Event uplighting, food and bar lighting, pattern washes, pipe and drape, projector and screen, and speakers and microphone AV for a corporate event at The Regency Center in San Francisco, CA
Lighting & AV create a beautiful event environment in San Francisco. Photo courtesy of Whittaker Portraits

Tens of millions of dollars are being spent on AV in the Bay Area each year. Are you leaving money on the table? Having a go-to AV & Lighting company can increase your revenue and client satisfaction.

Caterers – like it or not – are often seen by clients as a confidant and quasi event planner. Clients rely on the caterers expertise in the industry to help them shape their event. As a caterer, you probably have more opportunities than you realize to enhance a clients event and boost your profits by including Audio, Video, and Lighting.

Here is a 5-step process to increase your revenues using Audio, Video, and Lighting:

  1. Align yourself with a great AV provider (or two!)
  2. Set up discount % and payment terms with your AV company
  3. Be forthcoming with your client about what you are doing and how you are helping them
  4. Follow up along the way
  5. Provide Post Event Feedback

Step #1: Align yourself with a great AV provider (or two)

Just like in catering, not all work is equal. Find an AV company that aligns with your company’s values. If your company is polished, high touch, customer focused, you will want your AV company to align with these values. They are representing you after all.

The client will look to you if the AV company succeeds or fails, so vet the company with a few test events before going all in. At first, it’s important to not be tied too closely with the AV company in case they don’t align.

Look for an opportunity to loosely refer the company to a client.

Let the client know that you’ve just met a contact for an AV company that might be able to help them with their event. Find out the client’s AV and Lighting budget ahead of time and let your contact at the AV company know so they have a better chance to win the bid.

During the quoting process, ask the client how things have been going with your contact over at XYZ Audio Visual. If the client reports back a lack of responsiveness, or general shadiness in the quoting process, call the AV company and let them know the client’s feedback, especially during busy season when response times can be a bit slower than usual.

If the company wins the bid, follow up with the client again during the planning process about how things have been going. Is the provider attentive, detail, and solutions oriented? Take notes.

What is the company’s demeanor on-site and at the event? Does it align with your expectations for your client?

Make sure to repeat the process a few times and make sure whatever happened good or bad wasn’t an anomaly.

Once you know you like working with the provider and the bells are ringing on all levels it’s time to set up some terms.

Step #2: Set up a discount % and payment terms

Let your AV company know that you’d like to add them to some of your agreements with clients and that in exchange, you would like a discount on their services.

We feel that a standard discount in AV is usually on equipment and wouldn’t include labor or trucking (delivery and pickup). In my experience the discount amount usually falls somewhere between 15 and 30 percent. Additionally, you will be able to mark up the services as a fee for vetting, facilitating, and making the client’s life easier. (see section below about transparency).

Set up a discount percentage for bundling their services in with yours, and a finder’s fee amount for just referrals. There is an opportunity to profit from both!

Finally, talk to the AV company in advance about payment terms. AV companies will likely want a deposit of 50% up front, but they are likely to set up net terms on final payments.

Step #3: Be forthcoming with your client 

Once you are aligned with an AV company that you trust it’s time to start adding them into your proposals…

Approaching the up-sale is up to you. But when you find a client who doesn’t want to deal with the headache of finding another vendor. Pitch your ability to make their lives easier. You are one step closer to increasing revenue.

It is important to let the client know that you are happy to make their lives easier by adding the AV to your proposal. Let them know you charge a small fee for coordinating the services (usually 10-30%). At this point, the client is at a crossroads. Do they pay you to make their lives easier, or do the work themselves. Either way, at least they know.

If they choose not to have you bundle AV services, give them your contact’s info anyway. Assuming they book, remind your AV provider of your finder’s fee and make some money just for the referral.

When a client decides to have you bundle, you will make your full coordination fee plus your AV company’s discount. (Cha-ching!)

Remember, you are doing a lot of work to find a great solution for your client. This fee is totally justifiable!

Step #4: Follow Up Along The Way

There is always some work to make money and this scenario is no different. This is where you earn your fees.

Set up some calendar appointments to follow up with the clients about their AV experience during the planning process. Provide feedback to the AV provider.

Ask the AV provider to let you know if it looks like costs will increase due to client requests, or add-ons. Make sure to approach the client about these possible changes right away.

Audio Visual, like catering is not static, if a client adds 20 guests, the food costs don’t stay the same. If a client is requesting a full day of rehearsals that were unplanned for, your AV company will have labor and equipment costs to add. You want your client to know the consequences of their requests early on.

Make sure that the AV company is not providing the client with any direct costs, all changes should go through you.

Step #5: Provide Post Event Feedback

Now that you know the process, you can start to bring other types of vendors into the fold. Nurturing your relationship with your outsourced vendors will be key to your long term success.

Let them know how they performed against the client’s expectations and don’t afraid to be honest. As an owner of an AV company I would much rather know how we messed up than think everything went well. When the phone stops ringing, I won’t know why.

Once your relationship is a well oiled machine, you can count on an easier experience over time. Especially on repeat events or with repeat clients.

Increasing your revenues can take a bit of work up front, but can have a long lasting payback.

If you are interested in teaming up with Verducci Event Productions to help you with your client’s events give us a call. We have a great set of online resources that explain our value to your clients. You can view them here. We would love to build a relationship that can help you and your clients achieve event success!