Marketing During Economic Challenges

Written by Emma Hla
Image by Scott Broome.
A Resilient Approach for Venues.

The UK has faced unprecedented challenges over the past few years, including the long and arduous process of Brexit, the global COVID-19 pandemic, and geopolitical conflicts. These events have left a lasting impact on various sectors of the economy, and the wedding industry is no exception.

As the UK tipped into a recession in December 2023 after disappointing retail sales in the lead-up to Christmas, couples grapple with continuous economic uncertainties. The news cycle is relentless, the fatigue is real, and this latest headline will only add to the worries of many at the beginning of their wedding planning journey.

A quick check on Google Trends shows a fall in the search term ‘wedding venues’ for January 2024 compared to January 2023. So, if you feel your January has felt a little flat, we’re here to help you regain some positivity and marketing mojo. But first, and as painful as it is, shall we have a recap?

The Impact of Brexit (2016-2020)

Brexit ushered in a period of economic uncertainty, affecting consumer confidence and spending patterns. For the wedding industry, this meant couples were more cautious with their budgets, leading to a slowdown in wedding-related expenditures. Currency fluctuations and trade disruptions also impacted the availability and cost of imported goods and services, such as luxury items and destination weddings.

The Resilience Amidst the Pandemic (2020-2022)

The COVID-19 pandemic was a major disruptor for the wedding industry, with lockdowns, travel restrictions, and health concerns altering the landscape of celebrations. While the industry faced numerous challenges, it also witnessed a surge in creativity, with couples embracing intimate ceremonies, micro-weddings, and virtual celebrations—wedding venues adapted by offering flexible packages, live-streaming services, and enhanced safety measures.

2022 became known as the ‘boom’ year after many delayed engagements and postponed weddings took place.

Geopolitical Conflicts

As well as the obvious impact global conflicts and tensions have on markets, international relations and travel, for those of us watching the news unfold, there’s a real impact from the media overload. Whether we recognise it or not, the news can alter our mood and make us feel unsettled, affecting our day-to-day decisions and feelings of security. When we feel nervous, we can pull back from making plans, spending money or making big decisions (moving house, getting married, changing careers, etc).

Staying Positive in Marketing

Marketing during difficult times can be challenging, but businesses must remain visible and adaptable. Here are some strategies to continue marketing effectively during economic downturns:

Understand your audience: Recognise and understand changes in consumer behaviour during difficult times. Identify your target audience’s needs, preferences, pain points and budget constraints to tailor your marketing messages accordingly. You can read more about identifying your ideal couple here.

Value for money: Communicate the value and benefits of your venue and service, highlighting what’s included (big ticket items like accommodation, multiple-night hire – not the cake knife). Couples aren’t looking to book the cheapest wedding venue, but they want to feel like the money they’re spending is in return for an exceptional experience.  If it suits your venue and brand, you could introduce seasonal promotions or ‘package’ options to build on your offering. This doesn’t need to be a discount or money off; it could be an elevated experience such as a champagne toast or a first wedding anniversary stay. Review your current payment plans to see if they can be more flexible.

Digital presence and SEO: Strengthen your online presence with a beautiful website that functions across all devices, and invest in search engine optimisation (SEO). Your website is a key marketing tool and should instil confidence in couples landing there; you can read all about our tips for your website here. Utilise your social media platforms to engage with your audience, share relevant content, and maintain an active presence.

Customer retention: If your business has multiple arms, such as a hotel, restaurant, spa, or holiday lets, you could focus on retaining existing couples by providing exceptional customer service and loyalty programs.

Emphasise flexibility: Given the uncertainties, wedding venues could bring back some flexible policies used during the pandemic. Having special booking policy offers, adaptable packages, and clear cancellation options. This reassures couples and encourages them to proceed with wedding plans.

Local partnerships and sourcing: Wedding venues can strengthen ties with local businesses and suppliers. Emphasising locally sourced products and services supports the local economy and adds a unique, personalised touch to weddings.

Reevaluate marketing channels: When assessing the performance of your marketing channels, it’s essential to understand your ROI (return on investment) for each channel and not just the volume of leads they generate. How effective are the platforms at qualifying your leads, and do you value the leads coming through? Are you utilising your third-party platforms well, or have you neglected the information you’re presenting, resulting in a lack of or poor quality leads?

Storytelling and emotional connection: Craft marketing messages that resonate emotionally with your audience. Storytelling can create a connection and make your brand more memorable. Highlight how your venue and team can positively impact potential couples’ wedding days. Not your skill? This article might help.

Collaborations and partnerships: Expand your circle and explore collaborative marketing efforts with other suppliers. These partnerships can help expand your reach, and cross-promoting with businesses that share your values can create mutually beneficial relationships.

Monitor and adapt: Stay agile and responsive to changes in the market. Regularly monitor the performance of your marketing efforts and review how your website and third-party listings look. Adjust your plan based on real-time data rather than looking back when an opportunity might have been missed. Be ready to adapt your messaging and promotions as the economic situation evolves.

Expert content: Be the expert and provide helpful content addressing your audience’s challenges during their wedding planning. Position your venue and team as a useful resource and an expert in the industry.

Harness feedback: Gather feedback and reviews from your couples. Positive testimonials can be powerful marketing tools.

While the challenges presented by recent events are undeniable, the wedding industry has proven its resilience and adaptability. Wedding venues can navigate these uncertainties by embracing flexibility and innovating their marketing strategies. By staying positive and proactive, wedding venues can continue to create magical moments for couples, even in the face of economic challenges.

Marketing Trends Journal

Coming from a retail background, I’ve always kept a journal for all the events (big and small) that might affect sales and traffic for that year.

As a wedding venue owner, a head of sales or marketing, or a wedding coordinator working directly with the couples, it’s really important you keep a record of what’s happened globally, locally and everything in between. Whether you had snow that affected an open day, your server went down, and your website couldn’t be accessed, you joined a new marketing platform, or a national event happened such as a general or presidential election (the latter does affect UK wedding traffic) or another headline that might impact enquiries, it’s all important and valuable stuff. You could even add your updates to your website and third-party platforms.

If you like to compare your enquiries year on year (although looking at current platform averages is a better indicator of the market), this would be a helpful tool to understand why enquiries could have been impacted – both positively and negatively.

Ensure the journal is accessible should teams change.

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