Becoming a Preferred Vendor

Being a military spouse, I have had my fair share of having to pick up my business and move it cross-country on 5 different occasions. This last time, I was able nail down the method that seemed to work best for me and my personality. Vendor relationships play the major role in referrals rather than social media. In June 2018, we moved from Charleston, SC to San Francisco. By September, I had 5 weddings booked for 2019 and had already been listed as a preferred vendor on 2 venues, with a 3rd being added in October, and 2 more by December.

So, I know you’re wondering what that process looked like for me. The first thing I did was establish what type of venues I wanted to work with. I spent several days researching all the different venues in my area, making a handwritten list of the ones that had the style and aesthetics I wanted to contact. Although I wasn’t smart enough to do this at the time, I would advise creating a spreadsheet with the following format:

Venue Name|Phone|Contact Person|Email|Address|Starting Price

Doing this comes in handy for two reasons: 1.) It is more organized, and 2.) I’ve been able to copy and paste this list into an email, private message, or forum for when brides are looking for local venues! Although this list was not made with the intention of sharing it with brides, I think it’s a bonus of being able to help brides find their dream venues!

Once I had the list put together, I crafted an email introducing who I was and what I could provide to their couples and what I could bring to the table for them, but didn’t send it out until after I had called them. The reason I did it in this order is because writing out the email helped me better put into words what I wanted to convey. I will share the email with you in a moment, but first we need to address how the conversation/voicemail went when I called the venue. Once I got in contact with the right person who works with the preferred vendors list, the conversation went something like this:

Word Track: Hi my name is Kristen. I am a professional wedding photographer and just relocated to the Bay Area and would love to set up a time to swing by and meet you. I know how hard you work for your clients and I’d love to show you how I can help enhance that experience. Is there a day next week that works good for you? I’ll bring coffee (or lunch!) In the meantime, I am happy to email you with more information about me and my business. What’s the best email for you?

Voicemail: Hi my name is Kristen. I am a professional wedding photographer and just relocated to the Bay Area and would love the chance to chat for a moment. I’ll shoot over an email with more information about me and my business and check back in later this week! Take care, XXX-XXX-XXXX

Email:

Good Afternoon XXXX!

My name is Kristen Campbell (IG handle is hyperlinked to my name), I’m the owner of CK Photography (website is hyperlinked to business name) and I am a professional wedding photographer who recently relocated from Charleston, SC to Petaluma, CA due to a military transfer. I have been a photographer for 10 years. Within the last 3 years, I realized how deep my passion for weddings truly is and now specialize in wedding photography and couples. In the last 5 years, I have photographed over 100 weddings, with 45 of those being within the last 18 months. I would love the opportunity to speak with you directly on developing a working relationship with you. 

Ensuring all of my couples have an amazing Wedding Experience (pricing guide hyperlinked to “Wedding Experience”) is my #1 priority. Upon booking, I mail a copy of my Bridal Guide (bridal guide hyperlinked to “Bridal Guide”), a few business cards, and a Thank You card with some little gifts thrown in from local small businesses. The Bridal Guide helps them to prepare for their engagement session as well as little tips and tricks that can make their wedding day go smoother.

My contract states that the wedding images are delivered within 6 weeks from the date of the wedding, but I ALWAYS have the wedding edited and delivered to them via an online gallery that they can share with friends and family within 2 weeks from the date of their wedding. This is not advertised, as I LOVE for my clients and their families to be pleasantly surprised at the quick turn-around.

Vendors receive an email the Tuesday following the wedding with the link to the blog post as well as the gallery link to the high resolution images included in the blog. These images are what I consider to be the best of the best! Feel free to share the images on your website and social media, all I ask is for photo credit. I do my very best to tag all vendors in every post made on social media as I genuinely believe in sharing the images with all involved vendors so you can show off all the hard work you put in for your couples as well!

Please do not hesitate to let me know if you have any questions or if you would like for me bring by some additional information. 

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to speaking with you soon!

Sincerely, 
Kristen Campbell

The next point of contact is two business days later, where I place a follow up call asking if they received the email. Also at this time, I start putting together vendor gifts to stop by and drop off the next week. The vendor gifts include:

Business Cards
Hard Copies of the Pricing Packet
Cookies from a local bakery in the shape of a Cala Lilly (it’s part of my logo & my favorite flower)
Local Coffee Beans/Tea

It’s an investment for sure, but it helps to bring in a small gift and put a face to the name. If I get them on the phone and actually set an appointment with them, I try to make it around breakfast or lunch so I can treat them to one or the other. I usually do donuts and coffee for breakfast and lunch is usually Chick-fil-a or Pizza.

Around the holidays, I make it a point to stop in every couple of weeks with treats from Costco (cookie tins, popcorn, etc.) as it tends to be engagement season and I don’t know how many other photographers are stopping in to say hi with goodies, but my guess is not many! This year, I’m having ornaments made with each of the couples shot at their venue with a thank you card.

Oh! Speaking of thank you cards…For every referral, whether booked or not, I send a thank you card with $10 for coffee or a $10 Visa. If they book, I follow up with a second card including an image from the engagement session and a note saying how excited I am to be working with them later this year/next month/whenever. It seems to go over really well!

Back to the process, I continue checking in with emails and phone calls every 2-4 weeks, depending on the season. I tend to not call as much during the busy season because I don’t want to overwhelm them, but you still need to be present so they don’t forget you.

Now, I know some of you may be thinking “Well, sure Kristen, that’s great this worked for you, but a lot of venues won’t put me on a preferred vendor list until I shoot a wedding there.” And you’re right…what happens with those venues. Well, for one, you make it a point to schedule a tour! Two, while you’re on the tour, you ask them if the wedding needs to be under your business, or if they’ll accept you shooting there with another photographer as a 2nd. TWICE, I’ve been allowed to be added to the preferred vendor list this way. The main reason they want you to actually shoot a wedding there is because they want you to really know the layout of the land on a real wedding day! It makes sense when you think about it, but I know it’s tough! There’s still one venue I’m waiting on because I’ve not shot there yet, but it is what it is!!

So, to wrap this up, follow up is key on this. Developing working relationships with vendors takes time and patience. The majority of prospects take 12+ points of contact to convert. Most sales people stop following up after the 4th point of contact. Persistence is key, and whether we like it or not, part of our business involves sales and followup. You’ve got this!!!

Please feel free to reach out with any questions! I know it’s a lot to take in!!!

Happy shooting!!!

~Kristen

November 28, 2019

  1. Amanda

    November 29th, 2019 at 3:44 pm

    You have no idea how helpful this is! Thank you so much for sharing.

  2. Winter

    December 2nd, 2019 at 9:42 pm

    So very helpful !!!

  3. April

    December 2nd, 2019 at 10:12 pm

    So much helpful information! Thank you for sharing!

  4. Gen

    December 2nd, 2019 at 11:47 pm

    What useful information. I’m just starting my wedding photography journey. Thank you for the tips.

  5. Katy

    December 2nd, 2019 at 11:51 pm

    This is so helpful and useful for photographers/vendors that are changing markets or for those that are new to the industry! Thank you so much for sharing the details of you communications!

  6. Jeanize

    December 3rd, 2019 at 1:51 am

    This is such great information! Thank you so much!!

  7. Mandy

    December 4th, 2019 at 12:25 am

    This post is pure GOLD Kristen!! Thank you SO much for sharing.

  8. Leidy and Josh

    December 4th, 2019 at 7:54 pm

    This is super relevant to what we have been working on this afternoon! Thank you so much for writing this!

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