With any small business, especially a photography business, word of mouth and referrals play a really important role in generating new business, as well as sustaining repeat clients. There are a multitude of ins and outs with referrals, but here are a few tips to get you started, and to help you get some ideas for setting up your own system for referrals.
1. Make Your Existing Clients Feel Special
As someone who has been handed my own share of referral cards, I can tell you that, if the business giving me the referral card makes me feel like I’m just a number to help them generate more business, I’m probably not going to hand out referral cards for them. I’ll just conveniently forget!
It is very important that you go the extra mile with your clients in order to make them feel special. If they feel like you are going above and beyond for them, they will be more likely to refer you to their friends and family, simply because you gave them a great experience, and they will want to help you grow your business.
Let’s face it – we all like incentives, we all like discounts, and we all really, really like the occasional freebie!
The level to which you take your incentives is entirely up to you. If you are just starting your business, building a solid client base in the first months/year is extremely important, so you may want to consider things like, for example, if your client refers you to someone they know, giving them a great discount on their next session.
If you are hesitant to give deep discounts on full sessions, you could also offer them something like a mini session (half an hour, an hour – whatever feels comfortable for you), which is a really popular incentive, especially around the holidays and graduation.
And, of course, there is the ever-popular print incentive. This could be in the form of a discount on a select number of prints, or possibly even a free print. My feeling on prints, though, is that, in this age of social media, prints don’t seem to be quite the incentive that they used to be. Still, people do enjoy having prints in their homes, so offering print incentives can be beneficial, but it probably wouldn’t be my first choice for incentives.
3. Get Creative
As photographers, we are creative people, so finding ways to personalize your referral/promotional items is not only fun, but can really make you stand out.
Referral cards are a classic, simple place to start. Having a stack of referral cards on you at all times is an easy way to promote your business.
In addition to referral cards, mini albums are a really neat take-along item to give to your client. They’ll want to show the album to all of their friends and family, which is a great way for people to see a sampling of your work. These could come in the form of a classic mini album, or something more novel, like an accordion album. Have fun and please share any ideas you've found helpful in the comments section below.