Michelle Loretta

Owner

Michelle joined the wedding industry when she launched her stationery business in 2004: mmm... paper. Her previous background is in finance and  in the fashion. In 2008, Michelle co-founded the not-for-profit Get Hitched Give Hope and served as President for 2 years.  In 2009, Michelle began writing the blog Sage Wedding Pros. This blog evolved into the consulting business that it is today.

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Growing Your Business from Word of Mouth Referrals – Nurturing Relationships

This week, I’ve been sharing how to get word-of-mouth referrals inside and out of the event industry. Today, let’s tackle how to nurture relationships. Chances are you have a good sea of people who would gladly refer you. But, if you aren’t nurturing those relationships, you’ll fall to the back-burner. Stay visible.

On Tuesday, I asked you to make lists of your favorite past clients, favorite colleagues, and favorite non-industry connections. Now, circle a day on your calendar each month (for the next 12 months) to reach out to these people. The key is to keep developing your relationships with these connections so that they can send referrals your way.

I want to share a few ideas to help your nurture relationships. Some of these ideas come from Keith Ferrazzi’s book Never Eat Alone.

Email just to say ‘hi’ – relationship-building can be something as simple as emailing to say “I thought of you today. Hope you are well!” If I meet with a bride to talk about her wedding stationery and she tells me she needs a photographer, I’m going to refer the person who I like AND the person who is ‘top of mind’. If I received an email from a photographer that day, it’s likely that he/she is ‘top of mind’ and will get the referral.

Invite your favorites to dinner – invite your favorite colleagues over to dinner (at your house or your favorite restaurant). This is a great way to network in a more intimate setting, connect people with one another, and for you to build relations with your favorite industry people.

Image: Creative Commons License

Image: Creative Commons License

Do a little mail-out – one of the most fun things I received in the mail was an energy bar that the photographer Barbie Hull sent me one January. Attached to it was a little message wishing me renewed energy for the upcoming year. (Of course, her cute wrapping and packaging was the special touch.) It was such a simple gift but it made me think of her for weeks to follow… and I was meeting with lots of brides who needed a photographer in those weeks.

Be creative! There are so many ways that you can stay present with people. As long as you set aside the time to continue reaching out to your ‘top connectors’ lists, you will continue to deepen relationships… and this will lead to word-of-mouth business.

Michelle Loretta is a consultant for wedding and event professionals and writes daily for the Sage Wedding Pros’ business blog. She blends her past as an accounting nerd, sales vixen, and stationery entrepreneur to help entrepreneurs better their businesses. Sage Wedding Pros is known for The Simple Plan, The People Plan, and Thursday Therapy.

Growing Your Business from Word of Mouth Referrals – Industry Networking

Yesterday, I talked about how relationship-building will lead to word-of-mouth referrals. Today, let’s talk about deepening relationships specifically with industry colleagues.

Here’s the thing…

Networking events alone don’t build deep relationships. Very few people walk away from an industry event with a first time colleague connection and a hot referral in their pocket. (It happens. It just doesn’t happen as often as people think.)

Networking events are a catalyst for deeper relationships.

Networking events are a springboard for future encounters and exchanges that lead to referrals.

You go to the networking events as a first step in making industry connections. But, it’s what happens after the event that makes the relationship. And, it’s that relationship that leads to word-of-mouth referrals from colleagues.

Here’s a useful action plan for industry events. (Click on the links if you want to find more useful networking tips on my blog.)

Before the Networking Event…

Make contact with 3 people you’d like to meet in the industry and let them know you’ll be at the event and that you’re looking forward to seeing them. This gives you an active goal to be working towards with your networking time and dollars. It also gives you accountability because of the quasi appointment to meet with these people.

Photo Credit: Amanda Hein Photography

Photo Credit: Amanda Hein Photography

During the Networking Event…

Learn everything you can about others. The focus should be on learning about others – NOT talking about yourself. (You’ll get the chance to share. I promise.) The organization Business Networking International (BNI) has the tagline of “Givers Gain”. The idea is that if you give someone business, they’ll typically return the favor. Or, that the referral may come indirectly because of that relationship. Do everything you can to learn about your colleagues so that you can refer business to them. This is how you begin to deepen that relationship.

After the Networking Event…

Follow up! This is the critical piece. This is where the networking springboard launches you into action. Follow up with at least 3 people that you think would be good partners for you. (A partner, in this example, is someone that you can refer business to and that can likely refer business to you. You have clients in common and complimentary services.) Send these 3 individuals an email and let them know you liked meeting them. If your schedule allows, schedule a time to have coffee with them. If you can meet them one-on-one, the relationship will continue to deepen because you’ll have an opportunity to really sit down and get to know that person.

Lastly… be patient. Relationship-building in your industry takes time. And, it can often take several impressions before the trust is established with people in your market. However, if you consistently make the effort to build deep and sincere relationships with colleagues, you’ll start to see the benefits. You’re word-of-mouth sales *will* flourish!

Michelle Loretta is a consultant for wedding and event professionals and writes daily for the Sage Wedding Pros’ business blog. She blends her past as an accounting nerd, sales vixen, and stationery entrepreneur to help entrepreneurs better their businesses. Sage Wedding Pros is known for The Simple Plan, The People Plan, and Thursday Therapy.

Growing Your Business from Word of Mouth Referrals – Building Relationships

A word-of-mouth referral is when you get a client lead from someone speaking highly of you and referring you as a trusted event professional. Building your business on word-of-mouth referrals is contingent on how well you build relationships inside and outside the industry.

When someone passes along a referral it is based on 3 things:

  1. you did good work for this client or in partnership with this colleague
  2. they like you; they like doing business with you
  3. they want other people to have a great experience and they think that your business can offer this

Referrals are going to come from 3 types of relationships. With each relationship, think of how you can begin (or continue) engaging with these people to deepen your relationship. It’s all about creating deep quality relationships!

Client Relationships

These are referrals that come from current or previous clients. In the wedding and event industries, the client relationship is not always simple to nurture… Once the event is done, your relationship with that client will likely cease.

But let’s get creative! There are ways to continue engaging with past clients. Here’s one that I like:

Keep a list of your top 20-30 favorite clients. (These are the clients that you had the best relationship with and who you did outstanding work with. They are your ‘ideal client’.) From time to time check in with them just to say hello. If they were a wedding couple, send them an anniversary card each year. If they are a corporate client, use ‘google news alerts’ to alert you whenever their company is featured in the news so that you can congratulate them. Find creative ways to keep them in the loop. The more visible you are, the better. People refer businesses that are ‘top of mind’.

ThursdayTherapy1

Image Credit: Katie Cassidy Photography

Industry Relationships

These are referrals that come from within your industry. They can be colleagues that you work with or people you’ve met at networking events, conferences, meetings, and so on.

The best way to deepen industry relationships is to have a meaningful exchange. You can attend networking events until you are blue in the face, but if you aren’t having quality, meaningful exchanges with people, the relationship is not going to deepen.

I’m going to talk about this in more depth tomorrow. Check back here.

Non-Industry Relationships

These referrals come from outside the industry. This is usually the least maximized pool of potential business… There isn’t enough networking done with people outside the wedding and event industries. What about the people in other complimentary fields that can connect us to potential clients?

Here is a short list of people that can be great at connecting individuals and send word-of-mouth referrals:

  • Hairdressers & Barbers
  • Retail boutique owners
  • Realtors (think of that engaged couple who is looking for a home and just started planning their wedding)
  • Insurance Agents

Here is a short list of organizations that can be great for meeting people outside of our field:

  • Chamber of Commerce (and Junior Chamber of Commerce for people under 40 years of age)
  • Business Networking International (BNI)
  • Rotary International
  • Your college alumni organization

Word of mouth referrals are built on people talking about you. Think of ways to get people talking about your business. It starts with YOU. Reach out and build more relationships. Make this an active part of your sales and promotional plan.

ACTION ITEM:

Make a list of 20 of your previous/current ‘ideal’ clients. Make a list of your 10 favorite industry colleagues. Make a list of 10 people outside of your industry that you want to better connect with. Keep these lists close at hand and actively reach out to these people periodically.

Come back tomorrow for more on building your business with word-of-mouth referrals.

Michelle Loretta is a consultant for wedding and event professionals and writes daily for the Sage Wedding Pros’ business blog. She blends her past as an accounting nerd, sales vixen, and stationery entrepreneur to help entrepreneurs better their businesses. Sage Wedding Pros is known for The Simple Plan, The People Plan, and Thursday Therapy.