You have a stellar hotel with potential for even more wedding business, but it is not generating the kind of wedding bookings you know it should.
You are in luck because you selected the best guide for generating more wedding revenue to hotels. In this guide, you will learn how to drive more wedding bookings through the most used digital channels. By the end of this wedding venue marketing guide, you will know the exact steps you need to take to improve your hotel’s wedding business.
Remember This Basic Philosophy Behind Selling Your Hotel Wedding Venue
Before you get started, never forget your audience. You know who they are: newly engaged couples both excited and terrified at the prospect of planning a wedding and starting a life together. They seek a venue that 1) sets the scene for the wedding they imagine, 2) fits within their budget, and 3) provides practical accommodations for their guests. You need to convince your audience, these excited and terrified couples, that your venue is their venue. Show them how your hotel venue hits all the right notes they both need and desire.
As you build a strategy to grow your hotel wedding revenue, always remember your audience and this basic philosophy: get in front of your ideal audience at the most opportune times, and, once you have their attention, make them imagine their wedding at your hotel so much they can not imagine having it anywhere else. Once you do that, they have solidified their venue and your hotel has gained one more booking.
Show Off Your Space With an Independent Website
First and foremost, get a high-quality independent website to show off your venue. It must display vibrant photos, up-to-date information about your space, and captivating content to ignite couples’ imaginations and set the scene for their wedding at your hotel.
Your hotel may have a brand site already, but most brand sites do not offer the flexibility to customize photos, content, and design elements to sell wedding venues in an emotional way that appeals to newlyweds. Brand wedding pages look hardly any different from practical brand meeting pages – both only provide floor plans and an RFP.
You need an independent website. If you have one, great, let’s make it even better! If you do not and you are serious about booking more wedding business, it is worth the investment.
Create a Dedicated Wedding Landing Page on Your Hotel Website
Once you have your independent site, build a specific wedding landing page designed sell your venue. Do not just write a section about weddings on a general events space page; you do not want to speak to meeting planners, and social event planners, and engaged couples all at the same time. Your message will get lost and you will not captivate anyone. You will best engage your target audience by creating a wedding page that houses specific wedding information and speaks to their interests. Allow newly engaged couples to soak up your hotel photos and venue information so they can imagine their wedding at your venue.
Narrowing the focus of your page to weddings enables you to sell to this specific audience better. A dedicated landing page also improves SEO and paid advertising performance, which in turns brings in more traffic and qualified leads. We will discuss PPC in more depth later.
When building out your wedding landing page, you need high-resolution photos – as many as possible. The first thing a couple will look at is the photo gallery because, naturally, they want to know what your space looks like. If you do not have quality photos to showcase your space, you will have problems booking weddings..
Want to go above and beyond with photos? Invest in 360 VR photography so your audience can truly imagine their wedding in your hotel’s event space. Blue Magnet’s studies show that 360 VR photography improves conversion rates for event spaces.
Make the content robust so that it is helpful to couples seeking out a venue. A good rule of thumb is to answer questions couples frequently ask:
- What will this cost?
- What food options are on the menus?
- What does your space look like?
- How many guests does the space hold?
- What are your layout options?
- What will the ceremony, cocktails, and reception areas look like?
- Do you have any preferred vendors you work with?
Consider adding a humanizing element to your content through testimonials and meet the team sections. When people read testimonials from other people who have had weddings at the hotel and were so happy with the experience that they took the time to write a testimonial, it instills confidence that the new couple will also have a positive experience.
Same idea with showcasing a photo and bio of your chef and/or meeting planner. Seeing a picture and learning a little bit about the people the couple will get to work with gives the impression that your hotel is open and friendly. The couple will feel more connected to the hotel and will be more likely to book your space over a competitor’s space as a result.
Brand Unique Wedding Venues with a Dedicated Microsite
If your hotel boasts an incredibly unique space, it may be worth your while to brand the space separately from the hotel by building a microsite just for that space. That’s what a Crowne Plaza in Atlanta did and now they receive so many RFP submissions they need to turn people away!
As a result of their microsite and a highly targeted PPC campaign, the Crowne Plaza Atlanta Midtown’s SKY Room Microsite generated 191 RFPs and booked 11 events in just the first three months of the site being live. That is a +176% YOY increase in RFPS.
If you need help deciding if your hotel would benefit more from a landing page or a microsite, contact Blue Magnet; we are happy to give consultation on how to make the most revenue from your venue.
Use Paid Search To Drive Your Audience to Your Wedding Landing Page
You revamped your wedding landing page with the most vibrant content and photos around, but now you need to drive qualified users to that page. With a good SEO strategy, you can organically reach people who search for those terms, but it takes time for Google to recognize your website’s relevance and authority. When you want to attract an audience right after launching your landing page, you will need a strategy with a faster turnaround. Or perhaps you already have a wedding landing page but due to high competition in the area, you are not able to organically rank well enough to gain the floods of people you want to your site. What do you do then?
This is when pay per click comes into play. Pay per click refers to ads in which you pay each time someone clicks on the ad. You target a very specific audience using keywords, geotargeting, and more. Because you can narrow your focus so specifically and because you only pay for conversions, pay per click is one of the most cost-effective and lucrative digital platforms for marketing. And since Google is the most widely-used browser, Google Adwords are almost always the best platform for hotel paid search ads.
Now there is no one-size-fits all way to set up a paid search ad campaign for every wedding venue but here are some tried and true basics. We wrote about seven steps to starting a paid search campaign for your hotel, so let’s apply those steps to marketing your wedding venue.
Step 1: Set a concrete goal, KPI, and ideal audience
When marketing a wedding venue, your goal is generating RFPs. Look at how many RFPs you have historically gained and determine how many RFPs you need in order to deem this campaign a success. Is it 20 in a month? 50? 100?
Your primary KPI is RFPs gained, but you may also have secondary goals such as exposure. If you have a goal to gain more brand awareness, you can measure how many impressions the ads make as a goal. Note: impressions refer to how many times an ad appears in search results, even if a user does not click on them. Think of this as billboard exposure.
You already know your idea audience – these are those excited and terrified newly engaged couples we keep talking about.
Step 2: Figure out the Timing
The good news about marketing wedding venues is that wedding trends are extremely predictable, so you can find out when to increase or decrease adspend for Google Adwords.
Take a step back from your marketing persona for a moment and think about all the people you know in your life who get engaged around Christmas time. There is a very real human reason propelling that trend: the end of the year holidays. Search trends show searches for engagement rings spike around Thanksgiving and search trends for wedding venues spike the two weeks surrounding Christmas, Hanukkah, and other similar December holidays.
Whether it is conscious or not, people evaluate their lives around New Years as one year comes to a close and another begins. They see their families around Thanksgiving and Christmas – a time for familial pressure to propose, a time to ask for familial permission to wed their son or daughter, and a time to announce the news in person to families.
This surge of annual life events propel an influx of engagements to occur around the holidays, and with that engagement, a flood of people seek wedding venues to set the date for their wedding as soon as possible. The proof exists in the data and most likely in your own experience as well.
As a hotel with a wedding venue, you can use this information to put heavier spend in November-February as a way to lure this influx of newly engaged couples looking for venues to your website and also compete with competitors who do the same.
There are a few other times of year with waves of engagements and higher volumes of wedding venue searches, but none as enormous as the one in winter around the holidays.
Step 3: Create an Incentive
Your audience is already looking for a wedding venue, so you do not need to create a large incentive for them to look at your hotel in the first place. They are already at that step. So you have that advantage.
However, you do need an incentive for people to click on your ad, and ultimately choose your hotel, over your competitors. In the case of wedding venues, your biggest incentive is the venue itself. Showcase why your venue is so special in the ad copy. Does your venue have marble bar tops? Hardwood floors, Art deco architecture? Floor to ceiling windows that reveal and incredible view? An all-inclusive wedding package? Was your venue featured on “Say Yes to the Dress”? In a short space, you can do a lot to showcase how unique your venue is and give people a reason to click on your ad over others.
Step 4: Gather the Materials you Need:
Collect all the information and digital assets necessary to run this campaign:
- Usage rights
- Booking links
- Phone numbers
- RFP forms
- Compelling copywriting
When creating the ads, you will need to make sure the phone numbers and tracking are set up properly. If you are running display ads, you also want up-to-date photos showcasing the venue. Most of the other information on this list is important for the ad campaign, but they belong on the web page you send people to rather than on the ad.
All the other information such as booking link or RFP form needs to be on the page and well tracked so that when people click on your ad and want to book, they can do so with ease.
Step 5: Build a Unique Landing Page
Create a landing page to act as the digital version of your venue. As discussed earlier in the article, this page will convey what your venue looks like and what experience a couple can expect from booking their wedding here. All other marketing efforts, including paid search, will direct searchers to this landing page to learn about your venue and be compelled to call or submit RFPs.
Having a meaty landing page also helps your paid search ads perform better since the content is one of the factors besides budget that Google uses in its algorithm to determine how often it shows your ads. If you have a landing page with a lot of helpful information about your venue that stands apart from your competitors, your ads’ search impression share will increase. If you have a bare landing page without a lot of information about your wedding venue, your ads’ search impression share will decrease.
Step 6: Set Up the Ad Campaign in Google Adwords
First, you will need to determine if you want Search, Display or both.
The Search Network shows text ads at the top of a search engine’s search results. If your goal is to gain immediate wedding RFPs, this is the route you want to take. These ads will show up for users who type in “wedding venues near [city].” These people are actively seeking out wedding venues and you want them to learn about yours and book.
The Display Network shows text, photos, videos, audio clips, and more to a network of websites relevant to what you are selling. As an example, your display ad might have a photo of your event space, copy highlighting its perks, and could be shown on websites and blogs about wedding venues, wedding dresses, wedding rings, etc. Now running a Display ad provides a different benefit than a Search Ad.
You show the ad to people not actively looking for your venue right at this moment, but to people who are likely to look for venues in the near future because they browse related websites. Or in other words, these ads cast a wide net to captivate people at the very tip-top of the buying funnel. They do not rack in as many immediate calculable conversions as search ads do, but running display ads do correlate to more conversions down the road. Maybe “Maggie” is not even engaged yet, but shopping for wedding rings and keeps seeing pictures of your venue and thinks, “that place looks really lovely”.
As she’s just starting to imagine her future wedding, your venue is right there showing up and making an impression on her mind. So when Maggie and her partner finally do get engaged a month later, she’ll think of your venue first because she already imagined her wedding there. Display ads are very cool and can sell your space in a very unique way, however, it is not as easy to measure its value. The way marketers tend to measure Display Ad value is through impressions, or how many times the ad is shown, rather than how many times it is clicked on or conversions it racks in.
At Blue Magnet, we recommend wedding venues use search ads to market their venue so the venue gets in front of people who are actively searching for them. And under special circumstances where the goal is brand awareness or the venue visually extraordinary, we recommend also using Display ads to make an impression on those at the very tippy top of the buying funnel.
You will also need to determine the keywords you want your ads to show up for. Naturally, you will want to target terms like “wedding venue in [city]” that are relatively simple and have high search volume. For the most part, those are the types of terms you will want to target. f you have a niche specialty such as Indian Weddings, it may be worth your while to build a separate keyword group targeting those unique terms as well.
You will also want to figure out what your ad will look like. What will the ad say and will it have ad extensions? For a Wedding venue, you definitely want the phone number and click to call button for mobile in case people want to call your venue directly. We also recommend having site links to the RFP page, About us Page, and other related pages to encourage people to click on the ad and browse your site the way they see fit.
Step 7: Launch Ad Campaign and Evaluate the Results
Finally, launch the campaign. After every month, evaluate the results and determine if you need to improve the campaign. Maybe you tried only targeting people in your city, but found out through analytics that you also get visitors from surrounding cities who want destination weddings – adjust the targeting to accommodate these people.
If you look at the Search Budget Lost to Impressions Share and see a high percentage of people you are not reaching, increase your budget to reach as many people as possible.
If you are not sure what is right for you, remember that Blue Magnet can give you expert paid search guidance.
Use Social Media to Captivate a Larger Audience
Social media is a powerful tool to market your event space if you know how to use it. Think of social media is digital word of mouth and a source of inspiration for engaged couples, and your job is to help others learn about your space and share their experiences through these channels.
A person can search wedding venues through Google or click on an ad, but when someone searches for wedding venues through social media, they seek something unique: a trusted source, a guarantee that someone else had a positive experience at your venue. Imagine you are looking for a wedding venue on social media. If a friend, a friend-of-a-friend, or even a stranger with a good review used a venue and had a positive experience, you’d be more likely to trust that venue over a venue without any positive reviews of photos, right?
Your job when marketing your venue on social media is to provide users the photos and reviews to explore your hotel and share their own experiences at your hotel. Why? Because when couples planning a wedding search for your hotel venue through hashtags, you want to share the different ways people have used your space in the past so they can imagine how they could use your space for their wedding in the future.
On your Facebook Page, Instagram Page, Twitter Page, and maybe even Pinterest Page, you need to showcase photos recent events at the venue. Sprinkle in quotes and testimonials from past weddings to help build that trust amongst your potentials. Think of it as providing a sandbox, bucket, and shovel, but let past and future wedding bookers build the sand castles with those tools. Other people will come to admire those sandcastles and want to build some of their own.
Two Real Examples of Successful Facebook Ad Campaigns
Now you can create normal organic social media posts about your venue throughout the year, but if you want to the best results from your social media efforts, you will want to put some money behind it. Here are a couple examples so you can visualize what these ads would look like.
Example 1: A branded hotel in Chicago wanted to push events on their rooftop space, particularly weddings. So they worked with Blue Magnet to create a social media campaign in February (a month we determined as a strong one for wedding venue bookings based on historical data).
Blue Magnet created 6 ads to test which one performed best and strategically targeted the campaign so those ads would be served to relevant audiences. Our audience included women in Illinois ages 25-45, people interested in Chicago attractions and hot spots, people interested in wedding-related topics such as “Say Yes to the Dress,” and users whose relationship status is “engaged.” The campaign ran for one month and, in that time, reached 39,958 people, received 1,717 clicks and earned the Page 80+ new followers. The campaign boasted a $0.29 cost per click and the return on investment for the hotel was $120:$1.
The campaign’s Social Media Manager, Brianna Breshears said the reason the campaign was successful was due to the pictures of the rooftop space. She shared, “People are really drawn to destination weddings with something memorable as a part of it like city views and being in Chicago. But even if your hotel is not located in a big city, you should always try to highlight something special about your event space. What do you have that will make people want to say ‘oh, I want to have my wedding here’? Find what is unique about your hotel and expand upon it.”
Example 2: A Hotel in San Luis Obispo wanted to increase RFP submissions for their event space. However, rather than running one campaign, they ran two different campaigns to test their target audience and what ads resonated best.
The hotel ran their first social media campaign from October to November. Once they had fine-tuned their audience based on the results from the first campaign, they ran a second campaign in February and March (peak wedding planning season).
The two Facebook campaigns generated 1,376 sessions in which 37 visitors checked the rate and 4 clicked-to-alls, and 28 check rates. The hotel increased their overall RFPs by 33% year over year and, throughout the course of both campaigns, grew their Facebook Page by 169 new followers, increasing their exposure and engagement.
Blue Magnet Social Media Manager Morgan Adkins advises, “Know your audience, have good photography and do AB testing within your ads to see which ones work and which don’t so you put the majority of your ad spend into the ad that performs the best.”
Use Email Marketing to Build Loyalty with Wedding Planners and Return Guests
Email marketing is another medium to use to increase wedding business to your hotel, as long as you have the right lists to reach your desired audience.
The success of email marketing relies on your hotel building up a relevant list of subscribers who have expressed interest in your hotel at some point. In this case, you need to create a segmented list of people who are wedding planners and engaged couples; otherwise, you risk…
Look at the list you have right now. These are not just ordinary consumers, these are actual people who have stayed at your hotel before, worked with you, or found your hotel so exciting they signed up for your newsletter. This is a one-of-a-kind fan club who already love your hotel, and the emails you send them are not mere advertisements you send out to the whole world, they are special messages that only members of this elite club get to see.
What Makes a Successful Wedding eBlast?
When people subscribe to a newsletter, they are opting into because they want to hear your news and be a part of special deals as they arise, right? So the best way to sell weddings to your subscribers is to offer them a special deal or inside scoop about a new package that no one else gets to hear.
In addition to offering wedding deals or announcing new packages, you want to sell an experience that is unique. It is easy for hotels to fall into a stale mindset when it comes to weddings. The modern couple wants a unique wedding that fits their personality, so exhibit how your hotel venue will be a blank canvas for their vision while offering experiences that they could not have at any other hotel.
If you know your audience, get creative with the copy and “speak” to them in their own language. As an example, a Disney Good Neighbor hotel in Orlando sent out eBlasts to event planners and newly engaged couples that offered discounts on their three packages with complimentary cake cutting and a 2-night stay for the bride and groom. The e-blast included copy tailored towards Disney-lovers who might want a Disney wedding.
This email was successful because the hotel offered a discount to a qualified list of people interested in weddings. They used stand-out content and imagery that sold to their audience of Disney lovers and suggested a wedding experience that was unique.
What if you do not have a list of wedding planners and newly engaged couples? How do you build one? We have you covered.
How to Build an Email List of Wedding Planners and Newly Engaged Couples?
There are lots of ways to build your email list; it takes patience and extra effort to do so, but the gains are worth it.
Feature a Email Sign Up Form on Your Independent Website
The easiest way to gain subscribers naturally is through your independent website. Put a call to action on your website where visitors can sign up if they want to receive more deals.
Go a step further by adding special fields in the sign-up form to gather more information about the user. Ask if they are interested in weddings and then down the road when you are offering a wedding package, you know who to send the wedding eBlasts to. If you ask for too much information, you risk the visitor opting to not sign up if there are too many fields to fill out. Prioritize the information that matters most when creating multiple fields for email sign-ups.
Use a Targeted Marketing Message on Your Website to Gather Emails
You also can get a targeted marketing message pop-up on your wedding page. This encourages people in the browsing process of wedding planning to sign up for your newsletter to get deals and messages down the road. You can send them eblasts to remind them about your venue, help them imagine their wedding there, and ultimately even book their wedding in your space.
Even if they are not seeking to subscribe, once they see the pop-up on their screen they are more likely to sign up. You can separate newsletter subscriptions filled out on the Weddings Page from your normal list to help you send relevant eBlasts down the road.
Run a Giveaway on your Website to Gather Emails
Holding a giveaway is a great way to generate buzz for your hotel, and also collect email addresses. You could hold a giveaway featured on your hotel website where entrants have to submit their emails for future newsletters as part of the requirements for the giveaway.
Blue Magnet worked with a resort that did just this a few times throughout the year to gather emails for various purposes. As an example, they created a Valentines Giveaway where one lucky couple got a free weekend’s stay if they were chosen. To enter, they just needed to fill out a Blue Magnet-made entry form and provide their name and email address. We wrote copy explaining that the email was to be added to the email subscriber list to learn about future deals for the resort. The campaign ran from December 18th – January 31st during prime engagement season and the hotel gained 655 new emails that they could segment as “couples” for future emails.
Run a Giveaway through Social Media to Gather Emails
You can also turn to social media and hold a giveaway targeted towards couples where users have to submit their email address as part of the entry.
In the example below, users were asked to submit a photo for a chance to win a two-night stay. The giveaway gained the hotel +569 more Facebook fans, +21 more Twitter followers and a 46% in total engagements. A campaign like this could easily gain email addresses to target with wedding deals in order to gain some business down the road had the hotel made that an objective.
(Make sure you include verbiage that by entering the contest, people opt in to the hotel’s eNewsletter.)
Gather Email Addresses Through a Sign-Up Sheet at Your Next Wedding Expo
Finally, when you go to your next wedding expo or bridal show, collect email addresses at your table from people interested in your venue. Just have a sign-up sheet there on the table and send the list to your digital marketing manager to add to your wedding subscriber list. Easy!
Now You Are Ready to Drive More Wedding Business for Your Hotel Venue
There are multiple ways to drive wedding bookings to your hotel, but regardless of what avenues you choose, keep these big-picture truths in mind:
- Timing is everything. Take advantage of the December-February influx of venue bookings.
- A picture is worth a thousand words. Invest in high quality photos to sell your space.
- Do not be boring. Sell a unique experience to separate your hotel from the throngs of ordinary venues out there.
You journeyed far into the land of digital marketing, you collected the maps and tools to succeed, you have the drive to grow your revenue, now it is time to go out there and increase your wedding bookings!
Blue Magnet Interactive is a creative digital marketing agency run by passionate digital marketers who have worked in the hospitality industry for over 10 years. If you need some additional guidance as you grow your wedding bookings, give us a call or send us an email and we would be honored to lend our expertise – and maybe even partner with you in the future.