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Should our venue list with Wedding Directories? The ‘why’ and ‘how’ for the best ROI

10 September 2019

Consulting, Wedding venue marketing

Consulting, Wedding venue marketing

Prepare yourself for what I promise you will be a really insightful and practical read. 

If working with third party wedding directories has ever been, is or is likely to be a strategy for you (or even if you’re not convinced) then I urge you to read this thorough explanation of the why, and how investing with the right third party directory/s for your venue is a super valuable marketing layering strategy. Plus if you already list your venue with wedding directories, how can you get more return from what you already do?

Over to my guest blogger this month, the lovely Emma Hla of  Coco Wedding Venues:

Wedding Blogs and Wedding Directories are a great way of reaching thousands of brides and grooms-to-be who are in need of that ‘perfect’ wedding venue. But then, I would say that as the founder of Coco Wedding Venues – the UK’s original style-focused directory.

But don’t worry, this isn’t a sales pitch folks! Instead, I’m here to hopefully shine a light on wedding venue platforms – from who they are, what they do, and ultimately, how you can work with and get the most from digital publications.

If you’ve got your Google ducks in a row, then getting yourself on directories is another valuable layer of marketing – and layering your marketing is super important. 

Here’s why… 

It’s thought to take around 6-8 touchpoints (and rising) before a couple will buy into what you’re selling. A touchpoint can be any encounter where a prospective buyer engages with your business. So, this could be an ad, a post on social media, a Facebook review, an email, a brochure or indeed a venue listing on a third-party website. All of these touchpoints add up to a story and will ultimately give the buyer confidence in your ‘product’, leading to a conversation and hopefully a booking. 

Today, I want to chat about the ‘third-party layer’ in this sales process – the wedding venue directory and ultimately how to make the most of that relationship. But first, why should you be working with directories? 

The why?

As mentioned above, they’re a great layer in your sales process and will ultimately refer couples to your venue. Many platforms and blogs will have thousands of visitors per day, and if it’s a wedding venue focused website then a high percentage of these visitors will be in venue ‘buying’ mode.

Established directories will also have a high domain authority, meaning they’re considered a good source of information by Google and will appear high on Google searches. This is especially great for venues just starting out.

Some directories and blogs are very savvy when it comes to upcoming trends and changes in the industry, so being affiliated with the right platform will mean that your venue will reap the benefits of this insight. 

Online platforms will also have a larger reach than most print publications, so an advert on a digital publication will have a higher ROI and most importantly you can track your success easily through Google Analytics or a unique tracking link. 

Lastly, there’s a platform to suit everyone out there which leads me onto the first tip on how to work with directories…

Know your client

There are many types of wedding venue directories out there, in fact, it seems like there’s a new platform launching each week, so how do you know which one suits you and your venue?

There are some obvious choices when it comes to platforms, but my advice is to also consider the smaller niche platforms too.

The larger, well-established directories will absolutely send you traffic and referrals but sometimes the smaller, focused directories will have a specific audience which you can tap into to tailor the referrals you’re receiving. If you feel aligned with that directory then you will probably attract their fabulous like-minded couples that will truly understand your venue and your ethos. 

But here’s the key – who are you selling to? What do they do? What are their interests? What type of wedding will they be having? What’s their budget?

Whilst I don’t believe one type of platform is better than the other, I do think that you should be considering several different platforms to present your venue on. But all should feel aligned with your venue, your brand and ultimately the couples you want to talk to.  

Share the love

Once you’ve chosen the directories you wish to advertise on, don’t favour one over the other. 

Think you’re getting more from one platform? It might be because you’re only communicating to that one person/directory or perhaps you’re spending more money on boosts and additional marketing with them. 

Ensure the same updates and information is given to all directories and plan out additional marketing activities with each one.

Understand what is part of your membership for each platform and make sure you take full advantage of this. For example, if they have an affiliated blog then submit real weddings, advice pieces or styled editorials! If they have an Event Diary then get your Open Days and Fairs listed! If you have a Special Offer then make sure it is visible on all listings, however, you might want to consider tailoring offers as a form of tracking referrals.

Check-in 

Always check in with your listing and review the information you’re presenting, it’s so important your listing is up-to-date. It’s quite surprising how many venues will change their email or telephone number but not update third-party websites! 

Keeping your listings up-to-date will not only ensure couples can reach you, but the information you share will also help qualify your referrals. 

I would advise checking in at least once every quarter to ensure information is still correct. Your galleries and images should also be updated twice per year – before your peak summer season and again in December, ready for the big engagement season.

After each season, review the images from your recent weddings and pick out your ‘hero’ shots. Updating your listing twice a year with your newest ‘hero’ shots will keep things fresh, provide new content for social use, and of course, add new Google juice!

A venue recently asked me why they needed to update their images. For me, it’s about always putting your best self out there.

The nature of venue hunting means that you’ll have a constant stream of new eyes on your listings, so it’s not about the content being seen before, but rather about staying ahead of the industry. Fashions and trends move at an alarming rate and by renewing your images after each season you’ll be speaking to current couples looking for a venue that reflects them.

Referrals – the bigger picture

When you join a directory, referrals will come to you in two ways – direct and indirect. 

I think it’s very easy to focus on the direct referrals and yes, they’re absolutely a simple way to track your success on that platform, but do they tell the whole story?

An indirect referral can be just as important, but this will show up in your analytics as a direct referral or an organic search referral, rather than from your affiliated marketing platforms. 

For example; a couple could be browsing my directory, see a venue they like the look of and then open a new tab to google search your venue. This will be viewed by your own analytics as a google click-through rather than affiliated to my platform. This is where looking at referrals and statistics in a more holistic way can benefit you and your marketing approach.

Here are three simple tips when it comes to referrals:

  • First of all, treat all referrals in the same way by having a slick and super-fast response process. This can absolutely be templated, but always ensure you’ve made it feel personal and it’s written in a tone that reflects you and your venue’s vibe.
  • Don’t focus on just one metric when you’re analysing the success of your listing – instead, alongside key metrics, understand your finder views, page views and shortlist adds from the platform. This will help to complete that bigger picture.
  • Have a section on your contact form asking where the couple found you, similarly ask a couple in email or in person on a show-round. The default answer may be ‘Google’ purely because couples are absorbing so much information when venue searching, but you might also start to see a pattern if couples mention specific websites.

What’s the average?

Understand the average number of click-through and direct messages per directory. Don’t compare one with the other, but instead compare directly with the platforms own stats – how is your venue performing against this? If it’s below average then what can be done? This doesn’t just fall onto the platform, but it’s rather a two-way conversation. 

What can the platform do for you and how can you improve your listing/engagement with the platform?

This could be solved by:

  • Updating your listing imagery
  • Utilising all tools available – testimonials, late availability and special offers or a film.
  • Asking about additional paid boosts

If your venue is underperforming across all platforms against the previous year, then consider other factors that can influence this – the number of engagements that year, trends such as couples wanting to marry in ‘2020’ rather than 2019 and of course the current political climate are all huge factors for this year.

What does ROI mean to you?

When you join a directory, return on investment (ROI) will have a slightly different meaning for each one. So, decide what that return on investment looks like and then measure. 

For some directories, it might mean that you need to book 5 weddings to justify the price. For others, it might be just 1 booking. 

For some platforms, it might be a brand alignment exercise – so how will you manage your ROI expectations here? Perhaps you have a goal of 2 features on the blog or becoming a recommended supplier because you like the couples they attract. 

Each directory will have its own unique selling point, so understand what the ROI is per platform, instead of applying a generic calculation across all.  

Understand the seasons

If you’ve been working in the wedding industry for a while, then you’ll absolutely know all about the engagement seasons. However, if you’re new to a role or are about to launch your venue then this one is for you.

Directories have two peak seasons… which fall late December through to early March and again from July to the end of October. These are key times for couples to get engaged and start the venue searching. Outside of these periods, you can expect traffic and referrals to fall a little.

If you’re concerned that your referrals have fallen during the months of May or November then this could just be the natural seasonal dip, so instead of comparing month to month, look at your analytics and compare year to year so that you can see if your referrals are growing or falling versus the same YTD (year to date) period. This is also a good exercise for your own website traffic.

Understanding the engagement seasons will also allow you to plan your marketing and hit those key engagement times with additional marketing activities. 

Have a press folder ready to go!

Listing a venue should be super simple… Whether it’s being done for you, or you’re completing a profile yourself. The best way to always be prepared is to have a press folder which is kept up to date throughout the year.

This press folder should contain the following:

  • Your ‘Need to Know’ details at a glance. Such as capacity for ceremony/reception, marriage license and accommodation information.
  • Your blurb about the venue – a short summary alongside a more detailed ‘story-telling’ version, covering all aspects of your venue.
  • A file of professional high-res images (minimum 10, max 100).
  • Photography credits for all images (preferably in the image file name)

If you look after this press folder then it will make joining blogs and directories super easy and I promise they will love you even more in return.

Have a master document

Finally – have a master document detailing all of the directories you currently list with.

I suggest including the following details: 

  • Directory name
  • Membership dates
  • Price
  • Membership details (length, what’s included etc.)
  • Additional paid boosts and dates
  • Login details (if required)
  • Your account contact (name/email)

This master document will help you keep all relevant details in one place and it can easily be passed on to someone else picking up your role or admin tasks.

What now?

Once you’re listed with a directory it’s not a done deal that the enquiries will roll in and you’ll instantly (and magically) covert them to bookings.

When you list with a directory, it’s just part of the sales process, not the whole shebang. It’s now that you should look at your own processes to see how they play their part in the sale.

Review your in-house collateral, review how you respond to enquiries, what does your show-round process look like and, if we roll it all the way back to the beginning, when a couple clicks through to your website from a third-party platform – what are they seeing?

Listing your venue on a directory isn’t the end of the story… it’s just the beginning.

Coco Wedding Venues, the award-winning website, currently showcases 550+ wedding venues across the UK with more being added weekly. Split into eight categories (Bohemian Beats, Coastal Cool, City Chic, Classic Elegance, Rustic Romance, Modern Vintage, Luxe Edit and Delicious Destinations), it’s simple for the site’s visitors to quickly find the perfect location to suit their style. The site’s curator, Emma Hla, personally selects each featured venue and also provides plenty of stylish inspiration on the Coco Wedding Venues blog.

Images: Hannah Duffy Photography

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