There are countless marketing strategies used by wedding photographers, but referrals are key to marketing your wedding photography. When starting or growing your business, you will likely need to implement various marketing techniques. As you refine your process, it becomes easy to see the value of referrals.
This article will tell you why I think referral marketing is a great way to not only bring your business more leads for less money, but also bring you the right kinds of leads. For example, our booking rate is higher through referrals than any other marketing source. Moreover, our best customers always seem to come from our best customers, suppliers or sites.
I’ve been a full-time wedding photographer as one half of a husband and wife team for over a decade, so I’ve tried many marketing techniques to ensure I book enough weddings year after year. Let me tell you why referrals are so important.
Referrals mean you get the right kind of clients
First, let’s talk about what I mean by referral marketing bringing us the right kinds of leads. What I’m referring to is that when a couple likes our work and our style and they refer us to their friend who has similar tastes, chances are that couple likes our work too. Likewise, if we do well in a certain location and that location attracts a certain client, those clients will be a good fit for us.
When it comes to finding customers, it’s not always about finding a large number of customers. It is becoming increasingly important to find customers who are a good fit for you and your business. You want couples who love your work, your style, and your personality.
For starters, when a couple finds your wedding photography business through a friend’s recommendation, they’re more likely to trust that friend than by reading fifty 5-star Google reviews from strangers. This is why our booking rate per referral is so high. If the couple have seen our work and received a rave personal review, they have often already decided to work with us and all we have to do is close the deal.
The only thing better than a direct referral from a friend is when a couple saw us in action at a friend’s wedding. That means they got their friend’s rave review, they’ve seen examples of our work, and they’ve also seen our personalities in action. By the time they’re engaged and planning their wedding, they’re convinced by our photographs, so I don’t have to do a lot of persuasion.
As a husband and wife team in particular, we create a certain vibe and connection with our couples from the first time they see our work and our brand. The best way to find more ideal customers is to take the ideal customers you already have and find more people like that. Building a brand and starting to attract couples that fit your target market can be a lot of work, and referrals help leverage that process.
Let’s go a little further. Not only is it easier to book couples who are already convinced by our style of wedding photography, but these couples also trust and appreciate us more. If you’ve had both experiences, you’ll know that being appreciated and trustworthy is a huge boost to your creativity.
After referrals from friends or family members come referrals from vendors such as planners and sites. You can try to get referrals from all sorts of vendors, but I’ve found that the couple often books the venue first and the planner (if they have one) second. Therefore, these are the people who could pass your name on to the bride and groom.
Often sites, for example, will give a few their favorite vendor list, which is basically a list of vendors they like to work with. If the couple hasn’t researched wedding photographers yet, they can research the photographers on this list. This quickly solves one of the biggest questions in marketing, how do I get couples who need my services to find me?
A couple who have booked a wedding venue will then seek out a wedding photographer. This means they are ripe and ready to book with you. This immediacy is different from someone just making a Pinterest board to get ideas for their wedding that they may not even have a date for yet.
Another benefit of the venue provider listing is that many couples like to see your photos of the venue where they are getting married so they can visualize what their photos might look like. While you and I know you can and should be able to photograph any location, the bride sees an advantage in having a photographer who has worked at their location before.
Referrals are free marketing
Marketing can mean everything from creating a website to using paid advertisements. With a small business like wedding photography, it’s important to keep your overhead costs low. The lower your overhead, the higher your profits.
When you think about your overall marketing strategy, you will see that some elements you will use will simply cost you time, such as social media posting. There will be others that will cost you money, like paying for advertising to show up in a Google search. Others will cost you time and money.
What are referrals costing you? The cost of referrals is really negligible because all it costs is for you to serve your customers well. If you provide a great customer experience and do quality work, referrals are free.
It’s hard to ask your clients for referrals because they may not know anyone looking for a photographer right now, but you can let them know you appreciate referrals. It might be something they might not think about, but if you mention it, they will have it in their minds. Something you can ask for is a review, which never hurts either.
Referrals grow as your business grows
Referrals increase as your business grows. The longer you have been in business, the more potential referrals you have. Sometimes it can take a few years for the bridesmaid you connected with to be ready to hire you, but we find that our referral base is growing and has been a great source of work.
For us, social media is less about finding potential new customers and more about staying top of mind for our old customers so we can get those referrals. More than once, someone started following us after seeing our photos of their friend, then contacted us years later. We view our newsletter in the same way and try to continue to provide value to our past customers.
One of the hardest things about wedding photography is that we have to find new clients every year. Where the portrait photographer may have regular clients, each of our clients is new. However, we can flatten this steep acquisition curve by using our customer base, staying in touch, and building community.
How to get references for wedding photography
Below is a review of practical, tangible ways to get wedding photography referrals.
- Serving your customers well so they want everyone to talk about you means both doing a great job and creating a great customer experience.
- Make it easy for your customers to share your photos and tag your business on social media so their friends know who took their great photos.
- Be cheerful and professional with everyone on the wedding day, you never know who just got engaged and who is going to find a nice and kind photographer.
- Be fun, professional, and easy to work with so other vendors will pass on your name.
- Send photos to the site for their own marketing purposes so they will want you to come back.
- Stay in touch and stay ahead with your past customers.
A note on customer experience
We always say that serving your customers well will serve you well. It’s dual. This means that if you serve your clients well, you as a photographer will have a better experience and create better work and also that your clients will be more likely to refer you to their friends.
Fundamentally, service need not be selfless. Of course, service means being compassionate and empathetic, but just as the best servers get the best advice, the best photographers have the best clients. If you’re kind and loving, you’re more likely to get that in return.
When it comes to creating a great customer experience, there are plenty of ways to do it. You might consider something tangible like a gift to a client or simply providing a calming presence on the wedding day. Customer experience can mean luxury or casual and accessible depending on your ideal customer, so it’s worth thinking about what type of experience you want to create for your couples.
In conclusion, references are essential in marketing your wedding photography for a variety of reasons. Referrals often have a high booking rate, they are inexpensive when it comes to leads, and they mean attracting more ideal customers. You can incorporate referrals into your marketing plan creating an amazing customer experience and working well with other vendors.
Referrals may seem less predictable or trackable than other marketing techniques, but they are essential. We love when our clients are fans of our work because not only is it easier to book these weddings but these couples trust us. Having trust with our customers is a big part of being able to do our best work.
About the Author: Brenda Bergreen is a Colorado wedding photographer, videographer, yoga instructor and writer who works alongside her husband at Bergreen Photography. With their mission and mantra “Love. Adventurous. They are dedicated to telling stories of adventures in beautiful places.
Picture credits: Photographs by Brenda Bergreen