DEAR PRESTON: HOW DO I AVOID POTENTIAL CLIENTS GOING STRAIGHT TO VENDORS?
July 26, 2011
Firstly, I just want to say that I’m a huge fan. You write an amazing blog that offers very practical and real-life advice. Thank you for inspiring me to be more than I could ever have imagined.
To introduce myself, I live in South Africa and am very new to the wedding industry. After years of planning weddings for friends and family, I finally found the courage and faith to start my own wedding and event planning business. However, I’m finding it incredibly hard to make a strong impression and find clients.
I recently did a dinner party in which I oversaw all of the details. A few days after the event, one of the guests asked me for the caterer’s contact information. The problem is that, if I’m really being honest, I didn’t want to tell her. This caterer is an absolute goddess, and she’s one of my “trump cards.”
I was afraid to share her information, because I don’t want potential clients to start hiring her directly, leaving me out of the equation entirely. I worry, because many people in South Africa don’t think they need an event planner. This is especially true when it comes to hiring people of color, of which I am one. South Africa is not perfect…
Anyway, having said all that, I also don’t want to stand in the way of this amazing caterer getting more business. I want to help her, but I also want to help myself. Any advice?
Conflicted in South Africa
First and foremost, congratulations on your new business! Starting your own company is a huge leap of faith, and I’m so excited that you’ve followed your passion. You’re on the right path.
I understand where you are coming from and why you feel unsure how to proceed. Making a name for yourself in the wedding and event planning industry can be extremely hard, especially in the beginning. Naturally, you don’t want to give away, as you say, your “trump cards.” That being said, you CAN help the caterer and yourself at the same time.
Go back to that guest, and give her the caterer’s contact information. Then call the caterer, and tell her that the dinner party guests loved her food. Let her know how much you also love her food and how much you enjoy working with her. Tell her that you look forward to working with her in the future. End the conversation by letting her know that you gave her information to one especially enthusiastic guest. The caterer will appreciate not only your praise but also that you’re trying to help her get more business. I promise you, she will remember your generosity; she will be eager to work with you again, and she will happily return the favor. The next time one of her clients or someone else she knows needs a wedding and event planner, it’s highly likely that she’ll recommend you.
And remember that guest? Well, when you do call her back to give her the caterer’s contact information, ask her about the rest of the dinner party. Did she have a good time? Was there anything you, as the planner, could have done differently to make it an even better evening? Thank the guest for coming, and tell her that you hope she’ll keep you in mind for future events.
There’s also something called a gentleman’s agreement. When clients come to me first, I recommend excellent vendors who I think are right for the job. This includes caterers, lighting designers, DJs, florists, and many other vendors. And vice versa, I know that those vendors don’t hesitate to recommend me for jobs.
My point is that one of the best ways to make a positive, long-lasting impression in this business is to befriend your peers. Reach out to vendors you’d like to work with. Get to know them. Do what you can to promote them, and they will do the same for you.
If you come from a place of generosity, you’ll never go wrong. Be a giver, and you will be given.
Dear Readers, what do you think? Please share your thoughts in the comments.