Making the Most of Local Businesses


Photography: BostonBill

When you can sell an image license to someone you’ve never met who’s living in a country you’ve never heard of so that he can use it in a publication you’ll never see, it’s easy to forget that the traditional way of doing business has always been to sell to the people around you.

That hasn’t changed. Walk through your town center and you’ll still find businesses whose catchment area barely stretches more than fifty miles. Your own ability to sell much further afield makes you lucky.

But that doesn’t mean that you should turn your back on your local market.

In fact, those local businesses themselves could well be valuable opportunities for expanding your photography venture. We’ve already seen how Jeremy Mason McGraw teamed up with a local framer to help organize his own art show. That partnership allowed him to lower his costs and provided an opportunity for both sides to put their products in front of a targeted — and local — audience.

A framing store might be a good place to start when you’re looking for ways to team up with local businesses then but in general, the best places to look are likely to be those whose products are both temporary and valuable.

Hand out Wedding Gifts
A beauty salon, for example, will spend hours getting a bride ready for her big day — and charge a fair amount of money for it. The photographer will spend more hours photographing her. The couple get the photographer’s images to put in the album, and the photographer gets another sample to add to his portfolio and show potential clients.

The stylist and the cosmetician? They get a happy memory and a check.

Ask the bride if you can also provide her portrait to the people who made her look beautiful, and she’s unlikely to refuse. Those service providers will then display your image prominently and show it to others as a sample of what they can do. In the process, they’d also be showing what you can do to other people in the area who are looking for a photographer for the same sort of event.

You might be able to do the same thing for any part of a wedding that doesn’t last beyond the night. Caterers and banqueting halls close deals based on the tastings and the atmosphere but they also pull out albums showing what the food will look like when it’s laid out and how the hall will appear full of people.

If those were your images they were showing — and your name and contact details appeared clearly on each of them — you’d have a bunch of important local businesses doing your marketing for you. All you’d have to do is get in touch with the caterer and the hall after the wedding and ask if they’d like some professional photos for their own portfolios.

Weddings are an obvious choice because you’ll already be taking the shots. All you have to do is share them. But the principle should work for any local business whose work disappears as soon as its sold.

What a Designer Can Do for You
Interior designers, for example, can’t take leads to the homes of past clients to show off their work. Like banquet halls, to win business they’re dependent on photos that depict what they’ve done in the past.

There are a couple of challenges here though — and they apply to many local businesses: the designer will have to ask the client if you can take the picture; and you’ll need your own incentive to form the partnership.

In the case of an interior designer, you could form a partnership first by offering to supply exclusive prints as part of the design (and in a similar way to Farmboy Fine Arts.) When the designer asks if he could bring in the photographer who supplied the photograph on the wall to record the design, there’s a good chance the client will agree — at the very least, in order to meet you.

And again, when the designer shows off that image, you’d be improving your chances of making more print sales.

There’s no harm in focusing your energy on online marketing. The market beyond a half-hour drive of your home is always going to be bigger than the one in your town. But there’s something to be said for being a local supplier too — and teaming up with other members of the community to make it happen.

[tags] local photography marketing [/tags]

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