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How Real Estate Photographers Can Use Referral Marketing

Published: 01/10/2018
By: larry

Colin in California asked the following question:

I was gearing up to get started in this business when, more quickly than anticipated, I was connected with one of the biggest realtors in town and I was quickly shooting multi-million dollar homes—very high-end for the area. The client is awesome to have and pays well. Great! The only thing is, now I need to ramp up and get more volume in order to make a real living at this.

So my question to you is, how should I market myself? I want more volume, but I want to maintain what I’m doing with this Realtor and cater to the upper-end if possible.

You have a great start if you are already shooting for one of the top Realtors in your area. The very best way to market is by referral. Make sure you are meeting your top Realtor's needs and ask her to recommend you to her friends.

Referral marketing is very powerful and used widely in the real estate industry. Realtors use this technique and understand it well. For real estate photography, the process works like this:

  1. Explicitly ask your clients to refer you to their friends. Something like, "If you like the work I do, please tell your friends about me." Say it in person and have it on your marketing materials.
  2. Realtors will trust recommendations from their friends in the business over any other form of marketing. Referral marketing is the most powerful form of marketing!
  3. When one of your existing clients refers you to another Realtor, give the referring agent a gift. Give the gift and say thank you in person.
  4. Referral marketing is a widely used technique in real estate and documented in a book by Brian Buffini and Joe Niego. This whole marketing technique applies to real estate photographers.

There are many more secondary parts of marketing (here is a beginner's summary) but getting the referral process going is very important!

9 comments on “How Real Estate Photographers Can Use Referral Marketing”

  1. It is true that referrals are usually great when you can get them and worth cultivating. However, homeowners referring other homeowners to realtors is very different from realtors referring their vendors to other realtors. Sometimes, realtors may be reluctant to refer their colleagues who are their competitors to their preferred vendors out of sheer competitiveness; and some realtors may be concerned that, if their preferred vendors get too busy, these vendors won't have as much time for them when they need them. This is particular issue with photography, since it involves creativity and aesthetic judgement that may not be easy to replace. As long as they are qualified and reliable, home inspectors, painters, carpenters, landscape maintenance, etc., are relatively interchangeable in terms of their work product.

  2. I would not be surprised if a poll was taken on "What has been the most succesfull way that you have earned new clients"
    Trade Shows
    Or .... wait for it....... Referrals

    One thing about referrals, they come with an implicit recommendation (unless the agent is trying to torpedo the other :))

  3. All of my business comes from recommendations. Well not really, about 10% actually find me on the internet but that won't grow the business referrals do.

    The best referrals, I found by accident, are from office managers. Office managers, on occasion, sell homes. When they do they share it with some other agent. I'm sure that varies from place to place but it seems to be the norm here. When I have done work for them they always refer their new agents and others to me. They are in the thick of it. Be patient, above all do great work, be priced for the market and this will work. Just approach the office manager with a deal. If you are already established with a top agent let them know. They won't ask that agent if they are with another agency but they will look at you work. If it's better than their agency office they will push you.

    Ditto on agents being reluctant to pass you on unless asked. They do not want to build the competition. Focus on the office managers. They want winners on their teams and in their offices.

  4. Congratulations on success with one high end client. While referral is the topic, the unspoken is - Diversify. Seek to develop a broad base through multiple growth marketing avenues. The biggest issue is that if your high end client, on a whim decides he like me (figuratively speaking as we are in different geographic markets)'re sunk.

  5. I started almost 4 years ago and since the first couple months have had consistently had more business than I can handle - but have never once approached anyone since then - it's ALL been referrals (or upper 90 percent anyway, a few are from my site). I attribute that 'success' to a busy market, not much local competition and *MOSTLY something I read on this blog* in the very beginning: To above else; "focus on your skills and just keep getting better". It's worked for me (yes - I have a loooong ways to go - I'm no Hargis) but shooting every day to get better will get you a lot of business. Really.

    Quality is all the advertisement you'll ever need. Realtors love to gossip and all you need is a "who did your photos!?!" ... If you shoot with that as your goal it'll happen, quickly. At least it did for me 🙂

  6. The top agent in my area is so secretive about his photographer (a really good one) that he doesn't even tell his assistant who it is. I have two customers that are happy to provide me with a reference and of the others that do enough work to be good references, none of them want to give me up to anybody else.

    The vast majority of new clients I get come from getting out and meeting them face to face.

  7. Agree with the notion that agents are reluctant to refer "their sources" to their competition. What successful business person "reveals" all of their secrets to success. That would be counterproductive.

    That said, if you make it worth their time, some will pass on your name and recommendation. But in the end, if you are good...really good, agents will let their friends in the business know who you are.

  8. What do you guys think about a monetary award per referral that you book a shoot with? If I were to incentivize referrals, I was thinking something along the lines of $30 to the referrer per new client that books a shoot, for a limited amount of time.

  9. @Adam - Sure $30 per referral is fine. Why have any limits on it? A referral can be worth a huge amount of money to you. Also, be sure to thank the referrer personally for each and every referral.

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