Like most posts on this website, this post is going to be specific to wedding and event DJ’s. There are a lot of strategies for getting on more preferred vendors lists, and of course, everyone would love to find the magic solution for achieving this. The truth is, there isn’t a simple solution for getting referrals, or getting on more preferred vendors list. The answer is far more complex and requires not only knowledge but some effort, over time, to accomplish. There are some guidelines to follow however, that could be beneficial in ensuring that you get on more preferred vendors lists. DJ services and entertainment, in general, can be a tough thing to refer for venues. There is some risk involved as there are a lot of different options when it comes to entertainment. What works for some, might not work for others. And to further that, there is quite a bit of negative buzz to the professionalism of a lot of mobile DJ’s (something this website is aimed at fixing). For some venues and event planners, referring the “good” DJ’s is all that much more important, because of the reputation of the average DJ, but also because there is a great need for talented and professional mobile DJ and when you find one, you want to pass that on to your clients.
Another struggle with referring DJ’s is the fact that by the time the events are under way, the point of contact and the person in charge of referring are long gone and the “event manager” takes over. While the event manager or on-site coordinator might have some influence, they still don’t typically have the final say in who gets on the preferred list, which can create some issues. Over time the venues find themselves with outdated lists, or a list of professionals the current staff at the venue is a bit out of touch with. So how does this all get fixed and lead to a mutually beneficial situation? Here are a few tips to get you started in the right direction.
#1 Stay in the loop
Believe it or not, I’ve been put on a preferred vendors list before I ever actually performed at the venue. Really, it’s quite simple. Most people in the industry will assume that if you are a working professional and have gained the trust of companies or couples who are looking to have their event at a said venue, that you more or less know how to play music and run a sound system and “MC” on a competent level. While there are always ways to improve your skills as a DJ, a great skill to develop in the business world is how to communicate at an efficient level. I use the word efficient because I think it’s important to acknowledge that there is a line. You don’t want to overstep that line and become annoying or a nuisance to venues and event planners, but you do want to get your name in front of them. Touching base with the point of contact prior to an event to introduce yourself in a concise email with a professional email signature is a great start. If for example, you are working a wedding but the client has not hired a wedding planner. A helpful thing to do is to ensure that your couple has a timeline and that the venue has a copy and that the other vendors do as well (photographer, videographer, photo booth, etc.). While this is normally something that a wedding / event planner would do, in the absence of one, bridging the gap not only helps to make the event run more smoothly, but it helps to get your name (and your professional email signature with links to your business) in front of the point of contact again.
After the event, assuming the event went well and you were able to make some genuine connections throughout the evening, it’s a great idea to send a follow-up as well. Thank them for their help and let them know that the event went very well and that the client was happy. If you have a camera with you (which you absolutely should) take some nice photos and edit them as best to your ability and share them with the point of contact to PROVE to them that even though they went home before the event started, that you not only stayed in great communication with them throughout the planning process, but that the event truly went well for the guests.
#2 Press Kit
Making a professional Press Kit with photos, pricing information, a cover letter introducing yourself and your intentions (getting recommended by the venue) with whatever else you can think of (i.e. business card, brochures, sample mixes, schwag) is a great tactic. Not only does this work well when you are soliciting a venue and trying to get them to refer you without ever having worked there before, but it also works well as a follow-up to having worked at a venue. Doing this in a timely manner is helpful as well because you want to get your information in front of them while they still have a recent memory of you working at the venue and doing a great job. If you think about how you can do this sequentially, it can start to paint a picture. Getting your name in front of the venue coordinator and point of contact PRIOR to working there, performing a great event for the guests (see: being a great DJ), following up with them to show your gratitude and to extend your willingness to stay in touch, and following that up with a professional press kit with great content and information about how you do business, is a simple process that works time and time again.
#3 Networking & Associations
Everyone has heard about networking and stressed over and over that it works. Just like perfect practice makes perfect, perfect networking makes perfect. There are a lot of people who will tell you that networking wasn’t worth the time or the money, or that it was a popularity contest, or that they don’t have the time, etc. There are three excuses as to why someone can’t make it to one reason why they found themselves out and about and networking with their colleagues. It’s true that there is a skill in even networking (something I’ll elaborate on more later) but the BEST skill with networking is simply showing up. For DJ’s, one of the better points of contact at a networking meeting would be venue contacts. If you think about it, they are the biggest asset to any wedding or event industry networking meeting. They work for a venue and not likely for themselves. They also are not likely being paid to be there. They are donating their time to see who is out there and active, and to improve their work relationships when people come to their venue to work wedding and events. Simply by showing your face and having a nice conversation with them, will remind them of who you are and what you do, and hopefully get you recommended by the venue over time.
I recently went to a Wedding Wire networking party and had a great example of this happen. I ran into a venue contact for a venue I had not worked at for about two years. She remembered me and mentioned that they were out of my brochures and cards and that she would love it if I were to send some more to her. I wouldn’t have thought to do that, and likely wouldn’t have ran into her, unless I was out and about and networking.
Another real world example: I was “hosting” an event for ABC – Association of Bridal Consultants. Hosting basically means that you donate your services, but they, of course, get recognized by everyone in attendance and on social media. So in this case, I was DJ’ing and providing sound for a luncheon where there were speakers about various things in the wedding industry, some open discussion, and a nice lunch and networking hour. I ended up having a nice long conversation with the owner of the venue (who in this case, is in charge of the preferred vendors list) and without saying a word about it, she added me to their preferred vendor’s list. Just being at a level that an association will invite you to “host” it is a great use of your time and donation of your services is a great start, but also think about how professional that makes you look to the members of the association, the venues who are hosting the events, and so on.