Member Article

Manchester Photographic snaps up Groupon to increase profits

Background about business

Manchester Photographic is a gallery and photography school based in Manchester’s famous Northern Quarter. Founded in 2009 by photography enthusiast Andrew Hill, it aims to promote and sell photographic art. In early 2011, it expanded and started offering training courses to the general public. Working with internationally renowned and experienced tutors, Manchester Photographic offers a wide range of courses covering many different themes including; travel, reportage, rock and pop, urban and industrial, and landscape. It also runs exhibitions for the local community, with the latest showcasing photos from Morrissey and The Smiths by Kevin Cummins.

The business challenge

Andrew’s mission is to provide photographic training and memorable experiences to everyone, no matter what their level of expertise, financial status or background. Andrew comments: “The Arts is traditionally viewed as an expensive and sometimes inaccessible industry, but I’ve always been keen to change this perception and reach wider audiences, particularly in the local area.”

While the gallery was running successfully, Andrew realised he would have to change his business model and focus on increasing class attendance to grow his business. However, this was proving difficult during the recession, as reduced consumer spending meant people were reluctant to treat themselves to new experiences.

Breaking the barriers

In the summer of 2011, Andrew decided to overhaul his marketing strategy and started to look at ways he could offer his courses at discounted prices to attract more customers. He approached Groupon, along with other competitors, but decided they were the right partner for him. Andrew explains: “I chose Groupon as it is the biggest player in this field – I was really impressed when I met with them. My business consultant at Groupon was supportive right from the word go. He really took the time to understand by business, what I wanted to achieve and advised on the best kinds of deals that would work for my customer base.” By combining Groupon’s marketing expertise and ability to reach large numbers of consumers with Andrew’s enthusiasm for photography, the two were able to develop a unique and exciting offer. “We launched the first deal in July 2011 which was a beginner’s photography class for digital SLRs for £29 (£90 original value). It went down a storm selling almost 700 vouchers. Since, then we’ve done over 30 deals including a Manchester Night Lights Photography class for £25, which sold more than 1,000 over the Christmas 2011 period.”

Achieving business growth

Following the partnership, Manchester Photographic has seen 4,500 customers through Groupon and recorded a total of 10,000 additional people through its doors due to the increased awareness that the deals have generated. The customers have been diverse - from children and tourists to students and the elderly looking for a new hobby. What’s more, the increased awareness that Groupon has generated has encouraged people from further afield to travel to the courses, with customers from as far as Japan and the US! Andrew also explains: “Upselling additional courses to our Groupon customers attending the class is key to making our partnership profitable. We get people through the door with the reduced rate but providing customers with a good experience and giving them something extra really encourages them to return. Attendees also share their experiences with friends and family, so we’ve definitely seen a rise in referral rates since running the deals.”

The successful partnership with Groupon has also led Andrew to recommend the model to other local businesses in the area. “Groupon’s model really works but you do need to make sure that you think through and plan the specific deals and strategy from the outset - just as you would with any other business process. My business consultant really took the time during the capacity planning stages to make sure I was able to meet demand from each deal.”

With the increase in customer numbers and profits, Manchester Photographic has expanded opening new studios in London with plans for Edinburgh and Dublin in the near future. “For start-ups and small businesses there’s nothing better. Working with Groupon has given me access to huge audiences that trust the brand and it has really paid off - so much more than advertising ever could. Running a business within the struggling arts sector is a challenge but this partnership has really helped me achieve my objectives and grow my business.”

What’s next?

Andrew will continue to focus on developing the classes as well as new exhibition launches for the gallery. He concludes: “I’m always looking to offer new courses and experiences – I’ve even offered courses for iPhone photography! While these will change over time, my partnership with Groupon is very much long-term.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Ellen Spenceley .

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