Networking with other wedding professionals is one of the cheapest and most impactful ways to earn leads and secure bookings from engaged couples.
With that in mind, do you think you are doing it often enough or well enough?
Networking is something that comes naturally to some and fills others with dread. But don’t be fooled; being confident is *not *the most important factor in becoming a networking pro.
Successful networking is all about earning trust and taking the time to prepare beforehand.
Here are 6 ways that you can ensure you’re preparing well and giving yourself the best chance of securing bookings at your next networking opportunity…
1. Ask yourself why you are networking in the first place
Perhaps your sole purpose for networking is to spread the net far and wide in the hope that wedding suppliers across all areas might refer you to the brides and grooms they meet.
Perhaps your objective is more specific. Are you a wedding planner who has identified a gap in your partner portfolio? Perhaps you’re keen to get to know more wedding florists or cake makers so that you can offer your clients more options when it comes to helping them plan their wedding.
Perhaps you’re keen to strike up a partnership with your local wedding venue in the hope that they’ll include you on their supplier referral lists.
Whatever has driven you to focus on wedding supplier networking, know what your objective is and what you want to talk to people about before you turn up.
2. Be selective with who you want to speak to
Before you go to any networking event, take a look at the list of attendees and make a note of three people you’d like to meet. Don’t be afraid to ask the event organisers for an attendee list if it’s not listed online.
Giving yourself a target for when you arrive is likely to make you feel more confident about approaching those people. Plus by doing your homework beforehand you’ve already learnt a little about the people you’re approaching and can prepare a few specific questions and conversation topics that you’re confident will impress or engage that person.
Remember that your time is valuable so try not to get distracted and go off topic when you’re conversing with other wedding professionals. Yes, the conversation should feel natural and flow easily but try to bring it back to your core focal point if you feel you’re spending too long discussing holidays or the weather.
3. Be ready to start the conversation
Ensure you’ve rehearsed a brief elevator pitch so that you can confidently and succinctly talk about yourself and your wedding business.
Arrive at the networking event with three questions you want to ask fellow suppliers to kickstart the conversation and help you build the kind of relationship you want.
Remember, all relationships are a two way street so don’t force the conversation purely for your own benefit. Be prepared to answer questions about yourself and your wedding business, and try to let the conversation flow naturally rather than allow it to slip into a question and answer format.
4. Try not to see other wedding suppliers as competition
We speak to lots of wedding suppliers who see other businesses as competition and who are therefore reluctant to strike up a conversation with them or support them on social media with a few ‘likes’ and ‘shares’.
Change your mindset.
Whether businesses are similar to yours or completely different you’re missing a huge opportunity if you dismiss them on the basis of competition.
Think about it; when a qualified lead enquires about a weekend that another wedding supplier is already booked for, who will they recommend? Couples will inevitably ask this supplier if they can recommend anyone else and you could be the wedding supplier they choose.
5. Establish yourself as an expert in your field
Building a strong network is largely about earning trust and the best way to prove your worth is to ensure that the world knows you’re good at what you do without being boastful.
Positioning yourself as an expert verbally without saying “look how great I am” is an art, but there are a few easy ways to show you’re an expert online without seeming arrogant.
Showcase testimonials and recommendations on your website and in places that they’ll be seen, like the homepage or on your contact form. Include good feedback on your Bridebook profile from brides, grooms and other wedding suppliers so that other wedding professionals can see that you’re highly thought of by your clients and other wedding pro’s.
Set up a blog and share your expertise in the form of articles; writing about real wedding stories and giving insight into some ‘behind the scenes’ tips that help you prepare for a wedding and impress the couple you’re working with.
Knowledge sharing is to be encouraged. Other wedding suppliers can find answers to any question they need answering on the internet anyway, so be the one they turn to for this advice rather than worrying about protecting your trade secrets.
As your blog develops you may even be contacted by the media for interviews or opinion pieces as you’ll be seen as the number one expert in your field.
6. Make sure that you work at maintaining the relationship
Don’t let all of your efforts be for nothing!
Think of these supplier partnerships as friendships. You must continuously put work in to reap the true benefits.
Stay in touch with suppliers regularly so that you’re always at the forefront of their minds. Small added touches can go a long way, like sending Christmas cards and birthday cards.
Share your networks content on social media and include them when you write about real weddings they’ve worked on too on your blog.
Building supplier relationships should be your number one goal for 2017 / 2018
Building relationships with local suppliers is the best marketing tool you could ask for.
Creating a wedding dream team in the form of a community of wedding professionals all supporting each other allows you to grow professionally and you’ll see your business flourish as a result.
Plus those referrals and relationships often won’t cost you more than a cup of coffee and a little of your time.
Attend events at your local associations, meet people, exchange cards, and most importantly, follow up. Make sure that you’re easy to work with and try to position yourself as an invaluable resource of information.
Spend a little more time today nurturing your supplier network and reap the benefits in 2018 and beyond.