If you photograph weddings, chances are you can quickly think of other wedding vendors you love to work with … and a few you hope you never see again.
We worked at one wedding where the videographer completely monopolized the bride and groom. He would follow us around to use all of our ideas, or jump in and start videoing as we were photographing intimate portraits with the worlds largest and most obnoxious light source. After a couple hours of this at the wedding location, the bride and groom had had enough. So we found ways to “sneak” off at the reception to allow the bride and groom some time alone, while capturing images the way they are meant to be captured.
Likewise we have worked with many great vendors that we would gladly work with again and again. We referred each other because we knew what to expect from each other. The quality was always top notch. The service was always extraordinary. And we knew the bride and groom would be happy from beginning to end. They have been friends for many years and remain friends to this day.
If you are new to the wedding industry, building a relationship with your client may seem like the most important thing to do. And it is. Yet the relationships you build with vendors is what will build your business over time. You will only see a bride and groom once – at their wedding. Okay, maybe several times if you do other family members and friends. But if you become friends with other wedding vendors, you may work with each other a dozen times or more each year.
How do you build those relationships?
1. Start with your clients
What vendors will your current clients be using at their upcoming events? This is a great starting point for building relationships. A month or so before a client’s wedding, ask them for their list of top vendors: coordinators, videographers, caterers, florists, musicians, etc. Get points of contacts, and find out who you will be working with at the event itself. For instance, you may be working with a DJ service who employees 6 different DJs. Its great to know the owner of the company, just as its equally important to know who the DJ will be at your event.
Call your point of contact the week before the event. Introduce yourself and find out the details of the event. You can also share your plans. For instance, if you will be taking portraits before the wedding ceremony, this is a great reason to call and speak with the florist. Explain that you will need all bouquets a couple of hours before the event in order to get the full benefit while taking portraits. You can also share ideas to make the bride and grooms experience more enjoyable.
3. Introduce yourself at the weddings
If you’ve never met a vendor before, make sure you introduce yourself at the wedding. Realize some vendors you will naturally be spending more time with. A florist will only be there at the beginning during setup. Yet a videographer will be with you most of the day. Likewise a band or DJ will help control the reception and keep the events moving. If you have a great relationship with the DJ, you can use that to monitor the activities and adjust as things happen throughout the night.
4. Follow up
After the event, keep in touch with your new friends. Put together a few sample photographs in a folio, digital or album format and give it to them to enjoy. Set up a lunch to chat about business and get to know each other better. Follow up every few weeks or months to see how they are doing. While you don’t want to make yourself a nuisance, it is good to continue to develop the relationship over time. You may also find out what organizations they belong to and consider joining, especially if you hear of an organization again and again from the people you are working with.
5. Build and grow through the years
When you find a vendor you love and respect, make sure you promote them to your future clients. Photography is in the unique position to be one of the first services booked. As you sign the contract, let your clients know you are the wedding expert and have a lot of great referrals for other vendors. Then when they ask, mention the vendors you would like to work with again. You can even collect business cards and brochures from your favorites to have to hand out as you refer. Make sure you tell them to mention your name as the referral source. Emphasize the importance of working with true professionals and hiring people that will work together. Once another vendor knows you are referring them, they will work to reciprocate.