This is a Guest Post from Lori Gross at Red Leash Photography, a pet photographer based in Annapolis, MD.

Have you ever heard of the Rule of Seven? It is one of the oldest rules of marketing that says that a prospective customer must hear about your business at least seven times before they buy from you. It is even more powerful if prospective clients hear about you from multiple sources, especially people they trust like a good friend. In this day and age of information overload, we all know that word of mouth advertising is the best marketing a photographer can get.

Every photographer wants referrals. We want our clients gushing about us and telling all of their friends about what a great experience they had working with us. So how do you get this to happen?

First, you have to be a business that is gush worthy. I know that I tell all my friends about the stores, restaurants and people that go above and beyond for me; those that spend extra time getting to know me and really understand what I want and need. And I love patronizing businesses that have products that are truly distinctive.

Ask yourself what you want people to say about your business and about you? Then, make sure that everything you do before, during and after their photo session leads your customers to talk about you, your service, and your products in the way you want them to.

Now that you have put in the effort to give your clients a spectacular experience, can you just count on them to talk about you in daily conversation with their friends and colleagues? No! You have to give them something to share and show off so they have a springboard for the conversation.

Here are three ideas for gifts you can give your clients to organically get them talking about your business.

1. Referral Card

For under $3 you can get a referral program started. Order a set of 8 wallet size personalized referral cards for your clients to hand out to their friends and family. Each card should include a small referral incentive for both the new and the referring client. My clients love receiving them and it is a low cost personal touch. You can include them when you deliver your order, or send them separately with a hand written thank you note. I package them in little clear bags that I get in packs of 100 at Michaels and use double sided tape to stick them in a card.

One downside of the referral card is that your clients are only giving these to people they think might be interested in your service already. This is great, but you want them to talk about your business with everyone they meet because you never know who might want to hire you next.

2. Sticky Albums

Earlier this year I discovered Sticky Albums. Sticky Albums take advantage of modern technology by allowing you to create a personalized app for your clients of their best images. They can view this app on their iPhone, iPad or Android phone and share the app on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest or via email with just a click of a button. Plus it works offline as well! And for those of you that struggle with whether to offer digital files, this is a great way to get your images in your client’s hands without giving them individual jpegs.

For about $6 per client (assuming you have at least 30 clients a year), you can create unlimited Sticky Albums that are hosted indefinitely. They also auto update if you add new images, which is a great feature. I like to give out a complimentary Sticky Album with about 3-5 of my client’s best images. You can also include more images as an incentive with your larger packages.

 

Since Sticky Albums are really just a series of jpeg’s, you can insert anything into them that you want. The last slide of my app is a referral card, giving them a small incentive for telling their friends about Red Leash Pet Photography.

One great idea for relationship marketing is to include advertising space for a complimentary business. Approach pet groomers, dog walkers or a pet boutique and offer to include a coupon for their service, either for free or for a small annual fee.  This will keep your customers opening their app and keep your business on their mind, even when they are patronizing other local businesses.

One of the reasons Sticky Albums are so great is because the images you want your clients to share are right there at their fingertips at all times. Since the app has their favorite images in it, people are more apt to share it with many different friends, exposing your photography to a larger circle of potential clients.

(Additional note from Nicole at Hair of the Dog:  I just started using Sticky Albums and I can’t say enough great things about this product!  I tell clients that they will receive this with all ordered images and then I may surprise clients with extra images, often an image that I feel is a great marketing image for me and I want other people to see.  I’m happy to say that Sticky Albums is offering Hair of the Dog readers a $40 discount on the Professional Membership by using the code NBEGLEY40)

3. Custom Phone Cases

To really stand out and get your clients talking about you everywhere they go, I suggest you give your clients a custom photo phone case. Both Simply Color Lab and Uncommon offer great options. I have a case from Uncommon and have even been stopped in the grocery store to talk about my case! This is not a low cost option, but it is a great gift for your best customers. Include one with your largest package, or just surprise your clients with it as a gift. Everyone loves surprise gifts and these are definitely gush worthy.

What ideas do you have to get better referrals from your clients? Please share them in the comments. I’d love to hear your tips and I’m sure others will find them helpful as well. Thanks!

Red Leash Pet Photography and Lori Gross are based in Annapolis, Maryland and serve the DC, VA, MD area as well as the Eastern Shore. Check out Lori’s Pet Photography work at www.redleash.com. You can also follow all of her adventures at www.facebook.com/redleash.