Vendor Relationships & Referrals
so beyond that, above and beyond that, beyond just putting your name on the Internet beyond seeing your name in print. Beyond putting your name in these trade publications and everywhere that you can possibly think to plaster it all over the Internet, The thing that I actually believe is even above and beyond more important than that is pursuing vendor relationships. It's getting to know the people that you're working with at the venues that you've worked for, the vendors that you've worked with and even the ones that you haven't worked for or with that you want Teoh. One thing I want to speak to really quickly is the referral list. Now most venues, most vendors, wedding planners. They have a referral list where if a client comes to them and they say, OK, we're getting married here at the Holiday Inn Express, but we don't have a photographer there. Any photographers that you recommend most of unused. You have a vendor referral list that they'll give out to their clients, and I see a lo...
t of photographers who are hungry and desperate, and all they want is to get onto this referral list. Listen, if you want to get on the referral list, which is a wonderful and incredible thing and will help your business and will bring clients to your door. You can't just call up the Holiday Inn Express and say, Hey, can you put me on your referral list? Because every photographer is doing that and every band and every D. J and every florist everyone wants to be on the referral list. The only way that I found that you can reliably get on a referral list is by working at that than you, which is, unfortunately, a difficult thing. How do you work there if you've never worked there and how do you get referred to work there? If you've never worked there, it's kind of a difficult one. But if you dio shoot a wedding at a venue, if you shoot a wedding at the Crystal Plaza in Livingston, New Jersey, and you desperately want to get on that Crystal Plaza referral list, you need toe work. Your relationship with that venue on I'm not asking you to schmooze, and I'm not telling you to stock up, and I'm not telling you to be disingenuous because vendors and venues concede a disingenuous photographer coming a mile away. If you show up and it's all, what can you do for me? What can you give me? How can you put me on your referral list? The response is going to be What can you do for me? So what I do in order to attempt to work my way onto these referral lists is the first thing I do is I always follow up post wedding. I get to know every single person that I've worked with at the wedding, from the bridal attendant who carries the bride's train everywhere we go to the person in charge of catering to every single vendor that I work with on the day of the wedding. Part of that I get from asking the clients, I just asked them, Who are you working with? Part of it is introducing myself to people on the day of the wedding and asking for their card high make up artists using a really fantastic job today. I'd love to send you some images from what we did today. Can I get your car? And so I can follow up with you after the wedding and I'm telling you every single photographer that these people work with will promise these things to them on. A lot of people don't follow through. You need to be the photographer that delivers and follows through and gives the images to these people so that they can put it in their portfolio. Give them the watermark files for the website, give them images for their ads that will run with your name on them. And some of you might be saying, Well, why should I give them these things They should pay for them? I view this is an investment in the advertising, so as long as they will use my images with my name on them or my watermark on them, I'm fine with any vendor attached to the wedding. Working with these images totally fine with that, I have no problems with it whatsoever. So after every single wedding, when the image goes online in this in Folio gallery, I have an email that's customized. That's called vendor downloads, and I take that email and I send it to every single person that I worked with at the wedding, from the florist to the makeup artists to the cater to everybody It was wonderful to work with you. I am so thrilled to show the images of Blair and Jeremy's wedding with you. You know, here's how. If you would like to use them, I would like you use them with the watermark or the credit. I would love to work with you again. Please let me know if there's anything else that you need from me, and then I back off in about six weeks. After that, I follow up again. Hey, I just wanted to check in and just wanted to see if you got the images from the wedding that we worked on together. It was absolutely an honor toe work with you. I would love to do it again. Please let me know if there's anything I can do for you and then back off. It's just the same, is dating. It's just the same is making a new friend. You cannot come on too strong. You can't look too desperate or it's never going to work out. And I really, truly view building vendor relationships as making new friends. And if there's someone that I don't really like a much or I don't click with if I come off too strong and too desperate to get on their referral list, they're going to feel that, and it's going to be disingenuous. So in everything that I do business wise, I just try to have a level of authenticity that I'm comfortable with. So pursuing the relationships that I have are with people that I want to pursue relationships with it, just as I would, and my regular everyday life. So that is another thing to bear in mind. The other thing. If you're trying to get him to get in with a venue or a vendor or someone that you've never worked with before, why don't you offer to shoot something for them? There is a great venue in Philadelphia. It's the place that I got married, and every so often they have kind of a mixture event for clients and prospective clients where they make food. They lay it out, they decorate the space. It looks really great, and people can come in and look at everything offer to go shoot something like that for the venue. Hey, Front and Palmer. I see that you have a client meeting great coming up really soon and it's going to be really fantastic. I've heard really great things about your space. I don't know if you have anybody shooting it for you, but I would love to come and shoot it for you and give you the images. I'd like to show you what I can do for you in your space. And I'd also like to help you out. Vendors and venues love it's a two way street with their relationships and and they need that. If they're going to help you, you need to help them to If there's a florist or an event decorator that you're dying to work with, call them up and offer to photographing event for them. Hey, once you're done setting up for the reception, I would love to come in for you and document the space for you and get the images to you so that you can use them for your promotional purposes. All I ask is that you use my name when you use the images and that you know, if you could think of me, if any other jobs come up in the future, that would be really great. But I'd really love to do this for you. If they take you up on it, don't get in the way of the hired professional. Don't be a jerk. Introduce yourself. They were there to do and stay out of their way. But it's a really great way to get to know vendors and venues that you might not have gotten to know before. There are a 1,000,000 different ends. They don't all have to be shooting a wedding. Yes, a lot of it is who you know, but you are very responsible for how you get to know these people. Nothing is saying that you can't call them up and offer to come in and show the work or offer to shoot something for them pro bono, or even just drop them a note on their Facebook page to say that you really admire the work they dio. If I view these vendor relationships kind of like starting a new dating relationship, starting slow, getting to know each other, you know, deciding where this might be going and being authentic the entire entire time. It's very, very, very important. That said another thing that I haven't done in quite a while, but I am definitely open to considering doing in the future, and I have done in the past our venue based bridal fairs. Ah, lot like what I was talking about before, where the venue will have kind of a meet and greet for current and prospective clients. Sometimes venues or small groups of vendors together will have small bridal fairs or small, you know, perspective. Clients come in bans might have showcases where all of the bands under one entertainment company play that night so that prospective clients can see if you have any opportunity to go to exhibit to put your workout at one of those things. Consider it. There is never a point that you will reach in your career, where it is not still important to get your name out there, and it is not still important to shake hands and kiss babies. And that's something that I have a very hard time with. I have a very hard time with with relationships. I have very limited time, so I also have a hard time getting out there in doing all of these things. But I have definitely noticed that if I let these things lag, if I let them lapse If I'm not continually vigilant about these things, it they'll start to forget about you. After a while, there is always some photographer right behind you, ready to take your place so you kind of need to keep moving. So if you're going to do these things, if you're going to go after some of these vendors and some of these venues and start trying to get to know them a little bit better, I highly encourage you to make a list of vendors and a plan of attack. Where do you want to work? Who do you want to work with? How are you going to get at them? It's a little sneaky. It's a little like being a spy. But maybe if I want to work at the Four Seasons, my best in is not shooting a wedding there. Maybe it's shooting event for them. Maybe it's exhibiting out there Bridal fair. Maybe it is getting permission to shoot a bridal session on their property and then delivering the images to them. There are dozens of ways that you have an end, and I promise you that as long as you come at it authentically and respectfully and honestly, not just Well, let me. What can you do for me? What can you do for me? Gimme, gimme. Gimme two way street. Just keep remembering that. So now that you have your plan of attack, now that you've looked at blog's, now that you've figured out how you're going to scatter your name, every single place that you can on the Internet, another thing that is really important to do is get to know the other photographers in your community. There are a bazillion different ways that you can get to know the other photographers shooting around you first of all, the very first thing that I did I had been in business for about a year. I went to WPP. I I didn't know a single soul. I didn't know anybody I knew, like two or three people vaguely from the Internet. But I didn't have friends. I didn't have people I was looking forward to going to see. But I just went on. When I went, I talked to people. I introduced myself to people. I sat in seminars and I struck up conversation with the person sitting next to me. I talked to people in the lines at trade shows. I talked to people in the line buying my Starbucks in the morning, and I started to get to know people. And I never would have thought that the very first year that I went to something like WPP I that 13 years later I would still be going back there and I would be going back as an educator and that WPP I would introduce me to these companies that I work with that have become friends. I I didn't know that I would meet my husband there. So I'm not saying that you're going to meet a husband every time you go to a networking event. That's not really what I'm getting out. But I have made extraordinary friends at these organizations and at these conventions. And I've made wonderful acquaintances with that that I can collaborate with that Aiken balance business ideas off of and that I can also look at their work to see what the trends are. So not only I really believe that not only is it important to know vendors and venues and people like that to build relationships with, but it's also important to build relationships with other photographers in your area, they can refer to you. You can refer back to them. They could be there for you in times of emergency. If you're sick or you need a second shooter or you need help with something, it's nice to have a community of people behind you. It makes you feel a little less alone when you're working at home in your pajamas. But it's also a great way to a send referrals back and forth. If you're booked, you can send them to somebody. And if their book, they can send them to you. And all of that could start by the person that you're standing in line next to at the Starbucks first thing in the morning at a P p A convention. P P. A. Is great. They have national conventions. They have state conventions. They have local guilds. I very first got started in photography, as I've mentioned a 1,000,000 times in Tallahassee, Florida, and I was a member of the TPP G and I loved it. It was photographers in my own city. We could talk about problems specific to us in Tallahassee, and it was a great way to build a referral network. Ah, very like minded people who literally lived right down the road from me. So that is a great way to get to know people joining Facebook groups. I hate to sound like an old photographer, but when I very first got started, we didn't have Facebook. And now that we do have Facebook, it's a lot easier to meet people that are local. If you're very shy in public, it's a great way to get started getting to know people a really wonderful resource. So get on Facebook. Look at the groups that might be pertinent to not only wedding photography but wedding photography in your region or your city and your state enjoying them and start getting to know people you know, talk to people on the Internet. You never know where that might lead you. It might lead you to a great place, business wise. Or you might just meet your best friend there. Never know other industry events, not necessarily just pertaining. The photography. There's Nace. There's Isis. There's things with caterers. There's things that venues. There are other industry events that you can go to and above and beyond that wherever you live, There's meet up dot com toe look at Go meet some photographers there. Go join your chamber of commerce. Go join the Junior League. It doesn't have to just be photographers. It's meeting other people who might be like minded business people in businesses that are not the same type of business. But you never know where that will lead, either. You don't know if the guy that you sat next to on the plane on the way to the convention that you went to might be somebody that ends up being a great business contact down the road. So I'm always kind of open to meeting new people, not necessarily just in wedding photography related fields, but in other fields as well. And then you've got your basics like camera clubs. Go to your local camera store, see if they have any camera groups that meet you never know when you're going to meet somebody who will be very influential and important on your business or you to theirs, and you have no excuse. It is you that is going to do this. It's you gonna get out and pound the pavement and get online and meet people and make friends and get to know people, and you only have yourself to blame if you don't get out there and start making some friends. So now that I told you to get out and go out and make some friends, the other thing that is really kind of important for you to do is tow. Have happy clients. I know that sounds like photography. One No. One. I know that sounds incredibly, incredibly basic. Put good customer service is the best marketing that you could possibly have. If you have miserable clients, they're going to say miserable things about you to other people. If you have happy clients, they're going to tell the entire world how happy they are with you. So it's very important that as you're improving your skills as you're putting your name out there as you're working on marking and working on branding and working on everything that you're working on, don't lose focus of the clients that you have and the needs that they have that you continually have to service for them. So my clients come first and foremost. They come above any teaching opportunities that I have. They are the most important thing to my business because making a single one unhappy can ruin everything and making someone very happy conferring you years of business to come, so be nice to them.