In an industry driven by referral business and relationships, client perception is key. This is an era when inclusiveness and empathy are greatly valued by much of the generation that enjoys the lion’s share of consumer control. If your clients perceive that your social motivations are aligned with their own, they will be more likely to entrust you with their business.
Nothing demonstrates your commitment to equality more than the partners you choose to refer. Your associations matter, especially to a generation obsessed with justice. Making sure that your vendor partners are inclusive is key to building trust with prospective clients.
If inclusiveness is one of your business’s core values, it is likely that you have already taken steps to demonstrate this in your own marketing materials, social media presence, and your corporate culture. How do your vendor partners measure up?
For example, if you are assembling referrals for a LGBTQ wedding, think about how your partners communicate. Are their materials written in inclusive language? Do they feature photographs of same-sex couples in their portfolios? If you have any doubts, don’t be afraid to have a conversation with your partners and ask if they are open to and supportive of same-sex marriage. The worst thing you could do, both for your couple and for your reputation, is to refer them to a vendor that will act in any way unaccepting or disapproving. It doesn’t benefit anybody, and it will ultimately reflect on your business.
What should you do if you unknowingly refer a couple to a creative partner who is not inclusive? First, accept responsibility for the misguided referral. Apologize to your client. You won’t be able to undo the bad experience, but you can offer ways forward and commit to a stricter vetting process. If the client wants to pursue an association with the vendor, work together to resolve the situation and pave the way for a healthier and more supportive relationship in the future.
If the situation cannot be resolved to the couple’s satisfaction, help them close out their contract with the business and find a service that will be more appropriate for their needs.
Either way, consider opening a dialogue with the vendor. If it is someone you hope to work with again, find out what precipitated their reaction. Can it be changed in the future? Is he or she willing to work with you to become more inclusive? If the answer is yes, you may have an opportunity to effect a positive change in your vendor community (a true win!).
If the answer is no, you need to decide if further association with that business reflects your corporate ideals.
A commitment to inclusivity goes beyond a change of vocabulary and diverse photography. Every choice you make as an inclusive business leader should be one that reflects your values, including whom you choose to work with and refer. Take the necessary steps to vet your referral list and ensure that your vendors partners share your dedication to inclusivity.
Brittny Drye is the founder and editor-in-chief of Love Inc., the leading equality-minded wedding blog and digital publication. Her inclusive efforts have been recognized by the New York Times, The Advocate, OUT Magazine, Refinery29, New York Daily News, Cosmopolitan, and more. She serves on the 2018-19 North American Advisory Board for the International Academy of Weddings and Events.