We are so excited to be sharing with y’all today about one of the single biggest game changers in our entire business – something that gets put on the back burner and undervalued by soooooo many of us, and something that, given the right amount of attention and care, can become one of your best FREE marketing tools and sources of happy feelings in your work: Wedding Vendor Relationships.
We have the amazing blessing of working in an industry that is naturally community driven and team oriented. And friends, this is NOT the norm in this world. All you have to do is go to a flywheel class to get a sense for how deeply competitive people are in EVERY area of life (I love me some flywheel, but the competitive spirit in those classes is STRONG). In contrast, because Weddings are a group effort and it takes a village to pull off a giant event, we’ve found that our industry is naturally more collaborative than competitive. It’s awesome that our industry is this way, and we get to benefit from it in some amazing ways, so we should also be investing into that community with our time, our energy and our talent.
Why are Vendor Relationships Important?
- They are our biggest source of bookings: For us, we put a lot of effort into investing in relationships with our Wedding community, and 70% of our bookings annually come from planners, venues, other photographers and florists.
- They help us book clients who already trust us and know how we work: It’s one thing for potential clients to hear why they should book us from us… but it’s a whole different ballgame for them to hear about our strengths from a third party. Our vendor relationships and the votes of confidence that come with them help us to book couples who already know they can trust us to do our job well (without us having to convince them of that).
- They make our work days less stressful: When people are really good at their jobs and are willing to work hard, Wedding days automatically become less stressful. You get less unreasonable timelines, more help in execution, and you’re less likely to have to do stuff that isn’t in your wheelhouse or job description.
- They make our work days more fun: You know that feeling when you walk into a room full of people you know, admire and love? Imagine every single Wedding day was like that. Strong vendor relationships can help your work feel less like work, and more like hanging out with friends who are amazingly talented.
- They become our work community: Here’s the reality of being a solopreneur – you spent the majority of your time alone and in front of a computer. Creating a strong network of vendor relationships means that you’re creating a strong work community. They become the people who will help you troubleshoot challenges and failures as well as celebrate your successes. This community is SO GOOD for business. They are the first people we go to when we are considering a price change or offering a different product, because they can offer an outside perspective that is so valuable.
How Do We Build Them?
- Network in the way that makes sense to you: We are pretty casual people – not super buttoned up or uber professional, so when we go to network meetings I don’t pretend to be someone I’m not. If exchanging business cards with complete strangers or cold calling people isn’t your style, that’s OK! Figure out what makes the most sense to you and do that. We love quality over quantity, so we are much more likely to “network” over coffee or cocktails or to bring lunch by someone’s studio. It’s still networking, but it feeling more authentic to our personalities.
- Be a GIVER: If you only read one bullet point in this entire blogpost… please let this be it. In everything that you do, seek to be a giver instead of a taker. This should permeate the big things all the way down to the smallest. For example, when you want to meet with people ask in a way that honors them and their time. Don’t mass email people or ask to “pick their brains” – that kind of language and request communicates that you want to take and not to give. SHARE your images, and fast. At the end of the day your photos are what these talented professionals have to showcase their work, so vendors shouldn’t have tohunt you down for pictures of their work. The phrase “how can I help” is your best friend. Say it as MANY times as you can.
- Do some active heavy lifting: Being a small business owner is time consuming, and squeezing extra things into your to-do list might seem impossible, but we’ve found that one of the quickest ways to build meaningful vendor relationships is to take initiative. Plan a styled shoot, plan get togethers, consider doing featured blog-posts on your favorite vendors. Prioritize these things and do the heavy lifting.
- Be good at what you do: Lastly, work tirelessly on your craft. For us, the success of our business can all be boiled down to two things: be a great person and be a great photographer. These things are never at rest – we are always becoming, and we feel like the moment we stop getting better is the moment our business will stop growing.
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