The game has changed, but the fact that you need a strategy for booking group events hasn’t. These tips can help.
Recently, I was chatting with an operator about the right time, approach, and message to take to local organizations regarding booking group events once again. If you haven't already been selling group events, this topic is likely something on your mind these days as well. We thought it would be a good time to share a few ideas for getting started booking group events back into your facility.
Step 1: Understand your current landscape.
Under normal circumstances, I’d tell you that the world is your oyster and to get immediately back out there with an aggressive group sales strategy, but that may not fit your market today. There’s no one size fits all solution, so be crystal clear on your local guidelines, requirements, and public sentiment. Bringing groups back might be the right thing to do, or it might be that you’d have to overcome so many hurdles or severely limit capacity that it may not make sense.
Take a pulse on the needs and wants of your community. How has your inbound event sales traffic been? If you’re starting to get more calls than you were a month ago, that could be a good indicator that it’s time to get back out there and start selling again (we’ll get to that soon).
Step 2: Start small.
If you decide you want to get back out there now, I'd recommend starting small so you can gauge your audience's readiness by contacting past groups.
Pull a report of all the groups from 2019 up to now and segment them by month. This will give you an easy contact list to start from. I’d start with the ones within 60 days before and after today from prior years. Because historically, these groups held spring and summer events, it makes sense that they may be ready to do the same now that vaccines are more widely available and restrictions are lifting.
Note: Once you work through 2019, don’t be afraid to go back to prior years and widen your outreach efforts to new prospects. By then, you’ll have a firmer grasp on the needs and a better idea of where you should place your subsequent efforts.
Step 3: Make contact.
Once you have a list of the groups you want to invite back, it’s time to make contact. Just like every other sales conversation, it will be critical to listen to your prospective buyer. If you ask the right questions, you’ll learn everything you need to know to be able to offer the right experience to the right group at the right time. It might sound like:
You: "Hi (prospect name), how are you guys doing these days? Things getting back to normal?" [listen and take note of unique details that may indicate needs, readiness, desires, etc.]
Prospective guest: "Yes, thank goodness. We are finally getting back to normal."
You: "That’s terrific, we are too and not a moment too soon. Hey, I know you’re busy, so I don’t want to take much of your time. I was calling because we’ve begun offering group events at our park and thought of you guys. I know in the past, we've hosted your summer family event. How are you feeling about getting out together this year?"
Prospective guest: "Oh, we are thinking..."
- "That we are all still working from home and haven’t been together in a while" - [This might even be the response to your introductory question when you first make contact. Dig in and get a sense of what they think of getting together with just their teams, with families, too, because it’s been a long year, etc.]
- "That we don’t want to get out just yet" - [find out what’s holding them back, and ultimately when they plan to reconsider so you know when to reach back out.]
- "That we want to do something smaller just for our team to limit capacity" - [Perhaps a private buyout/offpeak time/ or an add-on giveaway for team members to take home for their families would be perfect.]
- "That we don't have a lot of budget to work with" - [get to the heart of the issue. Are they planning to forgo an event altogether due to budget, limit capacity for an event, or would they like to save money on an event with you? If the latter, you can find out if it makes sense to offer them a change in activities, food, date or time, or even booking bonuses or discounts.]
Step 4: Don’t make assumptions.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming what a prospective buyer is thinking. You need information. Sure, you could assume that their budgets are tight and jump right in with a significant discount to get them to come in. And that may work for a price-motivated buyer. But it most likely won’t work if that’s not what was holding them back. Or, you might even be offering a discount prematurely, cheapening your product, and causing you to leave money on the table. Everyone likes to see value in what they’re buying, but don’t assume you know what they value most. Instead, find out what is important to your prospect and share how you and your team will make that a priority for them.
Step 5: Keep moving forward.
As you contact more people and organizations, you’ll start to build momentum. Be sure that you have a clear next step for every conversation with a date for when you will take your following action. When you’re ready to go after new business, consider a marketing email, social, or digital ad campaign to some segments of your database or specific customer persona profiles.
Targeted marketing efforts can, of course, give you an influx of inbound requests. However, their full value is in providing you with a list of the people who have engaged with your campaigns - warmer leads to contact as you ramp up your next round of outbound sales efforts.
Track key metrics like opens, click-throughs, and conversions to bookings so that you can refine your efforts consistently. Then, as the saying goes, rinse and repeat.
It’s encouraging that so many facilities are seeing growth, and we hope you’re feeling some of these effects in your facility as well.
Do you have a recent success story at your facility? Share it with us in the comments or send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.