- 17 December 2019
- Deirdre Bracken
Especially over the busy Christmas period!
The wedding industry is big business with couples spending almost 45% of their allocated budget on the venue alone (in the majority of cases, a hotel). With changing wedding trends, it’s no longer an exclusive market: the smaller, independent properties now have a chance to capitalise on the wedding hospitality industry. And, the key time to do that is NOW. This season brings many festive proposals and the number of people searching and enquiring about wedding venues peaks over the Christmas period and into January each year. But with Christmas holidays and some hotels operating on skeleton staff, it’s important to put a strategy in place to ensure you are capturing and acting upon this influx, driving increased revenues into 2020 and beyond.
Here Deirdre Bracken, Business Development Manager at Guestline, Ireland, and with a background in wedding sales, shares her top tips to ensure that you are cutting yourself a big slice of the wedding market.
In our experience, every engaged couple has an approx. €20K value they can bring to your business. Being prepared doesn’t mean just having your ground floor ready i.e. the setting up of the ballroom, F&B packages and your list of suppliers. The backbone to success includes having the right team in place and ensuring you have efficient processes, systems and technology at the ready to capture and secure those couples.
Without the right, motivated and trained team, any sales and marketing effort is dead in the water. Couples these days are more demanding of a personalised service. Your team needs to understand ‘the couple’ and utilise the guest intelligence you collect i.e. Who are they? Their expectations of your property? The type of wedding they seek etc. And then prepare your strategy - How do you capture their details? What’s your follow up? How quickly are you going to secure deposits? Etc.
At Guestline we completely understand the operational frustrations experienced at hotels, in particular the mammoth task of driving wedding business, but, through advancements in technology these frustrations can be alleviated with automated processes and remote capabilities which will assist you and your team with time saving efficiencies, labour costs and will improve the entire wedding journey from handling enquiries and securing deposits right through to beyond the wedding day itself.
Capture those enquiries…
Today’s engaged couple is extremely social savvy, and typically begins the research phase of selecting a wedding venue site by browsing your social media pages and website. It is imperative that you ensure your website and social accounts are up-to-date, current and best reflect your wedding offering. Entice them to imagine what their wedding would look like at your property - Show them pictures of couples getting married there, display pictures of your hotel’s breath-taking views and place previous reviews alongside the imagery so that they can read about other couple’s experiences.
Whilst they are on your website or your social pages, ensure you make it easy for them to contact the property. Whatever your preferred method, make it as simple as clicking a button i.e.
- Have an e-brochure of weddings at your property available to download. Build data capture into it and request the couple enter their email address before download
- Host a call to action button such as ‘Request More Information’ that takes couples to an RFP form or ‘Contact us’ which then opens an email to your wedding coordinator
- After a couple has submitted an enquiry, an automated response should generate offering assurance that their request will be responded to as soon as possible – couples are excited and impatient, let them know that you received their enquiry
Plan a Wedding Open Day for January…
You have captured their data and have begun to build a relationship with potential couples. Now is the time to have them visit the property to experience all you have to offer. Hosting a wedding open day is an excellent idea to entice lots of couples to visit on one afternoon. January is a great time to do this. It allows you to capitalise on the busiest enquiry time and lets the couples visit when there is still heightened excitement in the air.
Whilst the team will be busy setting out candles and ensuring supplier exhibits are in place, be sure that your staff understand the aim of the event – which is to capture and secure as many bookings as possible. Putting a clever strategy in place will help to maximise on this. One idea is to offer an incentive on the day i.e. book your wedding today and get 10% off or provide a luxurious competition prize for couples who put a deposit down within the next 10 days or so.
Providing your team with the ability to capture data from visiting couples on the day is invaluable. This should be done digitally, straight into your PMS and can be used post event to re-target couples with follow up correspondence and digital marketing campaigns. It can even send a follow up email whilst the couple are still on your premises! Same process if you are attending or exhibiting at any wedding shows in January, have technology to hand, meet, greet and capture as much data as possible whilst talking to clients offsite. Your website will also allow you showcase the property digitally to couples, with the ability to access brochures, imagery andpackages and a cloud-based PMS, such as Guestline Rezlynx, will provide live rates and availability so you can check dates and insert bookings.
Have a checklist to manage enquiries…
Managing enquiries is the single most important step in the process of securing revenue – be clever, don’t pour money down the drain! Devise a checklist that ensures you are doing everything in your power to maximise on the busiest enquiry season and that the process is as seamless as possible:
- Double check your rosters and put an extra staff member on if needed – phone enquiries and walk-ins are popular during this time as recently engaged couples have time off over Christmas to visit and engage with properties
- Couples love show arounds, they don’t want to be told that the wedding coordinator is on a ‘day off’ or ‘off for Christmas’ – make sure that extra staff are trained and can facilitate a walk-around the property, ensuring they meet all the key wedding touch points
We know that smart tech equals better service. By engaging with technology, automated processes free up staff time to focus on new enquiries coming in. Enquiries can be input directly into the PMS with automated responses generated at the touch of a button! Templates would be set up and a check list runs in the background prompting the Wedding Coordinator to action the next touch point.
- New tech advancements also provide the capability to accept a wedding deposit remotely, be it in the palm of your hand on-site at the hotel or whilst off-site at an exhibition – which means an immediate sales conversion
- Ensure your digital marketing is on point! Research shows couples choose venues based on their emotional connection to it, so find out what it is that attracted them to your property, personalise it and communicate this back to them
Remember, they may be a wedding client today, but they could become a lifelong friend of the property bringing leisure, family and even corporate business with them. Get to know them, personalise their experience and welcome them back.
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