Earlier this year I was asked to be a part of a “paid” referral cabal at a “wedding farm” in a larger market near my home in Williamsburg, Virginia.
In theory, this mutual admiration society seemed innocent and on the “up and up,” but unfortunately my ego and my naiveté got the best of me.
This particular person/property had seen me in action and had sent me a few leads that had turned into closed contracts and I was absolutely feeling the love. Kind of like a really fabulous first date! Finally, after doing my first wedding at the property in question, I did my usual post event follow up and was invited to lunch.
How the “swindle” began.
The lunch included a very “HARD” sell about how… for my low cost of XXX …I would triple my business just by being on their referral list because of the number of events this property handled.
My radar should have gone off immediately, but it didn’t. I wanted to make new friends. I wanted to believe in networks. “Advertising costs money”, I justified in my head, “all they are suggesting is that we ‘pool’ our advertising dollars. I’m not just ‘paying’ for leads.” In theory…on paper…it looked and seemed OK. It seemed ethical. Similar businesses merging their advertising dollars to the group’s advantage: what could go wrong?
Hindsight is 20/20.
At lunch with the “head” sales staff, again my radar should have sent me packing, but again, it didn’t. Madame salesperson immediately began treating my “service” as a DJ as if it were a “product” and told me “No DJ has ever charged more than XXX” (something I haven’t worked for in YEARS). SHE was telling ME what my value was and I let her get away with it.
Again, for whatever reason, I was putting all artistic integrity aside and was trying to expand my mind to the wonders of “volume” and let this USED CAR SALESMAN tell me what I should charge! I was polite. I let it slide. But it felt wrong!!!! My “out loud” voice made a deal to send my associates for this low-ball price. My internal accountant figured I could make a little cash in the process, but in my heart, it felt like prostitution…and I was part “pimp” and part “ho.”
Show me the Money!
Several months went by…and as promised I received several lead lists right on schedule, but NO actual incoming phone calls that could be attributed to this venture. NONE!
Every phone call I made to the head sales person to see how things were going were not returned. I wondered to myself, “How is this a partnership?”
Icing on the cake.
Again, after “paying for protection to the mafia” for several months, I was ready to see some kind of results, and nothing was happening.
Then I was informed that I would be expected to participate in a very expensive bridal show under the umbrella of this property. Not my own booth, just more money to be their “bi**h”. I was expected to pay full price for a booth, but be in the “property’s” area, selling my services at their venue! Oh yeah, and they INSISTED that as part of being in the cabal, I was REQUIRED to write TWO blog articles a month for them as part of the arrangement and they wouldn’t be asking again.
I might be slow, but I ain’t stupid.
I politely let them know that the arrangement wasn’t working out and thanked them for their time.
The bottom line.
Sometimes arrangements like this can work, IF everyone is on the same page. In my particular circumstance, we were NOT all on the same page.
Trust your radar and heart. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it!