How to Build Your Vendor List

Photo by micheile henderson on Unsplash

One of the most important things a planner can have is a solid vendor list. It’s important to make sure you have reputable partners who can help you execute a great event. Building (or refreshing) your vendor list can feel daunting, especially if you’re starting anew. So here are a few tips to help you succeed.

Create a Spreadsheet of Potential Services Needed

Start by creating a list of services you might need such as flowers, decor, photography, rentals, caterers, entertainment, a/v and tech, etc. From there, aim to have at least 3 vendors in each category that you can reach out to when needed.

Reference Local Resources and Directories

Once you’ve made your list, check resources like your local Convention & Tourism Bureau (CTB), to see what vendors are listed. You can even call and see if there are any references or suggestions they have. Many cities have directories created for meeting planners. For example, Choose Chicago has a great resources for meeting planners.

Reach Out to Other Planners

Some planners are protective of their lists, but it is also important within the industry to be able to attach your name to a referral. If some planners are hesitant to share some of the companies they work with, ask if they would be willing to share any companies that you may want to avoid. While you don’t want to solely rely on industry gossip, if 5 planners have the same problem with the same vendor, that may be a red flag when considering them for a future project.

You can also check various local websites if you don’t want to reach out personally to other planners (although it’s a good idea to meet other industry professionals in your area). Check around and review various websites, and see if there are blog posts that mention any of their vendors. Seeing how a vendor works on projects, as posted by other businesses gives you a good idea of the type of work that vendor can produce.

Another great resource for checking out vendors is PartySlate where they also provide images of their work along with contact information.

Go to Industry Networking Events

A great way to meet vendors is to go to industry networking events. It’s very helpful to meet people in person to get a feel for the company, and the individuals who represent them. Some associations will also have business showcases that feature a variety of businesses to help you get a live action feel for these businesses and give you a starting point for further research.

Schedule Meetings with New Vendors

Whether it’s a zoom meeting or in-person, make an effort to introduce yourself to potential vendors. Ask them questions like “what’s the most difficult client situation they’ve had, and how did they over come it?” Make an effort to understand their work style and what THEY look for in their favorite planners. It’s just as important to understand the work your vendors do, what type of events they specialize in, their costs, etc. You want to be sure that when you are building a proposal with new vendors, you’re getting fair pricing for quality work, and that you can have a variety of pricing options (or a flexible partner) to accommodate all types of budgets you may be working with.

If you are moving cities, be prepared to talk about your experience, the clients you typically work with, and examples of your previous work.

Building a reputation as a great planner will take a bit of time, but it’s important to start strong. Having the right team behind you via great vendor partners is essential in that process.

Article by Jessica Dalka, Owner & Creator of Chicago Planner Magazine


Instagram: @ChicagoPlanner

Twitter: @JessicaDalka

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