If you understand the customer journey, it’s possible to plan your marketing activity to achieve maximum impact at different stages of the journey. All you need to do is define how your prospective customers behave from conception of an event to hosting an event and based on that behaviour, how you will target them.
Different kinds of events have different customer journeys but regardless of the type of event, a person hiring a venue always performs some similar actions. Everybody organising events will use a venue they already know, or they’ll start a new search (or ask somebody like a venue finding agent to do it for them).
Different event types have different potential for repeat usage and word-of-mouth, that creates different customer journeys and possibilities to extend customer lifecycle. This blog is going to outline the different stages of a venue buyer customer journey and how a venue can engage and work towards the desired outcome at each stage.
Stages of a customer journey
- Defining their needs of the event
- Creating a shortlist of venues and enquiring on availability and cost
- Deciding internally on a venues
- Hosting the event
- Post event feedback and marketing
By dividing the customer journey into stages we’re able to plan marketing activity designed to engage with prospective customers at the stage they are at, and communicate in a way that compels them to take the action we want.
When considering the venue buyer customer journey, it’s important to take into account that hiring a venue is a “considered purchase” by that, we mean that a prospective customer doesn’t click and enquire on the first visit to a brand’s website, they tend to explore the market, shop around, collect information, make a shortlist and after some time, enquire to the venues on the shortlist. Therefore, it’s important a venue appears again, and again as potential buyers go through that journey and decide who to contact.
Stage one: Defining the need for a venue
The person looking for a venue has either been asked to do that by a colleague or client or they’re doing it for an event they’re organising themselves. They already have a good idea about the type of venue they need and have probably already defined the specification they require like capacity, location, and the features they’ll need to host their event successfully.
During stage one, there are two types of people: Those that have organised events before and know the landscape and those that haven’t.
People that have organised events in the past tend to have an idea about venues and how to work with but from time to time they need something different and search again. Even a seasoned venue finder turns to search engines, venue directories, social media, news, and blogs to research a new venue for a specific brief.
At this stage, a venue needs to already be known and have first port of call status or if the prospective buyer is searching, it needs to be found in the search. To stand out at this stage a venue should be optimised in search engines for keywords that relate to the types of events they can host, their location and USPs. The same goes for important venue directories that attract the types of clients a venue wants. It’s also important to regularly post on social media and use keywords and tags a venue buyer may search for. What you’re aiming for is that wherever the prospective client looks, they’re likely to come across your venue if it’s suitable for their event.
Activities for the venue to attract people at stage one
- Have updated and optimised website pages
- Be active on social media
- Ensure venue directories are updated and relevant
Stage two: Creating a shortlist
Most planners create a shortlist of venues to review before making an enquiry. To get onto the shortlist a venue, with its marketing output, needs to convince the prospective customer that it’s going to be perfect for their event. It’s important for venues to present all the information about their spaces, capabilities, and unique selling points in an easy to read and digest way.
It’s also important for a venue to get its brand positioning right so the prospective customer knows the type of venue it is (and guideline cost) before they get in touch. Strong positioning and good acquisition lead to a high quality of enquiry that converts better. Unlike hotels, venues don’t have stars to make this easy for potential customers, but they can use their website, their media, their copy, their social media, and case studies to show clients the types of events they host and the kinds of budgets they work with.
Most people organising events are looking for a venue as one of many tasks. It’s one of the first stages of event organisation after conception and early-stage production and therefore it often needs to be done quickly. It’s important that a venue allows people looking at it to quickly get the information they need and decide whether that venue is going to be right for their event. With so many venues available, it’s easier to move on to another one than try and find information on a complicated website.
Essential information to have on Website
- Guideline Prices
- Unique selling points of venue
- Services provided by the venue organiser
- Spaces if multiple are available
As well as the elevator pitch, it’s important to give more information if the user wants it. That information should be things like virtual tours, images, case studies, testimonials, videos, interviews with staff, interviews with clients – almost anything that’s going to convince the viewer that your venue is right for their event. You should present the additional information well on your website so it’s available and easy to find if the reader wants it but isn’t a huge daunting text block.
Additional helpful Information
- Virtual tours
- High quality images
- Case studies
- Independent reviews
At this stage of the customer journey prospective customers will be visiting venues’ websites, social media channels, directory profiles, and testimonials, to not only determine if that venue is technically correct for their event, but also decide if they think it has a history of successfully hosting events like theirs. Many event organisers are looking for a cultural fit as well as a space. It’s a venue’s job to present this information across several channels to convince the viewer that their venue should be contacted for a quote and put on the shortlist.
Stage three: Final decision
Once a prospective client has a shortlist and is holding space at several venues they’ll decide where they’ll host their event. At this stage, every venue on the shortlist is potentially suitable and on budget, to some degree event organisers are deciding who not to work with.
As well as a site visit, once again the event organiser will turn to review sites, social media, and venues’ websites to see your image gallery, virtual tours, promotional videos, and case studies, and they may even ask opinions from other people in the events community. Some event organisers get their sponsors and exhibitors involved too. It’s important to consider the influencing factors and design your marketing activity to convince the event organiser and the others they may turn to for advice.
At this stage, you’ll have a direct relationship with the event organiser and will understand their needs, you’ll know that your venue is suitable for their event so it’s essential they understand your team is also perfect for their event. You can achieve this through your sales team’s communication and with marketing by encouraging people who enquire to follow you on social media and sign up to your newsletter. If they do, they’ll be receiving communications from your team while they’re holding space and deciding who to work with and if you get it right, you’ll strengthen the relationship and give more reason why they should hold their event at your venue instead of another one.
Stage Three: How to be the chosen venue
- Be on friendly terms with organiser
- Follow up regularly
- Convince signup to newsletter and to follow social media
- Go above and beyond to standout against other venues
Stage four: Handling suppliers
Once the venue has been decided, there will be the question of what suppliers may be needed, these are going to be event specific, and to some degree, venue specific too. Some venues have a very tight supplier relationship and may only provide a limited selection of suppliers, if any at all. This can swing both in favour for the event organisers and against depending on how much control they want to have or how time poor they are. It is your opportunity to make this a selling point no matter your stance.
An event organiser may already have some suppliers in mind for their event, and these may or may not be set in stone which could have ruled out venues in the decision process.
If your venue has a set of recommended suppliers, these could be florists, caterers, independent bar staff, specialist coffee providers, as well as third party audio/visual or technology suppliers, then your event organiser needs to know about these as soon as possible. Your venue may already have recommended suppliers which makes that initial contact a lot easier for both sides or could provide further savings to the event organiser.
- Hot drinks
- Ice cream
- Audio Visual
- Ice breakers
- Live performers
Event organisers may have all sorts of ideas for what they want the event to look like, so even if you have a preferred list. Be prepared to assist with third parties to incorporate into your event. These relationships can be mutually beneficial and any new introduction might provide further opportunities in the future.
Stage five: The event
The event is an important stage of the customer journey. It’s going to impact their lasting perception of your venue and your team and what it’s like to have an event there. A positive experience creates positive word-of-mouth and a negative experience, negative word of mouth. Clients can be very public about their experience, with so many channels to leave reviews or talk openly about what happened (with an audience watching) it’s not just the potential for a repeat and referral bookings that is at stake, it’s also your reputation and the impact a negative reputation will have on future prospective customers at stages two and three of the venue buyer customer journey.
Different event types have different repeat potential. Except for wedding planners, there isn’t much chance of getting repeat weddings, but you can get referrals and that type of event organiser’s keenness to share their story and images means that with a wedding, there’s probably more word-of-mouth potential than a corporate event. On the other hand, corporate events can sometimes happen on a regular basis, I’ve heard about venues that have had event organisers coming back for over 10 years, year-on-year, for the same event.
For some venues, repeat bookings account for well over three quarters of their income. You’ve probably heard the saying “it’s more expensive to win a new client than retain an existing one”. That saying couldn’t be truer for venues that seek bookings from corporate clients. There are so many venues competing for a relatively small amount of new business (considering how many venues there are in an average city, and the percentage of events that are more than likely going to take place at the same venue that hosted it last time).
To put it simply; once the client is holding an event in your venue you’ve spent a lot of money and effort to get them there, so it’s important that you maintain a positive perception and deliver a positive experience to increase the potential for repeat bookings and word of mouth.
Stage six: Post-event
Have you ever spent a lot of money on something and then been left wanting because the company didn’t contact you to see how you felt about your product or if you had any problems using it?
So many venues let their clients walk out of the door and then do exactly that.
Delighting venue clients isn’t just about a great event or service on the day of the event, it’s how a venue communicates with them after. The post event communication not only builds upon the relationship, it’s also a chance for the venue to teach their client about the other types of events the venue can host. Even somebody that has used a venue usually only knows a little bit about that venue and its capabilities so there’s an opportunity to educate clients by telling them what else you can do – just in case they have any other types of events coming up (or people they can refer you to).
It’s highly likely the client will remember your venue as they’ve hosted an event there, but they probably hosted events in loads of other venues. Even though they know your venue, it’s important to maintain a relationship with them through marketing, so your venue and its capabilities stay at the forefront of their mind next time they’re asked for a referral or have a suitable event brief.
How to maintain a relationship post event
- Follow up thanking them for their event.
- Ask for feedback (and don’t get offended by suggestions).
- Ask to leave a rating on Google My Business, Trip Advisor or other platforms.
- Ask if they want to be part of your newsletter community.
- Invite as a guest to future relevant events or provide discount entrance if suitable.
Next steps for planning customer journeys
Depending on the type of venue you are and the types of events you host, the places where your customers go for information and advice will vary. When we plan a customer journey, we look at these five stages and define the owned media channels we can communicate with prospects at different stages of the customer journey and the bought and earned media channels that are available. We consider what those prospective customers are feeling and desiring at each stage of the venue buyer journey and we make sure the venue we’re working with meets those desires. It’s not matching a venue to any requirement, it’s about making it clear what the venue does and what it stands for, so it’s easily matched to the right event briefs.
When we’re planning customer journeys for venues, we use our customer journey template. It provides a visual for us to outline the journey and the different potential touch points at different stages. It stimulates a discussion amongst the team, and it means that the marketing activity plan is designed with goals in mind. Want to try it for yourself? Download our venue buyer customer journey template.
What to do now?
- Download the customer journey template.
- Outline a typical customer journey for your venue and the different event types you host. Define what your potential customers are thinking and feeling at each stage of the journey.
- Outline the owned media that you can use to communicate with your market.
- Outline potential for earned media that you can use to communicate with your market.
- Outline available bought media to communicate with your market.
- Create a communications and content plan that will appeal to prospective customers and existing customers at various stages of the customer journey.
- Plan how the different aspects of your communications and content plan will reach your target market at various stages of the journey and the impact you expect.
After this you’ll have a significant head start to attracting more enquiries, converting more and providing a greater service from start to finish.