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How to Get Wedding Vendors to Refer You

by: Kathy DalPra

wedding vendor referralsWhen you're new to an area or just starting your wedding business it can be tough to break into those tightly knit wedding vendor cliques. They've been happily referring others for years and may not be too eager to take a risk on the new guy or gal. Still, every industry is cyclical and anything can change in a split second. That photographer they've been referring for 10 years could retire, that florist could move to a new city and that wedding planner could decide to be a stay-at-home mom. An opening could be just around the corner, but its your job to make sure you're there to fill it when it pops up.

Don't Beg for Business

Getting out there is a good thing, but whatever you do, don't start begging or bugging your colleagues to send you business. That's just annoying and uncomfortable for everyone (especially you!). There is no need to do this because the best way to get referrals is organically anyway.

Show 'Em What You're Made Of

Show them how fabulous your work is

There is no doubt that the quickest way to instill confidence in your peers is to show them how fabulous your work really is. One of my DJ clients told me that he is a top referral source for a few local wedding planners simply because he wants his clients to hire them. He knows that a seasoned planner or coordinator will make the whole event smooth for everyone and he wants that experience as much for himself as he does for his clients. They didn't have to pester him for referrals, he is happy to send clients their way!

Let Your Clients Do The Talking

Peers will respect you when the marketplace respects you. Even in big markets like New York or Chicago, the local wedding market is still a small pond. If your peers keep hearing your name dropped by clients, they'll start to take notice. In fact, peers may not even take you seriously until they start getting feedback from their clients.

When you put all your focus and energy in creating a spectacular experience for your clients, word is bound to get out. Once a vendor can see first-hand that all the hype is real by experiencing your work or meeting you in person, referrals become inevitable.

Refer to Them First

The law of reciprocity is a powerful force indeed. Robert Cialdini, an expert in marketing and persuasion, cites studies that show evidence of people feeling the need to repay others that give them something without obligation. The simple act of referring to a fellow wedding provider first, without asking anything in return, is not only a great way to evaluate what it's like to work with them but could result in a referral for you in the future too!

That said, I wouldn't refer someone with the intent of getting a referral back; that would be an obligation. Instead, do it when you truly believe that person is the best fit for your client and you want an opportunity to work with them too. If you happen to drum up more business from it down the road, great!

When to Ask

Reputation is built by serving both your peers and your clients. Before you ever ask for referrals, try to focus on making a splash in your niche by giving stellar customer service, offering a top quality product or service and making the event easier for clients and colleagues (when applicable).

Then, when you've had some time to meet your peers at events and make a good first impression, follow up with a coffee date. The purpose isn't to get a referral, but to establish a relationship and find out how you can be of service to them. During your meeting, there is nothing pushy about letting them know more about the ideal type of client you work with in case they ever come across anyone that fits the bill. If your niche is unique enough, they may not know anyone who specializes in that specific type of client or event. This gives you a shoe-in to be the first one referred next time they work with a client like the one you described. Also, most wedding professionals are totally generic and unspecific about who they work with, so this will definitely help you stand out.