Whether you are just starting out in the wedding industry or you’ve owned your business for a while, if you’re like most people out there, you are always trying to find new ways to market to brides and grooms online. Over the past year, I’ve been trying a whole bunch of new marketing techniques to see what’s new and what just isn’t worth your time and money. In the end, some of the best sources of marketing were free and that really surprised me. Some of the most expensive gave us terrible results. Here’s the top 5 best ways I found to market your wedding venue after my year-long test through trial and error.
The 5 Best Ways To Market Your Wedding Venue In 2017:
After spending thousands of dollars on other forms of advertising, good old fashioned referrals from vendors and past clients outperformed every other type of advertising we did. We realized this fairly early in on in the year and so we decided to conduct an experiment. What if we referred 10 other non-competing vendors to every single wedding lead we got? By the end of the year we had nearly 500 wedding leads, meaning we referred our friends A LOT. We loved referring our friend’s businesses and helping them grow and it also turned into new bookings for us fairly quickly. The best part was, it didn’t cost anything. I loved it so much, in fact, that we built it right into www.eventtemple.com and now you can easily send referrals really fast through the software. You can even create your own preferred vendor’s list of your friend’s and send brides to them in a single click. The best part of it all is that the bride just gets a list of the friend’s you sent her and it’s up to her if she wants to connect with them further. You can recommend your friends all day long without worrying that you are spamming potential customers. Referrals are also amazing because they are totally free and can grow your business exponentially.
2. Facebook Groups
I noticed over the past couple of years that there seems to be a “wedding swap and shop” group for just about every North American city or town. For this experiment, I committed to adding myself to all the groups like this in my area (there were about 6) and following them every few days. You can search the groups easily for your keyword. Since I own a DJ company, I would login every few days and search “DJ”. I actually found that a lot of brides and grooms were asking who the best local DJs in my city were. When I saw posts like this, I’d make sure to “like” the post and then quickly suggest my company and link to my company’s Google reviews. I also started suggesting my friends’ businesses in these groups and tagging them whenever I mentioned them. Before long, I had created a little mini-tribe online and when someone asked about a DJ, my friends would tag me before I even got a chance to reply to the post. It’s totally free to join and post in Facebook groups and it’s an amazing source of free advertising. My biggest tips are, give if you want to get and make sure not to be too spammy.
This year I decided to stop trying to do my SEO and just pay a firm to do it. I am friends with a prominent wedding planner across the country (he’s based in Toronto). After a long phone call one day, I mentioned to him that I was fed up with doing my own SEO and that I just wanted to try paying someone. He gave me his secret SEO company and showed me the results (he’s #1 for about 5 of his keywords). I decided to take a shot and stick with them for a full year, no matter what happens. I’m paying the firm about $500 a month for 3 keywords, so it’s a big investment of $6000 for the entire year. So far, they’ve gotten me to #1, #3 and #5 for my keywords and I’ve seen a steady increase in leads. This is a very expensive form of marketing, but for me, it’s been paying off so far. My only recommendation here is that you don’t trust just any SEO firm. If you end up hiring one, find one who’s already proven themselves by getting great results for someone you know. Since my friend was across the country, he didn’t have to worry about me competing. I also saw he was doing great with them, so it really minimized my risk going in.
4. Local Wedding Directories
Forget about the WeddingWire and Knot’s of the world, local wedding directories are where it’s at. I have a few in my city and they have been amazing for generating new wedding leads that actually book. Even better still, I am paying only about $150 a year to be listed in one of them. This directory is so good that it outperforms WeddingWire by about 5X for me in terms of visitor clicks. I’ve also tracked who’s booking from these directories and I am getting a lot of customers from them. My suggestion for local wedding directories is to only work with ones that look and feel modern, have a good SEO rank and are already fairly populated with great businesses you recognize. The best directory I work with was #1 for 2 of my keywords and is on the first page of google for almost every category in my city. It was definitely worth it.
5. Following Up More Often
This one is overlooked, but I consider it one of the best forms of marketing out there. This year, we did the unthinkable. We made a commitment at my company to follow up at least 5 times with every single wedding inquiry we got. We took a moment to write out 5 emails that we were going to send. We send the first email within 15 minutes of their inquiry. The next was sent out 2 days later. The next, 5 days later. Then, 1 week after that. Finally, the last email was sent 1 month later. By the end of the year, I loved following up so much, I had our sales team follow up 8 times (up to 3 months after they inquired). We came up with a funny slogan called “go until no” and we joked that we’d follow up until they either booked with us, or asked us not to email them again. I’ll admit, I was really nervous to implement this into my business and I was super concerned about spamming brides. I decided that every single time we followed up, our team would also send a value-add, like a free wedding vendor guide, or a list of the top wedding songs, etc. To my surprise, our bookings went way up when we started following up. We saw an 80% increase in bookings over a 3 month period which is HUGE. We used www.eventtemple.com to write all of our email templates ahead of time and then follow up automatically. Let’s face it, marketing to brides is extremely time consuming and expensive, so an effective follow up is one of the easiest ways to make money both rapidly and inexpensively.
Things That Didn’t Work For Us (Or We Haven’t Tried Yet)
I have friends in the industry throughout North America now as a result of Event Temple, so I really get a good sense of what advertising is working for people and what isn’t. I have a lot of friends who spend a ton of money on Google Adwords and they see AMAZING results. I unfortunately didn’t have those same results. We got quite a few clicks, but despite trying many different landing pages, we didn’t see a ton of business from it.
I also know a lot of people in the USA love the Knot. We are based in Vancouver, BC, Canada and the Knot is much less prominent up here. WeddingWire has a Canadian version so I opted for them instead. I got about 25 inquiries and 2 bookings for about $2500. It was definitely not worth it for us and I’ve decided not to move forward with them again. I know they work well with some people, but they gave us pretty poor results and then wanted us to pay more this year. They seem like really nice guys and girls over there, but in the end, we just couldn’t justify it and we had to think there’s a better way to find couples getting married.
My friend Arthur Kerekes in Toronto is a huge proponent of Facebook Ads and he even joined me for a live webinar discussing just how effective they can be earlier this month (written in Dec 2016). Arthur is a Facebook marketing Guru and knows how to micro-target his ideal bride. This is definitely going to be on my radar in 2017 and I’m currently studying to learn everything I can about Facebook Ads.
I also decided to opt out of Bridal Shows this year completely. We’ve done quite a few in the past and even spent thousands of dollars one year to create an amazing, world class, reusable trade show booth. We’d bring in a bunch of different DJs, have a contest with a draw box, DJ live on vinyl, you name it. We even hired hype girls to come and bring brides and grooms into our booth to enter our draw one year. This year however, we decided to take a break and focus more online. Having said that, we ended up being given a free trade show booth and we got a ton of entries in our draw box. I used Event Temple to email all the draw entries in about a minute, and then follow up with them all 5 times each as well (it seriously took me about 4 clicks to do this). We didn’t have great results with that particular show, but there are 32 shows in my area a year, so I think we will try 2 or 3 different ones a year consistently until we find one that clicks. Shows can be good, but you have to run them correctly and ensure your ideal client will be at that show. This year we just didn’t have the time and focus is very important to me.
Old Fashioned Directories
In our area, there are wedding directory sites that have been around for what seems like 25 years online. They are very out of date, the graphic design is horrible and it looks basically like a bunch of links. Having said that, the SEO value of these sites is quite good (I use Moz’s google chrome tool to see how a site ranks). Since the site’s seemed to have a lot of traffic and they were local wedding directories, I thought it it might be worth a shot. I paid around $300 for one of these directories and $220 for the other. I tracked the links carefully using bit.ly, which basically enables to you to see who goes to the directory and then clicks on your ad. I got exactly ZERO sales and just a few clicks from both of these directories combined, so I think from now on, I’ll stick to the more modern directories that match my brand, depsite the SEO value that some of the older ones have.
Looking Ahead To 2017
In 2017 I’m going to stick with what’s working and double down on my focus. I’ve been in business for nearly 10 years and in that time, I learned that when it comes to marketing, it’s best to shoot bullets until you find what works. Then, when you know something works a little bit, you fire the cannonballs.
Since I saw a HUGE uptick in business from Referrals, Facebook, SEO, Local Wedding Directories and Following Up, I plan to make that the heart of my strategy for 2017. The power of referrals is especially exciting because if I get about 1000 leads this year (or 83 a month), which I expect I can, then Im going to be sending 10 referrals for every lead I get. That means I could potentially help out my friends 10,000 times. That’s pretty inspirational to be able to help out that much!!! As well, I have to believe that if I give, Im going to receive as well, so even if a small number send leads my way, that could be huge.
I’m also going to dig deeper into Facebook Ads since my friend had such success with it and really inspired me on the webinar.
I’d love to hear what you are doing to gain more leads in the New Year and what worked for you this past year as well. Let me know what worked for you in our facebook group, here: Wed Pros Helping Wed Pros