When did you last really look at your website? Kelly Chandler helps you take the microscope to your shop window
I think we all agree that the website of a business is a vitally important part of the sales and marketing process. More and more of us spend our consumer lives online researching and purchasing remotely, often with a few easy clicks. While the selection of a wedding venue requires a greater level of investment than the investment in say a new holiday swimsuit, customers in greater volumes expect to be able to research in detail and really get under the surface of their potential wedding venue virtually before they will take further steps to get in touch.
Every industry survey reports a substantial reduction in the number of in-person showrounds at today’s wedding locations yet wedding numbers overall are still relatively stable.
So alongside all aspects of your ‘virtual’ presence, it’s more and more key that your website really packs a punch and does a lot of the selling for you. For many, a website can sit a little untouched and sometimes unloved so today I invite you to look (and I mean really look) at how you can add the wow factor to your digital offering. Here are some specific pointers:
Trends in design of modern websites are ever evolving, with some key elements. Visuals/photos need to be large and really pop out – letting the photos lead in any website is vital these days and those images need to be of the very best quality. Millennial couples are used to excellent photography; we’re all surrounded by plenty of ‘wedding pretty’ on our Instagram feeds and Pinterest boards, so your images have to be the very best they can be.
Alongside those images, what you say needs to be snappy and to the point. Think “less is more” on text and certainly on those initial pages that entice the reader in – you want to excite them and have plenty of “Read More” options to convey your message as a story so that they want to turn the page and delve in, not feel overwhelmed by a text-overload.
The Moving Image
Video consumption is at an all-time high by the modern internet user – make sure you’re making the most of this by presenting your wedding location in this format. Whether it’s using past wedding film clips of events you’ve hosted, or working on a dedicated short and impactful promotional film of your own (highly recommended), make sure your film footage leads loud and proud, not hidden in the depths of your website. Don’t forget the likes of 360 degree filming and virtual reality tours too, both very valuable tools for giving the time-short visitor as strong an impression of what you have as possible. And a tip: keep films short – 30 seconds for an initial promotional film is ideal; most customers will not watch longer!
Authenticity & Storytelling
This is very important in being successful with the modern wedding customer. Couples want to really get to know a venue, the team and what they are all about. Most modern couples are very committed to authentically telling their own personal stories as to how they have connected, where they have come from, what their loves, hobbies and passions are, and it’s important to them that you fit into that vision for their wedding. Make sure you present your offering authentically, playing to your strengths and attributes that make your venue unique and you’ll attract the right clients, the ones that are a joy to work with.
Ensure this is presented on your website in the tone of voice you use, the information you give, how you deliver it and how you entice them to get in touch and work with you. While every venue is different and a formal approach may be ‘on brand’ for some, the majority of wedding venues need to adopt a less formal, more approachable customer experience than in the past.
Think about adding features to your website such as an ‘About Us’ page that describes the heritage/history of your venue and its owners, and ‘Meet the Team’, helping those potential clients e-meet the people that will be delivering the magic for them, and what makes them tick as individuals.
The couple of 2018 are more than ever seeking to celebrate their wedding absolutely their way, so flexibility of approach is key. It’s a fine balance as this audience is inexperienced and needs guidance and help to deliver a vision too, but as much as possible keeping a flexible approach to the ways you can suggest they use your spaces, plan their day, design their menu etc. is key.
Having some venue restrictions and guidelines is often understood, but maintaining an open, ‘keen to help’ approach towards fresh ideas and giving choice where it is absolutely possible is essential in attracting a modern audience. Try to prescribe the day too specifically, according to past tradition, and they will run a mile… In website terms, being able to guide a customer clearly to a range of options of how they can use your venue is key, marked more as ‘inspiration’ than ‘this is how we always do it’.
First Time Wedding Planner
While making the point above about flexibility, make sure the offering presented on your website and elsewhere is specific and helpful enough, taking account of the fact that these customers are new to this wedding planning business! Yes, they seek flexibility and absolute personalisation, and they often have a vision of parts of their celebration and how they envisage it to be, but most (unless event managers themselves) don’t have any knowledge about how to get there; they are first-time event planners, planning the biggest event of their life. It’s great to take a bespoke approach but don’t forget to steer them.
Example features for your website could be:
- A storytelling approach, describing with text alongside photos, the journey through a typical wedding day/weekend at your location, showing each space set up and dressed as you might often use it
- A bird’s eye view/floor plan of all your key spaces and capacities so they can map out their celebration and see how it flows
- Frequently asked questions – all those little things that you’re often asked; make those questions accessible from early in the process to overcome any potential hesitations
- Exciting gallery pages that show the wedding day components clearly (ceremony photos together, party photos together, getting ready photos together) to inspire, in an organised sense, the potential new booking.
Don’t forget that these customers have never set foot in your venue and have no idea of how it all knits together and works – try to take a fresh pair of eyes to your website as if you’d never seen your venue before and use this to have a website refresh to really ensure what you’re presenting is user-friendly and appealing to your next clients.
- Eye catching, modern web design and a flexible wedding planning approach: www.weddingweekends.co.uk
- The moving image/embracing technology: www.hedsor.com/hedsor-house-virtual-tour
- Authenticity and going the extra mile for the bride who is a first time planner of weddings: www.fetchampark.co.uk/weddings
- Authenticity and nailing their USP: www.thewellbeingfarm.co.uk
Need Expert Help?
This kind of website analysis is something that forms a part of my signature consulting programme ‘Refine & Shine’ where I help my venue clients on a one-to-one basis look at areas to refine and improve their wedding offering to increase bookings and/or enter new markets. If you’d like to explore more, you can find out about ‘Refine & Shine’ and other consulting and training options at www.kellychandlerconsulting.co.uk/consulting-services
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.