The Business Of Photography: Maximizing Sales With Client Referrals

Business Tips August 6th 2014 10:34 AM 5 Comments

In this series, we have covered various aspects of running the business end of your photography business. We covered the basics of a sales process and what it should look like, going through it with your potential clients in the previous short series: 5 Easy Steps To Grow Sales NowWe covered some basic marketing and strategy in: Be Remarkable. Build Fans. Get Clients. Now, we will dig into the “post sales” process. This is identified as any time after the deal is completed.

The Post Sales Process

If done correctly, in the post sales process, you can really separate yourself as a business person. This is your opportunity to get creative and think of spectacular ways to get referrals from clients. Word of mouth is 10x stronger than most marketing campaigns you can create using Facebook, radio ads, or whatever form you chose. On the unfortunate side of things, if someone has a spectacular experience with you, they are likely to only tell a few people to hire you. On the flip side, if they have a bad experience, they will be happy to tell ten people not to use your service within a day. Even with the numbers skewed against you, word of mouth is a powerful tool for photographers, and initially, it is the best way to launch your newfound business. This is why it is very important to focus on first performing remarkable work and secondly having a great system that it is easy for clients to refer more clients to you!

Carlo/Via Flickr Creative Commons

Carlo/Via Flickr Creative Commons

Referrals. Referrals. Referrals.

In one industry I worked in, it was required to get 3-5 names, phone numbers and email addresses from each person I enrolled in my service. This requirement was treacherous at the time and it didn’t occur to me until a few years later the absolute importance of getting that information. Collecting the information gave me something to do the following day to continue building my business. This was vital for the company’s growth and not shockingly, it worked really well. I had to get over the uncomfortable feeling of asking for such personal information from clients, but it was easily overcome by the fact that realized I needed those names and numbers to grow the business.

Getting a referral from a very happy client is your best odds of getting another client. Statistically speaking, you’re more likely to get a sale from a referral than someone who just called off your website. When someone refers you to a friend or family member, they trust you and believe in your work. As a full time photographer, this makes your day one heck of a lot easier as well. This means less time selling and more time doing what you love!

Truth About The Referral

This is the part where I will give you some advice on how/where to get these referrals. Here are a few truths about the referral side of your business:

  • Just because your work is excellent doesn’t mean people will beat down your doors to buy your product. Having an excellent portfolio is great, but that alone won’t get people to send their friends and family your way.
  • You have to ask. It may happen on a one off, but most people are not going to just give you a book full of names for you to contact.
  • It will be uncomfortable asking for this information at first, but it gets easier, like almost everything in life with practice.

How To Get Referrals

There is no secret sauce formula to getting referrals. No script if you say it the exact same way will get you 10 referrals from every client. I won’t promise there is one, and if you find one such formula that works, please let me know in the comments section and I would love to learn it. It is actually quite simple, and I could sum it up in two words – just ask. You need to ask for the referrals from your clients. Stay in your clients head frequently, that way, when the subject of someone needing a spectacular photographer arises, you pop in their head. Here are a few ways to increase your referral business:

  1. Ask immediately after the sale. Mention to your client that your businesses runs mostly off referrals and would love to help out any friends, family or coworkers of theirs.
  2. Create a reward system. I have always been a personal fan of rewards. If you want me to refer someone to your business, reward me with something I want. If you do a reward system for referrals, then make sure you build that referral system with the client in mind. Really think about what would excite them to refer people to you.
  3. Do followup sessions. If you shot a client’s wedding, on their one year anniversary, offer to do a free session with them, send them a bottle of wine and a card or whatever other creative things you can think of to stay in their minds. You can run a million different directions with this and I encourage you to get very creative and think of what the customer would enjoy.
Happy-Anniversary

Lucy Abrams/Flicker Creative Commons

Taking It Home

The importance of getting referrals can really separate your business from a competitor. You might even do average work, but if your “post sales” process is on point, you will always blow away a competitor. I know this because most professionals no longer ask for a referral. They feel uncomfortable, or it might feel like too much work. However, I will promise you this, if you create a system to get names and number and/or emails from clients, you will see tremendous growth in your personal business. Take these few action steps and reap rewards almost immediately:

  • Devise a referral system with the customer in mind. Stick to your referral system and execute on it, and make sure to offer it to previous clients as well.
  • Figure out a way you are comfortable asking for referrals. Maybe you want to contact them after their portrait session or after you send them their wedding album. Whatever is most comfortable for you is the plan you will stick with.
  • Once you get the name and number/email, make sure you start the sales process. If you need a reminder, here is an article on The Art Of A Sales Call.

Keep these helpful tips in mind and figure out a way to maximize your business with them. Feel free to ask questions in the comment section below.

-David

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David Valentine

About

David is a business and sales expert who resides close to the beach in Southern California. With a knack for sales and marketing, he has consulted with many organizations ranging from car dealerships, door to door sales, and fitness gyms. When not selling or a running a business, he can be spotted on the beach with his dog, Goliath, any restaurant that will take him far from his trainer approved diet regiments, or Las Vegas.

5 Comments

  1. Steven Pellegrino

    The change I would make on this is not to ask for a referral after the sale. Ask for a referral after you’ve blown them away with incredible service. You haven’t proven anything to them after the sale. You haven’t done anything for them at that point. You’re more likely to get referrals after they’ve worked with you, rather than before.

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    • MARTIN MIANO

      I second your opinion on that

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    • MARTIN MIANO

      Great article David it always feels great to hear people talking of how good your services are

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  2. Rafael Steffen

    Great article on learning how to request referrals for your clients. Word of mouth is great and you must make it an incredible experience for people to choose your over the so many other photographers.

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  3. Michel Andy

    I think you should not ask for referrals : The way I’ve found is to make them extremely happy with your work and surely they will remember you when the time have come ;).

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