Person to Person Networking
Five Ways to Connect to Bridal Clients that are NOT Social Media
Coming from a catering and restaurant background, I was familiar early on with the value of excellent service and very hard work. My mother ran her own kosher catering company and our household had two separate phones attached to the wall right next to one another with two different phone numbers—one for business, one for family. Unbeknownst to my mother, I actually held the business phone receiver many times, scarcely taking a breath and listened to my mother talk with clients and suppliers, amazed at the deals she closed in a conversation.
These conversations have stayed with me, solidifying the importance of verbal communication. With the rise of social media, some business owners are unsure how the “old” networking rules still apply. But there is no denying that verbal and face-to-face conversations are still very important. My mother was constantly in touch with her clients. She was her best PR and she held the key to her success; as you are to yours.
This is not to say that social media isn’t important—it very much is these days. But, as a 32-year veteran luxury bridal salon owner, I can tell you this: If you want to be referred by the best industry vendors in your area, social media blitzing and dropping off business cards (while important) is simply not enough.
Here are some go-the-extra-mile strategies I recommend for establishing solid relationships.
Connect with the Other Half
Before a couple gets engaged, someone buys a ring. If you are a caterer, consider approaching engagement ring stores offering to cater a mini-event for that person waiting for their rings to be ready. Historically grooms may not have been the ultimate decision makers, but all that is changing and the ring-buyer might not be a groom at all! Today, both parties in a couple know what they like and are important to approach. We’re not talking fancy finger foods here, but consider featuring themed food or, if you own a bakery, offer unusual yet memorable dessert faire.
Go to the Salon
Beauty salons are a natural choice for referrals. Contact salons in your area that cater to younger clientele or specifically offer bridal makeovers and day-of services. Arrange hors d’oeuvres and petit fours for the opportunity to mingle with their clientele and open the door for conversation. Be sure to leave out a guest book for the guests to sign—it can become a very nice roster of clientele.
The benefit of doing this? You become the first referral whenever a wedding is mentioned at that salon. For me, this outreach paid off in spades.
Every city offers bridal shows to bring vendors together under one roof and connect with a captive audience: brides-to-be! Not all shows are alike, obviously, so you’ll need to do research to get a good understanding of how the promoters are getting brides to attend their particular show and whether you’ll have access to the list of both the vendors and the attendees. Remember, at these shows it’s not about quantity of bodies, but the quality of customers. You’ll be better off with communication time one-on-one than droves of people walking by so distracted they don’t notice you.
Be the Host
The only time I allowed vendors in to mingle with my clientele was when I hosted trunk shows. I brought in designers from New York with their entire gown collections and scheduled one-on-one consultations with brides. We served a variety of foods, light desserts, as well as champagne and different coffee options. We invited florists to provide fresh bridal bouquets to have on hand for the weekend so brides could see what they looked like while wearing wedding gowns and get ideas. We allowed photographers to leave their albums in the salon on the reception tables. All of this nurtured our relationships – vendor to retailer, retailer to consumer, consumer to vendor. It was a win-win-win all around.
Show your appreciation. When vendors or other businesses help you out or allow you to throw events in their space, never forget to say thank you. I delivered my personalized champagne to hotel catering managers and concierges every year as a thank you—and a reminder that I was appreciative of any business they sent my way.