How do you attract guests to your venue? There are numerous ways, but sometimes it’s easy to overlook the most obvious things. Here are 10 winning ideas you can implement right now to create a great reputation, develop loyalty and boost revenue.
#1. Define your venue’s identity – and embrace it!
The first step in any effective PR and marketing strategy is having a clear identity. What’s your venue all about? What sets you apart? Embrace its quirks or USPs, as well as anything else that helps you stand out.
Perhaps the building has a colourful history complete with resident ghosts, or you excel in green credentials and eco-friendly initiatives? Maybe you’re known for exceptional seafood, great spa facilities, slick conference rooms or exquisite gardens? You don’t have to be grand to stand out; just confident in what you can offer!
#2. Remember that a sparkling website is nothing without SEO
We all know having a smart, up-to-date, comprehensive website that also works perfectly on Smartphones is essential, since a quick Google search is the first port of call for the majority of potential customers. But if you haven’t also invested in SEO, it’s likely you’ll miss out on custom. Making sure your website is optimized for search rankings will ensure you pop up in all the right places and outshine any nearby completion.
#3. Google your venue and check Trip Advisor frequently
Whilst most venues understand that just one negative review can lose them thousands of pounds in potential revenue, it’s surprising how many are oblivious to what their customers are saying. Love it or loathe it, peer-to-peer review sites have become a vital tool for most consumers, and seeing the words ‘poor customer service’ or ‘abysmal food’ lets potential guests make a split-second decision about you.
You can’t please everyone, but at least if you do get a bad review, you can respond warmly and politely explain the issue (never be tempted to get defensive or critical of the customer – it looks far worse on you than them), or offer customers a goodwill gesture to put it right. Conversely, do thank customers for excellent reviews too – they’re effectively acting as your extended sales team and could be responsible for netting you hundreds of bookings.
#4. Appoint a dedicated spokesperson – and ensure they’re media-trained!
Whether you’re talking to the press about something positive (such as a major refurbishment) or something negative (such as having to explain a case of food poisoning or an altercation at your premises), it’s important not only to have a dedicated spokesperson (usually the General Manager) to liaise with the media, but also to ensure they have the correct training to help them deal with enquiries under pressure and avoid saying anything that could cause more damage later on.
With proper media training, you could even turn a negative situation into a positive one by capitalizing on the opportunity for publicity. We’d also recommend having a crisis plan in place, so that if the worst happened – such as a guest being injured at your venue – you have the correct protocols in place.
#5. Nurture loyalty and lasting relationships with your customers
I’m always a bit baffled at the number of venues which have collected all my personal data during my stay, asked my consent to use it, but neglected to communicate with me afterwards. Collating and effectively managing customer data is a really effective part of PR and marketing, if used wisely (and bearing in mind GDPR laws, of course!). But rather than simply bombarding customers with generic special offers, be creative and make it more personal.
If you’ve collected a customer’s date of birth, you could email them with a special offer or free bottle of prosecco if they stay during their birthday month; or if there’s a big regional event on, such as a boat race, food fayre, festival or theatre production, you could suggest they might like to visit the event, and offer them a reduced rate if they stay with you. If they married at your venue last year, give them an incentive to celebrate their first anniversary with you too! And for frequent customers, perhaps offer them a half-price stay or a free meal on their 10th visit. At the very least, a personalised email thanking them for their visit and hoping to see them again is a lovely gesture that helps to build up trust and loyalty.
#6. Capitalise on major national and sporting events
From the London Marathon, Wimbledon and the Grand Prix, to Mothers’ and Fathers’ Day, to St David’s Day, Shakespeare Day and even the Summer Solstice, there are lots of ways to make the most of seasonal themes and sporting events.
One venue I worked with refurbished their venue in time for the Queen’s Jubilee, decorating their newly-named ‘Jubilee Bar’ in fabulously quirky Union Jack designs and offering guests ‘Royal Packages’ giving them a taste of living like kings and queens for the weekend; a perfect PR story which attracted some tremendous press coverage. Another hosted a ‘Champions Weekend’ tied into the Olympics, with special offers on gym membership and fitness advice for guests.
#7. Get creative with quirky themes and unique packages
If you’re looking to boost revenue between weddings with themed offers and packages, don’t be afraid to think outside the box. I love to see venues get a little more creative and offering something unique and memorable – for example, you could team up with your local independent cinema to create a unique movie-themed weekend offer based around the showing of classic British movies.
Alternatively, if you have a large garden or courtyard, you could even host an outdoor cinema screening, which are gaining tremendous popularity across the country’s parks, pubs and stately homes at the moment. You could also consider teaming up with nearby facilities to offer golfing, shooting, walking, cookery or foraging, or if your area is known for great food and artisan produce, why not host a ‘food safari’ taking guests around farms and shops before they enjoy a locally-sourced dinner with you?
#8. Offer press trips and experiences to travel editors and bloggers
Travel editors can contribute significantly to generating a buzz around destinations and hotels, but don’t underestimate the importance of interacting with travel bloggers too. Bloggers have been changing the media landscape for decades, and carry tremendous influence amongst their loyal follows; it’s all about peer recommendations, and many holidaymakers are more likely to trust bloggers as they have no agenda or advertising obligations (unless otherwise specified!).
Consider putting together a tailored, low-cost overnight package or afternoon tea and invite journalists, editors and bloggers to visit you at their leisure, or team up with a local attraction like a museum or vineyard and give them the opportunity to explore the wider area; they could really help to boost your bottom line.
#9. Choose your social media channels wisely
Most venues recognise that social media gives them a free and powerful marketing tool. But rather than taking the scattergun approach, research which social media channel is right for you and make the most of it; far better to do a few networking sites really well than try to maintain a half-hearted presence on all of them.
Facebook and Twitter are the obvious ones, and Twitter is great for generating instant results from offers, but also think about having a YouTube channel where you could film and upload short virtual tours of your hotel or post mini interviews with your staff so potential guests can get to know them. Pinterest is tremendous for building up a style or feel to your hotel and inspiring future guests, particularly if you cater for weddings; you can upload pictures of your rooms, food or events as well as showing off the scenery around your local area.
#10. Do your bit for charity – and your local community!
Charitable activities are an important part of PR for numerous organisations, and perhaps even more so in the hospitality sector. Charitable acts generate positive PR and boost your reputation, as well as enhancing your local community. Lots of hotels run charity golf matches or donate their conference facilities for a charity’s annual general meeting, but there’s so much more you can do on a personal level.
Think about allowing a different staff member to take one day off each month to do charitable or voluntary work in your local community, such as helping to tidy up local parks or volunteering at a local food bank or soup kitchen. Initiatives like this are great for your staff, your credibility and, not least, the charities you’re helping.
For more ideas and advice on how to maximise your venue’s potential, email firstname.lastname@example.org – I look forward to helping you!