By Mike Walter, “Multi-Op Corner”
In the past few weeks I’ve read a number of blogs written by wedding professionals discussing the practice of banquet halls having “in-house” brochures in which their recommended vendors buy ad space.
While I’m not a huge fan of this practice (seeing how it costs me about the price of a new car every year) but I’m clearly not as opposed as some of the bloggers I’ve read, so I figured I’d weigh in with a counter opinion.
First, we all need to acknowledge there’s a food chain in our industry and like it or not, there’s really nothing that can be done about it.
Bride’s Book their Banquet Hall
Before Any Other Service
This is true anywhere from 95 – 99% of the time. It’s a fact and people who want to deny it are wasting their breath.
So banquet halls are in an enviable position. They get to see the brides first and of course if they get them booked, they’ve also gone a long way towards winning their trust and confidence.
After all, it’s another fact that the banquet hall gets the largest piece of the budget pie so it only stands to reason that before a bride signs on the dotted line (what a horrible cliché, every contract I’ve ever seen has a solid line for the signature) she feels pretty good about her choice and “likes and trusts” the representative at the banquet hall.
Again there may be exceptions to all this but they are few and far between.
With all that readily admitted to, referrals from banquet halls hold some solid weight. Certainly, you can be a successful wedding vendor without them but they help bring in new, solid leads. And isn’t that what we’re all after?
The Banquet Hall’s Point of View
First, let me take this from the banquet hall’s POV. They’re in business to make money. And since we live in a capitalist society, it’s nobody’s business how much they make.
So, if a banquet hall decides that making money off its referrals is another viable revenue stream, I say, have at it. Even if “making money” for them just means saving the printing cost on a nice new brochure. As long as they keep a close watch on who gets into their book, and they don’t allow someone else to sell ad space to wedding professionals that they don’t really recommend, then I fail to see how this can hurt the banquet hall.
In fact I know and work with a few of them who have brought this project in-house and handle all the selling of ad space and the printing themselves. They’ve probably done the math and figured out that all those advertising dollars were adding up to way more than the cost of printing.
I can’t say I was sad to see the middle-man eliminated in these scenarios (especially when the price of my ad went down).
The DJs Point of View
So now I turn to my POV (as the paying vendor). Here’s what usually happens: I’ve been recommended by a certain hall for years. Since we don’t pay any kind of referral fee or commission (or kickback as some like to call it) these referrals are a God-send. Sure we work hard to get them and maintain them, and it’s nice when someone sends you business on merit alone, but I’m also well aware that without a printed, in-house brochure, if another DJ company razzle-dazzles them I could be moved down the referral list. Just like that.
We try to knock on doors every so often and visit the banquet halls that recommend us, and I’m constantly seeing some competitor’s business cards in front of ours (which reminds me, I’ve got to do some visiting soon!)
So when I get a call from a publisher giving me a spiel about a printed brochure for this hall. Great, great, great. I cut them off, no need to listen to the same pitch. I run the numbers (which is so easy to do with DJEventPlanner).
If we booked at least 10 events in that hall based on their referral in the past year it’s a no-brainer. I’ll take a full page ad. If we booked between 3 and 9 I’ll probably take a smaller ad. If we booked less than 3 then it becomes a tough decision.
I’ll usually call the banquet hall and thank the representative who gave out our name. “I’d love to support your book,” I’ll say, “but I’m really hoping to get more support from you . . .” and thus the conversation will go. It usually ends with me promising to take a smaller ad and revisit it when the current brochures run out.
At least, in a situation like this, I’ve had the chance to open up the lines of communication and sometimes banquet halls that were barely mentioning our name become big supporters (especially if some of my competitors pass on their book).
Have I wasted money on ads that never came back to me in solid referrals? Sure. But if I had every dime back I’ve wasted in business I’d be a rich man so I don’t like to dwell on that. After a year (or whenever the current print run is out) I can reevaluate and see if the referrals have increased.
Also with a printed piece in hand, I know that if any new, up and coming DJ impresses the staff, it’ll be a while before he can earn his way (and pay his way) into their book.
In a Perfect World
As I stated in the opening, I’m not a huge fan of in-house brochures for banquet halls. In a perfect world, we’d build solid relationships with banquet people who would be so grateful for how we treat their clients that they’d gladly recommend us (exclusively) to everyone.
But then again in a perfect world every load-in would be easy, every crowd would dance and every day would be 70 degrees and sunny. But as we all know the world’s not perfect. I accept things for how they are and work around them we need to.
What else am I gonna do? Waste time writing about it. Oh, wait. . . .