We all want to do more of what we love.
We want to spend more time having fun, following our passions, and being with our families. As photographers, we want to spend more time doing creative shoots and getting the very best images.
Here’s the problem: we often think that to run a successful photography business, we also have to spend a ton of time doing the things we’re not as passionate about — like marketing and promoting our business.
That’s just the way it works, right?
To do more of what we love, we actually need to do less of what we don’t love. Let me explain…
The Power of In-Person, Word-Of-Mouth Referrals
Marketing’s changed quite a bit over the last 100 years.
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We’ve come a long way from greasy snake-oil salesman to where we are today. Consumer advocacy — what we in photography call word-of-mouth referrals — is so powerful that it’s become the new norm of marketing in nearly every industry. It’s foundational to any successful marketing campaign in almost every industry.
This is especially important for portrait photographers. Getting word-of-mouth referrals are key to doing more of what we love. Our other marketing efforts — even paid ones — just don’t work unless our customers talk about us.
And where do most photographers look for word-of-mouth referrals?
Here’s how it’s supposed to work: you shoot a wedding, the couple shares the images across their social media channels, and boom — everyone that sees these beautiful wedding portraits now come to you for all their photography needs and you never have to promote your business again for the rest of your life.
Oh, if it was only that easy!
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way because social media just isn’t very social.
Most of the time, people look at Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram while they’re alone at their computer or playing on their phone at night before bedtime. They see something and think, “That’s so cool!” but less than two seconds later they’re off to something else.
When I was growing up, looking at pictures wasn’t an anti-social activity.
I remember taking these huge printed photo albums off the bookshelf and looking through them with my family.
Sometimes my grandpa would even pull out his projector. As he clicked through each slide, I’d sit wide-eyed, listening to the grown-ups tell stories about each picture. I felt like I was in a time machine.
It was this very emotional and social experience.
Sure, a few people still look at pictures like this today, but they mostly consume photography on social media in isolation.
This is the main reason I find mobile technology so exciting. Mobile devices make looking at photography with modern technology actually social.
For example, a bride gets back from her honeymoon and goes out for coffee with a few close friends. After she tells them about the honeymoon, she’s super eager to show off her wedding pictures, so she pulls out her phone and passes it around the table.
As they look at each image together, they relive the moment — exchanging stories, laughing together, and admiring how ‘perfect’ everything looked on her special day.
Here’s how it translates into more business for you. When each picture your client’s friends look at is branded with your logo, you tap into the power of word-of-mouth referrals because you get exposure to everyone that sees these images.
If they need a photographer for their wedding, you’re likely to stand out. They see beautiful images that they have an emotional connection to, and your logo reminds them that you’re the photographer that made it all happen.
This is social and leads to word-of-mouth referrals that actually work. It’s the main reason I started StickyAlbums in 2012. I needed an effective way to promote my own photography business that didn’t require a ton of extra work from me. I wanted to focus on what I loved and not spend every waking moment on marketing and promotion.
I learned that the best way to get word-of-mouth referrals for my own business was to put my client’s face on their own app icon. We create a custom app for each client that featured a handful of their best images and branded it with our logo.
This let’s me put my pictures to work for me.
People’s lives have become so loud and so busy that the only way we can cut through the noise is with word-of-mouth marketing — sitting down with our friends and family and having real conversations.
When you combine the best images from a session with your logo, you create something your client loves and wants to show off to everyone they know, which results in more word-of-mouth referrals for your business.