Partnership Marketing: from Cocktail Napkin to Sale

Partnership Marketing begins with a cocktail napkin. More specifically, the one I used to grab from a Hotel lounge while meeting with prospective brides to book said Hotel.

Every conversation starts the same- Hello. Congratulations on your engagement. What are you looking for in a wedding reception venue? Then, the inevitable question- Have you booked any other wedding professionals yet?

This question is always met with wide eyes and panic. It’s no secret that brides tend to be stressed from Day 1 of planning. By the time they’ve reached me, they’re ready to throw their research out the window and start taking referrals from friends, families and trusted wedding vendors.

I would then offer brides a cocktail napkin listing my picks and before long, I spent most of my weekends working alongside my network of wedding buddies.

So what is Partnership Marketing? In short, it’s building mutually beneficial relationships with other vendors to develop your respective businesses. It’s being that name on the cocktail napkin.

How does one master the art of Partnership Marketing? They say if you begin turning strategies into habits, it becomes far easier to implement into everyday business practices. So take the following tips out of my own OFD playbook–

1) Understand and respect the Wedding Timeline. Although I contend that there is no true linear timeline for how a bride plans her wedding, there is a still a general consensus as to when things are booked. Venues tend to be booked first so if you sell wedding cakes, don’t chase down venues by offering to refer them for receptions.

By the time they book a cake from you, more than likely, the reception venue is already booked. Instead, offer to help them build their rehearsal dinner business.

2) Put on your wedding hat, and tightly. If reaching out to fellow wedding professionals, be sure to slip on their shoes for awhile. Friday and Saturday appointments are off limits and remember that Mondays tend to be their days off. Don’t ask for evening appointments and if you only remember one thing, remember this- don’t show up unannounced.

3) Stay in the know. Make sure you’re the first on the block to read your local paper’s business section. Pick up local bridal magazines and devour them. When your colleagues are mentioned- congratulate them. It’s an effective way to stay in touch.

4)  Carry a team mentality with you wherever you go. A Bride’s Big Day is a team effort, so it’s important to adopt a big picture mentality early on in the process. Be someone that other vendors want to work with on wedding day.

5) Make friends with a stationer. Leave a lasting impression by offering your sincerest thanks or kudos when possible. Even better- when writing a wedding pro after a wedding, make sure it’s written in a way that your colleague can utilize it as a testimonial, one of the best selling tools out there.

If anything- follow up, follow up, follow up. If you’re a wedding photographer and have offered recent photos to a venue, then do it. If you’re a cake designer and have promised samples to a planner, then high tail it to your mixer. You’d be surprised how many people don’t follow through.

There are so many ways to get the bride- be it advertising, bridal shows and a snazzy web site. Just remember- that next big piece may be the wedding vendor standing right there beside you.

Until next time,

OFD consulting

Meghan Ely is the owner of OFD Consulting, a niche marketing and public relations group servicing the wedding industry. She is also the Managing Director of the Richmond Bridal Association, Contributing Writer to Virginia Bride Magazine and has a regular column in the Richmond Times Dispatch, Wedology 101: the Reality of Being a Bride.

You can read more from Meghan on her blog: Tips, tricks & ideas for the wedding industry, Twitter and Facebook