Senior portrait photographers use senior rep programs (also called senior model programs) for one reason alone — word-of-mouth marketing works.

It not only works, but it works better than any other form of marketing. In fact, 74% of consumers say word-of-mouth recommendations from family and friends influenced their purchasing decisions more than any other form of advertising. [Ogilvy/Google/TNS]

So it’s not a question of whether a portrait photographer should use a senior rep program, but how to use it successfully.

That’s why these three simple tweaks can transform your existing model/rep program. Or, if you are just getting started, you’ll want to bake these strategies into your program from the very beginning.

Key #1 — Create Share-Worthy Experiences

If you really want your models to talk about you and your business, you need to give them something more than a stack of pretty pictures to talk about.

You need to give them an experience.

Portrait photographer Josh Fisher does a fantastic job at this. He runs a dedicated, stylized shoot that’s all about making the models feel like superstars. In a recent shoot, he hired a specialty florist to create hand-made flower crowns for the models. They even had horses on location!

The reps absolutely loved being treated like supermodels and had a ton of fun. This was more than a photo shoot. It was an experience they were eager to talk about in a natural way with their friends and networks.

Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. Create a fun event or activity to get the models together throughout the season, even if it’s not photography based.

Remember, the main goal isn’t to take a ton of pictures of them. It’s to get them to talk about you and your photography business to everyone they know.

When you create share-worthy experiences, you create opportunities for them to post about you on social media and tell their friends about all the cool things they get to do with you.

Key #2 — Track & Reward Shares and Referrals

Next, you want to make sure to track and reward the shares and referrals.

A great strategy for doing this is by using a tool such as StickyFolios that lets you create a personalized Folio for each rep to track views and monitor referrals.

The way it works is this. First create one master portfolio for all the reps to share with a variety of images. Of course, you can also give each model their own folio with just their images later, but at the beginning of the season give each model the same folio featuring one or two images from all of your models.

This creates a really effective marketing tool for your entire team because it shows a much broader variety of the different images and styles you can take.

Let’s say you have 10 models. Use the best images (1-2 per model) to create one master StickyFolio. Then, for each of your model reps, you’ll clone it, rename it, and share the unique URL with them.

Once they start sharing the unique URLs, you can log in to StickyFolios to track the number of unique and total views each rep is bringing. This data is extremely valuable in monitoring the effectiveness of each rep, and it helps create a sense of competition among your model reps.

Key #3 — Include Parents

Finally, make sure to include your model reps’ parents as much as possible… especially with financial incentives, discounts, and products.

Since the parents will likely foot the bill, they’ll be extremely motivated to hit the referral goals. You’ll be amazed at how well they share the folio with other parents of high school seniors.

Many parents will also want to show off the images at work, but in many corporate settings, social media sites are blocked. Since StickyFolios automatically downloads the images for offline viewing, this is no longer an issue for these parents. Now they can share their kid’s photos face to face with their coworkers while promoting your photography business.