Do you like spamming emails claiming that people are looking for wedding photographers in your area? I know I sure do. Bark, a lead generation service, has been emailing me about non-stop for a few months now with "Emma is looking for a wedding photographer" or "Wedding photography availability?" or my personal fave "New customer looking for your services". They are just to sort of email that I take pleasure in deleting.
But could this service be legitimate? Are there really people looking for wedding photographers on Bark with such a frenzy that they are shooting out spamming emails to wedding photographers along the Front Range? I decided to try out the service, I responded to one of their emails and reached out to the couple looking for a wedding photographer in Feb. 2019. So I signed up and joined their little service after confirming that I wouldn't have to pay a dime, here are my initial thoughts on the service.
Let me first admit, lead generation services sketch me out. Once upon a time, I worked at a lead generation service doing inside sales and cold calling. I was cussed out more in that job that anywhere else I've ever worked. Aside from that, I am genuinely intrigued about this lead generation service because if it can provide consistent and quality leads then there isn't a downside to that service.
Bark uses a pricing model of basically "pay for play", you give them money and you get to see leads in your area. You buy "Bark credits" and you use those credits to communicate with the lead. See below picture for more explanation from Bark's, admittedly, beautiful website.
Do you remember going to the arcade as a kid and you'd have to buy tokens at some? This is basically that, you're buying a token for $1.50 and you use that token to communicate with the potential lead. Keep in mind, there is no guarantee you get the job either. Because I have a background in marketing, I know fancy terms like "cost of customer acquisition" and that is basically a measurement of "how much does it cost me to get a new customer?". There are two viewpoints here; $1.50 for new customer acquisition is tremendously cheap in the marketing world, if I could promise companies they would only have to spend $1.50 to get each new customer, then I would be printing money on an island not writing this blog. I can't do that because that's not real life. The other viewpoint is that it doesn't cost anything to do new customer acquisition if all of your clients are referrals, which is how a lot of wedding photographers operate. Which brings us to my next point...
Lead Generation for Wedding Photography
There are always people getting married and though married couples are older than they once were, the cost of a wedding has gone up significantly. This means that there are probably more vendors at these weddings than there used to be 15-20 years ago and therefore, more people competing for the attention of those getting married. That's why a service like Bark exists, to help couples find quality pros because there is a lot of noise out there. There are a host of other services like this, think of Angie's List for contractors to The Knot for wedding vendors. There are boutique wedding guides like Rocky Mountain Bride here in Colorado who host a classifieds section of "curated" wedding vendors. I put the quotes around curated because you pay Rocky Mountain Bride to appear on their lists too. Bark on the otherhand just charges you to communicate directly with the person so that is bit of a change. This is what your lead screen looks like when you sign up for their service.
As you can see it doesn't just cost 1 credit to contact the requesting couples, it costs 10 credits with equates to $15. Still not a bad new customer acquisition, but a far cry from $1.50. Guess I'll have to rethink printing money. That's just to contact them too, and you can see what their average value is too. Bark also says that only a maximum of 5 professionals can only contact a lead which is actually really good, because I've seen Facebook posts where a soon-to-be-bride posts to a photography group "I'm looking for a wedding photographer and our budget is $2,000" then every photographer under the sun is linking their website hoping to get some of that scratch.
Does Bark Work?
That's what I don't know yet, I just communicated with one lead this afternoon and haven't heard anything back yet. I will be updating this post as I have new experiences with this service but right now I'm not all that impressed other than their beautiful website and the premise of making money. As a photographer, I'm not looking to shoot more weddings right now because there are so many other areas in my life that are up in the air. The tension though is that we all could probably use extra money and my dream of owning a gallery is one baby-step closer every time I book a photography shoot.
Have you used Bark or another lead generation service? What was your experience?