“If your number one goal is to serve people, that will be your best marketing tactic that you can possibly do,” says Arielle Peters.
Arielle Peters of Arielle Peters Photography is a luxury wedding photographer and educator based in South Bend, Indiana. Her workshop—The AP Workshop—played a huge role in my decision to become a full-time wedding photographer, and I’m so excited to have her on Priority Pursuit to share how you can build your business by cultivating vendor relationships.
Note: While Arielle and I are both wedding photographers, the tactics she discusses can be used within any industry. Yes, there are a lot of wedding vendors that wedding photographers can build relationships with, but your industry is likely full of other vendors and peers too.
For example, if you run a boutique, you might want to focus on building relationships with showrooms, brands, markets, other boutiques, or even hairstylists or others outside of your industry who have similar ideal clients. You might have to get a little creative, but these tactics WILL work for you too!
Before we discuss Arielle’s process for building your business through vendor relationships, it’s important to establish why vendor relationships matter and should be one of your top business priorities.
That’s right! More than half of Arielle’s photography income every year is a result of planners, venues, florists, and other wedding vendors recommending Arielle to engaged couples.
While it’s important to serve your clients well (both because it’s the right thing to do and because great customer service will help your business grow), Arielle argues that when it comes to building your business and increasing your bookings, forming relationships with other vendors and serving these vendors well can be just as—if not more—important.
While solid vendor relationships certainly come with business and monetary benefits, vendor relationships are also great for your mental health.
Arielle met two of her closest friends while working in the wedding industry. Over the years, they’ve served as sounding boards for one another, pushed one another, and been there for one another in difficult times (like COVID).
Even if you have a great support system in your family and friends, Arielle and I agree that it’s crucial to have relationships within your industry, because you need people in your life who “get it.”
If you want to build your business through vendor relationships, all you need to do is focus on serving these vendors.
According to Arielle, it can be very easy to get caught up in your job—especially as a wedding photographer. The day moves quickly, you only have one chance to take epic wedding photos for your couple, and—at least during the photo portion of the day—you run the show.
But, the vendors around you are also working hard to serve the couple well too, and you have countless opportunities to serve these vendors—whether you have a wedding or job scheduled with them or not.
While many photographers and creative entrepreneurs tend to only focus on their needs, you can stand out to other vendors by being mindful of their needs and circumstances.
For example, do you know a wedding planner who’s about to start his/her busy season? Send her a gift card for a pedicure.
Are you working with a videographer? Offer to move aside so he/she can get the shots he/she needs.
Do you want to include loose florals in your detail shots? Approach the florist humbly to make the request and ask how his/her day is going.
Is there a vendor you’d really love to form a relationship with? Offer to do a headshot session for them.
Again, most photographers and creative entrepreneurs are caught up in their own work. As a result, Arielle argues that when you approach every situation with a “how-can-I-serve mindset,” you’ll stand out, and those you serve will be much more likely to refer you to future clients.
As a wedding photographer, wife, mama, and church planter, Arielle always has a lot going on. Thus, she’s a huge fan of creating systems, and she even has a system for serving other wedding vendors well, which she refers to as “systematically loving others”!
Here’s exactly what she does, and there’s no reason you can’t adapt this to be your own!
Get a list of all wedding vendors.
As the big day approaches, Arielle requests a vendor list from her couples. This way, she knows exactly who she’ll be working with and will be prepared to tag all vendors when she shares photo previews.
Email all wedding vendors to let them know you’re excited to work with them.
Before wedding days, Arielle also emails vendors to let them know that she’s looking forward to working with them and to give them a heads-up that when the couple’s gallery is finished, she’ll be sharing it with the entire vendor team.
When you’re referred by another vendor, send a thank you gift.
While many vendors would likely send a simple “thank you” email or maybe not even that, Arielle takes the time to say thank you with a gift, which only confirms to the vendor who referred Arielle that she’s a thoughtful person with a luxury brand.
On wedding days, shows up with a smile. She makes conversation with other wedding vendors and strives to make the day a good time for all involved.
Give other vendors grace & help however you can.
Like we discussed before, it can be easy to get caught up in your own job. But, throughout the wedding day, Arielle intentionally reminds herself to empathize with other vendors and to help them.
For example, as a wedding photographer, there are moments where it can be easy to get frustrated with the wedding planner or coordinator. However, in these moments, Arielle reminds herself that the wedding planner is also striving to do her job well. Rather than having a bad attitude, Arielle makes adjustments, asks how she can help the planner, and even meets unspoken needs (like grabbing the planner a drink).
As you can imagine, all planners have likely worked with more than one difficult photographer. So, Arielle’s service-drive approach really stands out.
At the end of a wedding day, Arielle is also sure to say goodbye to all vendors who are at the reception. It would be easy to just slip out, so the fact that Arielle goes out of her way isn’t easily forgotten.
Tag vendors in previews on social media & in the couple’s blog.
After the wedding, Arielle is the soul person with photo evidence of how incredible a wedding day was. But, all vendors played a role in making the wedding day possible.
To give them proper credit, Arielle is sure to tag all vendors on Facebook, on Instagram, and in her blog post. This way, if someone sees Arielle’s photos online and falls in love with a particular wedding element, they can easily find out what vendor can help them when it’s time to plan their own wedding!
Send vendors the full gallery.
When Arielle and her team finish a couple’s full gallery, she then sends it to all of the couple’s vendors and lets them know that they are more than welcome to use the photos on social media, on their websites, or however else they need.
Very few photographers take the time to do this, so you can bet that the photographers who do take the time hold a very special place in these vendors’ hearts.
Plus, these vendors are so thankful to have the photos that more often than not, they tag Arielle when they share the images, allowing Arielle’s name and work to get in front of even more couples!
Refer your favorite vendors to other couples.
Last but not least, if Arielle loves working with a particular vendor, she’ll begin referring that vendor to her future couples.
Arielle has a page on her website with vendor recommendations, and she sends a VIP vendor list when she mails couples their welcome boxes.
Featured vendors are flattered by this gesture, and when couples choose vendors from Arielle’s VIP list, she gets to work with vendors she loves. It’s a win-win for everyone!
Arielle is naturally an outgoing person, which she credits to her relationship with Christ. But, according to Arielle, even if you’re on the shy side, you can still cultivate vendor relationships and build your business.
You simply need to “channel your inner extrovert” and remember that everyone else is just as nervous to reach out to others in your industry.
If you’d like to begin forming relationships in your industry today, Arielle recommends sending an email to just five vendors you’d love to get to know and inviting them to meet you for coffee.
If they don’t respond or say no, don’t worry. They’re simply not meant to be in this phase of your life or business.
But, by asking, you’re going to make someone else’s day just for thinking of them, open the door to potential industry friendships, and begin building your business through vendor relationships. So, friend, get to sending those emails!
If you’d like to connect with and hear more from Arielle, you can find her on Instagram at @arielle.peters, on Pinterest, and at ariellepeters.com. And, you can learn more about the AP Workshop and join the waitlist here!
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