Maybe it’s because I myself was recently married, or because summer is “wedding season” and as it happens, I have plenty of friends tying the knot this year, but when it comes to the subject of referrals, I can’t help but think about all the services and people that go into creating a perfect wedding day.
If you’ve ever planned a big wedding–either for yourself, a relative, or a friend–chances are, you are well aware of the long list of contacts you’re likely to make in order to achieve perfection. After all, it’s not just about the the venue, the caterer, or the DJ. It’s the photographer, the musicians playing during the ceremony, the company that supplies the chairs, tables, and tents, the invitation designer and printer, the officiant, and more. For some, it’s an additional supplier of alcohol, a wedding planner, a cake baker, a florist, and someone who puts up all the lights to hang over the dancefloor.
Of course, when it comes to getting all of these services lined up, it’s natural for brides to be picky and a little skeptical. After all, if everything goes according to plan, your wedding day will only ever happen once, so you’ve only got one chance to get it right. But with so many florists, bakers, and wedding dress suppliers to choose from, where do you even start? And how do you know if the person you’re hiring will do a good job? Sure, you can go to events like those big wedding shows or expos, but the overall effect of those shows is often a feeling of being completely overwhelmed. And so what if they have a booth? That doesn’t mean you can trust them with your big day, does it?
That’s where your referrals come in. You start remembering your cousin’s wedding two summers ago. Her flower arrangements and bouquets were gorgeous–where did they come from? And what about the photographer from your fiance’s friend’s wedding? You hardly knew she was there, but the pictures were fantastic! All the sudden, you don’t need to scour the internet for photographers or bakers–a quick text to these two past brides and you’ve got all the numbers you need!
Now imagine you’re the one providing the service–in this case, you’re the photographer. How can you make sure that the brides you work with will pass on your number, aside from providing great service? Is there a way to ensure you receive a referral 99% of the time?
For this, Forbes has some suggestions:
First, make your expectations known from the get-go. Let the bride know from the very beginning that you’ll be providing incredible service and some beautiful pictures, and you hope that she’ll keep you in mind for referrals down the road. If yours is a business that relies on those word-of-mouth referrals, you’re going to want to lay the groundwork for them from the very beginning.
Second, give bonuses based on time. If your bride fills out a great review about you on Weddingwire.com and refers someone to you within two months of getting hitched, send her some free prints or a small rebate.
Third, go for the specifics. In the comment or review portion of your website, ask specific questions that future brides will want answered, such as how many pictures did she get; were you on time; were the pictures she received of the quality she was expecting; did you fulfill her expectations of service?
Fourth, do something unexpected after the event. This one relates back to providing that special “wow” factor, and it’s really a final chance for you to leave a lasting impression on the person who has the power to send more business your way. Our photographer did this when, along with a flash drive of our wedding photos, she also mailed us ten sample prints of some of our most beautiful pictures, and a thank you note. All of it was encapsulated in this really beautiful, wooden box, tied with linen. The presentation alone made me feel special, and now, I feel even more likely to refer her to my friends.
Fifth, be thankful. Our photographer did this by sending us a thank you card, and by thanking my husband and I profusely in an email, following the event. Being hired by someone–especially for a special event–is a big deal, and should you receive a referral from that person, making sure to thank her for it will only make her more willing to pass along your number.
Sixth, if you don’t have time to be personal, create an automated response. Personally, I think this is cutting corners, but if you’ve got a big company and lots of people to talk to every day, the main focus is just getting a response out, even if it’s not super personal. If that means setting up an automated system, so be it.
You don’t have to be a wedding photographer to see the benefits of referrals or learn from the various methods for achieving those referrals. Whether you’re a dentist looking to drum up some business, or a storage facility looking to get your name out, the rules are the same. Great service = great referrals. It’s just a matter of making those referrals happen.