Although you may not have a lot of wedding business booked for the off-season, that’s not to say that there isn’t more you can do to ensure the next season is your best year yet. Building your referral business is just one way you can take advantage of your time and expand your network in preparation for new business.
There’s no question that engaged couples place a lot of value in a quality vendor referral from friends and professionals they’ve already hired, so it’s important you’re getting a spot on those lists! All it takes is a bit of effort and good neighborliness and you’ll be hearing from referred prospects in no time.
Vendors are people, too
If you go into your networking push with only referrals on the mind, you won’t get very far--trust me. Vendors (or friendors, as I like to call them) are people too, and are looking for meaningful relationships.
Referrals are made on two bases--your professionalism and your personality. Even if you’re the best at what you do, you won’t see much return if you’re not sporting a winning personality. Take a step back and make friends with your industry peers. Add them on social media, chat about their kids and make an investment in your friendship--only when you build an organic rapport will you start to see change.
Networking takes time
Sure, you can take in a networking event in one night and hand out business cards to anyone who will accept one. However, an effective relationship doesn’t start and end with a card--it takes time to nurture and grow its roots as you get to know one another. From my experience, I’d say it takes about three years to start seeing results of your networking efforts so be patient and keep on working at it. Don’t give up--it’s an ongoing process, so just because you get one great referral doesn’t mean you’re done! Find ways to stay on top of peoples’ minds with small gestures like Christmas gifts or birthday cards.
Don’t forget your manners
Always, always say "thank you"! It doesn’t have to be anything more than a handwritten card to show your gratitude, but the gesture will speak volumes. That way, they know their referral was appreciated and will hopefully continue to send prospects your way.
Another great way to say thank you is simply to return the favor! When your clients are asking for your thoughts on a caterer, photographer, baker or the like, don’t forget that pal who helped you out.
When you’re doling out referrals of your own, remember that your suggestions are ultimately a reflection of your company. Know your industry peers well and match them with your clients’ needs, rather than just giving out names of people you’ve heard good things about.
For example, we would not recommend the same florist to a client who doesn’t care much for flowers as well as to a client who has allocated a large portion of their budget to floral design. Be smart about it and refer only those who will be the best fit for the client’s specific event.
Don’t be discouraged by the initial investment of building your referral network! Meet new people and have fun with it--the peers you choose for your inner circle will be the ones that you work with for years to come, so take your time and really get to know them.
Kevin Dennis is the editor of WeddingIQ and owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, Calif. Dennis is the current chapter president for Silicon Valley NACE and the immediate past national president for WIPA.
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