Charlotte Winship explains how the art of telling a story can increase venue sales.
One of my favourite parts of venue management is venue sales. The thrill of winning another booking, successfully achieving your target for the month and most importantly delighting customers.
So, against increasingly stiff venue competition, how do you delight your customers enough to win their business?
Who is your audience?
Firstly, consider your audience and their needs. Who are they? A young couple looking for a memorable wedding venue, a busy corporate events organiser looking for a unique location for a business conference, or a promoter looking for an intriguing venue to draw crowds?
A successful marketing campaign will find your audience, encourage them to view your website, suggest they follow you on social media and tell them that your venue can meet all their requirements. It will also drive them to make contact with you.
This is the time when you can learn more about them.
• What are their specific event needs and requirements? How can you fulfil them?
• Is this a corporate event? What is the purpose of their event? What outcome are they looking for?
• Is this a public event? What appeal does your venue hold for mass audiences?
• Is this a wedding? How does your venue align with their values? What style do they favour?
Set the scene
Next, invite potential customers to meet you and visit your venue. But if they have seen the photographs, walked through the venue plans, read your FAQ, what more do they expect to learn from the site visit?
A venue visit is an opportunity for the event organiser to check the location and make sure it is easily accessible. It helps them to visualise their event at your venue and understand how it will flow. They can also make sure that your venue lives up to the photographs and assess how it compares to the other venues they have seen.
But a venue viewing doesn’t just serve your client. Whilst they are verifying the information and reviewing your venue’s credentials you also have a really important sales opportunity. With the information you have gathered about them, you can use this meeting to align your venue with their values and create a powerful impression. This is your opportunity to tell them your venue story in a way that captures their imagination.
The power of a story
I love stories, particularly historical ones. I have always had a fascination for history (I even got a BA in it!) and I am very fortunate to have been able to combine my passion for the past with my passion for parties and events. Having the opportunity to walk in the footsteps of our ancestors, imagine what their experience would have been like and hear stories of their lives. These stories became a large part of my venue sales patter as I excitedly reeled off names and dates, stories, anecdotes, mysteries and intrigue; determined to enthuse my clients and compel them to fall in love with my venues as much as I was.
I would greet them at the door with a warm welcome, prepared to inspire them from that first moment through to their final departure. Encouraging them to absorb the atmosphere and immerse themselves into the fabric of the place. Putting on a show that would excite them and invoke an emotional response; a shiver down the spine, a spark of joy, love, wonder, awe or intrigue.
The story doesn’t have to have notable characters or famous events. It could be your family history or the transformation of your venue. It could be the love and effort you have put into creating a beautiful place to share with others.
Whatever your story, it will be unique because no two venues share the same story. Your story sets your venue apart from all the rest.
Highlights of your story could be a unique location, a singular view, an infamous history or a quirky experience that nowhere else can provide. Most notable is the humanity: the people who built and designed your venue, the people who lived and worked there, the people who have partied and dined there and the people who poured their heart and soul into transforming it into a wedding and events venue. Learn the stories and your venue ceases to become just a beautiful shell but a place with a past purpose and a future legacy.
Even the most modern and industrial of buildings can tell a tale. One of my favourite venues is Cockatoo Island. It has a chequered history originally as a convict penitentiary for repeat offenders, a quarry, a shipyard and naval dockyard. It is now one of the most important cultural sites in Sydney hosting the Biennale, art and music festivals and Hollywood film crews. It’s ugly, grubby, dilapidated and difficult to get to (you need a boat!) but it has an amazing million $ Sydney Harbour view and hundreds of stories.
Find your venue’s story
• How old is it?
• What was it in its former life?
• Who has lived or worked there? Anyone notable?
• What events have happened there over the years?
• How did it become a wedding venue?
• What special features or character quirks does it have?
Align your story with your clients’ values
Couples looking for a wedding venue want romance so tell them tales of love. No tragedy here please. Happy memories of romantic liaisons and long-lasting relationships, human and animal! Create lots of scenic photographic opportunities. Avenues, pathways, bridges, bowers, romantic vistas, dramatic backdrops, water features, architectural interest and combine them with a story. ‘Ah, this is the place where so and so met for the first time’ or ‘this is the tree planted by so and so for his true love’ or ‘this is the room where so and so married’.
Businesses are looking for venues of interest that will appeal to their clients and stakeholders, particularly if they are from overseas. Can you find a story connecting your venue to the business? Perhaps an historic relationship? A personal connection? An artefact that has a link?
Stories sell tickets. Intrigue, notoriety, fame, fortune, tragedy, comedy, life, death, invention, firsts, lasts, biggest, smallest. Public events promoters are looking for venues that will help attract crowds to buy tickets to their events. What can you tell them about your venue that will excite them into wanting to stage their event there? They already have a great idea for an event. What inspiring backdrop can you give them? Will this be the first event of its kind at your venue? There’s a story in the making!
How can you make these stories part of their event? A quote on the invitation, a costume party, a logo, a theme, a house tour.
Telling your story from a distance
Of course, we haven’t been able to do many face-to-face site visits lately and have had to find more remote ways to engage our clients and share the wonder of our venues virtually. How can you invoke the same emotional response? How can you express the physical atmosphere of your venue digitally?
• Document your stories on video and share them over social media
• Enable clients to take a digital 3D virtual tour via your website
• Make sure you keep your photography up-to-date with plenty of high quality professional images
• Tell your stories over your web blog
• Start a podcast and interview people with a connection to your venue, maybe starting with a recent client or wedding couple.
A happy ending.
It doesn’t matter if you’re selling a palace or a barn or a factory, everywhere has a story to tell. Find that unique quality that only your venue possesses, get excited, share your enthusiasm, tell your story, weave magic, intrigue and leave a lasting memory in your clients’ hearts and minds. Make them want to book you and become part of your venue’s story.
About the Author
Charlotte Winship has over 20 years’ experience transforming good wedding and events venues into great venues. She is an expert in helping venues reach their ideal customers, maximise sales opportunities, increase profitability, establish effective teams and streamline venue operations. 07493 350303 / email@example.com / www.charlottewinship.com