Photo by Austin Stuart Photography
This article was written by WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP.
I just got back from presenting at a local wedding association meeting. This association opened the workshop to non-members, as a gesture to help educate the industry (and I’m sure it wouldn’t hurt to try to drum up a few new members). As is the case at all meetings like this, many of the people who attended already knew each other. Many already get together, outside the meetings, either socially, or to network.
Is that a clique, or a network?
There’s a fine line between a clique and a network, but it’s often hard to see the difference from the outside. For me, the difference is whether the group is open to new members. When I say group, I don’t necessarily mean a formal association. At workshops and conferences, wedding and event professionals tend to cluster in groups. I’m sure a psychologist would tell us that this is natural, human behavior. Are those groups cliques? They can often feel impenetrable, because the body language of the group feels exclusive, as opposed to inclusive. Outsiders often don’t try to join the group, assuming, in advance, that they’re not welcome. Sometimes that’s the case, sometimes it’s not.
Who’s in your five?
Do you remember the cell phone ads, “Who’s in your five?” In this case, your ‘five’ is your inner-circle (which can certainly be more than five people). Who are the industry connections with whom you socialize? It’s been said that we do business with people we know, like and trust (credit to Bob Burg, no relation). When a couple asks for a referral to another service, or when you’re booked and want to refer a colleague, why do you refer those particular businesses? Is it just because they’re the best at what they do? Or, is it because they’re good at what they do, and you saw them recently, either at a wedding, or at a networking event, or over coffee on a Tuesday?
How can you expand your network?
First, remember that you weren’t always on the inside. Too often I see wedding professionals complaining about the new company in their market, whether they’re a lower-price, or a direct competitor. Weren’t we all the new guy (or gal) at one time? Weren’t our prices lower than many, if not most competitors, when we were new to the business? For many of us, the answer to those questions is yes. Rather than shun these newbies, why not welcome them into the fold? Wouldn’t it have been nice if you were welcomed that way when you were new? Or, maybe you were.
A rising tide raises all ships
Welcoming the new businesses, and helping them do things the right way, helps everyone. We all know that it only takes one person in your market and category, who has bad customer service, or who takes advantage of a customer, to make us all look bad. I would rather compete with someone who’s doing things well, is honest and well-respected. It makes me keep myself sharp, and keep my game up.
You can teach an old dog…
Another reason to widen your network with newcomers, is that they often have new ideas that can help you. Those of us who’ve been at our craft for a while can sometimes get set in our ways. Have you ever been caught off-guard by a newcomer who’s taking market share with their new approach? Baby-boomers and Gen Xers can learn from millennials and vice versa. You may like your way, but it’s not the only way. Regardless of age, none of us can learn anything new, if we’re not open to the possibilities. So, the next time you find yourself in a group, and you see someone you don’t know, try introducing yourself and inviting them in. You may make a great business connection, or even a new friend. Who’s in your five?
WeddingWire Education Guru Alan Berg, CSP has over 20 years experience in wedding related sales and marketing, and is an author, business consultant, a member of the National Speakers Association, and the wedding & event industry’s only Certified Speaking Professional®. Learn more at alanberg.com.