Joint Ventures and Collaborations Featured image - how to grow your business with joint ventures. Blue image box with the feature title in white text. Orange box encourages read more and there's an image of a guy in a denim jacket shaking hands over a collection of notebooks.

Two highly effective ways to grow your photography business with joint ventures

I’m going to talk to you today about two forms of joint ventures and collaborations – preferred partnership schemes and incentive referral schemes.

What are joint ventures and collaborations?

A joint venture or a collaboration is a partnership with another business, vendor or person that already serves your ideal clients.

When you are looking for partners to approach, you want to be looking for businesses that serve your ideal clients but also that operate at the same price point as you.

There’s no point in building a relationship with a budget wedding shop if you are a wedding photographer that charges a premium rate.

You also need to consider where your clients or your partners’ clients come in the buying journey.

If you’re a wedding photographer, and you partner with a make-up artist or a wedding car hire firm, it’s not going to work. The chances are that by the time the bride or couple are talking to the make-up artist or car hire firm, they have already chosen their wedding photographer. You want a partnership that allows you to support each other’s businesses earlier in the buying journey.

The better option for a partnership here would be a wedding shop or a wedding venue.

Likewise, if you’re a commercial photographer, and you’re looking for someone who already serves your ideal clients, you want to look for a relationship that’s going to be lucrative and productive.

In this instance, you probably don’t want to be building relationships with printers – with people who print brochures and leaflets, because, similar to the wedding hire car example, once clients are printing their marketing material, they’ve already commissioned a photographer.

You want to go further back up the chain – a partnership with a web designer or a graphic designer might be a better bet here.

Customer journey image - a white jigsaw puzzle with a blue piece in the centre with the words "customer journey" written on the piece.

The key is to look at the stage in the buying journey when people are thinking about getting the services that would tie in with photography.

No matter what type of photographer you are, there are lots of opportunities out there for joint ventures and collaboration.

As photographers, we now have unlimited opportunities – the opportunity is there for us if we take it. It might be in the form of an email, a telephone call, or even just sending a message over on LinkedIn. We can literally connect with anyone we want, in any business around the world.

All we have to do is reach out and ask for that opportunity to collaborate or form a joint venture.

My blog post “Photography Collaborations – 7 reasons to embrace them” will tell you more about collaborations – why not have a read?

How can you benefit from Joint Ventures?

Well, a joint venture can benefit you in lots of ways. First of all, you can have a steady stream of qualified client referrals from your joint venture partner.

You can create content together, and also help build your social media profile. You can even use your preferred partner’s authority within the community, or within the industry that you serve, to help bolster your own standing and authority.

If you’d like to watch my YouTube video on this topic or don’t have time to read the blog right now, you can pop over to my YouTube channel and watch me talking about Using Joint Ventures to Grow your Photography Brand over there as well.

Image with direct link to Jeff Brown's YouTube Channel where he talks about Using Joint Ventures to Grow your photography brand.

What to think about when you’re looking for a joint venture partner.

First, you want to align yourself with a brand, business or person who has very similar aspirations, message or similar brand to yourself. You want to ensure that it’s a brand that is well thought of. And you also want to make sure that they are very active on social media.

It’s worth checking out their social profiles and their social pages. See how many followers they have, and how often they are posting.

Next, you want to check out their website. What’s their website like? Does it rank very highly on Google? Do they create blog content? Have a look at their blog and see how active their blog is and how often they are producing content.

Another thing to check is their reviews. Look at their Google My Business page. Also, go a bit further, type in things like “bad reviews for [business name]”.

If there was any negative press about them, you don’t really want to find out about that later, and you don’t want your brand linked to it. You don’t want that bouncing back onto your business. Forewarned is forearmed.

You want to find a partner who:

  • Also serves your ideal client.
  • Has the same mission as you.
  • Has the same values as you.
  • Has a really good strong social following.
  • A strong website, and is well-positioned to be found.
  • Ideally has a good blog with a good email list as well.

It’s worth approaching these people and talking to them about partnerships and preferred partnership programmes.

There are two ways that you can do this – a Preferred Partnership Programme or an Incentive Referral Scheme.

Image to suggest a Preferred Partner Programme - nine wooden cubes stacked up 3x3. Each features a little brown head and shoulders image on the wood, apart from one, which is dark red. A woman's hand is choosing that cube.

Preferred Partnership Programme

In my experience, a preferred partnership programme is a highly effective way to start setting up a joint venture.

I used it a lot with wedding shops when I ran my photography business. We set up a preferred partnership arrangement with a web designer for my commercial photography business, and it was also really successful on the pet photography side of things with dog groomers.

What you need to do is approach the business that you’re considering working with and let them know that you are creating a Preferred Partnership Programme.

Explain that you would like them to refer your services to their clients. In exchange for every referral that you get (which leads to a booking), you will offer them a commission on sales or a payment.

When we worked with wedding shops, every time a bridal shop got a lead that led to a booking, we would pay them a commission. That commission was between £50-£100 depending on the package that the bride went for.

A great way to make these preferred partnership programmes really work is to give your partners a voucher that they can give out to their clients. These vouchers need to be really high-end. They need to look premium. They need to be printed on good quality print stock, the size of a standard envelope (DL size).

That size works well for vouchers. They should also have a monetary amount on the front. So you might have £100 or $150 on the front – something big, along with your logo and your partner’s logo as well.

Image of a lady sitting in her home looking extremely happy with her gift voucher in her hand. She's wearing a striped shirt against a pale white background.

So you might say something like:

Bill Smith Photography, in collaboration with Canine Dog Groomers, would like to invite you to a Pet Portrait Session – this voucher entitles you to £100 off the cost of your pet portrait session and associated products.

If, for instance, your pet portrait sitting cost is £100 and your products start at £200, then the person is going to need to spend some money if they want to buy additional products. So it’s a great way to get pre-qualified people into your studio.

Then you can work out with the pet groomers that every time somebody spends money on products, you will give them a 5% or 10% kickback.

A great way to put this together is to tell them what your average order is. If your average order is £1,000 or £2,000, you can say “with my average order being £2,000, you could earn up to £200 every time you give me a referral and they come to the studio and buy from me”.

Another of the things to make these vouchers really work, as I say they must look good, and premium, but they also must feel exclusive. These vouchers should be kept under the counter and handed out by the vendor at the time of booking or purchase.

So, going back to the example of the bridal boutique, when the bride orders her wedding dress at the shop, the girl behind the counter can come up with one of these vouchers. She will write her name and the date on the back of the voucher that has been given out.

In the terms and conditions of the voucher, you’ll say that the voucher has no cash alternative, that it cannot be used in conjunction with any other offer, and that the voucher is valid for 28 days from the date of issue.

You want to add this sort of urgency because you don’t want people just to get the voucher, put it in a drawer and forget about it.

So, the girl in the bridal shop will take this voucher, hand it to the bride and say:

“I’ve got this great exclusive VIP special offer for you, it’s for our customers only. We’ve teamed up with this great wedding photographer. Do you have a wedding photographer? Great, well here’s a voucher and this entitles you to £100 off the cost of all the album packages. Just hand this voucher over to them, tell them that you got it from Claire, and they will look after you, they’re fantastic photographers. I really couldn’t recommend them highly enough”.

So that bride is now being sold your services by a third party. This is a lot of a stronger sale than if you are trying to sell yourself. She’s had a recommendation from someone she already knows, likes and trusts further in her journey before coming to the photographer. That’s really very powerful.

But as I said, it’s powerful when these vouchers are kept under the counter, not if they are just lying around for anyone to pick up. They’d lose their effectiveness if they were.

You wouldn’t just leave real £100 notes around. These are £100 special offer vouchers. They’re kept under the counter.

It’s a great way of forming relationships with your partner and with your potential customers.

Image of three people meeting each other - one is obviously being introduced to another by the third person. The image represents a referral taking place.

Incentive Referral Schemes.

Another fantastic way to form relationships is with what I call an incentive referral reward.

This is for businesses that don’t really want to bother with the commission side of things.

We did a really successful one for our portrait studio with BMW. Now obviously, BMW, the local BMW franchise, isn’t interested in getting incentives or commissions from us.

What they do want to do though, is to add extra value to their customers when they’ve purchased a new BMW. And their clients happened to also be our ideal clients. They were people with high disposable incomes who were buying a brand-new BMW. These were perfect clients for us.

So when the person bought the new BMW, the BMW salesman would say “ah well, we have a special offer for you for a family portrait at our preferred partner’s studio, and we have this exclusive voucher for you, which is £200 off the cost of a family portrait and any associated products”.

This was a great way for us to get in front of our ideal clients.

It was also a great way for BMW to go the extra mile and look like they really care about their clients.

So those are two ways of offering joint ventures, with a Preferred Partnership Award scheme where the partner is rewarded with commission; and then an Incentive Referral scheme that allows the partner to give an incentive or something of value to their clients to make them look good!

I’ll be writing another blog piece next week and have already produced another video to tell you a bit more about other joint ventures and collaborations that you can do. Have a look here to get a sneaky peek.

Keep that relationship going.

One important thing about joint ventures is that you need to keep the momentum going.

When we worked with bridal shops, and dog groomers and other businesses in our local area to promote the studio and our wedding photography, we made sure that they never forgot about us.

We’d go into the wedding shops at least once a month and just drop in with cakes to have with their coffee. They thought we were fantastic. And if another photographer tried to come into the shop to hand out leaflets, the girls would take the leaflets, and as soon as the photographer was out of the door, they’d put them in the bin.

Image of a cup of coffee and a slice of sticky delicious looking cake

The other photographers weren’t giving them any commission. They weren’t looking after the girls, calling in with cakes to go with their coffee. They weren’t offering to do photographs of the shop for their website. Or we’d send one of our photographers to take pictures of their stall whenever they had a wedding fair to go to.

We built really good relationships, which made people eager to refer us. You’ve got to keep that going.

And remember, all this came about just by reaching out.

Reaching out for opportunity

In my book, The Ambitious Photographer’s Journal, this is something that I really cover in detail. The whole topic of joint ventures and collaborations. In the book (and in my membership), I encourage people to reach out every Wednesday, I call it “Opportunity Wednesday”.

This is when you send that message, you get in touch, you phone someone, you walk into a store, and you ask if they’d be interested in a joint venture that is going to earn them some money. It’s surprising when you do something like this, how many people will jump at the chance.

I never thought I’d get the chance to partner with BMW, but they loved the idea. Absolutely loved it.

And obviously those bridal shops as well. One saleswoman from one of the shops came up to me one year and explained that she was getting married in 18 months’ time, but that she had no intention of paying for her wedding photography. She wanted to earn enough commission to pay for our £2,500 wedding photography package.

That one girl, in 18 months, brought us 24 different weddings. She went out of her way to refer us – and there were quite a few members of staff in that same shop making referrals as well.

So when you build these relationships, it can be highly effective.

And that’s joint ventures!

Joint ventures are a fantastic way of building your business and becoming the Go-To Photographer in your niche.

And the other great thing about joint ventures and collaborations is that they’re pretty much risk-free.

They cost you little or nothing to set up. The only charge that you have is the printing cost. And if you use firms like print24.com which does cheap but high-quality printing, you can probably get that done for £50.

After that, all this is going to cost you is a bit of time to get set up then you’ll need to forge those relationships. But you haven’t had to spend a penny on expensive AdWords, or magazine advertising or anything like that.

Joint ventures are a cost-effective and efficient form of building your business.

The Photographers Mentor

"If you would like a FREE social media and marketing review of your business, click to book a call, and we can chat. I'll give you some great tips and advice and answer any questions you may have about my six-step photo shoot program. I'm not going to hard-sell my program itself; if you feel it's time to take your business to the next level, please think about it and get back to me after we talk. I have a great relationship with all my clients, and I'm honest with you. You can't build relationships on hard selling; that's what gives marketing mentors a bad name, and that's not me." Thank you, and I hope to speak to you soon, Jeff

Jeff Brown -

The Photographers' Mentor

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