As a new photographer, I can attest to the difficulties that exist when trying to establish myself in a market full of very experienced and talented photographers. This is especially true when working on establishing vendor relationships. Here are five tips I have found that have really helped me in this endeavor.
1. Target Vendors.
When choosing vendors I want to build a relationship with; I do NOT use the shotgun approach. I look for vendors who have a similar vibe as my business. I work very hard on building my brand, the look I like to portray, and also who my target clients are. I then gravitate towards vendors who compliment my work. A little obvious but important when building a relationship is to know the vendor’s products and use their services when possible.
2. Don’t Expect Anything!
The best way to approach a vendor is to set up a face to face appointment. I am selling my personality and style just as much; if not more, than my photographs. There are a lot of very talented photographers with great images, but meeting in person gives me an advantage. Emails are easy to send but they are easily deleted and forgotten. A meeting is a fantastic way to find out more about a vendor’s business and what they look for in a preferred photographer. I never expect them to throw roses at my feet just for showing up. Vendors I want to work with typically have several photographers they already work with. Since I am in it long-term, being second place to established relationships isn’t all that bad. People and businesses don’t change overnight so I don’t expect them to for me. I work on building the relationship a little bit at a time; sooner or later, opportunity knocks and I am the first one at the door.
3. How Can I Help You?
The best question I can ask a vendor is how I can help THEM grow their business. I sometimes offer my photography services at no charge for an event or for advertisement materials. This gives the vendor an opportunity to see more of my work, how I interact and work with clients, and it shows that I have a vested interest in them. Another technique I use is when working with a bride; I gather the names of the vendors used and send them images from the wedding. I also like to spotlight a vendor on my blog and facebook page with sincere things that I really like about them along with images I have taken for them.
When clients meet with me to talk about their wedding plans, I find out which vendors they have booked and which ones they are still looking for. I carry business cards of my vendor partners and of vendors I want to partner with. When I promote my vendors, it helps build my credibility with my client and it helps strengthen my relationship with my (potential) vendors. Shortly after our meeting, I send an email to the vendor and let them know the name of the client I referred. It doesn’t really matter if my client books the vendor (although it is awesome when they do), what matters is that the vendor knows I am working for them.
5. Thank You
After meetings with clients, any referrals sent my way, or interactions with the vendor I thank them. Hand written notes are awesome-handwritten notes with a gift card or other goodies are even better!
photos by Andrea Hanks
Written by Andrea Hanks
Andrea Hanks is two years into her photography business and is experiencing first hand the benefits of building vendor relationships for her young business. She is based out of Salt Lake City, Utah and currently working on making L.A. a secondary market for herself. She is also developing a second site for her fashion, celebrity, and commercial type photography.