As a photographer and small business owner, your relationships with other local businesses can be a significant source of word-of-mouth referrals and endorsements. Knowing how to grow and nurture these partnerships may be what takes your business to the next level! Our guide today is focused on identifying potential vendor partnerships and driving existing relationships forward.
Why Should I Seek Out Vendor Partners?
First, why should you want to form these relationships? There are certainly a number of growth opportunities for photographers that may look exciting, but deliver low ROI. Is investing the time in relationships with local businesses going to pay off?
We’d argue yes.
If you’re choosing businesses that also reach your target market to partner with, you’ll greatly increase your word-of-mouth marketing reach. In many cases, each customer of theirs–current and future–is a potential customer for you.
On top of the (major!) benefit of increasing your customer base, partnering with small businesses in your area reaching the same target market can help you with your business strategy. These partnerships pave the way for productive brainstorming sessions and shared insights about the local business environment.
Whom Should I Look For?
Some businesses may be the obvious choice for partnerships as you begin to form them. Other partnerships may be the result of creative, out-of-the-box thinking.
If you are looking to form vendor partnerships with no existing relationships with small businesses, start by making a list. In general, this list will include businesses within a few miles of yours who reach your target market. Eventually, you may reach out further than your own city–this is typical of wedding photographers and others who often travel for clients.
While expanding your list geographically often makes sense, you should carefully consider before pursuing partnerships with other businesses who do not target your ideal clients. Just because a partnership could exist doesn’t mean that it’s a valuable use of your time. Unless you’re breaking into new markets, stick to targeting clients you enjoy and want to shoot more of!
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There are a variety of places to look for businesses to add to your prospect list. If you have a type of business you’d like to form a relationship with (e.g. a groomer for a pet photographer), a quick Google search of those businesses in your area can be a great place to begin. You can also add names to your list from Chamber of Commerce listings and trade shows and networking events you attend.
One question often raised is: What about other photographers? Should you be forming relationships with your competitors? While these relationships don’t function in the same way as partnerships with other vendors, they can be beneficial.
Photographers who have identified their ideal clients are often willing to refer clients outside of their niche to another photographer. Perhaps you aren’t relationship building with your direct competition, but networking with photographers with a slightly different focus could open the door for reciprocal referrals.
No matter what, you shouldn’t view other photographers in your area as the enemy–keep the competition friendly! Negative word-of-mouth feedback spreads just as quickly (if not more so) than the positive. Partnership with other photographers may not work for your business, but do what you can to cultivate mutual respect.
How Can I Get in the Door?
Before you approach a single business owner with a partnership proposal (or even an invite to meet for coffee), ask yourself–what can you do for THEM?
No one wants to be pitched a relationship that appears entirely one-sided. You need to make it clear to each business you connect with how working with you will improve their business. Consider how the clients coming to you for your photography services might be referred to your partners’ businesses. What do their customers gain by them partnering with you? Be able to express to each business owner (in an elevator pitch of around 30 seconds) how the partnership would strengthen both businesses.
After you’ve formed a relationship with a vendor, what should you be doing to nurture it? We won’t address the specific ways you can benefit from a partnerships, but will focus instead on maintaining them once established.
1. Check in.
Don’t let the vendors you work with hear from you only when you want something! Staying in touch can be as simple as mailing a card or delivering coffee every now and then.
2. Do your part.
Be sure they’re seeing results! Do your part, whatever it is you’ve agreed to, whether it’s providing photos for them a couple of times a year or spreading the word about their business. Follow their social media accounts and “like” and share their posts. You can set the tone for the partnership–they’re likely to reciprocate.
3. Solve their problems.
Okay, so you shouldn’t be attempting to solve every little issue that ever arises for their business. But you can take care of some major ones–and they’ll thank you for it!
Once you have a working relationship with a local business, you’re in a great position to earn money for your business by offering them what they really need. More often than not, small businesses need better photography for their websites–if they even have them!
In 2016, it’s crucial for a local business to have a web presence, particularly a mobile-friendly one. The upfront cost for web development and professional photography is prohibitive for many small businesses; most can’t afford several thousand dollars and rely on simple, cheap designs (with amateur photos) that don’t work well on mobile devices.
StickyApps was created for photographers to use their existing skills meet these web and photography needs for local businesses. Photographers can build mobile-optimized web apps quickly in the StickyApps builder (which will be familiar if you have used the StickyAlbums builder in the past).
The best part is that we’ve created a win-win for photographers and small businesses–with StickyPayments, you can charge businesses a reasonable set-up fee and then bill them monthly for the remainder of the costs. This creates indefinite recurring revenue for your business to help you through slower months while giving small businesses access to a website and photography services they could not otherwise afford. What would an additional $1000 a month (or more?) from local businesses do for your business?
Recurring revenue and pleased-as-punch small business owners marketing for you–it doesn’t get much better than that!