Offering Incentives for Referrals
Do you offer any incentives for referrals or anything like that?
PHILLIP VAN NOSTRAND (ANSWER):
No, at this time I don’t accept referral fees. For those who don’t know, referral fees are a somewhat controversial practice in the wedding industry where a venue or a wedding planner will take a 10-20 percent fee on any booked wedding that the photographer ends up booking because of them. The controversy here is that the wedding vendor might be referring photographers not based on their merit and skills as a photographer, but rather anyone that will kick back a fee in recompense for the referral.
On the other hand, I wouldn’t mind thanking someone for sending a wedding my way and I would only assume they are doing so because I’m a competent, qualified photographer. If that happens I’d be very willing to give a referral fee to someone as a thank you. So far, all my weddings have been 100 percent referred to me by the goodness of my brides’ hearts. You should know, though, I HAVE offered my friend a steak dinner anywhere in town if they help me book a wedding. Thank you to referrals can come in many forms, including nice dinners out, a bottle of wine, etc.
If you are proud of your wedding work and you have a trusted, real relationship with a wedding vendor who has influence, it might be worth it to you to set up a way to say thank you when they pass weddings along your way. The ethical line gets thin when you are exchanging straight cash for referrals and it’s especially problematic when you raise your pricing to pass that fee on to the bride and groom.