There are countless marketing strategies used by wedding photographers, but referrals are key in marketing your wedding photography. When starting or growing your business you’ll likely have to implement a variety of marketing techniques. As you fine-tune your process it becomes easy to see the value of referrals.
I have been a full-time wedding photographer as half of a husband and wife team for over a decade and therefore have tried numerous marketing techniques to ensure I book enough weddings year after year. Let me tell you why referrals are so important.
Referrals Mean You’re Getting 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 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. You want couples that love your work, style, and 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. If the couple has seen our work and received a personal glowing review, they have often already decided to work with us and all we need to do is close the deal.
The only thing better than a direct referral from a friend is when a couple has seen us in action at a friend’s wedding. 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. The best way to find more ideal clients is to take the ideal clients you already have and find more people like that. 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. Not only is it easier to book couples that are already sold on our wedding photography style but those couples also trust us and value us more. If you’ve had both experiences you’ll know that being valued and trusted is a huge bolster to your creativity.
Referrals from Vendors
After referrals from friends or family members come referrals from vendors such as planners and venues. 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’re having one) second. Therefore, those are the people that might pass your name along to a prospective bride and groom.
Often venues, for example, will give a couple their preferred vendor list which is basically a list of vendors that they like working with. If the couple hasn’t already done research on wedding photographers they might look up the photographers on that list. This quickly solves one of the biggest questions in marketing which is, how do I make it so that couples that need my services find me?
A couple that has booked a wedding venue is going to be looking for a wedding photographer next. This means that they are ripe and ready to book with you. That immediacy is different from someone who is just doing some Pinterest board creation to get ideas for their wedding which they may not even have a date for yet.
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. While you and I know that you can and should be able to shoot any venue, the bride sees an advantage to a photographer who has worked at their venue before.
Referrals are Free Marketing
Marketing can mean everything from having a website to utilizing paid advertising. With a small business like wedding photography, it’s important to keep your overhead low. The lower your overhead the higher your profits.
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. Others will cost you both time and money.
What do referrals cost you? 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 hard to ask your clients for referrals because they may not know anyone looking for a photographer at this very moment but you can tell them that you appreciate referrals. It might be something they might not think about but if you mention it they’ll have it on the top of their mind. Something you can ask for is a review, which never hurt either.
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. Sometimes it might take a few years for that bridesmaid you connected with to be ready to hire you but we find that our referral base grows and has been a great source of work.
For us, social media is less about finding new potential clients and more about staying top of mind for our past clients so that we can get those referrals. 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 hardest things about wedding photography is that we have to find new clients every 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. It means that if you serve your clients well you as the 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.
Basically, service isn’t necessarily selfless. Sure, service means being compassionate and empathetic but much like the best waiters get the best tips 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 client experience there are a lot of ways to do this. You might consider something tangible like a client gift or just bringing a calming presence on the wedding day. Client experience might mean luxury or laid-back and approachable depending on your ideal client so it’s worth thinking through the type of experience you want to create for your couples.
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. You can integrate referrals into your marketing plan by creating an incredible client experience and working well with other vendors.
Referrals may seem less predictable or trackable than other marketing techniques but they are key. We love when our clients are fans of our work because not only is it easier to book those weddings but those couples trust us. 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. With their mission and mantra “love. adventurously.” they are dedicated to telling adventurous stories in beautiful places.
Image credits: Photographs by Brenda Bergreen