Vendor Networking for Photographers
Keep it Real!
Over the years, I’ve met some pretty amazing artists while working in a booth at a convention. At the same time, I’ve met some real hockey pucks who redefine the meaning of words like rude, arrogant and pushy!
With ShutterFest coming up, it makes so much sense to share some tips about networking with vendors in the photographic industry when you’re at a conference, trade show or convention.
• What products do you use? Before going to any convention, do an inventory of the products and services you use and the companies involved. Also, think about some of the companies whose products you don’t use, but might need in the future. This is your “dance card” for the next tradeshow you attend.
• Set up appointments in advance. It’s not always possible, but if you can, contact the company you want to get to know better in advance. A busy trade show can often be the worst place for a cold call, but getting to know the players in advance gives you an edge on getting their attention. It also helps to get you on their radar before you meet them.
• Don’t be a storm-trooper. Over the years I’m always amazed at just how rude people can be and in all honesty, I know it’s often not intentional. However, when you see your “target”, and they’re talking with somebody else, just hang out on the sidelines and wait your turn. Don’t crash the conversation.
• Have some images with you. Personally, I’ve always hated it when somebody wants me to see their work and hands me their iPhone or an iPad. My personal favorite is a small portfolio book, 5×7 or 8×10 equivalent. I also love photographers who travel with an oversized postcard with a composite of 3-5 images along with their contact information. Essentially it’s a business card with images, but it’s something to be left behind, and I can look at the photographer’s work when I have some downtime after the convention.
• Follow up with a thank-you note! Even if nothing specific comes out of the meeting with a vendor, it’s still a nice thing to thank somebody for their time. In fact, in a day when everything is done via text and email – a hand-written note can go a long way.
Remember that a convention is often the worst place to look specifically for support via product, services or sponsorship. Utilize your time with vendor staff to get to know them and in turn, they know you. If you’re looking for sponsorship for a major project, then utilize the time to build the relationship while at the convention and then follow up afterward when things have quieted down.
Most important of all in getting to know any vendor is to make yourself habit-forming. Stay low key with an attitude of support and a desire to be helpful. This is about utilizing your number one marketing tool – building relationships.