Over 1 billion people have WhatsApp. You can contact a radio show, you can message the BBC, you can book a hotel room and you can order a taxi but… you can’t contact a venue.
Why aren’t venues on WhatsApp?
Venues can sometimes be slow to pick up new technology, just look at booking sites for venues like Venue Directory or MeetingsBooker. Booking services are ancient, and well established in the hotel industry, but it’s a relatively new concept for venues and it’s still not fully established across the board. As an industry, venues can sometimes follow trends instead of leading them. On this occasion the venue industry should lead the pack and embrace WhatsApp as a communications channel.
As a platform WhatsApp supports a dialogue so it’s better suited to the consultative sales approach used by venues than it is to instant book services like taxis and hotel rooms, yet it’s the instant book services which have embraced WhatsApp and are reporting how successful it is.
It’s free for the venue, it’s used by almost everyone, it allows people to contact you from anywhere and you’re in people’s hands; not their inbox, their letter box, or on the side banner of a news website. WhatsApp is free for the prospective client, no matter where they are in the world and like email they can contact you at their convenience, but unlike email you’re communicating on a platform where your messages have less competition and are more likely to be read and responded to.
There are so many benefits for event venues to use Whatsapp:
- Response times can be easily monitored because you can see when an enquiry was received and when it was responded to
- You can group chat so if a prospective client needs to bring a colleague into the loop it can be easily done
- You can @handle in group chat if you need to get the attention of a particular member
- You can send files, pictures, floor plans and unlike sending them to a desktop they’ll always be in your client’s pocket
- You can leave a group chat when a client confirms their event and add the operations team as its passed from one team to another – you can be added back at anytime
- You can message, voice call and video call
- Your clients can contact you in situations where they can’t talk or email
- If the person you’re communicating with has the feature activated you can see whether they’ve received and read your message
- Over time you’ll build up a list of contacts on WhatsApp that you can use for special promotions (I recommend not overdoing this but it will be there at your disposal and if used wisely it will yield results without offending anyone)
With so many benefits and such little set up and running costs there isn’t a reason not to do this.
Plan of action
I doubt your team want to use their personal phones so opening a new communications channel is going to set you back the cost of a smart phone or alternatively you can install WhatsApp for PC or Mac. I recommend setting up two WhatsApp accounts:
- A WhatsApp number that is listed on your website for enquiries that is managed by your sales team
- A Whatsapp number that is on your welcome packs and signage for clients using your venue that is managed by your ops team
I’ve discussed this with venues and I know the typical reservations: We already have phone and email (text and talk) and WhatsApp is the same. More communications channels will mean more work. It’s like SMS and that never took off for enquiries.
It’s not like SMS, it’s engaging and two way, it’s more than phone and email it’s both of those with instant messaging features and more. Most importantly, it’s the way people (especially millennials) want to communicate in the modern world. Why wouldn’t you make it easier for people to contact you in the way they want to? When I started my marketing career, as fax marketing was slowly dying out, my mentors would tell me similar stories they faced introducing email marketing instead of, or in addition to, fax marketing; “they are both letters sent through telecoms” they were told. As time passed, and we came to understand emails are more than ‘letters sent through telecoms’, we can clearly see the difference.
Zero cost and a few minutes set up and you’ll have a brand new communications channel and be one of the first in your industry. If you start using WhatsApp as a communications channel at your venue, or if you’re already doing it, contact me or leave a comment to let us know how it’s working for you.
About Patch Media
We’re a venue specialist marketing and media buying agency. We work with our clients on everything from single channel management to running an entirely outsourced marketing department to mystery client analysis on the sales and enquiry handling process. With over 50 years events industry experience and a multi-skilled marketing team covering everything from search marketing to strategy to creative concepts we save our clients time and money on their marketing activity and provide support and skills which don’t exist in-house.
Atiram Hotels lead the pack with WhatsApp as an enquiry channel