3. Networking with Other Vendors
The truth is that ads no longer work like they used to. We’re inundated with them. For real success, you need to be building relationships. And the best part is, the more you help other people, the more they will help you.
I realize that everyone is saying “network” right now, and I feel like the word “networking” has gotten somewhat of a bad feeling attached to it. I think that one of the reasons for this is people are just going through the motions because someone told them to. Often times they don’t really care about making real connections or really helping someone, it’s just about passing out as many business cards as you possibly can. Have you been to a corporate sponsored “networking event” where someone rushes up to you and says “Hi, my name is John, here’s my card, will you refer me?Thanks!” and then they immediately move on to the next person without another word? I intentionally left no space between the question and “Thanks!” because they didn’t even leave a second for you to even respond to them.
When I say “networking,” I’m not referring to the cold, lifeless cousin of speed dating that I just mentioned. I’m talking about real relationships. Have you had success in your business? Can you help another vendor who is struggling? Can you make some time to get together with other vendors and just go do something non work related? How many of you have essentially become your business? It might be a huge help to you to just go out and have some fun, and at the same time it could be a big gift to another vendor in your same situation who just needs someone to show up and make it happen for them.
What do you do with all of those extra leads that come in for days that you’re booked? Leads that are outside of your travel area? Leads that are outside of your beginning pricing? Make a strong recommendation that they check out your friends. It’s one thing to just send an email that says “we’re booked, good luck calling XYZ photography.” What if you actually talked to the potential clients to find out what drew them to your style? What if you found out some more details about their wedding—where is it? What sort of budget are they working with? Tell them you’ll make some calls and find someone who’s available for them, rather than sending them on the never-ending vendor search.
We’ve had people we’ve gone the extra mile in making personal recommendations for, and they were so thankful for the extra time we spent with them, that they referred their friends to us later, even though they didn’t hire us. This does take some extra time, but it’s more than worth it.
I have ridiculous amounts of ideas on the specifics of how to go about networking with people, and I will be sharing those—this topic could go on forever. In the meantime, to get you started, just keep in mind the foundation: that it’s about real relationships, and really helping people out. “Go out to lunch” with other vendors is a great start that I hear all the time; but don’t expect that because you ate a sandwich with a wedding planner that they are going to magically start sending you a mountain of referrals. Invest time and effort into people, and they will invest time and effort into you.
Written by Nashville Wedding Photographer Sean McLellan