What’s your Roadmap to Recovery?
It’s now clear that COVID-19 is not a short term challenger. It is going to require us to adapt our lives and our businesses. Is your wedding venue or business ready for the changes ahead?
There’s no doubt weddings will be back. And many venues and suppliers are currently focused on just trying to survive the next few months whilst hoping for a boom year next year. However, we will be operating in a very different market from the market our businesses were set up to serve. It is important to acknowledge that although the wedding industry will recover faster than most, many people will want to observe social distancing long after the government relaxes the restrictions and some aspects of weddings may never return in their original form.
If you were setting up your business now, how different would it look?
What are your customer needs now, and what will they be over the next 18 months? If your customers’ needs have changed but your business hasn’t adapted, there will need to be a very compelling reason for your customers to still come to you.
Some wedding businesses are facing the realisation that their customers can’t have, or no longer want, the services they have offered in the past. Traditional DJs, close-up magicians, photobooths, bands, vocalists, vintage car companies, hen and stag companies, destination wedding planners are amongst those who are being creative to adapt their business to work in a new era.
Other businesses need to make smaller changes; their customers will still want and need their service or product but there will be significant challenges in operating within the new guidelines. And with anticipated financial pressures, their couples will want them to do so without additional cost.
Of course change also creates emergent opportunity. Brides and grooms will be looking for ways to include guests who are anxious about being in close proximity with others or who can’t be there in person due to travel restrictions. They’ll need to find new ways to entertain guests with reduced physical contact, for example with a performance rather than dancing, as well as ways to include guests who aren’t able to be there in person.
A Subtle Shift
As well as adapting their business model, some businesses have noticed the need for a subtle shift in their company ethos and values. While people have been locked away, their priorities, personal values and their outlook on life have shifted. They want to support those companies that have helped their clients and community at a difficult time. Reputation and trust will be key in making buying decisions. Companies that have maintained high levels of customer care are demonstrating their ability to operate well during challenging times.
The biggest change
For years the wedding industry has been able to offer tried and tested services. However “unique and unusual” brides and grooms say they want their wedding to be, most businesses report that their long-standing, best-sellers remain the most popular choice for their couples year after year. Some have barely needed to change their products or services in the 10 or 20 years we’ve been working with them, and for those the current situation is daunting.
But now is the time to reassess your business and the services you offer. Even if weddings eventually return to normal, for the next 12-18 months, the industry will look very different. Are you offering clients something they actually want or need? Is your business model still relevant in a post-COVID setting? Are you behaving and operating in a way that builds trust and enhances your reputation? It is highly unlikely that you designed your business around offering services or products during and after a pandemic, so changes to adapt to it now are almost inevitable.
So, what are we doing at Guides for Brides? How are we adjusting to the needs of our clients over the next 18 months?
I can’t say it has been an easy two months but we can at least see a clear way forward. Our income comes from businesses now significantly impacted by COVID-19. They may need our services more than ever right now, but their cash flow is under pressure. We have been touched that so many have found ways to pay and we have helped those that can’t. We’re here for the long run and want to help ensure they are too, and effective marketing guarantees a quick recovery.
We’ve made some very difficult decisions on the activities that won’t be relevant in their current format for a while; printed magazines, wedding fairs, events, conferences, honeymoons, destination weddings. We’ve discovered that some are more effective digitally;
We’ve identified what our clients need – right now that includes clear and accurate information and advice, based on facts and data rather than speculation. Later, the need to show longevity, reputation and to develop trust will be key. Marketing tools will be even more essential for our clients, such as our Book with Confidence pledge, trust marks for those with 3+ or 10+ years trading history, review widgets and the ability for businesses to add recommended suppliers to their listing.
We have been working with virtual focus groups to develop simple solutions to help couples plan weddings that will still involve their original choice of venue and suppliers, to protect all in the wedding industry.
What About Our Couples?
We’ve identified what our brides, grooms and their families need. Again, trusted advice, help and support has been key in the short term. Simply being available on the phone for them seven days a week has given them total confidence in us when all around them is so uncertain, and also confidence in all the businesses we represent.
For those couples who are still in the process of planning their wedding, as well as for those that are postponing, our marketing team have pivoted, twisted and turned, using every method available to keep these couples inspired, excited and fully engaged in their planning.
We have been partnering with others in developing innovative solutions to involve shielded guests and to help protect venues from liability in the case of an outbreak following a wedding.
Amongst our ongoing projects, we have used software we were developing for wedding planning to launch a website to help those who have been bereaved, signposting them to bereavement help and support and giving them a place to create an online tribute to their loved ones.
We have, along with many others in the wedding industry, shone a light on the difficulties so many are facing regarding insurance claims and hospitality grants, and kept the media and politicians informed with fact-based data and statistics.
In a few weeks, if not days, the government will give more clarity on the road map to allow weddings and the celebrations that surround them to take place. It is down to us all to decide on our own route forward and we would urge our clients to have a clear plan now to be ready for the immediate questions and requests from their couples.
Whatever that route will be, we’ll be with you every step of the way.