Differentiate to Dominate – by Michael Edwards

June 29, 2011 by Dan Walsh

AHEAD OF THE CURVE: YOUR OWN CREATIVITY IS KEY TO CONQUERING YOUR MARKET

The best way to move to the front of the local DJ pack is to offer something different that clients in your market can only get from your company.

Look for a way to separate (and elevate) your services from your competitor’s services. “We play great music” doesn’t cut it. Everybody says that. “We have great equipment” means little when they hear it from every DJ they speak to. You need to differentiate in a way that is truly unique if you want to dominate. The key is to think of a way to offer clients the same basic thing as all of your competitors, but in a way that makes them want to buy it from you and you alone—and maybe even be willing to pay more for it too!

The larger the market, the tougher the competition…and the tougher it is to come up with effective ways to differentiate.

McDonalds was the first fast food chain to have a “kids meal.” It was simply a regular burger and small sized fries in a box with cartoon characters on it. No specific food changes. The “differentiation” was in the packing and marketing only. They just labeled and promoted it as a kid’s meal. Soon Burger King copied them with a kid’s meal of their own, so McDonalds added a “free” toy and now called it a “happy meal.” And they were certainly happy when they suddenly sold much more than Burger King, based largely on simple act of differentiating it as not just another kid’s meal.

It works the same way for any business, but the ideas on exactly how to differentiate your products or services from your competition must come from you! That’s where it gets tough.

PLAYING WITH PRICE

Real professional DJs have many ways to differentiate themselves from amateur DJs. Pro DJs are often members of a national mobile DJ organization, such as the ADJA or NAME. They also carry liability insurance and backup equipment that amateurs don’t. Many DJs actually think that type of stuff doesn’t matter, and that all the customer really cares about is the price. If you take the time to educate your clients on the differences in between pro and amateur DJs, they usually change their minds.

If your level of service is not the same as the amateurs, don’t worry about what they charge or make the mistake of trying to compete with amateur pricing. If you do, you’re not a very good businessperson. Amateur ability and mentality will never be able to compete at a pro level. That’s a cold hard fact in any profession. Even during the darkest recession, clients were still willing to pay more for a reliable professional quality DJ service when booking the entertainment for what they felt was a “once in a lifetime” event. It is sometimes possible to differentiate in your market, just by your price.

A few years ago, DJ Peter Merry posted “Prices Starting at $5,000” on his website. That price instantly distinguished his service from all other DJs in the minds of visitors to his website. Granted, it scared some clients away, but I’m sure he expected that. He took it a step further and decided he was no longer going to be known as a “DJ” and instead, took the title of “entertainment director.” Yet another way to differentiate his services from his competition—even those who may have offered an almost identical level of professionalism and similar services at a lesser cost. Differentiating works. You just need to find your best point(s) of differentiation.

RISING ABOVE THE PACK (AS WELL AS THE RIFF-RAFF)

Real success will come after you successfully differentiate your company from the other top DJ companies in your specific market. Most pro DJs clearly stand above the amateur DJs, but the challenge is to stand out from the other pro DJ companies too.

Over a year ago, we added an uplighting division. There were three or four other excellent companies already in our market who also offered exactly the same uplights and had been doing it longer, so they had more experience, and had already established relationships with a variety of venues for their uplighting referrals. Since all those services were priced about the same as we were, it was hard to differentiate ourselves. It was hard for a typical customer or venue to see anything unique in our service…so why would they hire us above the competition?

Our “ahead of the curve” solution was to differentiate our service from all the others in our market, and possibly anywhere else in the country. All of the lighting delivery people we hire are required to have a degree in “theatrical lighting design.” It’s wasn’t just an excellent way to market our uplighting service as superior to the average low-cost set-up staff our competitors use, but it also produced amazing uplighting results for our customers and the venues. Several banquet hall managers have told us that no other lighting service has made their venue look as good. Clearly, differentiating with a built-in quality upgrade is an excellent way to stay “ahead of the curve.”

So, what can you do to make your company truly stand out from the crowd?  [MB]

Michael Edwards is the owner of AllStar Entertainment & UpLighting, a licensed, bonded musical entertainment agency in Andover, MA, specializing in Greater Boston weddings and uplighting. A member of the Mobile Beat Advisory Board and the American Disc Jockey Association, Michael’s sites are www.getadj.com and www.getuplights.com, each featuring a few “ahead of the curve” ideas of their own. Contact him at 978-470-4700 or info@getadj.com.
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