Kelly Chandler discusses what to do while the doors to your venue are closed to keep your business moving forwards.
It’s hard to believe quite what’s happened over the past few weeks. The last feature I wrote for Open Air Business back in early March feels like two years ago instead of two months (I’ve missed you OAB team!) and yet bizarrely some of the advice still stands as I write today.
While clearly my “let’s celebrate” feature of the last issue needs to be kept on ice for the future – the reality is that, in my experience, most work you do to keep your venue visible, out there and in front of your target audience, is a long term strategy and one that requires consistency not quick bursts or quick fixes.
Right now we’re facing all sorts of business challenges, often with much reduced teams yet it’s really important to keep taking steps, no matter how small those steps are at the moment. This month I’ve put together my advice on 10 things your venue team should focus on while your venue doors are closed.
Why is this important?
I strongly believe that future customers are absolutely looking at businesses right now with close scrutiny. WhilE they may not be buying at the same speed as before, they are watching how businesses show up, if they show up, what they are saying right now and how they are behaving. Who is demonstrating resilience? Who is showing positive leadership? What venue is inspiring them with positivity and making them feel looked after, hopeful and in safe and good hands for the future?
I know from running my wedding planning business and having come through the global recession of 2009, as well as having worked in incentive travel at the time of 9/11, while disruption is huge and times very tough, those businesses who keep taking steps, keeping their customer and values at the heart of decisions, stand the best chances of making it through and experiencing good future sales and growth.
So what can you do now?
Be Kind To Yourself
We’re all going through a very tough time at the minute. Let’s be honest – you’re having to be a calm, compassionate, professional finding ‘Plan B’ options for your devastated couples. Some are taking it OK and being lovely, some not so much and you’re taking the brunt. This doesn’t even factor in how you are feeling personally about coronovirus, about juggling new family members and children at home and everything else that this pandemic throws up.
Be kind to yourself and be realistic about expectations of yourself. This is a lesson I’m still learning myself at the minute, having to acknowledge that I just can’t produce as much work each day as I usually do as life has changed at the minute. Many of you are in small teams and sometimes completely alone handling this and being the port of call for your clients, so be realistic about what you can do and when.
I say this first as I’m going to give some practical ‘doing’ strategies here in the tips to follow to help you with keeping that eye on business moving forward but please only do these when you feel able and that will be different for us all. Those venues with larger teams may be able to jump on all of these now. For you, it may be that you can only tackle some of them or they take you longer, so please be kind to yourself and know what’s possible for you and your team right now. This is going to be a marathon and not a sprint.
Now is not the time to disappear from view as you think there isn’t anything to say since your venue doors are closed. Many venues close for winter anyway, so while this may be rather unprecedented, it’s important that you send the message out that you’re very much there and excited for the future. There are many ways you can do this and I can’t cover them all in this feature but one area that I speak to a lot of my private clients about is ramping up your Pinterest presence.
Pinterest is the most used platform for wedding planning, but it not over saturated by those promoting their businesses right now so a good time to create a strategy for this search engine which is used by couples getting super specific on what they are looking for, and it could be you! I’ve had lots of clients tell me that they want to spend time on their Pinterest haven’t previously had time. I have some mini trainings inside my (free) private Facebook group for wedding venues so please join up here and drop me a note if you specifically want these and I’ll tag you.
If you have a permanent hosted virtual tour already then great; remember to make this very prominent now on all of your channels. Couples potentially have more time than ever to be wedding planning from their sofas so ensure they can find your wedding virtual tour as quickly and easily as possible from your website and from your social media. Plan some specific virtual tour social media content that points to this and consider adding it to your Instagram bio for example.
If you don’t have a virtual tour to date, then I urge you to consider this when doors are open again for future. This will always be an excellent sales tool for the young millennial generation doing so much pre-screening of their venues digitally anyway and it looks likely that we’ll be in this uncertain Covid-19 situation on and off for a while. One virtual tour company and hosting platform I recommend is The Venue Insider – take a look through for some examples – their tours are future proof too in that while your spaces can be shot empty (‘the before’), the platform is designed to be able to add ‘the after’ with constant updates of real wedding photos or styled shoots. It is an impressive resource that brings your venue to life 24/7 and anywhere in the world. See more here.
Lots of my clients tell me they never have time to review their website pages in detail so this could be the time to do this. Do you have your latest images in your gallery? Is your accommodation offer up to date? What about your customer journey from initially landing on your site to your call to action? Is it clear what people need to do and has your website been updated to reflect the current situation we’re in – in other words have you told them how to reach you and how you’re handling enquiries at the minute?
Write a blog
Now is absolutely the time to create more content for or to launch a blog attached to your venue’s website. Very few wedding venues have dedicated blogs yet there is huge SEO benefit from regularly blogging and having constantly updated content to raise your Google rankings. It’s a long term strategy but well worth it for your rankings/visibility as well as to endorse your expert status in giving advice, guidance and planning tips that go beyond the scope of your usual more sales-driven web pages. Now more than ever, couples are going to be super picky on who they work with and who they invest their hard earned money with for their wedding; they will want experts all the way so a genuinely well written blog that shows the depth of your team’s knowledge is important. And even if you can only manage one blog a month, that accumulates over time, so don’t delay…
Those who married last year are probably mighty grateful right now and some of those couples may have more time on their hands while either not working or working from home to finally get that testimonial written for you. Don’t be afraid to reach out to those past recent clients and work on building up your Google Reviews, your Facebook recommendations as well as collating photos of past weddings that perhaps you never received and you now have time to follow up.
We all need some positive happy content around us so sending out good news and inspiring images of joyous events via written word or visual image is a good thing; the very worst thing is to go quiet and say and do nothing right now. And don’t forget to give as well as receive – sending a recommendation via say LinkedIn to one of your valued suppliers would absolutely make their day and we all need lots of acts of random kindness right now.
Talk to your dream teams
Now is the time to make yourselves better, more knowledgeable, more well-rounded for the future. How often do you say you’d like to know more about how some of your good venue suppliers work? I mean really work? How their businesses work, who is in their team? What are their goals? How does their day to day look (usually). Now is the time to say hello and schedule some virtual coffees to share and discuss and deepen the relationship. This was definitely something I did when we were in global recession in 2009 and the strong relationships and knowledge I built then really stood me in good stead for when the doors opened again and we were back in business.
My relationships were stronger, we referred the right business to each other, looked out for more right-fit opportunities for each other and supported each other to be a dream team.
Looking for the new
This is also a time to research what’s new out there in wedding world and in the business world; it’s a conversation I often have with venue clients that you don’t have time to review your supplier list fully and get it up to date but also that you don’t have time to look for what’s really out there in wedding world. Now is the time to be proactive. To read those wedding blogs, pick up a book on wedding etiquette, look at new companies with new products and services and how they might work at your venue; this will all make you even more attractive and valuable to your future couples.
Personal virtual showrounds
Who would have thought it just a few months ago that we’d be conducting so much of our lives on line? We’re all certainly adapting and fast. Many of my clients have been investing in their online efforts to enable them to show couples round via a personal/private virtual showround while doors are closed.
If you haven’t embraced this yet then I urge you to find a way to showcase your venue via slide show, photos and visuals alongside the highly important personal element of access to you/your team in a private call. Using the likes of Zoom, Google Meet etc, this goes beyond a static venue tour and is the perfect meet of tech versus personal touch. I have many venue clients securing 2021 and 2022 bookings in this way from couples who are not yet able to get through the doors and see the venue in the flesh.
This is the very next best thing to seeing you in person and can really allow you to take the time to talk to couples about their plans and give them a sense of the support you give. Have some fun with it and suggest that they have a virtual coffee or something stronger with them, booking in for that show round with the likes of Calendly or other online diary tools so that you can manage dates and times in the same way as in-person tours.
After a virtual show round it’s then about following up with video clips, photos, links to blog posts and other resources relevant to help a couple build a picture of their wedding with you. Now is the time to show them your expert status and that you’re calm and have it covered – people won’t forget how you reacted and treated them at this time.
While some may book then and there, not all will and now is very much the time to remember that we’re here to nurture our potential clients. It’s ideal to keep in touch particularly with those who have booked a virtual show round over the following weeks until they can get in to see you and support them with other aspects of their research. It might be sending them a blog feature you’ve read on industry trends that they may find useful? Or it may be a link to a real wedding you’ve just featured on your blog that is similar to their ideas and plans. You may have to work hard to nurture and keep in touch with those virtual show round couples so that when the world gets back on its axis, they have a strong loyalty to you and will be through the doors and hopefully sealing the deal!
This situation will be over and weddings will bloom and blossom again – while we’re in for a long ride, I strongly believe that those who behave compassionately now to their couples caught up in this situation, those who keep managing their venue business finances sensibly, those who keep learning, who keep getting out there in front of customers and keep taking steps to move forward, will shine and be remembered and get those good rewards.
Take care and here’s to weddings; they will be back and with gusto!
Wedding Venues Rebuilding programme
New Membership Programme from Kelly Chandler Consulting
If you’d like to join an intimate group of dedicated wedding venues in my inner circle you may like to know that I’ve created a monthly membership group to help us all navigate these times. For a pay as you go £60+VAT per month membership, you can gain plenty of tailored group support from me, trainings and up to the minute advice. You can find details of how to join Wedding Venues Rebuilding here.