This year has been an impossibly hard one for the wedding industry, but our industry is a resilient one. With 86% of 2020 wedding bookings now falling into 2021, Bridebook predicts that 2022 will be the biggest bumper year in wedding industry history. It is time for you to save your business, by focusing your marketing efforts on the future. Bridebook has developed a 4 step strategy to help you sell your business back to success and to make it through 2020.
STEP 1: Decide on a realistic timescale for a return of meaningful weddings.
The first step is for you, to decide when you think you’ll be able to sell ‘meaningful’ weddings again. By this, we mean weddings in a more ‘normal’ state: more guests, more flexibility and most importantly, more room for profit.
A survey in the UK Wedding Venues Slack Group showed that 60% of venues would suggest March 2021 as the very earliest for the return of meaningful weddings. You need to be considering what this means for your business in terms of potential loss and then get creative with your short term venue & marketing.
How can you support your business and bring in revenue now? Here are a few of our short term recommendations:
- Host 30 person weddings, as long as there’s a return on investment (ROI): The Government update of 9th September limits social gatherings, indoors and outdoors, to 6 people only. Whilst this may feel like a step back, the good news is that this does not include weddings, which can go ahead with receptions of 30 people. Venues have been battling huge challenges of couples wanting refunds, only to go and host bigger receptions at home or in the pub. Couples who wanted refunds are already starting to request receptions for 30, now that their plans have been made ‘illegal’. Venues need to use this update to their maximum advantage, and market all availability for 30 person receptions to keep revenue, even if small ROI, coming in.
- Got accommodation? Host families or small groups of friends as a B&B or holiday venue. A great example of this is how Hedsor House has flipped their marketing to being a ‘luxury country retreat’ and offering takeover of the venue to families, friends or couples.
- Lights, camera, ACTION! Could your beautiful, unique, quirky venue be used for filming?! There are many location agencies (eg Lavish Locations & Shoot Factory) that promote venues to location agencies and then take a commission.
- Get your chefs cooking up a storm – why not turn your venue into a temporary restaurant? Quantock Lakes have launched “Kitchen at Quantock Lakes” – allowing them to welcome new guests and most importantly, bring in new revenue.
Whilst we wait for meaningful weddings to return, we also highly recommend doing a cost-cutting exercise for your venue. Are there any ‘less necessary’ overheads you can forgo for the time being? Spending the time going back through your books and cutting even a few overheads (e.g. phone bills) could mean assuring keeping a team member, paying an electricity bill and saving your business.
STEP 2: Focus your attention 2022
The second step is to focus your mind on 2022 (and beyond). The lack of news from the Government is keeping our attention focused on the here and now. Not helped by the combination of the old and new CMA guidance, which is forcing venues into a myriad of legal issues. To avoid putting your head in the sand and digging yourself into a worse cash position, start focusing on 2022 and its revenue-generating potential.
Bridebook statistics prove that the future is much more secure and has the potential to save your business:
- 17,500 couples have signed up to Bridebook since the beginning of August (+15% YOY) clearly showing that the business for 2022 & beyond is readily available for you to secure.
- Roughly 50% of these users are planning their wedding in 2022 or later.
- For the users who have put 2021 as their wedding year, 60% are planning to have their wedding in the second half of the year.
- 57% of all enquiries sent since the beginning of August are for 2022 or later.
Couples are ready to pay deposits and secure their future wedding dates now. Deposits taken for future bookings gives you money in the bank and keeps your business tick over.
What actions can you take immediately to support 2020 revenue generation…?
STEP 3: Take action and turn 2022 into a bumper year for your business.
The third step to consider is how to start marketing your 2022 (and beyond) to ensure that it is your best year yet. 2022 is likely to be the year that saves the wedding industry – so how can you make the most of it?
- Review your existing 2022 calendar – get a strong view on your availability – what dates, months, seasons are currently available for bookings? Use this knowledge to frame your marketing efforts. E.g. if you have a large amount of Autumn and Winter dates available, how can you use imagery to highlight these dates specifically?
- Challenge yourself with the number of weddings you can host. Which days can you host weddings on – can you do more?
- For example, if you usually only host 2 weddings per week, see if you can host 3, or even 4.
- Stretch yourself to make the maximum amount of revenue during this undoubtedly busy year – this is your opportunity to recover your losses.
- Set clear KPIs and goals for you and your team, to ensure you are motivated to hit sales targets for 2022 & beyond.
- Focus on marketing your high value, priority dates first. Get the peak season dates sold first, as these deposits will do more to support your business in the short term.
- Selling all your Saturdays in July and August for 2022 would give your venue security for that year, and also cash flow to get you through these hard times now.
- If your venue only has a summer license – can you re-address this? Can you start doing events in the shoulder season, or winter, to increase your opportunity for revenue?
- Local councils may be more flexible with licensing, so it is worth asking.
- Don’t forget to push sales into your ‘off-days’, and use your pricing strategy to support you.
- Similarly to above, you can use your dynamic pricing to push your mid-week dates, just as you can with your seasonal dates. E.g. “That Friday is booked, but the day before is free and is £XX less.”
- Make the time to review your Pricing Strategy – pricing is your most powerful lever for revenue growth.
- Ensure your prices are dynamic, so you can increase your volume of sales significantly, and achieve a higher marginal price on each of these additional weddings.
- For example, you should have very different prices for your Saturday in August, than a Tuesday in February.
- You can use your dynamic pricing to fill your remaining dates & support your sales tactics. E.g. “Our September dates are busy but we have space in October and they are £XX less.
- Review and optimise your Terms & Conditions for future bookings, to support healthy cash flow in the short term.
- Securing upfront deposits and booking fees for weddings in 2021/2 will be vastly easier than finding the equivalent cost savings in 2020.
- We have seen one venue make very smart amendments to their T&Cs so that the couple is “purchasing an option to use the facilities at VENUE “exclusively” of any other guests”. This has protected them during COVID. Couples are able to change the date but not liable for a refund.
- Instead of using discounts for future sales, use upgrades (only if you need to!).
- Upgrades impact your cost of sales, whereas discounts directly hit your net profit. Giving a free late-night extension worth £1000 has a vastly smaller financial impact to a £1000 discount.
- Get creative with your marketing: how can you stand out from the crowd? Every venue will be jumping aboard the 2022 sales push, so you need to go above & beyond. Here are some things to think about:
- Open day appointments/wedding fairs: how can you host these safely? Or virtually?
- Styled shoots: couples love to get inspiration for their own weddings through editorial pieces. Who can you partner with? Make sure to share it like mad after!
- Winter weddings: can you use any weddings from this Christmas in your marketing, to support sales for the 2021/22 festive seasons?
- Special Offers: how can you make booking far in advance irresistible to couples – what can you offer them?
- Reach out to your Bridebook Venue Expert and become a VenuePro member today.
- VenuePro is the most powerful marketing tool available in our industry, with three options available to suit your venue.
- If you’d like a free consultation with one of our VenuePro Experts, please leave your details HERE.
STEP 4: Don’t forget 2023
We foresee 2022 as the bumper year to recover the wedding industry. Whilst you should be prioritising filling your 2022 calendar, we also highly recommend being prepared for the end of 2021 AND 2023 as they have the potential to be extremely busy as well.
- You need to have your pricing strategy for 2023 in place sooner rather than later, so you do not lose out on potential business.
By putting Bridebook’s 4 Step strategy into action, you will be able to recover from 2020 and save your business. As our industry continues to go through such difficult times, remember that things will get better. Our industry is a resilient one, and people will never stop getting married – we just have to make it through the storm.
Bridebook are here to help our wonderful community as much as possible, so don’t hesitate to reach out. Our brilliant team of Venue Consultants would be delighted to chat with any venue wanting to learn how we can support you with our premium platform, VenuePro – just leave your details HERE.
We also highly encourage all venues to join the conversation. We have over 1000 venue professionals using the UK Wedding Venues Slack Group to communicate with each other every single day. Join for free now and make the most of valuable and supportive business advice and knowledge.
Stay strong, you got this. 💪