The Corporate market is the most lucrative place to position your entertainment company. While weddings, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, anniversaries, and the like can be profitable, the income potential and the sheer challenge of pulling off a successful corporate party make this the focus of this article and is one to strongly consider if you’re not already positioned in the market. And we’re not just talking holiday parties. The corporate market consists of a myriad of possible bookings, all with the potential of becoming huge income shows.
When considering a move to tap into the corporates, many at first say, “Why?” Well, first think about these strong reasons: Big Money. With the ever increasing demand for quality, dedicated employees, and the constant attempt to keep employees morale at their highest, corporate America is pouring millions into incentive meetings, conventions, and reward programs for their top producers. Translation: big entertainment budgets. As the most lucrative areas for mobile DJs and KJs to move into, the corporate market provides for the most challenging and potentially largest money-making shows you will ever do. Also, Corporate America is very loyal when it comes to the products and services they use. Knock them dead, and you’ll always be asked back. Many of their events are weekday and even daytime functions freeing you up for peak-time work. With typically larger budgets than your other clients, they are much more receptive to add-ons like intelligent lighting, dancers, giveaways, karaoke extra sound, etc. Here’s a quick case in point. A few years ago our company was hired through an agency to provide seven different DJ shows in a four day time span for 200 top salespeople from a corporation. Wow! I thought. These guys are going all out. How naive I was. I was about to learn a lot more about how corporate America really parties.What we were hired for was just a tiny piece of the entertainment that this company was spending to say ‘thanks’ to their top people. The first night, along with our DJ providing a club-type after party, they brought in around 12 Major athletes to sign autographs and mingle with the crowd at their “Sports Theme’ night. Inflatables like Velcro wall, human bowling, video games, a massive amount of sports related giveaways, food, drinks, the works. The banquet captain and I estimated they probably spent around 30k. Just on the first night’s entertainment! The second and third nights, one or more of our DJs either entertained for after hours parties, or warmed up for the Fabulous Thunderbirds and the up and coming country band, Smokin’ Armadillos. The last night Huey Lewis And The News was their main entertainment. Four days of just entertainment costs: at least 135k.
So here’s my point. The corporate market is not only in need of great, cutting edge, fun entertainment, but they’re also willing to spend the money to get it. They’ve had the bands, the DJs, the soloists. They are starving for new, fun, interactive entertainment that will add to their overall event. And unlike a one time wedding or retirement party which may or may not become repeat business, the corporates who are having parties, picnics, and the like all year and every year are very loyal if you’ve done an excellent job in the past.
WHO & HOW
Breaking into this lucrative market, or keeping your foothold if you’re already in it, can prove to be quite challenging. It will though, with diligence, prove to be very profitable. In any market, you need to know which people you should talk to. Here are some of the top movers and shakers to seek out when it comes to successfully marketing and booking corporate events. Entertainment agencies are always hiring DJs/KJs or a number of different clients that hire them. Again, the most lucrative of these events tends to be the big corporate clients. Companies, who are actually the end users, are usually an excellent source themselves for new accounts. You may contact their Human Resources Director, or even their Marketing Director. DMCs and Event Planners, are usually one step ahead of everyone else. The companies are contacting them long before your competition even knows they are having their party. DMCs, or Destination Management Companies, typically provide full service conference and convention planning. Much like Event Planners, their clients normally go through them to provide everything at the event. From transportation, food, special incentives like monogrammed hats, to entertainment. Remember those wonderful hotel people we all like to schmooze? Those same Hotels, Resorts, and Convention Sites, are also booking events for their corporate clients year around. Picnics, award banquets, dinner dances, incentive meetings, holiday parties are but a few of the parties needing entertainment.
“Sure, sure, but there’re only 25,000 people in my town”, says the DJ/KJ in the small rural town. While the ongoing convention, and corporate functions may not be the same level as in the larger markets, the same contacts for the larger markets still apply with a few exceptions. Having no entertainment agencies in your area might be to your disadvantage, but it also might create a new angle of marketing for you. Entertainment agencies are not always as prevalent in the smaller markets, but search them out. A great idea is also to search the business directories of nearby larger cities. Companies, while somewhat smaller in size, are again an excellent source for new accounts. The neighborhood hardware store may be having a big weekend special, and a DJ entertaining the customers with music and even games is an excellent way to keep them interested, and can also become a draw in itself. With those local non-existent, DMCs and Event Planners, you may be forced to seek out the closest ones that are available. Remember that if an Event Planner or DMC is handling an event for a company coming from out of town, the DMC may be working with an entertainer that has to charge a travel that will in turn raise their price. You will be able to be much more competitive and possibly given a greater advantage. Those same Hotels, Resorts, and Convention Sites, that are booking events for their corporate clients in the large markets are, to a certain degree, available in yours as well. They will need your expertise in providing top-quality entertainment even if their client is a group is comprised of 30 elderly ladies from a nearby church. They may just be the ones looking for some karaoke sing-along!
During the past few months I’ve had the opportunity to share the most successful ways to market DJ/KJ services to potential corporate clients with a some associates from around the country. We all agreed that while the repeat business is number one, we first have to get our foot in the door. Here are the top ways we felt worked the best. Direct mail has consistently been successful for many corporate entertainment companies. A full color postcard highlighting services with a great photo is very eye catching. Following up with a phone call can also get the door open. Mailing lists can be purchased through a number of resources including the local chamber of commerce. Telemarketing, while less glamorous, when done well with an educated and savvy staff, has also proven to be effective. The same lists you obtained for mailing will usually include phone numbers. You’ll need to know that calling back several times in the course of a year is OK. Many potential clients are happy to know what services are available to them. The ones that don’t, will let you know when to stop calling. Print media which consists of trade magazines, newspapers, and business journals, are a less cost effective way to market. But they are essential in the early stages of establishing yourself as an authority in corporate entertainment. Direct mail, telemarketing and print media advertising will bring in calls, but it will be your presentation one-on-one that will close the sale. With this in mind, it’s time to take your promotional materials antly head out for some hand shaking. While you are preparing your promotional materials, know that suddenly your competition has changed. And I don’t mean other DJ/KJ services. With a ten a.m. appointment, you walk in to your potential client’s office. Unknown to you, she has already had two other appointments that morning. The first was with a copier company that handed her a ten page, four color brochure, complete with fifty references. Her second was a uniform supply company, that not only handed her several examples of their latest products, but also a ten minute video on the company’s history, a view at their manufacturing plant, all their available uniforms, and a certificate for a free lunch. If you are going to walk in with a Xeroxed copy of your songlist, an old black and white photo of your turntables and DJ in action, you might as well stay home. If you haven’t already, create a portfolio. You can put color photos of your equipment in the portfolio along with photos of people dancing and interacting at various functions. A complete list of all the services you provide, insurance documentation, letters of recommendation from other facilities and other company literature and business cards should also be included. Use your imagination. Your portfolio should reflect your company’s philosophy. Your mission statement and an overview of your training procedures are very helpful to potential clients in the decision making process. If you can provide add-ons, include photos and descriptions of them.
Remember those great add-ons you’ve had difficulty in selling to your other clients? Chances are you’ll meet much less resistance with the corporates you deal with. Add-ons are a great way to pump up the energy level at corporate events. They enable you to tie-in the entertainment with the theme, motivate the guests to participate in group activities, create an exciting environment, and increase your profits. Extra sound and lighting, karaoke, and big screen projection with videos, can all sound intimidating to those who have yet to venture into them; but once you start successfully selling these, it becomes much easier. Hats, T-shirts, logo-imprinted sun glasses, are just the beginning of some popular giveaways that can prove to be profitable upsells. Research what your competition is doing. And more importantly research what are popular add-ons that your existing corporate like. Find out the best places to obtain these with a profitable mark up.
Production & Performance
So, you’ve found your client; you know the event they’re having; they’ve booked you and decided on the add-ons they want. Now, how do you put it all together?
From a production standpoint, the first step is the pre-planning. It is enormously important to make sure every detail has been explored and prepared. Scheduling the equipment set-up, staging, electricity requirements, parking permits, communication and timing is part of the beginning process and essential to your overall success. When production is the responsibility of the DMC, event planner or venue, you will need to work in your performance with their agenda. Other times you may be asked to completely produce the show. While this is much more time consuming and challenging, producing a show is very rewarding and tends to be more profitable.
There are three main aspects to performing at corporate events: talent, organization, and equipment. Talent and organization go hand in hand. For example, if you don’t have high energy, top-notch performers, then your guests won’t have a good time. On the other hand, you can have the best entertainers available, but if your show is not organized, it won’t be successful. For example, you must be able to fully develop the theme of the event. Does your dress enhance the theme? Do you have bumper music that relates to the theme? Can you tie in your dances and/or games to the theme? Are you able to use your equipment to compliment the show (i.e. lights, props, fog). You must be able to incorporate all of these into your show and make sure everything fits and flows into the event. And finally, your talent and organization rest on the quality of your equipment. If your equipment doesn’t look and sound great, then all of your work up to this point is wasted. You must have reliable, high quality, sound and lighting equipment. Period.
When all the planning has been done, the talent is scheduled, the set-up is complete and the dust settles, the one thing that will mean repeat business is your production and performance of the event. A perfect performance, combined with your continued follow up inquiries to your corporate clients, will bring a healthy future in the ever expanding, and lucrative Corporate Market!
Great Ideas to get the ball rolling:
Consider joining some professional affiliations, such as your local convention bureau, Chamber of Commerce, NACE, etc. These business contacts will prove to be very worthwhile in the long run.
Watch your local business and residential newspapers for grand openings of new businesses. A great way for them to keep people at their function is for them to have fun. How about a few easy games with prizes to keep them interested?
If you offer karaoke services and could use a little daytime work, your neighborhood strip center or mall might be interested in a weekend sing-along to keep the interest of adults and kids at a high level.
Consider bartering. You might also think about trading for advertisements. Offer reduced prices to first-time clients, and always follow up on a continual basis. But! Consult your accountant or tax adviser first on bartering!
Seek out non-profit organizations and offer discounted or free services for their functions. While you may have difficulty in dealing with such a loss-leader, the view given to your community is that you care. Many times these events are frequented by the local business big-wigs. Consider these events as a way to “showcase” the talent and services you company has to offer.
Bob Deyoe is an 19-year veteran entertainer and president of Desert DJs, a multi-system DJ service in Southern Arizona.
This article originally appeared in the DJ Times and has been printed with their permission.
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