Is The Knot worth it?
Or, will it help my wedding photography business to advertise on The Knot?
The Knot is the US’ number one wedding site which marriers use to plan their wedding, get inspiration and search for local vendors who pay to appear in the directory.
This article reflects on my personal experiences as a wedding photographer advertising on The Knot with a Featured Storefront from May 24 2018 – May 23 2019.
I am writing this because I wish I could have found detailed info like this 18 months ago when I was debating whether or not to sign up. Brace yourselves, cuz we’re going deep.
Unbiased opinions right here! 🙋 It’s just my honest scoop, ya know?
Anyhoo, this is just a story of a girl who learned the hard way that The Knot is ‘knot’ for everyone.
That pun was as bad as one of Carrie Bradshaw’s.
But I couldn’t help but wonder, are online wedding directories really all they’re cracked up to be?
I moved to the US in late 2016 and started my wedding photography business officially in March 2017. I guess all wedding businesses automatically get a ‘free listing’ on The Knot – I’m unclear how that initial listing came about.
As early as June 2017 The Knot would email me with messages like the one below, urging me to upgrade from free listing to a paid-for Storefront. More about what that means later.
My interest was already piqued. I’d heard somewhat mixed reviews from other photographers I trusted, honestly it was mostly good things.
One photographer that I worked for at the time even told me that The Knot practically saved her biz and made it the thriving enterprise it still is today!
Another at an even higher price point told me she books about 8 weddings a year because of The Knot which is huge when running a boutique wedding photography business.
I have to admit I was dying to try it out.
Tiers of joy
Before we get too deep let’s get into the jargon so you’re up to speed.
In The Knot lingo a vendor’s listing is its Storefront.
Vendors pay to appear higher up on the directory page of their city and category of service they provide. The Knot has different tiers of visibility, i.e types of Storefront.
The top 6 spots when you land on a page (For example San Francisco > Wedding Photographers) are called a Premium Storefront.
The next level down is a Featured Storefront and has a gold ‘featured’ badge. That’s still page 1 but there are a helluva lot of vendors ‘Featured’. The placement on the front page changes every 2 hours.
The third paid-for spot is a Standard Storefront. That appears on pages 2 and 3 (and in time, said the representative on the phone call, page 4).
(Then there are free listings which have no images and no business description but still allow reviews.)
What else is included?
From there it’s up to the vendor to make their thumbnail stand out from the dozens or hundreds of competitors that surround it.
And just to be clear, as far as I am aware that’s all that’s included with your advertising on The Knot. You don’t get social media shoutouts, sponsored posts, articles about your service or preferred status for real wedding submissions.
Side note: I did get to go to a vendor mixing party once at the San Francisco Mint which was pretty awesome and I snagged a travel mug. 😉 A fellow Featured vendor told me about the party. Figured it’d be OK to come along as we were on the same plan.
It was a really fun bash but unfortch we didn’t actually see anyone from The Knot to chat to.
Put a $ on it
Aaaanyway, back to me.
So I decided to jump on a phone call with a representative at The Knot in March 2018. Everyone I’ve ever spoken to there was really patient, personable, knowledgeable and attentive. That’s how they get you!
She told me that The Knot has 12 million unique visitors per month, is heavily invested with Google (so helps SEO) and that users are on the platform to book local vendors.
With pricing info – here’s the info – and bear in mind this information is outdated as the phone call was in March 2018.
The Premium Storefront which is always waitlisted is $825 a month. The Featured Storefront would be $500 per month and the Standard Storefront would be $175 per month.
Those totals annually: $9,900, $6,000 and $2,100.
It was a lot of money for a small business owner with only a year-old business, but I was all in from day 1. My business was never a side hustle that could grow slowly. Meaning I needed customers!
She blinded me with stats! Over 6 months the average wedding photographer in the Bay Area gains 600 page views with 265 customers engaging on the store front (messaging, calling, clicking through to the website).
If I’d known what I do now, I’d have realized how low those numbers really are. I currently gain almost 200 unique views A DAY on this here little website.
Saying I do to The Knot
I forked over $4,050 in early May 2018 for the year-long Featured Storefront. It was less than the $6,000 full price because I scored a discount of 10% for paying upfront in full for the year and another 15% discount for being a new vendor. Somehow that combined to make a 23.5% discount, but whatever that’s what it was.
The listing was up and running 2 weeks later. It was easy to set up except a small snafu with my credit card not actually being able to send out such a large payment due to being more than my monthly credit limit, yikes. (Perils of being a new immigrant!)
Though it also broke the daily limit of my debit card, we handled by processing on two portions over two consecutive days. Simple.
I was excited to get it off the ground. I’d heard such good things, and spent a lot of time tweaking and returning to my listing to really have it speak to potential customers.
A minor speedbump was when my vendor bio didn’t appear on my listing even though I had filled everything out. Some global issue, apparently, that was quickly resolved so no biggie.
The backend was easy to use.
A slow start to my The Knot listing
I am not sure exactly what I was expecting but I thought the level of inquiries I was getting that first month was pretty low.
I asked my account executive what he thought I should do. He wrote:
“Good morning, Zoe. Your Storefront looks great and you’re in an excellent market as well as the fact that you’re a Featured Vendor, so I would just give it time. It’s best to give it the full extent of the year contract and evaluate how it went from there. I think one mistake that can be made is not giving your Storefront enough time to resonate with couples and to get a footing in the market and therefore, pros give up on it way too soon.
While there are going to be ebbs and flows throughout the year, every day is a great day to be on the Knot, so don’t lose hope now! You’re doing great!”
They would always emphasize how being on The Knot was about being in ‘The Market’ and that it wasn’t about how many qualified leads you were getting, it was about being seen and always giving it time.
The first few inquiries began to roll in but they were always a little weird.
One thing I really kinda hated was that the people that inquired had no interest in what my business offered and had clearly just spammed everyone on the site. Were they even real people? Who knows. I think they were.
At the time, I specialized in intimate weddings (though I don’t anymore). It was always clearly visible on my listing.
I get that people are busy. But from the vendor’s point of view, we want clients who see how the uniqueness of what we do fits with their vision.
We always seek to make a connection. We want our work, our approach, our imagery and our ethos to strike a chord with the viewer. Those are the people we want to work with.
That isn’t just a ‘nice-to-have’ for my ego. It’s a crucial requirement when running a boutique business.
I thought this was something The Knot could help with, but I think most people browsing there send the same message to every vendor.
Just my 2 cents.
Qualified leads? No…
The first inquiry was from someone looking for photo and video. The second inquiry was another 2-photographer, 2-videographer deal but get this – the wedding was in 4 days?! What the heck!
I don’t even offer video and nowhere does it say I do.
The third inquiry was spam about graphic design and photo editing services.
The fourth was for a wedding in the “300+ person” category.
I could go on. Here’s a snapshot of the leads I got in my whoooole year. 16 in total including the spam ones.
With one exception, I didn’t have a conversation with a leads go further than 3 or 4 emails until they went cold. Usually I would send information then never hear back.
I wondered why I wasn’t attracting my ideal client who is, crucially, having the kind of wedding that I shot at that time – Small! Non-traditional! Inclusive! Quirky!
I approached my new Account Executive and she was very helpful with suggesting super actionable steps.
Sharing this in case it’s useful to anyone who’s also a bit stuck and could do with advice.
Specific advice and feedback from The Knot
“I did make one update for you – I moved your selected Listing Photo to be the starting photo of the portfolio section – that way people know they landed on the correct storefront. Other things that I recommend –
When you are updating your gallery, let’s add some more close-ups. People love to see big happy smiles! Also be sure to mix in some non-people shots, such as the flowers, the decorated chapels, the close-ups of the rings, etc. Even those old clichés like “Brides shoes next to a bouquet” and “dress hanging in front of a window” can be helpful to show your diversity and that you can create a complete album for your couple.
Be sure to “reply” to your reviews. This shows new customers how friendly you are and how you give unique, customized attention to every client.
And of course, keep on getting reviews from past clients! I know you’ve been working on that already! Most of your biggest competitors have 20 or more reviews – that probably took them years but it still puts you at a minor disadvantage until you can catch up. Replying to your current reviews, however, will fill up more space on the page and make the reviews you have seem weightier!”
She brings up a great point- every vendor is side-by-side with their competitors.
Those who are invested in The Knot ecosystem are rewarded with ‘Best of Weddings’ badges, little rosette icons and dozens of reviews, so they stand out much more than someone who is new. Makes sense.
It seems a no-brainer that users gravitate to the most decorated, eye-catching profiles.
Results are in! Was The Knot worth it?
And what did I actually get, over the full year? Not very much personally. Out of those 16 leads (maybe a couple more folks reached out by email rather the The Knot’s messaging system)…
I booked one wedding as a result of my Premium Storefront, year-long $4,050 listing on The Knot.
The couple was absolutely lovely as were their families. Really the sweetest people!
However I was at a lower price point than is average for my market and I made less than the cost of my advertising.
And while my team & I did a great job working for that couple, it was a very traditional wedding (Catholic church, country club) which is not my specialty and therefore not content I would necessarily choose to show.
I am so grateful I got to shoot that wedding for a variety of reasons. Mostly because they were lovely people and it was an honor to be part of their day.
Another reason is that it would have been a HUGE loss if I’d booked nothing at all from The Knot and had lost over $4,000.
Understanding what happened
The Knot didn’t suit my business for the reasons below:
– My target demographic isn’t using The Knot. The Knot is a mainstream resource which means an average, even traditional wedding client. Couples hosting smaller shindigs are barely using the platform, nor are the alternative types of marriers.
– The generic nature of seeing every vendor’s work reduced to the exact same format, rather than introducing the client into our personal ecosystem in the form of a website, can be troubling. It’s very tough to showcase the uniqueness of our brand. If you are pretty new to the business like I was in 2018, it’s almost impossible.
– I had lower quality and range of work compared to better, more established photographers. Unless you’re willing to compete on price, your product has to be exceptional.
– My marketing materials including my primary online asset, my website, were not yet ready to convert. If people were clicking through they were not finding enough compelling content to stick around and begin a conversation.
– When you start your listing with zero reviews you are at more than just a ‘minor disadvantage’. I knew I was going to join The Knot well before I did, so I was able to amass a handful. If you have a lot of weddings under your belt it would be easier to ask a few of your best clients if they wouldn’t mind writing you one.
– I didn’t wow these clients from the second they reached out with an out-of-this-world experience, whisking them off their feet and away from the platform. I was still figuring things out in business and well, life.
To wrap up! Phew this is getting long!
The Knot did not work for me as a means to grow my business at least not as far as I’m aware. However I am very glad I chose to try it for myself. I always would have wondered!
You see, as a new business owner, you are going to make mistakes learn and grow. You are going to implement the same tactics that your industry pals use, and find that they fall flat.
You’re going to do things that bring you success but won’t work for others.
Sometimes there’s no way of knowing until you try. Framing it as a business experiment rather than marketing failure is the way I prefer to see it.
So, is The Knot worth it? For me, no. But just because it was not for me is no reason it won’t work for you.
Is it one of the more expensive forms of marketing out there? Absolutely. Is it worth it? Totally depends on your business, market, location, competition, experience, work and target client!
Enjoy this post? Support with a follow on Instagram @zoe.larkin and be sure to add your voice to the discussion below! Has advertising on The Knot been worth it for you?