It’s no secret that having a private events program can be a great revenue booster for an existing restaurant or other business with event space. But whether you’re a traditional venue or a company that hosts private events on the side, having a handle on how your program is performing is crucial.
Gather makes it easy to analyze, measure and report on your private events program. By collecting data on your business, you can leverage these facts and figures to create better sales goals. If you want helpful tips, strategies, and advice for hitting your private event sales goes, read on.
Be mindful of your target audience
The size, type, and popularity of your venue all factor into who your target audience should be. If you’re a big-name restaurant group, you can broaden your reach beyond your regular in-town customer base, since it’s more likely that event prospects have heard your name and know about your space. If you’re a one-off venue with a smaller event space or more limited event-throwing hours, that should factor into your marketing plan. Smaller meeting events and presentations are great for a more intimate restaurant space, while traditional venues can usually go after larger clients, like wedding parties.
Highlight what makes your venue unique
What makes your venue stand out? Maybe it’s got an elegant banquet setup, or it has a rooftop, or it’s got built-in attractions, like a winery’s tasting room. Whatever it is that can give your space an edge over your competition, make sure to highlight that in both your discussions with prospective clients and in your business’s overall branding materials. Include photos of past events (with permission from your client) on your website so prospects can visualize their party at your venue.
Maintain speedy responses
When you or a team member have to write a response to every event inquiry that comes in, it can take up a significant amount of time that could be spent on more productive tasks, like walkthroughs and proactive selling. That’s why Gather offers custom templates to help you respond to leads and secure faster events in mere minutes. We’ve also developed templates for BEOs, digital contracts, proposals and more. Plus, with our native mobile app, you can get notifications, check calendar availability, and reply to leads in under two minutes straight from your phone, tablet, or laptop.
Invest in marketing initiatives
What good is your event space if no one knows about it? Make your newsletter emails stand out through eye-catching design, short copy and a call to action. And get to the point quickly — prospects don’t want to read paragraphs of text to see what you’ve got to offer. Personalize it and try to relate to your consumer, and your response rate will likely increase. Social media is another great way to promote your event venue without breaking the bank. Platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook allow you to post photos, details and any promotions you offer. But keep in mind that one post a month won’t cut it: consistency is key.
Use reporting to your advantage
From lead conversion to opportunity generation, our robust reporting features shed a light on how your business is performing. See what event types bring you the most success, where you’re getting the most leads from, and much more. It’s difficult to create realistic goals when you’re not sure how your private events program is scaling, and reporting allows you to see where you’re excelling, and where you should focus more energy. Run the numbers from your last quarter or year, pinpoint areas of improvement (such as lead follow-through and conversion rates), and use that to create manageable goals for your program moving forward.
Make sure your online presence is strong
You don’t need an exhaustive breakdown of the dimensions and offerings of your event space on your company website. However, it’s helpful to have a handful of important details about your events program online. This way, when people are searching or scrolling through your company’s website, they can see if your venue might be a fit for their event before submitting an inquiry, thus saving you time. Consider creating a page dedicated to private dining or events where you can showcase information and a few high-quality photos. You can also embed Gather’s lead form on this page, allowing prospects to send an event inquiry 24/7 that you can receive instantaneously.
Have a streamlined process in place
Several of our clients have mentioned how crucial having a clearly defined managing process is to reaching their revenue goals. Since things like unplanned absences and staff turnover are nearly inevitable, it’s wise to have a clear run-of-show for how your company runs private events so you don’t miss a beat, no matter what comes up. All of your team members should be familiar with the process of taking an event from lead inquiry to post-event feedback. If you’re not sure where to begin, check out our Ultimate Gather Event To-Do List, a step-by-step checklist for using our software to manage your event.
Q&A: WHAT EVENT PROS ARE SAYING
Kirby Pratt is events coordinator for Restaurants Unlimited, Inc., a restaurant group with 20 locations across the country. Here, she talks to Gather about meeting sales goals, her tips for struggling venues, and how Gather has helped her restaurants’ event programs succeed.
When it comes to private event sales, what are your secrets to success?
Following up and increasing lead response time has been big. Now that we have a year’s worth of data in Gather, we’ve done follow-up and outreach campaigns to rebook annual events. Being able to benchmark against different locations and see trends with top grossing locations has been huge. We can see correlations between conversations and percentages, and identify locations that are struggling with leads. It gives us facts and data to analyze performance at each of our locations.
How do you approach event sales at your venues?
A lot of it comes from using the data we’ve seen in Gather. It’s helped us restructure our entire program. Recently, we’ve decided to hire a regional leader — 80% of their job is outbound sales. They’ll be working on the stuff that leads to an inquiry and proactive follow-up. Event managers are focused on what is coming in, and what we realized is that we’ve seen great increases, but all that was happening was reactive. So many leads were coming in from natural traffic, and we didn’t have a lot of time to do that outbound sales generation.
What’s your top piece of advice to venues struggling to meet sales goals?
We noticed the biggest disconnects in our program were with communication, timeliness and what we were communicating. If you’re coming from an operations background and not sales, you think about communication in a different way.
How have you successfully increased lead conversions?
In an effort to be helpful, team members were drafting long emails to guests with every option for booking in that space. When you take the sales process of a two-line email that says, “let’s connect so I can learn more,” you’re tailoring shorter communication and connecting more with what the guest wants without having to attach all the pictures and menu options. We set up a call time to walk through the look and feel and tailor the pitch to that person. We’re seeing higher conversions because it’s not overwhelming to the prospect.
How does Gather help you meet sales goals?
It goes back to efficiency and being able to use the platform on multiple mediums. Hostesses have access to lead forms, and they can submit leads into Gather while on the phone. They’re getting the right kind of information so when we follow up we have the information we need, instead of just getting a note saying “Sally called, here’s her number.”
Do all of your locations have an events coordinator?
We have a lot of locations that, from a budget standpoint, can’t have a coordinator. So we have all managers and supervisors team together to support events. By being able to quickly access events from a tablet and open up the Gather app while also managing reservations and having hostesses respond to emails means everyone has access to the latest emails, statuses and updates.
How has using Gather led to increased event sales?
We love Gather — it’s opened our eyes to a lot of holes and gaps in our program, but it’s also helped us have an easy medium for those inbound leads. We’re able to have loftier goals this year because we know we have the resources to meet them.
Any other pieces of advice?
In our new guidelines we share with coordinators, we request they follow up within two hours. Secondly, opening emails to the guest can’t be more than 2 sentences, with no links or attachments. If they’re tempted to attach something, then it should be on the website.