Capturing That Ho-Ho-Holiday Party Business
In theory, holiday party business should be the cream on top of operators’ overall revenue, but in today’s competitive market, the last quarter can make or break end-of-year expectations. To fully take advantage of private party business, including the fickle corporate sector, operators should position their strategy front and center, starting outreach early.
“We hope to have a base of events booked by June—by repeat clients, early planners and those hosting large events,” says Allison Gallese, director of marketing, sales & special events for Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. “Reaching out to our warm clients is a no-brainer. The guest knows you, what you offer and presumably had a wonderful time last year.”
Active promotion begins after Labor Day. One would think that targeted Facebook ads would be a strong performer, but Gallese has tested this and discovered that is not true. “Messaging and ads on LinkedIn is a better digital option because you are able to target more specifically by industry, location and job position,” she says.
“Email is still very effective. We can target people who have previously hosted an event and are actively planning.” Hit your email list early in September, track open and response rates, then adjust additional blasts moving forward as needed.
Keeping tabs on inquiries and bookings and comparing to the previous year is key to monitoring efforts moving into the home stretch. If bookings are softer in September, incentives can be added to promotional messaging.
Jena Cherry, director of sales for SPIN, the popular Ping-Pong social club, offers something to encourage confirmations. “We have offered complimentary bar upgrades, a free photographer for the event or gift certificates. This year, we are offering a complimentary dessert cart along with complimentary bar upgrade for groups that book before October,” she says.
Adds Gallese, “We find that we can pick-up a decent amount of parties in November as budgets open up and planners decide at the last minute to celebrate a good year. This allows us to suggest the less sought days of the week and lunch events.”
The most successful form of marketing, however, is still word of mouth and exceptional hospitality. “Hosting events well always translates into more events,” says Gallese. “The guest who comes to a wedding, baby shower or corporate meeting and has a memorable meal or experience with the staff will definitely think of the venue for their holiday event.”