Whether you’re an event planner choosing vendors, a client who wants the best photographer, or a vendor, looking to book more events, this article describes how a top wedding planner manages the process.
Ever wondered what event planners expect from vendors before they book them? Or what information the client shares that guides the planner in finding the perfect professionals? Well, because we’re building event planning software for both planners and vendors, I wanted to find out.
Meet Claudia Rollin of Harlow & Dahlia Events. Recently, I spoke with her about her team, her marketing philosophy, and how she finds vendors that meet her exceptionally high standards.
You can read our previous interview with Claudia here: How to Know When Your Wedding Planning Business is Ready to Grow
Claudia is the founder of Harlow & Dahlia Events, a wedding and event planning design firm specializing in events in Vermont, New England, and New York City. “A one-woman show that has been growing into an event planning company with more hands-on board ready to make your event or wedding just shine!”
How To Select The Right Vendors For Your Event
Selecting the right vendors for a client is an especially interesting subject. Event planners navigate vendor availability, the client’s preferences, past experience, and many more variables. I was curious about how Claudia and her Harlow & Dahlia team tackle vendor relations. Well, like with most event planners, it all begins with getting to know the client.
Claudia asks her clients to share information in several ways. For one, there is a survey they fill out. Then she asks clients to share their Pinterest boards, or photos they like, or any points of inspiration that they might have. Once this is done, the Harlow & Dahlia team has a firm idea of what the client’s tastes are.
Claudia explains their process in more detail, using photography as an example.
“Some photographers have a light and airy, romantic feel, while some others are a little bit moodier, more photojournalist. So once the client sends me their inspiration photos, I can usually tell right off the bat. I can see what they love.”
“And then we have a curated list of vendors that we refer to. And the curated list is vendors that I trust, have nothing but the most excellent ethic of work, and they have outstanding portfolios. I’m always open to vendors we haven’t worked with, but we obviously do our homework and due diligence. We make sure that they have proper reviews, and that they’ve worked at the venues that we’re looking at. But once we have that list, I narrow it down by the style that the client is interested in. And then I narrow it down a little bit more, by a few different factors.”
So event pros, take note. Your personal style will help but it’s worth working on your online presence to book more events. That means keeping your website up to date on recent events and asking for testimonials. It’s not only clients who look at that stuff.
Related article: A Look Inside the Sumptuous World of Planning A Luxury Wedding
The Factors That Get More Event Bookings
These factors often depend on the event specifics. Claudia tells me, “It could be about making sure their services fit with the client’s budget. It could be experience. Maybe some photographers are more experienced in working and shooting receptions in tents, where some others might be more experienced with indoor weddings. So there are all these different factors that we consider. And then on top of that, we want to make sure that they’re actually available. So once we go through all of those criteria, we present that to the client.”
“Sometimes, the client will know right off the bat; other times, they need the two months to kind of figure it out. Sometimes they’ll know. They’ll see a photographer and say, ‘We want this person.’ And sometimes they need to talk to each photographer. So we set up interviews so they can get to know each other and see if their personality matches.”
“That’s where the flexibility comes in. Every client has different needs. We’re proactive in ensuring we’re targeting those needs. We never just send a list and say, well, these photographers are good. Let us know what you think. We really work with them to make sure that if they need a little bit more assistance, we provide that.”
Book More Events With A Good Portfolio
And that’s how the vendors can make the qualifications. A lot of times, vendors will reach out to me, and they’ll work with me to show me their portfolio. Sometimes I find them. But I think that’s where the marketing comes in.”
But if there’s one single thing that makes a real difference, it’s the portfolio.
“As long as I know, the photographer has a strong portfolio that I can share with a client, that’s key. Because if the client can see what the vendor offers, that makes everyone’s life so much easier. The client feels more comfortable with their offerings. The photographer will book more events because they have a strong portfolio. The marketing person in me is always looking for strong portfolios to work from.”
I pressed Claudia on how she does her due diligence. Of course, it starts with her network.
“A lot of times, I’ll know the photographers, or I will have worked for them, so I can vouch for the fact that they’re incredibly professional. If I haven’t, I’ll know colleagues that have worked with them, so I can get strong referrals.”
“And then, I mean, in this age and day, 2020, everyone can go online and look at reviews. I think a strong vendor will have those reviews. And I would never just recommend a vendor without getting to know them. I’ll hop on the phone with them, understand their process, and such.”
But Claudia stresses that she’s had great experiences overall. “I should say too, like 98% of vendors I’ve ever worked with have been excellent. It’s not enough to assume they’re the right fit because their photos might be good, but doing the homework to make sure they are the right fit for the client.”
Related article: How A Canceled Event Brought Out The Best In One Event Planner
How Can Vendors Help Planners, Especially On The Day Of The Event?
I always ask vendors how planners can help them do their best work. I thought it was only fair to ask a planner the same question. So, we got to discussing what makes an event go smoothly.
Plus, if you help the planner, you’ll book more events with them, right?
“The best vendors, I would say, that I really, really appreciate are the ones that, when, they arrive, they check-in.” This is actually something I’ve heard from venues too. So, point one, whether you’re a planner or a vendor, a simple check-in when you show up goes a very long way.
Claudia continues. “But they’re also flexible. So the best vendors understand that when they finally see that the rush is over, they say, ‘Hey, Claudia, just letting you know I’m here. When can we set up this?’ So I really appreciate that. They understand that I can only answer so many questions at once and are respectful of that. So that’s really helpful.”
“Some vendors go above and beyond. Maybe they step in to help specific situations. There’s this one DJ that I know that he will go above and beyond to make sure the lights look perfect. It’s not his job at all. It’s not what he’s supposed to be doing. But he just takes that extra step. So I guess really not only being great at their job but also working with the planners. If they notice that something is not quite right, maybe they see a flower centerpiece tipped over, something like that, they could share that with me. And I honestly feel like most vendors tend to do that.”
Book More Events Through Teamwork
“We are, at least in Vermont, very much a team. We really all have each other’s backs. Because in general, my job as a planner, day-of, is to make sure everything is perfect and every area and corner is being taken care of. But if a vendor notices something that I’m missing, it’s super-helpful when they point that out.”
“I feel fortunate that I started my event planning business in Vermont, in which there is such a strong sense of community. I don’t know if every other location is like that, but for Vermont, vendors are really always looking out for each other.”
It’s A Partnership
Vendors looking to book more events can take heart from Claudia’s words. A good portfolio, a strong work ethic and a desire to create an amazing client experience is the key to building lasting relationships with event planners.