You have a fantastic venue to hold a variety of events, but you’re not getting enough bookings. Sound familiar? Don’t worry, because you’re not alone – particularly as so many events move to the online space. However, with the right venue marketing plan in place, you can increase bookings for your venue without spending a large amount of money.
There are two aspects to venue marketing that you need to understand, accept, and commit to before you go any further, or your results will be limited. Those two aspects are short-term venue marketing and long-term venue marketing.
Short-term venue marketing will generate leads and possibly bookings quickly. It will help you generate money now, and hopefully, you’ll be able to convert those leads to bookings and retain those new clients for future event bookings. Long-term venue marketing will generate organic growth for your venue, so you won’t have to invest as much in short-term venue marketing tactics in the future.
Together, short-term and long-term venue marketing can create sustainable growth for your venue. Pursue just one, and you won’t reach your maximum growth potential. Below are 10 tips to increase bookings using a combination of short-term and long-term venue marketing strategies and tactics.
1. Develop a High Quality Website
Your website is the centerpiece of your venue brand, so it needs to look amazing and operate perfectly. That means you need to hire a professional copywriter and a web designer who can create the brand image you want to portray. Include videos, testimonials, images, and virtual tours so visitors can truly experience your venue from their computers and mobile devices.
Include all of your contact information on the site (address, phone number, email address, and social media links), and make sure your site is optimized for mobile devices since most web traffic comes from smartphones and tablets today.
2. Localize Your Website
Your website should follow all of Google’s localization best practices. In addition, claim your business listing on Google, make sure all of the information in your Google listing is accurate, and confirm your business shows up correctly in Google Maps listings. Take some time to verify your venue’s information on other search engines and directories, too.
3. Invest in Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
SEO is critical for short-term and long-term marketing because your ongoing efforts will ensure your venue’s website appears on the first pages of Google search results where most people will be looking for it (or a similar venue).
Hire a trustworthy SEO expert to help you with both onsite and offsite SEO, so your site ranks high for the keywords your target audience is likely to type into the Google search box when they need to find a venue like yours.
4. Develop a Referral Program
If you have happy clients, you should reward them for referring other events to your venue. Create a referral program, but keep in mind, the majority of good referrals you’ll receive from existing or prior clients will come from just a small fraction of those clients. Be prepared to work more closely with that small fraction of clients to boost results from your referral program even higher.
5. Network, Network, Network, and Then Network Again and Again and Again
If you want to increase bookings for your venue, you must get out of the office, pick up the phone, get active online, and network. You must be visible in your community, and you must be visible online to the wider audience of event planners, artist managers, and so on who might need a venue like yours for a future event.
Attend events in a variety of industries, join LinkedIn Groups, sponsor other events that your target audience attends such as conferences, join industry associations and seek a leadership position, get involved with charities, host industry seminars, and be extremely visible.
At a minimum, you should spend 15 minutes per day networking. For venue marketing, consider investing in a sales or customer relationship management (CRM) tool with email marketing features. Examples include Infusionsoft, ActiveCampaign, and Salesforce. Since at least 20% of workers in the event planning industry are unlikely to start and end the year in the same position (there’s a lot of movement in this industry), the people you networked with last month might not be the people you should be networking with next month. You need a way to track all of it and continually build relationships.
Bottom-line, to build a business, you must network, network, network, and then network again, again, and again.
6. Publish High Quality Content – Often
Content is essential for effective long-term marketing. If you consistently and persistently publish quality content that is relevant and useful to your target audience, your efforts will eventually lead to increased organic website traffic.
It won’t happen overnight, but by building a repository of great content that gives Google a multitude of ways to find your site and gives people tons of ways to share and find your site, growth is inevitable. The amount of content you publish and the amount of time you spend promoting that content will directly affect how quickly growth happens and how much growth you see.
7. Be Active but Strategic on Social Media
Social media marketing doesn’t have to be costly, but it is time-consuming if you do it correctly. You can’t just share your own blog posts or randomly post links to other articles you stumble upon. You need an aggressive follow-unfollow strategy, you need to strategically search for and engage with the right connections, and you need to track your efforts very closely. It’s not difficult, but it does take time every day.
That time adds up quickly, which is why hiring a social media expert (not just someone who knows how to use Facebook and Instagram) is so important. Let’s put it this way. If you have very few followers and no one is sharing or liking your content, you’re doing something wrong.
8. Use Professional Photos
What image do you want people to have of your venue brand? Is yours a luxury venue or a cheap venue? Is it ornate or minimalistic? Different events need different venues to match the images of their event brands.
Unless the message you want to convey is that your venue is the cheapest around, it’s important to hire a professional photographer to take beautiful photos of your venue for your website and all of your venue marketing materials. Get photos of your venue empty and during different types of events.
9. Launch Advertising Campaigns
You should advertise your venue online and offline. For example, advertise in industry-related and local print publications. Online advertising should include banner ads on sites where your target audience spends time as well as Facebook ads targeted to event planners and Google AdWords targeted to people who are actively searching for venues like yours.
Google paid search ads might be expensive, but it gives you an opportunity to get in front of people who have a problem and are actively looking for your solution through Google keyword searches. It’s a good idea to hire a Google AdWords expert to help you, so you’ll get the best results for your money.
10. Leverage Email Marketing
Email marketing is one of your best opportunities to boost venue bookings because you own and control your list. The first step is to build. Create a free ebook, checklist, or other valuable piece of content and offer it in exchange for people’s email addresses. Advertise the freebie to a targeted audience of event planners using LinkedIn ads and Facebook ads.
You can easily create an opt-in form to capture email addresses using a tool like OptinMonster or MailMunch and send follow-up messages with an email marketing tool like ActiveCampaign or MailChimp.
Your Next Steps for Successful Venue Marketing
Successful venue marketing requires that you have a plan to build brand awareness and recognition. Once people know what your brand promises, you need to build trust. Search engine optimization, advertising, content marketing, social media marketing, email marketing, and the other marketing strategies and tactics covered in this article can help you do it. However, don’t forget the most important piece of the puzzle – networking! If networking isn’t for you, then hire someone who can help you.