Tips for Getting on (and Staying on!) the Coveted Vendor List

Tips for Getting on (and Staying on!) The Coveted Vendor List
Kevin Dennis, WeddingIQ

We all strive to be on a preferred vendor list and to have the status that comes along with it. Achieving a coveted spot could mean a spike in business, exclusivity with like-minded business pros, and an upper hand when it comes to your competition. But where do you even begin, and better yet – how do you stay on the vendor list once you secure a place?

Make connections and get to know the other creative partners

Take a look at some fellow creative partners you admire. Who do they surround themselves with? What list(s) are they on? Chances are if you begin at the local level, your community is a small one. You may already know the other creative partners they’re involved with, and there’s no better place than to start introducing yourself. Pivot yourself as a reputable, respectable business person, and expose yourself to networking events where you may run into them. If you play your cards right, they may recommend you the next time a vacancy for an event pops up.

Fortunately for us, building connections and relationships are all the easier with the advantage of online platforms. At Fantasy Sound, we make a point of spotlighting our partners from around the region on our ongoing blog. They gain exposure, and so do we.

Don’t ask for a spot immediately

So, you made some connections, and you’re in a great spot to inch closer to that vendor list. It’s tempting, yes, but asking a fellow creative partner right off the bat to be on the go-to list is the quickest way to get a ‘no’. Things take time, and it’s best explained if you think of a friendship or a relationship. The process can be tricky, but good things come to those who wait.

Here’s what you can do. Attend industry events and make a note of who is attending. If possible, gravitate towards events with those new connections, and keep in mind that you’ll want to seek out those you haven’t yet met, too. If you’re in the right place at the right time, you may get a solid introduction (and your existing partners have the perfect opportunity to sing your praises).

Once you’ve made contact with more of the preferred vendors, offer to include them on your mailing list and bring up your business goals organically. This sets up a natural conversation that you’d like to expand or diversify, or even that you’d love to begin working in their region. This puts you on their radar, which is exactly what you want. Once you get to know them on a more personal level, ease into the topic. For example, ask them how they choose whom to put on the list, or how often they refresh the list. That way you are getting the intel you want without directly asking them to consider you.

Once you’re there, here’s how to stay there

If you find success and make it onto the preferred vendor list (yay!), remember that it’s just as hard to stay on it as it is to make it on the list. There is always a revolving door of new and well-seasoned industry pros that are eyeing your spot, just as you were. Some places are known to update their list at least once a year if not more, and if you aren’t putting in the face time with them, you can be replaced with someone else that is.

Treat your fellow creative partners as you would your clients. Small gestures keep you at the forefront of their mind, and they’ll be more inclined to recommend you at the top of the list when it comes to securing new business and events. Personally, we love the ‘surprise and delight’ strategy. This can be anything – sentimental notes, small gifts or ‘survival’ packages during the busy wedding season. Last year, we even took the time to go around delivering popsicles during hot days in the summer! The gesture doesn’t have to be big, and even the smallest things let them know that you cherish their partnership.

Don’t let the idea of trying to get on a preferred vendor list intimidate you. With the right approach and the right mindset, you’ll have businesses wanting to add you to their preferred vendor list in no time.

Kevin Dennis is the editor of WeddingIQ and owner of Fantasy Sound Event Services, a full-service event company based in Livermore, California. Dennis is the current chapter president for Silicon Valley NACE, and a past national president for WIPA.