Wednesday, December 9, 2009
Wedding Referral Websites
There are a lot of websites like this popping up. They provide what seems to be a shortcut to finding wedding vendors by allowing a bride to fill out a form with some basic information about her wedding date, reception site, budget, and what vendors she's still looking for. The website then sends out leads to vendors who have registered with the site, and if the vendor is interested in that lead, they pay the website a small fee to get the bride's contact information.
Some vendors find this a good way to get bridal leads, but it seems that many of the leads I'm sent are either for unavailable dates, services I don't provide, or are from people who have an unrealistic budget (no, I can't do a cake for 300 people for $150.)
The thing that brides need to realize, beyond the fact that vendors pay for the leads, which most people don't seem to know, is that you STILL need to do your own research after getting referrals from these websites. Since anyone who's registered can buy a lead, you're still going to have to make sure that the businesses that respond to you are reputable and can do a good job.
So what are the best ways to start looking for vendors? I still contend that the best way to get referrals is to ask your friends, family, and other wedding professionals. Looking directly at vendors' websites is a good way to start narrowing down your search, then start asking people about the businesses you're interested in.
Wedding message boards can also be a good way to start, but consider the source. Online forums where reviews can be posted are sometimes only semi-reliable, due to the anonymous nature of the posts. If vendors get consistently good reviews they should be fine, but online review forums should also only be a starting point. Again, go to the vendors' websites and look directly at their work. A vendor might get great reviews, but if their style doesn't mesh with yours the reviews really aren't relevant to you.
So keep in mind that wedding referral websites, which might seem like a good idea, may not be the one-stop experience they look like. You still need to do some legwork and make sure that the vendor who looks so good on paper is a good fit for what you need in real life. Don't assume that a vendor is the right one for you just because they can afford $3 to buy your email address!