Win Venue Bookings

Marketing for Venues: Building relationships with your customers.

Marketing for venues is about reaching out and showing up.  It is about making your venue visible to the people you want to see it.  It is also fundamentally about building relationships with your customers.   It’s about making your venue stand out from the competition and be memorable (for the right reasons!).  It’s about telling a story that creates an emotional response.  It’s about showing your audience that you understand them and their needs.  It’s about giving them an experience.  It is about persuading an audience that your venue is so desirable that they have to book it.

Marketing for venues
Stephanie Stevens Photography

Marketing for venues is about reaching out to your customers.

I moved to Devon from Australia nearly five years ago.  I didn’t know anyone in the small village we settled in.  I could have stayed not knowing anyone, remained invisible and made little effort to make any acquaintances.  But this would not have fulfilled me or helped my family settle into our new home.  For my sake and theirs, I knew I would have to make the effort to make some friends, so I set about finding ways to meet people and introduce myself.  Gradually I got to know a few people, talked to them, listened to them, found some likeminded individuals and we became friends.  I have spent lots of time with these people over the past five years and now count them as some of my best friends.  They know me, I know them, we hang out and enjoy each other’s company.  We have a transformational relationship.  Each fundamentally benefitting from the other.

I have told this story to demonstrate how by reaching out and making your venue visible (marketing) you can form relationships with people.  Not everybody you reach out to will become your friends (customers) but unless you make some effort, you won’t find those worthwhile relationships.  If you simply sit and wait for the phone to ring, chances are it won’t.  If your ideal customers don’t know your venue exists then how will they find it?  You need to go out into the world and introduce your venue.    Once you find those ideal customers then you need to maintain the relationship.  Don’t just turn up once and expect a call back.  You need to keep showing-up regularly and consistently to make a lasting impression.  Then the party invitations arrive and you know you’ve made it into the inner circle! 

Marketing for venues
Stephanie Stevens Photography

Marketing for venues requires forming transformational relationships.

In business, relationships can be purely transactional.  I need something, you’ve got something, you’re willing to sell it to me for a price, I am willing to buy it at that price, I pay you, you give me, we each go our separate ways, happy that we each got what we wanted from the relationship (eg. Tesco).

However, venue sales relationships can be a lot more complex.  Understanding your ideal customer; what they want, what they need, who they are, where they come from, what they like, what they dislike; helps you develop a stronger relationship with them and ultimately wins you their business.  Many business transactions are made on trust.  How do you build trust?  You show up regularly and on time, you deliver consistently and to a high standard, you are responsive and flexible.  You build a transformational relationship which ultimately becomes much deeper than the basic transaction (eg. Apple).  Your customers are convinced that by booking your venue their wedding is going to be the best wedding ever! 

Methods of marketing.

The world of marketing has changed massively in the last twenty years.  When I started in my career, the world wide web was still in its infancy.  We were using email but a lot of business was still done over the phone and by snail mail.  Businesses were beginning to recognise the importance of websites but social media was unheard of.  Most of our advertising was in print.  We invested much more heavily in PR, networking, exhibitions, word of mouth and brazen sales calls.  My clients knew little about me personally but trusted my business services based on my reputation and consistency.    

Now in a digital era of social media, reality TV, blogging, vlogging influencers, our potential reach is infinite and affordable.  You don’t need a multi-million pound marketing budget to gain traction.  Marketing for venues can be highly effective with a basic understanding of social media platforms and website optimisation. 

The fundamentals of marketing for venues hasn’t changed.  It’s still about reaching your ideal customer, developing a relationship and persuading them to buy from you.  It’s just been made a lot easier thanks to complex algorithms that help you target more accurately the people you want to meet.  You still need to show-up consistently and frequently but it is now much quicker to find your ideal customer.  No more blanket wedding magazine advertising in the hope of finding that perfect customer.  You can hone your venue marketing strategy to target the demographic who you know your venue will appeal to. 

Online content and social media give venues the opportunity to get in front of their ideal customer and build relationships even if they’re in another part of the world.  You can show your customers that you are like-minded, you understand them, you can meet their needs, you will exceed their expectations and that you are trustworthy.   Just keep showing up! 

marketing for venues

I have over twenty years’ experience managing venues in London and Sydney and have transformed venues from good to great.    If you need help reaching your ideal customers, maximising sales opportunities, increasing profitability, establishing an effective team or streamlining your venue operations then I would love to hear from you.  My vision is to use my expertise to support you to success. If you would like to find out more about how I can help with your marketing, or any other aspect of your venue business, then please follow this link for further information

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Top Table

Micro Weddings: The case for small, Covid secure, sustainable weddings.

It’s February 2021 and we are in lockdown.  Whilst we are waiting on the Government to make an announcement, I am optimistic that by Spring the UK will be back open for weddings and events to take place.  Vaccines are being rolled out swiftly and the number of Covid cases is now on the downward trajectory.  Whilst I would love to confidently say that we will be back to large parties and dancing with abandon by the Summer, the likelihood is that for the rest of this year we will still be operating with caution.  But this doesn’t mean that love or marriage is cancelled for another year!   Now, more than ever, is the time to embrace Covid secure, sustainable, micro weddings. Here’s why…

Marriage doesn’t need to mean excess.

For thousands of years, marriages and wedding ceremonies have been happening every day, all over the World.  They are a gathering of family and friends to celebrate your love for one another and formalise your union.  However over the years, it seems weddings have become less about the union and more about the accompanying frivolities.  The wedding industry is now a multi-billion pound industry as couples become ever more imaginative and creative in their planning of their big day.  Expectations, extravagances and guest lists run high as we seek the most perfect, Instagram-able wedding. Yet 2020 changed all this and the wedding industry is fighting for survival as it reels from the effects of Covid 19 government restrictions.  I lament the loss of income for myself and so many of my friends and colleagues but part of me also welcomes the opportunity to create more sustainable, micro weddings.   

Two Gold Wedding Rings on a dictionary definition of marriage

The evolution of big weddings.

As humans have evolved, we have become ever more competitive; seeking to have the first, biggest and best of everything.  Our weddings are no exception.  Everyone and anyone must attend for us to celebrate our love match.  Our wedding must be personal, unique and innovative… and of course on trend.  Wedding trends have evolved significantly over the last few hundred years.  Until the Victorian era and the rise of the Middle Class, weddings were much more subdued affairs.  As the industrialised world swiftly advanced and became wealthier, weddings started to become a statement of success.  A large wedding was seen as a sign of significant wealth.  Parents would save for years to be able to afford to give their beloved daughters a wedding they could be proud of.  The only exception being wartime and post-war weddings when speed was often of the essence and severe rationing precluded any significant feasting.  Micro weddings out, mega weddings in!

Bigger doesn’t always mean better.

But bigger doesn’t always mean better. Look at your guest list.  80, 100, 120, 150, 200 + people.  Perhaps a fraction of whom you know intimately, or well enough to spend any regular time with.  A small number who are immediate family.  Certainly too many for you to spend any meaningful time with on your wedding day.  The beauty of micro weddings is that you can reduce your guest list to only your most nearest and dearest and you have a genuine reason for not inviting Great Auntie Mable who you’ve only met once in your life!  You can spend  quality time with the people who mean the most to you rather than a fleeting word or two.  It also means that you can let your imagination and creativity run a bit more wild, unconstrained by the limitations of a big crowd.  Your wedding breakfast doesn’t need to be a simple three-course meal.  Unleash your culinary desires and choose that 5,6,7,8 course feast you have been dreaming of.  Satisfy your taste buds and go for quality over price point.   No need to skimp on the décor.  With less tables and space to adorn you can opt for more lavish flower arrangements, upgrade your tableware and add embellishment.  Small can still be entertaining too.  Dancing may be restricted but your ears and eyes can still enjoy the sounds of live musicians and performers.  Smaller numbers also opens up the possibility of more interactive activities.  Ask guests to prepare a short speech, recite their favourite poem or perform something.  Or how about introducing a game or activity for everyone to participate in together?  Think fun, dinner party over big, dance party.  And if you are worried about anyone missing out, film it!  Or better still invite them to join in virtually and stream the fun live to them at home.

Micro Weddings
Lily Rose Photography

The difficulty of postponing.

Couples are facing a tough decision.  Get married anyway under restrictions or postpone to a date in the future when restrictions may have eased enough to allow the wedding day you originally planned.  Postponement is problematic.  The government are yet to advise when larger weddings will be able to resume.  This makes re-setting a date for your wedding very difficult and the likelihood high that you will need to postpone again. Faced with an indeterminable wait and perhaps the need to move on into married life is it time to consider a more intimate but just as special wedding day?  Reducing your guest list is difficult.  Some of us come from large families and have lots of close friends.  Choosing who makes the cut might be a hard decision to make.  Ultimately it is your day and it should be your choice how your celebrate your marriage.  But what is the most important factor?  Why are you getting married? Is it the act of marriage union?  Is it the celebration with all your family and friends?  Sometimes the answer is both.  Does it suit you to wait? 

Micro weddings are more cost effective

Weddings are expensive.  The average cost of a wedding in the UK in 2019 was over £30,000.  Usually, the larger the wedding, the larger the cost.  With economic uncertainty affecting all of us, maybe it is time to rein in our spending and reduce our guest lists.  If finance is less of an issue, a smaller guest list also means that your original budget will stretch further.  Perhaps that dream honeymoon destination (when we can travel!) is more of a reality.  The wedding dress you have had your eye on but weren’t sure you could afford is now withing arms reach.  You can focus on enjoying an exceptional culinary experience rather than figuring out how to feed the 5000. 

Wed Magazine / Suzanne Neville

Micro weddings are greener.

Thanks to the efforts of Greta Thunberg, Sir David Attenborough and others, there is also a rising environmental consciousness.  Whilst wedding suppliers have made great strides in the last few years to reduce waste, recycle more and reduce their carbon footprint; weddings still carry a significant environmental impact.  Travel to and from weddings, outfits that will likely only be worn once, flowers flown in from Holland or South Africa etc.  There are of course lots of things you can do to reduce the environmental impact of your wedding but the best way is to reduce the number of guests.  Smaller is greener.

Micro weddings will sustain the wedding industry.

Whilst we sit in perpetual limbo waiting for the next government announcement to signify the survival or further destruction of the wedding and events industry, those of you who have decided to embrace the micro wedding are helping to sustain the wedding industry.  Whilst not always as lucrative for some wedding suppliers, your micro wedding will help us pay our bills, keep food on our tables and a roof over our heads.  The government says we are an unsustainable industry.  I say we are a vigorous, agile and determined industry of creative, imaginative, dynamic and innovative people, many of whom have not received a penny in compensation from the government who have forced the closure of our livelihoods.  It pains us to be unable to provide you with the wedding of your dreams.  We are fighting tirelessly to persuade the government to tell us when weddings and events can happen again so that we can plan for all our futures.  We have worked hard to ensure all our venues and services are Covid secure, putting in place robust hygiene and social distancing measures.  The popularity of marriage hasn’t changed in thousands of years and has adapted to be inclusive to all.  We know big celebrations will be back; we just need to support one another until then so that when they do we will be around to throw the mother of all celebrations!      

Perspectives Photography / Kathryn Clarke-Mcleod Photography/ Nova Wedding Photography

Ultimately, it is your day and your decision. How you spend your money and celebrate your wedding is entirely your choice.  I completely understand wanting to have all your friends and family witness you marry the love of your life and celebrate with a great party afterwards.  I did and I don’t regret it.  But I also didn’t want to wait for someone to give me permission.  So maybe it’s time to look to the positives and embrace Covid secure, sustainable, cost effective, micro weddings.  The wedding industry will thank you!   

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Clients need flexibility in 2021!

Bridelux Symposium

Learning from the Bridelux Symposium – 27th – 28th January 2021.

Last week some of the great and the good from the wonderful world of weddings came together virtually for the Bridelux Symposium. Two days of animated discussion about what, how, where, who and when weddings will happen in 2021 and beyond. Colleagues from across the industry shared their experiences and insights, not just from the UK but from across Europe and the US. Covid travel restrictions may have made the rest of the World seem very far away but I was reminded last week how uniquely close we are as a community with a solidarity built on mutual respect and shared experience. The outlook was overwhelmingly positive and optimistic which I took great heart in. I took away a lot but what I heard most was that clients need flexibility! I thought I would share a rundown of my biggest takeaways from the event:

Weddings and events will return.

The world is never going to be the same but weddings and events will return.  They are usually the first thing to recover after a crisis and when it comes, the bounce back will happen quickly so be prepared. 

Upton Barn
Nova Wedding Photography

Look and plan ahead.

Use this time now to look ahead beyond 2021.  How are you going to handle the inevitable mass influx of weddings when the market opens up again?  How will your organisation look?  Will you need to re-structure to meet demand?  Can you sustain remote working?  What mechanisms do you need to maintain close communications within your team, with suppliers and clients?

Remain visible. 

Let everyone know you are still here and ready for business.  You may not be able to afford the same marketing budget as before so this will mean being more creative in how you reach out. Collaborate with others, use social media platforms, stay active on your website, share imagery from past weddings and seek editorial opportunities with other online and print publications.  Are you able to facilitate virtual tours of your venue?    

Nova Wedding Photography

Effective communication.

The continued uncertainty is a big challenge for all of us so keep in close communication with all your clients and suppliers.  Keep them up-to-date with any changes to the Government guidelines.  Stay agile, ready for change at a moments notice.   By providing empathy, flexibility, transparent and comprehensive communication you can create more meaningful relationships and raise confidence.  Listen  to your peers too.  Learn from them and share good practice.  Look for ways to support one another and create mutual opportunities. 

Clients need flexibility more than ever.

Can you afford to offer more flexibility in your cancellation terms or offer reduced deposit?  How easy is it for clients to re-book their event?  Are you able to balance availability for your existing clients with potential new business?  How can you adapt to meet their changing needs?  How can you prepare to manage their expectations?    

Your professional experience is your clients’ greatest asset.

The biggest challenge for couples is stress and discomfort around uncertainty and indecisive direction.  Your professional experience is their greatest asset.  You can help them cope with the changes by keeping them focused.  Try not to let them overthink matters and worry about what ‘might’ happen.  Keep a plan B.  Expect the unexpected.  Your clients need flexibility so provide it and prove that whatever happens they will have an amazing wedding.  Support and reassure them.  Follow the guidelines.  There are great opportunities for Wedding Planners to help take the pressure off beleaguered couples.       

Nova Wedding Photography

Keep up to date with guidance and regulations.

Are you compliant?  The guidance and regulations are constantly changing.  How regularly are you checking your risk assessments?  Are you auditing processes and procedures?  Have you hired an external auditor to verify your practices?  Are your staff up-to-date with the latest information and training? 

Small is beautiful.

The consensus seems to be that weddings will look a lot like they did in 2020.  It is unclear exactly what restrictions will be in place but there will certainly still be some restriction on numbers.  Key for everyone across the wedding industry will be to persuade clients that small is still beautiful and micro weddings bring a wealth of opportunities that you forego with a larger wedding. Opportunities to upscale your wedding are abundant – spend more time with your loved ones, place more emphasis on the food, drink and décor and create an imaginative, bespoke event.  Smaller numbers mean there are more venue options available, unique opportunities that simply wouldn’t be available for larger weddings.  Single day events are turning into long weekends or events staged over multiple days. Elopements are also proving popular and an opportunity for the tiniest of venues.  Cabins in the wood, beach huts, lake houses…  Couples are doing the legal bit at their local registry office then escaping for an intimate and more personal celebration of their love.   

How can you create a turn-key solution for your couples? 

Expect short lead times this year.  Covid and the Government response has made it very hard to plan ahead.  Couples may be looking for instant gratification when lockdown eases and a wedding at short notice to make up for lost time.  Packages can help your clients make decisions and help you make the arrangements.  Clients need flexibility too so wherever possible offer to meet their requests.     

Revel in the Recovery

Above all be brave, get out there and stay positive!  This time will pass and we will recover.          

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