Thursday, April 10, 2008

15 Ways To Create "Vendor Referral Buzz" for Your Business

Two subjects in this post everybody. The first is 15 great marketing ideas and the second is a challenge. Please be sure to read through to the end of the post and "Enter to win!" Last week I listed 11 ways to build your portfolio - here is that link. So you can be sure to show your prospective client the fruits of your talents. Armed with a great set of images and ready to book them, how do you start to fill that pipeline and get them coming through the door?

1. Get to know the people doing business with the people you want to do business with. That means identifying your target market. For most of us, that means the brides and grooms planning a nice wedding at one of the local churches and having their reception at one of the popular venues in the area. I'm looking at the regular middle of the road wedding. Introduce yourself to all the vendors in the wedding business in your area including bridal salons, tux shops, fabric shops, invitation shops, jewelers, reception venues, caterers, bakers, and florists. See how you can help them be more successful.

2. Be sure in your first meeting with them to identify how you differ from the competition - rehearse your presentation so that that first meeting in productive and meaningful. We are not just going in to say "hi". It's a marketing presentation and you are the product you are trying to sell.

3. Determine what you can do for them - at no or very little cost - and brainstorm the possibilities. Be sure you have several of your own ideas before starting that conversation.

4. Offer to leave some studio info and promise to follow up occasionally.

5. If you have shared an event with your vendor buddy, create a "Vendor Book" that features his/her product and services in your photography. We do this for all of our vendors we work with here in the Cincy area.

6. Offer to design, frame, and hang a wall collage featuring their product and service in their shop. Everybody loves free images to help promote their business.

7. Make up little 4x6 product service cards for their business featuring your photography.

8. Haven't shared an event with them yet, offer to create the images for them of their product and service. Yes, you organize the shoot to create the images for the free promo items you are giving them. Hey, it kills two birds with one stone. You get the practice and sample images and they get some great promotional pieces.

9. Who's your printer for all these images? For 4x6's and 8x10's use a lab like MPIX - they do a great job and the price is right. Here is their link. Still too pricey for you, then how about Sam's or Costco's - it doesn't get any cheaper than that. Just be sure your images look great. Your name and company are also represented very small on the piece. If using Sam's or Costco you may want be sure to have them printed without any auto color settings turned on their printers.

10. Continue to nurture that relationship and keep their images fresh. We try to replace promo pieces 2 to 3 times a year. If you can pull it off, you will be doing more than 99% of the photographers in your area to promote your photography business.

11. Get your studio blog going and feature your vendor buddies on your site. Add your own testimonial about their products and services with links to their web site. Be sure to make your vendor buddies aware of your pro-active advertising for them.

12. Ask for a reciprocal link swap.

13. Let them know when you recommend their services to your prospective clients so they can be heads up when they get the phone call. They will tend to re-affirm your services as well during their interview with the prospective client.

14. As you develop these relationships with your vendor buddies, discuss how you might cross market and promote each other.

15. Call them up occasionally and ask for referrals. Offer them the list of your recent potential client contacts too.

Hey gang, theses ideas are just a few to get you going. If any of our readers have marketing/business building suggestions you would like to share with our readers, just post them in the "Comments" section below.

Depending on the response, meaning if we get a lot of responses, I'll send one of our sample promo items to the person I feel offers the best suggestion. I hope we get a lot of activity here for the benefit of all our readers. So, go for it gang, we can all help each other.


  1. One of the promotions I am going to pitch in the upcoming month is to my son’s orthodontist. The basic concept is that you create a card with the name and logo of the orthodontist saying something to the effect of “Congratulations, you have gone through years of pain to have beautiful teeth so get that wonderful smile in pictures.” The card would be for $100 towards you their next portrait session, or however amount you wanted. Now on the back of the card is the name of the studio, phone number and any disclaimers you want and need to put on. Once the card is handed off to the customer the orthodontist will e-mail, call or snail mail you a list of names and numbers. Once you get that list, all you would have to do is call them, congratulate them on getting through a painful process, and ask them when would be a good time to get the portrait session done?
    The card you create for the orthodontist is free to them or you could ask if they wanted any prints for themselves for their books. If they want a portrait for the book or wall then you can work out a deal for them. The whole purpose of the card is to make them look like a good guy, and to get potential customers who may fit your perfect client. The key to success is the follow up.
    This kind of promotion will also fit any vender that is local and caters to the client that would fit your perfect client base. Once I have this one started I am going to tweak it a little and use the same concept for a clothing store that sells to an age group and income base I am looking for. The change will be on who they give the card to. I am going to request the vender to only give it to a customer that spends a certain amount of dollars in the store, like $75. This amount will depend on what the average sale is at the vender. Who knows they may use that card to leverage a sale up in spending. The down fall with using a retail vender is that you may not get the names and numbers of the potential clients so you have to rely on the pitch by the sales person and the interest of the customer to follow through to the setting up of the appointment.
    I had done this type of promotion before with another studio in the mall. It worked great then and I know it could work now.

  2. Hi DG Photography,
    Thanks for the great idea - I hope we get several more.

  3. I work with a local childrens clothing store. I have a contest box , where their customers sign up with their mailing adress and e-mail, to win a portrait session. I draw one name a month, which their winning portrait must hang in the clothing store for the following month to draw in more customers to the store. Friends and family visit. I also post a sample of the session on my blog with a link to the clothing store. It works great for both of us. I'm getting new potential clients, and the clothing store is getting referrals from me. It's a win/win.