As a photographer, it’s common to try and “go it alone”… trying to somehow find new clients, mostly through word of mouth marketing (referrals), but it’s almost certainly one of the slowest and most painstaking ways to grow a business.
A MUCH easier way to build your business, without spending a dime… ok, maybe a few dimes… is through “joint ventures”.
So What is a Joint Venture?
It’s a partnership where you both get something out of the deal, and there’s a few different ways it can work…
The first is the “paid partner”. Which means that every time this person refers a new client to you, you pay them a commission or a bonus. This is what I would classify as your “referral program”, and is something you should have in place, mainly for clients.
The second, type is the “business partner”. Which means that they own a business that services the same or a similar client base, so that you can refer clients to each other.
An example of a business partner joint venture is… if you specialize in wedding photography, you could partner with high end hair dressers, makeup artists, florists and even bridal dress stores. Then when you get clients, you would recommend these people to provide those services for their wedding. In return, when those businesses get clients who don’t have a photographer, they would recommend you. So there is no money changing hands, just a stream of clients coming in at no cost to you.
Some Tips and Warnings
- Be very picky about who you partner with, because some of the trust your prospects and clients have for you is transferred to these joint venture partners, and if they provide a poor quality service, it reflects very badly on you.
- You can organize some vouchers for each service. For example, you could give your partners certificates for $200 off wedding photography so that they can give that to their clients to increase the chances that they’ll call you. You could also urge them to create discount cards that you can give to your clients for their business. These discounts should be exclusive to you, and not just a deal that anyone can get on the back of a supermarket receipt!
- Some joint ventures won’t work out, but don’t let it discourage you! Some partners will simply accept all the clients you send them and won’t send any back. Simply give them a warning, and if you still get nothing out of it, then find a new business to partner with.
- You obviously can’t partner with every hairdresser and makeup artist in your area. So partner with THE BEST one. That will help build your credibility, and will be very beneficial to both of you!
How To Get Joint Venture Partners as a Photographer
It’s not as hard as you might think!
Since there’s no money changing hands, you won’t need to make up any contracts, but you’ll have to monitor their performance.
Simply give them a call (make sure you’re not speaking to a receptionist etc), and tell them you’re a photographer who is interested in doing some work with them. Offer to buy them a coffee whenever they’re free so you can discuss it further.
During the coffee meeting, make sure that you talk about them! Talk about great things you’ve heard from clients about their service, and that you think a lot of your clients would appreciate their services.
At this point they will usually suggest sending you some clients on their own as if they came up with the idea themselves, which is ideal… but if not you can simply suggest it. Say something like “I’m excited to start sending you some clients and hope that you’ll be able to do the same, so we can build both of our businesses at the same time”. Yeah… sounds cheesy, and you wouldn’t use those exact words, but squeeze it into the conversation.
If they sound unenthusiastic, or reluctant, then you probably know that they won’t follow through, so you should move on to the next person in that industry in your area. Most small business owners will jump at the opportunity to spend $0 on advertising, and get new clients coming in!
I KNOW, it might seem kind of daunting having to meet strangers for coffee to try and get new clients, but it’s really very enjoyable getting to know other small business owners, and becoming part of the community. As a photographer you need to be quite social, so it even helps you build your social skills!
Set up meetings with possible joint venture partners this week, and start building multiple streams of new clients with $0 advertising cost! (apart from a couple of coffees)