By Gregg Hollmann, “Party Professional”
DJ entertainment is surely a referral-based business, so why advertise at all? As DJs, we offer an intangible service that is hard to describe by text, photos, or even video. A prospective client really needs to be at an event to appreciate what a skilled DJ can bring to a party. My sense is that many DJs avoid paid advertising entirely, or else reluctantly participate, believing that referrals are enough.
A few seasoned DJs find no need to advertise since they have been performing for many years and have a steady stream of repeat clients and referrals. In my hometown, we have such an individual, “DJ Brett,” who doesn’t spend any money on advertising yet is booked solid year after year.
For those single operators who are not booked solid, or multi-operators who need to keep their DJ staff busier, advertising is a viable technique to drum up business. I have been operating my DJ service for over ten years and about 50% of our bookings come from referrals and repeat business. Another 25% of business derives from various advertising initiatives. New clients from these advertising programs create fresh hubs of referral-based business that can throw off bookings for years to come.
Done Correctly, Advertising in an Investment, Not an Expense
This is a key concept to grasp. Businesses spend money on advertising with the hopes of recovering their cost and earning an additional financial return. In my opinion, a winning advertising program should return a minimum of 2 times the initial investment. In other words, if a DJ spent $1,000 on an advertising program, they would look to generate at least $3,000 of business from such advertising ($1,000 to re-coup investment, and $2,000 additional business representing their return on the investment). Having experimented with many advertising mediums through the years, our company’s financial returns on advertising have ranged from 0 times (complete losses) to 8 times (home runs). More winning campaigns than losers will result in increasing profits.
In speaking with other DJ business owners, some are willing to accept lower returns on investment on advertising. For example, one major player in the Pennsylvania wedding market stated that he’s content to recoup his money from a bridal show. It’s more than a break-even proposition because of the abundant branding opportunities that he gains by participating in the show.
The Right and Wrong Way to Advertise
The proper way to select advertising is by carefully researching advertising alternatives that make strategic sense for your business and the clientele who you are targeting. For example, a DJ specializing in Sweet 16s might wish to advertise in a free magazine distributed to teen girls in dress stores. A wedding DJ should investigate programs offered by WeddingWire and The Knot. The wrong way to select advertising is to sign on for advertising programs introduced by telemarketers during cold calls that appeal to your sense of greed. These programs are almost always losers.
In researching advertising programs, accept the fact that programs that work well in one geographic market may not work well in your geographic area. Yelp – hugely popular on the West Coast, is relatively less popular on the East Coast. To gain market intelligence, write a post on Facebook asking for feedback from other DJs about their experience, positive or negative, with particular advertising programs. Recently, I spoke with a Maine-based DJ who was wisely seeking feedback on a prospective $3,000 advertising program at his local David’s Bridal store. Our company is a former David’s Bridal advertiser. I provided him my objective opinion that will hopefully help lead him to an informed decision.
Advertising as a Monopoly Board
Another mistake that many DJs make in advertising is favoring cheap advertising programs over more expensive alternatives. In the famous property trading game Monopoly, the cheapest properties like Mediterranean Avenue are analogous to cheap or free advertising programs like CraigsList. Premier advertising programs are comparable to Boardwalk with high rates, but usually because the programs are effective. Don’t make the mistake of perceiving cheap advertising as good, and expensive advertising as bad. Figure out where on the Monopoly board you want to operate. For paid online advertising programs, it often makes sense to pay a bit more to be on the first page of search results. Regarding our company’s wedding marketing, we’ve had good success focusing on featured ads on the premier programs, but again, this strategy will not necessarily work for everybody. Advertising is a technique to produce more leads, but a DJ still needs to possess the requisite sales tools to convert these new leads into bookings.
The 7 Percent Rule
You will not find this rule in any MBA business textbook, but my personal experience is that by spending about 7% of annual sales in advertising, I can consistently grow my company in the 10%-20% range per year. Consistently generating this level of growth will result in a thriving business. Younger businesses should consider spending a bit more on advertising (say 10% of sales) while more established businesses can spend closer to 5% of sales on advertising.
Advertising Options for DJs
Again, with a big caveat that the subsequent advertising options may not work for all DJs in all markets, I have listed below various advertising alternatives for DJs that may be effective for your business:
Lead generation sites like wedj.com, eventective.com, thumbtack.com, gigmasters.com, gigsalad.com, craigslist.org and partyblast.com
Consumer review sites like Yelp, weddingwire.com and theknot.com
Specialty wedding sites like njwedding.com and gayweddings.com
Pay per click programs offered directly by Google and Yahoo (note: many third party companies offer to place your ad on Google. Avoid these third parties, and go direct to the source)
Paid advertising campaigns on Facebook
Local or regional print publications (be wary, print advertising is generally dying a slow death)
Getting a wrap or magnetic logo on your van
Using a custom branded skin on the back of your laptop computer
Online mixes on sites like Soundcloud.com and Mixcloud.com
Radio ads and billboards – expensive, and best suited for larger companies
Online phone directories (avoid the traditional printed phone book)
Company-branded apparel, stickers, magnets
Watermarking party photos shared on social media with your company’s logo
Last but not least: Put on a great performance each and every show that is like a four hour informercial to prospective clients in the audience!
Once you’ve created your portfolio of advertising programs, carefully track results and measure the results on a quarterly basis. Eliminate losing programs and re-invest funds into winners. Always ask leads, “Where did you hear about us?”
If you decide to pursue advertising as a technique to grow your business, participate in only strategic programs and do your homework when researching alternatives. Do not purchase advertising on impulse – you will regret it. Do not be afraid to invest in more expensive advertising programs that produce results. American founding father Thomas Jefferson once said, “The man who stops advertising to save money is like the man who stops the clock to save time.” Remember, advertising done correctly is an investment that produces higher profits to you. It’s only an expense when it fails.