It’s fairly common for new wedding venues to use free software like Google Docs, Excel spreadsheets, e-calendars and email plus cost-saving tools like whiteboards, paper printouts and folders while landing their first bookings and gaining a foothold in the event industry.
Unfortunately, these solutions – though assembled with the best of intentions – can quickly lead to costly process gaps, create unnecessary work redundancies and restrain growth and expansion for new event venues.
Hidden Barn Venue, a relatively new, rustic-themed wedding venue in Florida, found themselves in that exact scenario – hindered by time-consuming processes, tools and applications that they quickly outgrew.
Michelle Sanabria, wedding coordinator at Hidden Barn, and her venue manager soon realized that their startup toolkit of applications and processes, although creative, were starting to weigh them down and were costing them quite a bit in regard to work hours and future bookings.
“Before Planning Pod, we were using a hodgepodge of emails and spreadsheets and using software for things they weren’t necessarily designed to do,” said Michelle. “It was just eating up time, and those things don’t bring in revenue. We weren’t bringing in more business because we were spending too much time managing the business.”
How all-in-one wedding venue software helped Hidden Barn hit the ground running
Although free and low-cost solutions can be a great short-term fix to get a new wedding venue or meeting space up and running, these inexpensive solutions eventually end up costing an event venue vastly more than what you save using them.
In this article, we’ll discuss how Hidden Barn Venue was able to rapidly grow their business and save 62+ hours every month by using Planning Pod‘s tools to address common challenges for wedding venues, such as:
- Fixing process gaps caused by disconnected systems and stand-alone tools like email, e-calendars, task management apps and spreadsheets
- Identifying new tools and workflows to replace ones that are not ideal for event planning and resource management
- Building trust with prospects and beating out larger competitors that have more resources.
- Staying on top of communicating with clients and prospects without letting anything slip through the cracks.
Do you run a new or existing wedding venue experiencing problems similar to these? Just know that you aren’t alone and that Planning Pod has helped dozens of wedding venues like yours streamline their processes and land more clients! Request a free trial and see how.
Challenge: Managing processes and tools that take time and energy away from growing the business
If there is one thing inefficiencies can do, it can distract you from maximizing and growing your business. Hidden Barn relied on a makeshift system of various tools and systems to manage their venue bookings, wedding planning, party rentals, invoicing, finances and more. And as time went on, they found they were spending more of their energy and resources maintaining their processes instead of working on the business.
The many disconnected, stand-alone applications, tools and manual processes created “process gaps” for Hidden Barn, where information could easily get lost, buried or simply not updated properly … ultimately leading to lost leads, forgotten details and eventually unhappy brides and grooms.
Further, many of the programs they were using to document and track important information weren’t designed for those purposes, leaving significant functionality gaps and creating unnecessary workarounds that opened the door for errors.
“We got to a point that we were getting too big, and there were just too many details to manage,” said Michelle. “We had my system for planning weddings, bar event details were on another spreadsheet, and we had to do invoicing with Quickbooks and Excel. We just got to a point where we needed something more professional. We had to start thinking bigger.”
This led to another big challenge: overcoming the growing pains of running a newer venue and the “you don’t know what you don’t know” dilemma.
Without the accumulated experience of a long-standing venue (including lots of trial-and-error in finding optimal solutions), Hidden Barn, like many other newer venues, didn’t have a blueprint of what to do next. Business was bottlenecking in some places, and they were finding themselves strained to maintain their manual processes and procedures.
“We did what we could with what we had, but you don’t know what you don’t know,” said Michelle.
In the beginning, new venues can usually get by on manual processes and a few cheap or free tools. However, once business starts hitting all cylinders and you’re managing 10 or more bookings, the delicate system starts to get stretched to thin and you begin to spend more time managing your process than booking new clients and growing your business – creating a vicious cycle of investing in more time-consuming and inefficient “free” tools at the cost of future business.
And with big dreams of expansion in the pipeline, including building a second event space and becoming a multi-location venue operation, Hidden Barn didn’t have the time or patience for any of these vicious cycles.
“We need to walk before we can run, so it’s about really understanding the need in the market and then getting the Hidden Barn to the place where it is operationally sound and solidified,” said Michelle.
“Now, our goal is about getting everything on unified platforms and uniform processes.”
Solution: An affordable, all-in-one wedding venue booking software that integrates all of the necessary planning tools into one, interconnected program
One of the reasons why stand-alone tools don’t work well for wedding venues is because they often don’t encompass the full complexity of what is required to run a wedding venue. One tool may help you complete a specific task, but then you’re often left manually updating fields and transferring information from one program to the next.
With Planning Pod, Michelle and her team were able to eliminate waste in their processes and gain access to new features that were never available in their other systems.
For starters, Planning Pod’s wedding venue management software provides a suite of business management tools that all work together in sync and share information, eliminating the need for double-entry of data. These include tools that enable you to:
- Track event bookings, prospective events and holds as well as appointments, tasks and payment due dates via a color-coded online booking calendar … which also provides warnings if you are about to double-book a particular room or space.
- Build colorful, detailed event proposals with unlimited line items, categories, image galleries and pricing details as well as detailed banquet event orders that pull related data from other areas of the application.
- Create online legal contracts and track electronic signatures with contract management tools.
- Collect payments quickly with online invoicing and payment processing via credit card processors like PaySimple, Square and Stripe.
Next, Planning Pod provides workflows and automations that turn time-consuming tasks into instant accomplishments. Examples include:
- Lead management tools for collecting leads via lead intake forms you can embed into your website; notifying users of new incoming leads; and pipeline tracking and reminders.
- Reusable templates for quick-turn proposals, contracts, invoices, BEOs, food-and-beverage packages / menus, floor plans and more.
- Payment reminders and automated payments that you can set-it-and-forget-it for each invoice.
And Planning Pod makes it easy for your clients to do business with you by delivering:
- Online e-signatures so your clients can quickly sign off on proposals, contracts and BEOs.
- Client portals where your clients can log in to view and sign proposals and contracts; view and pay invoices; track tasks assigned to them; and fill out forms to provide you with additional information regarding their event.
- A centralized communications tool that lets you and your team send and receive all emails regarding your leads and events (more on this later).
Planning Pod is designed to be a one-stop event management software system for wedding venues and event planners, eliminating the need for any additional software, tools, programs and even notebooks.
“I’m old school and I usually have a pen and paper planner where I write things down. But I am now to the point where I go to Planning Pod every time instead of my planner,” said Michelle.
Challenge: Collaboration issues and organizational deficiencies caused by using an imperfect tool for the job
Spreadsheets are excellent tools for building budgets and making calculations. However, when it comes to organizing venue bookings and event planning details, it lacks the full functionality that an event manager or venue manager would need to track that information.
If you’re hesitant to give up your spreadsheet, Michelle understands exactly where you’re coming from. In addition to her position as a wedding planner at Hidden Barn Venue, she also holds down a full-time day job as a project manager at a local hospital, where her focus is on organization.
“I’m originally a project manager for a large hospital in Florida, so that’s where my brain usually goes: organization, then tracking,” she said in response to her love for spreadsheets. “Believe it or not, wedding planning and project management are very similar as far as trajectory and planning goes. It’s the same kind of thing but different industries.”
With her background, it’s a no-brainer why she applied her expert Excel skills to her new position as a wedding planner (and why she had a hard time letting go of it).
“I’ll be very transparent in that I was super hesitant about software, so much that I avoided the initial Planning Pod demo because I thought my spreadsheet system was perfect and that it was working fine,” said Michelle. “I definitely was not up to adapting to something different quickly.”
Unfortunately, just because her spreadsheet worked for her, it didn’t always translate as easily to other co-workers. With the technical challenges of working from different computer systems and having varying knowledge levels in spreadsheets across the team, Michelle would often find herself spending hours correcting and reformatting the sheet.
“The biggest problem with spreadsheets was on the collaboration side of things,” she said. “Whenever my team members went into the spreadsheet and made changes, they might make changes to the formulas or add rows or columns. So, I spent more time fixing, formatting and readjusting spreadsheets. And with formatting, every time there was a new addition or change, I’d have to redo the whole thing. It took a lot of time. And when I had to share it with my clients, I would have to download it as a PDF every time.”
Spreadsheets also didn’t provide her with the added capabilities available in event management software, like assigning tasks to various staff members and automated workflows.
“So, with spreadsheets, things like collaboration and using them to manage and assign tasks just weren’t working the way I wanted them to,” she admitted.
Solution: Simplify the collaboration process and make adding, managing and editing information easy for everyone
With a centralized, user-friendly event management solution like Planning Pod, the booking process becomes easier and more intuitive, streamlining processes and saving massive amounts of time, confusion and miscommunications. That’s because Planning Pod was built to address the unique venue needs for managing event spaces, like planning events, budgeting and CRM tracking.
Still, Michelle wasn’t buying it.
“When you are hesitant about something, you are going to nitpick it,” she said. “I kept saying ‘my spreadsheet does this and this,’ and I was like, ‘nope the software doesn’t do this’ and ‘nope, I can’t push this button to do these things.’”
But when she received the free training on how to use and customize Planning Pod’s wedding venue management software, she couldn’t help but let go of her attachment to her detailed spreadsheet and fall in love with the platform.
“When I got my hands on Planning Pod, that was a stepping stone. But when I started with the training and realized what I could do with it, that was the turning point. I wanted to know more. And once I turned that corner, I was loving it every day.”
With Planning Pod, Michelle can now complete a mountain of tasks she wasn’t able to accomplish with her spreadsheet previously, and some in a matter of minutes. Some of the unique features that Michelle loves about Planning Pod’s venue management software are:
- A wealth of integrated client and team management tools that streamline your event planning and booking systems.
- Customizable task list templates that make importing and assigning event tasks easy and that automatically coordinate due dates and send out email and text reminders.
- Templated form builders and online booking tools that collect details and input from brides and grooms electronically.
- Day-of-event schedule builder that sends real-time updates via email or text, keeping clients, caterers, vendors and other team members on the same page the day of the event.
Planning Pod’s wedding venue software also makes it easy for all team members to access account details and collaborate online, anywhere, anytime by providing…
- Unlimited users with varying permission levels that allow team members and contractors to view, edit or manage essential event details.
- A mobile friendly version that makes it simple to access Planning Pod via phone, tablet or computer and make updates in real-time as they happen (no mobile app required).
“Now I look at my old spreadsheet and shake my head and say, ‘What was I thinking?’” admits Michelle.
Challenge: Winning the trust and business of brides and grooms in a competitive marketplace
When brides and grooms search for a venue to celebrate their vows, they’re usually looking for more than just a beautiful location. They’re seeking someone they can trust to guide them through the overwhelming process and deliver on their vision.
“When I meet the bride and groom for the first time, they have been doing everything on their own up to that point, and they say, ‘Oh my gosh Michelle, I don’t know what I’m doing!’ Then I tell them, ‘Don’t worry, just give everything to me, I’ll track it all in Planning Pod and we’re good.’”
For smaller wedding venues or new event spaces competing against larger hotels and restaurant chains with more staff and facilities, building that initial trust can be an uphill battle.
To make up for the difference, independent venues and small hospitality groups often feel they need to “overcompensate” to convince brides and grooms that they can deliver the same caliber of quality as any large, established chain. They may feel that they lack the fancy documents or presentations of their large competitors and have a harder time helping clients visualize the benefits of working with them.
Solution: Offering an on-staff wedding coordinator and impressing clients with branded documents and a professional venue management system
One of the unique ways that Hidden Barn has separated themselves from the competition was through Michelle, an on-site wedding planner included in the cost of the venue rental.
“At the Hidden Barn, you automatically get a planner,” Michelle explained. “It’s a cost the venue is willing to take on to have flawless events.”
Having the added assistance of an experienced wedding coordinator to handle the day-of happenings and to help wrap up loose ends in the month leading up to the big day is a big win for busy brides and grooms. Even those couples working with an external wedding planner breathe a little easier knowing that the two planners can coordinate and work together to create the best wedding.
“I wish I could consult with other venues to add an event planner to the mix because the pros really outweigh the cons,” Michelle said.
Another lead management tactic Hidden Barn now uses to attract more clients is by showing off how Planning Pod can enhance their entire experience. Some of the extras Michelle uses to win bids are:
- Custom-branded proposals and invoices available on-screen or as printable PDFs – with clean designs, colorful pictures, image galleries and attachable files.
- Customized event floor plan designs that demonstrate their event layout precisely as described in their initial meeting, which can also be used to communicate with set-up crews on the day of the event and track guest check-ins if necessary.
- Access to the user-friendly client portal where clients can see how easy it is to track progress, review event details and pricing, and make online payments.
Planning Pod’s wedding venue software solutions make it easier for clients to understand everything included in their package and helps the sales management team build trust and credibility.
“At our first meeting, I literally show them all the information and processes in Planning Pod and it gives them that assurance and trust that they can turn everything over to us and we will just do it for them,” said Michelle.
“At that moment, you can see the weight lifted, their eyes sparkle and they are ready to actually get married. They are sold because the bond has been created and the trust is there.”
Challenge: Keeping track of and communicating constantly evolving event details
Wedding venues live in a perpetual state of change when it comes to their clients and events. Sometimes event planners must deal with indecisive brides, unresponsive vendors and last-minute issues with suppliers, and so they must stay on top of each detail and make sure those changes are communicated to everyone.
Michelle is all too familiar with this, which is why she believes that “collaboration and communication are key to getting things done right.”
“In this industry, the bride changes her mind practically every day, and all of those things have high repercussions if you aren’t always on top of them.”
However, knowing what needs to be done and making it happen are two different things. Hidden Barn required a communication system that would automatically track and share changes in real-time so everyone would know exactly where and when changes were made.
Solution: Centralized email and communications portal
Instead of manually updating each part of the process and sending emails from many individual inboxes, venues can utilize software solutions that provide a centralized email and communication portal, ensuring you don’t miss anything.
Integrated into Planning Pod’s wedding venue software is a smart event CRM and email communications tool that automatically tracks a contact’s email correspondence with all staff members and stores everything in their event. With this system, each staff member can send and receive email from inside Planning Pod using their existing email address, and messages are displayed in one central inbox. This way, everyone on the venue management team will know what has already been communicated to the client or what needs to be followed up on.
Planning Pod’s email portal also makes it easy to create quick email templates for frequently sent messages and even set up basic automation sequences.
Michelle particularly loves the email templates. Instead of spending lots of time trying to save and track messages in her current emailing system, she now uses to Planning Pod to “easily find and customize email templates and send them to clients through the system.
How can venue management software help you overcome your challenges?
While Hidden Barn may be a unique venue, their problems are not. At Planning Pod, we have found that many wedding venues and event spaces experience the same or similar issues. That is why we’ve built a fully comprehensive and customizable wedding venue management software to address the specific needs of event managers from any event industry sector.
Besides the benefits listed above, our tools can also help increase registration and ticket sales and streamline the ticketing process; create event websites that connect to social media; manage multi-location event spaces; facilitate food and beverage management; manage corporate meeting rooms and facilities; and improve attendee management.
And although we aren’t the only company offering a venue management software and event booking engine – our competitors include Tripleseat, Event Temple, EventPro, Priava, Skedda, Function Tracker, Artifax Event and Ivvy – we do appeal to many wedding venues because with Planning Pod they…
- Save 62+ hours of busywork every month by using our tools
- Get up and running in their account within 6-16 hours
- Find that our user-friendly tools fit their needs better and are quickly adopted by staff
We serve more than just event venues and wedding planners, too. Large corporations, museums, golf courses and theaters for the performing arts also benefit from the plethora of tools available in our event planning software suite.
Is your venue getting bogged down by juggling too many different tools and processes? Are you curious about how a venue management system like Planning Pod can help streamline your processes and boost your revenues? Request a free trial of our event management solution.