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Wedding Pros Reveal Their Tips to Turn Vendors into Referral Sources

wedding photographer vendor referral

As a wedding photographer, one of your main focuses is to book more weddings each year. When you book more weddings, you can grow your business and increase your overall profit. In our Secrets to Getting Booked Guide, industry leaders share what works best for them to increase bookings. Many of the photographers share about creating meaningful connections with vendors and fellow photographers. Continue reading to discover 5 wedding pros’ tips to turning vendors into referral sources.

Schedule Time to Connect In-Person

One way Sarah Roshan makes connections with vendors is scheduling time to connect in-person. There is value in stepping away from your computer and phone and meeting with them face-to-face. This can help give vendors more reasons to talk about and refer you.

women meeting for coffee with notebooks and phones

“I make it a goal to have hot chocolate with someone I don’t know at least once a week. Make true connections and make it about what you can do for them, not what they can do for you. In the end, people want to work with real people. Get out of your comfort zone and do the ground work.” – Sarah Roshan

Create Relationships with Vendors

Wedding photography duo, Amy and Jordan Demos, recommend creating relationships as soon as you can. When you enjoy who you work with, you will continue to love what you do. It will also increase the chances those vendors will refer you.

“One of our biggest booking mistakes was not getting in the community early enough in our career and building real relationships with wedding planners, venue coordinators, and fellow photographers – people we’d be friends with even if we weren’t in the same industry.

If we could go back and do it again, we’d do that sooner, because even though getting bookings is important, if we don’t like the people we’re working with weekend after weekend, our dream job we love could turn into a day job VERY soon!” – Amy and Jordan Demos

Related: How can you streamline communication with vendors and clients?

Share Images with Vendors

A simple way Jessica Hill Photography builds trust with vendors is by sharing images with them after the wedding. The gesture shows them you care about their work, which will encourage them to refer you to others.

“Once you shoot a wedding at a venue you love, or photograph a bouquet that inspires you, reach out to the vendor to let them know. Share a few photos for them to use on their site or social media network with a link back or tag. They will appreciate the kind words and photos and say great things about you to future potential clients.” – Jessica Hill Photography

Related: What are 4 simple ways to share images with vendors?

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Meet Vendors in Your Community

Jacquelynn Buck suggests attending events or groups where you know vendors and other photographers are. This helps you build relationships and not miss out on opportunities to increase referrals.

“Whether it’s connecting to a local venue or wedding coordinator, scheduling a booth at a bridal expo (yes those still work), trading business with other photographers (photographers you respect make great referral partners – because we all get inquiries for dates we are already booked, right?) or joining a professional networking group, it’s all about building relationships.” – Jacquelynn Buck

Tip: When you outsource your photos to a wedding photography post production company, you can use the time you get back to meet and connect with vendors.

Start a Group with Leaders

To build connections, Zach and Jody Gray recommend starting a group with leaders you admire. Not only will you gain insights into booking more weddings, but you will also create valuable relationships with others. These are vendors and photographers you can receive referrals from in the future.

“I invited 11 other men who I thought were the smartest people I knew to join me in a ‘MasterMind’ group. Then, I asked them to meet every week, show up 80% of the time, sign a 1 year agreement, and we all picked a dozen business books we would cover. I invited these men to a fancy dinner and told them what I admired about them and asked them to join. Every single person said yes.

We would tell you to start a ‘MasterMind’ group and make it your goal to be the dumbest one in the group! A ‘MasterMind’ group is essentially a group of the smartest people you can find that meet with you weekly. They inspire you, help you, give you their opinion on business and marketing decisions and learn and grow with you. Just focusing on next year’s bookings alone is great, but will only get you so far. You need to focus on the next 5 years and how you are going to achieve your goals long-term.” – Zach and Jody Gray

When you take the time to connect with vendors and fellow photographers, you build lifelong referral sources.

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Bonus

While your wedding photography business is unique and targets a different ideal client than other businesses, there is one aspect that is similar in each business. And that is: you will all come into contact with other vendors at weddings. Let’s do some math really fast. If you shoot 15 weddings a year on average and come into contact with 10 vendors at each wedding, that’s 150 vendors. Those are vendors you have the opportunity to connect with for your business. Engaging with like-minded business owners who are working with the same ideal clients as you can assist you to rapidly grow your business. Here are 5 ways to gain trust with vendors and create a win with vendor referrals.

1. Invest In Them

A great way to show vendors you care is to make it apparent you are interested in helping their business grow. If they know you are invested in not only your business but theirs too, it will help exponentially. So, how do you do this? Reach out to them and ask how you can contribute to their business growth. By just initiating this conversation with them, it can lead to a lifelong partnership that benefits you both.

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Quick Tip

Remember you do not have to invest in every vendor that you meet. Determine which vendors have a similar ideal client as you (and that you genuinely like), and focus on investing in them.

Related: 5 Ways to Create a Win with Client Referrals

2. Solve Their Problems

As you get to know vendors, think about ways you can make their business run smoother. While it is not your job to run their business, sharing ways to optimize their business will show them you genuinely care. What problems do they have you can solve to make their life easier? Here are a few simple ways to help them:

  • Showcase their images and events you’ve worked together on a special vendor blog post
  • Create a simple album displaying their work (remember to include both their logo and yours!)
  • Refer clients to them

3. Share images with them

While vendors may have a few simple photos of their work captured on their iPhone, chances are they do not have many professional shots of their work. This places you in a valuable position because you hold the most important thing that vendors can market with – professional images.

As you share images with vendors, remember to make it easy for them to share these images with others. While ShootDotEdit loves when you send over your large RAW files for Color Correction, your vendors are not going to know what to do with such a large file. Resize images for vendors that they can easily insert into a blog post – the easier it is for them to share the images, the more the vendors will want to continue working with you!

Related: 5 Tips for Shooting Wedding Photography

4. Hook Them Up

During a wedding, you are focused on capturing all the beautiful moments that make the day special. This usually means your attention is centered on the bride and groom for the majority of it. But, take a second to snap a few photos of the vendors that contributed to that flawless wedding day. Taking pictures of vendors behind the scenes is a great way for them to use your images professionally. They can also give you credit for the images, which expands your reach. Wedding and concert photographer Brian Friedman always makes an effort to showcase vendors working behind the scenes:

“When I’m shooting an event of any kind I always make it a point to take photos of the people who are making it all happen, the people behind the scenes and the client. Chances are they don’t have photos of themselves at work. This thoughtful gesture will keep me in minds for future work.”

5. Be Unforgettable

One of the best ways to stay top of mind with your favorite vendors is to keep in touch. Just as you have a workflow for other areas of your business, create a plan for continuously connecting with vendors. Make it a point to reach out and reconnect with them every 3 months. Even if you just send them a simple greeting card or meet up for a quick coffee, little gestures can go a long way in keeping the relationship strong.

By genuinely wanting to help vendors succeed, you create a win for your business. When vendors refer clients to you, it shows you are a trusted team player. It also highlights your skill set as a photographer. Not only will vendors help you book more weddings, but you will also have created a lasting and meaningful relationship with them. For more information on how you can attract ideal clients to your business, click the link below to download our free Guide to Marketing for Wedding Photographers!

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