Marketing is one of the most important pieces of your business. But building a venue marketing plan takes time, and considered thought and research. Furthermore, once completed, it must be kept current and relevant to guide your organization’s marketing efforts and have an impact on your business.
Having a strategic plan for outreach, promotion, and conversion to the event planner demographic is a sure-fire way to keep your hotel business thriving as the industry rebounds, because group and corporate business can make or break your growth targets. Of course there are many types of event planners, and hoteliers must be strategic in their approach and targeted in their messaging to them. For example you wouldn’t promote corporate event messaging (we have whiteboards!) to a wedding planner.
There are many marketing plan templates out there for hoteliers to utilize, but all of them have the same basic elements of identifying the audience, evaluating your business, deciding on outreach tactics and strategies, and finally measuring results. So join along as we reveal venue marketing ideas that are simple enough to implement in the short-term, that can have long-term impact.
Create your venue marketing ideas strategy
Here are the strategic and tactical methods hoteliers can use to engage event planners of all types:
Define the marketing plan
The first step in your venue's marketing plan is introducing the concept of creating a plan and identifying your organizational goals. Introducing the plan is as simple as stating the specific things you'd like for the marketing plan to address and how it will do that. Goals should be as specific as possible and should include some indication of what will constitute success (quantifiable). These items will help guide your marketing plan and make sure that it stays focused on the needs of the business and avoids scope creep.
Create a competitive analysis
The next step is to do a competitive analysis of your property. This will provide clarity on your property’s position in your market and enable stakeholders to see the opportunities that are being lost to competitors. There are tools that can help hoteliers in the process of building marketing plans accurately assess these statistics, like the Business Intelligence Dashboard.
In addition to that, you will want to do a hotel SWOT analysis. A SWOT analysis goes over the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to your business. It identifies each of those aspects and enables stakeholders to understand the full scope of what your venue has going for it, where it can improve, what can be done right now, and what threatens the wellbeing of the business. This will enable you to make strategic decisions and focus your marketing plan to address the most pressing items first as they relate to your target audience — event planners.
Define your target audience
Once the analysis of the property has been completed, you will want to identify the target audience that you want to reach with the tactics and strategies defined in the plan. This is more than just identifying the group. You will want to make sure you have a full grasp of their buying cycle, pain points at each point in the cycle, and methods you will employ to mitigate those pain points.
Additionally, you will want to go over your hotel’s unique position in your market, how your brand is perceived by planners, and how you can emphasize or change it if needed. The target audience analysis will inform one of the most important parts of the marketing plan — messaging. How you speak to the target audience will determine the level of success your organization will experience with your marketing plan. Make sure all of these pieces are thoroughly and accurately assessed.
Once the above mentioned steps have been completed, your next item in your marketing plan becomes much more tactical. The strategic section of the marketing plan handles the “why” questions. This next section handles the methods by which your company will address those questions.
Discover 10 effective venue marketing ideas:
1. Maximize your website
It is no secret that the internet is an incredibly powerful tool. Your hotel’s website should be user-friendly and optimized to make sure that when planners are searching for venues, your hotel is ranked first in their search results. Search engine optimization means that your site is more likely to garner views organically — basically for free.
While you can also utilize paid SEO to increase your hotel’s relevancy in search results, optimizing your page and working within the SEO algorithms will enable your website to gain more views and clicks for free. There are many sites and tools that will help you optimize your website. They are designed to help you understand ranking factors by search engine and help you integrate those learnings into your webpages.
For example, when targeting corporate event planners there are keywords that you will want to put in the content on your page which will flag your site to come up in searches. In addition, adding video content, virtual walkthroughs, and high-resolution imagery will pay back dividends in clicks and views from event planners. It is more than just content that can be optimized as well. Making your website mobile-friendly, optimizing the site’s architecture, and even the way you build your links all flow into the way your site is ranked in search engines. Make sure you are evaluating every aspect of your site when determining its SEO value and how it can be improved.
2. Optimize your Cvent supplier network page for safe meetings
The Cvent Supplier Network is a valuable marketing tool available to hotels looking to market their venues to event planners. It provides a well-known platform that event planners utilize specifically for venue sourcing, and your venue is already represented on it. In 2019 alone, the Cvent Supplier Network was utilized to source 2.9 million RFPs valued at over $18 billion. The bottom line is that planners use Cvent to source for their corporate and business events.
Take advantage of that concentrated interest and make sure your hotel’s page on the supplier network is optimized. Make your profile detailed, including multiple high-quality photos of your meeting space, dimensions, and all information that you can provide. Planners know what they need and it is up to your team to make sure they have the most up to date accurate information about your venue and the ways you're ensuring safe meetings.
3. Focus on an established social media network, and an emerging one
Social media platforms are incredibly powerful ways to get information about your venue out to the world, but can also serve as an influential positioning tool for your venue. They enable you to interact with your customers and prospects in a personalized way and give your venue a voice. From Facebook to LinkedIn and TikTok, there's a social platform for every type of crowd. Rather than overcommit, focus on building real relationships by investing in just one to three platforms. Spend 80% of your time on the network driving the most engagement for you today, and put the other 20% of time into building a following on an emerging platform (think Snapchat, TikTok, gaming environments, and so on).
There are tons of best practices for building a social media following and cultivating an online persona for your venue. A good rule of thumb is for every one promotional post on your account, you will want to post three to four non-promotional ones. You can post humorous posts, videos, announcements, and much more. There really is no limit and ensuring that each post utilizes some form of multimedia will increase the likelihood of engagement from your followers and shares.
More than just posting, you will want to respond authentically to commenters and even critics. Establishing your voice on the platforms will give planners and those who follow you a very personal and experiential idea of what your venue is all about.
In addition to having a social media organic presence, you can also look at paid promotion on each of the platforms that your venue has a profile on. Social media platforms are able to gather vast amounts of data from their users and with that information, can help you target your ads to the exact audience you want to reach. Campaigns can run for set amounts of time and you can use these ads continually, or if there is a special announcement you want to make to planners, you can run your ads leading up to the announcement to gather interest and followers. Strategizing how and when you want to run your campaigns make them more cost effective and targeted, so be sure you are including that in your marketing plan. Oftentimes, boosting organic posts outperforms net new ads, so it's important to consider how your organic and paid plans will work together.
4. Send content marketing postcards
Content marketing is defined as "a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.” Utilizing this type of marketing positions your venue as a leader in your marketplace, making your venue the go-to choice for planners.
You can use content marketing to provide event planners helpful tools and insights. Just stick to your brand themes and present new thought leadership in the form of a postcard, ebooks, a digital magazine, podcasts —whatever fits your strategy. You can promote your venue’s amenities, highlight the interesting hot spots around your venue, and show off innovative ideas your team uses to increase value and elevate onsite experiences for guests.
Knowing your planner audience will help inform the content that you want to deliver to them. It may be that you want to highlight the safety measures your venue has integrated in response to the pandemic, or that you have newly renovated portions of your venue that you want to show. Keeping your content relevant and timely will ensure the maximum levels of engagement with your planner audience and show them that you are a leader both in your marketplace and the industry.
5. Create a virtual tour to share on any marketing channel
With travel being much more difficult for planners these days, it’s a challenge for them to picture their event at your venue. One way to get around that hurdle is to produce a virtual tour of your venue. Virtual tours allow you to show planners your space without them ever stepping foot in it, but they also allow you to take your tours to the next level.
One great way to use a virtual tour is when you are responding to an RFP. Build out the space as described in their request and go the extra mile to really exceed their expectations. It’s a great opportunity to show off what your team can do and how your venue can be perfectly suited to your prospect's needs.
There are different ways to create a virtual tour as well: Some venues will create a video experience where they are able to walk their clients through the venue itself, showing the layout and room dimensions. Others will create a 3D diagram and interactively engage with the planner via the diagram. One great thing about 3D diagramming is that you are able to tailor the tour to their needs and even add in elements that they have mentioned in their RFP.
6. Updated imagery for your property
Show, don't just tell! This may seem fairly obvious, but it can be a major miss for your venue if the imagery on the various platforms you are utilizing in your marketing mix is not up to date. Use the imagery on your website and on your supplier pages to highlight new renovations, updates to your venue, and to show the space in action.
Hiring a professional photographer may also be a good step to help you with this endeavor. They will help you with shot lists, ideas for space set ups, and they can help you really hone in on what images are going to work the best for your audience and space. They can also help you highlight the versatility of your space.
Additionally, you want to make sure that your imagery is consistent on all platforms. So when updating imagery, take stock of every platform you have a photograph of your venue on and make updates as needed. You don’t want your website to be updated but your social media page to not be. Ensuring a consistent visual experience on your various platforms will not only enhance your online presence but it will show the attention to detail that planners are looking for in their venue.
7. Create short, one-minute videos
Posting engaging video content is a powerful method of promoting your venue. It can be placed in various platforms and will go a long way to show event planners what you can do. Videos are naturally engaging and when done well, they allow a venue to show special features, amenities, and their venue space in action.
Placing your videos on your marketing platforms is a great way to increase engagement, but you can also use YouTube to host all of your video content and gain a following on it. Marketing on YouTube is a very effective method of getting your content out to the general public and like other social media platforms, there are best practices to do so. And since YouTube is integrated with most social media platforms already, it makes it that much easier to share your content and garner larger followings.
Be sure when you are uploading your content that you are using thumbnails and creating engaging descriptions and titles. All of these will increase the discoverability of your venue and will increase engagement with your brand. Similar to Facebook and Twitter, there are paid ads that can be used on YouTube. You can utilize these to target planners and run campaigns for your venue showcasing your video content and promoting the incredible work your venue has already done.
8. Send an email with your safety best practices and an offer
Email marketing should be a part of any marketing mix. Today, it remains a very effective way to engage with your target audience, planners, and make sure they are seeing the content, promotions, and updates that you are posting on your other platforms.
Email campaigns should align with your other marketing efforts and can be harnessed for virtually anything you need. Updating prospects on renovations, highlighting an event that just happened, and promoting new safety measures to your past customers and current prospects can drum up new business opportunities.
Make sure you are using the best practices when crafting them. That means writing actionable compelling subject lines, personalizing your email content to your contacts, aligning your content to your subject, and ensuring the content you are emailing about is relevant to the recipient and also timely.
You don’t want to promote your venue as being perfect for weddings to a corporate event planner. Segmentation of your email lists is key to make sure that the most relevant content is reaching the right planner at the right time. Use your internal knowledge of timing trends that your venue goes through to know when the right time to send an email is, and try out new ideas using A/B tests. This will not only help you keep your content fresh, it will help you enhance your email marketing so that it is more effective and robust.
9. Create an email newsletter with timely updates
Email newsletters are a great tool for venues to get information and updates out to their list of past and present clients. Making these newsletters robust, engaging, and actionable is the key to success when creating and deploying these emails.
As with other forms of marketing, there are best practices that should always be followed when crafting email newsletters. Keeping them short and full of links to content on other platforms will make sure that engagement with the emails is high and that they are driving traffic to the places where conversion is possible. Make sure the newsletters are consistent with each other by keeping the amount and placement of articles or promotions the same for each edition.
Use engaging, actionable copy that will keep your clients and contacts interested in what you have to say, and make sure that the content is relevant and timely. If your hotel is undergoing renovations, keep a space open for updated pictures and stories about the progress and how it is going to enhance your venue. If you have content about updated safety measures required by your local and state governments, keep a space in your newsletter open for that. In all spaces, link back to your content elsewhere.
10. Encourage Yelp and TripAdvisor reviews
Yelp and TripAdvisor are powerful platforms that consumers and planners use to rate venues based on other clients' reviews. These services allow past customers to publish their experiences and opinions of venues and other businesses. TripAdvisor generates hundreds of millions of reviews and word of mouth commentary every year, and not having your venue on their site is a miss.
Planners do check reviews on venues as part of their due diligence, and making sure that your venue has planner reviews and leisure traveler reviews will only enhance your presence online and your marketing mix. You can and should solicit reviews from planners and incentivize groups to write reviews of their event with your venue. It will help you grow your following online, and you can link to your other platforms from your hotel profile. With so many people writing reviews, you can use your venue profile to gather more leads and increase conversion.
Yelp is very similar with tens of millions of reviews and over 120 million unique visitors every month. Yelp is less focused than TripAdvisor when it comes to the types of companies that are reviewed. However, it is just as effective in garnering social media followers and disseminating information, updates, and promotions for your venue. Another benefit of using Yelp is their community managers. These managers have various job functions, and one of them is coordinating local events that bring businesses in the local community together. Through this service, your venue can make solid face to face relationships with other companies in your area. Take advantage of these free community gatherings to make lasting connections and build your client base.
Now put these venue marketing ideas into practice
Once you have the marketing tactics nailed down in your plan, the next step is to identify your key performance indicators, or KPIs. These metrics will tell your stakeholders how well your marketing efforts are performing. Having daily or weekly updates to these metrics will ensure that your venue is maximizing its approach to marketing and is pivoting and making adjustments as the market demands.
If you find certain types of content are performing better than others, double down on that type of content. If you find that your YouTube ads aren’t performing as well as your Facebook ads, then reallocate your advertising dollars appropriately. Measuring your success is not a question of failing or succeeding. Instead, it helps you measure what is working and can even help you identify ways to make your marketing mix even more profitable and effective.
In these uncertain times, having a robust and effective marketing plan is the key to survival. Keeping your team aware of changes to the plan as time goes on and measuring the results of your efforts will make sure that as the industry rebounds and events come back, your venue will be well positioned to take full advantage of the upturn.
Up next, explore how hybrid events could impact your venue marketing strategy.