Change the phrase “photo gifts” to “promotional products” and you immediately open up your photo printing business to a much larger customer base. Depending on your geographic market, you can add hundreds, even thousands, of new clients. These can range from cottage industries to storefront businesses—all of which need high-quality printing for their marketing materials, signage and promotional giveaways.
An Internet search for “business-to-business photo printing” reveals surprisingly few suppliers, especially local businesses that provide face-to-face customer service. The top three hits in the Atlanta area are commercial printers. All of them are closed on weekends, and none provide promotional gifts or novelty products.
This leaves a service gap that local photo labs, photo retailers and commercial photographers can effectively fill. There’s no need to invest in specialized printing equipment; simply partner with the right suppliers or link your website to full-service providers that offer commissions on sales.
As graphic arts professionals, most photo labs have at least one individual or staff member who can help small business owners design and order printed promotional materials, like postcards, brochures and counter cards, that can be printed in-house. Assemble a binder of professional marketing products, including printed samples and sales sheets from partner suppliers, and you can expand your printing business to include everything from business cards to banners.
Partnering for Success
Arguably one of the most successful small business printing suppliers is Vistaprint. This online company was founded 20 years ago with the goal of providing small business owners with access to “the same high-quality, custom-printed products that bigger companies enjoyed.” As a new company, they offered 250 free business cards—printed with Vistaprint’s logo on the back. This established a dedicated clientele that willingly distributed the Vistaprint name to millions more potential customers.
Today, Vistaprint.com has manufacturing facilities all over the world and provides hundreds of printed promotional products—from magnetic business cards and calendars to corporate gifts, clothing, decals and signs. Most products can be ordered using one of Vistaprint’s preexisting online designs or by uploading the customer’s own design sized to product specifications. Independent photo labs, photographers and printers interested in partnering with Vistaprint can join the reseller program at vistaprint.com/proadvantage.
New York-based 4over4.com is another excellent resource for graphic professionals interested in catering to the business community. The 4over4 website offers many hard-to-find photo products, including vinyl floor graphics, booklets, CD covers and wine labels. They also provide volume pricing (and minimum orders) on promotional products like puzzles, bumper stickers and buttons. Unlike consumer photo gift sites, 4over4 caters specifically to printing resellers. The 4over4 blog offers a wealth of information on printing, marketing and web design, with promotional ideas for the holidays, professional design tips and creative success stories. You can keep current with them at 4over4.com/blog.
Professional photographers are a natural market for promotional photo products—from postcard mailings to banners featuring the photographers’ work. Simply Color Lab, based in Akron, Ohio, specializes in dramatic photographic displays designed specifically for professional photographers. Products include a line of portable photo stands, ranging in size from 24×64 to 53×78 inches, and permanent three-dimensional art installations for display in homes and businesses.
Simply Color banners include Retractable Photo Stands, which come rolled up in a spring-loaded base, and lightweight X Photo Stands that open into a metal frame that supports the banner from the back.
“The Retractable Photo Stands are the most popular,” says Merrie Casteel, CEO of Simply Color Lab. “They don’t weigh as much, they’re only a few inches deep and they’re spring-loaded. So you just pull [the banner] straight up, which is great when you don’t have a lot of floor space.”
Photo Stands are great for use at indoor and outdoor venues like bridal trade shows and little league games, as well as studio sidewalk displays and malls, where businesses can’t install permanent signage outside their stores. The banners are easily erected each day and brought in at night. They’re also waterproof and interchangeable, so they can be swapped out as often as needed, without replacing the whole stand.
Simply Color’s most dramatic print product is the exclusive, three-dimensional Art Wall. Introduced in late 2014, it is a high-end display option for photographers and their customers. Each Art Wall is a single image broken up into multiple print layers—stacked like 3D puzzle pieces to create a one-of-a-kind work of art. Print layers are made from fine art wraps, canvas wrap mounts or metal prints. They are custom designed by Simply Color artists to highlight the most dramatic portions of the image. Standard sizes range from 30×40 to 60×60 inches, while custom displays can be created in just about any size.
“What the pros like is that Art Walls are a statement piece,” Casteel says. “It’s one thing to take a great photograph, it’s another thing to create great art from the image. People walk by, see it in a photographer’s studio and they’re drawn inside to look at it. Even customers who don’t purchase an Art Wall frequently say it made the difference for them when choosing their photographer.”
Art Walls are ideal for corporate and small business owners looking for dramatic product or real estate displays and other professional imagery in their office and retail locations. Individuals with a limited budget are more often drawn to the simplified three-dimensional display art, ImagePops. Ranging in size from 16×20 to 30×40 inches, ImagePops have only two layers—a background and a single raised panel.
“We call this the gateway drug for customers who aren’t ready to commit to an Art Wall,” says Casteel. Both are extremely popular with photographers’ clients.
Simply Color also offers smaller promotional products, including USB drives and print boxes with the photographer’s logo or image printed or engraved, and album blocks for displaying fine art mounted prints. While originally designed for portrait and wedding clients to display their favorite prints, these album blocks can also be used as a countertop promotion for commercial clients and professional photographers.
Simply Color also designs and prints a wide range of studio and business marketing materials, including press-printed marketing kits, direct-mail printing, studio and retail displays and trade show booth designs. They have a strict policy against selling to consumers, but they frequently work with photo retailers, suppliers and other labs interested in offering their products.
“Ninety-seven percent of our customers are professional photographers,” Casteel says, “but we also work with resellers, so we’ll figure out a way to make it happen for them.” You can check out Casteel’s blog at simplycolorlab.com/blog/author/aross.