Networking in the wedding industry is extraordinarily important to growing your wedding planning business. It is also essential to creating a great vendor list to refer your clients. There is no end to networking events and groups available, but that is just the tip of the iceberg when building those important relationships.
Here are four strategies to get the most out of networking events:
1) Identify a good networking opportunity
In my area, there is no shortage of open houses, wedding professional organizations, chambers, etc. Research what is happening in your area and choose one or two that seem to be a good fit. Consider attending a few meetings as a guest to decide which organization is the best fit. Larger wedding industry organizations include WNUSA, ILEA, WIPA, ABC, and NACE.
2) Decide who you want to connect with
Before attending a networking event, identify three people you would like to connect with. Reach out to them prior to the meeting and let them know you will be attending and would love to chat. These may be event professionals you have connected with on social media, in a private Facebook group, at a wedding, or from a previous industry event. You can also reach out to other wedding planners in your area. They can be a great source of referrals for your business.
Once you are at the event, find those three individuals right away. I am not naturally outgoing, so it is easy to sit with people I know and stay in my comfort zone. If I have let people know I am going to look for them at the event, it pushes me to make that happen.
3) Think of how you can help others
Don’t approach other wedding professionals thinking about how they can help you. Go to a networking event with the attitude of how you can help others.
As wedding planners, we can help with many things that are unrelated to sending referrals. Ask a venue if they need help styling an open house. Or see if a dress shop could use help planning a trunk show. Working with vendors is how they start to trust and refer me. Volunteering your time is a great way to get to know each other.
Follow-up after the industry event with helpful information about something you talked about. Or invite one of your connections to meet up one-on-one and chat more. If I have a really good connection with someone, I like to follow-up with a small gift.
Networking can seem fruitless if you are going to events, handing out business cards, and expecting results. You need to create a process, a game plan, and a follow-up system to ensure your efforts are worthwhile. Networking is a huge opportunity to create lasting relationships that translate to new business.
If you are just starting a wedding planning business, don’t be shy about attending networking events. Everyone started out exactly where you are. If you are an experienced pro, try out new organizations and consider attending networking events that aren’t related specifically to the wedding industry.
This is a guest post from Amber Peterson. Amber is the owner of Cheers Wedding Planning & Design in western Washington. She has a Masters Degree in Integrated Marketing Communications and consults with wedding professionals about their marketing and business challenges. Amber is also the co-founder of the Skagit Wedding Society.