How Event Venues Can Close a Deal with Planners – Virtually

With the likely exception of buying a house or a car, it seems like just about every deal these days is sealed with an e-signature instead of a hearty in-person handshake.

Digital signatures are just one disruption to the long-standing tradition of a handshake to close an agreement. The World Wide Web and other technologies have fundamentally redefined how decisions are researched, negotiated and purchased – especially for millennial and Generation Z buyers who combined represent approximately 158 million people (42 percent) of the total US population.

These two generations have grown up in an environment where technology provides personalization and immediate gratification in every aspect of their lives. And as they take their seats at the buying table, their behaviors and expectations greatly impact how purchase decisions are made.

For example:
84 % of millennials use their phones for shopping assistance while in a store, and 53 percent use a smartphone in-store to search for discount or coupon (Source: MarketingProfs)
89 percent said having access to real-time product availability information influences their shopping choices (Source: Accenture)
68 percent of all millennials demand an integrated, seamless experience regardless of the channel (Source: Accenture)
46 percent of Gen Z consumers research items on mobile devices before making purchases in-store (Source: Spredfast/Precision Dialogue)

With digital dominating every aspect of a typical sales cycle, especially in the meetings and events industry, these are critical tools venues need to close a deal with today’s planners without ever meeting face-to-face.
Venue Website Must-Haves
According to Forbes, 60 percent of Gen Z shoppers won’t use apps or websites that load slowly or are difficult to navigate.

An event venue’s website is often the first stop for planners to learn more. Gone are the days of complicated navigation and heavy, dense marketing website copy. SnapApp and Heinz Marketing found:
Millennials dislike it when marketing is product-heavy, inauthentic, or lazy
Millennials value educational content without heavy company or product mentions
Millennials only want to talk to a sales rep after thoroughly researching the solution

For generations used to selfies, Instagramming their meals and sharing FOMO-inducing adventure pics and videos, high-quality venue photos and videos – which of course, load fast – are a website must-have too.

Some event venues take photos and videos a step further with 3D walkthroughs and virtual reality (VR), like AllSeated’s VR. Tech tools like these greatly accelerate the sales process and reduce the need for repeated site visits or inspections. As Corbin Ball, event and trade show technology analyst said, “When used properly, the immersive realism of a VR site inspection of a hotel or a destination can be the next best thing to being there.”

Venue websites that utilize short, compelling copy, put strong visuals front and center and tap cutting-edge technologies like VR walk-throughs deliver the information millennials and Gen Z needs and wants along their buying journey – and can often eliminate the need to close the deal face-to-face.
Selling through Social Proof
Wikipedia defines social proof as a psychological phenomenon where people assume the actions of others in an attempt to reflect correct behavior for a given situation.

Robert Cialdini, author of “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” explained social proof further, saying, “we view a behavior as more correct in a given situation to the degree that we see others performing it”. In other words, in situations where we are uncertain about what to do, we assume that the people around us have more knowledge about what’s going on and what should be done.

This is a powerful concept event venues can put to use in their marketing efforts to help close deals faster and more efficiently. As one example, testimonials can put a planner’s mind at ease about booking a particular venue (i.e. if well-known company A had an event here, this must be a top-notch venue).

Influencer marketing is another powerful social proof strategy. According to Nielsen, 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from other consumers. Key brand advocates who spread the word on behalf of a venue to other planners can help close a deal too.

And of course, having an active social media presence helps a venue create awareness – which can be beneficial in the early stages as planners are looking for venue options.
Always-On Responsiveness
Spredfast and Precision Dialogue found a pretty telling tidbit: 60 percent of Gen Z folks are more likely than average consumers to hang up if their call isn’t answered in under 45 seconds.

In other words, if an event venue isn’t ready to respond immediately to questions or inquiries, the chance of losing business is high.

Event venues can deliver to planner’s needs and wants for instant response in several ways:
Easily downloadable floor plans, catering menus, AV lists and other relevant sales collateral available from a venue’s website
Instant messaging through a website or social media platforms — with chatbots making it easy to be “on” at all times
Responses to emails or phone inquiries in minutes, not hours

By embracing a digital approach to marketing and promotion, event venues can better capture the attention of millennials and Gen Z who are heavily invested in making buying decisions based on what they consume online – and save the in-person handshake to celebrate the end of a successful event.