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Keith Phillips

How to Climb to the Top of Your Client's Referral List (and Stay There)

Your best source of clients? It's your clients--if you know how earn referrals.

In the event industry, referrals are everything. In fact, according to, one of the top ways business comes to you is through the referrals of happy customers. This is especially the case when it comes to weddings. Couples are often eager to share their satisfying experiences after working with event pros, and tend to be surrounded by other people who are engaged.

So, how do you build a relationship with clients, especially when your core clientele may only need you once in a lifetime (unless, of course, you diversify)? Consider all clients a source of future business by targeting their referral value. Strive to be the top name in their list of wedding vendors any time they are asked for services like yours.

1. Begin by providing great service from the initial contact.
It all begins by making the best impression when you are planning an event with your clients. Be prompt in your follow-up to their inquiries. Show them you are efficient and care about them. We build relationships with our clients at Classic Photographers by following up regularly via email, text and phone. Whenever possible, we answer their questions before they ever ask them.

When answers to inquiries will take some time to investigate, make sure you acknowledge the question and assure your clients you will follow up. Then follow through. Always under-promise and over-deliver.

It's not enough to just be great at what you do, though. Be mindful of your entire client experience. When you head into your off-season, audit what that looks like, from the moment a prospect first contacts you to the communications after the event. Look into apps and programs that could help you streamline the processes of pinging your clients and keep you top of mind.

2. Cultivate a post-event relationship.
Once your clients’ event is over, your referral relationship with them truly begins.

Look for opportunities to stay in touch. Send holiday and anniversary cards. Let them know you never stop thinking about them. Tag them in social media once in a while to express nostalgia about their event and their planning experience with you. Drop a handwritten note to congratulate them on any new life events you get wind of through local media or mutual friends.

3. Seek feedback.
Send a survey or schedule a follow-up meeting with your clients. Ask for and be receptive to the good, the bad and the ugly. You can’t improve upon areas that you don’t know are a concern. Thank your clients for taking the time to review their experience and help you build a better business for the future.

4. Monitor feedback.
If you do experience negative feedback, try to speak directly with the client to find out if there are resolvable issues. Express your deep, genuine concern, and let them know that they have been heard. Meet with your team to discuss how things can be improved upon in the future, and assure your clients that you have addressed the issue and will continue to take it very seriously.

5. Track your referrals.
It is important to track where your business is coming from when prospects make contact. You need to know who you are reaching and how, and to thank your former clients when they send you someone new. Let them know how appreciated they are which will encourage them to refer again in the future.

Staying at the top of your client’s referral list requires true effort. Begin by offering superior service and follow by creating a trusting and gracious relationship. The referrals will certainly flow in.

Keith Phillips is director of business development for Classic Photographers, which provides high-quality wedding photography and videography services for budget-minded couples across the U.S.

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