As 2023 gets into full swing, we at Unique Venues hear regularly from venue managers that expectations for revenue generation and headcount have returned to traditional levels or are even higher than they were pre-pandemic. The good news is that planners and individuals are booking camps, conferences, meetings, and events at record levels, making up for lost time. The bad news is that many venues are still trying to catch up on the loss of recurring business experienced the past three years and are desperately looking for ways to rebuild the pipeline of prospective business for 2024, 2025, and beyond.
If this sounds like a familiar struggle, here are four ways to increase engagement with planners and individuals looking to book a venue for their next meeting or event:
1. Review your website. Some important stats to know about search today (from Google):
• 89% of B2B researchers use the internet during the B2B research process
• On average, B2B researchers do 12 searches prior to engaging on a specific brand’s site
• 57% of the buying process is done *prior* to engaging with sales
Planners are looking for the next location for their meeting or event at all hours of the day and night and are using the information they can find online about your venue in their decision-making process. Is your website a sales-oriented tool with the type of information that informs planners of the features and benefits you offer? Is your website media-rich with high-quality video and photos? Do you include room capacities, diagrams, layouts, pricing information, catering menus, and other elements that help a planner determine fit? Do you focus on what planners and individuals *can* do, instead of what they *cannot* do?
If you find that your website could be more sales-oriented and friendly to planners, make a list of the items that are needed and prioritize their development. The more information you can provide to planners searching in stealth, the more often planners will include you in the short list of potential venues.
2. Develop a data harvesting strategy. When was the last time that you added a significant number of new contacts to your CRM? Our CEO, Chuck Salem, likes to constantly remind our company that we cannot keep fishing in the same waters and expect different results. If you keep reaching out to the same, tired list of contacts that you have reached out to dozens of times before, your odds of success diminish rapidly. Keeping your pipeline full means continually adding to the potential prospects that could select your venue.
There are dozens of different ways to harvest new contacts for your CRM. Online sites like YellowPages.com are a great way to look for businesses and organizations in the Social, Military, Religious, Education, and Fraternal market. For governmental meetings, look for your state’s database of governmental organizations and contacts. Join MPI and attend or sponsor local events to connect directly with planners and capture their contact information. Leverage relationships with the Chamber of Commerce and CVB to add local corporate and association contacts or attend regional and national trade shows and capture the attendee list. While it does take time and effort to grow your CRM, the addition of new prospects greatly increases your chances of adding to the number of recurring and one-time meetings in your venue’s portfolio.
3. Join a 3rd-party marketplace (or three). In today’s digital ecosystem, search rankings mean everything. Ask yourself – when was the last time that you went past the first page of results when searching for something to buy? Look carefully at any search that you do, and you may notice that many (most? all?) of the results are not individual businesses, but rather 3rd-party marketplaces that represent a collection of businesses:
• 92% of US consumers shopping online in April 2021 used a marketplace
• 42% of those shoppers used a niche marketplace, up from 29% in 2020
There are dozens of options of marketplaces in the venue rental space, including UniqueVenues.com, with varying business models. Take time to investigate potential partners, understanding the costs, rules of engagement, quality of leads, and overall support. Choose the right partner(s) to list with, and keep your profile listing current with contact information, good photos/videos, promotions or specials, and all relevant venue information to rise above your competitors in the marketplace and be noticed by the planners and individuals searching there.
4. Run a paid search campaign (or three). With the dominance of 3rd-party marketplaces as noted above, the best way to shortcut the issue and get your venue noticed directly is to appear at the top of the search rankings via paid search advertising. By developing an attractive, keyword-rich advertisement and bidding on the most high-yield terms, even a modest campaign budget can attract a significant number of potential clients. In 2021 the average click-through rate for the travel and hospitality industry was 2.18%, and the average cost-per-click was $1.53.
Paid search campaigns can be developed to appeal to a wide audience or be targeted to very specific markets. You can run them for a short window of time to spur an influx of leads or fill a specific window in your schedule or keep them running year round to remain ever present when planners are searching.
Unique Venues can help!
All four of these strategies are an effective way to connect with planners, provide them with the information they are looking for, generate more interest in your venue, and, ultimately, book more business. Not sure where to start? We specialize in promoting venues like yours in our 3rd-party marketplace at UniqueVenues.com and have additional options like top-tier placement or landing page banner ads to make your venue stand out. We conduct website reviews and develop SEO strategy for small and large venues and can design new website wireframes or even a brand-new website. We manage dozens of Google Ad campaigns for clients on a monthly basis, yielding a greater number of leads and bookings. We can even write your full 3-year Sales Action Plan, incorporating foundational and targeted strategies specifically for your venue to increase awareness, build engagement, and keep that pipeline full far into the future.
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