By Moses Taylor
It’s really simple: Get on a preferred-vendor list at a venue and you’ll see an increase in bookings.
A mobile DJ recently told me of an experience he had where he was booking more than 10 weddings a year at a premier local venue. He was friendly with the venue manager. He had cultivated the relationship and worked on it. He’d stop by in the off-season with some donuts or coffee, say hello; they became Facebook friends.
Donuts won’t always secure the relationship, of course. The only thing that’ll really work is doing a great job, being flexible, and making sure that you make the venue look great by your professionalism and courtesy. But maintaining key relationships certainly, can help.
Eventually, however, this venue coordinator left her job, left the state, and was replaced. Suddenly, this DJ noticed a dip in the number of bookings he was getting. Though he’d had a great rapport with the owner of the venue, all of the weddings that he produced there were five-star reviews, and he even decided to have his own wedding there, the business there took a downturn. It was an oddity, for sure.
Soon after, a bride contacted this DJ—she reached out on The Knot. She told him that she was booking her wedding at this venue, and had looked through the preferred-vendor list. This DJ’s company was not on it.
It’s easy to guess what happened. The venue began to notice that their bookings were down considerably. They called this DJ into their office to see what was going on. He shared what he had learned about the changes to the preferred-vendor list. After some more investigation, it became clear that this DJ was not the only award-winning vendor no longer on the list. The venue was surprised that he had only one wedding booked there that year. Turns out that the new venue coordinator had changed the list; she had replaced the old list with a vast network of her own friends.
The new venue coordinator was soon replaced. This DJ started booking more weddings there with the new venue manager. Back to normal.
Still, lessons were learned all around: For the DJ, he had failed to re-establish during the off-season the type of relationship he had with the previous manager. He’ll never make that mistake again. New manager? New day. Start from square one, and help them to see how valuable you are to their establishment.
The venue learned a hard lesson, too: really good vendors—especially DJs—make the venue look great and help bring in business. They should have been more vigilant about maintaining the venue’s reputation, curating their preferred vendor list, as it relies so heavily on the vendors that perform there. They’ll never make that mistake again.
So, never underestimate the power of that one person at the venue. They can be the difference in the number of weddings you book—and your bottom line.
So, how can you build relationships with venue managers? You want to get on the preferred vendor list, sure, but what you really want to aim for is more than that: you want to be so good that the venue manager would choose you for their own wedding. The value of a testimonial like that is incalculable.
Here are a few ideas: New venue in town? Call them and set up a meeting. Do it with a phone call, but if the manager is an email-only type, be sure to conclude your email with a question, like, “Do you think it makes sense to set up a meeting (or call) to discuss how my company can help you?” That question is designed to get a response.
When you do set up a meeting at the venue, bring a handful of battery-operated uplights; set them up in the room and capture photos. Share these photos on your business page and tag them. Any time you receive an inquiry for that venue, attach the uplighting photo to the first email.
You might be able to get on a preferred vendor list using other services. Plenty of DJs are on preferred lists for different things: live band; photography, videography, whatever services your company offers. We heard from a DJ recently who got his drone pilot license. Sounds odd, but venues are looking for new ways to promote their offerings. So, this DJ was paid for his drone services and also got in the door with the venue manager to discuss his DJ services.
The outside-the-box ideas can be numerous: establish a great relationship with a venue by asking if you could interview them about their venue. This simple interview—which will be posted on your business Facebook page and ultimately shared on the venue’s page—will not only drive traffic to your own page but will help out the venue, which in turn will get you more work.
It can be a quick Q&A with the person. Ask them, “What are the biggest misconceptions the brides have about booking their wedding?” Or ask them, “What are two specific things that make a wedding great?” Ask them to be specific, because it will put a mental image in a bride’s head.
Once you’ve established a rapport with the venue manager, recommend an open house for next year’s brides. It’s like a bridal show, but at this open house the only vendors invited are those that are on the venue’s preferred list. Ask the venue to invite all of the booked brides for the upcoming year and those for the following year. If the venue manager says it’s too expensive, consider sharing in the cost—and ask the other vendors to contribute, too. It beats paying for a bridal show that can typically be a free-for-all.
At the upcoming DJ Expo, Aug. 14-17 at the Atlantic City Convention Center in Atlantic City, N.J., Mick Uranko will present “Increase Your Current Rates—And Get Paid More for the Services You Offer,” a seminar which will feature ideas like these—and many more. For the latest on DJ Expo, please visit www.thedjexpo.com.