The event industry at its core is comprised of a great number of small businesses and medium-sized businesses, that quite simply, refer each other. The power of referral is strong in any business, but it seems extremely so when it comes to wedding vendors, and further, wedding entertainment. Not everyone is on the same page though when it comes with who to refer, how to refer them, and how to acquire more referrals. I’ve heard of particular vendors who would purposely not refer Wedding DJ’s because they felt it was too much of a liability. I’ve met wedding DJ’s who would go out of their way to either not work with wedding coordinators as a whole, or ward them off with marketing and website verbiage that stated that they essentially weren’t needed if you hired a professional and experienced wedding DJ. I’ve spoken to DJ’s who won’t allow for videographers to direct connect to their DJ system. Horror stories get shared at the “vendor meal” table for weddings and corporate functions, and a great deal of the time, it’s the DJ who did something overt or unprofessional, but plenty of other vendors are guilty too.
It seems perfectly natural to assume that over the course of one’s professional career in a small to medium-sized business referral network, that you’ll meet some people you get along with, and you’ll meet some people you would rather never work with again. But is this enough? Is there anything else that one can do proactively to ‘attract’ more referrals and build that organic, yet elusive referral network? There is, and it’s called interdependence.
the dependence of two or more people or things on each other.
“the new economic interdependence of the two nations”
Interdependence is talked about quite extensively in the book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen Covey. It’s actually one of the 7 habits. I also feel as though the word ‘effective’ is an important thing to note here. When you network, or when you are out at events, meetings and walkthroughs, our goal should be always striving to be effective. You can’t be ‘efficient’ with people, you can only strive to be effective. Realizing that we are all interdependent of one another at events, and within the industry, is what creates synergy. It’s what allows the event to come together, greater than any single person, or single business could produce. It is what makes the event seem larger than life to those who attend it.
This way of thinking must first come with integrity. When you approach your event and working relationships with other vendors and realize that you truly need them, as they need you, it will be a relationship that is built off of mutual respect. In this environment, the sum is greater than the parts and you are just one of those parts, and in order to reach this sum, you must work together interdependently to complement one another and create synergy.
But how does this way of thinking lead to more referrals?
This is something that I will continue to elaborate on, but it starts with the reason you are doing what you are doing. It starts with the honest approach of respecting others and what they do, NOT because you want to behave in such a manner that will lead to more income, and more work. When you shift your thinking to respecting the wedding planner for her attention to detail, and how she so brilliantly got to know her clients so much that she can make decisions on their behalf that the couple would totally agree with and appreciate. That’s a talent that not a lot of people have, but I’ve met many planners who do have it. Or when you look at a photographers website and you are truly blown away at their level of work. You clearly wouldn’t step next to them or even near them to grab a photo, when you realize that they are very well paid and well-respected professional within their industry. The list goes on. When you have mutual respect for the interdependent relationship for those around you, you’ll have better working relationships that turn to friendships, which turn to the most loyal referrals you’ll ever acquire.
Take a moment to realize that you, the DJ, are just one part of the puzzle and those other parts are just as important.
Sure, we have all adopted and lived by the “the DJ can make or break your wedding/event” principle that has been thrown around websites and used as “value statements” since mobile DJ’ing became a true industry. While I agree that from a guests perspective, great music and entertainment truly is one of the more important factors in keeping you at the event, but what would the event be if there were no food? Would the guests stay and dance until midnight? What would happen if the bar didn’t order any alcohol? Would you keep them there dancing until the end? If the coordinator disappeared before it began and you were left running around trying to speak with the catering captain, photographer, calming mother as to why things are going so ‘roughly’, while watching the bride have a mini-meltdown… do you think then, that the guests would stay until midnight dancing and be having a good time?
I have personally DJ’d over 1000 weddings and I can tell you that the answer is a hard “no”. I have seen this with my own eyes. Being fortunate enough to work my way into a vendor “group” that isn’t so much a formal group you buy into, but one that is made of genuine friendships who are other vendors. In my experience, these vendor circles usually start with someone like a venue captain or wedding/event planner who tends to have a very close list of whom they refer and happen to be very stern with their clients as to them taking their advice as to who they hire. This creates a small “village” like group that is very familiar with one another at events, has a great time working together, that all become more or less genuine friends and acquaintances from the person who is more or less “running” the referral circle. I can’t tell you how much more effective these events are than those that are a bunch of vendors who have never worked together or are often just meeting for the first time, at the event. To see talent come together and create events that are truly next level has reaffirmed to me, that interdependence is real.
Begin with ‘why’ you are doing what you are doing.
When you truly harness your interdependence of others in the event industry, you’ll acquire natural behaviors that will lead to more genuine relationships. For example, when you want to learn more about a photographer and what makes them different from others, and perhaps what they charge so you can refer them to the appropriate clientele, a great thing to do is to take them to lunch, or just meet them for lunch if you can’t afford to pay for them, and ask them to tell you about their business, approach, and pricing. Not only will this person feel flattered, because who doesn’t like speaking about themselves and their business, but it will teach YOU about how to refer them best. In turn, they’ll ask about your style and your business and if they genuinely like you and your service, they’ll have more information to refer you. You’ll learn more about the general pricing of that particular vendor, and more about them personally should you have the opportunity to refer them.
In BNI, Business Networking International, this is a common tool they use as part of their weekly meetup groups. They call this a “one to one” where you make sure to get someone to one time, with those you’d like to refer. You can learn more about them and their business and talk to them about everything from trends to marketing (what’s lucrative and what’s not).
I’ve learned some amazing marketing and social-media tactics by scheduling a luncheon with a different vendor. It’s important to note too, that I never went into it with the idea of getting more referrals or bettering my own current income, gigs, referral, network circles, etc. I went into it simply wanting to learn more about this person and their business. People often wonder what it would like to be a full-time DJ. They think that a full-time DJ must not really be working full-time if there are mainly only gigs on the weekends. The highest tier paid DJ’s in the event industry like myself, often times will only do one event a week, on purpose. Where is all of our time spent? It’s doing things like this. Making time to learn more about other vendors, and how our relationships work on an interdependent level, walkthroughs, seminars, marketing work, social media, client relations… these are just some of the things that will point an entertainment business (mobile DJ business) in the right direction. Sure, you spend some time doing events, but most of your time is all of the other stuff that leads to booking the events.