Lead Generation: DJs Relying on Word-Of-Mouth Referrals for a Majority of New Business Are Singing a New Tune

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When it comes to generating leads for his business, Kevin Porter of Elite Entertainment in Rock Hill, S.C., says that DJs who haven’t recently changed the design of their website are way behind their competition. But just as importantly, he says that building personal relationships with vendors in our communities can be just as important.

“I’ve decided to work on building a relationship with five venues, with which I’ve chosen to really meet and talk with,” says Porter. “Concentrate on those relationships, and then build them to where you’re actually friends. I’m not saying I won’t do events from other venues, but I consider those others to be just a bonus.


“We all read and talk about relationships and, while networking at Chamber of Commerce events and visitor bureau events are important, I’ve decided to take things to another level. It’s a slow process, but these are some of the goals I’ve set for my business.”

Of course, every professional DJ knows that the best way to generate new business is through word-of-mouth referrals, but what are DJs doing in 2015 to generate even more word-of-mouth referrals?

As the owner of a company in Gilbert, Ariz., that performs for over 200 weddings every year, Jeff Jones of Direct Sounds DJs recently noticed that he was paying for a lot for advertising but his company was not really growing.

“I was doing the same amount of business for three years straight,” he recalls. “When I cut back the advertising costs and reinvested that money into my performance, however, my business shot up. I wanted to know it all, so I did whatever I could to become a better DJ—workshops, training books, online performance research and anything else I could get my hands on.

“That alone has boosted my business last year by 50-percent, and this year I’m on track to beat last year.”

Jones says the best way they generate leads is a combination of good things. “Some of my favorite paid ways to generate leads are through the weddingwire.com website,” he says. “To me, this is the top website for weddings right now. I believe it’s user-friendly and is a great resource for valuable information. Plus, the review system is a great tool and benefit for us as well.”

Jones says that Direct Sounds also appears at two bridal shows a year. “The bridal shows can be expensive and are a lot of work,” he says, “but I think they keep us relevant in the local wedding industry.”

However, Jones claims his favorite (and most successful) way to generate new leads is through making friends within the actual business, and that includes his memberships in NACE and ISES.

“The more friends you have, the more business you’ll have,” Jones says. “I can’t express how important this is. Just being friendly and trying to overachieve for your local venues and fellow vendors pays dividends. “I’m on many preferred vendor lists at local venues, which is huge to our calendar each year,” he says. “I have many wedding coordinators that refer me on a regular basis. All because I was friendly, they liked my personality, and I did my job correctly, which makes their own job easier.”
Down in Birmingham, Ala., Geoff Carlisle of JAMM Entertainment Services says that he concentrates on three main areas to generate leads from other vendors.

First of all, Carlisle is a member of his local wedding networking group. However, he warns that simply being the member of a group is not enough. “Participate, talk with members and become an officer,” he says. “Participate in the monthly meetings and events. Talk and network with the members. After all, being an officer will allow you to be the point person and have direct contact with the members.

“Secondly, make friendships with key vendors. In my case, three or four of the top wedding planners are crucial. They can send direct referrals and have my price already in their budget before I even meet with the bride and groom.”

And lastly, Carlisle says it helps to offer sound systems, lighting and TVs to other vendors who will rent them. “Florists and designers,” he says, “are the typical vendors that could use these items for events that otherwise don’t require a professional.”
While word-of-mouth referrals are obviously the best way to boost his business, Brian Zutter of Brian Zutter Productions in New England says that trade-shows, trade publications and lead materials are also important components of a successful marketing campaign.

“Word-of-mouth is obvious, but how obvious?” he asks. “What are the mouths saying about you? I know that many of us perform with great energy and style, but do we portray that same style in our personal life? Separating your personal life—i.e., Instagram, Facebook, etc.—from your business life can be difficult, yet our personal life does bleed into our professional life.

“I’ve witnessed first-hand a DJ who was extremely talented practically, yet shut his business down with rude and unprofessional social media posts.”

Zutter’s advice is to post on our business page and personal pages with similar style and professionalism. “That’s not to say not to speak your mind—it’s just being smart about how and where you do it, to ensure those who are going to hire you see you in a good light,” he says.

While he doesn’t see as many positive results from memberships in civic organizations, Zutter does participate in some just to keep his name moving around in the industry.

“If you don’t continue to have people talk about you, your leads will dry up,” he says.
“Typically, these types of events either cost you money or don’t earn you any money. However, every opportunity to perform and impress people opens another door for leads.

“Trade shows, specifically, don’t generally allow you to show your talents, but they do give you an opportunity to speak with a specialized group that you service—i.e., wedding shows. This specialized group is focused on your talents to fulfill a need. Maximize their focus by educating them about why your business is the best choice.”

Zutter says he used to think that business cards were the only leads material necessary to promote his business, but now believes that creating an actual brand through marketing materials is more important now than ever.

“Now we have to ensure you have professional business cards with a logo that can generate brand value,” says Zutter. “Additionally, rack cards and brochures that match our business and complement our website is a must to ensure our potential leads know that we’ve taken the time to establish our business professionally.

“That professionalism will be displayed in your performance at their event. I’ve seen really talented DJs fall short in the lead material and lose customers. They perform at a public event and are really good, but when a potential client asks for a card they hand them a homemade hand-cut card—lead gone.

“I don’t want budget to be the excuse here. There are numerous print sites that offer very affordable professional design and print solutions.”

In the end, Zutter says that properly generating leads is an art with a little science mixed in for good measure. “Diversifying our avenues to generate leads is the key,” he says. “Ensure you have a professional look and feel [leads material], along with positive word-of-mouth [watch those social-media posts], and provide your message to as many people as you can [civic groups, trade shows, trade magazines/websites] is the equation that should allow you to maximize your leads into the coming years.”
Back up in the northwest, John Donovan of The Party Percussionist in Stroudsburg, Pa., says that over the past seven years he’s counted on both word-of-mouth referrals along with promotions by his agent to gain new leads—plus his brand-new website: JohnDonovan.biz.

“As I’ve been working as a live percussion artist in the DJ industry, I’ve been blessed to learn how DJs acquire work both in rural and developed markets,” he says. “In rural markets, bridal shows are the greatest source of leads, with catering halls, websites and fellow vendor referrals coming in second.

“The downfall of this is that a good percentage of the rural bridal shows are run by con artists, who prey on vendors by not properly publicizing the show and—even worse—not releasing the lead sheet of registered guests until the highest-paying vendors have used the list first.

“Sometimes these lists are not released for weeks. And sometimes these leads sheets are exactly the same from show to show.”

For rural market bridal expos, Donovan says we really need to rely on our national sales skills, while working in our booths.

“But in developed markets such as North Jersey, New York City and Long Island—the top markets in the world—it’s a whole different ballgame entirely,” he says. “Generally, lower-tier and some mid-tier brides attend bridal shows. I’ve yet to hear of any con artists operating in these markets, because the vendors are wise enough to see what goes on and they know how to control the promoters.”

Donovan says that mid-level brides, on the other hand, typically take the recommendations from the catering halls as well as those from paid lead sites.

The catering halls, he says, are usually paid off by the vendors. “Forget the rural model of a 10-percent referral fee,” says Donovan. “In developed markets, vendors pay tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands a year for the catering halls to refer them. You can watch one of my videos on YouTube, where Peter Grecco explained how this got out of hand in the ’80s.

“As far as the top-tier brides, you have to pay off the party planners, who rule everything. For instance, DJs have little to no clout with the catering halls in New York City, where party planners pay in excess of $100k a year per venue. In NYC, the DJs pay off the party planners for leads.

“Top-tier brides and most mid-level brides don’t use the Internet the way we do, so social media and websites are non-effective, other than as digital noise and vanity among the inside industry. The truly wealthy see the Internet as how us ‘little people’ communicate.”

Artem Lomaz, founder and principal event host for Ninety-Three Entertainment in Morris County, N.J., says he subscribes to non-traditional advertising to generate fresh leads, and content marketing is what he’s decided to focus on.

“The more content that I generate that’s relevant to my target market and former/current clients, the more I increase my chances of my clients spreading the word about my business,” he says.

“We all know that word-of-mouth is imperative in our industry, and I believe that by creating content we can remain top-of-mind, which in turn creates conversations about our businesses, which will ultimately culminate in lead generation.”

Lomaz has had his business featured on popular fashion blogs such as ‘Dressed by Jess,’ ‘The Rachel Ross,’ and ‘Jersey Fashionista.’

“This helps keep my brand in front of my potential clients,” he says. “Chamber organizations and meetings are also great for networking with businesses that may lead to corporate clientele, or can lead to industry-related contacts for collaborations.”

When asked to offer advice for other DJs on how to best generate new leads, Lomaz says every market differs and every company therefore needs to discern for themselves what works particular to their geographic area, cultural market and specific business model.

“Various techniques for gaining referrals work for various companies,” he says. “For example, showcases work for some companies but not for others, while traditional advertising such as print advertising may continue to work for certain companies.

“Many factors come into play, but it’s ultimately about determining the current state of your brand, what you would like your brand to be/how it is to be perceived, and who your target market is. Based on these factors, DJ/event entertainment companies can determine which strategies will help best reach their ideal clientele.”