The 3 simple reasons people will (or won’t) refer you

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I’ve been a wedding photographer for ten years. My brand is simple – relaxed, genuine and natural. Not only does my photographic style reflect this, but the way I interact with people reflects this. Take a wedding day, for example. I am casual, but not sloppy. Professional, but not uptight. Fun, but not goofy. Personable, but not intrusive.


I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at a wedding reception when a bridesmaid, groomsmen, family member or another guest would come up to me and say “you did a great job today”, and then inquire about booking me themselves.

You know the funny thing about it? They complemented me on how great of a job I did, yet they hadn’t even seen any of the photos yet. How can they say I did a great job? Isn’t that like complementing a chef before trying the food?

Many photographers think it’s all about the photography, and if it were, then the chef argument would hold up. But it’s not. I’m not saying photography itself isn’t important (more on that in a bit), but it’s only a small piece of the bigger picture. Your success as a photographer has more to do with you and your personality than anything else.

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In continuing our conversation about how to get guaranteed referrals as a wedding photographer, in this article, I want to explore the question “why do people refer”. I believe there are three contributing factors to the why people refer. Below, I’ve tried to give them each a “weight” as to how important they are in affecting whether or not a client will refer you.

  • 50% because of you
  • 35% because of the experience you provide
  • 15% because of your photography

The greatest emphasis is on you, the person. If people enjoy spending time with you, connect with you as a person and can relate to you, have a great experience and feel comfortable with the atmosphere you create, then they’re more likely to love their photos. It’s called cognitive bias – we see what we want to see, and when we have a great experience, we’re more likely to enjoy the results.

[quoteright]If people enjoy spending time with you, connect with you and can relate to you, they’re more likely to refer you[/quoteright]

Photography has a transformative effect. Like an old song from your younger years, an image can take you back to the moment it was taken. If a client remembers having fun, enjoying themselves, laughing and being relaxed, they’ll love the image that much more. If they remember being stressed, overwhelmed, bored or upset, they’ll love the photo less, even if it is a technically perfect image.

If you want to increase referrals, you have to simply optimize the motivations to refer – you, the experience you provide, and your photography.

Be the best version of yourself

Much has been written on the topic of personal development, and it’s a field that every photographer should study.

The best book you can read that has nothing to do with photography is Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Since you and your personality have such a huge impact on the likelihood that a client will refer you, it’s clear to see the benefit in being the best version of yourself. Here are ten quick tips to quickly “level up” your personality so you can be the best version of yourself:

  1. Be trustworthy, likable, valuable and dependable
  2. Do what you’ll say you’ll do
  3. Be genuine
  4. Smile often
  5. Use people’s names
  6. Have a positive attitude
  7. Always be helpful
  8. Care about the relationship
  9. Become interested in other people
  10. Be a good listener

Create a remarkable experience

Maya Angelou is famous for saying “People will forget what you said. People will forget what you did. But people will never forget how you made them feel.”

The experience you provide for your clients will greatly affect their likelihood of referring you.

The customer experience doesn’t happen by accident, and I believe that the most successful photographers design their customer experience with intent. In the next few days, we’ll be diving into this topic very specifically, and I’ll even show you a sample ideal customer experience for a wedding.

Be a great photographer

The last part of the equation – the product – again, cannot be avoided.

I assume that you are a great photographer. You must master your craft, always give your best, never stop learning and invest in the best products.

Now that we understand why people refer, we can fine-tune all the moving parts to optimize for referrals. In the next article, I’ll be going deeper into the customer experience – what it is and how you can set and exceed expectations.

The “Guaranteed Referrals” Series

This article is the 2nd article in the “Guaranteed Referrals” series. To read the first article, check out this article.



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