3 Ways to Win  Friends and Referrals

The fastest way to referrals is through networking.  While it takes time to build up your reputation, earn those precious word of mouth recommendations and get Page 1 visibility for your website, you can start getting referrals immediately from the wedding businesses who have them to give.

The sticking point for most wedding pros is that they don’t know HOW to get other wedding professionals to start recommending them.

So they go to a networking event, which is a step in the right direction.  And what happens?

They screw up their courage and introduce themselves to someone new.  “Hi!  I’m Samantha and I’m a wedding planner.  If you know anyone who’s getting married, please recommend me.”  And they hand them a huge stack of business cards.

What happens to those business cards when that person gets home from the networking meeting?
That’s right.  They hit the trash can.

Don’t get me wrong; it’s not a bad thing to introduce yourself to new people and hand out your business cards.  It’s just not very effective when you do it like this.

Learn more about the networking mistakes wedding pros make.

Unless someone has an interest in you or in what you do, giving them your business card is next to worthless.

You need a strategy that works to earn referrals.  Fast.

The best way to get someone to promote your wedding business is to demonstrate what’s in it for them.

Let’s evaluate three ways to do this.

Strategy #1 – Pay them.

When I suggest giving other wedding pros a reason to refer you, most people think of MONEY first.  What better reason to refer you than to put cash in their wallets?

While there’s nothing wrong with offering a referral commission, this only works in very specific circumstances.

Each time a wedding professional recommends someone, they stake their reputation on that referral.  If they recommend you and it doesn’t go well, it reflects poorly on them.

The “pay to play” scenario is also distasteful to wedding pros who pride themselves on only recommending the best.

For this reason, I’d recommend not offering to pay for those referrals except for special circumstances, especially if you’re creating new relationships in your market.

Strategy #2 – Make them your friend.

Over the years we’ve made lots of friends in the wedding business.  And you better believe we referred the people we like more than anyone else.

It’s a true pleasure to work a wedding with people you love.  The day goes smoothly and you get to have fun.

When you develop genuine relationships with other wedding professionals, they will refer you just so you can hang out.

These referrals are powerful because they’ll sincerely praise you up and down.  They’ll tell stories about the awesomeness of the weddings you’ve worked together and the couples will come to you presold.

Here’s how to work the strategy we call the “Power Lunch.”

  1. Identify the wedding pros who work with your ideal couples.  They should be well established businesses who have a quantity of referrals to give you.
  2. Call them up and invite them to lunch, your treat.  Make it clear that you want to learn about their business so that you can help them and send them referrals.
  3. When you meet, buy them lunch and find a way to be helpful.  Go in with the goal of helping them without asking for anything in return.  This kicks in the psychological principle of Reciprocity you can use to boost your response.  
  4. Follow up afterward with thank you cards and keep the relationship going.

There’s no question that this strategy works.  The challenge is that building relationships takes time.

People are also naturally skeptical when you introduce yourself with the intention of building a referral relationship.  They have something that you want (referrals) and both of you know it.

You usually need to do something nice for them to earn their friendship first.  You may have to do this repeatedly over time to prove yourself.  All of which takes time you may not have when you need leads NOW.

That’s why we LOVE strategy #3.

Strategy #3 – Create a Win Win scenario where they promotes themselves and you at the same time.

How can you promote another wedding business and yourself at the same time?

This is the best question to ask yourself.  And you’ll need to get creative with your answer because it’s going to depend on your market, the business and the skills you have to offer.

But I won’t leave you hanging on that one.

Here are two ways you can build fast referral relationships with the most successful wedding professionals in your market.

1. Use the Oprah Strategy.

What’s so special about Oprah?  I mean, besides that fact that she’s one of the most successful business women in the entire world with an international fan base.

Oprah isn’t really an expert in any specific topic (other than being Oprah) but she positions herself as an expert by association.

She calls in Dr. Phil to talk about relationships.  She introduces Deepak Chopra to talk about modern spirituality.

Oprah is the kingin for experts.  Get mentioned on her show; your website blows up and your product sells out.

Model yourself after Oprah by making yourself the expert on local wedding experts.  

Here’s how it works:

Call up one of your prospective networking partners and explain that you’re writing an article about the best (type of service) in your area.  Can you interview them?

Of course, you’ll credit and link to them in your article, you’ll be promoting it on social media, etc.

This strategy open doors with people who are tough to reach because almost no one will say no to free promotion.  Once you write the article, send them a link and invite them to share, like and comment.  They’ll promote themselves and you at the same time.

The Oprah Strategy is golden!  It takes a little effort, but it builds strong relationships that can generate a constant stream of leads for your wedding business.

Learn more about what to do when you have no experience, no connections and no leads.

2. Give them a Promotional Makeover.

This strategy requires that you create a promotional piece for another wedding professional that they can use to market themselves.  The cooler it is, the better.

Oh, and it must be done for FREE.

Photographers and videographers have an advantage here because their service has an immediate promotional benefit.

– Shoot a promotional video for their website.
– Take headshot photos.
– Give them photos showing that wedding pro in action.

Even if you’re not a photographer or videographer, you can still hook them up.

– Florists can design gorgeous arrangements for a venue’s tasting or a bridal shop’s fashion show.
– Invitation designers can create a gorgeous brochure.
– Facebook savvy wedding pros can set up a custom tab on their Facebook page and show them how to use it.

And here’s perhaps my favorite idea for the PR makeover: create a Sticky Albums app just for their business.

Sticky Albums allows you to easily create custom mobile apps containing a portfolio of photos.  Let’s say you want to do this for a venue.  You assemble photos featuring the venue into a Sticky Album and give the link to the venue.

Now that venue has a custom promotional piece that makes them look amazing.  They’ll give that to every couple who walks through their doors.

(You don’t have to be a photographer to work with Sticky Albums, though you’ll probably need to partner with one if you aren’t.)

Promotional Strategy Success Secrets

There are a few essential elements that must be attended to in order for these strategies to work.

Your business information should be subtly (emphasis on the subtle part!) embedded in the promotional piece.  This way they’ll be promoting you when they promote themselves.

You must make it EASY for them to take you up on the offer.  Do all the work for them.  In fact, just offer them the finished product; don’t even tell them ahead of time.

You must choose the recipients of your promotional marketing strategies carefully.  Since you’ll be investing your time and money in this relationship, you need to make sure it’s one that will count.

There’s always a risk involved in building relationships that lead to referrals.  You have to put yourself out there first without a guarantee that your efforts will be reciprocated.

“Bad relationships are like a bad investment. No matter how much you put into it you’ll never get anything out of it. Find someone that’s worth investing in.” – Sonya Parker

Networking works when you work it.

What do you think about networking?