You’ve got to reach out to A LOT of people in order to get one person to rent from you.
You’re going to get A LOT of NOs for every YES you receive.
Each Proposal that becomes Confirmed is going to be in the company of MANY fellows that become Cancelled instead.
You’re going to have to send TONS of emails to get one response.
None of this is personal. No one hates you. It isn’t that people don’t like your collection. You aren’t annoying.
The reality of being in business is that other people are busy, and you are not the first thing on their mind. So you have to reach out to a lot of people, and you have to reach out to those people over and over again.
When I started my first business in the event industry, I started attending local wedding networking events (think WIPA, ILEA, MPI, NACE, ABC, and the like). For my first few meetings, my husband, Tim, joined me, and we stood on the sidelines during the cocktail hour. I met a few people in passing and mostly chatted with the people on either side of us at the dinner portion of the event. I was thankful to be meeting people in the industry, but I quickly realized that I needed a new strategy if I was going to make these kinds of events worth the time (and money).
I told Tim he couldn’t come with me anymore— not because I didn’t like him but because when he was there, I had a crutch and didn’t push myself to talk with people I didn’t know. I set myself some goals. For every meeting I went to, I needed to introduce myself to 10 new people. TEN! I wouldn’t let myself leave until I’d met 10 people I didn’t know.
I also set a goal of having at least five significant conversations throughout the night. I defined “significant” as chatting about more than just what the other person did in the event industry. I wanted to hear about their daughter’s love of ballet or their recent trip to Israel or their interest in the Blues. Each time I went to a wedding industry event, I made a point to connect with my peers, go deeper with those I already knew, and truly get to know people.
I wasn’t just there to pass out cards to as many people as I could. But I also recognized that if I didn’t set some concrete goals for myself I could easily slip in and out of the room without ever really getting to know anyone.
This is a referral industry. Especially in specialty rentals, almost every vendor gets hired before you. Venues, caterers, florists, coordinators, photographers, even hair & make-up pros gets booked before clients even think about adding a lounge. If potential clients hear your name on the lips of every single one of those wedding pros, they’re sure to give you a call when the time comes.
But that doesn’t happen overnight.
Developing relationships with referral sources in the wedding and event industry takes time. A lot of time. If you want to grow your network of referrals in the event industry, consider implementing one (or some) of these strategies.
- Pick one of the most unique pieces in your collection. Contact 50 event vendors in your region specifically about that piece. Mention that you’d like to see it go out more and you’re wondering if they have any clients coming up this month or next that might be interested. Perhaps in your email you can include a couple photos of how it has been styled in the past.
- Create an “add-on” package that venues in your area could easily offer their clients. Consider a photo booth backdrop, a lounge package, a special dessert buffet, a ceremony focal point, or a unique bar. Contact at least 25 venues in your region and suggest that they offer this to their existing clients as an add-on. You rent it to the venue. They rent it to their client at a mark-up (they can set the price at whatever they want). You may even want to design exclusive looks for particular venues.
- If you’re considering adding a new piece to your collection (or a new category of pieces), reach out to 15 coordinators, designers, and/or florists you want to work with. Invite them individually out to coffee or to your warehouse. Ask their opinion about the pieces and designs you’re considering. If they have input on what you purchase/make/add to your collection, they may be more inclined to rent it when it is available. Then, when it is ready to rent, be sure to let them know first so they have exclusive options to book it before you release it to the public.
- If you have a particular weekend or season that is not as busy as you’d like, create a special to promote. For instance, if you’d like more business for June 10th, you could offer a double-your-lounge-promo. If you book by April 30th for June 10th or 11th, anyone who rents a lounge for 5 (couch + 2 chairs + side tables and rug) gets a lounge for 10 (2 couches + 4 chairs + side tables and rug). Reach out to 20 caterers and ask them to tell all the clients they have for June 10th and 11th that you’re offering this deal. They’ll look good to their clients and you’ll have the opportunity to get in front of at least 30+ people who are already having events on that day.
What do all of the above ideas have in common? Personal outreach to A LOT of people. Unlike Field of Dreams, you can’t just build it and hope that people will come. Successful rental businesses take a lot of promoting. You’ve got to shout from the rooftops about what you’re offering and have one-on-one conversations with people who already have the clients you want.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to event pros who can refer you— they’re usually happy to have more resources to offer their clients. And if they don’t respond right away, don’t despair. They’re just busy like we all are. It may take 2, 3, or even 10 emails before they can get back to you. Don’t give up. Cast a wide net. Be ready for some rejection. Know that you’ll get a lot of crickets. None of that means you’re unsuccessful. In fact, it means you’re doing just the right thing.
Because renting out your collection is a numbers game.