When I got engaged a few months ago, I promised myself that I would not turn into the type of person that blogs the experience. In fact, if I remember correctly – I might have made a few snide comments about people who turn their lives into one big rollicking frolicking wedding planning machine. I may have even swore that I would never torture my colleagues with the details of my wedding (colors, flowers, cake toppers…oh my). And yet, here I am. My excuse for this post is that as a marketing and PR pro, I’ve approached my wedding in the same way that I would approach a marketing project for a client. In fact, early on, I believe I told my fiancee that our wedding would be very similar to putting together a large creative tradeshow presence (I’m a romantic, I know).
So I’ve approached my wedding vendors in the same manner that I approach third-parties that I manage on behalf of my clients, and the entire experience has been a reminder in the importance of good vendor management and the extreme (yes, extreme) importance of following up.
Here are a few tips that I’ve picked up along the way:
- Set clear expectations up front: Your vendor can’t execute your vision if you don’t tell them what you want. Come in with a plan, details and examples so that you are able to clearly communicate your expectations prior to signing any contracts. If you want to be happy with a vendor then you need to arm them with everything that they need to be successful. Remember to ask questions and give your vendor the opportunity to provide feedback. As I learned in my mandatory pre-wedding counseling sessions (lol), good relationships always start with clear communication.
- Talk budget early and often: If you’ve decided on a budget, it’s critical that you share that information with your vendor up front. You won’t have to negotiate down a totally out-of-the-ballpark price quote if you provided a range at the onset of the relationship. It’s also important to check in with vendors frequently to make sure that your project continues to fall within the agreed upon budget, and that additional time and charges will or will not be needed.
- Let the experts do their job: I am not a florist. Nor am I a baker, DJ or a professional seamstress. In fact, I hired a florist, a baker and a DJ because I NEED them to do what they do best. Once you’ve described your vision, budget and scope sit back and give your vendor the room that they need to do their jobs. Remember, if you can do it better – then you shouldn’t have hired anyone in the first place.
- Get it in writing: This is a no brainer – in our world, nothing is guaranteed unless it’s in writing. When you and a vendor agree to something, even if it’s something very simple, a verbal agreement isn’t enough. Send a recap email of the conversation, ask for a revised contract or tell your vendor to add an addendum to your original scope of work.
- Set deadlines and stay on top of them: There is no way to stay organized and on top of things without deadlines. Once you’ve signed a contract with a vendor, sit down with them and map out the relationship with a project timeline. Set deadlines, milestones and pre-scheduled meetings and then stick with the plan. If things shift (as they often do), revise the timeline and make sure that all parties agree to new timing.
The final, and most important tip is to set the expectation with all vendors that you need follow up on any deliverable or open item – this will avoid situations where you’re left wondering about status (and will cut down on overall stress for both you and your vendor). And of course, to ensure a positive relationship it’s important to be a good client – deliver things on time, be communicative and always say thank you for a job well-done. In other words, no one likes a Bridezilla.
Agencies, what are your top vendor management tips? Vendors, do you have ideas to add to this list?