Charlotte Winship give invaluable advice on perfecting your digital shop window.
Recently I have been helping a wedding venue identify opportunities to develop their business, increase bookings and increase their revenue. One of the areas for improvement we identified was their venue website.
I started my career when digital media was still in its infancy and websites, online listings and social media barely existed. Nowadays, for most of us, life without a digital presence is unimaginable. Our marketing purpose has always been to create engagement and build relationships but social media and web marketing have revolutionised our marketing strategy and made reaching and engaging with a distant audience much more achievable and straightforward.
For good or bad, the immediacy and visual nature of the digital age means that we need to regularly maintain our presence and appeal. This means refreshing your online content regularly and listening to and understanding your audience to be able to position yourself and enable them to find you.
Your social media activity acts as a conduit to your website. Your website acts as a sales channel. Your social media is the street crier voicing encouragement for passers-by to visit your website. Your website is your digital shop front virtually displaying your venue and enticing those prospective clients to visit you and make a booking. The two work together. You can spend hours every day uploading engaging content to your Instagram account but if your website is out of date then it could be thwarting all your efforts.
So what elements do you need to incorporate to create a venue website that works well?
1. Research and development
In a busy marketplace, creating a venue website that works well and helps you stand out from the crowd is a must. It pays to do your research and have a clear strategy. Review your competitors’ websites. Which one is your favourite? Why? Be very clear on who your audience is, who you are aiming to reach and how you want them to perceive your venue.
What sets you apart from other local wedding venues? What is your identity? Do you have a distinctive brand? How will you incorporate this into your website? What functions do you want your website to perform? Is it going to be a simple brochure style website or would you like visitors to have access to an up to date availability calendar?
Set a budget. As with many things, you pay for what you get. An off-the-shelf web template is fine and a more affordable option. There are so many different styles available now that you will find one to suit you and your venue. Beware of any limitations and consider the longevity. A bespoke website from an experienced and talented web designer offers the most flexibility both in design and functionality. It can sometimes be more cost effective if it is designed with the capacity to adapt as your business develops. It also enables you to stay focused on the business of running your venue and not web designing!
2. Visual content
A picture is worth a thousand words. We process visual information far more quickly and easily than text information. This means that when your audience visits your website they are looking for images that will give them the information they need to make an informed decision. They want to see key elements of your venue and be able to picture themselves marrying there.
Your pictures need to appeal to your ideal audience. They need to be up to date and of high quality. It pays to be on good terms with your couples and their photographers. Ask them for permission to share their photographs on your website and social media. Most will be very happy to accommodate in return for a mention and credit.
Tell a story with your photographs. Consider adding video content. Ask your couples to share their wedding film. Their videographer may even provide you with edited highlights.
A virtual tour is also a great investment particularly for venues that regularly attract couples from further afield and may not be able to easily visit your venue in person.
3. Text content
Sadly these days, many of us are time poor and wedding planning is yet another time thief. Make it as quick and easy as possible for your audience to gather information about your venue. Text that is quick to scan and easy to digest is a winner.
Speak to your audience. What tone will you use? Relaxed and familiar or formal and professional? Use short paragraphs that give specific, essential information such as location, capacity, facilities and costs. Quick bullet points listing what’s included in the venue hire are key. Don’t go into too much detail – save longer explanations for your brochure.
Keep your website simple. Your audience is at the start of their relationship with you. They don’t want to be overwhelmed by too much information. Remember your website is the introduction and the tool that your audience is using to decide whether to book a viewing. Remember couples look at hundreds of venues online but only choose a few to visit. The website should serve to help your clients make a choice and choose you!
5. Emotive experience
How do you want visitors to feel as they navigate your website? Confident in you as venue operators? Awed by your appearance and facilities? Inspired by the options available? Curious to visit and find out more? Determined to book?
6. Strategic direction
Your website should have a strategy. Your ideal client has found your homepage. Now what? Your website should take visitors on a journey. You are the guide. What path do you want them to follow? What do you want them to do next?
Be explicit. Your audience is not stupid but they do need you to be clear to the point of obvious. They are busy people and don’t want to spend precious time decoding your website. Don’t hide methods for them to contact you. Actively encourage them to call or email you. Make it easy for them to book a site visit. Share availability calendars.
7. Search engine optimisation (SEO)
With over 1 billion websites in the world you would be remiss to spend money investing in a shiny, new, brilliant website and not giving any consideration to SEO. The intricacies and subtleties of SEO are unending but having a basic understanding of how SEO affects your web presence and a few tools to enable your audience to find your website are invaluable.
If I am speaking a foreign language then there are plenty of resources available providing more information and training as well as numerous SEO experts who can help you get to page one of Google!
About the Author
Charlotte Winship has over 20 years’ experience transforming good wedding and events venues into great ones. 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 / firstname.lastname@example.org / www.charlottewinship.com