The average couple spends about half their wedding budget on their venue — and with good reason. The venue is the setting for the big day, and couples want it to be perfect. With stiff competition from dozens of types of venues, all of which have something unique to offer, wedding venue marketing is a crucial component of any location's business plan.
Not only does a solid marketing plan help couples find the venue that they're looking for, but it can lead to a significant increase in revenue at your property, too. Couples spend $100 billion on weddings in the U.S. each year, and these special events represent up to 20% of group business for hotels.
So whether you're just starting to offer wedding services or want to revamp your marketing strategy, or whether you're a hotel with ballroom space or a barn that's been hosting weddings for 25 years, check out these marketing tips to start growing your wedding business today.
Discover 11 wedding venue marketing tips to reach more couples and increase bookings:
1. Market your wedding venue around what couples want.
Before doing anything, look at your marketing plan through the eyes of who you're marketing to. While your audience includes planners (more on that later), the main customer in this instance is couples. For hotels, that's a significant change from the usual target audience. While the change may feel daunting, it actually provides a massive opportunity to broaden your reach.
Conduct research on what couples want from a wedding venue, and adjust your offerings — and your marketing — accordingly.
2. Advertise on the channels couples use.
Your marketing efforts will fall short if they aren't being directed to the right people at the right time. Most couples book a venue within a couple months of becoming engaged. This means that the window to earn their business is usually pretty small. Don't let it close without getting your venue in front of them. Here are a few ways to go about doing just that:
- Create targeted Facebook ads. The social media platform allows you to customise ad campaigns based on a users' age, location, relationship status, interests, and more.
- Get on Pinterest. The platform states that 40 million people use it as a wedding planning tool each year, so creating an ad campaign to reach couples can go a long way.
- Attend in-person events. In-person promotion will always be a valuable marketing tool, and it's no different for wedding venues. Consider attending bridal expos and creating a booth that makes you stand out from the competition.
3. Update your website.
Your website is the central hub for all information related to your location. It should clearly list all of your wedding offerings, and those offerings should be easy to understand and navigate. Let's use The Biltmore in Miami as an example. The hotel's homepage displays six landing pages within the navigation bar at the top: hotel, room and suites, places to dine, things to do, weddings, and meetings and events. Right away, users are made aware of the hotel's offerings. The use of "weddings" — as opposed to a tab for "events," followed by a "weddings" subsection, for example — removes the need for any additional navigation.
Once landing on the weddings page, users are met with a breadth of user-friendly, visually-appealing information. There's a short description of the hotel's wedding offerings, call-to-action buttons to request a proposal or follow the hotel on social media, a handful of photos and videos from past weddings, and a list of all the separate landing pages needed to find out more information.
4. Ensure that your marketing strategy prioritises SEO.
Having a website that's easy to navigate doesn't mean much if it's not easy to find. That's why prioritising search engine optimisation should be a crucial part of your venue's marketing plan. A solid SEO strategy will lead to more exposure and more high-quality leads. A few key areas to focus on:
- Keywords: These are the terms you want your website/webpage to rank for on search engines. Conduct keyword research using tools like Google Keyword Planner. This shows you historical data, average monthly searches, competition levels for keywords, and more.
- Title tags: This is the name of a webpage. It's what shows up on users' browser tabs, in search engine results, and on social media. Use your target keywords here, but avoid keyword stuffing. For example: The Hay Adams in Washington, D.C. uses the title tag, "Luxury Washington DC Wedding Venue" on its weddings landing page, and it's the only venue that ranks on the first page of Google's search results for that term.
- URLs: This is another way to help Google understand what your website, and each page within it, is about. Remember to pick keywords that focus on what users can expect to find on each page (i.e. reception space or venue contact information). Also, avoid lengthy, keyword-stuffed URLs — Google recommends keeping them "simple."
- Local SEO: This simply means emphasising your location as a selling point for search engines. Couples rarely just search for “wedding venue.” They want a venue that meets their location requirements, so a phrase like “outdoor North Carolina wedding venue” is a great example of this.
- Image optimisation: Make sure photo file names contain relevant keywords. Once you add an image to your website, edit the alt text to reflect that keyword and subject. Reduce the file size of your images, too, to help speed up your load time. Tools like Tiny PNG are a great way to do this without compromising quality.
- User experience. Google recently announced that user experience will soon directly correlate to page rankings. In other words, if a website isn't user friendly, the chances of it ranking high on a search engine results page decreases. User experience takes a lot of things into account, but one key factor is page speed. Get started analysing your website/webpages using Google's PageSpeed Insights tool.
5. Revamp your social media channels.
It's not enough to just have a social media presence. Now more than ever, it's paramount that hotels and event venues take steps to stand out on multiple social media platforms. Here are a few tactics to use:
- Post often. This will be different for every location, but establish a cadence and stick to it. And remember: Don't post just to post.
- Use hashtags. An Instagram post with at least one hashtag receives 12.6% more engagement than a post without a hashtag. But just like your social media posting schedule and your keyword selection, don't overdo it. Narrow it down to a handful of relevant hashtags for each post.
- Prioritise engagement. Not only is high engagement (likes, comments, etc.) important when it comes to increasing the chance of conversions, but person-to-person social media interactions (i.e. a venue's Instagram account responding to a comment left on a photo) are a great way to increase brand awareness and forge relationships, too.
- Work with vendors. You want every person who's involved in weddings at your venue to have a positive experience. That goes for the vendors, too. It's a simple gesture, but tagging them in posts can go a long way in helping promote their business. It also sets the stage for them to do something similar.
- Update your bios. Ensure that every social media bio links back to your website. Also make sure you include links in the majority of your social media posts, especially those that may require additional information.
6. Leverage testimonials and reviews.
According to a 2019 study from WeddingWire, reviews and photos are the most important factors couples consider when deciding which vendors to reach out to while planning their wedding. The study also states that approximately 80% of couples consider reviews to be "very important," and notes that couples are more likely to consider booking with a vendor that has both positive and negative reviews than no reviews at all.
Of course, providing stellar customer service and memorable experiences is the No. 1 way to garner positive reviews. But what about promoting those positive reviews? And what about those dreaded negative reviews? First, be sure you're listed on sites like TripAdvisor, Yelp and Google My Business. Promote the positive reviews on your website and social media channels, and be sure to respond to any negative reviews in a thoughtful manner. Be understanding and provide a solution.
As for testimonials: Consider adding a section to your website dedicated solely to customer quotes and stories.
7. Utilise video footage and virtual tours when marketing your wedding venue.
A recent study predicts that the average person will spend 100 minutes per day watching online videos by 2021. Another recent study found that 89% of marketers say video gives them a good ROI. Additionally, 83% say video helps them with lead generation, and 87% say it has increased overall website traffic. Put simply: Video should be part of your marketing efforts. Here are a few ideas:
- Create a promo video using footage from past weddings. Give it prominent placement on your website and share it on all social media channels.
- Offer virtual tours. These tours aren't intended to replace in-person walkthroughs, but instead give couples a chance to view their options from home. Use The Peninsula Chicago as inspiration. The luxury hotel allows couples to tour six venue spaces using high-definition, 360-degree virtual tour technology. Couples can click on their desired space and walk through the area as if they're actually there.
- Remember those reviews and testimonials we wrote about above? Work with planners, vendors and couples to create a video highlighting the great experiences people have had at your venue. Just like the promo video, be sure to share it on your website and on social.
- Take people behind the scenes. Couples love to share a personal connection with anyone who will be involved in their big day. Consider creating a video showcasing your incredible staff and all that goes into creating a wedding.
8. Get listed in online venue directories.
Wedding Spot, for example, processes more than 200,000 request each year, giving venues a streamlined way to attract business. The venue-only directory makes it easy for couples to find you, and gives couples everything they need to move forward.
"I was getting frustrated using other sites," said Sally Phung, a bride who booked her venue using Wedding Spot. "Through Wedding Spot, I found our perfect venue ... which I had never heard of before, and within one week I had it booked."
9. Get featured in publications.
Explore ways to get your venue featured in publications — from local magazines and blogs to national news organisations. Don't be afraid to dream big. If you have something at your venue that makes it unique, pitch story ideas to publications. Getting a story on respected platforms leads to extra exposure and brand awareness. It can also lead to a boost in your domain authority, too, as long as links to your website are included in the article. These are called backlinks, and they're viewed by search engines as a "vote of confidence" from one site to another.
10. Build planner relationships.
Go above and beyond when working with wedding planners. Word-of-mouth marketing is still important, and there are few people in the wedding industry more influential than planners. If a planner or one of their couples has a negative experience at your venue, the odds of them recommending you to future couples diminishes significantly.
To increase your exposure and give planners a positive experience, keep your Cvent Supplier Network profile up-do-date and full of information. Also, consider using Cvent Event Diagramming to dramatically increase their experience and help them envision their event at your venue.
11. Consider viral marketing.
Whether you create a social media campaign that awards one winning couple a 50% discount on your wedding services or create a video showcasing the most heartwarming moments from weddings that took place at your venue, viral wedding venue marketing is a great way to grow your business. Take Glencliff Manor, a wedding and events venue in Lynchburg, Virginia, for example. The venue hosted 45 free weddings in May 2020 due to COVID-19, giving couples a chance to tie the knot during a difficult time. The decision led to much publicity, including a lengthy profile in The New York Times.
Revamp your wedding venue marketing today!
Remember: The wedding industry is massive, and chances are, there's tons of untapped revenue for you to take advantage of. Use the above marketing tips for inspiration, and be sure to check out our blog post on how to start a wedding venue business for more inspiration.