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Venue Marketing 101: How Improving Discoverability Generates More Event Leads

How much do you feel you still truly understand venue marketing? In today’s digital world of snaps, stories, influencers and more, it can be hard to keep up.

The key to successful event venue marketing is to increase your venue’s discoverability. That’s the only way to generates more event leads.

To help with your marketing game plan this year, we’re sharing in 50+ solid venue marketing ideas you can start using immediately to rev up your discoverability.

Step 1: Understand your venue’s discoverability

Your ability to influence and reach others is determined by how well you can connect venue discoverability and event leads. The easiest way to think about this is through what I like to call …

The venue marketing discoverability influence model

Venue marketing discoverability influence model

I think about this model in rings, or four circles of influence. Working our way from the center to the edge, we have:

  1. In-person influence
  2. Referral network
  3. Social channels
  4. Web and other public presence

It starts in the middle: The smallest area with the highest amount of influence. Transversely, reach works the opposite direction: The outside rings (web and public channels) give you more reach.

Influence and reach are two important, yet different factors in the venue marketing discoverability model. We’ll talk about why both are so valuable.

Once you understand how these factors work together, you can focus on the venue marketing strategies within each category. You’ll quickly figure out which strategies produce the best sales outcomes today, this month, this quarter, and this year.

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Step 2: Evaluate your in-person influence techniques

In-person influence

There’s nothing more satisfying than cultivating wonderful relationships with trusted partners and friends as a successful sales, catering or venue manager.

These relationships are the bread and butter of your sales pipeline and your success. They’re built from the ground up and are the hallmark of hospitality.

Real-life, personal connections are the most influential way to turn existing relationships into repeat business. However, it’s the area with the least amount of reach. Because of this, you must make each relationship really count. (After all, you’re bound by geography, access and time.)

You can increase your in-person influence by squeezing the most out of every opportunity. Here’s how:

1. Say thanks. (And mean it.)

It’s one thing to go through the motions of thanking a client for their business. It’s quite another to be the type of person who reaches out multiple times throghout the year.

Never miss an opportunity to stay connected. Let someone know how much they mean to you. Event and meeting planners do notice those venue partners that pick up the phone and call for something other than a sale.

2. Always be selling supporting.

When you start to think of your clients as partners instead of revenue targets, you’ll become a supporter, not a seller. This means you need to constantly look for ways to add value, share stories and really help solve problems.

Imagine you were helping your favorite friend solve a problem, and you were going to be a hero once you did. You know that warm feeling you’re getting? Think about it like that.

3. Always be kind.

Some of the most influential people in the world capture the hearts and minds of many by simply being kind.

This comes quite naturally for some and is a bit more work for others. The stresses of sales and revenue targets can sometimes get in the way of focusing on the humans you’re dealing with.

Remember, this is a tight-knit industry and your reputation often will precede you. Are you crafting one you’d be proud of?

People change roles, so the person you’re working with today may be even more influential tomorrow, or may end up being your boss’ boss some day.

Make sure the image you’re projecting in people’s minds is one of a pleasant, joyful, reliable and kind person. (The kind they’d like to do business with.)

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4. Banish business card boredom.

An information-sharing app can make it easy to exchange contact info, so nobody needs to enter a single thing on their laptops.

Also, get rid of that stack of cards on your desk that’s sitting there not doing you any good. Get those entered pronto.

5. Create a better email signature.

Don’t waste that valuable real estate in your email signature block. This space is a chance to tell a story and share info about your venue quickly.

Here are some things you can ad to your signature:

  • A link to your venue’s website
  • A call to action button
  • A link to a feature of your venue
  • Social media icons
  • Your headshot

If you work on a team, consider a signature management tool like Sigstr, which lets your whole team share the same signature.

6. Coffee or tea? Drinks on me.

Invite new connections to your venue for coffee, tea, cocktails or lunch. It’s an easy way to entice people to spend time with you, and for you to get to know them much better.

Having a mental list of conversation starters so you can make sure the time is enjoyable, lively and meaningful for you both. Think of the conversation like a tennis match: You volley for the floor and split the time speaking evenly.

You can also ask the client to invite someone else that they work with. This way, you learn about their business from two perspectives, thus doubling your networking potential.

7. Show and tell stories.

Think about the unique stories and history your venue has to offer clients. Craft stories around those spaces and events.

For example, it’s much easier for prospects to remember that a famous singer once visited in your historic venue than it is to remember the name of your ballroom.

Spend some time rehearsing your venue tour, including important little details that will make the tour stand out in people’s minds, and leave a little space tucked in their memory for some time to come.

They can read the venue marketing packet. What can you do to make the packet come alive? Do more of that.

8. Network like a boss.

If you’re always stuck in the office, you’re missing out on in-person influence opportunities. Dedicate time in your schedule each week to do some serious networking.

I’ve estimated that in the events industry, nearly 20% of people change jobs within a year. That means that 1 in 5 of all my industry colleagues doesn’t end the year in the same place they started. This is an enormous opportunity to meet an entire new batch of people at a new organization if your pal switches jobs.

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9. Step outside your comfort zone — and your industry.

Some networking is best done in an unfamiliar pond. Pick a few relevant industries in your city and get to know some of players in their space. See if you can attend some networking or vendor functions. Consider attending or hosting a table at an awards gala.

Just plant some seeds in some new places this year to see if anything blossoms. It may surprise you to see what grows.

10. Liven it up on LinkedIn.

If you’re securing any corporate or meeting planner business, chances are you spend some time sleuthing on LinkedIn.

Consider joining some event industry LinkedIn groups and finding useful content to share to your local audience. Think of each day as an opportunity to add value for others. Simply sharing stories more frequently keeps you top of mind for prospects and past clients

Also, make sure your LinkedIn profile accurately reflects your current role, what value you bring to the table, and a professional photo.

11. Have a growth goal.

Look at how many major clients or prospects you have today. How many would you like to have tomorrow?

Whether it’s 10, 100, or 1,000, you should set a goal. Who are you trying to get to know better? Which companies? Which planners? Jot down your plan to get there and meet those new folks.

Step 3: Grow your referral network

Referral network

Your referral network is one of your best sales tools because it’s effective. It’s like a free sales team out there spreading the good word on your behalf. And since word-of-mouth marketing is 2.5x more likely to produce results than traditional advertising, it’s one of your biggest opportunities for growth.

But how do you find and cultivate more referrals? And how do you insert yourself into your community in a way that’ll bring in new business?

When we think about referral discoverability, we want to focus on the types of referral practices that call back to our motto of “always be serving.” If we think about our referral road map in this fashion, picking unique referral growth opportunities becomes a lot easier.

Here are some high-impact venue marketing referral ideas you can try:

12. Cherish more charities.

Consider sponsoring a charity event, serving on a non-profit board, or donating your venue space for a meaningful event in your community.

These are all excellent ways to quickly connect with dozens of new contacts. At the same time, you can do something that makes everyone feel good at the end of the day.

Hosting the event also gives you a reason to drop a press release in the community, showcase the charity to clients, and spread the good word about their important work.

13. Vow to volunteer.

Consider serving on a high-profile volunteer committee in your community, particularly if your city hosts major events and conventions.

Oftentimes the same people who volunteer for such activities have a passion for the event and hospitality industry. They’re likely well connected with the convention and visitors’ bureau, too.

If major public sporting events or conventions aren’t your speed, consider other charitable events or service day projects in your community. Your expertise should be welcomed and useful to the organizers, which makes it memorable.

14. Donate leftover event meals to a local shelter.

I hate seeing food waste at events — and we can all work together to minimize it. Thanks to the Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act of 1996, food donors are now protected against liability, so long as there was no gross negligence or intentional misconduct. Additionally, each state has passed its own Good Samaritan Laws that provide liability protection to good-faith donors.

Setting up these relationships may take time and effort, and some work with the catering team, but the benefits are worth it. If you’re unsure about tackling the process yourself, see if a food rescue program is available in your area to make it easier.

15. Kiss ‘em. (Keep It Simple Silly.)

Make it super simple for people to share your story, message, and brand.

Create batches of suggested sample text about the venue for your referrals. You can make sure your content has the right links and information, which takes the work out of the equation for your best cheerleaders.

The same goes for sample social media posts and including links to review sites where you’re trying to get more exposure.

16. Host an industry workshop.

Organize a talk with an expert in your area. Invite clients and their network of friends and colleagues to attend for free (and let them know this is your way of saying thanks).

Consider selling event tickets to the public too — but don’t forget that the idea is to build relationships. Remind your guests that you’re here to help them with their businesses. Paying for their ticket just reinforces that point.

Want to add even more value? Allow your best clients to submit specific questions to the speaker in advance to make sure their most pressing questions are answered the day of the event. (And this makes it more likely people will show too.)

17. Give a gift.

Who doesn’t love the idea of a gift? Keep in mind, it’s your thoughtfulness that matters a whole lot more than the value of the item.

If you know about a few of their favorite things, make sure your gift means something special to them. Coffee? Sweets? Flowers? Free yoga class or in-office massage?

Almost anything works so long as it truly speaks to how much you value them.

18. Call me maybe.

For your extra-special referrals, give them a ring so they can hear just how happy their referral has made you.

It’s estimated that roughly 80% of your business will come from just 20% of your referrals. Because of this, those 20% should get your white-glove treatment and the bulk of your attention.

We all know that taking just a little more time to tell someone “thank you” speaks volumes.

19. Practice makes perfect process.

Getting your venue marketing discoverability and referral program established may seem difficult and time-consuming. But it doesn’t have to be.

The secret is to perfect a process, and then practice it regularly.

Consider creating a set number of follow-up items and tasks in your CRM for referrals. This way, you won’t forget to say thanks after an event.

20. Get your daily dose.

It’s been suggested that if you spend 15 minutes per day working on your referral network, you could get as many as 250 new referral relationships per year.

No matter if you achieve your goal through a daily practice, or batch your work into weekly chunks of time that work with your busy schedule, the idea here is to have your referral network discoverability endeavors be strategic and with a desired outcome so you can aim toward that goal with intent.

21. Make more meaningful connections.

It’s time to make each referral relationship matter more. In other words, it’s time to make them more meaningful.

In service to your referrals, consider asking them these three important and thoughtful questions this year:

• What are you working on professionally I can help you achieve?
• What are you focusing on personally in case I have an idea?
• When you look back on the year, if you had one word to describe it, what do you hope it would be?

You’d be amazed at how these questions may open up the conversation to new, different and special opportunities to connect.

Remember you have an entire box of crayons to work with! Often we cut out an entire part of the color palette when we think of business contacts because we are not our whole, authentic selves.

This is one area where you can certainly color outside the lines for an approach that is entirely, and uniquely you.

22. Go gaga for Google Alerts.

Set up Google alerts for all your important clients, so you know when they’re in the news. You can also create alerts for phrases that are important to your community (like new businesses, conferences, or local venues).

With an alert in place, you can be one of the first people to congratulate members of your referral network on exciting new developments. You can also reach out to other local contacts about potential new pieces of business.

23. Reward the repeats.

Think about the rewards and incentives you want to offer to your more innovative or steady referral partners.

You could offer special cash incentives as a venue marketing strategy if your budget allows for it.

24. Aim high for big boosts.

The company you keep can often be a reflection of your level of service, quality of work and personality, so be certain that your network is full of people with a great reputation.

Start to cultivate relationships with some of the best peers in your industry, and with some of the most high-profile business owners in your area.

The larger your city, the more challenging this may be. But you can find an approach that’s right for you and moves you just a little outside your comfort zone to cozy up with some new people this year.

25. Tackle an trade group leadership role.

There are many industry-related trade organizations and associations, and there may be local groups in your area.

Get to know the committee requirements, and then determine if you could take on a leadership role over the next few board election cycles.

Having a leadership role in a local trade association allows your name, title and venue affiliation to be publicized in a number of places, thus increasing your discoverability more than you could on your own.

26. Mentor a newbie.

Navigating the event and hospitality industry and the world of business itself can be daunting. It’s is full of unwritten rules that you often discover on your own, sometimes through trial and error. Wouldn’t it have been great to have someone tell you their best-kept secrets to success earlier in your career

Make life a little easier for someone else by taking them under your wing. Some of my most rewarding experiences come from my service to others in their learning and career journey.

Not only is mentorship personally rewarding, it often reduces turnover and makes the culture of any organization more cohesive and enjoyable.

27. Teach a student the ropes.

While mentorship can be informal, bringing hospitality students into your venue operation is a whole ‘nother ball game. But it’s worth it: It can change your event production capabilities, expand your business development opportunities, and serve as a training ground for potential new hires.

Get to know the educational programs, college deans, and other influencers in your area. Then, you can consider adding a formal event planning, catering, or venue management internship program to your facility.

Students who have positive experiences are likely to tell others, and professors can also become great referral partners too.

28. Visit a college campus.

Go back and speak to a class about your role and what skills are important for students entering the hospitality industry today.

Not only does this get your name and venue in front of a new batch of students, but it also elevates your profile with the university professors.

Step 4: Saturate your social channels

You’ve mastered your in-person influence and your referral network is humming along. It’s time to take another leap in your venue marketing: to your social media channels. They present a huge opportunity for promoting your venue.

On social media, you can really grow your reach and influence with strangers who may not already be connected to you or your network.

There are dozens of social media marketing tactics you could try for your event venue. It’d take all day to cover them! With this list, you’ll get the most valuable marketing.

29. Stake your claim.

The simplest thing any event venue can do is to claim your username on every channel. You want to make sure that you own your handle or username on the most popular social media channels.

Then, take time to fill out each profile fully. Create custom graphics or versions of your logo that fit within the (very specific) profile photo areas, headers, and any other branded content fields.

Even if you don’t use all the channels right away, it will make it easy for others to find your venue.

30. Get on the map.

Make sure your map point and pin on the largest search engines is accurate. It’s also a good idea to make sure it shows the actual public entrance of your venue.

Check the directions, too. Sometimes the turn-by-turn directions aren’t the most logical. These issues can take weeks or months to correct, so don’t wait.

Similarly, check that your social media profiles have an accurate map, address, and location information.

31. Standardize it.

Because you’ll be setting up similar information on so many social channels, it only makes sense to use the most consistent text possible.

Get in the habit of drafting standardized chunks of text (venue copy) to use in a variety of places. Oftentimes you’ll be asked to provide both a brief (100 words) and a more lengthy description of your venue, team and facilities.

32. Pictures are worth a thousand words.

They say that “a picture is worth a thousand word.” But when it comes to marketing a venue, an amazing shot could be worth millions in actual sales dollars.

Create an image library of photos of your venue. You can use these shots in your social media.

When great photographers visit your venue, ask them if you can to use their shots for promotional purposes with attribution. (They might ask for a fee, and it might be worth the cost.) Make this process easier by saving image files with the photographer’s name included.

33. Make tagging easy.

Make it easy for others to tag your venue on all channels. Avoid extraneous characters like dashes, and stay away from atypical spellings that make it harder to predict your username. On some channels like Facebook, you can even request a custom URL for your profile page.

Take the Social Tables Twitter handle as an example. The closer the handle is to the way someone might actually type it on their phone or keyboard, the better.

Avoid the-venue-name-co and instead opt for something like @thevenuenameco. If the name is too frustrating to find people will skip that step.

34. Engage on social.

Not only should you produce your own social content, but you should also spend time engaging with others on social.

Social engagement helps your profile perform better. It also shows your branded profile to new people and gives some love back to those that care about the same topics you do.

Trying to decide how much time to spend on each channel? For a start, go where your customers are most frequently. Be seen on the channels your clients are actually using first. Don’t try to force them to come and find you somewhere else.

35. Share the love.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed about the amount of time that social media takes, remember you don’t need to create all original posts.

It’s perfectly fine to mix up posts that share your own work, vendors’ posts about events that occurred at your venue, and other general interest stories your audience may enjoy.

It’s also nice to hand out a few accolades to partners who’ve been featured in the news, won awards or did some excellent work at a partner location.

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36. Get good. Then grow.

You don’t need to be an expert at every single channel out of the gate.

You’d be better off focusing your attention on one channel at a time. Figuring out what works best for you there; then moving on to the next one.

Start simple. Create a very basic plan for the year and for each month.

As you get a handle on major themes, you can then get more and more detailed per week, per day and finally per post and per channel. If you try to think about it from small to big, it gets very overwhelming very quickly.

37. Craft channel goals.

To make your social media venue marketing effective, you really need to know what you’re hoping each channel will do for your venue.

In other words, you need social media channel goals.

We recently reviewed the nine most important social media channels for event venues and ranked them in our “How to Market an Event Venue” downloadable eBook, and provided some sample goals for each channel.

Increasing your education about the most important channels for event venues should help you craft meaningful goals that can produce more immediate results.

38. Tackle templates.

After you have a strong idea about which social media channels warrant your time and attention, turn to social media templates. There are scads of templates available for everything from audits and plans, to posting to analytics.

It’s a great idea to get a “lay of the land” first on the channel of choice, and then go digging from that point to see what else you might want to incorporate into your own venue marketing strategy.

39. Score a spot in a social media circle.

Who says you have to grow alone? Consider approaching vendors you work with regularly and asking them to join a social media pod or circle with you.

The general philosophy is to help everyone perform better on social channels. To do this, everyone will share, comment on, or like each other’s content.

Make this process easier by setting up notifications for member posts. That way, you won’t miss anything from them.

40. Run a contest.

Consider running a contest on one of your social media channels to increase engagement, followers, or drive new people to your website.

Social media contests can be as simple or as complex as you’d like. You can decide the length, prize value and promotional tactics that are right for your own venue marketing goals.

After you run a few contests, you’ll learn what words (free, like, win, contest, purchase) encourage or limit engagement. And don’t forget to check the sweepstakes laws in your area.

41. Create a venue marketing video.

Did you know that there are more than 1B users on YouTube? And that 45% of people on Facebook watch more than an hour of video each week? Clearly event venues can benefit from using more video in their marketing strategy.

Befriend the videographers in your area and request access to real event footage of events. If you haven’t already, consider adding a YouTube channel (the second most frequented social media site in the world) to your venue marketing mix.

42. Advertise to grow.

Don’t be afraid to test some paid advertising options. Paid advertising, even in digital marketing, is one of the fastest and least expensive ways to introduce your venue to brand-spankin’ new audiences.

The best way to test advertising is to start small and with a limited budget. This way, you can test a variety of combinations of text, images, audiences and conversion goals to see what works.

With just a little money, over a matter of days, you’ll have a better idea about what’s working and what’s not before you commit more serious dollars.

Just don’t make the mistake of testing too many variables at once with a variety of ads or you won’t be able to isolate which factors drove different outcomes.

43. Analyze and adapt.

We all get a little caught up in just getting the social media content out on various channels. Sometimes we forget that we should adapt our approach to drive more venue growth.

Watch what happens on your social channels each week, and then look at the outcomes over a month. You should see some trends on which channels are performing best for your venue, and at what times.

Focus on the channels that are succeeding, and review the channels that are not. Then, determine whether a continued effort on the channel is warranted. It may be as simple as adapting your style or content on a specified channel to improve results.

44. Consider outsourcing.

Something’s gotta give, right? Handing off your venue’s social media marketing could be good way to cut down the team’s load.

If you’re considering this approach, you might wonder how will it cost?The answer? It depends. 

If you have a good start on your channels and tools, it might only be a few hundred bucks. But if you need someone to start from scratch, it could be tens of thousands of dollars for the whole enchilada.

Step 5: Wander out to the web

Using the web for venue marketing

We’re finally wandering out into the wild, wild web. This is where reach grows exponentially, but influence takes a nose dive. There’s just so much competition.

So how can your event venue stand out and be found? Or, at a minimum, how can you make sure you’re not lost in the shuffle?

This is by no means a complete list, but it’s a great start to successfully marketing an event venue online.

45. Use Google Analytics.

Every event venue should implement Google analytics tracking for their website. This way, venue owners and venue marketers can understand who’s coming to their site and what they’re doing once they get there.

Two important metrics for venues are referral source and medium. These help you see what’s driving traffic to your site.

Similar tracking capabilities are available from Bing, Facebook and Pinterest and are also worth incorporating into your website’s code.

46. Connect the dots: Sales leads + social + web.

It’d be amazing if all of these tools could come with a genie to help you decipher the results. But it doesn’t quite work that way.

While some third-party social media apps might help you get a tweet out here, and a post there, connecting the dots between all these results and your own actual sales leads and revenue becomes trickier.

One way to increase a little clarity is to carefully track lead generation feedback on web forms and with in-person conversations.

The other way is through campaign tracking. This tool allows you to create a number of custom codes and referral sources for any page so you can see which performs best. This is a great way to learn more about both the people visiting your site who are completing a sales process, and also those who are not.

47. Single in on your SERPs.

Something very easy you can do today is to figure out some of the top search terms you’d like to rank for. Then, look at the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) for each one.

By doing this, you’ll know:

  • Where your venue is already discoverable
  • Where you’re falling short

Then, you can fill in the holes and check again in a quarter.

48. Dig into your data.

Check your own website frequently. Look out for missing or broken links, outdated photos, missing page information such as titles, subtitles, meta descriptions, alt text on images. These things make it easier for visitors to find what they need, and for web crawlers to accurately predict what your pages are about.

Also find keyword phrases that you want to rank for and incorporate them on specific pages. If you see a page is no longer performing accurately in Google Analytics, try and determine why.

49. Understand the nuances of niche directories.

Take every advantage of niche event venue directories. Have complete and accurate information on all venue search sites. This makes it easier for search engines to determine what your event venue’s website is about. Plus, it dramatically increases your venue discoverability with new event planners.

These sites also offer you a chance to increase your customer reviews and promote other special offers or amenities you may have.

It’s literally like opening the door to an entire new audience with very minimal work.

50. Make virtual visualization easier.

As we expand to a more global marketplace, providing a more accurate virtual experience to everyone is crucial. If they can’t see it with their own eyes, we need to offer the next best option. Consider adding a lead capture tool to do just that.

This helps more event planners imagine your venue and their event more readily with a virtual walk-through tool.

51. Master your market’s available tools.

Nothing beats pounding the pavement in your own backyard.

Make sure you’ve covered all your bases with your local Chamber of Commerce, Convention and Visitors’ Bureau, and Tourism Board as a starting point.

Next, there may also be other business directories, books of lists, community calendars, media outlets and press contacts to update.

The key here is to help others in your city find you through these available tools. You want them to know who you are, what you do and what you offer in your event venue.

52. Mobile matters. (As well as all these other data points).

Your web presence must be mobile-friendly and easy to navigate with minimal real estate.

While this aspect is certainly important, don’t overlook the importance of keeping these other data points handy for web visitors and event attendees too:

  • Phone Number. Publish a number that is able to receive both phone calls and texts.
  • Address. Make sure you address is easy to find on your website, all your social channels, all search engines, all venue directories and on all your staff signature blocks.
  • Public Email. Make sure you have a standard email you publicize so you do not miss a single lead.

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Conclusion

The key to venue marketing success is more discoverability. A mix of both influence and reach gets you there fastest.

These 50+ ideas are a great way to prime the pump for this year’s discoverability review. Better yet, you’ll probably have even more impressive outcomes after you begin your own journey. You’ll quickly discover exactly what works best for you, your team and your venue.


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