Did you know that personal recommendations are the #1 most trusted form of advertising?
If you’ve been in the photography business for long, you’ve seen this statistic in action—your clients’ recommendations are the most powerful source of referrals you have! We’re here to share with you how to build your word of mouth marketing by making it easy for clients to share your business with their families and friends.
Step 1: Establish a strong brand.
This might not seem like a natural first step, but unique and memorable branding makes your photography experience infinitely more shareable. By providing your clients with something they cannot get from just any photographer, you are creating a sense of exclusivity and value.
One example of this is Unveil Your Cinderella, a brand that photographer Jennifer DiDio created to increase share-ability of her boudoir business. Jennifer’s clients are so wowed by their exceptional images that they can’t stop talking about her! Listen to an interview we did with Jennifer here.
Step 2: Provide an experience, not just an appointment.
Closely related to step 1 is step 2—providing an experience to your clients. You have established a memorable brand and created a sense of exclusivity for your clients; now you carry that brand with you into each client session.
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Knowing your clients’ expectations of you prior to each session is key. If you’re marketing your unique brand, they’re likely basing expectations on your past work, but it’s an important conversation to have. Once you’re aware of where your clients’ expectations lie, you can meet and exceed them! Happy clients are talkative clients.
Consider how your brand will affect the atmosphere at your sessions. For Unveil Your Cinderella, the session experience is about pampering and relaxing the client—making them feel their most beautiful self. This experience should differ from, for example, a senior photographer’s; the clients’ expectations and your brand should dictate the client experience provided.
Step 3: Ask for referrals.
You’ve established a one-of-a-kind brand and client experience and your client is delighted by your customer service and photography. What next?
This is the step where many photographers falter. Shouldn’t satisfied customers share with potential clients all on their own?
Well, sometimes. But you don’t have to cross your fingers and hope for referrals—ask! If you’ve exceeded their expectations, they’ll likely be happy to. You can discuss the ways in which they can refer clients to your business at their ordering session when they’re at peak excitement.
Which leads us to the next step . . .
Step 4: Make it easy for existing clients to send you new ones.
Handing happy clients a stack of business cards and asking them to pass them out might bring an inquiry or two. But in 2015, there are easier ways for clients to spread the word—ways that provide value to the client while marketing your brand!
If you’re a current StickyAlbums user, you’re familiar with how simple it is for clients to share an album with their images and your information with family and friends. By providing each client with the images they’ve ordered in a StickyAlbum, you’re exceeding expectations once again—and allowing them to (at the touch of a button) send samples of your work and your contact information to dozens of potential clients. Win-win!
Social media offers huge potential for word of mouth marketing—if your clients are sharing in the right way. This is where client education comes in!
To avoid low-quality shares or cropped-out watermarks, photographer Cyrissa Carlson of Immerse Photography counsels clients on how to appropriately share her images on their social media pages. When images from a client’s session are posted to Facebook, she sends the client an email asking them to tag themselves and suggesting that they share to their own pages.
During seniors’ sessions, Cyrissa talks them through how to share properly to Instagram (the platform of choice for her target senior client). You can watch an interview we did with Cyrissa on her stellar social media marketing here.
Step 5: Reward those who share your business.
Rewarding referrals can take many forms. Many photographers choose to offer referral programs with print or session credits for new clients referred. Others, particularly those running senior model programs, pay cash for referrals. How you reward is up to you—the important thing is making it known that you value the time and effort it takes for your happy clients to mention your business to their friends.
Step 6: Stay on the forefront of clients’ minds.
A client may share your business enthusiastically in the weeks following their session—but what about after that? They will still have opportunities to promote you in the months and years following; it is important that they are occasionally reminded of the incredible experience they had with your business.
We’ve discussed before on the blog how email newsletters are important for every photography business. These emails, which should offer value to your clients, will let clients know that you continue to care about them as people long after they provide a source of revenue to your business.
In addition to regular emails, handwritten notes, holiday cards, or phone calls can all serve as reminders of your business and brand. Each contact increases the chances of a referral, but also the chances of seeing that client back for repeat business!