We're Not in 2005 Anymore, Toto

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Often I hear from wedding vendors that they're not going to "do social media" because they're going to befriend a bunch of planners (or venues, but for this post let's say planners) and that's how they'll spread the word about their product or service and get referrals. Which is all well and fine except the world doesn't work like that anymore.

Take for example, Paloma's Nest, who quickly became the darling of the design and wedding blogs after launching her company on Etsy at the end of 2007. Yes, she had wedding planners recommending her products, but it was the fact that they were the "must have" item that drove up their demand. Since then, her products have been sold at Anthropologie, BHLDN (Anthropologie's new wedding line) and Caroline will be opening her flagship store in June 2011. Also, because Caroline engages in social media in a real way, people are more emotionally connected to her original product than a lower priced knockoff.

Contrast that with another bridal company who sought out key, high-end planners as their referral base. They ran an extremely lucrative business until that well dried up. One planner had a relative who started offering a similar product and since blood is thicker than water, she used that relative as her sole source. Another planner closed up shop abruptly due to an unforeseen family emergency. Another planner became friends with a competitor of the original company's and the referral phone stopped ringing. Then the economy hit and it was easier to find knockoffs and because this vendor hadn't built a public facing name, brides didn't feel an attachment to them and opted for the lower priced copies instead. Did I mention this was all in the luxury market?

High-end, low-end, middle of the road: no market segment is immune to human nature. Even if you strictly offer a wholesale product not available directly to the public, having a strong social media presence will help insure that demand for your product stays high: through vendor changes, economic declines and any other curve balls life may throw your way. If you're solely banking on vendor referrals carrying you through, you may do okay for a little while, but in the long-term you're playing a losing game.

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