5 step strategy to more referrals

If getting referrals is not part of your marketing strategy to grow your business, it may be time to re-think that.  According to a recent Nielsen global report for truth in advertising, here are two stats that stand out in terms of referrals:

  • 92% of people believe the recommendation of friends and family over advertising.
  • 83% trust others the recommendation of people they know.

Those are powerful stats.

That means that for every 10 referrals from happy clients will potentially result in 8 new opportunities to grow your business. Let’s take that one step further. If you even close only half of those leads, that’s four new clients simply by asking for a referral.  If you did this consistently and were able generate 10 new referrals every month, that’s nearly 50 new clients to add to your roster and bottom line. Sounds impossible? It’s really not. Here are three ways to make that happen with the clients you currently have.

  1. Ask – every time.
  2. Provide tools to refer you.
  3. Remind them.


It’s hard to ask for referrals. We feel we are stepping over the line of that comfort zone. For some reason, we feel as if by asking, it might threaten a relationship we’ve worked hard build with a client, or worse, what if they say ‘no’? As a professional, you need to put those fears aside. Repeat these sentences out loud, and as many times as needed:

“I deliver great value to my clients.”
“More people should benefit from my talent.”     

All you have to do is to ask. It’s simple as that. Always assume your clients are happy to refer you. Let them be the ones to tell you they are unconformable in doing so. You might uncover a gap in your services that you will the opportunity to correct, which builds for a stronger relationship and more referrals down the road.


Many clients are happy to refer you, but don’t know how. That is – they don’t know how to present your services to others so you need to provide them with the tools to do just that.

  • Offer a business card or two to pass along.
  • Produce a postcard with your website and contact information.
  • Provide instructions on how to leave a social media review.


You have to remind clients to give you a referral. Asking at the time of the shoot is a good idea, but to be perfectly honest, 9 times out of 10, your request won’t be remembered. Remind them again after the shoot. This could be an email, a personal note attached to the delivery of their final images, or a private message on social media. Remind your client how much you valued the opportunity to work with them and ask for their help by recommending someone who can benefit from your services. This is a real motivator because people genuinely want to help.  The more you remind clients, the more referrals you get, and the more new clients you’ll receive.

How to thank clients for the referrals they give.

Thoughts on referral gifts.

When it comes to gifts for clients who refer you business, there are three rules:

  1. Keep it simple
  2. Keep it inexpensive
  3. Keep it relevant to the size of the business

Remember, most clients are motivated to help you. All they need to do is make the connection which takes only a few minutes of their time. You have to do all the heavy lifting, so the reward doesn’t have to be huge.

Thoughts on Following-up

Most photographers make the mistake of discounting pricing for either the referral or the client who gave them the referral (or gasp) even both. This is not necessary, nor lucrative for you. It’s also doing your brand a great disservice.

Instead, photographers need to nurture both sides of the referral by:

  • Sending a thank you note
  • Sending a small personal gift
  • Asking again

5 step strategy to more referrals.

It’s important to set up a referral strategy and schedule that works for your business. Here is a tried and proven method to keep those referrals rolling in.

1. During the session:

As you get acquainted with your client,  be sure to make note of a personal preference, ( for gift ideas later), and ask for a referral at the end of the shoot.

2. After the session:

A simple hand written thank you note should be sent to the client, reminding them you much your enjoyed the session and remind them to refer someone they know. (Don’t forget to send along those tools to make it easy for them to connect you).

3. After receiving the referral:

Send an email thanking them for the referral with the promise of follow-up and ensuing they will be just as happy with your services as they were. (If they didn’t send you a referral after step 2, a gentle reminder as the main gist of this email doesn’t hurt).

4.  After the referral is successful: (the gift)

Once the session is complete with your new found client, send a small (thoughtful) gift to the client who gave you the referral. Since you worked with your referring client originally, you’ll know a thing or two about them when you initially got acquainted. Make the referral gift relevant by making it personal. Avoid gift cards to a coffee shop – unless you know they are a caffeine addict. The more thoughtful the gift, the more memorable you and your services will be.

Send the referral gift along with a personal note letting them know that their referral just finished a shoot with you and they were over the moon with the end result. Chances are, this will be months after they initially refereed this new client to you, so take this opportunity to ask for another referral. They’ll feel good about helping you again knowing the last referral worked out so well.

See what happened there? You asked 3 times for a referral without seeming annoying, obnoxious, or any of the other things you thought asking for a referral might be.

5.  Start the process all over with your new client.

This takes diligence, but by simply adding a referral strategy like this to your workflow will make a big impact to the bottom line.

About the Author
“We know instead of marketing your work, you’d much rather be creating it.” Deanna White,  is owner and publicist for storylinePR and a Chartered Marketer, recognized as top marketing talent in Canada by the Canadian Marketing Association. She provides marketing and PR support to Ottawa’s most talented fine art photographers. –  www.storylinepr.ca

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