Referrals are an important part of your business. When a venue or planner recommends you, it increases your probability of booking that client you may not have connected with otherwise, and it also boosts your credibility. A venue or planner's recommendation goes a long way in the client's eye. Many clients would rather save themselves days of researching dozens of vendor options and rather book based on 1 or 2 recommendations they were given. This automatically waives the question of how good are you, can they trust you, are you worth it, because an industry pro has already vouched for you. Even if that particular client doesn't wind up booking you, it still boosts your overall visibility and credibility simply by being on that preferred list. More and more people will become familiar with your name. It also continues to improve your relationship with that venue or planner as you continue to work events together. Now, how do you get on these preferred vendor lists?
For planners, our preferred vendor list or "recommended vendor list," is typically fully optional to the client. They are not required to book someone from this list, they are simply recommendations. However, the vast majority of the time, our clients will book vendors from this list. For the client, it makes the decision easier and also makes them feel more confident knowing that their planner has worked with that particular vendor in the past and provided satisfactory service. For the planner, it makes the planning process and wedding day run a bit easier and more efficient working with vendors we trust and who know our process and we know theirs. These benefits of both the client and planner are why the preferred vendor list exists and also why we do not add just anyone to it. So simply going up to a planner you've never met and never worked with before and asking to be added to their vendor list is definitely not the way to go. We haven't seen you in action to vouch for your level of service and don't know enough about you to stamp a mark of approval or recommendation. A great looking website or portfolio isn't enough.
For venues, the preferred vendor list has the same benefits, ease and confidence for the client, and comfortability and efficiency for the venue. Sometimes, venues are a bit more strict with their vendor list though, often requiring that certain vendors be booked solely from that list. So if you're a DJ wondering why you never get bookings for resort venues, it may be because those venues have such strict noise ordinance rules and A/V requirements that they want to make sure only vendors experienced with their property will be working their events. An unfortunate reality of many venues is that vendors literally pay for to be added to their preferred vendor list, and they are paying for exclusivity. In these situations, it can be extremely tough to get added to their preferred vendor list, but not completely impossible! Venues are constantly swapping out their vendors, so just being on their radar is a great step towards getting onto that vendor list.
Here are some tips to boost your chances of getting added to a planner or venue's preferred vendor list.
After you complete an event with that planner or at that venue, send them a thank you card or email. Tell them how much you enjoyed working together, how beautiful their venue is, how much you appreciated their organization and attentiveness, etc. At the end of that email/card, throw in a casual side note that you would love to work another event together or at their venue and if they have a preferred vendor list, you would love to be considered as an addition.
Join an event or wedding industry group where you can network with other pros. You'll undoubtedly run into a few planners and venue coordinators at various mixers. The key still though is not to just up front ask to be added to their vendor list. You never want to come off pushy. Just make authentic connections. Chat casually about the industry, your company, and the coming wedding season. Ask plenty of questions about their business and what kinds of clients they service. And then seamlessly connect it back to what you offer. This should feel like a conversation, not a sales pitch or an interview. Once they like you as a person, they'll be eager to learn more about your business and then they'll be itching for the chance to work with you. I met a caterer at a networking event and they were so authentic in their approach and conversation that I was happy to hear all about their business and now I cannot wait for us to work our first event together.
Offer for them to sample your services. If you get creative, this can work for every vendor type. Figuring out a way to give planners and venue coordinators a true taste of your services will definitely boost your chances of being added to their vendor list. If you're a hair/makeup artist, offer to do the team's styling for their next staff photos. If your a DJ working a public event, offer them tickets to check you out. If you're a florist, drop off a free arrangement to their office. If you're a caterer, host a public tasting and offer free tickets to planners and venue coordinators. The main thing standing between you and that preferred vendor list is the fact that they have no idea how good you really are and if you're worth putting their recommendation behind. This way, you're letting them see for themselves without any risk.