10 Tips For Creating A Successful Referral Program

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Direct referrals to your e-commerce website are probably one of the best sources of solid leads. Many would argue, that people who came across you through a referral are significantly more likely to book than those who found you through an organic Google search. The positive comments of their friends carry far more weight than anything you can post on your website.

So, how do you go about developing a solid referral program that yields results?

Ask Your Leads How They Found You

When you receive a new lead submission, it’s always interesting to find out where it came from. Instead of using your website’s standard contact form, you can integrate a custom contact form that connects directly to your CRM.

Some of these referrals may be “direct referrals,” those that come to you explicitly based on a strong verbal recommendation from a friend, or “indirect referrals,” those that come to you because a friend saw your work on social media. Both are important lead sources, and having the right information to make initial contact with your potential client can be a huge advantage.

Reward For Referrals 

Direct referrals are arguably your most powerful lead source. These are referrals from existing clients who refer a friend to you. I believe it is preferable to thank both the new client and the referring client for these referrals. 

Highest Paying Affiliate Products & Niches to Promote in 2021

For example, the referring client could receive a $50 print credit against a future session, while the new client who came in through the referral would receive a free 810. Consider incorporating referral cards in your packaging so that customers can pass them on to their friends.

This may appear to be a lot of money given away. Still, the clients that come to me through direct referrals are my target clients who actually value what I create, are ready to spend on it, are likely to stay with me year after year, and are likely to suggest me to THEIR friends.

Indirect referrals are often a valuable source of new business. These are the clients that contact you after seeing your work posted by friends on social media or on a Christmas card they received. While these referrals are not always as strong as direct referrals, expressing your gratitude to these referring clients is still crucial. 

Remember: Don’t send any referral bonuses until the new client has paid for their session!

Keep It As Simple As Possible

Remember to be strategic with your referral program. It must run smoothly and be easy to handle logistically. You want to generate more revenue for yourself rather than more effort. 

In the past, many, many years ago, we kept referral data in a Google Spreadsheet, which worked well. This technique worked well, but it’s crucial to find a system that works well for you and doesn’t make managing this software difficult.

This is where a solid affiliate program software, such as Scaleo, comes into play. It allows you to keep things simple, yet track all the referral activity in the background and automate routine tasks such as billings and payouts.


Reward For Reviews

While these are not direct referrals, they can help you grow your customer base if your current customers praise your work and your company. Potential clients love to hear what others have to say about their experience!

Encourage your customers to leave a review on your Facebook page, Yelp, or wherever you think your ideal client might find you. You can show your appreciation by providing them with a free print to encourage them to review your business. You can also offer a free print in exchange for unboxing videos or pictures of your work on their walls.

Treat Your Clients Well

It goes without saying that your most valuable asset is your clients. Managing your client’s expectations from the first point of contact until the final product is delivered is vital. Communication is crucial. Your client communications will be clear, concise, and visually appealing. 

Adobe Spark, for example, can make it exceedingly simple to develop amazing guides that walk your clients through your procedures (think session info guides, ordering guides, what to wear, etc.)

Furthermore, you will need a robust business policies contract. Contracts are more than simply legal documents. Use this agreement to ensure that your client understands everything, from payment terms to what will happen if her child becomes ill on the day of the session. Leave no space for interpretation. Your client will be happier if they understand the process.

Also, be explicit about the schedule for working with you, especially during peak seasons when turn-around time may be a little slower. And, of course, be on time for every work and return emails and phone calls as soon as possible. 

And, of course, follow through on your promises. Your clients were drawn to you because of the quality service you provided. Make sure you follow through! And if something goes wrong and you are unable to meet your client’s expectations, make it right. Refound is rarely required. It is always preferable to ensure that your client is satisfied, just try to be there for your paying clients and offer them what they expect.

Run your company like a business and serve your clients well.

Stay In Touch & Send Cards

Staying in touch with existing clients is one of the finest methods to keep on their minds. Thank you the old-fashioned way – a handwritten thank you note demonstrates attention and dedication to your clients. 

Consider sending holiday cards, as well as anniversary cards for wedding clients and first birthday cards for newborn clients. 

Your newsletter is also an effective approach to staying in touch with your clients. Consider sending out quarterly messages advertising deals, providing ideas, or sneak peeks at personal projects you’re working on, and don’t forget to include a reminder about your referral program!

Keep Your Clients Coming Back 

You must have clients who return to you year after year in order to create a great referral program. Every time you photograph a client, your relationship with them grows stronger, and they are more likely to refer you to their friends. 

In addition to serving your clients well (as described above), having a returning client special can be beneficial if you are a premium, high-end photographer. 

Not every client can afford a full session every year, but with a Repeat Client special, you may maintain that relationship by giving a discounted package to be used within a year of a client buying a full session. 

Rewarding them for their loyalty can be really effective. You want to maintain that relationship so that you are the first person that comes to mind when someone inquires about photography. 

Sell Products 

There are numerous reasons why I believe it is best to always offer merchandise with your services, but one of the most unexpected is that having your work hanging on the walls of your clients’ homes can be a terrific way to earn referrals! 

People are bound to question who took those moments if your client brings friends over for coffee or dinner and they have a stunning gallery wall of your work exhibited. This can then lead to some fantastic direct referrals!

Build Relationships With Vendors

Referrals from vendors can be a terrific method to increase your client base if you are a wedding or event photographer. Send a Vendor Album to the venue, florist, and stylist after completing a wedding or event. 

When they utilize these photographs, they will almost certainly credit your company, but even better, when engaged couples visit their location, the vendor may direct them to your company!

Tell Your Clients About Your Referral Program

Make sure your clients are aware of your referral program! Your referral program will be useless if your clients are unaware of its existence or how to use it. You may include a card in your delivery package that reads something like 

  • “Want to Earn Free Prints?” or 
  • “It Pays To Share The Love!” 

Also, utilize your email to remind existing clients of the benefits of sending referral business your way.


A successful referral program can be a very useful part of your overall marketing strategy. Make sure you give it the care it deserves, but at the same time, make sure you keep it simple enough, so you do not do more work for yourself than it’s worth. If you need to add an affiliate program to your business, give Scaleo a try for 2 weeks FREE (no credit card required) – it’s a private label solution that allows you to add a referral program to your business. 

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Elizabeth Sramek
Elizabeth is a Senior Content Manager at Scaleo. Currently enjoying the life in Prague and sharing professional affiliate marketing tips. She's been in the online marketing business since 2006 and gladly shares all her insights and ideas on this blog.
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