Recommendations: The Art of Pairing Clients with the Perfect Pros

Aisle Planner Selecting Vendor Partners for your client
Photo courtesy Bradley James Photography and Rhiannon Bosse

One of the least attractive industry conversations has to be the one surrounding recommendations and the selection of wedding professionals for clients. Event planners and venues are, by nature, in the position to share referrals for talented event professionals. Likewise, other pros are asked by their couples all the time for recommendations. In the client-creative relationship, our word is what counts so here are some key points to consider when weighing the risks and rewards of providing clients with your recommendations.

The dilemma

There are two challenges that can arise when offering referrals or recommendations to your clients:

  1.  Are you held liable for a recommendation if something goes wrong on the day of the event?
  2. Are you making recommendations that are best for the client or recommendation of professionals who you enjoy working with?

Recommendations vs. client matching

While every pro has an obligation to provide their clients with solid referrals, planners and organizers especially are expected to match qualified event professionals to their client’s specific needs. It comes with the position. Generally speaking, qualified event pros have an in-depth list of professionals broken down by service category, often cross-referenced with pricing. Ideally, a planner has done their research on every professional on their list based on product, price and personality. Most planners look at their reputation in the industry based on personal interaction, online reviews and previous client interaction. Responsiveness and communication with couples and the planner are also key factors.

Recommendations from other pros

Event venues often have referral lists. Unfortunately, because of the scope of their work, these recommendations are often based on professionals that work well with the venue and do a good job for the couple. These referrals are not typically made with the clients’ principle interests in mind. Photographers, DJs, caterers, and other pros will also be asked for their suggestions. Their responses might be as simple as someone they heard of in the industry or met at a networking event.

The best case scenario? Make recommendations based on those you’ve seen in action and had a positive experience with. Verify with your own eyes that they delivered great work. For casual recommendations, you may not have know much about their pricing or business model. But, if you want to give your clients the best possible experience, invest a little bit of your time to get to know the vendors you work with.

Pro Tip: Is your Marketplace Listing published yet? Why not?! What if brides, grooms, and wedding pros are searching for the perfect vendor but your listing is no where to be found? Our Marketplace listings are specifically designed to create a fantastic first impression and provide all the proof browsing brides, grooms and other event clients need to connect with pros for their events.

What’s at risk

So what exactly is our liability to a client if we, as event pros, have made a recommendation of another service provider?  For many, the verdict is still out on this one. Consider how are you’re delivering your recommendations to your clients. Were just a few names shared in casual conversation, or was it a pre-screened recommendation?

For event pros, there seem to be a couple of ways to limit your liability. Your first option is to present several pre-screened recommendations and allow the couple to choose from those; as opposed to one targeted recommendation. The second may come down to the wording in your agreement, specifying that recommendations are based on your research, a professional’s standing in the industry, online reviews and the experience of your past clients. Additionally, support your the quality of your recommendations by making it clear that you are not receiving any referral fees or incentives for making them.

Do Your Homework

Regardless of your role in an event, be sure to do your homework. Be as knowledgeable as possible about the people you are associating your business with; and be sure you ask your clients questions to ensure the people you might be recommending are a good fit for their style, personality and budget.

CYA – Cover Your Assets

At an absolute minimum, protect your business. Be sure that you carry Business Liability Insurance and Errors and Omissions Insurance.

Pro Tip: Read “Exceptional Communication: The Sharpest Tool in a Planner’s Shed“, from Laurie Hartwell of The Bridal Society for a pro’s take on communication and best practices for making recommendations  to your clients.

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