Kissing couple

Question: I’m meeting with a wedding venue so we can (hopefully) become a preferred photographer.  What should I do to build this relationship?

“We’ve been granted a meeting with a Wedding Coordinator / Manager for a Venue here in Georgia we want to work with. Our goal? Inclusion into their preferred vendors listing which they post directly on their website.

We shot a wedding there a while back and created a sample album of that wedding. We are offering to give them the album, as well as a complimentary shoot of their property to provide them with fresh new images for their website.

In advance of this meeting I had a nice conversation with our contact over the phone and we also sent an email letter that included links to our website and a gallery for the wedding we shot there. So last night as we were leaving an event, I came across a voice mail from the venue coordinator mentioning they loved our images and requesting I come by next week.

Should we bring some kind of gift?

I don’t want to look or come across like a salesman with a box of Dunkin Doughnuts or something like that. (FYI…My wife is shooting an event at another venue at the time I need to meet with this venue so I wanted to offer lunch at a later date when I can bring my wife along).

Therefore is it acceptable to bring a gift and if so, what do you recommend? Is the fact that we are giving them an expensive leather album of one of their past clients/weddings enough of a gift in itself?

Also, I’d love any other ideas for how to start the conversation and what topics to hit on during our meeting.”

Answer: Become a helpful friend and resource to create a long-term referral relationship.

First of all, you’re well on your way to a profitable partnership with this venue.  Well done!

Since you’re bringing a BIG gift in the form of the album, something small and thoughtful might be appropriate.  One photographer created a notepad with an image of the venue on it and made it into an attractive package.  Her idea was that they would use the notepad daily and think of her.  It worked!

But I don’t think an additional gift is necessary.

Instead, focus on finding a way to help the venue so that you can continue to build the relationship after the meeting.

Ask these questions:

  • “What’s the biggest opportunity happening for your business right now?”
  • “What’s the biggest challenge?”
  •  “What’s the most exciting thing that’s happened to your business lately?”

The idea behind these questions is to find a way to help them.  I guarantee you have resources and talents beyond your photography.  Just being a friendly, helpful person goes a long way towards building a profitable referral relationship.

We’ve found numerous ways to help wedding venues and build a relationship.  Here are just a few of the things we’ve done.

1. Refer a talented website designer.

2. Blog about and link to the venue’s website.

3. Interview them for an article that’s published locally.

4. Free entertainment for a family party.

5. Giving the event sales rep a CD of music he loves.

6. I even spent two hours teaching one owner how to use WordPress!

There is always a way you can be helpful when you train yourself to look for the opportunity.  And becoming a trusted friend leads to fast referrals.

After you meet, send a handwritten thank you note mentioning something you spoke about and follow up with helpful resources.  

Developing a referral relationship is not a one-time deal.  You wouldn’t expect a lady to marry you after a great first date if you never called her again, would you?

Once you’ve started the relationship, you need to nurture it with regular contact: postcards, visits, phone calls.

You can find more strategies for partnering with venues here:

A Dozen Simple Ways to Soar to the Top of the Preferred Vendor List

3 Creative Strategies to Become the #1 Recommended Photographer In Your Market

Be sure to let me know how it goes!


How do you earn venue referrals? Wedding venues, what makes you refer a pro?

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Stephanie Padovani

Stephanie is a Hudson Valley wedding insider, blogger, writer, and wedding business coach. Want to book more weddings at higher prices? Quit dealing with price shoppers? Transform your wedding business so that it supports the life you really want? Look her up! They don't call her the Wedding Business Cheerleader for nothing. :)

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2 thoughts on “How to Romance the Venue and Earn Referrals Without Being a Kiss Up”

  1. Blazej says:

    Hi Stephanie, great article and thank you for sharing the knowlage. I have one question regarding the gifts. I was thinking of bringing the canvas print to the venue as a tank you for letting me taking editorial photos there. From you perspective is it a good idea and if yes shoul I brand (put my name on the print) – I should also mention that the photoshoot was a collaborative work with other vendors.
    Thank you,

    1. Good question! Think of it in terms of the venue’s benefit. Is the photo more or less valuable to them with your branding on it?

      It may be a good idea to ask, especially if you have a good relationship with them already. Have you asked them if there are any photos from your editorial they’d like to use on their website, marketing brochures, etc?

      While some venues happily display photos with the photographer’s branding on them, I’ve also known event sales managers with STACKS of canvas prints in the back office they don’t display. Be sure it’s valuable for them, whatever you do.

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