When thinking about partnerships it's too easy to forget that in order for it to work, there must be value involved for both sides. What's in it for them? Always ask yourself that. It's not enough to just ask a boutique or store owner to display your work. Sure, you share a target market and it makes sense, but what do they get out of it besides maybe a free session? By coming up with creative programs that are a win-win for you and your potential partner, you are almost guaranteed to forge a lasting relationship.
Just before the New Year, I noticed that a new retail store that sold higher-end baby products was opening up nearby. So when this new location opened up, I immediately decided to approach them about providing in-store sessions. The store was shiny and new, and there was no evidence of another photographer in sight.
I went in and told them I was a local photographer and that I would love to provide photo sessions in their store. The head assistant gave me "that look" and replied she was pretty sure there was no way that the manager would agree to it. She said that they had done this at another store and it didn't work out. It was just way too disruptive. I could see that. So I cheerfully asked about displaying my cards there instead, and they agreed. I thanked them for their time and said I would be back.
Something was bugging me. What was is in it for them? What would motivate them to display my cards? Then it hit me. I called and asked to talk to the manager right away. Now, keep in mind, it had been a few weeks, and honestly I was afraid that either another photographer scooped up the account or they forgot about me. Luckily, the assistant had mentioned our encounter and she knew who I was. I asked the manager what her ideal merchandise sale was for every customer who walked through the door. She immediately said $75. So I replied, "Then let's do a monthly raffle. For every customer that spends $75, their name will be entered into a drawing for a free photo session. I will pick one winner each month. I'll provide you with a counter display, cards for you to give out describing the promotion, a raffle/mailing list, and business cards."
She thought it was a great idea-and a partnership was born.
Not long afterward, my assistants and I closed our eyes and pointed to a name on the list, and we had our first raffle winner. When we contacted the winner, she told us that she had never had a family portrait and was really excited. Her children were two and five, and they had an 8-foot wall to decorate. How wonderful is that. We had a great session. My new client ended up decorating her wall with 12 standouts ranging from 12x12 to 24x30, with a large family canvas over the piano. She's since planned her fall beach session and referred another client to us. Even the grandparents placed a large order (they had been waiting years for their daughter to get pictures of the grandkids).
So how did the store do? My family and kid photos on display help draw people into the store. Many of my existing clients are now customers of theirs. And the promotion has become so popular that customers make absolutely sure they've spent their $75 to get their name on the list (which of course was the whole point-smart manager). In fact, regular customers return all the time just to spend and enter the contest. Each month we pick up the raffle list, which also adds to our mailing list, and we pick a winner. So far we've had one wonderful client after another-many of whom have never had family photographs. Now that's a win-win!
I have a similar win-win example with my obstetrician (of all people!). After several visits, I couldn't help noticing that their walls were completely blank, though I never said anything. She noticed in my patient file that my occupation was "photographer" and mentioned that they were redecorating the office and rather than buy paintings, would I be interested in donating my work? It's now been three years and I have more than 25 large images on display. Originally I put my own clients on their walls, but as time went on and referrals came in, I replaced those photographs-one by one-with their patients' images. Each day they proudly show off "so and so's" new baby, and it has become one of my top referring resources.
The next time you want to partner with a company, take the time to learn about their business and what kind of result would enhance their bottom line. By doing so you will create a lasting relationship.
Anamaria Brandt (www.anabrandt.com) runs a photography studio in Tustin, CA. Author of The Art of Pregnancy and Newborn and Creative Marketing, Anamaria also runs workshops throughout the year for other photographers. She also has a resources site at www.b--studio.com.