Weddings are big business for the hotel sector, but one of the problems has been how can a hotel target the right customer base?
Conversely, couples looking to wed can spend hours or days trying to find the ideal location for their nuptials.
Cork, Ireland -based weddingdates.ie /.co.uk provides a solution both for couples looking for the right venue and hoteliers looking to attract customers.
I always had a desire to “be my own boss” and work for myself.
Back then the term “entrepreneur” wasn’t as much of a sexy buzzword as it is now!
I’ve always enjoyed a personal challenge and I was at a cross roads in my life at the time in my mid 20’s, I knew that if I didn’t jump in and try my business then I could get stuck in a steady comfortable job and then I might never do it.
2. Please explain your business model. What is your revenue stream? How do you charge the hotels and suppliers who list on your website?
WeddingDates is a lead generation platform.
Our promise is to deliver leads to hotels and venues for dates they are trying to fill.
We do that in a number of ways; via our consumer facing websites (www.weddingdates.ie and www.weddingdates.co.uk) as well as a Facebook app for the venues own FB page allowing them to capture leads from FB and finally we provide them with a software plugin for their own website which allows their website visitors to check date availability and make enquiries.
As we are a “lead generator” we charge our hotels based on the volume of leads – we have 3 packages available which have max caps on the volume of leads a hotel can receive.
We also provide additional online marketing & promotion services.
3. How has weddingdates been financed? Are you the sole owner?
4. About how many hotels do you work with?
WeddingDates has been self-financed.
I took out a small business loan when I started which in 2008 at the beginning of the recession the bank required my father to go guarantor on the loan with me!
We have grown organically in that time and ploughed the profits back into the business to support the growth and development. I am a single founder and own 50% of the business. The rest of the shareholding is also in my family; my father and brother (who worked in the business for 6 years) are also directors.
5. What is the average sized wedding party you deal with and how much does the average wedding cost?
We currently have 650 hotels and venues on our books all over the UK and Ireland.
We have a very strong retention rate as the revenue reporting in the system demonstrates very transparently the effectiveness of the system – enquiries in, wedding bookings, conversion rate and revenue generated.
It makes for a compelling reason to renew!
6. What is most popular wedding season that you observe? Any difference between ROC, NI and GB?
All types of couples use our online service to find venues and plan their wedding.
We work with 3 star hotels to prestigious stately homes to quirky venues like Zoos and Museums! It is a real mix, but the average wedding is for 80-120 guests and the average spend is approximately €20'000 in Ireland and about 25% of UK couples spend between £10'000 - £15'000 excluding honeymoon.
Summer is most definitely the most popular time across the board.
With the change in the weather we have been having over recent years however there is a shift to later summer weddings, and June is decreasing in popularity in favour of September!
Christmas continues to be a popular time to tie the knot particular in more rural areas where emigration is high - they can combine Christmas visits home with a wedding.
7. Please describe the typical profile of the wedding customers.
8. How do you promote your site on the web? E.g. Google ads? SEM, SEO, etc.?
What I have learned is one size does not fit all when it comes to weddings and particularly nowadays when couples are paying for most or all of the wedding themselves, they have more of a say about the format of the day and how it goes.
Couples are putting more of their own personality into their big day. However, the traditional white wedding in a hotel or country house hotel is still in the majority.
Tradition reins large when it comes to big life events like weddings!
We promote ourselves on the web using a tried and tested SEO strategy, however nowadays it is nigh on impossible to rely on SEO alone.
You have to pay to play!
Google Ads is our biggest spend after payroll costs in the business. We also use Facebook ads, remarketing, email marketing, and social media marketing to drive traffic and build our audience.
9. Do you have any particular advice for a young entrepreneur starting out?
Don’t be afraid to ask for helpfrom thosepeople in your industry who you admire or who are way ahead of you in your journey.
I have found the willingness of people who are further along to help those starting out absolutely incredible.
The thing is, everyone remembers what it was like at the beginning and are generally willing to help. If you are reaching out to more senior/experienced people the best would be to be specific – don’t just send a general email saying “Do you have any advice or pointers for me”… ask them a specific question that you think they may know the answer to.
That way, they can engage with you quickly and easily, it doesn’t take up lots of their time and it allows them to feel good about helping you. Don’t make it hard for people to help you. If they are willing to give up their time, travel to meet them in their location of choice don’t expect them to travel to you!
10. Anything more you would like to add?
You are the only person who truly knows your own business.
Every one you tell your idea to, from family members, mentors, even taxi drivers will have an opinion.
It is so easy to get overwhelmed by all of these “helpful suggestions” take them on board and thank them for their input certainly, but stay laser focused on your core mission and drive forward without being side-tracked.
That is the key to exceptional execution of an idea – stay true to it and stay true to you.