How To Use Discounts To Get People To Do What You Want In Your Event Rental Business

Event rental pros frequently ask me if they should offer industry discounts or referral fees to coordinators who send them business. My answer is almost always “NO!”

See, already, I have your attention, right?

Vendor discounts and referral fees (aka kickbacks) are such an industry norm (particularly in certain regions) that many people think I blaspheme the event gods if I even consider not making such an offering.

But here’s the deal: this is your business. You get to decide how you want to run it. And I want you to keep as much power as possible in your business.

For the sake of argument, let’s say you offer a rental for $1000. I’m not going to justify that price to you. I won’t go into costs or value or what the market will bear… let’s just say the price is $1000.

Now, let’s say you offer an always-applicable vendor discount or referral fee of 10%. Now, instead of $1000 on that rental, you’re bringing in $900.

Before we go any further down this road, I want you to think about Why you’re offering that discount or referral fee. Is it…

  1. because orders from this source require 10% less work to acquire (marketing) than your typical orders?
  2. because orders from this source require 10% less work to service than your typical orders? 
  3. because you want this vendor to continue to refer you over your competition?
  4. because your competitors do it?
  5. because you’re afraid if you don’t, people won’t refer you?
  6. something else? 
  7. a combination of the above? 
  8. you don’t know why

Let’s say you were doing $100,000 in rentals per year but with the Vendor Discounts, you actually only took in $90,000. Would you be happy to have left that $10,000 on the table? Or could you have done something different with that $10,000 to incentivize your clients to act differently? Could you have used that $10,000 more powerfully to get your clients to do what you want?

I use the example of the vendor discount above because I’ve seen Event Rental Business Owners feel great about giving a $100 discount but terrible at the end of the year when they see that they gave away $10,000.

Especially if they don’t have to.

What if instead of handing every Vendor in the world a 10% off coupon with no strings attached, you actually used discounts and incentives to get people to do what you want? Every discount should be an exchange. If you give money off, they give you something in return.

Let’s talk about how you could do that.

USE DISCOUNTS TO REACH SPECIFIC GOALS

If one of your goals for 2021 is to raise your average order size from $1500 to $1800, consider what would incentive your clients to increase their order size. How about 10% off orders of $2000 or more? Or perhaps you could send your favorite wedding planners a gift certificate for $250 to be used only on orders of $2000 or more.

In the end, you may give away the same amount you would with a blanket industry discount (around 10%) but you’ll be achieving the increased order minimum you’re aiming for at the same time.

USE INCENTIVES TO INCREASE CASHFLOW

Since events in most regions are seasonal, part of your cashflow plan may be to get clients to book at specific times of the year. If you haven’t already given away that 10% off the top to Vendors, you still have it in your back pocket to use in times like this.

Creating a flash sale for orders booked within a 15- or 30-day window can move people to take action now when they otherwise might drag their feet. Especially if the offer is for a larger incentive (20+% off, a bonus lounge, a flat amount of credit, or complimentary delivery, etc.), clients will be encouraged to take action. Having a Deadline creates urgency and also gets you the cash you need when you need it.

In the end, you will likely give away less than 10% off all of your sales but you’ll get people to pull the trigger when you need them to.

ENCOURAGE LOYALTY WITH REFERRAL TIERS

Instead of a blanket Industry Discount, consider offering larger discounts (or flat rate credits/gift certificates) to your higher-value referral sources. If you increase their savings with increased referrals, they are more likely to remain loyal and you don’t have to give 10% to every random person who hangs a shingle and starts calling herself a planner but is really the bride’s BFF.

In the end, you may end up giving away less or the same amount but you get larger orders from the planners you like working with.

Side note: I want to make a note about referral fees. Beyond ethical questions that many people have, I personally think they are an accounting nightmare. On that point alone, I wouldn’t ever offer them. Instead of referral fees, I would always suggest that the referral partner (planner, caterer, venue, etc.) make the rental order in their name and they pay me (the rental business) directly. If they then want to turn around and mark up the order and charge their client a different rate, that’s up to them. But I think cutting checks to the planner after a sale to a bride is complete is a hassle that leads to more headaches than it is worth.

Before you offer any discounts or referral fees, however, you need to examine your pricing strategy. Does your price allow for discounting? If not, you may need to first raise your prices before you can consider offering discounts. Remember that when you set your prices, the amount you’re happy to accept should be the after-discount price. So, if you want to rent the Jane Sofa for $150 and never a penny less, be sure that it is priced at least $167 if you ever plan to offer a 10% discount.

Overall, consider that whatever discounts or incentives you offer should be moving people to do something that aligns with your other goals. Discounts shouldn’t only be in the best interest of the client. You don’t have to offer a discount because other people are. You don’t have to offer a discount because someone asks for one. You don’t have to give someone free rentals because they are “in the industry” or going to “get you exposure.” For every “yes” you say in those circumstances, you have less power to say “yes” to the things that are important to you later.

Use discounts and incentives as a tool to get clients to make choices that you want them to make. That way, they’re a win-win.

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