I received an form-letter inquiry last week from a soon-to-be wedding planner about to complete her certification. (I knew it was a form letter since she mentioned how impressed she was with our clients’ reviews of our “food and service.”) In it, she told me she had decided to add us to her preferred vendors list, and then asked an extremely long list of questions so that she could have our information “to have ready for her clients,” everything from what types of music we play to whether we have special games and props to whether we have a wireless microphone. She also asked for all our contract policies regarding cancellations, deposits, date changes, etc.
Some might say she was working for a competitor of ours and just trying to poach all our information, but I didn’t read her letter that way. I read it as being good-intentioned, but not at all prepared for actually doing business in an industry such as weddings.
For one thing, resourcefulness is an essential quality for any wedding professional. Virtually all of the information she was requesting was right there on our website (I realize not every business is as open as we are; however, that’s why form letters are rarely a good idea), and if she really did get as far as reading our reviews, it’d be painfully obvious that we aren’t a “games and props” kind of company, nor would we fail to have something as basic as a wireless mic.
Secondly, demonstrating a lack of understanding of how incredibly busy wedding professionals are doesn’t bode well. I’m all for taking the time to get to know other vendors (see below), but to expect someone, especially someone you claim to be established enough that you want to make them a “preferred vendor,” to drop everything and spend an hour or more writing a dissertation on their company — when all of that information is readily available online — is ludicrous. Every single wedding business owner I know has their hands ridiculously full. The successful ones especially. None of us has the time to answer essay questions from a planner who isn’t even yet operating a business.
Which brings me to my third point: referring vendors to your clients isn’t about presenting them a pretty binder full of the vendor’s canned answers to a questionnaire. It’s about developing quality relationships with other wedding professionals. That means getting to know them, not only based on their policies and their advertising, but on their personalities, their values, their strengths (and, just as often, their weaknesses). Only then can you steer your clients to the vendors who are the right fit for them, not only in terms of services and price, but also quality and style.
In this particular situation, I didn’t spend the time to type answers to all of this to-be-planner’s questions. I did, however, send her a link to our website where she could find out all the quantifiable information on our company, and invited her to visit our offices for a true, face-to-face meeting that would enable her to really get to know us and why we’re different. I can’t say I was too surprised when she didn’t respond.
I conclude with this: up-and-coming planners, or anyone launching a business in this industry, set aside the questionnaires and form letters and take the time to develop real connections with the quality vendors in your area. I promise, with a minimal amount of research, they’re not hard to find — the onus is then on you to build your network in a way that’s respectful not only of the other business owner, but of the clients you intend to serve.