How to Book More Weddings—A Guide For Golf Course Operators
Golf courses and country clubs boast stunning facilities, beautiful surroundings, and the capability to cater to large crowds for events. Even so, many clubhouses are seeing a decline in venue bookings.
So how do you get the word out that your facilities are not only open for weddings, but also different from competing venues?
By highlighting your unique offerings and laser-focusing your message to a targeted customer base, wedding and event managers have the ability to effectively sell more weddings.
Let's explore the proven strategies for marketing your wedding venue that can dramatically increase sales and booking rates for your golf course’s event space.
Step 1: Develop a Marketing Strategy & Actually Write it Down
This doesn’t have to be an in-depth business plan, but taking the time to put a strategy in writing helps create a benchmark to both work from and measure against.
Here’s a few questions to boost your marketing efforts:
How is your brand viewed by your target market? How would you like it to be positioned?
Check yourself out on Google to see what guests are saying about your facilities. What are you known for? If it’s bridge tournaments on Tuesday mornings, chances are you’re reaching the wrong audience.
You need to position your venue as an easy choice for bridal parties considering reception locations. Talk with prospective clients, consult bridal magazines, and use other industry sources to prove you know a bride’s every need, want, and desire when it comes to the venue for her wedding/reception.
How are you differentiated from your competitors?
Highlighting the specific amenities that make brides happy helps you stand out to the specific audience looking for those little perks.
Do you have things like full-length mirrors in the bridal dressing room? Easy pricing packages for different seasons?
Now’s the time to brag on all the things that makes your venue truly unique. Demonstrating breadth and depth of services shows you have the ability to cover any contingencies and even the pickiest bride’s every need.
Define the kinds of consumers who have previously booked your wedding/event space, have expressed interest, or that you wish to target. How does your strategy reflect the characteristics of these segments?
Understanding buyer demographics and segmenting them into groups sharing similar characteristics is key to reaching your audience with tailored marketing campaigns. You need to know who the decision makers are, where they are, and how they book a venue.
Have a lot of brides reached you because they have family who are members of the club? Then use that opportunity to market to new and existing club members.
Want to reach young professionals getting married? Seek professional organizations with young member chapters and make the rounds.
Remember each segment deserves its own focus.
Lastly, consider the main bases for a bridal party pulling the trigger on a venue. Is it price or quality? Service or amenities? Understand where other amenities have failed (Google is a great resource for poaching negative reviews of competitive venues) and position your offering to meet those needs.
What is the unique value proposition for your property? This should remain a central theme for the entirety of your marketing correspondence.
Like differentiating yourself, you need to emphasize the unique features you offer that creates value in the eyes of your customers. Fill in the blanks for the following hypothetical: When I book my wedding at ____, I/we get ____, because ____.
This needs to highlight the core benefits you provide, as well as, the specific needs you help address. Think like a bride: She wants to know the facility has the capacity to completely manage a worry-free special day.
Know the selling cycle - how will you move potential clients through the process?
- Create awareness: If people have no idea that your course has great a wedding venue, they’ll never find you. Using the selling tips highlighted here to start building buzz around your unique offerings.
- Generate interest and understanding of the value of your offering: continuing to reach those markets that are expressing interest and helping them reach the understanding that your venue meets their needs, offers value, and does so better than other comparable venues.
- Book the sale: You need to have knowledgeable and experienced sales agents who are pros at closing the sale. The entire process needs to be informative, accessible, and easy for bridal parties.
- Deliver an exceptional experience: After booking the sale, you need to absolutely ensure you deliver on your sales promises. Especially for weddings, perfection (even if it’s only the perception thereof) is vital.
- Continue to foster the relationship/create evangelists: This step is the most often overlooked. You found the buyer, convinced them your venue was best, booked the sale, gave them a perfect experience, and then never spoke again. After-sale follow-up is crucial to creating “evangelists” who tasted your flavor and can’t wait to tell everyone how exquisite it is.
Run Profitable Advertising/Promotion Campaigns
Be specific in describing how you plan on reaching customers. If it’s direct mail, magazines, event sponsorship, or social media advertising, you need to map out costs and expected yields. If a particular avenue continues to be a laggard to others, reduce your efforts in that arena and put more resources into the higher returning activities.
Also consider creative promotions such as groomsmen golfing packages or seasonal pricing/service bundles that ramp up in the off-season.
Step 2: Barter with the Natives
You need to have a great relationship with the professionals of the trade. Think wedding photographers, videographers, planners, dress shops, etc. Within your geographic region, you should know these vendors well.
Differing from business-to-consumer (B2C) strategies of reaching brides, business-to-business (B2B) marketing should highlight the quid pro quo mentality. These are business people, and they need to see a value in spending their precious time and resources on developing a relationship with your venue. They are also the ones who are already in direct contact with your potential customers. Consider cross-promotional activities such as tastings that highlight a local cake shop or even hosting a wedding expo at your facilities.
In exchange, ask these vendors for referrals or links on their websites thus compounding your efforts in the area by turning them into an extension of your marketing team (except you don’t have to pay them!).
Every wedding planner needs to know the full extent of everything you have to offer so he or she can make a recommendation to their brides. When their professional reputation is at stake, you need to have assured them you have the ability to come through.
Step 3: Utilize Social Media (effectively)
Most venues will say, “of course we have an online presence” only to mean that they have a small link on the club’s website that leads to a page with a few outdated pictures and posts.
In the new world of SEO-centric marketing, content marketing is the de facto king.
Once you’ve segmented your market, start targeting them. One cost-effective strategy to consider is advertising on social media platforms. Facebook ads can easily target very specific demographics and reach those people already searching for the services/amenities your venue offers.
Just like house guests, content goes stale after a very short time. You need to continually add fresh, original, and compelling content across your website and social media platforms.
To make this easier, there are a host of services such as Hootsuite and SocialOomph which can help plaster your message across different mediums simultaneously and on a preset schedule. When you publish content, think like a bride. What would they be searching on Google for? Things like “best wedding venue near me” or “golf course wedding reception” should be seamlessly integrated into your online content so that Google matches you to the people searching for that.
Your web page and social media outlets all offer different analytics tools. Use them. If a particular post barely got any response and another skyrocketed, emulate your successes. Continually honing your message will vastly improve the effectiveness of your digital/social media marketing efforts.
Step 4: Know Your Enemy, Know Yourself
Identify at least three or four direct competitors in your geographic region and start a dossier on each.
Assess their strengths and weakness. Look at why clients went with that particular venue and note the good and bad reviews. Make a list of the services and amenities each of them offer and see how you compare. If it’s not online, pretending you’re a potential bridal party and contacting the competitor is a great way to get information such as pricing sheets and amenities lists.
Once you have this, seek ways to beat them, whether that’s price, boasting size advantages, offering better packages, etc. Demonstrating your knowledge of the competitive landscape shows potential clients you know exactly what they’re looking for and you alone have the unique offerings to meet that need.
Step 5: Rock the Party, Crash the Conversation
Execution is everything.
Once you have the venue booked now is when you bring your A-team together to pull off the perfect package. When you give the bridal party and their guests a perfect experience, they’ll want to share. Join in the conversation during and post-event. With the couple’s permission, ask for some of the photos that highlight a fun, lively environment and also showcase your facilities and/or amenities and then prominently display these on your website and social media pages. In a digital world, users liking and sharing your posts have compounding effects, spreading your message like wildfire.
Following these tips for increasing wedding sales can help course managers/operators and their wedding and event staff approach marketing from a systematic basis, breaking down the individual steps, the costs, and providing a framework for moving forward profitably.
Every sales process requires a lead time—doing your homework and understanding the industry drivers is key to not only booking more weddings, but also creating a steady pipeline of future events.
Need More Ideas for Marketing Your Golf Course or Country Club’s Wedding Venue?
At Hampton Golf, we develop the strategies that make your operation a success. We accomplish this by producing measurable results for our clients. With successfully managed courses operating around the country, our staff have the proven expertise to help you make the best possible use of your venue for your guests.
From agronomy to club finance, we work to ensure guests always leave completely satisfied, eager to return, and anxious to spread the word about their great experience at your club.
Contact our offices today to schedule a consultation.