Deal…or No Deal?
By Ryan Burger
HOW TO HANDLE DISCOUNTS FOR FAMILY AND FRIENDS
You run a fantastic company that everyone wants to hire for their events…including, of course, your friends and relatives. So how do you handle them when they ask you for a “deal.” This is a touchy spot that can leave you feeling taken advantage of if you don’t view it the right way. I would suggest two categories to help you deal with the question: “Deal, or no deal?” You should be able to look at these kind of “close” potential clients from one of these two perspectives:
1. Immediate “Family:” This includes truly immediate family like brothers and sisters, but also their significant others (brothers/sisters-in-law). And, at this level I also include employees who are like my business “family.” What I have done on these occasions is donate the services but I also ask that they pay my DJ employee. The company portion is about a $400-$450 gift, much more than anyone else is probably giving the couple, except for maybe the parents, but it works well. I ask that they look at the calendar and, if at all possible, avoid scheduling their event during my busier times with their higher income potential.
2. Everyone Else: I would others a deal of maybe $50 off, which is within my negotiability on almost any contract. I’d steer them to away from a prime date such as a Friday or Sunday and work from there.
Another way to “give” more to the potential friend/relative client is to use “the more bang for your buck” approach. If they are in category #2 above, I would offer them an extra hour of service, more personal attention on the event (“How about if I take care of you myself instead of my employees doing the event?”), free party props, etc.—anything that isn’t money directly out of my pocket. Another angle is to offer a heavier discount on add-on services such as a photo booth or something similar that doesn’t require heavy set-up or other labor/expense on your part.
It should be relatively easy for you to come up with “deals” that you are comfortable offering to friends or family. The greater challenge may be explaining your offer to the person who thinks they should get a super deal because they know a DJ.
Remember, this is what you do for a living. If the person works in retail, for instance, they might be able to get you their employee discount of 10%, but they can’t just give away their company’s income. And in other cases, discounts are simply not an option. Just because your buddy works for UPS does he give you a discount?
THE HOBBY PROBLEM
The real problem lies in the unfortunate fact that most people, unless they really know someone in the DJ business, consider what we do to be a hobby. This is because a large segment of your competition is treating it that way. This is the reason why my company never got into karaoke and the bar karaoke market. In the Des Moines, Iowa area where we are based, there are simply too many people who will do a KJ gig at the local bar for $100 and their drink tab. This DJ thing is a real profession for us, and we express it in everything we do.
Maybe your friends from college remember when you used to think of DJing with a “paid to party” attitude, and they don’t know that you now take it seriously, read trade magazines, file taxes for the business instead of pocketing the cash, go to trade shows, and more. (And besides, If they haven’t talked to you since college, “way back when,” what right do they have to ask for a “friends and family” discount anyway?.)
Fixing this “hobby problem” has been an ongoing challenge for the national DJ associations, but we have a long way to go before people automatically treat DJs as true professionals.
Once you have educated your friend or family member about the reality of your profession, you should be able to strike a deal that is acceptable to all parties. Then, once you have performed a great gig and made their event a success, you’re likely to get at least few referrals that result in full-price clients!
Deal, or No Deal? The Online Buzz
We asked some of our chat board members at Start.MobileBeat.Com to weigh in on the subject of special treatment for family and friends. Here are some responses:
I tend to handle it by offering a small discount—nothing too drastic—and then explain that, because entertaining is my ONLY job, I can’t offer up one of my scarce weekend dates for free, nor can I miss my target income for that week if I expect to stay afloat. More often than not, they understand. If not, I say, “What would you do if your boss said that he’s not having a good month, and would you come in and work a week for free? Or half-pay?” That usually makes the light bulb come on.” – Stu, Stu and His Crew, SE Michigan
I base things like this on my actual relationship with the person. If it’s somebody I do a lot of things with and am involved otherwise on a regular basis with…then I would cut them a wider latitude than someone who I never hear from til they need a favor.” – Ken Heath, Start.MobileBeat.Com Moderator, Los Angeles, CA
“I totally agree with Ken to a point. I have quite a large family and a lot of them got me off to the start I got, so I like to pay back to my family and give them a discount. Friends on the other hand could be a best friend when they need something and never talk to you until they need something again so it’s a case by case situation. I would say relationship is key to the discount.” – DJ Krim, Northern NM
“Charge them double. No discounts. Friends and family usually want you to work harder, and want more out of you for nothing than the average customer. It is best to refer your friends/family to another reputable DJ which they have no manipulation over.” – Robert Starkey, Havasu Entertainment, Lake Havasu City, AZ.
“No Discounts… in fact, like a lawyer or doctor, I shy away from doing events for friends and family.” – DJ Jeffrey Evan Mufson, Jemstar Entertainment, Tampa, FL
For me it all depends on the relationship. Are they really friends or “acquaintances?” Close friends and family, I tell them just pay my guy directly, I’m not taking a dime and the DJ gets cash, so he’s happy. Previous clients get our “friends and family rate” We have numerous instances where we’ve done 3,4 or 5 weddings for a family and we’ll adjust accordingly as needed, not to 2000 prices, but we consider the relationship valuable and will make sure they know we appreciate the business. Outside of that, this is my business: I can’t give everyone a discount and still make a profit and a living wage. As I’ve pointed out on sales calls to clients, MY BEST PRICE and “Your best price” are often hundreds of dollars apart. MY BEST PRICE makes me the most money. Your best price means I’m not making what I want to be making. I’m always after MY BEST PRICE. – Brian Smith
I agree with Ken on the subject. Level of discount depends on the individual relationship with the family/friend. Usually, I can use the, “I don’t want to work, I wanna be a guest!” excuse, then offer to assist them with finding another DJ. This absolves me from being put in the uncomfortable position. – Lou Silva
Thankfully I don’t have a lot of family asking me to do events…
Friends are another situation! If they know this is solely what I do to feed my family and pay my bills, I wonder why they would even ask for a discount in the first place. I can’t ask my friend, the mortgage broker, to get me a discounted loan. I can’t ask my friend, the car salesman, to give me a car at cost. Well…I could ask, but I realize that is how they feed their families and are often NOT the business owner who can make that decision.
Now, I can ask my friend who does remodeling if we can do a trade-out. Perhaps he can put a new floor in my kitchen and only make me pay for the hard costs (i.e. the wood flooring) and get his services for less if I can do his daughter’s wedding for less than my normal fee. Give and take.
I think too many look at a DJ profession as far from a “real job”, and therefore they don’t think we should be able to live off our DJ income. How many full-time DJs have ever had someone ask them when they were going to give up this “DJ thing” and get a real job? – Brian, DJ Busyb
I’m not entirely successful at it myself, but one thing I have been trying is to somehow insist on some sort of ROI or “horse-trading” if you will, i.e. your cousin is getting married and expects a discount, so you give ’em one. Is it unfair that you ask them to do something in return? Review your marketing, compare your services to others, Use pictures and video from their wedding, try out new things, etc., etc. – Hippydog
I’ve had to tell my friends and family that Saturdays are off-limits for discounts. Not even my mother gets a discount on a Saturday.
I explain that Saturday is THE day. I further explain that there are only 52 a year, with a few of those being hardly-ever-booked Saturdays. For example, the Saturday just before or just after Christmas hardly ever gets booked. I explain that I need those income opportunities to survive.
Now if it’s on any other day of the week, I’m more than willing to negotiate. But I make it a rule to never cut my base rate by more that 50%. This is to prevent being taken advantage of. But I will throw in add-ons at no additional charge. – DJ Wes
I borrowed the “model” that the leader of the band I hired for my wedding offered me in 2000. This was one of THE best bands in the area at the time, that I referred to many country club members. When it came time for my own wedding, I never asked but the band leader insisted upon showing his appreciation by offering me his deepest discount. He had a 3-tier discount package: Friends, Relatives and Family, with “Family” offering the deepest discount.
I was really impressed by how organized this guy was and how all 6 members of this very popular band were all on board with the discount plan for people in these 3 categories. I resisted, but gratefully accepted his “Family” discount price of $800 for a normally priced $3500 to $4000 band fee. The 3-tier plan is easy to explain and seems to make a lot of sense. A band of course must charge more because of the additional members in the group who need to be paid, who have no client relationship. – Uncle Mike, Class Act Events
Filed Under: Business, Exclusive Online News and Content, Issues from 2010
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