Hi, there! If we’ve not met before, my name is Rachel Jordan, I’m a wedding photographer and business coach on a mission to help wedding professionals elevate the quality of clients you attract, craft a luxury client experience, by focusing on what matters and profitably automating everything else.
I chatted with Zohe Felici, a mentor for wedding and event professionals, and an expert in helping them uncover five figure months while stepping into their creative super power, and we had such a wonderful, rich conversation. You can listen to our full chat above ^^ or if you just want a quick overview, I’ve written out a short summary of the main points we covered.
Why are vendor relationships so important?
Wedding professionals are amazing creatives who are so talented with an interesting audience of wedding couples who are getting into spending a lot of emotional money for the first time and we end up becoming therapists a lot. So who is therapeutic for us? I know so many professionals who just don’t have anyone to talk to about all the things that they’re processing. They’re receiving so much relational input at these events that it’s really important, just for mental health, to have somebody who you can talk to about it. A friend in your line of work who understands and relates is invaluable for this reason.
If you really look at the principles of running an event, it takes everyone’s input, everyone’s capability, everyone’s superpower to create an event, whether it’s a dinner for twelve or a festival for thousands. Everyone has a role in it. So, you have to run your business with the mindset of, it takes a village to help us elevate and succeed. When coming at it from a community mindset, the community as a whole becomes this referral engine for each other and it’s not just “What do I get out of it?”. It’s, “Let’s create a community that shares the business in a friendly way and supports each other”.
Also, over 75% of our business in this industry comes from referrals. One of the first things I tell especially photographers who are just starting out, “Your first business is going to come from another photographer”. If it’s not family or friends, that’s where the next source of business is. And being part of the community means that if you’re not a good fit for someone, you’ll know someone who is. Zohe had an amazing story of a dream client she got through a referral:
I remember having coffee. It was a brand-new catering manager and she asked me, “So tell me a little bit about yourself”. She was new there, so she wanted to know who to refer me to because I was on the vendor list. This was the moment of clarity for me where I just blurted out, “I love doing bar and bat mitzvahs. Those are my favorite”. Within months, she handed me over my absolute best client. I’ve done four events for these clients, they’re super nice. He’s a producer for a lot of TV that we watch, and I’ve done both their kid’s bar mitzvahs at this point. Like, literally my perfect client. It was a dream come true.
The reason why referrals are so powerful is because it comes with a relationship attached to it. The client already trusts the person who referred them and so the power of that relationship gets transferred to you. When you have a client who’s coming in cold, you have to build that relationship with your website, with your images, with your social media or however they found you, and then in the conversation with you. When a client is referral, it comes with a lot of those things already attached.
You will be referred by who you’re working with right now.
On the flip side, if you’re in the cycle of constantly attracting people that ghosting you, people that are negotiating your pricing, people that are buying your bottom package, those are the same people and vendors who are referring you.
If you want to move forward and grow into a new tier of weddings, you have to know either different people or those people need to know that, “hey, things have changed”, and you kind of have to be fearless in opening up about that and politely saying, “this is me, this is what I do, I’ve shifted and changed how I do things”.
I’ve declined referrals from some planners who didn’t realize that I significantly changed my rates in the past, but you can also use the opportunity to grow your circle of influence and support other vendors who are just starting out by telling that referral client who isn’t a good fit for you, “You know what? I’m not available for that date, however, let me refer you to some people that I know. If they’re available, I think they would be a great fit.”
How do you go about choosing which vendors you should be working toward having a relationship with?
You have to be crystal clear on what is the outcome you’re looking for. If you are not crystal clear on what it is that your offer and what your outcome is and who your clients are, neither will your preferred vendors and you’re going to stay in this cycle of getting the budget clients and lower tier weddings.
To make the leap into a different caliber of clientele, not a lot of people realize that you do have to say no to what you don’t want. You have to be able to recognize that. You have to be crystal clear about who you serve, how you serve them, and who you are as a service provider, and once you do that, you get to do the marketing part, and then you get to start crafting relationships.
So, make a list of the venues and vendors you want to work with, set a target for yourself and be fearless in reaching out and being interested in those people. Let them know who you are and what you’re doing so that they know which clients to refer your way.
Stop waiting for people to to find you. Stop waiting for people to want to have relationships with you and go make relationships with other people. Because most people are thinking about themselves. And they also have busy lives. You will stand out by being the one who reaches out.
How do you build that relationship? How do you start that conversation?