Wedding venues are an increasingly competitive segment of the events industry. The goal of every owner and sales team is to keep calendars full and bookings coming in year-round. Ideally, you’d like to spend as little money on advertising as possible while creating a buzz around your facility, attracting qualified leads and Pinterest-worthy weddings that pay well and leave delighted. Easy, right?
It’s essential to spread the word about your site, but doing so takes time, commitment, and investment of money and effort – and while you can learn to manage it so it doesn’t take over your life, the marketing work never stops. Our wedding venue marketing ideas will help you figure out where to start, choose the most efficient and fruitful paths, and ultimately create a demand for your exciting space.
First, you must understand the distinction between advertising, marketing and public relations (PR).
Advertising is the easiest of the three concepts to understand. It essentially amounts to “pay to play.” You want exposure on someone’s blog, during a radio or TV show, in a customer’s Facebook feed, in a newspaper or magazine, or on a popular wedding planning website, so you contact the sales manager for your target media and pay for the time or space you desire. In most advertising relationships, you control your message by supplying the graphics and the copy, or at least by approving them before publishing.
Public relations, or PR, involves cultivating relationships with the media to share your messages about newsworthy things that are happening in your business. These could be public events, staffing changes, the addition of new products or services. PR is free in the sense that you do not pay for exposure. There are always news outlets looking for credible experts to contribute to stories, or great topics to cover.
PR does take an investment of time and labor, however, and sometimes this comes with a price tag. If you’re not a strong writer, for example, you may have to hire a freelance writer to create pitches for you or have someone assist you with making submissions.
Where paying for your exposure in advertising gives you control over the message, you relinquish much of that control to the media outlets that are covering your topic when you use PR methods to spread the word.
Marketing campaigns share characteristics of advertising and PR, but the main focus is on promoting your property as a desirable wedding venue. It involves packaging all your facility’s benefits in ways that attract your target audience and ensuring your message reaches your best prospects.
The most effective and authentic form of marketing is content marketing. Using your own base of customers via your existing channels like your blog, email list, or social media platforms, you provide something of value in exchange for their attention and loyalty. Informative blog posts, e-books, e-courses, informational videos, infographics and social media posts about trends are all forms of content marketing.
The appeal of content marketing is that you fill a need that your clients may have. As a venue, you might provide information on how to narrow down a large guest list, what kinds of linens will be popular next season, the benefits of different meal service styles, or how to get started making a seating chart.
Content marketing is not only welcomed by your fans and prospects, it is SEO gold. No matter how the algorithms change, sites like Facebook, Yahoo and Instagram favor content that is informative in nature over promotional. Connecting organically benefits your prospective clients as well as your searchability.
Leverage the Trends
One of the most popular topics for content marketing is the latest wedding trends. Writing and speaking knowledgeably about trends fulfills couple’s curiosity and need to know what is popular, and helps define you as an industry expert.
Predicting trends gets easier when you know where to look for the early signs that something is catching on. Pantone releases a “Color of the Year” each year along with a report that suggests different ways to use it. Fashion Week is an event to keep an eye on to spot the latest design trends. Industry shows and conferences can be great sources of upcoming trend information, as can your network of event and design colleagues.
Use your blog, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook and email newsletters to share information about upcoming popular trends in the wedding industry. Also, make relationships with other event professionals and bloggers and offer to provide relevant trend articles for their sites. Publishers always need and welcome fresh content.
The best exposure comes from articles and posts that predict or forecast the next popular trends, not just the ones that discuss what is hot now, so make a point of looking ahead.
Focus on Relationships
Partnership marketing is another powerful tool for spreading the word about your venue. By making every effort to stay in touch with your peers and colleagues throughout the year, you position yourself to take advantage of opportunities to put yourself in front of their clients, whether by referral or by mutual exposure.
Some of the best ways to maintain your partnership marketing relationships are to send thank you notes after events; send holiday, birthday, celebratory and sympathy cards when there are significant dates to remember; say congratulations when something exciting happens to them; or offer a bit of surprise and delight in the form of an unexpected visit or a custom treat (better yet – a visit with a treat). We send out little surprises to our colleagues and clients on an ongoing basis just to say we care.
Many of these forms of reaching out can actually be automated so they run themselves, taking the time burden off of you, but yielding great results and happy colleagues! Then, the next time one of your creative partners is asked for a referral to a great venue or needs someone to work on an inspiration shoot, your name will be top of mind.
Consider Real Wedding Submissions
Have great photos from exquisite weddings that you want to share? Couples do extensive research before finalizing their wedding venues, so an extensive press portfolio can go a long way towards setting yours apart from the competition.
They key to a successful real wedding strategy is planning ahead. Research the sites where your ideal clients go to find their venue and vendor options. Use your off season to contact the real wedding editors for your target sites and obtain the submission guidelines. Pay attention to deadlines! Contact photographers on weddings that you know will photograph particularly well in advance so they know that you are interested in submitting and promoting their images after your upcoming weddings. Reach out to your clients in advance to secure their permission for you to submit, and to gather the details you will need like back story and other vendor names and contact information.
Make yourself a calendar of submission deadlines and a database of the photos, details, consents and write-ups that you need to entice publishers during your down time, and you’ll be full prepared to submit as the dates get closer. Remember that publishers love details, a great story and material relevant to their audience. A bit of research goes a long way in a great real wedding strategy, and couples absolutely love to see your property in action.
Seek Other Avenues for Getting Attention
There are many ways to market your venue. Maximize your networking by active participation and leadership of industry organizations. Take advantage of your memberships by offering to host meetings or special events, or to provide products and services whenever you have the chance. Participate regularly, act as a positive source of referrals for other new members and offer to provide professional development as a speaker to keep your name top of mind.
Establish a regular gig with blogs that serve your market and provide guest columns to increase your reach, not to mention strengthen your SEO. Return the favor by publicizing your guest features to your own audience via your social media accounts and email marketing lists. Driving traffic to vendors who act as sources of referrals to couples is an excellent strategy for generating referrals for your own venue.
Also, monitor where your referrals are originating by setting up a powerful CRM system. Know where your marketing efforts yield the best leads so you can concentrate your efforts where they are most likely to pay off.
Finally, successful marketing in today’s market means honing a keen understanding of the segment of the audience that presently holds the most purchasing power: Millennials. Today’s young adults are a generation unlike any other. They are tech savvy, connected to peers, and driven by a need for instant access to all information. Most can’t conceive of using a phone to talk to anyone other than their mothers, but will use texts, emails, Facebook messages, and a variety of apps to reach out and communicate at all hours of the day. They have high expectations of websites and are accustomed to seeking and sharing their opinions about absolutely everything online.
Successfully reaching Millennials means understanding the latest social media platforms, speaking their language and meeting their needs quickly and efficiently. They are the first adopters of new technology like Virtual Reality, which can be considered an advantage to any venue willing to provide virtual tours and planning tools.
Millennials rarely carry checkbooks, cash or in some cases even wallets, and haven’t taken out a pen to sign a contract in a decade, so ensuring that you have secure virtual payment and e-signature capabilities is essential.
Most of all, Millennials see through hype and will drill down to the truth, so provide them with everything they need not only to know your venue, but to love it as much as you do. Once you’ve made a Millennial fan, they will do the rest of the work for you.
There is no doubt that marketing a venue is a big job, but take heart. Once you have a strategy in place and the mechanisms to help you market efficiently and effectively, your efforts will pay off in a full house and full calendar year-round!