Ask mobile DJ's
the best source of advertising for his/her business and the most
often heard reply will be REFERRALS. Referrals, of course, come
in different forms. Sometimes they are your own repeat
customers. Sometimes they are people who attended an event you
performed at. Sometimes they are the friend-of-a-friend of
somebody who has seen you perform. Sometimes they are other
event professionals - venue owners/managers, photographers, caterers,
etc. - who have worked with you at some time in the past.
essentially no "cost" to you, the "referral
method" of advertising can and does become very important to the
competent and successful mobile DJ business. It reduces your
costs. It supplies you with what everybody selling a product or
service yearns for - "warm calls" from prospective
customers who are already "sold" on you. It fills
Its such a
beautiful thing that many veteran DJ's - both single-op and multi-op
- have all but abandoned conventional advertising. How do we
know this? Well, besides openly bragging about how they
"don't need to advertise any more" one needs only to peruse
the Yellow Pages, visit a bridal show, or surf the Internet.
What you find is a relative lack of advertising in comparison to the
total number of mobile DJ companies operating in a given geographical
area. In fact, when you DO see advertising, you can bet that it
comes from a certain type of mobile DJ business in over 90% of the cases.
advertises? New single-op start-ups are, by far, the heaviest
advertisers. And this is quite natural because they are trying
to create a place for themselves in the market. Second to
start-up single-ops are expanding multi-ops. Again, this is
quite natural because they have probably recently invested in
equipment purchases and new employee hiring/training and they need to
accelerate recouping that investment. One other type of DJ also
advertises rather heavily - the incompetent and/or fraudulent DJ
company. They HAVE to, in order to attract business because
they get few or no referrals.
OK, now let's step
back and look over that group of mobile DJ's who do a lot of
advertising. Do you see anything they MAY have in common?
Give yourself a star if you said, "low quality." Not
that every start-up single-op or every new employee DJ of a multi-op
is "low quality" but, as a group, they would certainly rank
lower in terms of "business experience" than those who have
been in the business for a while. And the incompetents and
frauds speak for themselves in this context.
What does this
mean to the consumer? Many of our industry leaders love to talk
about "educating the consumer." Most often this is
tied to cries for higher rates, but not always. But have any of
us really thought about how our NON-REFERRAL consumers are expected
to find us? If you're the best mobile DJ in your market, but
you don't allocate a lot of money to advertising, how will the
"uninformed" (i.e. non-referral) consumer learn of your
existence? Dumb luck? That would be the ONLY way for most
non-referral consumers to happen to hit upon YOUR company in their
search for a DJ. And who does that mean will get most of the
calls from this vast segment of potential customers?
That's right! -
The group who DOES advertise! And who are they? The DJ's
with the highest probability of being on the LOW end of the quality
spectrum - new single-ops, expanding multi-ops, and
incompetent/fraudulent DJ's. And it happens for one reason, and
one reason only. Because many of the industry veterans, its
"leaders," have decided that MORE REFERRALS MEAN WE DON'T
NEED TO ADVERTISE, EITHER AT ALL, OR AS MUCH.
What effects does
this have? Well, the first is obvious and has already been
stated. More gigs going to low quality DJ's than
warranted. And there is a secondary related effect of this
also. All those clients and guests that get stuck with a low
quality DJ now have a less-than-stellar perception of mobile DJ's in
general. Is this a problem for the high quality DJ's? If
you don't think so, you'd better think again. While you're out
there booking and doing jobs on close to a 100% referral basis, many
of your competitors are in the process of ruining YOUR
reputation. No, not in terms of a DIRECT attack - it's a
"stealth attack." And most often, neither they nor
you are even aware that this is what's really going on.
Ask yourself - Why
does Ford advertise heavily? McDonald's? Holiday
Inn? Wal-Mart? Certainly they have lots and lots of
satisfied customers who will come back again and again.
Certainly those satisfied customers will refer other customers.
Certainly they have a true presence in their respective markets.
So, why spend so much on advertising? Is it to get more
customers? Well, yes it is. But there's another far less
obvious reason - To keep POTENTIAL customers from going to their
competitors! And think about this.
What if Ford
stopped advertising? Then another car company, then
another? Gradually, more and more of the car business would go
to the companies that continued advertising. This would allow
the advertising companies to gain some pretty significant financial
advantages for their stockholders. In fact, it would lead to
monopoly if allowed to continue unimpeded. Would the advantaged
car company decide that profits were, at some point, high enough and
it was now time to spend money on improving their products and
services? -- Not a chance. Instead, they would seek ways to cut
even MORE costs, probably in terms of product/service quality for a
start. Yes, this might lead to a lower price for their product/service,
but what they lose in quality they'll more than make up in quantity.
Let's now refocus
on OUR industry. If the "leaders" don't advertise,
where do first-time buyers go? Well, by dumb luck, a few might
go to those industry leaders. But the vast majority will go to
DJ's who are easier to find - those that ARE advertising. Make
no mistake. Advertising and marketing cost money, lots of
money. But it's also an investment - an investment in the
future of one's company AND in the future of one's industry.
Without advertising by the leaders, the followers will gradually make
themselves more and more of a market presence. And the more low
quality DJ's that get more business than they deserve the more prices
for the entire industry will be artificially suppressed.
You want higher
rates for your mobile DJ services? Maybe it's not just a
question of charging more and "getting what you're really
worth." Maybe it's a question of "defending your own
territory" by ensuring that you DON'T just depend on referrals
to fill your calendar. Maybe you should consider spending more
on marketing and advertising in order to truly justify that higher
rate. Maybe what's going on outside the confines of your own
business is as important as what goes on inside, in terms of reaching
for the "brass ring" of your company's financial success
and your industry's consumer respect.
Scott & Doreen
Susor are the Owners/Operators of "Your DJ" Professional
Entertainment Services in Houston, Texas
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