When Yvonne and myself sat down to brainstorm some aspects of both of our businesses we did not make the connection on advising about suppliers…. However, as a wedding planner,
One of the first things your bridal couple will ask will be “Can you recommend a florist, who is the best photographer, who do you use for cakes and catering?” Etc. etc.
Your clients, the happy couple want to work with THE best suppliers across every aspect of their wedding, and having employed YOUR services they expect you to have a credible list of suppliers immediately to hand – after all, that’s why they employed you….for your knowledge and expertise, and your recommended list of suppliers.
Your supplier list is part of your network, and this is your little black book on secret suppliers within the industry – keep it safe, and regularly review and update your list.
So how do you compile the list?
Key performance indicators should be gauged on:
People – Meet the business owners and their staff. Visit them, ask them questions, and get a feel for their knowledge, commitment to their craft, people skills
Seeing for yourself their work – you must see them in situ, go and visit them serving / delivering to a wedding or function, under pressure, with clients – don’t just settle on seeing their work at their premises
A thorough review of their pricing structure, ask them questions as if you were a bride – do they have varying packages, when do they need payments /deposits etc.
Recommendations – Check out testimonials from previous clients, and venues. Often venues will tell you how reliable, tidy, discreet etc. the service providers are
Understanding – Find their limitations e.g. fully booked for the next 3 years, won’t travel outside of Merseyside, never works on a bank holiday etc. etc. – all of this information is worth logging
Once you have conducted your research, set up a supplier database – paper or computer based. RECORD this information, make comprehensive notes.
For every type of business you add to your recommended list (and you should have 3-4 recommended and trusted suppliers), you should visit and meet with at least another 6-8 more businesses of the same type. This is because not every supplier will be a good fit for you, or your clients, or they may be looking to work with a different type or demographic of customer than your customer. It’s important that you spend time with as many variations of businesses as possible, so that you are confident you have completely benchmarked each industry sector.
So after all of your research, are they good enough to make it into your recommended list? Yes….
Talk to the businesses, tell them what you are doing and why
Create a sale pitch that makes it so important that they have to make it into your list….. So many potential clients, so much potential business…they could be THE go to recommended florist , caterer etc .
So what’s in it for me?
You are giving new clients access to the businesses services…. Offering a personal recommendation and testimonials, providing literature, PR and bringing clients to these businesses
In return you would like a recommendation fee, for every booking they receive via YOU, negotiate a referral rate (some businesses offer a reciprocal document if the businesses are complimentary to each other). You also want to be given preferential package rates or deals – all of this needs to be negotiated upfront before you start to refer clients to them
The fee can be how fee much you feel comfortable, but important it’s relevant to the value of the overall order, eg if a bride is likely to spend £500, a reasonable referral fee would be £40-60. The referral fee should be scaled up according to the spend.
Any fees / agreements must be made in writing, covering information such as how you will invoice them, what happens if a client contacts the supplier directly first etc. Your referral fee should be agreed on confirmation that the bride is booking the services.
Once you have been in business for a year or two, review your supplier base and update the list. Any suppliers with whom you have conducted a large amount of business, arrange a review meeting with them, highlighting the referral business and amount spent, and negotiate new discounts and referral fees.
The work you put in up front will pay dividends with your clients and they will like and respect you for your vast amount of knowledge and discounts.