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Doing Business




Developing and Maintaining A Vendor Network:

Gary W. Orr

Developing and Maintaining A Vendor Network: Generate Referrals and Increase the Number Of Wedding Receptions You Book!

A vendor network is a group of businesses that will recommend your services to their clients. When utilized properly, the vendor network will increase the number of inquiries you receive and provide you the opportunity to dramatically increase the number of events you book without increasing your advertising budget. The first step in developing a vendor network is to locate and list all the businesses that are involved in the wedding reception business.

The Initial List

The initial vendor list should include the name of the business, the address, and the phone number. The easiest way to start is with the yellow pages from your market area. Start the list by looking up all the bridal shops. The reason you want to start with the bridal shops is simple: usually the first thing a bride shops for is her dress. Because of this, most bridal shops in your vendor referral network will be able to send you more inquiries than any of your other vendors. The more inquiries you get the more potential bookings you have! Other businesses to list would include photographers, florists, bakeries specializing in wedding cakes, tuxedo rental stores, reception hall and banquet facilities, caterers, wedding coordinators, event planners, etc. By now, depending on the size of your market area, you should have a very long list.

Refining The List

Start with the bridal shops. Depending on how much time you have available, plan on visiting each bridal shop on your list. This doesn't mean all in one day. Start with the bridal shops in your area, or the ones with the nicest ads in the yellow pages. When I started my vendor referral network, I set a goal to visit at least 5 new vendors each week. That's only one per day, and you should be able to do that even if you have a full time job in addition to your mobile DJ business. Dress nicely, and at each shop you visit, ask for the owner or manager and introduce yourself. Be sure and ask if this is a bad time for your visit and if it is ask what time would be more convenient. You should have a small stack of business cards and possibly a small stack of promotional brochures that you can leave with the shop if the owner will let you. Some of the shops already have a table or area that is dedicated to wedding related services. If this is the case, be prepared to provide your own business card holder and brochure holder. You can purchase a nice clear acrylic holder that will hold both your business cards and brochures from an office supply store like Office Depot, Office Max or Staples. When you finish calling on the bridal shops on your list, you should have an idea on which ones you would like to associate yourself with. I recommend making a special form that will contain all the pertinent information about the shop: name, address, and phone number, owner's name, manager's name, and number of employees. The middle portion of the form should contain a table that allows you to list special information such as dates of special sales, and busy and slow times of the year. The bottom portion of the form should contain a table that allows you to list the date you called on the shop, who you visited with, type of promotional items you left, and any special notes you might need to make. Depending on the size of your market area, you should only have about a dozen "prime" bridal shops that you list on these special forms. Repeat this scenario for each business on your initial list. When you have finished calling on every business on the original list you should have a three ring binder containing all the "prime vendors" that will form the backbone of your vendor referral network. Keep your original list in your notebook and track of all referrals you receive from any of the other vendors. You might have a vendor that is sending you a lot of inquiries that is not on your "prime" list. This is easily changed, just fill out the special form and add them to your vendor binder.


Now that you have the backbone of your vendor referral network established, you will need to develop a schedule to call upon your vendors. I would suggest a primary vendor list of no more than 15 - 20 businesses. I have found that by keeping my primary list at or around this number of vendors, I can usually call on each of them at least once a month. You must do this! If you don't stop by and visit with the vendors and replenish you business cards and brochures, they will not refer your business to their clients. When you are making your vendor calls, make note of any of the businesses on your original master list that may have closed, remodeled, moved, or changed owners. Any of these changes dictate a visit to re-evaluate the store and possibly upgrade it's status on your list. I suggest you keep up with any new businesses that open up during the year that might become potential vendors in your network. New businesses are sometimes the best source for your network because they really try to impress their clients with that little bit of extra effort. Your local Chamber of Commerce, Better Business Bureau, County Registrar, or State Comptroller are good sources to help you locate new businesses that are opening in your area. Sometimes local newspapers print a weekly list (usually in their business section) of the new sales tax permits issued in your area. My local newspaper does this and it is a wonderful way to locate new potential vendors for my network.

Rewarding Your Vendors

This is not a requirement but is something you should consider. If you have a vendor that is referring quite a few inquiries your way, and you are converting these inquiries into bookings, you should think about "rewarding" your vendor in some form or fashion. When I first started my vendor referral network, my rewards to vendors were simple and homemade: a gift basket with fresh cookies or muffins, and a small bag of specialty coffee. The whole gift basket probably cost me less than ten dollars, but the smiles of thanks and the extra effort the recipients put forth in sending me inquiries was worth every bit of that ten dollars and much more! Now days, I purchase gift certificates from nice local restaurants and give them to the vendors who have really went above and beyond in sending me business. The number of the gift certificates varies depending on the amount of business I have booked from a particular vendor and the number of employees working for that vendor. I usually present the gift certificates to the manager or owner of the shop and in front of all their employees. I tell them they can take the employees out to lunch, dinner or happy hour on me, or if there is a busy season or special sale coming up, tell them that they can use them as a prize for a sales contest among the employees. Remember that these people are referring business to you and you should refer business to them as often as you can. I maintain a "Preferred Vendor List" that I give to each and every client that books an event with me. All of my prime vendors are on this list.

Results Of Your Efforts

The vendor referral network is the fastest way to build a client base that I know of. It costs practically nothing in comparison with the amount of advertising you have to do to generate the same number of leads. The biggest difference is the quality of the leads your vendor network is going to provide. Word of mouth advertising is the best form of advertising anyone can hope to get, and a business recommending a call to you is a form of word of mouth advertising. You will still get your price shoppers, but you will be amazed at the number of bookings you will get even from the price shoppers simply because your name was passed on by another business in a related field. If you are not using some form of vendor referral network right now, implementing one can easily double your business. If you rely on some vendor referrals now, by getting out and really working your market area you should see a 25 - 35 percent increase in your business. My vendor network supplied me with 70 events this year, or 67 percent of the prime booking dates available! It's worked for me, and it can work for you!


Please feel free to call me at (817) 551 - 7040 or e-mail me at



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