Most of us start out in business selling our goods or services to anyone who’s willing to open their wallet or make out a check. Perhaps we start slowly, building our expertise and adding equipment, happy to be getting the practice. We negotiate, throw in extra services or bonus goods, discount our prices, and try to maintain great customer service. We struggle along, work long hard hours, and we combat frustration and setbacks. We build our businesses one customer at a time over days, months, and years.
Slowly we come to recognize a market or niche that seems to be our specialty. We settle into a market or type of customer we prefer to work with, customers that appreciate our uniqueness, skills, and style of doing business.Why is it then that so many of us do not tailor our style and skills, our image and appearance, to nurture a market or type of customer who not only appreciates us, but is willing to reward us with fair profits? What about when we feel we’ve “paid our dues,” have a professional look, great sound gear, a sterling reputation, yet are still earning what experienced Disc Jockeys earned 5 or 10 years ago? Why do so many of us settle for what we can get, however modest or insufficient, instead of cultivating a well-paying market, one where we can charge and get what we want and need?
Usually it’s because we’re afraid of change, afraid of appearing foolish, afraid of risk even when the risk is minimal and the potential gain is significant. We talk ourselves out of taking action. It becomes a habit, and we learn to ignore that little voice inside our heads that tells us really time for a change.
This amazing phenomenon not only manifests itself in the DJ industry, it happens in all industries, it just takes different shapes and forms.
Why do some car dealers selling $20,000 and $30,000 automobiles settle for gross sales margins so small that they can’t stay in business? That’s right, they actually sell themselves out of business, relying on paltry sales grosses which cannot support their overhead, hoping for sales volume to make up the difference. Why do some restaurateurs price their meals so much lower than others, so low in fact that one day we find their doors locked when we stop by for breakfast. Is their food of worse quality? Are their employees worth less? Do they have no desire to enjoy a more prosperous life?
Most of us want more out of life, more money, more time, more friends, more enjoyment, more happiness. When it comes to the DJ profession most of us have chosen to work in this field because we enjoy it. We’re at least part way up the “more” scale already. Wouldn’t it be great if we could add a professional wage to this mix and earn what we feel we’re worth doing a job we enjoy. Mark Ferrell, the “Worthsite” mentor for so many DJ’s around the country, tells us in his seminars that most DJs work for less than what the typical bride and groom today spend on a veggie platter for their dinner or reception. Could this be true? If so, why?
There are, I believe, many reasons for this, some of them very legitimate. Some DJs are really just beginners and can’t command a good wage yet. Others are working mostly for friends and family, and perhaps feel unjustified in charging too much for their services. Some DJs are content with where they are in the market, and I say “more power to you. I’m glad you’re happy.” But what about all the talented, experienced, well-established DJs in the market who’ve spent thousands of dollars on sound and light equipment, advertising, promotional materials and business overhead, and perform at dozens of events per year, and want to earn more? Should they be charging more? Do they deserve a higher wage? What do they do differently? Can they find a market?
The question comes down to, are they willing to do what it takes? Are they willing to incorporate change? Are these DJs willing to nurture a market that will pay more for their services? What will DJs have to do to position themselves to work at a higher pay scale?
There will always be discount car dealers, discount restaurants, discount retailers, and discount DJs! We have choices, both as business owners and as consumers. That’s what makes us a democracy, and I feel very fortunate to have been born under the Stars and Stripes.
Making a Choice
If our choice is to want more, and to earn more, and to enjoy a more prosperous lifestyle, we must find a way to develop the skills, the position, and the market that affords us what we’re after. And it’s a choice. It’s not magic, it’s usually not an accident or blind luck, and it is not a birthright.
Every day we must go out and continue to do the job we’ve always done, but with a slight variation, an awareness of market positioning. We must be willing to self-evaluate and honestly assess our strengths and weaknesses. We must acknowledge where we are in terms of our market position, and where we want to be.
How do we self-evaluate? Create a checklist for yourself. Rate yourself on a scale of 1-10.
Equipment Quality and Appearance
Rate yourself on all the areas that we know are part of our duties and responsibilities as DJs. Find a colleague you know and trust, whose skills you admire, and ask him or her to rate you in all the same areas. Ask your customers to rate your performance. Sometimes this is less helpful because if they like you the grading is “10” all the way across the board, and if there was any problem all the grading is lower. Still, a client evaluation, especially a corporate client who’s used to rating or assessing performance, can be very valuable.
Next we take positive action to correct any deficiencies. If we’re poor communicators we could attend a seminar or take a class in communication. If appearance is questionable maybe we pay closer attention to grooming or invest in a new outfit for our performances. Is tardiness a repetitive issue? Make a commitment to arrive 10 minutes earlier for each event. If interactive performance is an area in which improvement is needed attend one of the many seminars offered by DJ organizations across the nation. We work at becoming the best DJ company in our market area in terms of service and performance.
Assessing the Market
Then we evaluate our market, and our market position.
Who are our customers?
Are we well known in our market?
What is the perception of our business in our current market area. Are we viewed as the best DJ service in our area? The best value? Or have we always been simply the least expensive?
What is the standard in our market area?
Can our target market bear a price increase?
How are we priced compared to our competition?
What does our competition do that we do not or cannot?
Is there a niche that is currently unserved?
How are we unique, and what service do we or can we provide that separates us from the rest of the DJs in our market?
Which of our current customers do we most enjoy working with, and which have seemed the most pleased and appreciative of our work? Would they support a reasonable price increase? Would they continue to refer us to others?
Can we build upon the client base that we currently have and expand either our services or our area of coverage? Are we able or willing to travel a little farther to generate more lucrative bookings?
Are there other services in our own area where people pay premium prices for premium goods and services? Could this customer base be nurtured?
Could we build relationships that would help bring us more profitable business referrals?
Putting it in Place
Finally, we adjust our prices and ask more for our services. You can’t be shy about it. You just have to do it. Most industries evaluate their prices regularly, and increase their prices on products and services to match increases in expenses. Shouldn’t we be able to do the same? Hasn’t the cost of advertising, equipment, and general overhead risen in the last 10 years? Haven’t personal expenses increased? You have to look at the numbers and be honest enough to say “I can’t or I’m unwilling to continue to work for my current price” and then make a decision on what you deem a fair profit, and ask for it.
What do you say when a long-term customer calls you and asks to book you for their annual event? They assume your price will be the same as it was for the last 3 years. How do you keep the relationship and still increase your fee? I believe incremental increases for long term customers is the best approach. Let say you charged $500 for 4 hour events last year, and this year you’ve raised your prices to $750 for new customers. If you charged $500 last year for an existing customer an increase to $600 this year should not price you out of the market.
C: “Bob’s DJ service? Hi, this is Joe Customer from XYZ company. I’m calling to schedule your DJ services for our annual promotional event on March 8th.
DJ: “Mr. Customer, I’d love to provide services for your event again this year. Let me get some details and I’ll send you the necessary paperwork.”
C: “That’s great. Same price as last year?”
DJ: “Your price has increased to $600. I’m really glad you’re booking your event early because my calendar has been filling up, but I still wanted very much to do your event.”
C: “I set my budget at $500 thinking it would be the same. Do you think we could do it for the same this year?”
DJ: “Mr. Customer, my price for new customers is actually $750. Because you’ve been a long-standing valued customer I would like to continue to work with you. That’s why I’ve quoted you a price below what I currently charge. I know you’ll be happy with my service as you have been in the past, and I’ve even added some new interactive entertainment you’ll really enjoy.”
So even though you’ll charge new customers $750, a step process for your existing customers might make retention easier.
And you know what? If your current customers are happy with your services, they’ll continue to do business with you. They don’t want to shop around. They have enough to do already. And if you’re happy with your current customers you’ll find a way to make it work in most cases. Yes, you’ll probably lose some customers. But you’ll also gain others. And some of the customers you lose will come back to you.
Your market will slowly (or perhaps quickly) change. You’ll attract customers who have like interests, attitudes, and appreciation for a certain level or standard of service. Some customers who weren’t interested in your services before will find new interest and respect because you’re no longer the cheapest around. Some will feel you’re probably charging what you were worth all along. Others will give your price changes only cursory notice because they’re so happy with your work!
This is not an issue of where you live or how wealthy a market you live in. This is a relative change based on your current market, your clientele, your skill level. If you’re currently charging $500 per event and want to go to $650 because it feels like a fair profit for you, great! If you’re at $700 and you want to go to $1000, wonderful! It may take time. It may not be easy, but it’s up to you. The point is that you can change, you can learn new skills or incorporate new attitudes that allow you to grow your business and adjust your position in the market. People of all backgrounds and budget levels can appreciate great service. Look around you. It isn’t just the wealthy who pay up for excellence. You’ll see average people everywhere paying more for quality goods and services. You simply need to help them appreciate you in a new way, to help them find respect for your performance value, your attention to detail, your investment and commitment to the success of their event.
All of this you can do. It just requires…
Filed Under: Exclusive Online News and Content
Leave a comment