“I love creating partnerships; I love not having to bear the entire burden of the creative storytelling, and when I have unions like with George Lucas and Peter Jackson,
it’s really great; not only do I benefit, but the project is better for it!"
by Skip Cohen
I woke up this morning, energized and aggravated, which is a dangerous combination!
I'm tired of the new normal, along with politicians and people who just don't get it. The way we're living now is the new normal for at least the next few months, maybe longer. There's no wizard behind the curtain who's going to flip a switch and change things.
But...there is a wizard inside of each of you screaming to come out! It's like Rudy shouting, "Come on, Coach, send me in!" So, what are you going to start doing differently to reach your audience and build your brand?
For years I've talked and written about the importance of partnerships. Long before the word pandemic was in our vocabulary, I was pushing all of you to build a more substantial presence with strategic alliances.
Over the years, I've been involved in a long list of partnerships.
At Hasselblad, we launched an ad campaign with Kodak and Polaroid. Featuring the work of Nick Vedros, the image used was shot with Hasselblad on Kodak film, but there was no digital technology then. A Polaroid back was an essential component to check exposure and composition for many commercial and portrait artists. The costs for the complete campaign, including production and media placement was split three ways between us.
Then came other campaigns, each one similar in structure that included Kodak, L.L. Bean, and Bogen (today Manfrotto.) Each time all of us not only reduced our costs, but each company became an ambassador for the others.
Here are a few ideas to help you start thinking about partnerships.
Your Online Presence: Cyberspace has never been more important in our lives than RIGHT NOW! It's the way we're staying in contact and sharing information. It's also the foundation of education at virtually every level. It's time to clean up your website, blog and any other places in social media where you target your client audience.
Be a Community Leader: A couple of months ago I caught up to Lori Nordstrom one day. Just before we talked, she had been involved in a Zoom meeting with business women from the community, all sharing ideas together on how they could help more during the pandemic. You've got the ability to be a leader in your community and bring other vendors together to help build a new standard of support.
Blogging: There's plenty of advice on developing a stronger blog, from me and dozen's of other writers but my point today is the importance of maintaining your blog with good solid content. Think about your target audience and your readership. How can you help them the most?
Developing a strong blog in your community is also going to help you find new partners. Guest posts from other vendors; informative Zoom meetings; tips on photography, cooking, flower arranging, DIY projects all have a foundation is developing great content.
Working With Other Artists: Other artists/photographers have always been great potential partners. Sadly, too many of you think working with a competitor is taboo. First, with or without the pandemic, you can't work every job that comes along. I know things are slow now, but sooner or later you're going to have a conflict in availability.
Second, look for partners who complement your skill set in another specialty. For example, a wedding photographer should have a close relationship with a maternity and newborn photographer. It's the perfect combination for building a strong referral program.
Check out the post I shared in late April thanks to Elizabeth Newton, which featured thirty different photographers. Click on the composite to the right for the backstory.
Then there's the archived post by Bruce Berg. It's the backstory about the Lane County Children's Contest. At the time, I shared the post they were coming up on 30 years. It was hosted by three competing studios in the same area and has repeatedly stimulated sales during the "slow season!"
Webinars and Podcasts: Looking to be helpful to your community? How about building a series of content-rich programs about summer projects, things to do with kids, picture-taking tips leading to a contest sponsored by various partners?
Direct Mail: In part, due to the importance of social distancing, direct mail has a new level of potential and reach. But you don't have to take on the burden of cost by yourself. Think about partnerships with other vendors in the community. Regardless of your specialty, look for partners whose target audience is the same as yours. A portrait or wedding photographer could easily partner with a florist, for example.
Past Clients: Coming up in a few weeks is a Beyond Technique podcast we recorded yesterday. Cindy Harter Sims was our guest, and she was very open about sharing the results of reaching out to her community. Like so many portrait artists, the pandemic initially shut down her business.
A few weeks ago, Cindy literally reached out to her past clients and her community. She was in danger of losing her business but went to her clients with suggestions for purchasing additional prints from previous sittings. That led to orders and later new business, all while respecting the need for social distancing. Her clients came through, in part because of the relationships Cindy has built over the years in her community.
Sharing Studio Space: Social distancing doesn't mean you have to close your doors. And if you don't have a door to close, sharing space is an excellent solution for access to a studio while minimizing the costs. It's also perfect for pooling your resources with another photographer or two. It reduces expenses, and you get bigger and better space than you usually would be able to afford, especially if just starting out.
Events and Fund-Raisers: It's still one of my favorite ways to partner, only the vehicle you use today is going to be different. Here in Sarasota, I was recently involved in the Giving Challenge. It was all done online in support of a long list of nonprofits in the area.
The nonprofits in your community are all in trouble. The pandemic has postponed or canceled events like walk-a-thons altogether. But you have an opportunity to help create and support a new level of awareness and funding through your Internet presence and the relationships you've made in the community.
Photo Contests: All done online and safely, use your expertise to establish relationships with other vendors for both their knowledge and ability to extend your reach as well as provide prizes. It starts with you sharing tips on capturing better images. Then bring in a florist, and a restaurant offering great carry-out. Include an entity from both to be judges in the contest. The theme of the contest? Anything you want it to be.
And that brings me full circle and back to the importance of relationship building and creating great partnerships. You don't have to do everything alone! Bringing in strategic partners for any project helps expand your reach, creativity, and brand awareness.
Now, add in the challenges created by the pandemic, and more than ever, great partnerships have the potential to lead back to profitability.
Business isn't dead - it's just dormant. The value of great photographs and capturing memories has never been stronger, and as a photographer, you've got the ability to make it happen!
Check out "Why?" one of the most popular features on the SCU Blog. It's a very simple concept - one image, one artist and one short sound bite. Each artist shares what makes the image one of their most favorite. We're over 100 artists featured since the project started. Click on the link above and you can scroll through all of the episodes to date.