What’s Standing Between You and More Vendor Referrals

A guest post from Kathy Dalpra, Bride Appeal

referral marketingAccording to Splendid Insights, in 2013 the #1 way luxury couples found their wedding vendors was through other vendors; more than referrals from family and friends or wedding blogs.

There is always an opportunity to manifest new referral relationships with local vendors in your area, regardless of the existence of caddy cliques and old boys clubs that have been referring to each other for years. Even these vendors may have a reason to recommend someone new; such as if their usual standby is already booked.

But how do you break into tight circles like this and create rapport out of thin air? My recent run in with Andy might give you a hint.

At this year’s Wedding MBA, Andy Ebon and I had the opportunity to take our online acquaintance offline and finally meet in person. (Seriously super sweet and smart guy. Go see him speak!) We chatted for a while and then I asked him, “So Andy, what is the perfect referral for you?” He paused and said, “Kathy, that’s the best question I’ve heard all day!”

Why did my question strike a cord? Because it wasn’t about me! Many times when we network with peers, we make the mistake of getting anxious and even a little greedy. What can I get out of this relationship? How can I convince this guy to refer me quickly?

But when was relationship building ever one-sided?

If you want to earn the attention of peers that already refer to other providers who do what you do, you’ve got to be willing to give first. The thinking here isn’t to somehow buy your way into their good graces. It’s to show that you can bring value to the relationship and to demonstrate the kind of provider they can expect you to be to the people they refer. After all, how you treat your peers is likely how you treat your customers.

When you give first, without agenda, you break the ice. Before you know it, a new referral relationship has been forged.

But there is a little more to this. You’re not going to win any hearts sending your peers referrals that have no chance of booking them; such as if they don’t have the right budget or simply aren’t a good match.

I didn’t ask Andy who his perfect client is because I was trying to impress him or anything. I sincerely wanted to know the answer! I have a lot of peers who do some type of marketing for businesses in the event industry, myself included. But that doesn’t mean we’re all alike. We all specialize in various aspects of marketing and cater to different business challenges.

The more clearly I understand Andy’s audience, the easier it will be for me to recognize when the right person comes along and the better my referrals will be. Plus, I’ll become a more valuable resource to my clients by giving them options when I can’t help.

Kathy Dalpra - Guest Writer
Kathy DalPra – Guest Writer

The same is true for you. Genuinely caring about the type of prospect that is the perfect fit for your colleagues allows you to become a better scout for them so you’re not irritating them with referrals that aren’t a match. The better your referrals, the happier your vendor friends will be and the more likely they will return the favor in the near future.

Want more and better referrals from your colleagues? Give great referrals first.

About today’s guest writer

Kathy DalPra is a former bridal-preneur who unexpectedly fell in love with web design and SEO. She helps wedding professionals use their website to get more traffic, leads and inquiries so they can create a thriving wedding business in any economy. Learn how to turn curious visitors into paying brides™ on her website.

Andy Ebon



Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Authority

Education Expert

Being BEST is a pathetic Marketing Statement

BEST pathetic marketing statementIt is all too common to read marketing declarations from wedding professionals, stating they are THE BEST. I suggest this is subjective truth, at the maximum, and lazy copywriting and marketing strategy at the minimum.

Best? By whose standard?

You might be the top wedding venue in South Dakota. Or the most-recognized floral designer in Hollywood. Birmingham Weekly might recognize you as the best wedding DJ (with the footnote that your mother-in-law voted for you 312 times).

It never surprises me and tweaks me to no end, when a wedding couple’s testimonial express that XYZ Company is the best in the city, and you shouldn’t hire anyone else.  That endorsement comes under the heading of JIVE. The wedding couple may be thrilled with the job, XYZ performed for their wedding. However, it occurs to me the couple likely interviewed a handful of companies in the same class and perhaps saw another company or two provide service at a friend’s wedding.

The newlyweds are in the throes of post-wedding positivity and have every right to heap praise on a company for ‘anticipating our every need, exceeding our every expectation… etc.,’ The BEST… nonsense.

What makes you different and exceptional, is key

The notion of being unique is also nonsense. All companies are unique, in distinct ways. Unique is not necessarily better.  It is only when your company’s specific style, philosophy, execution, and taste resonate with the wedding couple and their guests that there is an ideal match.

Accept all praise, gracefully, but necessarily believe it

“You’re wedding cake is the best DJ I’ve experienced at ANY wedding I’ve attended.” – Nice praise, but compared to what. There may be events where you’ve performed heroics under impossible circumstances and heard no praise… just the sound of crickets. It all evens out in the end.

The Assignment

Rededicate your marketing power to identify target customers, not just by demographics, but by psychographics… personality, lifestyle, and more. And find specific qualities in your company which speaks of your rare and identifiable characteristics; and not repeat undefinable vagaries and clichés such as BEST and PERFECT.

I believe, without hesitation, if you follow that marketing path, targeted prospects will come flocking to you. Asking FIRST, about your availability, before bringing up the price.

Andy Ebon

Andy Ebon
The Wedding Marketing Authority

The Wedding Marketing Blog

LED Unplugged lights up Bridal Spectacular Bridal Show

LED UnpluggedA few years ago Kevin Cordova‘s primary business was DJ entertainment for weddings and special events. He let his creative juices flow and has built LED Unplugged, a company for lighting and event rentals. (Definition: an LED is a Light Emitting Diode)

His first business development came in the arena of wireless lighting design. Not simply renting dumb lighting, but intelligent LED spotlights, programmable in color and motion, to truly enhance a venue.

Over time, Kevin has built a lounge furniture division and a cottage industry in beautifully lit antique letters. He continually develops adjunct elements that create special focus within events.

Last weekend, LED Unplugged was in the center of everything at Bridal Spectacular, Las Vegas’ top bridal show. For several years running, Kevin has created a special lounge area for the show. Never the same design, twice.

This year’s lounge area featured furniture, antique letter lighting, and an overarching color theme and design elements. It used both the space and height of the allotted floor space, creating a buffer area, between the exhibitor booth area and fashion show stage and seating.

Photos by Alicia Purdum, Orange Soda Photography
Photos by Alicia Purdum, Orange Soda Photography

Click image to enlarge view

The picture (above) taken by Orange Soda Photography is presented as one image, but is actually stitched together, East and West positioning. They faced each other on the lounge floor, spelling out, WILL YOU MARRY ME? 

Not only was the lounge themed in pink and white, even Kevin was in a white suit, with pink accoutrements.

To give you a sense of scale and perspective we also feature a photo taken by Adam Frazier Photography, with the assist of a cherry picker.

Photo by Adam Frazier, Adam Frazier photography
Photo by Adam Frazier, Adam Frazier photography

Click image to enlarge view

You would think that would be plenty of involvement, but Kevin has a trade show booth, and was hired by many fellow exhibitors to provide accent lighting to enhance their booth presentations of all kinds.

Lots of wedding show exhibitors do excellent work. Kevin Cordova has found a way to be helpful, ubiquitous, and stay several steps ahead of the competition. When businesses and wedding couples work with Kevin, they are not just renting gear; they are getting the benefit of outstanding design creativity.

Oh… you won’t see behind the DJ booth any time soon 🙂

Acknowledgments: Thanks to Orange Soda PhotographyAdam Frazier Photography, and Bridal Spectacular.

Andy Ebon



Andy Ebon
Wedding Marketing Authority
The Wedding Marketing Blog

It’s not all about us

it's not all about usIt has become clear to me, over decades, that wedding professionals (including me) have a certain obsession with how we are perceived by brides, grooms, peers, and the rest of the planet. I plead guilty, by example.

In 1977, I co-founded my first DJ entertainment business, Music Man, two months before the release of Saturday Night Fever. With five years of nightclub DJ experience prior to my foray into mobile music, and a superb business partner, Scott Foell. Just seven months later, Music Man moved into an office-warehouse and by the end of the first year, the business was full-time.

In 1977-78, you would be hard-pressed to identify more than 5% of mobile DJ services as full time. It was not uncommon to have a party or wedding guest, ask, “What’s your day job… or What’s your full-time job?”

This was not an unreasonable question, as such a high percentage of mobile DJ’s were part-time. Yet, I took this as an affront, usually responding with some kind of smug response, such as, “I’m not sure I understand the question.”

It would have been easy to deflect the question, and respond, “I’m proud to say that our young enterprise is a full time operation.”

And so it still is true, today. There are many reasons for it, but similar questions-reactions are ever-present. As well, wedding businesses stress out over whether being referred to as a ‘wedding vendor’ is an insulting phrase, preferring ‘wedding professionals’. And within industry categories, there is the push and shove  credibility battle between part-timers and full-timers. Not to be confused with “If I have an industry certification behind my name, I MUST be more competent than you are.”

What wedding and meeting planners think

light bulbSeveral years ago, I co-chaired a small conference. Co-chair, Jodi Harris (SightNSound Events), assembled a panel of DMCs, wedding and event planners. In moderating the panel, Jodi asked a straightforward question about preferences of working with, or recommending (to clients) part-time vs full-time DJs.

Those in attendance, all DJ Entertainers, were dumb struck to hear the consensus comments. The planners weren’t really concerned whether a company was full-time or part-time, large or small. Rather, they were focused, primarily, on the quality and consistency of the work, and availability to respond quickly to client communications.

There was no condescension in their responses, just a matter-of-fact nature. As entertainment professionals, the group had varied opinions of what should be important to planners; mostly, the reaction was stunned disbelief.

My conclusion on this narrow point

All too often, we feel it important to convince others (peers and the public) about our point of view (I plead guilty, again). Remembering even experienced professionals often disagree, it shouldn’t be surprising that the public has its own varied views.

Now, as an industry observer, from my marketing perch, I take a more empathetic view. I try to understand other people’s outlook and reasoning. If warranted, suggest a different view or approach. Having a more informed point of view is only helpful, though, if you don’t overplay your hand (I guess I have to plead guilty to overplaying my hand, too).

The force of ‘being right‘, to the exclusion of all else, may lose the sale or damage a business relationship. If one just did stellar work and supported it with solid marketing and public relations,  the categorization or terminology used to describe a business, would become largely irrelevant.

Don’t you agree? …. And whether you do or don’t, your comments are welcome.

Andy Ebon - wedding marketing expert

Andy Ebon
Wedding Marketing Authority

Education Expert