When you’re searching for vendors for your event, you’re probably not thinking much about the next event after this one. But when it comes to vendors, it pays to think ahead. It’s important to develop good relationships with event vendors, so when you’re looking at what you need for the future, you can rest easy knowing you started off each new relationship on the right foot.
What Kinds of Vendors Do You Need?
The types of vendors you need for an event depend mostly on the kind of event you’re holding, but other factors can play a role too. For instance, the location and venue of an event often help determine what services and amenities you need to contract out to vendors. A typical event might need some of the following vendors:
- Food and beverage/catering. If this isn’t handled in-house by the venue, most events will need some kind of caterer. Vendors in this category often specialize in particular kinds of food, meaning you may eventually need to work with several catering companies to accommodate different kinds of events.
- Equipment rental. Some venues supply certain kinds of equipment; for instance, a hotel with a banquet room or ballroom may have its own sound equipment. But for some events and venues, you’ll need to find a vendor to supply and set up what you need. Depending on your situation, that could be anything from chairs and tables to a sound stage and portable toilets.
- Music and entertainment. This can cover everything from bands and DJs to magicians, face-painters, and balloon artists.
- Depending on the other vendors you hire, you may need additional people for things like table service or coat-check.
- Photographer/videographer. This is for any moment that needs professional capturing, whether it’s at an awards banquet or video footage for promotional purposes.
- Design, décor, and floristry. If you don’t have an in-house design team, vendors can help you add visual flair to an event, for everything from flowers to venue décor to stationery.
- Transportation. Organized event transport adds convenience and helps people save time getting where they need to be.
- For large events that people attend from out of town, organizers often arrange with local hotels to supply accommodation at a bulk rate.
Where Do You Find Vendors?
There’s no need to get too inventive when you’re looking at how to acquire vendors for an event. These tried-and-true methods are typically all it takes to find plenty of options from which to choose.
Ask for Referrals
Before you go online looking for vendors for an event, ask people you know if they can offer any referrals. If you know other event organizers, that’s a great place to start. People who’ve recently held weddings and other celebrations may be able to offer suggestions too, depending on the types of vendors you’re looking for.
If you already have some vendor relationships, they may be able to offer suggestions too. Ask them about vendors they’ve previously worked with, and if they can introduce you to any prospects. For vendors that are in high demand, a personal introduction from another vendor may tip the scales in your favor.
Finding the perfect vendor doesn’t always happen in a snap of your fingers, but the internet can take a lot of the guesswork out of the process. Thanks to popular review sites like Yelp, you can get a good head-start on finding vendors with great track records.
When looking for vendors for your event, Yelp and Angie’s List are good places to start. Industry-specific websites and blogs may be able to provide you with suggestions that mesh well with what you need from your vendors. Be on the lookout for vendors that have good, consistent ratings over a long period of time. They’re the people you want on your team for the long haul.
3 Steps to Establishing Great Vendor Relationships
For most event organizers, having long-term vendor relationships is a cornerstone of holding successful events. Whether it’s great food, exciting entertainment, or just reliable equipment setup, vendors who know what they’re doing are an integral part of any successful, memorable event. And having event vendors you can rely on frees up time for you to focus on elements that need careful management.
Having good vendor relationships also makes it easier to resolve any issues that come up. If there’s a problem with the floral arrangements for a banquet, for instance, your florist will be more willing to work on a quick solution if you’re a long-time customer and on good terms.
Of course, you don’t necessarily find the perfect vendor the first time, but once you find one who ticks all the right boxes, it makes sense to retain them for future events. So it’s always in your best interests to treat each vendor as though they’re the one you want to work with long-term. Even if it turns out that they’re not what you need, there’s always a chance they can recommend someone who’s a better fit.
1. Look for Vendors Who Operate in Your Niche.
If you work in a specific industry, or niche industry, it makes sense to look for vendors who do the same. By going this route, you get to work with vendors who already have experience in the kinds of events you’re putting on. It’s frustrating for both you and your vendors when there’s a steep learning curve, and that frustration can affect your working relationship. It’s not essential, but finding niche-specific vendors can reduce or eliminate that problem.
2. Negotiate with Honesty and Transparency.
When people negotiate, it’s often a matter of one side trying to get the highest possible price and the other side trying to get the lowest. The problem is, treating a negotiation like a tug-of-war means that when one side wins, the other loses. It also means a lot of back-and-forth, with both sides being cagey about what they want and what they’re willing to settle for. While it might work for a one-time deal, it’s not the best way to build a productive working relationship.
Instead, it’s better to negotiate transparently, right from the start. If you have a strict budget, let the event vendor know. Tell them what you need, and ask them if they can do it. It prevents all the back-and-forth negotiating that wastes time and often leads to frustration that can sour the working relationship even if you do manage to make a deal.
3. Be the Client Vendors Want to Work With.
Is your ultimate goal a vendor dream-team that other event organizers would kill for? Unless you have a limitless budget, it’s not likely to be something you can achieve right away. It takes time to build your reputation to the point where you can hire the types of vendors that have their time booked out months or years in advance. In the meantime, it pays to build your reputation as someone vendors enjoy working with.
- Pay on time, as per your contract. Most vendors have stories about clients who pay late or fail to pay at all for their services. Those kinds of stories tend to travel far, and the one thing you don’t want is to be a client vendors start avoiding. Even in a situation where you’re not entirely satisfied with the outcome, consider whether it’s better to pay what you owe or argue about it and take a reputation hit that might stick.
- Don’t make your vendors work for peanuts. While you, as event organizer, might be trying to make a profit out of an event, never forget that your vendors are too. Don’t make the mistake of trying to squeeze a few dollars more at their expense. It often leads to frustration, resentment, and a negative working relationship. If you want vendors who go the extra mile for you, be willing to pay for it.
- Go the extra mile. Speaking of that extra mile—make it a reciprocal relationship. What can you do for your vendors that goes beyond the scope of your contracted arrangements? It doesn’t have to be anything spectacular, just a gesture here and there that reinforces your value as a long-term working partner. Follow them on social media, and link to their content or tag them when it’s appropriate. If you hear they’re having a problem you can help with, offer your services. Refer them to others, and if they do a great job for you, give them a social media shout-out.
Long-Term Partners Make the Best Vendors
Many elements combine to make a successful event, and when you’re planning an event, it’s all about bringing together the best mix of those elements. Deciding where and how to get vendors for an event is just the start of this process. Just as important is developing good long-term relationships with those vendors. When you’re on good terms with your vendor team, they’ll be happy to do their best work for you, at every event you hold.