Vendor Partnerships: The Right Way and the Wrong Way

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

A great way to get more business is by networking with other businesses that serve your target market.  The ability to showcase and sell your services as a photographer is an important marketing tool, especially for those without a retail space of their own.

I was recently asked if I “have something about how to partner with other businesses, what to offer and if you need some kind of contract?” and the answer happens to be “yes, yes, and YES!”

First off, when you go to partner with another business, you’ve got dreams of your email bursting with inquiries and your phone ringing ‘off the hook’ (or I guess in these modern times its your cell phone vibrating like crazy since there’s no more phones on hooks) because of all the clients they’ll be sending to you like they’re your business fairy godmother of marketing.

Yes, that’s YOUR goal. The “What’s in it for You” and you need to put that out of your mind when you’re approaching a potential partnership.  Because if you’re going in pitching how they can help you, you’ve already failed.

So before you pitch a partnership, WHAT DO YOU BRING TO THE TABLE?  Just generically, with any business, what do you as a photographer offer them?  What can you do for them that they can’t do with a camera of their own?   Knowing that is what makes the partnership happen – without convincing the other business how amazing you are FOR THEM you won’t get to close the deal.

So let’s start at the beginning. You’re a photographer. You take photos.

What might a business need photos of?

First off, the owner and the staff may need head shots. There’s a vast difference in professionalism between a well lit and posed studio portrait headshot and their favorite Facebook selfie. To say nothing of what a professional editing job can do.

Secondly, the location itself.  You may not be an architectural photography specialist, but you’re still going to give them better results than they get get with their point and shoot or cell phone.

They may need printing right as well as web use for both types of images – for both online web sites, Facebook, and the like as well as printed brochures and advertising material.  You can provide all this at no cost to them.

What does their business produce? Or, what services does their business offer?

What does your business do? Are you a portrait photographer? Who do you photograph? Children and families? Pets? High School seniors? Maternity and Babies?

Where does your business and their business meet up in terms of client overlap?

Whatever that area of overlap is, offer them free loans of “Wall Art” for their public walls.  They receive ready to hang professional portrait art – at no cost to them.

Then you offer them”client gifts” -they get vouchers/certificates from you for discounted or free sessions for their clients. They give them to their clients as gifts from them of you.   It’s a great way for them to reward repeat or good clients at no cost to them.

Also, you can set up a monthly raffle for a free session for their clients. Again, at no cost to them.

If you were this business owner being offered these services, and it didn’t cost you a thing, would you stop to listen to the sales pitch?

Of course there’s a catch – but its a catch that costs them nothing: you want to be their exclusive photographer and photography services referral for the niche/specialty that you service.  They show your work, get to use your services, give away gifts of you… and in exchange, they showcase your business cards and actively sing your praises to their clients.

They’re sold… now what?


In it you detail out what you’re giving them and what you get in return, in simple language.  You both sign it. You both get copies.

And then, you wow them with what you promised them!

That’s when the magic begins.

So, there’s my big three ideas of what to offer… those of you that have retail partnerships… what do you offer?

And those of you brainstorming along… what else could you do?  Let’s discuss it below!

PS – If you’re a member of the TAoPaN Forum I’ve shared a copy of my proposal agreement, fully editable, in the member downloads section.



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