Earlier this month, my colleague and I had the pleasure of attending WeddingWire World Chicago on behalf of Blue Magnet Interactive. The event intended to educate vendors about different strategies for successfully marketing their wedding business online. After a fun-filled day attending panel discussions and presentations by industry experts, we walked away armed with the latest trends and insightful tips for marketing your hotel’s wedding business. In this blog, we’ll share our key takeaways from WeddingWire’s event, including facts and figures provided by the speakers, to ensure that you are well-equipped to market your hotel as an ideal venue for weddings and receptions.
Top 4 takeaways from WeddingWire World Chicago
1. Implement a social media strategy. Today’s potential wedding client is social.
2. Take wedding reviews seriously. Today’s potential wedding client does their homework.
3. Ensure your website is mobile-optimized. Today’s potential wedding client is mobile.
4. Revamp marketing materials and contracts to be inclusive of same-sex couples. Today’s potential wedding client is attuned to social issues and perceptions.
Social Media: As a wedding vendor, why should you implement a social media strategy?
Did you know that 1 out of every 4 minutes spent online is specifically spent on a social networking site? Today’s engaged couple is extremely social, and typically begins the research phase of selecting a wedding reception site by browsing your social media pages and looking for things like pictures, reviews and the vendor’s personality. The speakers offered countless tips for sharing wedding content on social media to help generate more engagement and sell your services as a wedding vendor.
Some of our favorite recommendations that can be applied to your hotel’s social strategy include:
- Sell your area and features. If a highlight of your hotel is the stunning view of the bay from the rooms on the top floor, ask your followers a no-brainer question. For example, ask: What view do you want to wake up to after your special day?
- Ask open ended questions. It’s easy to answer yes or no, so challenge your followers to engage with your hotel by asking a question that elicits an emotion. For example, ask: Where do you want your first dance to be, and why?
- Get specific. Find out the key elements that your guests look for when planning their wedding so you can tailor your content to their interests. For example, ask: What is the top thing you need to make your wedding a success?
- Utilize thank you cards and photos from previous weddings. Ask the couple if you can “show them off” on your social channels to give your followers a better visual of what they can expect at their own wedding. Showing remnants from a happy couple’s wedding will resonate with followers more so than images from a staged photo shoot.
Online Reviews: Why should your hotel develop an online wedding review strategy?
If you haven’t been encouraging your previous clients to share their experience through a review yet, this needs to be one of your top priorities! In fact, 95% of engaged couples use online reviews to select wedding vendors. In addition, younger generations are very inclined to read reviews; If your hotel does not have a positive reputation on various online review sites, it will probably struggle to attract any millennial shoppers.
Some key tips to ensure your hotel acquires valuable wedding reviews or testimonials include:
- Give your clients a reason to write a review. Did you do something extraordinary to make their big day special? Did you exceed their expectations? What makes your location unique versus other places they could have held their wedding or reception?
- Where can people find reviews of weddings at your hotel? Do you utilize a service like WeddingWire to specifically collect reviews on weddings and receptions at your hotel? Are you getting reviews on Facebook? Google+? Through email? One way to help with collecting reviews is to ask guests who mail or email you a review if they could share what they wrote on your preferred review site. Be sure to send them a link to your hotel’s listing when you ask!
- Capture the essence of your hotel’s wedding venue with video reviews. Do you have a wedding planner who really connects with the couple on their wedding day? Ask the couple if it would be alright to catch them in a happy moment and ask them a fun question. This way, the couple doesn’t have to worry about writing something later, and you can actually capture the experience you are trying to sell.
Mobile Strategy: Why must your hotel have a mobile-optimized website (or at the very least, a mobile-optimized micro-site specifically for weddings)?
81% of people leave a website when they have a bad mobile experience. A bad experience is typically a result of the website not being properly optimized for mobile users. While Blue Magnet Interactive has strongly encouraged hotel websites to be mobile-optimized since the beginning of the mobile trend, it was pretty astonishing to hear this statistic at WeddingWire World!
Hotels that use email marketing to promote their wedding space need to be especially aware of mobile optimization because 65% of people open emails on their phone. The industry pros at the WeddingWire event recommended checking that the emails you send out are mobile-optimized, providing content that is to the point, and ensuring that the email itself is free of overwhelming amounts of text and images. More so, the links embedded in your email campaigns are likely pointing to your website, so if a user comes straight from a mobile-optimized email to a website that is not mobile-optimized, you are more likely to lose that potential client.
One of the speakers shared an interesting perspective regards to websites, pointing out that: “You don’t get business from your website but rather through your website.” We felt this was important because your website doesn’t necessarily yield direct business; often times it’s the information you provide on your website, and the experience you provide guests that generates client interest. They see the information on your website and then decide to connect with you, whether it be through your website’s contact form, by phone, or through email. At Blue Magnet, we know that a hotel’s website is specifically designed to help answer any questions a potential client or engaged couple may have, and often is an important resource towards the beginning of the shopping phase; so, by the time a client is ready to book a wedding at your hotel they’ve gained the necessary information through your website and are ready to contact you to move onto the next step.
LGBTQ Community: Does your hotel’s marketing material and contracts contain inclusive language? How should your hotel be connecting with same-sex couples?
Kathryn Hamm from Gayweddings.com gave an outstanding overview of the growth the LGBTQ community has seen over the years and why vendors should be connecting with this segment now more than ever before. To start, Hamm mentioned that 77% of people under the age of 30 support gay marriage, meaning, acceptance is continuously growing. Additionally, she explained that 46% of same sex marriages wed in the couple’s home state. The remainder of same sex couples travel, usually due to the restrictions of their home state. Therefore, if your hotel is located in a state that currently allows gay marriage, you should be actively marketing your wedding space to target the LGBTQ community, as there are likely more out-of-state wedding shoppers..
Kathryn also reminded the audience to avoid “vendor awkwardness.” Believe it or not, one of the biggest concerns that LGBTQ couples face when planning their wedding is not due to cost, but rather anxiety: “When I call, is the vendor going to hang up on me?” To avoid vendor awkwardness and assure all clients that their queries will be well-received make sure your hotel markets itself as being inclusive and accepting.
A few ways you can ensure your hotel’s marketing materials are inclusive of all couples include reviewing your:
- Wedding Photos – Are the photos on your website and marketing materials only showing a traditional wedding, with a bride and groom? Add some wedding photos featuring all types of couples to show that your venue is not exclusive. This allows all engaged couples to truly envision their wedding or reception at your hotel.
- Marketing Materials & Contracts – What type of language are you using across your website, marketing materials and contracts? Does it still use presumptuous language like “bride and groom?” Replace any instances of exclusivity with more inclusive terms like “engaged couple” or “partner”.
- Your Resource List – Do the professionals that you work with support gay marriage? Make sure your recommended and preferred vendors also support the LGBTQ community so you don’t accidentally send a client astray.
Based on the changes happening across the country, particularly in Congress, Hamm left us all with one final question: Will your business be ready to support same-sex marriages by June 2015?
Overall, we gained some great insight into the wedding industry and learned several helpful tips to help hotels market their wedding space more effectively, all while having an awesome time mingling and networking! To learn more about WeddingWire World Chicago, be sure to search the hashtag #WWWorld. We welcome your questions and feedback so be sure to connect with us on Twitter @Blue_Magnet!