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30 Apr 2015

Independent venues, please inspire us!

Posted on April 30, 2015 by

I’ve worked in the travel and leisure industry for the past five years with some of the UK’s largest travel and tourism organisations – from leisure operators to visitor attractions and tourism agencies – and, surrounded by beautiful settings, content has never been difficult to find or create. So you can imagine my excitement when it came to planning my own wedding.  But when we began the search for our perfect Yorkshire venue my enthusiasm was quickly dampened; I was shocked at how hard smaller, independent hotels and venues were making me work to find the level of insight I expect.

Almost every website we visited was surprisingly uninspiring; filled with dated marketing imagery, long reams of copy and complicated pdf brochures.  And more surprising than that, few of the independents had any presence on Pinterest, Instagram or YouTube, key channels for wedding and event planners.  According to Mashable 70 per cent of social networking brides are pinning on Pinterest before they even get engaged (I’m in the 30 per cent…honest) and 46 per cent are influenced by a supplier’s social presence.

Pinterest weddings

I ended up flitting between websites, blogs and Google Image searches and ultimately relied on word of mouth recommendations to get the level of insight I needed. Admittedly I dismissed some venues based on the lack of content available at first glance (after all the average attention span of a millennial is approx. eight seconds).

The thing is, many venues have customers and bloggers freely acting as ambassadors on their behalf, sharing beautiful images, testimonials, video and tips on social media, but I had to work really hard to find it.

Few venues blog themselves, which was also baffling from both an engagement and search point of view. I did find some fantastic wedding blogs (Rock My Wedding and So You’re Getting Married) which showed the venues I’d researched in a different, real and inspiring light.

Rock my wedding blog

So why aren’t independent venues inspiring us themselves?  After all, unique and scenic wedding and event venues are surely amongst the most content rich businesses out there.

Possibly it’s because demand is high – especially when it comes to weddings – but that could easily change if venues don’t engage with their guests and potential customers online and via social media.

There’s also the influence that SEO has over web content and may explain why endless streams of copy remain king, but it’s pointless coming top in search if the other content on the site isn’t user-friendly. Sites may receive a higher click rate but they’ll be looking at an ever higher bounce rate.

I appreciate that many independents are time-poor and have considerably smaller marketing budgets than the major groups and chains, but in today’s social savvy age, that’s no reason to dismiss the value of investing in great content.

So here’s some quick and easy ways venues could inspire me more…

  1. Curate your own gallery of real user generated images – they are much more authentic than marketing shots and also saves on the cost of professionally updating marketing photography. This image bank could also create a long-term schedule of social media content to share on channels like Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram.
  2. Simplify key details of the venue – put options, costs, capacity and services into a visual that’s easy to digest at a glance. Infographics or starter guides are really easy to create with a modest design budget, or there are lots of free DIY tools online at your fingertips.
  3. Pinterest and Instagram – get on them, we’re addicted! Start your own Pinterest boards with different elements of the venue, transformations and ideas. Pin your guest and supplier photos and things you find inspiring, from decoration to table arrangements and reception drinks with a twist – the list is endless.
  4. Start blogging – you have a team of experts running weddings and events who must see so many unique and inspiring weddings, so get blogging and share your tips, advice and experience with the world. A WordPress blog is really easy to set up and not only will it create engagement with brides and grooms-to-be, suppliers and customers, but can also improve your search rank.

Hopefully we will find our dream venue eventually. Wish me luck!

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