Informal Networking – 5 Ways to build your contacts

In a previous article we talked about the benefits of networking for wedding professionals and how to make the most of networking meetings and events. But networking doesn’t have to mean going to meetings – there are lots of ways you can network informally.

Here are 5 ways to grow your contact list and get more referrals.

1. Collaborations

When you are working on a wedding, connect with the other suppliers. This is easiest if you are involved in the day itself but even if you are not – if you do stationery for example – you can still do this. Let’s face it most brides love to chat about their wedding plans so it’s easy to ask them where they are getting married, which photographer they using and so on.

This then gives you common ground for introducing yourself to the other suppliers and looking for ways to work together. A stationer could ask the photographer to take a couple of pictures of the stationery at the event. Most will be happy to do this in return for either a small fee or even just a credit on your website or blog and even if they do charge it will be a lot less than you’d pay for a professional photo shoot.

2. Wedding Fairs

If you are doing a wedding fair, take the time to go and chat to the other exhibitors.

3. Coffee Chats

Coffee chats are another form of informal networking. They are often the next step to building a relationship with someone you have met briefly, talked to on social media or by telephone.

And it’s basically what it says on the tin – you meet up for coffee and a chat. It’s all about getting to know each other better, understand your businesses and explore ways you can help each other out.

Although coffee chats are informal, they should still be more business than social. The person is giving up their valuable time to meet you so don’t waste it. You’ll just be wasting your time too. If you want to invite someone for a chat, remember to think about What’s in it for Them. It has to be a mutually valuable session.

4. Walk In

Just getting off your butt and going out and meeting people can be very effective.

My first wedding business was preserving wedding bouquets, so I used to go round all the florist shops in my area taking a framed sample to show them and just having a chat about styles, the sort of work they did and so on. And they became a very good source of referrals for me.

This is a very direct approach and you do need to use some common sense – I would avoid busy days like Fridays, and the week before Valentines was a definite no-no. I was incredibly nervous when I first started doing this – it took me miles and miles out of my comfort zone. But the more you do it the easier it gets – and it worked.

5. Friends and Family

Think about all the people you know outside of your business. Do they really know what you do? It’s all very well keeping personal and business separate but your own friends and family could be your best recommenders. So make sure they actually know and understand what you do so that they can recommend you.

5 ways to grow your wedding business by using informal networking

General Tips

Many of the top tips for networking meetings apply to informal networking too.

Avoid the hard sell – it’s all about looking for ways to work together which are mutually beneficial.

Most importantly, with any networking you need to follow up and actively maintain the relationship. There’s no point in collecting business cards and then just shoving them in a drawer.

Work on your networking skills until they become second nature – and you’ll find your contacts and referrals will soar.

PS: Watch out for our next article in this series when we’ll look at online networking.