There are many marketing methods that wedding photographers use, but the most effective is to get referrals. There are many marketing strategies that you can use to grow your business. As you fine-tune your process it becomes easy to see the value of referrals.
This article will walk you through why I think that referral marketing is a great way to not only bring your business more leads for less money but to bring you the right kinds of leads. Referrals are a great way to increase your booking rates. Additionally, our best clients always seem to come from our best clients, vendors, or venues.
I have been a wedding photographer full time for more than a decade as a half-married couple. Therefore, I have used many marketing strategies to book sufficient weddings every year. Let me tell you why referrals are so important.
Referrals are a way to get the right kind of clients
Let’s first talk about referral marketing, which brings us the right types of leads. What I’m referring to is that when a couple loves our work and our style and they refer us to their friend who has similar taste, chances are that couple is going to love our work too. Similarly, if we work well at a certain venue and that venue attracts a certain client then those clients are going to be a good fit for us.
When it comes to finding clients it is not always about just finding a large number of clients. It becomes increasingly important to find clients that are a good fit for you and your business. It is important to find couples who love you, your style and your personality.
Referrals from Couples
To begin, when a couple finds your wedding photography business through a recommendation from a friend, they are more likely to trust that friend than from reading fifty 5-star Google reviews from strangers. That’s the reason our booking rate from referrals is so strong. After a couple sees our work, and has given us a glowing review about it, we can close the deal.
A friend can refer you, but a couple who has actually seen our work in action is better. That means they have the glowing review from their friend, have seen examples of our work, and have also seen our personalities in action. By the time they’re engaged and planning their wedding they’re sold on our photography so I don’t have to do much persuading.
As a husband and wife team specifically, we create a certain vibe and connection with our couples from the very first time they see our work and our brand. Finding more clients that fit your ideal client profile is the best way to attract them. It can be a lot of work to build a brand and start attracting couples that fit your target market and referrals help build on that process.
Let’s take it one step further. It is easier to book couples who are familiar with our style of wedding photography. These couples trust us and appreciate us more. You’ll find that trusting and being respected is an important part of your creative process.
Referrals from Vendors
After referrals from friends or family members come referrals from vendors such as planners and venues. Although you can get recommendations from many vendors, I have found that couples book the venues first, and then the planner (if necessary) second. These are people who might recommend you to potential brides and grooms.
Often venues, for example, will give a couple their preferred vendor list which is basically a list of vendors that they like working with. The couple might also look at the list of wedding photographers if they haven’t done any research. This solves the most important question in marketing: How do I get couples to find my services?
A couple that has booked a wedding venue is going to be looking for a wedding photographer next. They are ready and available to work with you. This is different than someone just starting to create Pinterest boards for ideas and may not have yet set a date.
Another advantage of the venue vendor list is that many couples like to see your photos from the venue where they’re getting married so that they can visualize what their photos might look like. Although you both know you should be capable of shooting any venue you choose, the bride prefers a professional who has shot at that venue in the past.
Referrals are Free Marketing
Marketing can mean everything from having a website to utilizing paid advertising. It’s crucial to reduce overhead when running a small business such as wedding photography. Your profits will be higher if your overhead is low.
When you think about your overall marketing strategy you’ll see that there are some elements that you’ll employ that will simply cost you time such as posting on social media. There will be other ones that cost you money such as if you do any paid advertising to show up in a google search. Other ones will both cost you time and money.
What do you pay for referrals? The cost of referrals is really negligible because all it costs is for you to serve your clients well. If you provide a great client experience and do quality work, referrals are free.
It’s difficult to ask clients for recommendations because there may be no one looking right now for a photographer. However, you can let them know that referrals are appreciated. Although it might seem like something that they don’t think of, they will remember it if they mention it. A review is something you could ask for, and it never hurts to request one.
Referrals Increase as Your Business Grows
Referrals increase as your business grows. The more years you’re in business the more potential referrals you have. It might take some time for the bridesmaid you have connected with to be available to hire you, but our referral network grows quickly and is a huge source of work.
For us, social media has less to do with finding potential new clients but more about keeping our clients in mind so we can refer them. More than once we’ve had someone start following us after seeing our photos of her friend and then reach out to us years later. We view our newsletter the same way and try to continue to provide value to our past clients.
One of the most difficult aspects about wedding photography, is finding new clients each year. Where the portrait photographer might have repeat customers, every one of our customers is new. However, we can flatten that steep acquisition curve by utilizing our client base, keeping in touch, and building a community.
How to Get Referrals for Wedding Photography
Below is a review of practical and tangible ways to get referrals for wedding photography.
- Serve your clients well so that they want to tell everyone about you, that means both doing great work and creating a great client experience.
- Make it easy for your clients to share your photos and tag your business on social media so their friends know who took their awesome photos.
- Demonstrate joy and professionalism with everyone on the wedding day, you never know who just got engaged and is going to be looking for a friendly and personable photographer.
- Be fun, professional, and easy to work with so that other vendors pass your name along.
- Send photos to the venue for their own marketing purposes so that they’ll want you back.
- Keep in touch and stay top of mind with your past clients.
A Note on Client Experience
We always say that serving your clients well will serve you well. This is twofold. This means you, as a photographer, will create better images and have better service. Your clients will also be more inclined to recommend you to others.
Basically, service isn’t necessarily selfless. Service is being kind and compassionate. However, the best service requires the ability to be empathetic. If you’re kind and loving you’re more likely to get that in return.
There are many ways you can create a positive client experience. You might consider something tangible like a client gift or just bringing a calming presence on the wedding day. You might define client experience as something that is luxurious or casual and easygoing depending on who you are. It’s important to think about what kind of wedding experience you would like for your clients.
In conclusion, referrals are key in marketing your wedding photography for a variety of reasons. Referrals often have a high booking rate, they are inexpensive as far as leads are concerned, and they mean drawing in more of the ideal clients. Referrals can be integrated into your marketing strategy by providing exceptional client service and working with other vendors.
Referrals are not as predictable and trackable as other marketing methods, but they’re essential. It is so much easier for us to work with clients who are passionate about our work. Having trust with our clients is a big part of being able to do our best work.
About the author: Brenda Bergreen is a Colorado wedding photographer, videographer, yoga teacher, and writer who works alongside her husband at Bergreen Photography. Their mission is love. adventurously.” they are dedicated to telling adventurous stories in beautiful places.
Image credits: Photographs by Brenda Bergreen