How to build business affiliations for your photography business

Aug 11, 2015

Topic: Photography Relations
Time Investment: 8 Minutes
Suggested Product:  Business Affiliation Agreement

Have you ever noticed when you’re out in public that crowds tend to gather?  Traffic backs up for no reason in certain spots?

This is because humans are creatures who naturally want and gravitate towards companionship. To be around the group and others – even if subconsciously. If you look around the world you’ll see natural pairings and companionships in various places. Even most animals approach life together in schools and flocks. This is because everything is safer and easier in numbers.

Going at business alone can be dangerous. You run the risk of burning out, being overwhelmed, and/or going slower than you would with a companion. I know I know, many of us are business owners and entrepreneurs because we desire to run our own business – but let us be honest: even working in an industry where we work with people, it can still be lonely.

We want that companionship. We fear failure and crave a safe feeling of companionship.

Sitting behind a computer (or camera) for hours on end and working through paperwork can feel very isolating. You start to wonder if you are the only one going at it. You wonder if you are the only one struggling with feeling overwhelmed.

As a photographer, it can be tempting to go it alone. But professional isolation can be dangerous. Being too independent can damage your business and burn you out.

Affiliating with another company can be an effective way to not only save yourself from burnout but take your business to the next level. By teaming up with other companies, you can acquire clients and grow your business.

From boutiques to florists, caterers to salons, business affiliations can be key to your success as a photographer.


Why should you cultivate business relationships?


1. Companionship

Companionships are just the tip of why affiliations with local businesses are critical to the mental and physical health of your business (and you). Business affiliations are good for the mind and soul – but even more than that, they open up a world of new paths to clients. In marketing, your goal is to get in the target client’s path. They are running along – and you want to be right there with them to tell them about your products and services. But you have to find where they are. This, in and of itself, is overwhelming – so why try to manage it alone?


2. Marketing is easier

What? Yes. These brick and mortar businesses are already in the path of your client avatar. The very person you want to get on board – so why wouldn’t you leverage a relationship to share this path?

In fact, consider this. These businesses have already fished the client…baited the client…reeled in the client.  They just need you to help provide a service and benefit to their customers…customers that become YOUR client.

I attribute business affiliations as one of the key cornerstones to business success. (You thought I was gonna say being legal huh? Well, that is part of it, but that’s not the be-all end-all.) Without business affiliations to open up new fields of potential clients with whom you can develop relationships and learn new market penetration strategies, you’ll be left behind. Alone.

You may be thinking that it’s scary to reach out to other businesses.

There’s a fear of rejection.

A fear of letting them down.

A fear of failure with someone else watching.  

Let me tell you, fellow business colleagues will not think less of you. In fact, they will see and speak more highly of you for putting yourself out there and trying. If you try, then fail – then you do.

But you have a higher probability of success while sharing the workload if you put yourself out there to create a business affiliation with someone who…guess what?…is already doing what you want to achieve!


So how do you go about doing this?


1. Identify partnerships that make sense

When developing business partnerships you need to commit to research and to a strategic thought process for the planning. Picking business owners merely because they are in your local area is a bad idea.

First, go through the process of making sure you pick someone who has your target client coming to their doorstep. If you spend your time facilitating relationships that will not result in either direct referrals of target clients, or create a pass-through relationship to another business that can provide these referrals, then you’re wasting time. And we all know that time is money.

Lost time is even more important than lost money in marketing. Time spent not marketing, or marketing incorrectly, puts you behind the curve which, yes, does result in lost money and clients down the road.

Second, geographic location is also not an indicator of a good businessperson – even if they have been in business with a brick and mortar location for many years. You never know what is on the books or how they are perceived by the community. This is why you should always pick individuals you would proudly refer to your clients and ones that would be proud to have your work displayed in their location.

You can check out the reputation of the community by simply asking others in your local area. A simple post on your Facebook friends profile could do this for you. You can also check online reviews – keeping in mind there are sometimes customers who are never satisfied and leave scathing reviews because they have nothing else to do.

Business Partnership Examples

Newborn/Maternity/Birth Photographer

  • Children Boutiques
  • Birthing Centers/Hospitals
  • Pediatricians/Obstetrician offices

Wedding/Couples Photographer

  • Florists
  • Venues
  • Caterers
  • DJ

Family Photographer

  • Salons
  • Spas
  • Gyms
  • Daycares
  • Schools

Women’s Photographer (boudoir, glamour, beauty)

  • Spas
  • Salons
  • Fitness Centers
  • Massage Therapists

Always weigh the positives against the negatives in what you find for any business affiliation. Once you’ve identified who to reach out to – it is time to propose the affiliation.


2. Propose an affiliation

For a business affiliation to be successful you must be willing to do the work as well.  A proposal should identify what you want them to do for you and what you can provide for them, along with the accompanying terms to the arrangement.

Many successful business affiliations with photographers have the following terms proposed:

  • referral fees paid from Photographer to Business Affiliate upon successful booking (or sale) to a referred client
  • display of photographic materials in the Business Affiliate’s place of location
  • distribution of Photographer’s marketing materials in the Affiliate’s place of location (such as a flyer on the counter, or provided in the customer’s bag upon purchase).

Be sure to propose an affiliation and all terms in a professional manner that will be well and successfully received.  Providing a professionally-presented and well-thought out proposal will aid in the business affiliate’s decision and implementation of proposed strategies.

Afraid of rejection?

Just ask.

The ultimate rejection is counting yourself out before someone tells you no.


3. Get it in writing

Did you think I’d leave this without some legal advice?

No way!

Always get all affiliation agreements in writing. At a minimum, the agreement should define the relationship, length of the agreement, the scope of actions, as well as any specifics that you’ve proposed for marketing actions (referral fees, photographic displays, distribution of marketing materials, etc.). The agreement should also include whether it is exclusive, cancellation policies and other legal baselines as needed to successfully manage the relationship.

This document outlines distribution of marketing materials (such as fliers in customers’ bags), referral fees paid to the affiliate upon successful booking of referred client, as well as displays of your photographic materials in their business location.  The template allows for easy amendments, such as removal or addition of proposed affiliate arrangement terms.



In conclusion…

As you can see, going at it alone makes business harder and lonelier than if you reach out and create affiliations in the local community.

Don’t let pride or the fear of rejection get in the way  – just do it.

You’ll be happier when you feel a load of marketing stress taken off and recognize that a higher-quality and laser-focused target client is coming in your door making inquiries easier to convert. Go forth, make the affiliations and increase your success.

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