All Booked Up

Kelly Chandler’s five marketing strategy tips for building wedding venue success this autumn

With peak wedding season soon coming to an end and autumn just around the corner, it’s a good time to refresh and refocus on your marketing. This month’s feature is dedicated to sharing five key strategies and tactics to look at and invest time and effort to keep attracting your ideal clients and securing bookings to fill gaps in 2019 and book your diaries for 2020.

Diary booking
Pic: Getty Images
  1. Review your directory listings

When did you last look at your directory listings on external websites? It’s OK, you’d be in good company if you haven’t looked in a while, but this autumn make a conscious effort to review where your venue is listed and how that directory listing looks.

In particular, prioritise your paid-for listings and those that deliver the best enquiry and booking results, so whether it’s Hitched, Guides for Brides, Coco Wedding Venues, or Wedding Dates, ensure that you are putting the very best version of your venue out there.

What does your listing say about your venue? Is it presented in an eye catching, easy to read way? Bullet points work well, and remember, couples are time short so will want the key facts and details of your unique features easy to hand.

Ensure the visuals are the very best they can be with your latest images that really showcase your spaces as they will be used – ceremony spaces, dining set ups etc. – I’m a particular fan of drone photos or bird’s eye views, especially of outside spaces. If you’re unsure about your listings, ask a friend who doesn’t know your venue (and even better, one who is planning a wedding) to tell you what they think; do they tell them what they need to know?

Ensure listings are also working in terms of its functionality, especially for those which aren’t bringing you many results at the moment.

  1. Keep an eye on hashtags and trending events

The use of social media is huge and grows year on year in weddings; it’s where your millennial couples are researching, sourcing and buying. There are a thousand ways you can utilise social media (a future feature perhaps?) but one strategy that I want to draw your attention to is looking closely at the hashtags you’re using, what’s trending and what’s going on in the wider world.

In particular there are lots of “National Days” which gain a lot of social media coverage, examples being National Burger Day, National Afternoon Tea Week, National Allotment Week; all those events are happening around now. If there is a link to your venue with any of the above, then consider planning some social media on these topics. For example, many of you produce your own fruit and vegetables on your properties so National Allotment week is a perfect chance to showcase this throughout; tell the story (with visuals) of what you do and how you do it – it’s all part of storytelling that is so important to the modern customer in making a vital wedding venue choice. And sustainability is becoming much higher on the agenda of younger couples, which is wonderful news.

  1. Couple looking at laptop screen
    Pic: Getty Images

    Refresh your visuals

This autumn, make sure you take the opportunity to refresh your wedding images in your galleries and key website pages, and share those fresh images widely, for example if you write a regular blog (highly recommended) and in your social media.

My advice is to contact your couples and their photographers as soon after their wedding as possible to ask for permission for the use of photos and sharing of them – as time moves on it can be harder to obtain these as couples have moved onto new life projects. Many couples will be keen to share but you must of course have their permission – you may wish to show them examples of how you intend to use them, for example in ‘real weddings’ blog posts or dedicated gallery spaces to reassure them. This can be easier if the professional photographer is one you have a good relationship with already as they should appreciate the benefits of helping you with providing images. Do have a conversation with any new photographers and look to work out a way that you can use images, giving them something in exchange and certainly properly crediting them.

  1. Plan your next wedding showcase event

Do you have a date for your next wedding open day or wedding showcase event? While it can be increasingly hard to get numbers through the door to these events, the audience that does make the effort to attend can often be a very good and serious one, and the benefit of being able to show your venue dressed and “in action” is very powerful. I could write a whole training module on this (in fact I have!) but if you’re looking to showcase your venue ensure you lay on something that goes beyond opening your doors; the modern customer expects an experience, to be spoiled and treated if they are going to make the effort to attend “in real life” as opposed to virtually.

Demos, talks, tastings and areas that tempt the senses and excite, inspire and educate will all be winners – especially if they have a food, drink or fashion edge. Get your creative suppliers on board to work with you on this and lay on something interesting and eye catching that brings your venue to life. Invariably some investment is needed from your side but it can reap really good rewards.

  1. Work your recommendations

All the industry surveys out there state how vital recommendation both off and online is. Word travels fast within the wedding industry and within close knit circles of friends marrying in equal measure, so make sure that you’re making the most of this with happy clients. Ensure that you act in a timely manner to capture those thank yous, testimonials and recommendations from your summer weddings. Again, like the photos, when time passes, couples become harder to reach and the sense of urgency disappears.

Online there are some great tools. Ask happy clients to write you a Google recommendation, a review on your business Facebook page or a Trip-Advisor review. You can repurpose that review and feature it on your website, use it by turning it into a nicely designed quotation on your own social media or add it to your e-signature. Basically, positive recommendations are powerful and really key to attracting that new audience and keeping business flowing in.

Don’t be afraid to guide a client towards how to write a testimonial too – sometimes people struggle with what to say given a blank page so if you’ve helped them with a particular challenge, delivered something unique or difficult, or organised a last minute wedding for them, don’t be afraid to prompt them to write about it!

Join our Facebook Group
This is just a starting point of course for plenty of powerful marketing activity – if you’d like more regular marketing tips and inspiration to help grow your bookings, then join my free private Facebook group just for venues called ‘Wedding Spaces Going Places’. It’s a collaborative, friendly space full of ideas, advice, training and networking. Search in Facebook for ‘Wedding Spaces Going Places’.

About the author
Kelly Chandler is a longterm preferred service provider for exclusive venues such as Syon Park, Highclere Castle, Spencer House and Stoke Park Club. Kelly’s consulting services to wedding venues draw on prior experience in international conference and event planning, over 15 years of business management, and working directly with discerning couples planning their weddings in diverse locations and forging successful relationships with all components of the wedding industry. A former director of trade body The Alliance of Wedding Planners, Kelly is a well-regarded innovator, mentor, trainer and industry spokesperson on and in the wedding business.

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