What Have You Printed On Lately? Growing a B2B Business

What Have You Printed On Lately? Growing a B2B Business


I hope the first quarter of the year brought new opportunities for you and your team. The new year started off extremely busy at Fullerton Photographics. In December, a commercial client called to say he was ready to proceed with a historical wall project for his company, which we had begun in early 2014. The good news: they wanted our complete design and installation services for two of their locations. The bad news: they were ready to begin right away, while we were in the middle of our crazy holiday season!

How did this B2B project arise? Our companies first met when their vice president of sales stopped in to FP to order some prints of his family photos. It’s not unlike me to use this type of opportunity to share all the things we can do at Fullerton when I have an audience.

How many of you talk about wall art and décor for potential B2B clients? Home and office décor is an expanding marketplace for consumer and business customers alike. Now is the time to let people know what you do. After learning about the client’s business and some of the ideas they wanted to convey, I suggested we do some physical samples—after all, most people have no idea what their image on metal will look like—then visit their location to view the space. My suggestion was very well received because I was engaged in the process and the client felt he had the expert on his side. From there, we created a digital mock-up of the wall, then a collection of paper prints to help them visualize the final outcome.

Building B2B Relationships

In 2013, FP made a conscious decision to focus our energy on incorporating B2B into our business model. We realized that, more often than not, many of our customers had photographic business needs as well as the personal projects they brought to us. Because our traditional transactional business model had long disappeared and we had become skilled experts at the consultative model, the B2B space seemed a natural fit.

Consistently we have found that growing our B2B market is all about building relationships. What’s so exciting is that the products and services we excel at with our existing customers can be transformed into products and services appropriate for their businesses as well.

Most corporate clients are not aware of the possibilities for wall art and décor. That’s where we come in. After all, we’ve been advising our retail customers on what they never knew was possible for the past several years. For example, I was convinced that acrylic prints and metal prints, along with canvas and watercolor giclée prints, could be just as beautiful—and much larger—in a business owner’s lobby, office or boardroom as in her home.

It’s exciting to work with B2B clients, primarily because they look to their photo retailers to take the creative lead. For one particular bank, we produced very large, vintage acrylic prints for three branch locations and were then asked to design the space in their executive boardroom. This is where photo art and signage or visual communications converge. We produced a large 3×9-foot acrylic art street map of the city where the bank was first located, then layered the acrylic with metal art prints incorporating their brand, mission statement and branch location markers.

When I arrived with the installer, the president of the bank said, “I need one of those for my home and our new office in downtown LA!” Next, they asked for four acrylic-metal-raised-aluminum-lettered signs. I facilitated ordering $10,000 in signage, something I had never done before.

A few of my photo colleagues are B2B pioneers, combining or adding the B2B space to their market. Koby Marowelli, Todd Fitzgerald, Bill Eklund and others have embraced this market, and still others are beginning to follow.

Sign of the Times

This brings me to an amazing opportunity I had the privilege to learn about at the February meeting of the Buck Rogers National Photofinishers Group, which was held in Mobile, Alabama. Leo Calagaz, president of the Calagaz Group, which marks 60 years in business this year, is chair of the Buck Rogers National Photofinishers Group. As chairperson of Bucks, he was responsible for bringing to the group innovative ways to grow business in the photo industry. At our February meeting, he introduced the group to the FastSigns co-brand program.

Says Calagaz, “My nephew Joe saw FastSigns at Graph Expo, came to us and said we might need to look into this company. So we traveled to Dallas and had a “discovery day” there, after which I agreed that their co-brand program was something I needed to share with the group. I invited CEO Catherine Monson and executive vice president of Franchise Support & Development Mark Jameson to share their co-brand program concept at our meeting.”

As Catherine Monson explains, “Through our co-branding program, independent shop owners have the opportunity to grow new, profitable revenue streams by diversifying with signage and visual graphics services, while retaining their original business identity. Independent operators have access to our proven track record and business model, including ongoing training and support provided by FastSigns.”

The photo industry might be a perfect fit for that model.

The Buck Rogers meeting was really a kicking off point for FastSigns and the photo industry. Members from 30 companies were represented, including three buying groups—FotoSource from Canada, IPI and PRO. So the FastSigns team was exposed to a lot of different philosophies, from stores specializing in hard goods and photofinishing to unique services such as metal, acrylic and wood.

Several people have already talked to FastSigns since that meeting. Even those who questioned why Leo Calagaz had somebody from FastSigns on the agenda have said it really made a lot of sense. Members told him, “I’m not sure it fits for me right now, but I sure am glad to know about it.” A lot of these people already have some of the equipment, such as wide-format printers. If they put banner material on instead, they can print a banner.

The Calagaz Group became a FastSigns co-brand franchisee on January 1 and is developing one at another location. “In our company, FastSigns is a separate business from our photo business. We market differently,” says Calagaz. “We use Google Pay-Per-Click online marketing; we have a service that will call and make appointments for our salesperson—all with the help of FastSigns. Our dedicated salesperson has 15 appointments this week! In the four months since we’ve opened, we’ve seen a steady increase in sales and a lot of opportunities opening up for us that our conventional way of marketing—newspaper ads, walk-ins—would never have brought us. Nobody would have ever thought of us.”

Adds Calagaz, “We don’t want to be the cheapest in town. We want to sell a visual communication arrangement with another business—landscapers, bankers, insurance companies, car dealers. Although it’s not called Calagaz FastSigns, our salesperson explains to business owners that this FastSigns is owned by the Calagaz family, and we have been offering imaging services in Mobile since 1955. It’s not some fly-by-night company that came into town. We downplay the Calagaz photo concept until we need to use it for credibility in the marketplace. And we use FastSigns, which has great national brand recognition. They’ve worked very hard on their brand. We have instant credibility from the name. Bottom line: this product allows me to make a fair profit.”

With the FastSigns tagline—More than fast. More than signs.®—the co-branding program gives independent businesses the ability to offer existing clients a range of new services and embrace the ‘more than’ mentality. Now we all can become a central source for visual communications.

As FastSigns’ Mark Jameson concludes, “Sponsoring the February meeting gave us greater insight into the photofinishing industry and gave attendees new ways to broaden their service offerings. In an industry where evolution is necessary for survival, consistently adapting in ways that promote long-term growth is essential.”

If you want more information about beginning a FastSigns co-brand franchise program, contact mark.jameson@fastsigns.com or visit fastsigns.com.