Photography is deeply personal.
You’re letting a stranger into your most private moments. And you don’t just trust anyone to be your photographer. To be around your baby, your family, your wedding. To see you at your most private and vulnerable.
So when we look for a photographer, we naturally turn first to the people we trust the most – our friends and family. We value a friend’s good experience over a magazine ad or business card on a billboard.
It’s no wonder that referral business is one of the strongest advertising opportunities that photographers have!
The best part? It’s basically free! Your happy customers will naturally recommend you to their friends and family whenever it occurs to them.
But if you’re looking to build your referral program to bring in more substantial business more often, we need to approach the referral process with intentionality and purpose. That way everyone remains happy customers and you can get the most out of the relationships that you’re building.
Here’s the process, in brief:
Sound easy enough? Let’s dig into the details and discover how to execute each step.
A healthy referral program thrives on happy customers. You’ve gotta be busting butt to make sure that your clients are happy with your work as a photographer or all will be for naught – not only in getting new business from them, but in your entire business model.
So rule #1 is: make sure your clients are HAPPY. Overwhelmingly happy. Ridiculously happy. Then when someone asks if they know a good photographer, your name will immediately spring to mind and your work will sell itself via each evangelist you make.
This brings us to rule #2: take time to thank your customers and then ask for referrals.
Even happy customers might not realize how important referrals are for your business. If you take the time to make it clear how much you appreciate them and THANK them for their business, they will be eager to bring your name up if someone asks for a good photographer.
Take the time to personally thank each customer with a nice email, specially designed card, or special memento. They’ll know you care, and they’ll end their experience with a warm, happy feeling associated with your business.
Next, end the message (or send a follow up request) specifically asking for referrals. Send a nicely designed email or card with the details of your program and a polite request for them to think of you if any of their friends are looking.
Your Photobiz website comes with a tool built-in to help you communicate with clients. It’s called Email Marketing, and it comes with nicely designed templates that you can use to communicate with clients.
This is an example of a referral email: Simple, nice, and to the point. It can also be used as a landing page that you can send to any clients who have just finished up their session. Think of it as an easy way to follow up with clients and direct them to more information about your referral program.
You can even link them to a referral form to help automate the process. Any friend they submit will be stored in your client database as a lead. You’ll know exactly who referred who, and where to send the reward.
Now we come to rule #3: reward your customers.
You’re not asking clients to sell knives or coupon books. They’re not working for you, or looking to make a quick buck. They’ll be referring friends & family out of their genuine interest to help them.
Remember: your clients aren’t being bribed, they’re being THANKED and rewarded.
That means we don’t just toss out cash or coupons carelessly. If you are being rewarded with new business, you need to make your customers feel rewarded, too.
So, think about why they chose you in the first place. In other words, give them more of what they want.
If your customers order artwork and prints, use this opportunity to help them fill their homes with the artwork they love. Offer them bonus artwork, like an extra 8x10 or small canvas print. Your clients will have more memories to cherish, more instances of your good work in their homes so they can remember you and feel happy about your relationship.
You can also offer credit toward a future session – a great option because it keep clients coming back for more, having more great experiences with you, becoming accustomed to having you in their lives regularly as their personal photographer.
When it's time to hand out the reward, do so in a memorable way. Send a thoughtful package with a thank you card inside, letting them know about the referral booking and their reward. Don’t skimp on these thank-you materials and cards – especially if you’re getting a substantial investment from your new client! It’s worth it to do something really thoughtful and memorable with nice stationary and packaging, too.
(And it’s not difficult – there are a ton of crafty etsy-ers out there with cute thank you packages and referral cards that you can purchase and have at the ready :)
Now that you’ve successfully landed a new referral client, your job begins anew, making sure that client has a wonderful experience… and turns into another brand evangelist! The happiness of your referral client is just as important – if not MORE – than the original referring customer…. Because if they have a bad experience, they will surely tell the original referring client about it! Which will undo much of your hard work and impact the possibility of getting future referrals from that client.
Rinse, repeat, make ridiculously happy customers, and enjoy your success :)