Financially speaking, the booking season is one of the most critical times of the year for wedding venues. It’s imperative to take the time to audit your venue business from the previous year, put new systems into place that save you time and money, and implement a wedding venue marketing strategy that will lead to a successful booking season. Future forecasting and planning are just as necessary as the day to day operations of your venue. Strong wedding venues have a healthy foundation. Preparing the backend of your venue before the busyness of engagement/booking season sets in is a crucial component to a successful year. Use the eight steps below to prepare your wedding venue business for a successful booking season.
1. Clear Your Calendar & Set Up Auto-Responders
You must create the space to be successful during this prep session. This will require you to block out time, likely a few days, where you can focus your efforts entirely on booking season prep. Setting up an auto-responder is one of the best ways to ensure your existing and future clients don’t feel ignored! Let them know how long you’ll be away and when they can expect to hear back from you. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be responding to emails on a daily basis during your prep work. It just means you can designate one or two times per day only where you’re actively answering emails, so they don’t interrupt your process.
Within your auto-responder, share valuable information for existing and future clients to give them something to do until you reply. Consider a link to a blog post, video, or other feature that engages your couple and makes them feel valued. This is especially important for potential clients who are reaching out and is an excellent way for you to show off what you can do and what you’re all about before you’re able to respond.
Did you know? Aisle Planner’s Lead Contact Forms are easy to set up and put your booking process on the road to automation. Here are the steps!
2. Survey Your Clients
If you don’t survey your couples annually, you need to start today. Surveying couples who’ve worked with you is an invaluable resource for upping your venue game. If you are surveying clients, now is the time to gather your results and collect your reviews across all channels over the past year. Then you will want to take the time to read each one. Be sure to note what common themes come up. Where did you do well and exceed expectations? Where did you go wrong? Use these answers as a guide for how you can improve your business and your processes to make things better for your future couples.
Be open to constructive criticism and turn it into a learning experience. It doesn’t mean the client is always right, and it doesn’t mean it won’t feel challenging at times. What it does mean is you’re a mature business owner who values all the feedback you receive, and you know how to use it to your advantage.
Pro Tip: Industry pro Bethel Nathan breaks down the difference between personalization and standardization, and how to craft your client communication plan in this article.
3. Audit Your Contracts
Comb through your client-facing contracts and paperwork and audit your policy and procedures. See if there’s anything new you should include that could answer some common questions you receive from clients or things you could clarify to make it easier for your clients to read and understand. Try to look back on the past year and think about occasions where your client didn’t abide by or took advantage of the current policy you have. Then go back and thoroughly review your entire contact, checking that the legal information is still correct and re-word some sections that don’t read as eloquently as you remember. Don’t forget to fix any pesky typos or grammar errors you may catch along the way.
Make sure your documents are well formatted and do a test by sending the PDF to yourself or a colleague to make sure it looks how you expect it to once it’s opened on the other end. Try to look at your contracts from the perspective of the couple, and then make them as couple-friendly as possible. The clearer you can be, the better! I always say, “Confusion breeds animosity.” Don’t give your clients any reason to feel negative vibes towards you.
It’s also imperative that you understand your contract. Even the complicated intricacies in case someone asks a question. You never know when someone will be marrying a lawyer or have a lawyer in the family.
Do a refresh of all your workflows and processes in any CRM you use in your business, like Aisle Planner. This is a big job and will likely take a full day or two to audit each piece of your client workflow, including on-boarding, booked client experience, and off-boarding. Make sure each step in a couple’s customer journey reflects an enjoyable experience. Consider making a video training for your couples that shows them how to use their client portal, including where to find everything.
Remember the survey and reviews you gathered from step two? Now is a great time to go back to those and see if you can add (or take away) anything from your customer journey. Can you set up any automation to save you (and the clients) time?
5. Audit Your Website and Social Channels
You want be sure that your Millennial and Generation Z couples are going to land on your social handles at one point or another. Do a run-through of all your social channels, again with the eyes of a potential client, and make sure they accurately reflect your brand and are providing value to future and existing couples. Then do the same thing on your website. Test to ensure your links and contact forms are working. Review your contact details, hours, address, etc. and make sure they’re up to date (especially if you’ve recently moved, acquired an office, or made any major changes to the business). Couples want quick answers. Is your FAQ Page and/or Service Page working for you? If you’re getting the same questions over and over, it might be time to add the information to your website.
6. Audit Your Paid Advertising Channels
If you’re on paid media channels, check your analytics and see which channels are converting clients for you and producing a positive ROI. Then, see which ones are not performing as well and are seeing a negative return or just paying for themselves. When it comes to print, make sure you’ve saved the renewal dates and when you need to submit new content for any of your print ads. Ask yourself: Can you reduce or even eliminate your spending on one of those platforms? Can that money be diverted to a package that’s a better fit for you or to another channel or print publication entirely?
7. Include Video Wherever You Can
Facebook has a new feature where you can automatically play the video when someone lands on your page, and any recent study will tell you how video is the highest performing kind of content on the channel. Pinterest now allows you to upload video pins, and the header of a Pinterest Business Profile can now be a video. If you were looking for a sign that video is essential, here it is. New social media channels are being introduced constantly, like TikTok, so remember to focus on quality over quantity. You don’t need to have every single platform. Choose the ones that work best for you and make the most sense for your business and industry (in our case, the visual ones!).
Get written permission from videographers you’ve worked with throughout the year to use their footage from your wedding venue. When you’re ready, hire a videographer to create branded video content or pull out your iPhone and record a video answering a question that you get asked daily. The key is to provide value. And remember, done is always better than perfect.
8. Pull It All Together
Now it’s time to put everything together from the seven steps above and use those insights to develop your wedding venue marketing plan for the year. You’ve audited your website, social channels, and paid platforms. Based on the ones that are performing for you and driving high-converting leads to your business, determine where you will focus your efforts. Develop a content strategy for your blog and social media by gathering all of the questions, reviews, and survey information we’ve talked about and start answering those questions for existing and future clients on your most popular platforms. Don’t overthink this. If you haven’t put together a content strategy before, keep it simple. Just start by answering real questions from your couples on the platforms that drive the most business for you. It’s as simple as that.
Taking the time to prepare your venue business for booking season probably feels like the least sexy thing about being a venue owner or venue professional. Trust me, I’m in the trenches with you, and I get it. Be that as it may, I also know it’s one of the best things you’ll do all year. When you’ve completed your audit and prep work, you’ll feel organized. But more importantly, you’ll feel in control.
Packed with tools and resources for wedding professionals, learn more form Kinsey through her podcast, She Creates Business, and her website shecreatesbusinesspodcast.com!