For the past two years, I’ve been so encouraged by the enormous potential that B2B holds for the photo industry and what it has done for my business. Whether you partner with a franchise or go it on your own, you can breathe new life into your company by entering the B2B marketplace with expanded services that build upon your photo strengths and skills.
Since co-branding with FastSigns International in 2016, we’ve realized the tremendous benefit of having a national brand behind us. Their amazing marketing reach helps deliver customers to our door. In addition, the huge advantage of utilizing the power of SEO has catapulted our sign business forward in an incredible way. The demand for signs is there, and the FastSigns brand delivers opportunities daily. As an independent photo business owner, driving marketing is solely on your shoulders, not to mention needing to have tremendous resources just to be seen.
Moving Toward B2B
Along with many of my colleagues, I have found that the B2B market is where the potential is. Much of our focus over the past couple of years has been in B2B décor, using traditional photo products as an entry into this space. There is a great deal of crossover between my two businesses. We’re selling signs to photo customers and selling photos to sign customers!
Many national photo brands are seeing a decline in traditional photo processing and are moving toward new markets, primarily B2B. And they are realizing growth potential in this area. Here are just a few examples.
Shutterfly.com reports they’re seeing considerable growth in their B2B space as well as continued growth in their consumer space. As reported in the company’s 2016 annual report, Shutterfly Business Solutions’ net revenues increased 39% in 2016 compared to 2015. This represents 12% of total net revenues in 2016. Consumer net revenues increased 4% in 2016 over 2015, representing 88% of total net revenues in 2016.
IPI – Member Network (Independent Photo Imagers) introduced the Print Refinery (PR). The reinvented retail experience provides an innovative approach to the specialty photo model with an emphasis on commercial sales. As their website says, “Through customer collaboration, consultation and education, as well as profitable commercial sales markets, PR opens the door to new opportunities. It is a local destination that inspires its guests to creatively tell the stories of families, friendships and businesses in unique ways.”
Minted.com, an indie artist community that began as a photo site, has expanded its market to include art and textiles. They offer traditional holiday cards, wedding invitations and birth announcements, but they now have a larger focus on other creative avenues, appearing to move somewhat away from photo.
Building on Photo Capabilities
A large number of photo retailers who have expanded into the B2B space are seeing impressive results.
Gabe Cano and Glen Hodges, owners of Color Services in Santa Barbara, California, entered the B2B marketplace with signage services. They did this without partnering with a franchise. By expanding their offerings as well as doing traditional sign products through their photo company—while getting out there and identifying business opportunities within local businesses—their business is flourishing.
Says Gabe, “In 2016, we purchased a 64-inch HP Latex 365 printer to produce our canvas prints and photo wall clings without needing a topcoat protective spray. Once this printer was on board, it opened up new possibilities for our lab, giving us the capability to print signage on vinyl. Breaking into this new market has required we stay immersed in our community. By getting the word out to our contacts and clients, one job has lead to another and another in a way that’s been both exciting and lucrative.”
Rex Allen, owner of Allen’s Camera in Orem, Utah, started Utah Sign Co. in April, without purchasing a franchise.
Rex explains: “We decided to start a sign business to complement our photo printing business. Having equipment that can produce products for both fields, I felt like it was a natural opportunity for expansion and diversification. Initially, we intended to purchase a FastSigns franchise, but one was not available in the area where our main store is located, which is where we have the most business contacts. This led us to open a store without a franchise. We are already seeing results and have a growing B2B clientele.”
Clear Image Photo
Daniel Jolly, owner of Clear Image Photo in Marysville, Sequim and Everett, Washington, opened an Everett FastSigns store to expand his photo services. “I felt like I had no choice but to dramatically diversify my business by going into B2B,” Jolly says. “After years of blood, sweat and tears just to pay bills, I was ready to look at a franchise—for its support, instant recognition of a brand and salability down the road. I had heard nothing but good things about FastSigns from friends in the business, so we tried it.
“Today I can walk into almost any business and everyone needs what I’m selling. Moreover, B2B requires a particular skill set: you must be a devoted leader of people, skilled team builder, obsessed with communication, have a passion for selling, a drive for efficiency and a relentless focus on being the best. If you’re an adaptive, persistent, creative survivor—and perhaps a little beat up—in the difficult and ever-changing business of photo imaging, B2B may just save your company.”
There’s a lot to explore in the signage space, leveraging all the strengths that photo brings. In the category of “what have I printed on lately?” the answer is a fantastic new product: wallpaper that you print on your photo printer. A B2B product and a B2C product, photo wallpaper is huge. It’s made from a peel-and-stick, repositionable material. Pick it up, put it down. Not hard to install.
Combining Old and New
With the holidays approaching, Fullerton Photographics and FastSigns of Fullerton are excited and ready to take on the season. We’re confident that our holiday card business will thrive as it has in the past. But we are even more excited about the possibilities of potential holiday card sales with our FastSigns clients. We now have hundreds of potential customers we can market to in a whole new way.
Other very simple crossover products, apart from traditional printing services, are metal and acrylic. As a result, we’ve done countless projects for local businesses through both companies. As awareness grows with our photo clients, even more opportunities arise with their project needs. We’re thought of in a whole new way. Before co-branding, we might have done a collage wall in a client’s home. Now that same client is having us rebrand their entire office space. These larger projects yield sales that are nearly 10 times higher than an average photo sale.
The B2B market is exploding and the demand is also exciting. Don’t be afraid to make changes in your current business or even partner with a franchise. There are also several wonderful wholesale sign manufacturers you can connect with if you don’t want to produce products in-house right away.
Entering the sign industry has made business fun again! B2B may just be the lifeline for which you’ve been looking.