In addition to “What should I charge as a wedding planner?” this is the question we get asked a lot by wedding planners we are coaching and who attend our wedding planner workshop. And, we understand why.
The wedding planning game has changed (and will never stop). Which means that the way couples used to connect with their vendors is constantly evolving. And, nowadays, hiring a wedding planner is not always the first step couples take. Often enough, couples are finding and falling in love with their venues before hiring a planner, which means that recommendations and referrals that come from having a strong relationship with a venue or being on their preferred vendor list, are more important than ever. But, that not the only reason.
When I first started LVL Weddings & Events eleven years ago, I had just moved to a new market and had to start building my network from scratch. I was forced (self inflicted but I had no choice) to put myself out there and figure out ways to build connections with venues - because I knew that if I wanted to get clients, that I needed to get my name on some key preferred vendor lists. But that doesn’t mean I started banging down doors. I had to (and you always should) approach these new relationships in a professional and authentic way. The last thing I wanted to do is make a bad first impression, so I kept some key principles in mind while strategically building my network of wedding partners. And, I think you should too!
1. Make sure they align with your ideal client. It is so important to do your homework before you start to build a new vendor relationship. Since these relationships are a two way street (I mean, all relationships are) you need to know what type of client they attract and if that is in line with your aspirations. For example, it is very tempting to go after the 5 star venues when you are just starting out - who doesn’t want a luxury full service wedding right out of the gate - but you have to ask yourself is that really your ideal client right now and will your new brand align with this properties clientele and needs.
2. Have the mindset of what you can do for them not what they can do for you. You will never get far in any business if you have a selfish mindset. And, like I mentioned a moment ago, relationships are a two-way street! I believe strong partnerships start with doing something for the other person without anything in return. A great way to do this is to offer their clients a special promotion for the first client they send your way.
3. Build authentic relationships and be yourself. Building a lasting relationship is about being yourself. You have to be honest, be who you are, and be true to your needs when working to build a relationship. If you don’t, you might find it hard for other vendors to feel comfortable referring you. The point is to keep it real because when you don’t and you try to be someone you’re not just to fit in people can feel it.
4. Overdeliver. Nothing says “refer me” like being a superhero through the planning process and on the wedding day. Works like a charm.
5. Know that it doesn’t happen overnight and will take time and effort. Relationships take time. Period. They require effort (and by effort I don’t just mean commenting on Instagram posts). This means spending time outside of work hours together. Perhaps inviting them to happy hour or lunch where you can step back from work and really get to know the person. Don’t ever try to rush this.
Getting on preferred vendor lists is a great way to have consistent leads and strong relationships with lots of vendors. But, don’t be afraid to do the work it takes to earn the trust of someone and don’t be discouraged it takes time. The best things are always worth the wait.