In a field that is becoming increasingly over saturated, photographers need to know the importance of clever marketing.  Since making the shift to professional photography two years ago, I have found that my relationships with businesses have been the most solid form of marketing.  These relationships have brought me clients, trade for services, and more.  In this article I am going to share with you how I have formed and maintained these relationships, and how they are mutually beneficial.

Who do you partner with?

Approaching a business can be a daunting task, but chances are you may already know a business owner that you can partner with.  If you form a relationship with someone you know personally, they are more likely to promote your business and stay connected. So rack your brain; do you know someone who owns a small clothing boutique, hair salon, restaurant, etc?  For example, when I was building my business, my yoga instructor was opening up her own massage and yoga studio.  I casually asked her if she wanted to partner up.  She was thrilled with the idea and has been my most successful partner!  Choose a business that fits your photography brand and style.  I specialize in maternity, newborn, baby, child, and family photography and I have partnerships with a massage and yoga studio that specializes in prenatal and postnatal services.  I am also partnered with a lactation consultation business and a local childbirth center.  All are very family and baby centered businesses.

Whoever you choose to contact, do it in person. This is much more personal and you are more likely to create a connection than via phone or e-mail.  Come in to their business and introduce yourself (it also does not hurt if you patronize their establishment).  Bring your business card (mine have my images on them).  Explain what you have to offer and what you expect right up front. Leave your card with them and follow up promptly.

photography business tutorial by Elena Blair

What Do you Offer Your Business Partners?

You have many services you can offer your partners. Most of the time these services will benefit you both!

Prints For Their Business Space
I offer to frame and print some of my images to decorate their business space. I set up a private gallery, just as I would a client, for my partners to view and choose which images they want for their space. For the gallery, I select images that best represent their business.   We talk about size and quantity, and I pay for printing and framing.  I ask that they have my business cards displayed at their business so when their clients see my images on the wall, they can easily find out who I am and how to contact me. One of my partners chose primarily images of her clients that I have photographed.  Her clients love seeing their images up on the studio walls, and it continually reminds them how much they loved my services.  Most have come back for multiple sessions!

Professional Photos Of Their Business, Staff, and Services
I offer to photograph their business space and services, and do a custom post on my blog about their business. I also offer to do head shots of their staff. I have even done a custom shoot for one of my partners with a bunch of babies wearing their custom onesies!  I give them a CD with the images of their business space and head shots for them to use for marketing materials and on their website.  In return, I just ask that they credit me for my photos any time they use them, and link to my website from their page.  They are getting free professional photos and I am getting free advertising.  Win, win!

Offer A Discount For Their Referrals
This is totally optional, but I offer a small discount to anyone who comes to me from my business partners which makes my clients feel like they are supporting small, local businesses who are working together.

Throw A Party Together
Last holiday season, the lactation business I partner with had an open house and asked me if I would come and photograph some of their client’s babies at the party.  I thought, why not!  I brought my newborn setup with me and snapped a few portraits of each sweet baby in attendance.  I sold the images to the clients and offered a small discount if they booked a full session with me.  This was huge because it helped fill up the traditionally slower months including January and February, and it brought me new clients!  This year I am planning a holiday open house with the yoga studio I partner with. I am asking clients to purchase large canvas prints at cost to display during the party.  We are calling it a gallery show/holiday party. We are planning to serve small hors d’oeuvres and wine with a few door prizes.  My clients are excited to see their images displayed in an “art show.”  This is going to bring new clients into the yoga studio and will allow new clients to see my work! Win, win again!

Keep regular contact with your partners and be open to their ideas. Let them know you are there for them and that you are willing to support their business.

using your business to partern with other businesses

What Do You Get?

Free marketing! Trade!  The marketing that I get from my business partners is invaluable. It is a constant source of marketing. I trade massage and babysitting for my photography services.  Who doesn’t love a massage?! I have made lasting friendships with my partners as well.  It feels good to support others who are trying, just like me, to build and run a small business.

The options are endless and the rewards are great.  Now get out there and find yourself a business partner!  You will be so glad you did!