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By Jimmy Lee.
Over Christmas and New Year, a period when many of us find time to prioritise those tasks that are usually way down our list, I attended a Zoom call for subscribers of SMPL System, the customer relationship management (CRM) platform I use for my business.

As the first UK user of SMPL (something I’m very excited about and happy to share with anyone who’d like more info), all the other Zoom attendees were based in the USA or Australia. I noticed that they all seemed to use, yet complain quite bitterly about, The Knot and Wedding Wire (I believe our respective British equals would be Hitched and Bridebook).

Now, I will admit that I’m far from a fan of price comparison-style platforms for DJs, event suppliers and performers. Yet during the call I found myself starting to question my own philosophy.

Whilst so many successful stateside businesses
complain about these providers and their perception of the platforms’ greed, they continue to use them.

n my own experience and personal opinion, our UK sites aren’t of much benefit either, because the clients who do interact with us on those sites tend to be people who have already chosen us via other means, such as venue residencies, wedding fairs, or personal recommendations. In these cases, the comparison sites can’t really claim the booking. But it is fair to say that couples – who will often use those sites to find us and list us as their DJ provider – must feel reassured to see that our business has a presence there.

The truth is that I use these platforms for that precise reason only. Brand reassurance. The more reputable and pertinent places in which a prospective client sees your brand, the more they are reassured as to your credibility. This approach goes back to my old publishing days, when we had a philosophy called the Three R’s: Read, Recognise, Respond.

Maybe in month one, a customer would see an advert in a magazine. In month two they would recognise it. In month three there is likely to be a level of familiarity, resulting in trust, and a purchase. Cynics might question whether that philosophy was just a chance for a publisher to stretch out advertising for more revenue, but that certainly was never my opinion; the longer an advertiser had a branding campaign, the more successful it was, in my experience.

There is still a counterbalance to this. Surrounding yourself with much lower-priced options can make you appear expensive. That may be true, but I still believe that even if we don’t generate enquiries through these websites, there is much to gain from a research perspective. My business is priced higher than almost all our counterparts in our area, but then I think of the old Stella Artois ad slogan: “reassuringly expensive”.

In my experience, the likes of Hitched and Bridebook are a step up from sites like Bark and Add To Event, the auction-style companies referenced in this article’s title. And that’s mainly because the end user is researching a service and then makes a judgement based on the amount of information a supplier puts in their virtual shop window. Yes, it still results in a largely price-driven decision, and it’s tough to stand out when so many suppliers are at the lower-priced end of spectrum.

But awareness is important, and anyone who actually reads your content should see the value in your proposition. This exposure is invaluable to your brand.

Where I fail to see the same valid justification is on the auction-style platforms. Bark and Add To Event are not the only ones, but it’s fair to say they are the market leaders of that model in our industry. I have often told them of my dislike of their business model when responding to their frequent invitations to spend my cash with them.

Their business model goes like this:

A client contacts the platform to say, “I want this type of supplier for these hours to provide this service on this date. What’s your best price?” The suppliers then purchase credits from the platform so they can put a bid in and potentially win the business. The supplier does this in full awareness it is effectively a sealed tender, so keen pricing is extremely important.

We face this every single day and it’s an entirely justifiable position from a buyer’s perspective. Our duty to ourselves and our industry is to steer the question away from ‘what’s the bottom line?’ and towards ‘what’s the best value for money?’. Cost does not equal value and the two can easily be mutually exclusive.

Of course, the representatives of those platforms will tell you that you can put forward your benefits in your bid. My issue with this is that those clients are there almost entirely for the price first and the service second. Beyond the bid, they are highly unlikely to read your content. I believe this mindset is extremely harmful to our industry – if we don’t value ourselves, then why should anyone else?
The more of us that succumb to this marketing method, the greater their...

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