This article was written by Laurie Hartwell. Laurie is the owner of A Wedding To Remember. With offices in Orlando, New York City, Kansas City, Chicago, and Atlanta her firm strives to offer top notch, affordable wedding planning and coordination services. She is also the Founder and CEO of The Bridal Society, an organization that offers Wedding Planning Certification Courses in cities across the US. As the main instructor for the course, Laurie tries to share her 20 years of experience with her students to instill the importance of professionalism, character, morals and fairness in the wedding industry. www.TheBridalSociety.com. Check out their upcoming events here.
In addition to constant advertising and excellent reviews, your business can benefit greatly from having a healthy relationship with one or more wedding planners in your community and networking with other local professionals. Once you establish a relationship with a wedding planner and you have proven to him/her that you offer a great product at a reasonable price then they have the ability to send you business on a regular basis. Wedding planners are your repeat customer, so being on their preferred vendor list should be a top priority. Wedding planners often sell their clients on your services through recommendations well before your initial meeting so by the time they meet with you they are practically ready to sign.
Here are some key things wedding planners and wedding professionals you would like to network with (and their clients!) are looking for in a wedding vendor partnership:
Be on time. Make an effort to arrive at least 15 minutes early for all meetings. There is nothing that turns a client (and her wedding planner) off more than you being late. Being on time tells the wedding planner and client that you value their time just as much as your own. Always be on time, but if traffic or another issue forces you to be late make sure you communicate with the wedding planner so they can make needed adjustments to the schedule. Many times a wedding planner will schedule meetings with several vendors throughout the day so make sure you communicate, so they can reschedule other appointments accordingly.
Have the right attitude. There is nothing more frustrating to a wedding planner than sitting down with a vendor and immediately having to endure all the gory details about everything that went wrong with your morning. Save those conversations for your friends or family members at another time. When you are meeting for business keep it professional. Having a professional demeanor will give you an edge on the competition!
Focus on a team approach. Are you easy to work with on the wedding day? Are you sensitive to the needs of the other wedding vendors? Always be willing to cooperate and be flexible when unexpected circumstances come up. If you give the impression that you are not a team player it is unlikely you will make it on anyone’s preferred vendor list.
Be open to the couples’ vision within reason. When you sit down with a couple and their wedding planner the ultimate goal is to make sure they know that you will provide your services according to their expectations, budget and style. Sometimes a client’s expectations and reality are two completely different things so make sure you keep them grounded without embarrassing them. A good wedding planner will recognize your diplomacy and lend you a hand in directing the client back in the right direction.
Return correspondence within 24 hours. It is so frustrating to reach out to a wedding vendor and not hear back for days. Make it a point to at least acknowledge all correspondence whether it is from a client, wedding planner or another wedding vendor within a reasonable amount of time. Every person’s definition of “reasonable” is different, so be aware that some clients may expect a response within the hour. Do not sit on emails for more than a day. If you don’t have the answer right away simply send them a reply letting them know that you are looking into the issue and you will respond when you have an answer. Good communication will set you apart.
Recognize the importance of wedding planners. Let’s face it, many engaged couples look forward to planning their wedding and they often ask friends and family to help in the process. These inexperienced people can complicate things very quickly. Those of us who have been in the industry for any length of time understand how vitally important it is to hire a wedding planner. There is a huge difference between having a friend or family member help plan the wedding and having a well trained certified wedding planner to assist. An experienced and well trained wedding planner can make your job so much easier. Find a wedding planner who shares your same ideals regarding customer service and overall customer satisfaction and you will have forged a partnership that will reap dividends for years to come.
If the client does not have a wedding planner, direct them to professional vendors. When you are meeting with a new client, make sure to ask what other vendors they have hired. When you hear that Uncle Bob will be taking the pictures, the bride’s brother will bring his i-pod for the music, and grandma will be baking the cake pay attention. Let your client know you believe in the value of having professional, licensed, insured, well dressed, knowledgeable, and prompt wedding professionals on her big day. This is definitely a time that you can use the phrase “You get what you pay for” and know how meaningful it is. Remind your client that this is their one and only chance (hopefully) to be a blushing bride or happy groom, so avoid cutting corners and bring on a professional wedding day team.
When the wedding planner is the single point of contact. When a wedding planner brings you a potential client she will most likely be the single point of contact between the couple and their vendors. When a professional goes around the planner and directly to the client, the planner will not be as encouraged to keep you on the preferred vendor list. It is so important to send all communications through the planner so that he/she can stay in the “know.” Here are some benefits to respecting the “single point of contact” rule:
- Planners can catch mistakes before the clients have a chance to see them.
- The planner sees that you are a team player and that you respect the dynamic between he/she and the client.
- You can run ideas and thoughts past the planner before talking to the client, which can prevent misunderstandings or issues down the road.
Under no circumstance does the planner want to stick their nose where it doesn’t belong, nor does the planner want to interfere with the relationship between the client and the professional. The simple fact is that if the planner isn’t kept in the loop they can’t do their job effectively. Most engaged couples who hire a professional wedding planner are very busy and only want to deal with one person. This is why they often have their planner handle the correspondence.
Offer discounts to their clients. This by no means is a “deal breaker” but it is a great way to show the wedding planner that you want to do something extra special for her clients. A professional planner doesn’t refer business simply because the vendor offers discounts to their clients. Planners are looking for amazing professionals for their clients. They don’t take kick backs and their priority is building a great team. With that being said, any time a wedding vendor offers our clients a discount simply because they are clients of mine, that vendor will stand out in my mind and I will be more likely to refer that vendor again because it saves my client money.
I hope these tips will help you understand what goes through the minds of wedding planners when they are trying to develop a team of wedding professionals. Remember, we are all in this together and when we work in cooperation with each other it is a credit to the industry and it is in the best interest of our clients!