the "bridal party." Think about the audience for your writing when composing marketing emails or similar pieces. While young Millennials and first-marriages tend to make up the bulk of couples, your language shouldn't assume that everyone in the audience fits these categories. Because I feature small weddings on our website, it attracts a larger number of second marriages which tend to be quieter events. So it wouldn't make sense to write exclusively about big bashes that run late into the night with thumping music.
Having a more inclusive image certainly doesn't mean trying to show every facet of human diversity within your portfolio or address every possible wedding in your marketing. Rather, it's an opportunity to examine what might be unintentionally communicated by the images and words you are using, and see whether there isn't a broader audience you could reach by showing a wider range.