Through all of the conferences & teaching platforms that we’re part of like The Academy, we’re members of a lot of Facebook groups. And something that we’ve been seeing come up a lot lately in those forums is that people aren’t where they want to be booking wise….and they are starting to panic. And I think a big part of that panic comes from that feeling of just not knowing what to do about it.
I mean, there are a lot of problems in a business (things like needing help with editing, or a faster workflow, or needing to understand your flash better) that you could just outsource, buy a new product, or sign up for a workshop to learn more about and be able to fix those problems pretty fast. But not booking? It doesn’t feel like there’s a clear next step as to what to do. And that’s when people start to shut down and panic sets in.
But, after years of doing mentoring sessions & workshops and coaching people through this over & over, I actually think there is a very specific next step to get out of the booking rut. There are a LOT of things that go into getting your name out there & getting booked, things like what we do for our vendor experience, our triangle offense of marketing, connection marketing on the website & building up your secondary circle of referrals (all of which we go over in The Guide if you need more help with that!) But out of all of them (and all of them are important!), I still think there is one stand out next step that has the power to really shake everything up with your bookings and get you back to building momentum again. And that is starting up what we’re calling the “super referral group.”
The super referral group is essentially your peer group of about 3-4 other photographers, where all of you are in a similar place in your business. And it operates under the idea that “All of us can get all of us booked a lot faster than any one of us could get booked by ourselves.” It is the best parts of #communityovercompetition in action….realizing that when we work together with the very people we could consider competition, we ALL get better. Instead of wasting all our time & energy trying to undo (or out-do!) one another by tearing each other down, we build each other & our businesses up in the process! Basically it works like this:
1. Start with a lunch. Pick 3-4 other photographers who are in a similar place in their business, both in price, experience and quality of work. Note that you all don’t have to have a similar style, but you all should be like-minded in how you treat your clients and what you want your businesses to stand for. Invite those folks out to lunch and tell them your plan. Definitely say the part about “all of us can get all of us booked…” They’ll love that! :)
2. Agree to start a private FB group & shared Google Calendar. The private fb group is for encouraging each other, bouncing ideas around, helping each other talk through things when you have a problem or need to vent. The shared Google Calendar is so that you can all input the dates that you’re already booked, so that when one of you needs to refer someone you know at a glance who is available.
3. Refer one at a time. Now when you get an inquiry for a date where you’re booked, don’t just send them to all 3-4 other photographers in your group in a list format with links. Instead, look at the Google Calendar to see who is available, and out of those folks pick just one to refer. Do the hard work of seeing who would be the absolute best match & take the best care of this particular client. Now include why you think that’s the case. Spend the time telling this inquiry why this other photographer would be the best possible match for them. Tell them what you love & respect about their work….and just as importantly, what you love & respect about them. Go above & beyond to say all the things you love about them. That potential client will SO appreciate you actually caring that they find someone good. And at the end of the email, let them know that you cc’d the photographer in so that they can connect directly. That both serves the client because you made the connection easy for them & it also shows the other photographer that you’re referring them and exactly what you’re saying about them!
4. Become a “super referral” for one another. When a vendor or location refers you, it’s great! And it matters. But at the end of the day, it’s still just a regular referral and the bride may or may not listen to it. But I think when someone is in the same field as you, when it’s someone whose opinion the bride trusts both because of their knowledge photography & because she had wanted to hire them in the first place, and when it’s someone who is technically the “competition” who still has all of these amazing things to say about you… then it becomes this sort of a “super referral” that’s really hard to ignore. We can effect become the voice in someone else’s business who makes it a no-brainer for brides to hire them. And that will always come back to us both from a grateful photographer the next time they need to refer someone….and from a client who had wanted YOU, but was really blown away when you still took the time to go above & beyond for them even though you couldn’t take the job. That’s remarkable!
Ok, so there it is! If you don’t have one already, your homework assignment is to put together your own “super referral group” and set up a date to have lunch!
Because “all of us” is truly stronger/smarter/better than any “one of us”!
Go rock it out!