Tips for Getting on the Preferred Vendor List
Written by Joe Bunn for BPM Supreme
If you’ve seen me speak over the years, especially about marketing, you know that one of my primary goals as a mobile DJ company owner is getting myself and my DJs on the coveted preferred vendor list at pretty much any quality venue in our area. In fact, the majority of our advertising dollars go towards that goal every year. We have stopped a lot of the more traditional marketing (wedding shows, print ads, bulk direct mailing) that we used to do when I first started Bunn DJ Company twenty years ago. Referrals are the way to go…and a lot cheaper than an ad in a magazine!
First, you can’t just ask to be on the list! You have to EARN IT! Here is the part where you go, “Well Joe, that’s stupid, how can I earn a spot on the list if I don’t ever play at the venue?” That’s a good point, but there are a few ways that this can happen.
The Organic Approach
In other words, if you are in business long enough and start attracting the right clients, eventually, you are going to get booked at this holy grail of a place. Once you get your foot in the door, show them why you’re the most awesome DJ ever!
It’s not just about your mixing skills either. How fast is your setup and teardown? How did you treat the banquet captain? The guests? The staff? Did you demand food as if you’re a rock star? Remember the old saying: “You only have one chance to make a first impression.”
The Networking Approach
The other way to get your foot in the door is through networking. I’ve spoken relentlessly about the importance of joining NACE (National Association of Catering and Events) and ILEA (International Live Events Association). If these are anywhere close to your area, join today, and even more importantly, GO TO THE MEETINGS! It’s not enough just to be on the membership roster. When you go, take some cards, but don’t let it be the first thing out of your pocket. Try a handshake first. Start a conversation, ask what THEY do, and most importantly, LISTEN!
When I first joined these groups, I would make it a point to make every meeting (in fact, I still do.) Both groups have led to countless relationships, which have then led to countless shows for my company. I can’t stress enough the importance of getting in with these members. They are the venue owners, wedding planners, florists, rental companies, cake makers, etc. that you want to get to know. They are ALL a source of referrals for you and your company!
The Personal Approach
The next step to getting on the list is thinking outside of the box marketing-wise. I mentioned that we don’t do much direct mailing anymore, and this is true, as we don’t send direct mail to potential leads. But we do send out things like birthday cards or thank you cards to our favorite vendors in the industry – and it works! It’s old school and people love it.
Set aside some money each year to thank the people that send you a ton of business. How? Try something like a gift basket filled with local treats. For example, here in Raleigh we have an awesome little chocolate factory, tons of craft beer places, an amazing bottled cold brewed coffee spot, and so on. Trust me – people love a surprise gift.
Deliver these tokens of appreciation in person. Ask to see the recipient, but DON’T demand it. I’m not a big fan of a “pop in,” and neither are the majority of busy people. If they can’t see you, it’s okay. Just leave it and know that you have planted the seed to potentially do many more shows at that venue or with that vendor.
The Volunteer Approach
One last tip: offer your services for free. Yes, I said FREE! Calm down. Don’t panic. I’m not talking about a prime time Saturday night in the middle of wedding season. These are going to be open houses, grand openings, food tastings, etc.
Tell the venue or catering hall owners that you would love to provide the soundtrack for the night. Guess what? You have a captive audience, you’re the only DJ, and it’s normally on an off night. Win-win all the way around! Not only do you get in good with the venue and other vendors participating at these events, but you are also likely to hand out a few cards and pick up some shows from the folks attending.
I hope these tips help you guys out going into 2019 and beyond. If you want more tips, check out my original training video “Marketing the Music” at djjoebunn.com or another one of my articles on BPM Supreme, Networking Tips to Boost Your Business. Also, feel free to hit me up with questions. Now go get on that list!
About Joe Bunn
Joe started his DJ career at the age of 14 in his hometown of Wilson, NC. He did shows all throughout high school, college at UNC-Chapel Hill, and eventually moved to Raleigh, NC in the late 90s where he started Bunn DJ Company. The company grew from a couple of DJs to 15 of the area’s best mobile DJs. Over the past few years, Bunn DJ Company has expanded to Charleston, SC, Charlotte, NC, and Richmond, VA. The company performs at over 800 weddings a year and another 400 private, corporate, and charity events.
In addition, Joe is a writer for many national DJ publications such as Disc Jockey News, Mobile Beat Magazine, and DJ Times. He has given seminars at Mobile Beat Las Vegas, Wedding MBA, DJ Times Expo, local/regional organizations, NC State and UNC-Chapel Hill. Joe has also been hired by DJs all over the world to help their businesses in every aspect from branding to sales.