The following post was written by WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon. Andy is the Founder of Wedding University and The Wedding Marketing Blog, and is an International Public Speaker, Writer and Consultant based in Las Vegas. Andy travels across North America and beyond, presenting to Associations, Wedding Industry Conferences, Regional Gatherings, and Local Meetings.
One of the key marketing channels for wedding professionals is networking with their peers through industry trade associations and other membership organizations. Building and maintaining business relationships through such organizations are key to referrals and introductions to engaged couples for potential bookings.
Part of the appeal of participating in organizations is the excitement of attending events and simply mingling with fellow wedding professionals. Over time, many of these business relationships become close collaborative partnerships and creative teams. That’s why it is essential to choose the organizations wisely, develop a plan for participation and do not over commit.
Finding Where You Fit In
In most geographic areas there are more opportunities for networking than there is time in your week! Your experience as a wedding professional will help direct your involvement. Whether it is a chapter-based national or regional organization, the strength of its board of directors is the major indicator of success or failure.
Key questions to consider when evaluating trade associations:
- Do I know and like some of the board members?
- Are the general membership meetings well organized and run smoothly?
- Are meetings facilitated by several people or is it a one-person show?
- Is there an educational component, as well as a networking component to the meeting?
- Would you be proud to bring your best client to meeting of interest to them?
Learning the Ropes
When you’ve joined an organization, one of the wisest moves you can make is to have coffee or a meal with one of the board members to understand the association culture, find out where you can contribute, what you can learn, and how you can benefit professionally. A great way to create personal or company awareness is donate services for a meeting. However, the donation should be a good fit for what you have to offer. Below are a few ways to donate your time and effort:
- Volunteer for the hospitality committee to meet and greet members and guests when they arrive. You’ll meet nearly everyone and establish name recognition.
- Sell raffle tickets – you’ll find many of the same benefits as the hospitality committee, but you’re not anchored to one spot.
- Work within the program committee to help organize, promote or execute one meeting is of particular interest to you.
Making a Good Impression
Below I’ve outlined some etiquette guidelines for immediately creating a good impression within the group or trade association and getting the most out of your membership:
- Decide who you want to get to know in advance and do a little homework via the person’s social networks to develop conversation. Don’t over do it (or it can become creepy), but most people appreciate that you are taking interest in them and their work.
- When you see someone make a key contribution, thank them in the form of a phone call or voice mail, email, or thank-you note. Let them know what you got out of the event, and how their participation mattered.
- Have a system for follow-up by collecting business cards and making a note to yourself to follow-up. Keep to this, and you’ll build a reputation for reliability, overnight.
- Don’t immediately offer your business card to each person you meet. In most hospitality associations, it’s considered too aggressive to offer your card if you’re not yet a member or are not asked for your card.
- If you receive a referral from another member, thank them in three ways: A quick call or email to acknowledge that you received an inquiry from the referred prospect, a note confirming that you booked the business and an additional Thank You after working successfully with the client.
- Don’t just hang with your friends at meetings – it’s a bad habit that makes one look unapproachable. Make it a point both in cocktail and meal settings to spend time with people you don’t know well, and develop those relationships.
- Be patient. People are busy. It may take weeks to get the right appointment, but being patient and gracious are habits that will serve you well.
Being thoughtful and practicing these etiquette and networking guidelines will help you earn the respect of your peers and build solid ROI for the trade associations you choose!