I'm a huge fan of partnerships with other companies. It's one of the best ways to reduce your costs but increase your reach. You're sharing the workload, and in many cases creating unique offers. Plus, there's an additional benefit: Great partners become ambassadors for each other.
There's always somebody who's thinking, "Yeah, but there's nobody who's a logical partner for my specialty!" Every photographic specialty has potential promotional partners.
Here's a list to get you started:
Boudoir Photographers: Get together with a lingerie boutique and a spa, makeup artist or salon. Also, because a beautiful boudoir image is very often intended to be a gift with a little romance attached, an intimate restaurant in your community might be a great partner as well.
Pet Photographers: Find out who the rep is for some of the big brand pet foods by talking with the manager at your local supermarket or pet shop. You've also got animal shelters, pet boutiques, and veterinarians. Don't forget doggy daycare facilities as well.
Children's Photographers: Toy stores, summer camps, playgrounds, kids clothing boutiques and restaurants all geared towards kids make great partners. You might even find a pediatrician or pediatric dentist interested in getting involved with something creative.
Family Photographers: You're looking for any company that targets families. Family restaurants, decorators, parks and special events targeting families all have potential. Years ago on a Hasselblad program in Cleveland, a photographer told me about a landscaper who built him a backyard shooting area in exchange for promoting their services. The logic being, anybody who was paying for a family sitting, more than likely had an interest/need in landscaping.
Commercial Photographers: This one's a little tougher, but think about what a client is looking for. This doesn't work if you're targeting Fortune 500 companies, but a program to target small business owners in a community could tie in a local magazine/publication, a printer and a courier service for example. The promotional offer might target people who need a new headshot.
Wedding Photographers: Wedding shooters are always the easiest, just because there are so many different business entities involved. Florists, wedding planners, bakeries, salons, bridal shops, limo companies, musicians, tux shops, travel agents, venues, and the list goes on and on.
Last on the list for every specialty - don't forget other photographers! There's only so much time in a week for you to shoot. Bringing in competitors who compliment your style helps build strength and brand recognition in the category. Sooner or later you're going to send another photographer a referral - why not build the relationship now?
Once you've identified some logical partners, here are the action steps that come next:
1) Personally, I love promotions with three partners. If you get too many, you lose impact, and your message becomes too diluted. Too many partners and your offer/mailing is going to look like a NASCAR event.
2) Contact each potential partner with a personal visit. You share a common target audience, and the concept of saving money to promote each other's services is a logical connection.
3) Get your two partners together for lunch. I'm a huge fan of lunch meetings because over a meal you're always guaranteed a certain level of conversation. This is about building a relationship in addition to the promotional idea itself.
4) You've got a wide variety of programs to collaborate on. You might agree to sponsor an event together; do a mailing and share the costs; cross-promote each other's products/services or share the cost of advertising. The point is, you've all got the same goal - expanding your reach, and you're each targeting the same audience.
5) Remember, from a cost standpoint, everything you do is going to be split three ways. That gives you the ability to reduce your cost, but promote your business more frequently, and to a larger audience.
6) And, at the risk of making this post sound like an infomercial - check out Marathon Press. Direct mail has come full circle, and it's back with a vengeance. Here's your chance to develop an oversized postcard tying in the three partners and getting through the noise to your target audience. I've worked with the crew at Marathon for years, and they can help you through every step of the process to produce a mailer you'll be proud of.
In a blog post, it's impossible to cover every aspect of putting together a strong promotion. But, I'm hoping this at least plants the seed for you to think about doing things together with other companies. You don't have to go it alone every time, and a good partnership is invaluable to building a stronger business.