In the wedding industry, we face the unique obstacle of serving one-time clients. Return business is uncommon, as weddings are (hopefully) a once-in-a-lifetime celebration for each couple. It can be challenging to build a business around a client base that changes from year to year, so it’s important to lean on your creative partners.
While clients may come and go, your industry peers are here to stay for the most part. A strong network can continue fueling your business with referrals, which is more efficient than spending all of your valuable hours marketing to new clients each and every year.
Referral business doesn’t just happen out of the blue, though. Instead, it’s the result of committed relationship building with those in your market. If you want to start earning new clients from your creative partners, you need to make your value clear — and continue nurturing those relationships beyond event days.
Make it a two-way street.
Sending business to creative partners is an excellent way to form a mutually beneficial referral system with your friend-ors. Don’t expect a lot of work to come your way if you’re not willing to return the favor.
With that said, it’s important to only refer other professionals if you truly believe in their value. Your endorsements impact your reputation, so only send clients to those who you’re confident will measure up to their expectations.
Don’t expect to earn a coveted spot on a vendor list from day one. For the same reason you won’t endorse everyone you know, you need to prove yourself to other professionals and venues before they’ll start referring your business. Their reputation is on the line, so it’s your responsibility to show that your quality of work will meet (and surpass) their clients’ standards.
Grow these relationships further by attending networking events and connecting with them organically on social media. If you’re already confident in their company, feel free to start off the referral relationship by sending a client to them.
Employ social media.
Most wedding companies are on social media nowadays, so take advantage of the tools at your disposal. Share photos from events and tag your creative partners with a note about how they always exceed expectations. Better yet, go out of your way to spotlight other businesses in your region. This is a great way to endorse industry peers even if you aren’t yet ready or able to send clients over directly.
Keep up the good work.
When the referrals start flowing in, there’s no reason to stop your efforts. In addition to providing top-tier services and meeting clients’ needs, continue networking and promoting other businesses in your market.
Make it a point to take professional relationships beyond the inbox and start connecting offline. Grab coffee with a peer or host an industry-wide event. Form friendships that will pay back in referral business, with the added bonus of having real and authentic industry relationships to lean on.
Endorsing creative partners often comes back to you tenfold, so don’t feel like you need to wait for others to notice you. Make a strong impression through your quality of work and your level of professionalism — rest assured that your efforts will get your company seen.
Kevin Dennis is the editor of WeddingIQ and the owner ofFantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California. Dennis is the past president for Silicon Valley NACE, and current international president for WIPA.