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Why A Referral Program is Essential For Growing Your Photography Business
What is the fast way to double the income from your photography business?

Get every one of your current clients to refer just ONE new client to you!

And how hard is this to do? What if your clients are not inclined to give referrals? Does that mean that this next step in growing your business is impossible?
Difficult, perhaps. And probably a bit stressful in the beginning stages. But impossible? Certainly not!

Why Are Referred Clients Better Than Normal Clients ?

1. The cost of acquiring them is greatly reduced and that saves you money when you aren’t weighing an outlay of dollars-per-client to convert to sales.

2. Resistance to the price that you quote them is significantly reduced since someone that they trust has referred them to you. There is a built-in trust surrounding their association with you.

3. Since someone else referred them to you and they could see how well that worked out for them afterwards, they are much more likely to engage in the same actions and refer new clients to you.

4. The built-in trust works in another powerfully positive way. They are more inclined to be patient and forgiving about unforeseen delays or errors. As a result, their overall perception of the experience remains positive in their minds and they will still be more likely to refer you to someone else.

So how do you make this seemingly magical process begin to work for you?

Every time a job is finished and the client talks to you in very enthusiastic language about how pleased they are with your work – ask them for a referral.

Yes, it may make you nervous the first time you do that, but you’ll soon notice that it seems like second nature to ask for referrals. Get ready to see your business grow!

BUT -- before you begin – ask yourself an honest question. Is your business READY for a referral system? Ask yourself – “Is what I create worth receiving a referral for?” Do you hear the words “fantastic” or “amazing” or just plain “wow” from your customers after you complete their job?

Let’s go through the steps of getting your business in the sort of shape to receive “fantastic” or “amazing” feedback before you start asking for referrals and then discover that you haven’t done enough preparation.

  • What are the 3 types of clients that are created in a business relationship?
  •   Unhappy clients who are unsatisfied with the work that you did, moderately unsatisfied, or clients who are outright resentful of paying your fees.
  •   Satisfied clients who are pleased with your work.
  •   Loyal customers who feel that you give such good value for money that they will be repeat customers and they’ll be happy to tell other people about you.
So how should you begin to set up a referral plan when you see the 3 types of customers that you have?

Always aim to NEVER have unhappy customers and ALWAYS aim to progress the satisfied customers into the status of loyal customers. A steady base of loyal customers will create the backbone of your referral system.

Part of the strategy for creating the Loyal Customers group is to consistently follow a set of Referral Habits. These should end up being second nature to you within a very short time if you truly want to become successful.
  • Referral Habits:
  •  Be rompt. Always show up at the time that was scheduled.
  •  Be reliable. Always finish the work that you have begun.
  •  Be prepared. Always have the right photographic equipment for the specific job and check to make sure that the location and set-up is ready for use. 
  •  Be informed. Reconfirm the people or models who will be participating and recheck that the address and scheduled time is the same. 
  •  Be consistent. Always do exactly what you have been commissioned to do. 
  •  Be polite. Always use polite terminology like “please” and “thank you” and refrain from using slang or swear-words around a client. 
  •  Be a step above your competition at all times. Cultivate a confident atmosphere of polite professionalism that surrounds you like a well-tailored suit. 
Confidence, respect, and dependability should be at the top of your list when you pursue new clients, go out to give a quotation, or interact with repeat clients.

All it takes is one episode of omitting just one of the Referral Habits for the clients to reconsider how they view you and your business. Keep your shiny and professional business aura turned-on and intact at all times!

  • Creating a Referral Plan

  • · Set up a Referral Plan database in your computer ahead of time. (see below for suggested columns)
  • · Contact the client via their choice of email, text message, postal letter, or phone call to confirm the date and time of the appointment.
  • · Follow every one of the Referral Habits with each client.
  • · Offer suggestions for creating follow-up work to enhance the original elements of the quotation that you present.
  • · Make sure that no matter what their budget is for the photographic work that they have commissioned, every client feels respected and valued.
  • · Valued and respected clients feel a level of trust that prompts them to share your contact details more often.
  • · Follow-up with a complimentary gift like a photo-magnet or a stack of colorful post-it notes or some other token of appreciation.
  • · Follow-up by sending a letter of thanks for the business that you have just done with the client.
  • · Follow-up by asking for a feedback comment that you can include on your website under Client Testimonials.
  • · Follow-up by asking, politely, for a referral to anyone that they think could value from doing business with you.
  • · Follow-up with another thank you note each time you receive a new client as a result of the referral. This is an ESSENTIAL step towards always keeping you and your business fresh in the minds of your clients as the sort of top-tier contact that they are happy to do business with and happy to refer to others.
  •  
  • How to keep track of the Referral Plan

  • Setting up a database on your computer is the easiest way to keep track of your Referral Plan. Do this BEFORE you begin to ask for referrals so you will have accurate records of how this is progressing.
  • Enter separate columns in your Referral Plan database for:
  • · Client’s name
  • · Client’s contact details including address and phone number
  • · Client’s email address
  • · Job done for client
  • · Date of work
  • · Date of completion
  • · Date of complimentary gift and thank you note sent
  • · Date of referral request
  • · Dates and names of referrals that arrive
  • · Dates of successful jobs landed with referrals
  • · Insertion of all of the information into a NEW field for the NEW client
  • · Follow-up thank you note sent to original client for the successful referrals
Wash – Rinse – Repeat

You have now established a very valuable database of information to help your business grow. The actions above are repeatable again and again and again.

And how to expand on that database?

Add in details that you may learn along the way – birthdays, places that the clients have lived, things that you have in common.

Use the email addresses to send out updates about new features or products that you are offering or to issue limited-time-period Special Offers.

  • Kick It Up A Level

  • If your referral program is now humming along nicely, why not move it to the next level with some additional incentives for the clients who offer referrals. Consider offering those valuable people some of the following:
  • · Gift certificates for an item of their choice through stores such as Amazon, Target, or a bricks-and-mortar bookstore
  • · 10% off coupon for their next order that has no expiration date
  • · Free movie tickets
  • · Cash-back (just a small token amount) for each referral that books a job
The entire point of a Referral Plan is to have your name and your business firmly anchored in the brains of your existing and new clients. If you are willing to take the time to implement all of the steps in this tutorial, you will surely see your business – and your bank account – grow and thrive.

There’s no time like now to begin those steps to success. It’s time to TAKE ACTION and set up a Referral Plan.

About Andrea Polito

Andrea Polito is an internationally acclaimed master-lifestyle photographer sought after by thousands of individuals. After 13 years in the high-end wedding industry and having photographed more than 600 weddings, Andrea has been focusing her time helping photographers to grow their own businesses to Six Figures and Beyond.
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