Charity, Marketing and possibly a new perspective by Gary Cole

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Over the six or seven years of this list, we have discussed many times the thought of being asked to do charity events for free, with the hook, that we would get great exposure. I'm sure most of those that are established face painters routinely turn these events down with an even handed scoff. I'll admit, we do the same. Those same established painters would also probably think of nothing about running a $150 to $300 ad in a new local magazine to see if it would generate a new group of clientele. I'm going to suggest you think of this from a number of new angles you might not have thought of before. Sometimes new possibilities come from trying something new.
In the Dallas - Fort Worth area there are plenty of opportunities to perform face painting and other family entertainment at church fund raisers, or similar events where you would be exposed to a large crowd of children/families. My wife has handled the bookings of our family entertainment business for the last several years. She likes to hold to our standard rates or at best give such groups our corporate discount (which is only $10 less per hour than our standard rates). We are already one of the lower priced venues in the area (by strategy) so we do not give lower rates even if it is for charity. Add to that we have a policy of adding additional fees for added driving distances. Our policy is to allow up to a thirty minute drive for our base rates. We then add about $10 per hour for each additional 10 to 15 minutes we have to add to our driving. In other words if our standard rate is $60 per hour and we have to drive one hour, the hourly rate would jump to $80 or $90 per hour. Even with our prices lower than most in the area, it often puts our trained painters out of the budget range of these churches. This poses a dilemma as we really like doing such events because it gives us great exposure. In the past we have been hired and paid for by benefactors in those churches. We have learned that when we do our full face work, we end up booking quite a few follow up parties from that one event. I have suggested to my wife that we lower our rates in order to get into more of these church events, just in order to get exposure and many more bookings.  In other words trade off a lower rate for the marketing at those venues that have REAL potential. Distinguishing potential I'll leave up to you.
I know we have discussed the issue of when we work for free or very low rates, we lower the bar and it hurts the whole market. Well you think of nothing in trying a new ad that cost you money. Why not try a whole new approach? The next time you are given a call for a large gathering of children with high exposure in your niche why not try this? Generally they are shopping for rates. I suggest you give your marketing approach with your regular rates. They might just pay those rate. Lets say they tell you that their budget is not near that rate. I would also say before you take the next step, you qualify the event. In other words, you want to make sure that you will be exposed to families and not just a bunch of kids at a school. If you are going to gamble on this approach, you want to make sure you have plenty of kids to paint AND you will have plenty of parents that can see your great painting. Remember your primary objective now would be to get future bookings. At this point you should ask the contact what the budget is for the event. If they come up with something a bit crazy for a professional, like $30 per hour, I know most would walk away from the event. Since they are bound by the budget, most likely they will drop face painting from the activities or have a mom volunteer buy a small painting kit and do cheek art (or worse buy acrylic paints and do cheek art).
Keep in mind your desire is to take advantage of the positive exposure. My suggestion is for you to make a come back alternative. Using my example of doing the job at half of your normal rate give them this proposal. Respond with... "I understand you are trying to stay within a specific budget. Your budget is well below our standard rate. With that said, we like doing events like yours because we get a lot of good positive exposure. What we are willing to do is take on your event if we are allowed to paint the faces we want that would give us maximum exposure. In other words instead of allowing the host to select the range of faces we can paint whatever face we want to show those at the event our capabilities. You would pay us our normal full rate per hour which is $XXX and what we would do is provide you a donation back to your group at a rate of our standard rate less your budgeted amount. When you give us your payment, we would immediately give you back a donation and you would provide a contribution receipt." You can get a taxable right off, you still make some money and you get some great exposure.
This might or might not work. Like running that ad, if you get future booking repeat. If you do not get bookings then change your strategy. If you try this I would love to hear your feedback.
Gary Cole

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