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If your goal is to increase bookings at your venue and drive higher sales and revenue, the easiest way to do that is by optimizing your sales funnel.
You can think of your sales funnel as the entire process your customer has to go through from the moment they first find you online until the moment they book with your venue for their special event.
Essentially this can be broken down into 4 steps:
At each of these stages, you can win or lose bookings.
The easiest way to increase your sales is to look for low hanging fruit in your sales funnel.
You can generally find these opportunities much easier once you identify a critical metric for each step of your process.
Step 1: Attract More Venue Leads
The first step is to attract strangers.
The most common way to do this is through ranking in search engines, online advertising (such as directories or PPC) or offline advertising (such as trade shows).
In our research, we found that the most effective way for venues to attract more inquiries is through Search Engine Optimization (SEO).
However, knowing that SEO is a key driver of business for any venue is a fantastic first step, because know that you know that, we can easily find out if there is any low hanging fruit in your online marketing strategy.
SEO is all about being at the top of Google when someone searches for your keyword.
Most venues make a critical mistake here and think that they have to rank for terms like:
- Houston Event Venues
- Houston Wedding Venue
- Houston Meeting Venue
This is a big mistake.
While those terms may be useful in driving traffic, there are probably a lot of other keywords with much less competition that can bring in just as much traffic, if not more.
This is called “Keyword Analysis” and can be done with tools like www.ahrefs.com
Through keyword analysis you can speed up your SEO efforts by finding keywords with lots of traffic and not much competition and work on showing up for those words first. This means more traffic, much faster.
There are many online guides to doing keyword analysis with Ahrefs or similar tools, but the goal here is to keep in mind 2 simple things:
- Find out the keywords that have a lot of traffic and low competition using Ahrefs or a similar tool.
- Find keywords that your IDEAL customers might be searching for (you can learn this by talking to them and asking them what they googled when searching for a venue).
What gets measured gets managed, so make sure you consistently use Google Analytics to check your traffic over time. If you are getting more unique visitors to your website, that means your traffic is increasing.
So, the first goal is simple. You want to increase your traffic through SEO by finding high traffic, low competition keywords.
The second part of your sales funnel is a bit trickier to get setup, but it’s worth it’s weight in gold.
Step 2: Capture More Wedding Leads
Your website essentially has only one purpose and that purpose is:
Get your visitor’s email address.
It’s so important that we want to say it again.
The goal of your website is to GET YOUR VISITOR’S EMAIL ADDRESS.
This is because it’s very hard to drive traffic to your website. You are essentially in a competition for that traffic.
Once the visitors actually make it onto your website, you have already completed the hardest part.
Now you need to make sure you “catch the visitor” by getting their email address.
Have you ever visited a website or blog and after spending a few seconds on it, you saw a popup offering you something in exchange for your email?
Some examples might be:
- Enter a contest
- Get something free
- Subscribe for updates
- Get our newsletter, etc.
These sites are attempting to convert you, the stranger, into a visitor by capturing your email address. They are trying to offer you something compelling in return for it.
So, the goal in capturing emails is to give your visitors something you know they want. The best way to find that out is to visit other venue’s websites to see what they are offering, or to ask your customers.
We recommend Mailchimp or SumoMe for email address capture popups.
Other common ways of capturing the visitor’s email include:
- Landing Pages
- A “Contact Us” page on your site
The most common mistake we see venues make is that they don’t have a popup on their website asking for the visitor’s email.
The second most common mistake is that the venue’s contact form is too long and annoying to fill out, or it’s hidden and not easily accessible on their site.
Your goal as a venue is to make it easy as possible for your visitors to give you their email.
To do this, you should put an email popup and contact form on every single page of your website.
The goal here is to make it very easy for leads to be able to contact you.
Remember, you have about 2 seconds (literally) to capture their email address and then they will be gone forever.
Once you have captured the visitor’s email, you are ready for the third step: Nurturing the lead.
Step 3: Nurture the Lead
Another common weakness among most venues is the lack of a strong sales process.
Venues spend significant resources on driving traffic to their site, but even when they’ve captured the email and/or received an inquiry on their contact form, their lead nurturing is so weak that most of the leads never convert to sales.
Have you ever received an inquiry from a potential customer or a request for a proposal, only to reply and never hear back from them again?
This is the most common roadblock 99.9% of venues have in their sales process. Fixing this drastically increases sales.
This nurturing stage is a long process so don’t expect instant sales. When you follow up with leads, don’t rush the process.
Most leads that submit their email are very cold and are unlikely to take any immediate action, especially if they find you via Adwords, Facebook Ads or submitted their email on your website’s popup form.
In order to “warm these leads up,” you need to nurture them.
This involves providing the client with value to establish yourself as a credible expert who they can trust. Usually it’s done over a long period of time and requires multiple touches.
When someone submits their email on your popup form, you should have a pre-written sequence of scheduled emails that go out to them every few days.
If they are searching for a wedding venue, you can provide wedding tips for example. If they are executing a large event, you can provide links to local vendor directories and associations.
Warming the lead up could take 6-8 emails like this before they are ever ready to engage with an actual human being at your venue via phone, email or text message.
It’s more of a passive, gentle reminder to the prospect. Let them know that you are still here for them and that you are an expert who can offer them tremendous value.
You should also have different nurturing campaigns for different customer types.
Don’t expect a large number of your email submissions to turn into real leads (those ready to talk to a real person) right away. Often the nurturing phase can last weeks or even months depending on the customer type, the size of their event and where they are at in the planning process.
Automate your lead nurturing with a tool like Mailchimp.
You will know a lead is no longer in the nurturing phase when they connect with your contact form to make an inquiry, email you or phone you.
Basically, any contact that even slightly suggests they want to connect with a real person means you should mentally take them out of the nurturing stage and put them into your official sales process.
Step 4: Sell the Prospect
Your sales process is the fourth part of your sales funnel. For venues this normally involves responding to inquiries, setting up a phone call or meeting, scheduling a tour, preparing a proposal, signing the contract or BEO and making the deposit payment.
Each of these steps is essentially a goal where you can win or lose the customer.
What if they don’t respond to your initial email, for example? You could lose them right there, so this requires finesse, as well.
If you want to book a lot more events at your venue and increase your sales dramatically in a short period of time, fixing your sales follow up process for hot leads is the best way to do that.
In a recent study we conducted at Event Temple, the standard number of times most venues were following up with hot leads was once only, by email.
That means an inquiry would go from the visitor to the email capture stage, then they would be converted to a hot lead and then they would be lost there.
Now that you know how much effort it takes to create a hot lead, I’m sure you find it as equally concerning as I do that for the majority of venues, this is where things fall apart.
Once a hot lead lands in your sales pipeline, there is a very high chance they will turn into a booking if handled right.
To get to the final stage and turn the hot lead into a customer, you need to follow up consistently.
Don’t just follow up once and then give up. Follow up on everything, up to 7 or 8 times over a period of months if needed. Keep going until the customer replies to you and gets on a call, schedules a tour, etc.
How to Follow Up:
- If you get an inquiry, follow up until you get an email response from the customer.
- Turn inquiries into phone calls and don’t give up until those calls actually happen.
- Turn calls into tours. If you get tour cancellations, turn them into rescheduled tours. Remind people of upcoming tours at your venue consistently.
- Follow up on your proposals and quotes until you get a signature and payment.
Whatever you do, don’t stop following up unless the prospect asks you to.
Following up is the key to getting booked.
So far, you have learned how to attract strangers through online marketing initiatives and then turned those strangers into conversions by getting their email.
Next, you have learned how to nurture those emails until they are ready to become hot leads and engage with a real person via email, phone or text message.
Finally, you have worked with the hot leads, helping them overcome every obstacle until they complete the sales process and are ready to book with your venue.
As I mentioned earlier, there is a final step and this is called the “Promoter” step.
Step 5: Create a Sales Force of Fans
In order to turn customers into promoters, you need to deliver amazing customer service.
This is where most venues are normally doing a pretty good job, however it is worth covering since it can create long-term revenue.
The chances are high that your venue already has a smooth event planning, operations and execution team that delivers great client experiences. In our research we didn’t find very many venues that didn’t. But we did find something very interesting.
Most venues don’t do a great job of bragging about it.
We recommend creating a post-event checklist to ask your client and other vendors for reviews online and following up with that process to ensure the reviews is made.
Video testimonials are another great trust builder and they’ll come in handy later for helping you to convert strangers to visitors on your website.
You can also use your events to create content which you can then distribute on your blog to drive SEO and on your social media to build trust with new visitors and vendor referral partners. Then the loop is complete.
Interested In Learning More?
Contact us at: www.eventtemple.com
About Event Temple:
Event Temple is the hospitality and venue industry’s first cloud-based platform. Our central hub is perfect for managing sales, marketing, events and scheduling.
Our system also integrates seamlessly with thousands of other programs through our open API and Zapier connection so you can build your own hospitality-based operations system using the world’s leading software and still manage everything from one place!
This post contains affiliate links, which means that if you click through and buy something, we will probably get paid.