Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Venue Books - Building a Better Mouse Trap

There is always a way to build a better mouse trap.  That is another one of my famous cliché’s that I stole from somebody else.   One issue that was continually cropping up in the area I live in (and other areas of the country) was the venue ad books.  These are a great idea for advertising your wedding related business because your name is being put out there at one of the first points of exposure and contact for a bride.  But there are TWO major downfalls to these publications.

The first downfall is the venues that use this as a form of strong arming wedding vendors to be on their “preferred vendor list”.  This is nothing but a scam and absolutely ridiculous way to force advertising.  Unfortunately many vendors are at the mercy of the venue if they ever want a shot at working at that venue.  Personally I feel this is not the way to do business.  A true preferred vendor is one based on the quality of their overall product and not someone that has to dish out money for your ad book just to be part of your venue’s select.

The second downfall is that the venues would love to be able to provide their brides with something that shows off the venue; kind of like an 8 ½” x 11” business card.  There is really nothing wrong with this concept.  The problem lies that there are so many venues that the cost of vendors to advertise (in each of the books individually) will sky rocket.  Unlike the previous example, these venues will take any vendors ads in their book, because it helps defray the cost of printing.

The bottom line of all of this is that the publishers get richer at the expense of the wedding vendors (one day I can expose all of these costs).  The publishers go to each of the venues with a great deal for a book where the venues can showcase their establishment and have the printing costs paid for by the advertisers.  A pretty good idea except when you saturate a geographical market with these books and it becomes an unusually high cost for the advertisers because of the volume of venues. 

So now we build the better mouse trap.  The venues love the books and the vendors like to get their business exposed without the major expense of paying to advertise in 15 or 20 books.  And we are doing just that with Lehigh Valley Wedding – The Magazine.  Our first volume will be called the Venue Edition and will be a high end ad book, not really a magazine.   However, the semi annual magazine may soon be on bookshelves. 

Our business model is simple.  We build one large ad book, with 15 different editions.   Each edition will be customized to 14 individual venues, so each edition will look like it was made specifically for that venue.   Each of the 14 different venues will get 8 pages in the publication including all of the prime spots (front cover, inside front, back cover, inside back, and centerfold). The remaining 92 pages of this ad book will all be the same for all 15 editions (including articles and advertisers).  The 15th edition will be a generic edition, which will be distributed at two major bridal shows and by the advertisers if they wish.  We now have a win-win for everyone.

The venues now have a customized book to distribute to their brides that features their place of business (and it does not cost them a dime).  The wedding vendors get to advertise in 15 different publications that will be distributed at the 14 Venues and 2 major bridal shows for one low price.  The amount of total printed publications is a little more than the amount of projected weddings in the region so that all of the publications are distributed with not a lot of left over going into the next year.   This also helps with not letting the content become stale. 

Let’s take a quick look at some costs (and these are actual real costs from our research).  First for the venues, who pay nothing with only the agreement to distribute the publication.  Not a bad deal.  For the vendors, instead of paying $750 for a full page to be distributed at ONE venue (700 copies), they can pay $600 for a full page to be distributed at 15 different distribution points (6000 copies).  Where the wedding vendors really save is by not paying to advertise individually. 

So how is the reception to all this you ask?   The response has been overwhelming.  The venues are on board with us and it was an easy sell.  Except for a couple of venues that are using the preferred vendor scam and a few elitists, we were able to get 14 venues to sign on quite easily.    The wedding vendors absolutely love this because it gets them maximum exposure without the high costs.  The wedding vendor response has been phenomenal. 

We are looking to begin distribution on November 1, 2013 and we are really excited for this challenge.   This is our first attempt at something like this, but we needed to build that better mouse trap. We are not looking to get rich on this, but instead, provide a better value at a lesser cost for the wedding vendor community.  We'll keep you posted on our progress.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Grab a couple extra clients

I know this has been regurgitated a hundred times for some of the DJ’s, but why not once more because it applies to everybody.  At the recent EPMEN seminar, one of the key things I walked away with, was a message that has out for a long time but not as widely used as it could be.  There have been many articles, seminars, and other educational offerings on it.  Some people that I personally see, are actually listening to the message, because they are the most successful (at their trade).  The people that are struggling, in one way, shape or form are people that I know are not practicing this one simple technique.  When I say struggle, I mean that they are just trying to get ahead, so I say that in the dearest of terms. 

The Wow Factor.  The art of going above and beyond your customer’s expectations.  Steve Moody mentioned it in dealing with venues, where he WOWs the venues and the venue staff.  Peter Merry mentioned it several times in dealing with your clients.  I’m not going to go into details at exactly how they presented it, because you had to be there, but the message was crystal clear.  And it is so simple and so inexpensive, but yet, goes so far.  I know a whole bunch of people that can adapt this and make their businesses better. 

In a recent survey by The Wedding Report, 62% of couples pick one of their wedding professionals through a friend or family recommendation.  Something that a particular vendor did, impressed this friend or family member to recommend them.  It could be price (I doubt it), it could be performance (possibly), or it could any number of things.  But there was something that stuck in someone’s head about what a particular vendor did.  There is where the WOW factor comes in.  YOU NEED TO MAKE PEOPLE REMEMBER YOU.  

When you perform your service at a wedding or reception, it is s no brainer that everyone there is a potential client and a potential lead.  So you need to find a way to have your business stick in everyone’s head, other than you plain old regular service, which you are already great at.  But you being great is yesterday’s news and is a given at any function you perform your service.  Heck, that is why people pay you.  It is time to go above and beyond what you are supposed to do.   The time and money you spend in doing this is far less than you will ever spend in any advertising of your business AND will lead to quality leads for your business. 

Disc Jockeys have been doing this for years with quiet surprises for brides and grooms.  People the likes of Peter Merry and Randy Bartlett (who get a lot more than $800 for a wedding reception) have been doing this and trying to educate DJ’s on this for years.  The successful DJs are taking this advice…and it shows (ask any one of them).   The guys getting $800, well, they either don’t know or think they already know it all.  This great principal can be used by every single wedding vendor category out there.  I don’t care what your profession is, there is something you can do to WOW at least one potential client in attendance at any given portion of the wedding.  You need to be personal, creative, not obvious, and humble about whatever you do. 

I’m not going to give away anything from the presenters at EPEMN, but one that immediately comes to my mind is cakes and bakeries.  OK you make a beautiful and great tasting cake for the wedding reception.  Big deal, it is yesterday’s news because you are supposed to do that.  How about finding out where the ladies of the bridal party are getting dressed and sending cupcakes for them to that location (send a few extras).  Right there you have at least 4 or 5 probably single ladies or a mother with other single daughters that are going to remember that.  Don’t bother sending anything to the guys because unless it is beer, booze, or boobs they are not going to remember anything anyways.  But you have a small (extra) intimate audience there that is going to remember you because of something extra that you did…for free.  It cost you maybe $50.00 total, but not only did you do something nice and out of the way, you now are stuck in someone’s mind.  There is no better return on investment.         

I am sure there are hundreds of ways each and every wedding vendor category professional can go above and beyond and get people to remember you by the extra mile you went to make someone’s day special.  Don’t ask me to be creative for you because I am a computer geek that has trouble picking out anniversary cards for my wife.  If you are creative with flowers, cakes, photographs, this should almost be a no brainer for you. 

This is the one thing I am going to give away from the EPMEN seminar because it is so profound.  It is from Steve Moody and it is, “Don’t think of it as kissing their butt, think of it as kissing their A$$” (and note the dollar bill signs).

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

EPMEN2013 - The Recap

May 20, 2013 was certainly another great day of education at EPMEN2013 held at the Holiday Inn and Conference Center in Breinigsville.  Adam Skuba once again did a superb job of organizing this event and his hard work and effort was definitely displayed throughout the day.  The arrangement of guest speakers was second to none, but the overall organization of the day was fantastic.  Although I did not totally understand the event hours change of this event from previous years, it really worked out for the best as the traffic on 22 was totally cleared by the time I left the event. 

EPMEN2013 can best be described in one sentence.  “At the end of the day I was exhausted from information overload”.  All of the presenters did an excellent job in showing prime examples of how to make your business better, improve your sales, improve your profits, increase your social networking ability, develop long lasting business/client relationships, and make and keep satisfied customers.  For the Early Bird cost of $75.00, I can see a return on investment of less than 4 weeks and an increase in sales and profits of at least 40 fold using the things learned in this one day seminar.   

I am going to give a brief overview (and my own opinions) of some of the items covered in this one day educational event.   I can’t give away all of the things learned with detail, as it would not be fair to the people that paid and attended this event.  I will say that if you missed this event, you missed out on at least 8 or 9 gold nuggets that you can apply to your everyday business practices to improve your business.

The day started off with Sonny Ganguly from Wedding Wire.  I always enjoy listening to Sonny because he does what I do, but on a larger scale national level.  Sonny went into detail on the wedding industry past, present, and future.   As always he presented facts, figures, and statistics that you really never think about.  Learning from Sonny will certainly prepare your (and my) business for the future in the Wedding Industry.  Before I left for EPMEN this year, I brought out my notes from the last time I seen Sonny, two years ago.  Every single point he covered in that session two years ago is now visible in the wedding industry.   You can bet I was attentive as can be during his presentation this year.  

Next up was Jeff and Steph Padovani from Book More Brides.  They had an excellent presentation on small changes you can apply throughout your sales booking process that can increase your annual sales and profits.   They presented some very simple techniques using what they call the “Sales Funnel”.  Although I could not pay complete attention to their presentation (one of my database servers crashed and I had to fix it) what I did see was extremely informative and something I can apply starting today.

One of my two favorite presenters of the day was next in the All Star Line up.   Peter Merry from Merry Weddings.  Myself being a former DJ, Peter was always considered one of the industry leaders, so I kind of looked up to him as a mentor throughout my Disc Jockey career.  His presentation did not disappoint.   Although directed at the more “high end” weddings, he provided everyone a way to present their VALUE to potential customers with ways to increase your prices and have your customers pay those prices, instead of going down the street to a guy that is less expensive.  His presentation was not only directed to Disc Jockeys, but to every single category in the wedding Industry.  This presentation was worth the entire cost of admission into EPMEN2013.   

After a nice box lunch provided by EPMEN, we got to hear from Steve Moody, a Disc Jockey from the Baltimore area on how to get to the top of the preferred vendors list of venues.  This was the first time I have ever seen Steve speak and all I can say is WOW.   This was an amazing presentation using real life examples in explaining the characteristics of and dealing with the various personalities of event managers.  This animated presentation gets a two thumbs up in my book.  Although I do not deal with event managers any longer, his presentation can be brought forward to dealing with every day people in your business life.  This presentation was a must see for any wedding professional. 

The presentation of Lorenzo Araneo was the shortest of the day.  Anyone who has ever listened to Lorenzo in other events, knows that using his street smart character, he can fill you in on all of the “how to” for social networking.  He did manage to give some great high level information but his previous presentations got down to the brass tacks with great examples on what to do, what not to do, and most importantly, how to do it.  When Lorenzo had to give up the microphone, it left me a need to know (and hear) more, which he normally provides.  We all love Lorenzo, so hopefully next EPMEN we can get a little more of him. 

The last of the presenters I had seen was Vincent Velasquez & Stratos Doumanis of Hurricane Productions.   They gave some excellent examples on how to use Instagram and social networking in your every day business.  I don’t know a lot about Instagram and because of this portion of the seminar, I am certainly going to look more into it.  As they got into their Q and A it was already ½ hour overtime on the day long seminar and I had other commitments and had to leave, so I did not get to stay around for that portion of it. Needless to say, I was exhausted from the learning at that point.   

Overall it was a fantastic day of education.  Adam Skuba put on a first class show at a great price.  The value of this seminar was unbelievable and I personally cannot wait to put some of the things I learned to practical use in my everyday business life.  Thank you EPMEN for putting this great event on for all of us.  We certainly appreciate all of the efforts.      

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Promoting Your Competition Without Even Knowing It

Competition – It is no big secret that we are going to have competition all of our life.  Whether it be personal competition or business competition, it is always going to be there.  Competition is good for us because used correctly it can help us to become better at what we do, both personally and professionally.  I know it sounds cliché’, but it is the truth if we use competition to our advantage.

I see good examples of people using competition to their advantage every single day.  They make themselves and their businesses even better and gain the respect of their peers as industry leaders.  A prime example is two Disc Jockey companies in the New York Metro area.  These two companies are probably the most successful Disc Jockey companies in the area and are relative neighbors.  Yet, not one company says anything, anywhere about the other company.  The only thing you see on their blogs and postings throughout the internet is about their own company.   Not one iota about the other guy or even any other competition.  Both of these guys are well respected by myself, and well respected by the DJ and the wedding industry as a whole.  To me, these two are great role models, simply because they are successful in what they are doing.  So they must be doing something right.  I recently had the opportunity to really take notice to that and it was an eye opener.

I also get the misfortune of witnessing some of the mistakes people make with regards to competition.  One of the biggest mistakes I see is people using their own time to promote their competition.  I am not talking about a Disc Jockey writing a raving review blog about the DJ company down the street.  In fact, I am talking quite the opposite.  People, using their time and energy to focus on the negative about their competition by writing crappy blogs, speaking negative things,  posting pot shots on twitter or Facebook, and just plain and simple being negative and downright hurtful.  It is sad, but an unfortunate reality.

Here is a neat concept.   Instead of taking ANY valuable time out of your day to focus on or point out the negative of your competition, use every single moment of that hour, minute, and second to improve your business, get a new customer, or promote your business.  Why focus even one second of your time on drawing any attention to your competition?  ANY time you are focusing on something negative about your competition, you are missing out on an opportunity to get a new sale or improve something in your business life.  During that fifteen minutes you spent writing a blog post and taking pot shots at your competitor, he was busy getting the sale from the same customer you could have been talking to.   He also took some of that time to post some great pictures from a wedding he just did. 

Meanwhile, you wasted time trying to put that person down or took a pot shot.  Sure, what you did may get noticed, but at the end of the day, what did it really do for you?  No one else will tell you, so I will.  It did not make you look any better in your customer or your peer’s eyes.  In fact, it made you look more like a bully that can’t focus on their own strong points.   It also made at least one other person notice your competition and you did it all by yourself.  You pointed them to your competition!!!  You may not have even mentioned them by name, but your innuendos are there and everyone knows who you are talking about.  Hell, you are probably giving all the hints in the world to do just that.  You did not gain any respect, in fact you probably lost some respect of your peers and customers. 

Momma always told me that if you don’t have anything good to say, don’t it.  Later in life I learned something else very valuable.  “Whatever you say about a person (competitor), will come back to you tenfold”.   Say something good, it will come back 10 fold good to you.  Say something bad and it will come back 10 fold bad.  If you think about this, again it is cliché’, but probably very true.  Be friendly and professional and extend that olive branch if the lines have already been crossed.  But really, be positive, be happy, be professional, and you will not only gain the respect of your peers but also gain the respect of your customers.  And who knows, you may also gain a good friend in the process.   One of my biggest competitors in the DJ industry (when I had my own DJ business) is now one of my best friends and has been one of my best friends even when I was still performing.   There were countless times when we bailed each other out, both professionally and personally.                 

Hey, I am just as guilty of this as everyone else and I realize I made the mistake.  If you look at some of my previous postings, you will notice that all I did what take pot shots at the Knot and Wedding Wire.  Looking back on it I can only say, what a waste of time.  I am not even in the same league as those guys.   To even waste my time talking/writing about that was stupid, when I could have been developing some new scripts that brides and vendors could use, or going after a new vendor to advertise on my site or improving my search engine rankings.  That time is lost and I will never get it back.  But no, I have to be dumb and waste that time by being negative and focusing on (and giving more attention to) my competition.   So, this was a lesson learned.

I am not saying don’t pay any attention to your competitor, because any good business person always knows what his competitor is doing.  But don’t waste any time on any negativity.  Instead, use that time to get a new customer, improve your product, promote your business, do something positive that will make a positive impression of you and your business, or maybe even gain another best friend.  It really does make for a happier and more successful life.