First and foremost – be kind to yourself.
We’re all going through a very tough time at the minute. Let’s be honest – you’re having to be calm, compassionate and professional whilst trying to find ‘Plan B’ options for your devastated couples. Some are taking it OK and being lovely, some not so much and you’re taking the brunt.
This intense period you’re going through doesn’t leave much time to really deal with your own personal feelings around Covid-19 – worrying about vulnerable family members, possibly juggling children at home and everything else that this pandemic throws up. Be kind to yourself and be realistic about expectations of yourself.
This is a lesson I’m learning myself at the minute, having to acknowledge that I just can’t produce as much work each day as I usually do – life has changed. Many of you are in small teams and sometimes completely alone handling this, so whilst yes you need to be the calm support for your clients you also need to realistic with your own limits and self-care.
I say this first as I’m going to give some practical ‘doing’ strategies here in the tips to follow. These tips are to help you with keeping that eye on wedding business moving forward, but please only do these when you feel able (and that will be different for us all).
Those venues with larger teams, or with less weddings, may be able to jump on these now. For you it may be a week or two before you can, so please be kind to yourself and know what’s possible for you and your team right now. This is going to be a marathon and not a sprint.
Nurturing for future sales/bookings
Whilst some businesses may be able to ‘sell’ in this situation, for a high-value emotional purchase like a wedding venue, it is more likely to mean couples want to be able to visit in person. Seeing the spaces, meeting the team and getting ‘the vibe’ are all important factors before saying ‘I do’ to the venue.
However, I never say never to bookings without an in-person visit – for some venues offering virtual showrounds, price reductions and money-back guarantees may be an option if in alignment with your brand values/financial management.
But, it’s more likely that the majority of couples will be enquiring and then pausing at this stage, not signing contracts. As we all settle into a new normal, traffic and enquiries are on the increase once again and couples are still venue hunting for the 2021/22 seasons.
With this in mind, now is all about NURTURING those fresh enquiries to be ready for when better times come and we’re open again. It’s about building a relationship with them, taking the time to support couples in their questions and giving them as much information as you can about your venue digitally and virtually. I highly recommend offering video calls via Zoom, Google Hangouts, Skype, FaceTime and the likes. This is the very next best thing to seeing you in person and can really allow you to take the time to talk to couples about their plans and give them a sense of the support you give.
For some of you that might even be in your venue backdrop itself (if it’s your home) which is so much the better. I use Zoom a great deal and it’s great for screen sharing. It’s ideal to be able to walk couples through photos and any virtual tours you have to really personalise their experience as much as you can as if you were inviting them in for a show round.
Have some fun with it and suggest that they have a virtual coffee or something stronger with them, booking in for that show round with the likes of Calendly or other online diary tools so that you can manage the dates and times of those virtual show rounds in the same way as in-person ones.
After a virtual show round it’s then about following up with video clips, photos, links to blog posts and other resources relevant to help them build a picture of their wedding with you. Now is the time to show them your expert status and that you’re calm and have it covered – people won’t forget how you reacted and treated them at this time. It’s ideal to keep in touch particularly with those who have booked a virtual showround over the following weeks until they can get in to see you and support them with other aspects of their research.
It might be sending them a blog feature you’ve read on industry trends that they may find useful? Or it may be a link to a real wedding you’ve just featured on your blog that is similar to their ideas and plans. You may have to work hard to nurture and keep in touch with those virtual show round couples so that when the world gets back on its axis, they have a strong loyalty to you and will be through the doors and hopefully sealing the deal!
Now is not the time to disappear from view as you think there isn’t anything to says since your venue doors are closed. Many venues close for winter anyway, so whilst this may be rather unprecedented, it’s important that you send the message out that you’re very much there and excited for the future.
Emma recently covered the importance of being visible during the coronavirus crisis right here, but to add to this I would like to mention Pinterest.
I speak to a lot of my private clients about ramping up their Pinterest presence – Pinterest is the most used platform for wedding planning, but it not over saturated by those promoting their businesses right now. This is a great time to create a strategy for this search engine (this platform is not social media) which is used by couples getting super specific on what they are looking for and it could be you!
I’ve had lots of clients tell me that they want to spend time on their Pinterest but that time doesn’t exist so in this unusual situation with wedding venue doors shut over the coming weeks without events to operate, this may well be the perfect time to do this. I have some mini-trainings inside my (free) private Facebook group for wedding venues, so please join up here and drop me a note if you specifically want these and I’ll tag you.
If you have a virtual tour already then great; remember to make this very prominent now in all of your channels and do check your third party listings also have this link. People have more time than ever to be wedding planning from their sofas so ensure they can find your wedding virtual tour as quickly and easily as possible from your website and from your social media.
Plan some specific virtual tour social media content that points to this and consider adding it to your Instagram bio for example. And if you don’t have a virtual tour to date then create some quick videos with your phone that will be a make-do measure and fine in the situation (if you can get access to your venue for example if you live on site) then I urge you to consider a professional virtual tour when your doors are open again for future. This will always be an excellent sales tool for the young millennial generation doing so much pre-screening of their venues digitally anyway (and we may be in this uncertain Covid-19 situation on and off for a while).
Lots of my clients tell me they never have time to review their website pages in detail so this could be the time to do this. Do you have your latest images on your gallery? Is your accommodation offer up to date? What about your customer journey from initially landing on your site to your call to action? Is it clear what people need to do and has your website been updated to reflect the current situation we’re in – in other words have you told them how to reach you and how you’re handling enquiries at the minute?
Write a blog
Now is absolutely the time to create more content for or launch a blog attached to your venue’s website. Very few wedding venues have dedicated blogs – yet there is huge SEO benefit from regularly blogging and having constantly updated content to raise your Google rankings.
It’s a long term strategy but well worth it for your rankings/visibility, as well as to endorse your expert status in giving advice, guidance and planning tips that goes beyond the scope of your usual more sales-driven web pages. Venues with excellent blog presence are Pynes House, Elmore Court and Dewsall Court to name just a few.
Those who married last year are probably mighty grateful right now and some of those couples may have more time on their hands whilst either not working or working from home to finally get that testimonial written for you.
Don’t be afraid to reach out to those past recent clients and work on building up your Google Reviews, your Facebook recommendations as well as collating photos of past weddings that perhaps you never received and you now have time to follow up.
We all need some positive happy content around us so sending out good news and inspiring images of joyous events via written word or visual image is a good thing. The very worst thing is to go quiet and say and do nothing right now. And don’t forget to give as well as receive – sending a recommendation via say LinkedIn to one of your valued suppliers, would absolutely make their day and we all need lots of acts of random kindness right now.
Talk to your dream teams
Now is the time to make yourselves better, more knowledgeable and more well rounded for the future. How often do you say you’d like to know more about how some of your good venue suppliers work? I mean really work? How their businesses work, who is in their team? What are their goals? How does their day to day look (usually)?
Now is the time to say hello and schedule some virtual coffees to share and discuss and deepen the relationship. This was definitely something I did when we were in global recession in 2009 and the strong relationships and knowledge I built then really stood me in good stead for when the doors opened again and we were back in business. My relationships were stronger, we referred the right business to each other, looked out for more right-fit opportunities for each other and supported each other to be a dream team.
Looking for the new
This is also a time to research what’s new out there in wedding world and in the business world; it’s a conversation I often have with venue clients that you don’t have time to review your supplier list fully and get it up to date but also that you don’t have time to look for what’s really out there in wedding world.
Now is the time to be proactive. To read those wedding blogs, pick up a book on wedding etiquette, look at new companies with new products and services and how they might work at your venue; this will all make you even more attractive and valuable to your future couples, soon.
This situation will be over and weddings will bloom and blossom again. Whilst we’re in for a long ride, I strongly believe that those who behave compassionately now to their couples caught up in this situation, those who keep managing their venue business finances sensibly, those who keep learning, who keep getting out there in front of customers and keep taking steps to move forward, will shine and be remembered and get those good rewards.
Take care and here’s to weddings; they will be back and with gusto!
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