NEW YORK (WCBS 880) -- It was a eureka moment.
Matthew Saravay, CEO of Brooklyn-based Wizard Studios, was forced to reimagine his production and events business during the COVID-19 pandemic. While attending a Vistage executive coaching session, a light bulb went off in his head.
"(The coach) said, 'Who wants to hire somebody?' And, I raised my hand and he said, "What do you want to hire?' I said, 'I want to hire a salesperson.' He said, 'What do you want the salesperson to do?' I said, 'I want him to bring in a million dollars in business next year.' And, he said a question to me that changed everything. He said, 'How would you like that?' I'm like, 'What do you mean? I want it all now.' And, he said, 'No, like, do you want 100 $10,000 sales or 10 $100,000 sales.' That gave me pause. I'm like, oh man, I want 10 $100,000 sales," Saravay recalled on the WCBS Small Business Spotlight, sponsored by Dime Community Bank.
He left that day with a fresh perspective. He revamped his sales strategy and began pursuing local advertising agencies that represent major corporations.
"In my perfect world, the brand is my customer. In the real world, the brand is never my customer," Saravay explained. "We're doing an event currently for Hilton, but there is another company that has hired us to produce the work that we're delivering.
He told Joe Connolly and Neil A. Carousso that 50 percent of his revenue now comes from local advertising agencies that hire his company to produce events.
"In the agency world, they own the brand relationships, and then, they go out and find companies like ours that go out and do the physical work and create the sets and incorporate the lighting and the video and the audio components and bring it all to life," said Saravay.
Wizard Studios is now scaling beyond its pre-pandemic volume of 350 events a year, which previously came directly from venues. It has produced events at the top of One World Observatory, Tavern on the Green, and for the Biden Campaign and Democratic National Committee.
While full-scale production and design for in-person events is Wizard Studios' bread and butter, Saravay has invested in the virtual event space and does not see virtual events going away after the pandemic, because businesses and non-profit organizations are reaching a wider audience.
"I'm actually at a site visit right now with a non-profit that's holding their first in-person event since 2019 later this year, and I asked them the question, 'Did you also want to livestream the event?' And, they said, 'Oh, we're concerned that it might erode some of the attendance if they can see the event livestreamed.' I said, 'Well, we could put a gateway on that and charge admission just like you're charging admission to come to the catered meal and see it live,'" he told Connolly and Carousso.
By putting virtual events behind a paywall, organizers can also keep track of who has registered to get feedback and upsell them in the future.
Several non-profits have told WCBS 880 they surpassed their fundraising goals in 2020 and 2021 because of the explosion of virtual events and lower overhead costs.
See more on Wizard Studios and get ideas for growing sales on the Small Business Spotlight video above.