Creating Vendor Partnerships with Michael Anthony
Those of you who have read any of my articles over the last couple of years will know that I am a strong believer that relationships are the absolute best form of marketing you can invest in. Building relationships with a team of individuals who are in your industry will help you with longevity, no matter what changes in the world of online marketing. As you continue to build your network, you will see that as a byproduct, your bookings will tend to increase. You will see more mentions of your brand on social media, and you will constantly get more opportunities to help new clients.
The question that often gets asked is, how do you build these relationships? Well today I am going to give you a step-by-step guide on how to meet more people in your industry.
Step 1: Build Awareness
Ok introverts, this is your time to shed that exoskeleton of embarrassment that has held you back in your business. You cannot be in business and be afraid to talk to people. I am by nature an introvert, yet I was an athlete, then a police officer, then a business owner, and I have spoken to audiences of over 1,200 photographers and fellow entrepreneurs. I was forced to be social, to learn how to make new relationships. After all this time, I still dread picking up the phone to actually call someone and talk to them directly. Weird, right? Well, to be honest, my will to succeed in my business outweighs my want to be introverted.
So now that you know what you have to do, it’s time to do it. Make a list of the most influential business owners in your local area. That is your target. And it’s time to get your name in front of those people. How do you do it? For the best results, you will want to get your targets familiar with you. Why?
It’s simple: People would much rather do business with someone that they know about than someone that they don’t, so walking into a relationship or meeting where people don’t know you significantly decreases your chances of forming a lasting partnership. I realized this when I walked into a networking event with business cards for our corporate brand, SoCal Headshots, and introduced myself as Michael Anthony to an owner of a local magazine. The business owner told me, “That’s funny, there’s a wedding photographer I know out here that goes by the same name.”
We had never met before, and he didn’t know what SoCal Headshots was; however, we had built such a strong brand with Michael Anthony Photography, that he instantly was able to recognize it.
So you can build awareness a number of ways. This is where online marketing comes in. As I have told you before, online marketing works very well for this purpose, but you need to do the footwork to get real results. You can run Facebook Ads or Google Ads, and target those ads to your target market. While a venue coordinator may not be looking for a person to photograph their wedding, they are always paying attention to local vendors in their market. So run the ads, and let people see them so they can get familiar with your brand.
You can also send out direct mail, advertise in local print ads, or do things like posters at the mall, etc. The goal is to create a household name in your local market.
Step 2: Outreach
Once you have done this for a month or two, now it’s time to reach out to your potential sources of referrals.
You can do something as simple as a phone call. Tell them you are a local vendor and that you would like to get to know them. Follow up with an e-mail invitation for them to get to know your brand. If you did proper awareness building, and they are familiar with you, then you will get the meeting. If not, go back to step one and continue.
You will have doors shut in your face, but don’t let that stop you. Keep trying—there are plenty of sources of business in most cities.
Once you get the meeting, now it’s time to further the relationship. Let me share with you a few different ways you can do that.
Step 3: Start Your Relationship
When building a relationship with someone, as I have told you before, it has to always be about how much you are able to help them. Don’t ever expect a coordinator to recommend you to people without you showing her that you can help her build her business. Don’t expect a venue to recommend you if you are not getting them their images quickly.
As photographers, we create imagery. You know what every business needs? I am sure that you do: imagery. Ask any marketer.
What better way to build a relationship than to offer to create imagery for their promotional materials?
Now, as a creative director, this will fall on you to envision, stylize and produce a shoot, but offering to create one for a local venue or business will help them to understand that you can give them more than any other vendor is willing to. We do this all the time, and since putting the focus on creating for our clients, we have been able to make new relationships with vendors we had never worked with before. We use Fundy Designer to create magazines for vendors, and distribute them with our images and logo (and obviously prime ad placement as a result).
Offer a vendor headshots, family pictures, promotional pictures, promotional video, etc. I shoot these sessions monthly at our studio, and to be honest, they are some of my favorite to do, even if we are not getting paid directly for them, because they always lead to more revenue down the line. Remember, forming relationships is a marathon. Don’t make the mistake of treating it like a sprint; let your competitors do that.
Styled shoots are a great way to build relationships, like the one you see pictured here. Let me walk you through how this was put together.
I worked with Nina Mukhar, a talented and well-known hair stylist in Los Angeles. about two years prior for the images in this article. I reached out to Nina a few months back and asked her to help me put together a shoot. She had gathered an amazing team for makeup, and an incredible stylist. All of these people are amazing contacts for me as a wedding and portrait photographer.
Through this shoot, I was able to make new contacts with the stylist and makeup artist, and further a relationship I already had with the gown designer. We handled the shoot at our studio and submitted for publications, which helps the creative team further build their brands.
MAKE SURE that you provide credit to all of the vendors involved when submitting for publication. A cover letter always helps as well. It may read something like this.
“To Editor-in-Chief // (Publication Name)”
I wanted to share this romantic bridal story with you for consideration in your upcoming issue of XXXXX. This bridal shoot was to showcase the Glaudi by Johana Hernandez Fall 2019 wedding line. For this shoot we showcased three gowns: (List name of Gowns here). The images were taken in Los Angeles, California and the gowns have not yet been featured in other publications.
Vendors: (list contact info for each one)
Photography: Michael Anthony // Michael Anthony Photography
Hair: Nina Mukhar
Makeup: Tara Thompson
Model: Sahar Golestani
Stylist: Ivan Arce // RC Model Management
Gowns: Glaudi by Johana Hernandez
You can reach out to my office directly at (phone) if you have any questions or require any additional information.
Publication Director – Michael Anthony Photography
This is something that I think is so important to do as creatives: make sure that you are always looking to expand your network.
Step 4: Follow-Through
This article is about building relationships, but I will tell you right now how you could destroy them: by not following step 4. Once you go through the lengths to create content for your vendor partners, not completing the tasks you created for yourself will surely show them that you are not able to take care of their clients.
Everybody reading this is probably thinking, “Why would I do that? Of course I will give them their images.” Well if that was the case, then vendors wouldn’t constantly complain that photographers never give them the images.
Make sure that you treat these shoots just like you would any other client shoot. Get the job done, and make sure that you are overdelivering for the people who could help support your business. I can’t stress that enough. Make sure that you do not make them chase you down for images.
Use gallery tools like N-Vu to distribute photos in beautiful galleries for your clientele.
Step 5: Co-Marketing
Partner with them to help them bring in new business as well. This is a great technique for distributing the content you are creating for these fellow businesses. By setting up co-marketing campaigns, you are helping to market other businesses, splitting budget, extending your reach, and building awareness of your affiliation.
One idea you can use is running a contest for a free photoshoot at a local venue. Get a makeup artist involved, get bridal attire, and if the venue is a hotel, maybe even offer a night’s stay. This type of promotion will get a huge reach, and if you are newer in business, it will help you to build brand awareness, because perception is reality, and if you are perceived as being affiliated with all of these awesome local professionals, then you must be good, right?
You should always bring printed materials to all of the vendors involved in a styled shoot in order to get the word out about your business. I recommend a brochure for each one that features their product. They will love to give that out, and it gives a way for you to advertise your business inside of it.
Remember, everyone, these techniques I am teaching you will take months to see results. But business is all about sustainability, and relationships are the most sustainable form of marketing that you will be able to create. They will outlast any form of online advertising you are currently relying on, and in larger cities can really bring you as much business as you want, as long as you are willing to continually invest in helping others.