Assuming that you don’t already have all the business you can handle, let’s go ahead and talk about how to get more….LOTS more…without spending a penny on advertising. We’re talking about referrals, y’all. Maybe you only have ONE client this month (eek!!), let’s turn that one client into at least 4, shall we?
So when should you be asking for referrals?
1. Right after they book their session!
It all starts with planting the “tell your friends” seed VERY early in communications with your client. Let’s say she booked today…Awesome. You sent her the booking confirmation and all the “how to prepare” information. She’s all giddy with excitement and has probably told all of her girlfriends that she just booked a boudoir shoot. A couple of them are thinking “I want to do that. so. bad.”
Imagine their surprise when 2 days after booking, you send your client an email that says “Hey girl! It’s a little out of the ordinary, but I happen to have the time slot right after yours available! I just thought I would mention it just in case you have a friend who might want to book that time slot so y’all could have a fun girl day and both get your shoot on!!”
It’s just a little plug but it gets them thinking about it. They tell their girlfriends. One of them totally goes for it. You throw in a complimentary matted print for each of them to seal the deal (or whatever you want…that’s not what this post is about!). Voila! You’ve turned one client into two and you haven’t even photographed anyone yet.
2. At their photo shoot!
I don’t know about you, but I like to keep it really conversational at my shoots. My clients are almost always super nervous and find themselves so much more at ease when I just have relaxed chats with them about life, what’s going on this weekend, and Justin Timberlake, of course (that fine man comes up at every.single.one.of.my.shoots. Ok that might be my fault…).
At some point in the session I nonchalantly ask “So do your girlfriends know that you’re doing this? What did they say??” OF COURSE their girlfriends know! That’s what girls do, we share fun exciting news with each other and squeal about it, right!? So that’s the point in time in which she tells me that her friends Tina and Lisa were so jealous!
*Insert Plug Here* “GIRL, (that’s how we start sentences in the south.) you’re about to be their hero because if you “refer” them, they’ll get a gift certificate to use towards their shoot, and you’ll get a gift certificate to use at your photo reveal towards prints or an album!! You’ll be getting an email with the voucher in it tomorrow!” That’s it. This isn’t about begging them for referrals. It’s about planting the seed. Again. At this point she leaves the shoot and tells Tina that she just HAS to do it and it was SO much fun. Voila! Another client.
3. After their photo shoot!
That email that I mentioned needs to go out like clockwork the day after the client’s photo shoot. I roll this into my thank you email. The message starts out thanking them so much for such an amazing shoot, the images are phenomenal, can’t wait to share them, your husband is going to DIE when he sees them, insert something personal, etc.
At the end of the email, I present the opportunity to share a great deal with their friends: “I know I mentioned this to you yesterday, here is the referral voucher I was telling you about! Forward it to ANYONE you want and as many people as you want! There’s no limit, girl! Hell, share on it FACEBOOK, if that floats your boat, and get yourself a free album!”.
I attach the referral voucher (pictured below) that I’ve customized with their name on it and either a modest photo or a beauty-style photo from their session floating in the background. It’s their “teaser” image…and even if they weren’t originally going to pass that voucher off to friends, you better believe they are NOW because it’s the only peek at their photos that they’ve got and they want to show.it.off!
You can make the voucher for anything you’d like, but I found it was most effective offering a $ amount off of the friend’s session + the same $ amount applied as product credit for the client. Everybody wins. The friends need to book by the day before the client’s photo reveal (so that the client can apply their credit that day).
Easy as pie! Mmm….pie.
4. At their photo reveal!
If the experience wasn’t enough excitement to get your client pumped up about spreading the word, seeing their photos certainly will! I actually encourage my clients to bring a girlfriend to the reveal appointment with them which has proven to be a genius move! If they didn’t book before, I have a REALLY good chance of booking them at that reveal! It’s also a double-win because you know the friend will be just GUSHING over those photos…and if it’s a good friend, she’ll also be encouraging your client to purchase all of the images! That’s what girls do. We encourage our girlfriends to buy stuff. So, not only do you have a great chance of booking the friend, but you’ll likely also have a more successful sale with your client.
5. When you deliver product!
This is usually the point when I thank them again so much for their business and tell them that I hope we’ll do it again sometime! I ask for a review of my services on my website when they have the chance, and make a point of saying how much of my business is referral-based and let them know that I would love for them to spread the word!
There you have it! At least 5 opportunities to ask for your clients to talk about you, without having to be too “used car salesman”. Boudoir is the business of word-of-mouth, so WORK IT! Even if your ONE client referred only ONE of her friends, then that friend referred one friend, and THAT friend referred one friend, that is (wait…let me do the math for a moment…) FOUR people at likely FOUR TIMES the profit just because you did something as simple as ASKING for a referral. Seems like a no brainer, doesn’t it? Yet SO few photographers have a solid referral program in place. Don’t be lazy about getting those referrals! I guarantee an increase in business if you start focusing on BOOKING HER FRIENDS!
Now go get ‘em, you sexy image maker, you!