Day 44: The Best Way to Build Vendor Relationships

WELCOME! to day 44 in my 100 posts in 100 days for photographers! I’m so grateful you’re here and I am hoping this post will be helpful for you in growing your network. I’m going to start out by telling two stories here. They’re totally disconnected, but in the end, they came together to teach me how to build strong vendor relationships.

Years ago, I was early to a meeting. So I did what anyone would do. I stopped at In N Out. It was crowded. Like, no hope of sitting at your own table crowded. I noticed a man sitting alone and asked if I could sit there. He said “Sure, I’m making a lot of phone calls though.” No problem, I told him, and sat down. Indeed he started making phone calls and a moment later, he was flipping through a binder of business cards. “Wow. I thought, he must be well connected.”

This next story is a little more embarrassing… as I mentioned a few times throughout this 100 series, I LOVE theater. Musical theater. So in Junior High school, I joined choir and drama and then in High School I joined as well. I went searching for friends who had similar interests as me but it didn’t always turn out that well. I was really awkward and didn’t have much social finesse. But I thought my love of the arts would have propelled me into a small spot in the “choir girl squad.” I remember one day the girls in choir were passing notes. I asked “What are those?” and they told me they write notes all day and then pass them in 5th period choir. I excitedly said “I want a note tomorrow!” The girl said “Yeah, sure” and the next day I waited eagerly for a note. She then told me “You have to initiate the note exchange.” So I did. I wrote what I thought was a decent, thoughtful note. She wrote one back with a senseless joke on it and I dropped the whole thing. If that story was awkward, then you can imagine me and every day in High School!

She was right though. You have to be the one to initiate. That has never been more true than in the case of referrals in the wedding industry. I want you to think of it, you’re at a networking event, and Jane the DJ (who you’ve never spoken to before) comes up to you and says “HEY! I’d love to work with you! Maybe send me some referrals!”

Um… okay. Well, sure. Thanks for the… offer? And Jane the DJ skips away, confident she did the networking thing.

Now on the flip side, imagine you’ve just booked a couple, you send out a new client survey and you get back that the couple was referred to you by John The DJ. You’ve never heard of him but you shoot him a thank you email. He writes back “I’ve been meaning to work with you, I follow you on Instagram and thought this couple would be a good fit for you!”

WOW!!! Thanks, John the DJ!

Now imagine it’s three months later. You’re in a client consultation with a new couple and they mention they need a DJ. Are you going to refer them to John the DJ or Jane the DJ? Ten out of ten you’re going to send them to John. The relationship with him started with him giving you actual business, and in return, in order to KEEP getting business from John, you are going to also send business to John.

So how can you be a John The DJ? Well, my friend, I took a page from the In N Out guy and bought myself a business card binder. I reached out to people who I loved working with and asked them to send me a few cards. Then I emailed several people that I had met and WANTED to work with and asked for cards. Then I filled my binder and now I have it at every client consultation, and I have come to find it is a win win win item to have.

Every couple I consult with I make a point to ask them, “What else do you have to do on your list?” They will tell me “I need a dress, I’m looking for an officiant, a bartender and a florist.” I take out my notebook and start flipping through the pages. To my couple, I look well connected in my industry. They also get the added service of having a good referral instead of having to do their own research, and the vendors I love get that business. I can now be the John the DJ. Do I pair them with businesses I actually think they’ll love? Absolutely! Do I give them the cliche “Tell her I sent you?” Yeah, sure! But ultimately, there is no downside with this, literally everyone wins.

The quickest and most efficient way to get vendor referrals is to give vendor referrals. That planner you’ve always wanted to work with? That DJ whose parties you love to dance at? That officiant who makes everyone cry? You can strengthen those relationships with just a bit of added service to your clients.

Thank you for being here for day 44! Let me know if you have anything to add to this conversation in the comments and I look forward to seeing you tomorrow for day 45: Let’s PIN. A day of quotable inspiration.

Day 98 is currently reserved for any questions you have throughout the next 100 days. To submit a question, please click here!  If you’re interested in supporting this project, please share, PIN and comment! Any other questions, comments or ideas, please feel free to email me at denise(at)denisekaris(dot)com

Denise Karis is an Arizona photographer who enjoys musicals, Doctor Who and breakfast burritos. IG @denisekaris