Simon Watson

“We are just getting started as an event planning business; we’re officially an LLC, our website design is underway and we’ve got business cards about ready to send to the printers.

Our next steps include going to venues to get a tour of their location – to know what they have to offer firsthand.

Should I email/phone venues to schedule an appointment?  How should I approach it in a way that won’t sound like a waste of time for them?

We haven’t got business cards quite yet, should we wait? I was thinking we could ask if we could do our head shots at their location also – then credit their venue in the photos. Curious to hear your feedback!

Thanks in advance,

Answer: Make your visit something they’re excited about.

First, it’s wonderful that you’re asking this question!

So many wedding pros charge out with freshly printed cards in hand pressing them into the palms of any venue team member who’ll stop to talk to them…without thinking about what’s in it for them, first.

The (slim) chance that they’ll get referred by a brand new event planner is NOT a powerful incentive for an established venue.

You have an extra challenge as an event planner.  Keep these things in mind when trying to win them over, because they’re the obstacles you’ll have to overcome.

#1 – Event planners are often not welcomed by venues.  

Venues often have their own event planner on staff, and they sell couples on the promise that “we help you with the details so you don’t have to hire a planner.”  In their mind, it’s a case of too many cooks in the kitchen spoiling the broth…and they can be a little defensive when you come in asking for referrals.

#2 – Venues are bombarded with wedding pros desperate for their referrals.

Venues are often one of the first wedding businesses booked by the couple.  At the start of the planning process, they hold a power position in which they can refer every other business that comes after, from photographers to florists to makeup artists.

This means they have lots of wedding pros trying to “kiss up” and get to the top of the preferred vendor list, and many venue owners and sales managers have BIG walls up to avoid this.

#3 – Venue team members are often busy and a tour request from a brand new event planner is likely to be a nuisance.

Again, I’m not trying to be harsh, just honest.  Most new event planning businesses are going to either struggle or fail miserably (not that yours is in this bunch) and seasoned venue staff has seen them come and go.

In their minds, there’s not much to be gained there other than a waste of time.

What’s In It For Them?

If you want to book an appointment the venue sales manager will be eager to keep, you’ll need to navigate these obstacles.

You need to show them what’s in it for them.

Asking this question has demonstrated that you’re already thinking about this, which puts you head and shoulders above most of your competition.

Your idea about getting your headshots done on the property and then crediting them in the photos is getting close.  But you can do better.  🙂

Try out one of these ideas to open doors for venue relationships:

#1 – Take your headshots on the venue’s property..and invite the staff to get their headshots done at the same time for FREE.

Every wedding pro needs professional headshots, but few of us take the time and money to do it.

If you schedule the photographer and invite the venue staff to join in, you’re instantly offering them something of value.  Sure, it might cost you a couple bucks, but if you pitch it to the right photographer, they’ll jump at the chance to do a solid for the venue, too.

Doing a favor for the venue staff without asking for anything in return makes and favorable impression, and you’ll stand out from the competition immediately.

#2 – Write an article featuring the venue and interview them during your site tour.

We call this the “Oprah Strategy” because it sets you up as the expert Mistress of PR (like Oprah) who gives the venue a chance to shine.

This involves calling up the venue to let them know you’re writing a series of articles about the best venues in your area, and would it be okay for you to stop by for a quick interview?

Let them know that you’ll be promoting the article on your website and social media.  If you can get your article published on another local wedding blog as well, or bring along a photographer and/or videographer, that’s even better.

#3 – Get an introduction, use flattery and don’t waste their time.

I highly recommend that you choose one or more of the strategies above to use your site visit as a chance to do something nice for the venue without asking for anything in return.

But if you MUST do a boring old site visit without any of the perks, have a mutual acquaintance introduce you.  It immediately builds credibility.

When you call (and yes, calling is always better than emailing) drop your friend’s name and lay on some sincere compliments.  Finally, respect their time by letting them choose a date for your visit that’s most convenient for them.

Cherry Pick Your Venues

The final thing to consider: which venues are your ideal clients most likely to book?

Spend time building relationships with the venues you want in your portfolio to attract your ideal clients.

The “wedding factories” aren’t likely to attract couples that want or need an event planner.

Non-traditional venues, such as historic mansions, wineries, barns and museums, are much more likely to have need for an event planner.  They attract couples with larger wedding budgets who’ll host weddings that will look good in your portfolio.

While your ultimate goal may be to familiarize yourself with every venue in your market, start with the ones who will give you the most “bang for the buck” when it comes to attracting referrals and building your portfolio.

After your visit, make sure you say thank you with a handwritten letter and a thoughtful gift.  This will go a long way to building a profitable relationship for years to come.

What do you think is the best way to introduce yourself to a venue?

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