I know you’ve had some huge success networking with wedding planners. We’re starting to invest more time networking with planners and we have some upcoming sitdowns/introductory meetings scheduled with planners that we have not necessarily worked with before. Do you have any tips other than developing a friendly relationship and understanding each side’s value propositions? One obstacle I’m hoping to overcome is that I’m assuming the planner already has a few photographers that she recommends (i.e. she shares an office space with a photographer). Establishing ourselves as a perfect fit for niche clients is the idea, but I’m just wondering if you’ve had any specific techniques that have worked well in the past.
To be honest it is really difficult to recommend anything other than understanding each side’s value proposition. Understanding what they do and what they want helps you connect them with people who want the same thing, and when they know what you want and what you are best at providing they can refer you appropriately. I’ve found that it is always best to ask questions and really show an interest in them more than you pitch yourself.
If the planner takes a meeting then they don’t have all the resources that they need. People come and go, relationships ebb and there is always room another specific, perfect solution to a given problem. Also, sometimes it really helps to be a new option, if for nothing else than to spice things up and try something different – so use that to your advantage. You really want to occupy a space in the planner’s head that triggers your name when that situation presents itself so be very specific about how you know when you are right for a given client. Don’t claim to be perfect for everyone – that’s a recipe for no referrals. When you’re thinking about how to communicate what and who you are perfect for do so in terms that the planner understands. They don’t know much about photography, but they do deal with budgets and pickiness and indecisiveness and things like that. So communicating your administrative style and getting into a little armchair-client-psychology will help you better speak the planner’s language. Don’t talk all about photo technique or your work – it probably all looks the same to them.
Other than that being likable is a benefit. You don’t have to be real-life friends (business-friends is good enough) but being the kind of person that other people want to see do well is a huge plus. So be kind and be purposefully helpful. Don’t fake it, just be a person – they’re just people after all.
It really isn’t super-complicated, most people are far more afraid of professional networking than is reasonable. Networking with other vendors is the most direct action you can take to drive wedding business in particular – so head outside of your comfort zone and think about who you can connect with today.