Referrals Versus Advertising…

Yes, I know…It’s been more than six months since I’ve blogged on this site. I’ve had my hands full with life outside of the studio, but I’ve cleared my plate somewhat and wanted to share some marketing information for those of you that are growing your businesses:

I have a financial advisor that warned me not to pay for advertising, because word of mouth is the best promotion that a small business can do for itself.

Now, of course, I didn’t believe him, and spent an unmentionable amount of money on advertising on both local and regional sites. Ask me how many calls I received from the paid ads that went out. Go ahead. Ask me.

Since you asked, let me just gush over this huge number: ZERO!!!!!!

So, apparently, Mike was right, right? Right!

EVERY SINGLE NEW client I have received over the past year or so has been from REFERRALS!  Yes, folks, you read correctly: Word of Mouth.

I don’t care what business you are in. The referral and word of mouth will either make you or break you. Don’t return the favor to your referring parties? That is absolutely career suicide.

Let me tell you a quick story about this type of thing.

I belonged to a lead referral group here in my community, and got a TON of business from my peers; all based on word of mouth. Given that I had financially benefited from said word of mouth referrals, I felt particularly weird about charging one of my referrers for a head shot that I did. I had no way of paying this individual back for the referral business she had sent my way, except to give her the images of her shoot so that she could use them in her advertising (business cards, letterhead, etc.). It just didn’t seem ethically correct for me to charge her market value for my services after the referrals given to me from her firm. (By the way, this individual and I still have a wonderful relationship.)

While I am a photographer, I can see, too, where this comes into play for many of us with small businesses, especially those of us in the arts, be it photography, drawing, writing, singing, etc.

Don’t bite the referral hand that feeds you.


That said? Let me tell you a little story about the flip side.

I referred a number of people to a fellow business owner,  and then needed this peer’s services. This individual quoted me the market value for their services. Not a discount, but MARKET value. This floored me, especially after having sent this person many customers via referral. This individual made a healthy chunk of money off of my referrals, but then when time came that I needed something as simple as a consultation, I was quoted full price. I didn’t ask for the full she-bang, mind you…Just a consultation.

Do you think I will refer ANY of my clients to this business? Not only no, but HELL NO, to put it bluntly.

I’m not saying be me and give your services away, unless it is something as simple as a head shot or two for a business card. Reduce your fees to your peers. But if your cohort in small business has sent you referrals that have boosted your business? Maybe you ought to think about cutting them a break.

ESPECIALLY if you hope to be referred again.

Just sayin’…

Till next time.