How Marketing to Wedding Couples has changed in 40 years

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By Andy Ebon, “Wedding Marketing Expert”

haas_lilienthal_houseMy mobile DJ career started in 1977 with Music Man Mobile Disco. Later that year Music Man provided service for its first wedding reception, at the Haas-Lillienthal House in San Francisco.

Why is that so clear in my memory? THE FRONT STAIRS. It is a historic mansion, still rented out for events, and it lacked the benefits of modern access.

My DJ experience started in 1972 in Manhattan nightclubs, so I had five years under my belt before DJing my first wedding. I was a highly qualified DJ; a marginally qualified Wedding MC.

The client lead came from a display-classified ad in New West Magazine, the now-defunct West Coast companion publication to New York Magazine (still published today). Our contracts were generated on a typewriter, using 3-part NCR forms (no carbon required.

The client would receive a 1-page wedding/event form to share the details of the day.

In these ancient times, our DJ stock-in-trade was a combination of 45s and LPs. The size and variety of your record collection, accompanied by your musical knowledge was a significant point of advantage.

12” singles would be soon to follow, with the advent of Saturday Night Fever and all the excitement it generated.

Marketing Evolution

To be found by a prospect, there were a scant few viable options

  • Local Magazine Ads
  • Wedding Shows
  • Local Wedding Magazines
  • Yellow Page Ads
  • Preferred Vendor Lists at Venues
  • Client and Peer Referrals
  • Brochures
  • Direct Mail
  • Public Relations

It should be noted that in San Francisco area Yellow Pages, in 1977, there was not even a section for DISC JOCKEYS. That did not appear until 1979.

Today, DJ Entertainment businesses have virtually unlimited options to self-promote. Even more challenging is that new online platforms come and go with the pace of a revolving door, at warp speed.

This moving-target leaves you prone to second-guessing marketing decisions. Continuous learning has become a necessity to understanding both THE NOW, and the next big thing. Fail to keep up, and competition crushes you.

Marketing to the 21st Wedding Couple

Just as you have limitless choices, so does the engaged couple. The democratization of information, on the surface, seems like a great thing. However, the couples are now overwhelmed with every major and minor piece of information, from their backyard to anywhere on the planet. It’s up to you to help them sift through it and understand what really matters.

Websites, blogs, and social media have become a great equalizer (as platforms for information), but today, you must really know the marketing game, and how to play in the most efficient and effective manner.

DJ Gear and Music

There were few (meaning mostly none) off-the-shelf DJ booths, ready-made facades, limited options for rack-mounted music gear, music was analog (so your individual record collection mattered). Lighting started mirror balls, some tracking lighting, and not much else.

Through the years, music technology transformed, in tandem with all communication technology. From vinyl to cassettes, mini-discs, and compact discs. Then, finally digital music, largely computer based.

Music collections were once a bragging right. Now, that barrier of entry has been removed. One can buy and maintain a digital collection, overnight.

In my opinion, DJ companies no longer have a valid reason in failing to have a console and/or façade that looks great.

Communication: At the speed of light

From live answering service to answering machine to answering with pager to voice mail to cell phones to video conference calls. Lest we not forget email, text messages, and who-knows-what’s else.

In many senses these communication tools are variations of the same uses, but at a more rapid pace and absolutely direct. Hard to imagine 2015 communication technology, back in 1977.

What DJ Message Boards demonstrate

Shockingly, DJ discussions on today’s digital message boards don’t differ much from personal discussions from the 1970s. “The bride didn’t leave a complete message, didn’t leave her name… return phone number… best time to call back. “

OR, THE BIG COMPLAINT: “All they did was ask about price.”

Whether you received the message by phone, online inquiry form, email or text, your situation is no different than your ancient DJ predecessors.

Robert Ringer’s Theory of Reality

Things are as they are, not what you would like them to be.” ~ Robert J. Ringer, Winning Through Intimidation

And the obvious follow-up to Ringer’s quotation is, it is mandatory to work with the prospect/client in their communications world, effectively… whether or not their preference is your favorite.

Target your customer

To succeed, efficiently, it’s essential to develop a succinct profile of the wedding couple you seek to serve.

  • What market area do you wish to serve?
    • Radius by miles or kilometers
    • What zip codes, postal codes
    • Driving logistics, constrained by geography – this may refer to driving time, bridges and tunnels, predictable traffic bottlenecks.
  • What venues do you and the couple prefer?
    • Make a list of the top 10-20 venues (hotels, free standing venues) that fit both your profile and your target couple’s profile… And then go about the business of building relationships with those venues.
  • Bridal Shows still matter… IN A BIG WAY
    • Over decades, it is still true that wedding couples show up in significant numbers (approximately 50% or so) to meet wedding professionals face-to-face. While it’s fine to finalize a few bookings at the show, the big winners are the ones armed with an appointment calendar and fill it to capacity.
    • In addition to making appointments, hosting an open house or showcase 1-2 weeks, post wedding show, at your office or friendly-venue creates selling synergy of the highest order.
    • Wedding Show Producers are mostly local, offering events, web site directories, lead lists, and education.
    • Generally, show producers know more than their exhibitors and prospective exhibitors. Ask them questions; then listen to their answers The best businesses can fail miserably if they’ve taken no time to design their booth, train show staff, or follow-up after the show. And in this case, follow-up refers to telemarketing, postcards, emails, and the like. Producers will plenty of examples from the worst to the best.

Clarify your point of difference and avoid cliches

  • Use the old school term USP (unique selling proposition) or Seth Godin’s modern term, Purple Cow, or a term of your own making to define that point of difference.
  • Be able to articulate what, specifically, makes your company DIFFERENT than others. Articulate in terms of BENEFITS, not FEATURES. And be prepared, in conversation why the benefit is important. It may not be so obvious to the prospect.
    • Feature vs. Benefit – Example below
    • Feature: The Las Vegas Ballroom is 4000 sq. ft.
    • Benefit: The Las Vegas Ballroom, comfortably seats 350 with a 30 ft. x 30 ft. dance floor and has a view of the Las Vegas Strip.

Provide Sales Training for you and your staff

In my travels and observations, sales acumen is the weakest business skill of most wedding companies. Many businesses are great at what they do, but have not devoted the time and money to leverage their investment to create appointments and close sales.

  • Sales training should include both bridal show staff and office sales staff.
  • Everyone in the company should be able to carry on a proper conversation with a peer or prospect that results in a lead, referral, appointment, sale, or furthers a business relationship.
  • Think your crew needs to hear from someone other than you? Bring in an outside voice. (I’ll happily make myself available.)

Use a CRM System

Customer relationship management systems provide you the structure the path of your leads… along the way to communications, appointments, and sales.

Three Notions

The great music producer Quincy Jones had a message to artists participating in the recording of We Are The World; “Check your egos at the door.”

DJ Industry Performer and Education, Randy Bartlett made a great post on Facebook; None of us are as impressive as we think.”

These are my words: “Be thoughtful, humble, a team player, and don’t believe you are the smartest or most talented person in the room. Take that approach and you will be more likeable and appreciated in the long run… and that leads to relationships and sales.” (Wish someone had told me that much earlier in my business career)

Parting Thoughts

Know your customer, where you want to do business, participate in bridal shows (always) in addition to all other marketing you do, and learn how to sell.

See, it’s not so different from the Disco Era. You just have to stay current and be disciplined in your marketing sales approach.

Price

It may be the first thing you’re asked about, but if you understand the key points in rapport building, understanding customer needs, and communicating your point of difference, in the end, the only question you’ll be asked is: “What do we have to do to finalize booking your service for our wedding?”

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