Word-of-mouth is one of the oldest forms of marketing there is. It’s also one of the most effective. Just how powerful is word-of-mouth marketing? According to some frequently cited Nielsen and McKinsey surveys:
– A vast majority (92%) of consumers say they trust recommendations from other people over paid marketing and advertising.
– People are four times more likely to buy a product or service if a friend recommends it.
– Most people (84%) will take action following a personal recommendation.
– Word of mouth is the deciding factor in anywhere from 20–50% of all purchasing decisions.
But data only tells so much of the story. For further proof of the undeniable impact of referrals, just take a look at the words that have come out of professional photographers’ mouths—call it meta word-of-mouth.
Still, for all of the benefits it can have on your business, word-of-mouth is notoriously tricky to engineer—tricky, but not impossible. While you may not be able to compel and control the organic conversation about your work, here are eight tangible ways you can boost your referral rate and motivate your clients to recommend you to their friends and colleagues.
1. Do Good Work
It should go without saying, but your portfolio needs to shine. Good work markets itself. It should draw viewers’ attentions, pique their interest, and exceed their expectations. In other words, it should amaze potential clients to the point that they have to share your work with others. Few people will reach out to you if your photography is merely average. Give clients a reason to talk about you.
2. Be Friendly and Dependable
You have everything to gain by being easy to work with. If you can meet deadlines, show up on time, and put your clients at ease, you’ve already outshone a lot of your competition. When you’re ready and willing to help others, people generally want to return the favor.
Simple though it may sound, one of the easiest ways to obtain referrals is by asking for them. Level with clients, tell them what you need, and they’ll often be willing to help you. You don’t need to overthink it—the request could be as straightforward as “hey, it was great working with you—if you know anyone who needs a photographer, feel free to send them my way.” Give them greater motivation by offering to do the same for them.
4. Make It Easy
It’s very possible clients would like to refer you, but for one reason or another, it’s difficult for them to do so. Perhaps they can’t find you online or they don’t remember your email address. Make it as easy as possible for people to find or share your work. Keep business cards handy, maintain an active presence online, and optimize any business listings you may have.
5. Stay Top of Mind
Don’t be afraid to reach out to old clients and contacts. It’s never a bad idea to send regular emails with updates from your studio, or mail out thank you cards over the holidays. Coupons, giveaways, special packages, and other kinds of promotions can improve your referral rate as well.
6. Leave Clients With an Experience to Remember
Aside from being friendly and dependable, it pays to be different. Give your clients something to remember: a shoot that was fun, exciting, or unusual. With the right attitude, even potentially negative experiences can turn into misadventures and funny stories. The goal is to have your clients recount the experience to their friends and colleagues.
7. Remain Active on Social Media
This is another obvious tip, but one few photographers take to heart. Photographers with consistent social media profiles full of engaging content tend to outperform their peers, and for good reason: if you can give people the tools to like and share your photos, you can both initiate and own the conversation about your work.
8. Become an Authority
Your work isn’t the only way to draw clients toward you. Consider the valuable advice and education you could give a wide audience—these bits of wisdom can lead you toward becoming an authority in your field. YouTube tutorials are one great example of this.
Why didn’t I mention referral programs? A few reasons:
1. You can find that advice anywhere. Check out this guide or this one to start.
2. Referral marketing is a much bigger and more complex topic than it seems. People do it wrong all the time.
3. Incentives may seem like an easy way to win referrals, but you don’t need them and they aren’t always effective. You can win word-of-mouth without giving anything out.
How do you foster word-of-mouth for your business? Share your recommendations, tips, and tricks with us in the comments.