» How to Get On Preferred Vendor Lists (and Stay on Them)

Photo by: Studio 616 Photography

This article was written by Kevin Dennis, editor of WeddingIQ.

The illustrious preferred vendor list is something that, as business owners, we all strive to be on. The exclusivity and third party validation is very appealing, not to mention the leg up it can give you against competition and the increased exposure to couples. So the question is, how do you get on it and stay on it?

I’m sharing some of my best practices for getting on preferred vendor lists and staying on them. With engagement season right around the corner, there’s no better time to start putting these tips into action for your business.

Never Ask Immediately

Asking a fellow vendor or venue if you can get on their preferred list right out of the gate is probably the biggest mistake you can make. Would you want someone you just met five minutes ago asking you for a favor? No, probably not. Once you have gotten to know them more on a professional (or even personal) level, bring the subject up in a more general way. For example, ask them how they choose who to put on the list, or how often they refresh the list. That way you are getting the intel you want without directly asking them to consider you.  

Get to Know the Other Vendors

Sit down and take a look at the list(s) you want to be a part of, and take note of the other vendors on it that you may already know or would like to get to know. The local events community is a small one, and your relationships with people can make all the difference. If you’re close to someone that is well connected, and they respect your reputation, they may recommend you the next time a vacancy on a preferred list comes up. This strategy has worked for me for years, and it’s another reason why networking is so important for wedding businesses.

Don’t Take It for Granted

If and when you are added to the preferred list, don’t get too comfortable. Several places will update theirs at least once a year, and if they barely remember who you are or have been in close contact with someone else, you can easily be replaced. Small gestures can be a fun and creative way to keep your business at the top of their minds. For example, we celebrate obscure national holidays (think National Miniature Golf Day) and send funny notes and trinkets to our vendor friends that will put a smile on their face.

Don’t let the idea of trying to get on a preferred vendor list scare you. With the right approach businesses will be adding you in no time.  

Kevin Dennis is the editor of WeddingIQ and owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California. Dennis is the current chapter president for Silicon Valley NACE, and a past national president for WIPA.

» How to Choose the Right Industry Association

If you are looking to take your business to a new level, whether you’re new or have years of experience, joining an industry association could be just the game-changer you’ve be looking for. Association memberships grant access to power networking, collaborative relationships and leadership opportunities, all of the tools that can put a great business on the fast track to even bigger things!

Why Join?

Professional associations have a lot to offer. Many local chapters offer regular get-togethers where you can meet like-minded individuals, share ideas, swap stories and exchange thoughts. Some organizations pair these meetings with educational opportunities, prestigious speakers and exposure to new concepts to provide additional support for member businesses.

Some organizations also have national chapters, broadening the available networking opportunities substantially. There are often annual conferences for members and even the ability to attend meetings of other chapters.

Which Association is Best for You?

The events industry has several major associations, all of which support our professionals, and each with a different set of strengths and benefits. Some of the major organizations include:

WIPA

The Wedding International Professionals Association (WIPA) was formed to provide an opportunity for networking and continued education. There are nine chapters around the country and the option of joining “at-large.” The organization offers meetings, mentoring programs, up-to-date information and news for a tight-knit community of professionals.

ILEA

The International Live Events Association (ILEA) is an international association with 51
chapters worldwide. Membership is offered to creative event professionals and offers access to invaluable resources, a career center, exclusive events and the ability to compete for coveted awards.

NACE

The National Association for Catering and Events (NACE) has 40 chapters across the nation and hosts numerous events throughout the year to increase education in the industry and give members a platform to showcase their work to peers. Local chapters offer leadership opportunities as well as regular networking gatherings. The annual NACE Experience conference is one of the industry’s most heralded events and considered a can’t-miss by many.

MPI

Meeting Professionals International (MPI), the largest meeting and event industry association in the world, focuses on high-level education and business practices. The organization’s 90 chapters are located across North America, South America, Europe, and Asia. Members can access a network of peers and many educational opportunities.

You’ll also want to be mindful of locally grown organizations- and remember, you can always take matters into your own hands and create your own opportunities. I founded Tri-Valley Wedding Professionals years ago to fill a need in our community and we’re now hundreds of members strong.

No matter which industry association you choose, an investment will be necessary to become a member. This investment is only worth it if you plan to actively participate by attending meetings, offering your services and seeking leadership roles. There is next to no benefit if you simply pay your dues and never show up. Associations are communities that rely on every member to help make them great.

In addition to those listed above, the events industry has many niche associations, like ADJA for DJs or WPJA for photographers, that offer numerous benefits to members. We recommend doing a bit of research on the associations related to your niche, choosing at least one that appeals to you and fits your business goals, and joining today!

 

Kevin Dennis is the owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California. Dennis is the current chapter president for Silicon Valley NACE, and a past national president for WIPA.

 

» WeddingWire Networking Night Westchester

This week, local wedding professionals gathered at The Davenport Mansion on the Sound for WeddingWire Networking Night Westchester!

At the Networking Night, wedding professionals had the opportunity to enjoy breathtaking panoramic waterfront views of the Long Island Sound while networking in the historic and recently renovated mansion. Guests met other local vendors across all service categories as well as members of the WeddingWire team. Plus, they learned local-industry statistics and how to better reach engaged couples through social media from WeddingWire’s Associate Director of Customer Success, Kyle Mihalcoe.

Thank you to all the wonderful pros who joined us! We’re excited to share highlights from the event including the educational presentation, our latest issue of WedInsights, and photos from the enjoyable evening below.

We would like to say a special thank you to the amazing event partners who helped make the evening possible:

Finally, we’re excited to announce the winner of our WeddingWire Prize Pack give away – congrats to Rabbi Andrea Frank from Rabbi Andrea Frank – The Jewish Wedding Traveling Rabbi!

» 4 Ways to Nail Networking: Turning Connections into Powerful Partnerships

This certainly won’t come as a surprise but bears repeating- networking is necessary for growing your business! Building a strong network creates a solid foundation for your company to expand and bring in more business, so if you haven’t been creating opportunities to meet new people, it’s time to reevaluate your schedule and make it a priority.

With that in mind, being strategic about your networking is the best way to ensure that you’re getting to know the right people and making the best impression possible. Here are some of my best practices for putting your best foot forward:

Choose events that fit your brand

There are many wedding and event industry associations that help bring professionals together, but they are each unique in their own ways. Do some research into the organizations around your area to see which best suits your brand and your values. If you find that the selection is limited in your market, consider starting your own group. Grab a few of your like-minded peers and start meeting regularly, then promote your meetings to other professionals in the area. Chances are they’ve been looking for the same opportunity as well!

Prepare as much as possible

Before attending a networking event, do your homework and find out who else is attending. Note anybody that you’d like to meet, so you can keep your focus while mingling. While you’re at it, research the venue and the sponsors of the event so you can get an idea of who is responsible (and who to thank at the end of the night!). Pick out an outfit that makes you feel confident and double check that your business cards are ready to go.

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» Partnership Marketing: Building Your Business from Your Wedding Buddies

WeddingWire Education Expert

Meghan Ely

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding pr firm OFD Consulting. As a highly sought-after speaker in the wedding industry, she is the exclusive Wedding PR Education Expert for WeddingWire as well as the national Communications and Marketing Director for WIPA. To learn how OFD Consulting can assist you, as well as more about our new wedding PR kits, please visit us today.

Whether you’re a seasoned business in your area or are new to the scene, marketing is something that should be in the forefront of your business operations. The tricky part is that a business’ marketing approaches are constantly changing and evolving; from PR and social media to more traditional advertising methods, the options are endless.

When considering your own methods, don’t discount your relationships with the businesses around you. Leveraging relationships with your creative partners is a great way to introduce your business into their network. Below we’ve got some tips on creating and maintaining your vendor-to-vendor relationships.

Partnership Marketing: Building Your Business from Your Wedding BuddiesEstablishing a Relationship

It may take some effort to find the right people to work with. If no one comes to mind when thinking of whom you’d want to work with, then it’s time to consider networking. Attend events at your local associations, meet people, exchange cards, and most importantly, follow up.

Make sure that you are the easiest person to work with, whether it’s at an event or setting up a meeting with them (no Saturday appointments in June!). Market yourself as part of their team and be an all-around resource of information to solidify your place as an essential part of the process.

Maintaining a Relationship

Don’t let all of your efforts be for nothing – set up a system to maintain your relationships. Make sure you are staying in touch with them regularly to keep yourself on their minds (think birthday cards and holiday cards). Include them in your real wedding submissions. If you worked with a vendor and the wedding gets published, be sure to give them a shout out in any promotions.

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» How to Get the Most Out of Networking Events

Pro to Pro Insights

Leila Lewis, photo by Valorie Darling PhotographyThis post was written by Leila Lewis of Be Inspired PR. As a business school graduate from Santa Clara University, Leila (Khalil) Lewis’ career began in publishing, where she worked in marketing and editorial roles for business and lifestyle publications. Since transitioning into the wedding business in 2004, Leila has over 10 years of wedding marketing experience under her belt, and is the industry’s go-to for wedding public relations services, brand development and business consulting.

Whether you have an established business or if you’re just starting out, networking is crucial for your company to thrive. Networking can be intimidating and nerve-wracking, but with the proper tips, you can definitely take advantage of any networking event. You want to come in confident, make your mark, and guarantee that they will remember you.

  1. Do your research.

How to Get the Most Out of Networking EventsNever go into a networking event blind. You don’t need to necessarily deep dive to find every little detail, but definitely do some background research to find out the background of the company hosting the event, who will be there, what type of features the event will have to maximize networking, etc. Also, it wouldn’t hurt to prepare some conversation starters. It may seem awkward and unnatural at first, but the more you have these in the back of your head, the more prepared you will feel when you meet up with someone new.  You never know who you are going to meet, and you want to guarantee that you make a solid impression.

  1. Shake out the nerves and be confident.

When you get to the event, you may feel nervous (which is normal!), but don’t let it affect you to the point where you just freeze. You’re here to maximize your business and meet people that will only help you. The more confident you feel, the more you will succeed at these events. Take a couple of deep breaths, shake it off, and walk in and network like boss. You’ve got this!

  1. Just do it.

Do a quick scan of the room, find the person you want to talk to and just do it. You have about five seconds to go start that conversation before you begin to overthink it or worse, allow someone else to beat you to the punch. This is all about creating those new connections and you want to take advantage of these opportunities.

  1. Be genuine and keep it real.

Yes, you have the prepared conversation ignitors, but make sure to keep it natural. These connections could help build lasting relationships and give you the ability to collaborate in the future. Be genuinely curious about what they have to say and learn more about them.  Continue reading

» Build Your Reputation Through Relationships & Referrals

Build Your Reputation Through Relationships & ReferralsWebinar recap!

Yesterday, we held this month’s educational webinar, Build Your Reputation Through Relationships & Referrals, hosted by WeddingWire Education Expert Andy Ebon. In this session, Andy explained an important, yet highly underrated part of a successful marketing strategy, which he calls “reputation marketing.”

Andy provided several tips for developing relationships within the industry and expanding your inventory of reviews and endorsements. By following his advice, you can build a reliable reputation, grow your business, and book more clients!

Here are a few ways to build a positive reputation within the wedding industry:

  • Track particular keywords or phrases about your business on Google Alerts to know what people are saying about your business and/or about your competitors. These updates are delivered straight to your inbox.
  • Create a blog where you can promote your own business, as well as those of your peers, whose professionalism you can trust and recommend. WordPress is a great platform to get started!
  • Collect more reviews from past clients and and peer endorsements from other vendors on WeddingWire. This will help to further develop your strong online reputation, and let potential clients know you are reliable!
  • Get involved in your community by attending events, joining associations, or accepting leadership roles in your favorite industry group. Not only can you become a figure of authority in your local community, but you can also demonstrate important skills that people will associate with you as a business owner.
  • Make an effort to learn all aspects of the wedding industry by grabbing a casual lunch or coffee with a peer and get to know the challenges they face on a daily basis, or share business tips. If you better understand each other’s work, you can refer each other when the time comes!

For more information, watch the full webinar, available within all Premium member accounts any time! For more education from Andy, visit his blog.

» How to Find (and Reach!) Your Target Audience

Pro to Pro Insights

Jennifer Taylor, Taylor'd Events GroupThis post was written by Jennifer Taylor. Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui.

Looking to book more clients? Then it’s essential to start at the beginning with fine tuning your target audience to determine the very best client for your wedding business. While it may seem like quite the undertaking, a bit of strategic thinking can save you from exhausting your energy and resources before seeing results.

How to Find (and Reach!) Your Target AudienceIt’s safe to say that the best plan of attack is just that – a plan! First and foremost, you’ll need to define your target audience. What age range do they fall in? What social media networks are they hooked on? Do your homework and research your target demographic so you get to know their lifestyles and interests. Do they frequent coffee shops and juice bars? Are they taking Pilates or barre classes at the gym or a private studio? Whatever it is, see if there’s a way for you to join them in their element and connect with them. While an email or Facebook message may seem nice, there’s nothing quite as genuine as connecting with a prospective client because your yoga mats are next to each other or you were waiting in line together.

Another great way to reach your target audience is to network among other local wedding professionals. Talk to some of your favorite venues in the area and start to nurture your relationship with them. Take them out for coffee or send them a small gift – anything to let them know who you are and that you appreciate them. Oftentimes, venues have a list of preferred vendors to share with their clients and there’s nothing better than having your name on there!

More than likely, you’ll have an idea of which of your industry peers serve your target clientele. If you’re not already friends with them, it’s time to get networking! Referrals are extremely valuable, as couples are more willing to trust a vendor that they’ve already hired so it’s certainly worth it to get in with the people who share your ideals. Find a networking group that best suits you—keeping in mind you can attend both event industry networking as well as general business networking—and get to building relationships. Remember – it’s not a race to hand out as many business cards as you can. Look for the professionals with values that align with your own and start chatting. Follow up with them afterwards to continue the conversation – it could develop into a mutually beneficial relationship of referrals.

While there are two distinct ways of reaching your target audience—through them directly and through other event professionals—it’s prudent to find a good mix of the two methods in order to maximize your outreach to its full potential. Plus, you’ll feel covered on all sides so you won’t be pressured when you can’t attend a networking event or you missed a day of Pilates. It’s all about balance!

» Wedding PR: Let’s Change the Conversation about Networking

WeddingWire Education Expert

Meghan Ely

Meghan Ely is the owner of wedding marketing and wedding pr firm OFD Consulting. As a highly sought-after speaker in the wedding industry, she is the exclusive Wedding PR Education Expert for WeddingWire as well as the national Communications and Marketing Director for WIPA. To learn how OFD Consulting can assist you, as well as more about our new wedding PR kits, please visit us today.

My life in the wedding industry began with three martinis at an industry networking group when I was fresh out of college. It gave me just enough confidence (liquid courage?) to run as a write-in candidate for the inaugural PR chair of the local wedding association. Much to my surprise, I won that evening and it was the catalyst that led to everything else – increased sales for my employer, wonderful friendships, new job opportunities, and even the chance to manage that same association when I first opened the doors to OFD.

Wedding PR: Let’s Change the Conversation about NetworkingSo as you can imagine, I’m a big proponent of networking. In fact, if there were some sort of wedding industry networking fan club, I would be the president of it. Or, at the very least, the PR chair.

Here’s the thing about networking: it wears on you after awhile. And I get it – you start to really get tired of the elevator pitches and the constant card exchanging.  So today I’m here to ask you to rethink networking and instead, consider a new approach. At this year’s WeddingWire World, I shared the top networking notions you need to throw out the window and today, I’m asking you to consider the same.

So how do we change the conversation about networking?

Stop telling yourself that networking is supposed to be fun.
You have goals for your wedding business (and if you don’t, stop reading this immediately and get to work on those!) and there are things you should be doing to help you achieve those goals. Statistically speaking, vendor referrals is one of the leading ways that couples find out about you so more than likely, networking is a necessary component to your promotional strategies.

But for some reason, we assume that we network because it’s fun. I don’t blame you – event people throw great events. But if the only reason you’re going is to kick back with your friends and joke about the endless trend of mason jars, you’re not going to see a solid ROI for your time. Instead, select your networking events because they’re the key to getting you closer to your business goals.

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» Meal Companion Networking: Who, How & Why

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.

The art of face-to-face networking is not a random event; it requires time and dedication to get the most out of the events or groups you attend. If you are a member of an association or networking group that features a seated meal at meetings, there are a number of unique strategies to help you build a one-to-one relationship over a meal.

meal-companion-networking-tipsThere are several options on choosing your meal companion; each with different rationale.

  1. Sit with random people you don’t know.
  2. Sit with friends and/or people you do know.
  3. Choose to sit with one or two people you would like to know more about, and perhaps do business with.
  4. Sit down at an empty table, letting random friends, peers or strangers join you.

All of the options are completely acceptable, but I recommend choosing option three. The most effective way to expand your professional circle is to invite one or two specific people to sit with you and engage with them.

Who: Selecting which members to get to know

An ideal strategy for planning to build a new connection is to find out in advance which people have RSVP’d for the event. Even if an RSVP list is not available to you in advance, be the first one to arrive and review meeting badges on the registration table.

Prior to the meeting, select four to five people who you would like to get to know. Think about why those people may be important as part of your circle of business contacts. Connect with them during cocktails, chat a bit, and ask one or two of them to join you for the meal. If not already committed, one of them will likely accept your invitation.

How: Learning more about other members

With the popularity of Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms, bios or profiles are usually published for members of each platform. Most often, people do elect to make their profile ‘public’, with minor or no limitations on access. Therefore, no one should be shocked if another businessperson reads a profile to learn a little bit more about them.

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» How to Start and Maintain a Networking Group

Pro to Pro Insights

Jennifer Taylor, Taylor'd Events GroupThis post was written by Jennifer Taylor. Jennifer Taylor is the owner of Taylor’d Events Group, a planning firm that specializes in celebrations of all kinds in the Pacific Northwest and Maui.

Networking – there’s simply no better way to get your name out amongst industry peers and potential clients. Not only is it a fun experience (can you say cocktail hour?), but it can also be the changing force that helps advance your business to the next level. Even if you have to duck out of the office a bit early or take a long lunch break, attending networking events is certainly worth the time and effort.

	How to Start and Maintain a Networking GroupHowever, in some cases, you may attend networking events, but find that you’re not happy with the results. If this sounds like you, consider starting your own networking group as there may be other professionals in your industry feeling just as disappointed in the current offerings. To start a networking group, you simply need to have like-minded people who are looking to work together.

Perhaps the locally-established events aren’t as niche-specified as you’d like or maybe they’re always scheduled at inconvenient times leading to low turnout. Whatever the case is, take all of these considerations into account when building your own networking group. Your experience attending these events is the best form of research, as you’ll have a better idea of what you and others are looking to get out of a night of mixing and mingling.

Step 1: Set goals

As with any big project, you’ll want to start off by setting goals. What does an ideal networking event look like to you? Carefully determine the audience you want to include at your events—are you looking to connect with all local photographers? Do you want to build a cohesive network of wedding professionals who focus solely on luxury events? Your answer to this question will form the foundation of your group, as well as provide a game plan for how to grow and maintain your network.

Step 2: Recruit members

Before inviting your whole Facebook list, you’ll want to carefully sift through your connections and select those who will be of the most value to the networking group and are well known in the region. With a list of invited members in hand, you’ll want to have your first event on the books before hitting the ‘send’ button. When people first hear of your group, they’ll want to know details about the inaugural event; otherwise, they’ll most likely forget about the group. Using an approximate number of attendees, find a venue that can comfortably host the group if everyone were to bring one extra person. From there, start reaching out to promote the event and requesting speakers and sponsors, if necessary. You may also want to consider aligning yourself with local media and area bridal shows for larger exposure.

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» WeddingWire World 2016 Agenda Announcement

WeddingWire World 2016 tickets are on sale, and we are excited to announce our conference agenda is now live!

We have packed three days full of top education for wedding professionals. Register for your ticket to learn from celebrity keynote speakers (shh – more speaker announcements are coming soon!), leading industry speakers, Pros like you who have excelled and are sharing their experiences, three new breakout tracks, business workshops, networking opportunities and much more!

Take a peek at some conference highlights below, and review the full agenda here:

  • Compelling main stage presentations on the client experience, technology, sales, networking, trends and more from top rated speakers including Sonny Ganguly, Alan Berg, Meghan Ely, and Monte Durham.
  • New breakout tracks with great speakers. Simply pick your session of choice for each breakout and opt to focus on a business, marketing, or clients theme, or follow your favorite track throughout each day for in-depth education on that theme!
  • Learn from experts during workshop sessions on the final day. Take a deeper look at WeddingWire marketing and client tools, business tools like email and social media, or learn from other successful Pros on important topics like finding your niche.

worldBe sure to check back soon for more agenda updates and speaker announcements!

Don’t miss out on your chance to participate in all the new presentations, networking opportunities, and fun surprises we have in store. Get your ticket today for the lowest ticket price before the $150 increase on September 16th, 2015!

Questions? Email events@weddingwire.com and we will be in touch soon.