How to Create a Referral Based Photography Business

It’s being said everywhere, nothing has more value to you then referrals coming from your clients! There is a new blog on the block that you may want to take a minute and check out! I’ve been asked to write for mobile fotographer every Friday, this post was published there first and I am reposting it here…

What makes a strong referral program? I can tell you what doesn’t… Free 8×10. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a nice incentive but that’s not (in any way shape or form) going to give you a solid base of referred clients. Why? Because there is no connection to an 8×10.  It’s a distant thing that they may or may not remember to even ask for. If handing a stack of referral cards is your referral program, it may be time to restrategize!
Here are 3 ideas for a solid Referral Program:

1. Emotions! The absolute best referral program is simply connecting with your clients. When I put in that little extra effort or make them feel that I’ve gone a little further for them I help them know they are important to me. Add to that a personal touch and a genuine connection is made! When I accomplish that, I’m no longer a photographer, I’m their photographer.

2. Give them something to talk about! This is such a crucial step that I think too many photographers aren’t thinking about. Your clients may not be so overly eager for a stack of 8×10 that they want to hand them out like smut cards on Las Vegas Blvd but if you give them something personal… they will share it. The two best opportunities I’ve found for that is the mini books (find free templates in the shop). It’s like your own personal mini billboard.  And the iPhone cases!


The iPhone cases have been my best form of advertisement ever! And that’s exactly how I look at them too! I don’t mark them up at all, first because I want to get them in the hand of every client that owns an iPhone and second because if they go to the uncommon website and see the price I don’t want them to have any negative feeling toward the one they have in their hand.

3. Referral Cards. Last of all are the referral cards. Once I’ve made the connections and given the tools to talk about me then I think about the referral cards. I give each client only 8 cards. I don’t want them to take a stack of 50 and set them aside somewhere with the stack of mail they need to get through and have them be forgotten. Instead, I want them to feel like these are special, like there is a dollar value credit on each of these little babies, because really — there is!

So there are a few ideas that I’ve come up with and used for my business, what ideas are working for you?
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  1. Kim Larsen says:

    These are two of the products that I am working on right now. I have 2 mini albums created that I will have as samples, and I am working on a third. I am getting a Senior Album, a Baby Album, and a Family Album. I want people to see that the mini albums are great for showing off their portraits from any type of session. I also just saw a great idea on another blog to use the rectangular mini albums as a personalized calendar. I am thinking about using these as holiday gifts for my best clients. http://www.designaglowblog.com/?p=2294

    I am also going to be getting iPhone cases for my husband and myself to show off. Not many people here have iPhones, but lots of them have iPods, which I figure are just as good for a marketing tool.

  2. Kim Larsen says:

    Forgot to mention in the first comment that one of my mini albums (the Senior one) is from your free template. Thank you so much for offering it, because that gave me the push I needed to actually start designing the mini albums that I had been talking about getting for so long. I studied how you created your template and used those ideas to create my own templates for the other two albums.

  3. Krystal says:

    I have been trying to use Uncommon! I want to do this. I don’t have an iphone though I have an itouch. I pre-ordered it months ago. I have had SUCH a hard time getting them to even respond to simple emails. There customer service with me has been horrible!! Have you had any problems? I really want this product and can’t seem to find anything comparable but I’m sooo frustrated with Uncommon. help!! Thx!

  4. Great info!! I have a question though. Say that you give your client, Suzie Q, 8 referral cards and you get 4 new clients from the cards that Suzie Q gave out because she loves you so much. Do you give Suzi Q anything for the 4 new clients she sent to you?

  5. Beja Foster says:

    I would give Suzi Q free Christmas cards. Because if she handed the referral cards out, then she will certainly be glad to plug you for the Christmas cards. Plus, if you have your url on the back, people will be wanting to be like Suzi Q and all her good- photos-all-the-time-for-everything self.

  6. Leah Remillet says:

    Krystal, I’m sorry you’re feeling frustrated. I know that you can find updates on their blog. No doubt the only reason you’re not hearing from them is because they just aren’t ready (which sucks) but as soon as they are they will be on top of it for sure. I order the iPhone cases all the time and I usually have the case in my hand within the same week that I order it!

    Adrienne – Yes you absolutely reward SQ! In fact you could make it quite the to do. I think I feel a future post coming on. She could either get a complimentary print (like an 8×10) or a dollar value to use at her next session. I do a dollar value. And you would absolutely go above and beyond for Miss SQ as well… Like sending her complimentary Christmas cards (great idea Beja!!).

  7. Love your blog, how have we not crossed paths before?

    Anyhow, curious what you “gift” to your clients if they don’t have an iphone – do you just do the mini in that case? I use the minis as incentives for my two highest packages.

    I JUST switched to in person ordering which is awesome for so many things (if you go to my blog you’ll see the BOOK I wrote on the subject today LOL) but also because you can see which images they really love. So what I am going to do with that info is pick one they really loved and ordered small and gift them an 11×14 of it or else pick one they ALMOST ordered but didn’t and gift them that. Cheap COG but very nice gesture I think!

  8. Andrea Berry says:

    Love the iPhone cases!!! Such a great idea! andrea

  9. I LOVE the iPhone case idea! Is it a sticker? I’m not sure how to make one.

  10. greer says:

    Just wondering which templates you use for the cases?
    Just found your blog today, love it to say the least. Thanks for sharing so much…very inspiring.

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