Surely you know that referrals are worth their weight in gold in the events industry – this is undisputed. Couples are highly influenced by the recommendations from friends and other trusted vendors, so building mutually beneficial relationships can work wonders for securing regular referrals.
With that said, the question lies in how to build those relationships and ensure that you’re making a positive impression on your industry peers.
Don’t expect to go to one networking event and receive an inbox full of referrals the following morning. You need to develop a strong friendship and mutual respect with someone before you can expect to receive referrals. In my experience, it takes about three years before you really start seeing results. It may seem like a long time to wait, but the effort is certainly worth it – plus you’re making some friends along the way!
For the most part, industry professionals refer their peers for two reasons – their professionalism and their character. Although you may be the best at what you do, it’s important to build genuine relationships with others before you can expect to garner any referrals. Open up to your peers while you’re out networking and get to know them on a personal level. Befriend them on social media, where you can give them insight into your behind-the-scenes life – this is an especially great way to interact as it feels organic rather than forced.
When you do receive a generous referral, be sure to say thank you! People love getting snail mail, so a handwritten note goes a long way. It can also be a nice touch to throw in a small gift card, especially if it’s for a place you know they will enjoy. Showing your gratitude tells them their efforts were appreciated. Sending over a subsequent referral down the line is the ultimate way to say thanks!
Ultimately, the professionals that you refer are a reflection on both you and your company. That is why it’s so important to qualify those that you do refer to ensure that they are the best fit for your client. For example, we have a referral list for florists in the area and if a couple mentions that flowers aren’t too important to them, we’d send them to a different florist than that of a client who wants an over-the-top design. At the end of the day, it’s about referring those who you enjoy working with and who will be the best fit for the wedding at hand.
If you take one thing from this, let it be this – the referral business is an ongoing process! Just because you get one referral doesn’t mean you can hang your hat and let them roll in. You need to be on top of people’s minds, whether you do so by taking them out to lunch, meeting up at networking events, or sending gifts. While Christmas gifts are always nice, try to mix it up so that you stay fresh and don’t get lost in the sea of holiday gifts. For example, last summer, there was quite a brutal heatwave in our area so we decided to deliver gourmet popsicles to all of our venue partners with a note that said “Thanks for being so cool to work with.” Although it was a small gesture, everybody loved it and we had a lot of fun dropping in on all of our industry buddies!
Remember that referrals are a two-way street – the only way you can build mutually beneficial relationships is by returning the favor. Once you have your network working for you, you can really get down to business!
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 the immediate past national president for WIPA.