Believe it or not, the holiday season is nearly upon us. Year after year, we notice that holiday event planning seems to sneak up on planners — suddenly it’s November and they haven’t booked a venue or secured a date for their holiday party.

Planners are booking events later than ever before, often with a lead time of less than 90 days. While it can be stressful to have everyone scrambling to plan their group events for the holidays, it doesn’t have to be. Be proactive, and help planners help you by starting the conversation about their group business needs for the season. Here are four tips to help increase your group business for the holidays.

1. Utilize Your CRM

There’s no harm in making the first move towards securing group business for the 2018 holiday season. Maximize the value of your sales and catering software by utilizing the customer relationship management aspect of the program. You have a wealth of data in your existing contacts and accounts — from business won and lost. There are two easy ways to revisit these customers and potentially generate new leads for holiday business:

  • Start by contacting groups and planners who hosted an event at your property in the last three years. Inquire about their plans for this year and ask if they’re planning to book again. If you have the time to write personalized messages, let them know about the availability you have near the date they booked previously. For example, “We currently have the second week of December available if that would work for you again.” Going the extra mile to show you remembered their event and their group will make all the difference.
  • Review your lost business for the last three years and filter the results by the reason the business was turned down. Reach out to planners who you lost due to lack of availability and offer the dates you have available near their previously requested date.

2. Incentivize Early Booking

Remind your repeat groups and planners that now is the time to secure their holiday event venue and catering. Booking group business early in the calendar saves your team a lot of headaches and last-minute work. You can incentivize early booking by naming a specific date all holiday parties must be booked by. Offer groups that meet your deadline a percentage off their total cost, a lower food and beverage minimum, a free appetizer, or another compelling offer your venue can reasonably make.

3. Revisit Your Menus

Groups are tired of the same old, same old holiday treats. It’s all about outdoing yourself and planners, and groups are willing to go the extra mile to set their party apart. If you haven’t given much thought to your holiday menus yet, now is the time to make sure they are updated. They can be a great promotional piece — try the new holiday sangria or cranberry goat cheese tart. Varied and unique holiday menus could even increase repeat business since planners will know they’ll get the same great service, but the event won’t be a replica of previous years.

4. Dig Out the Festive Photos

Everyone loves reminiscing about their holiday celebrations, looking at old picture albums of gatherings with their family and friends. Do you have photos of your venue decked out for the holidays, or shots of other groups having a blast at your venue space? Include those in your emails and proposals, and let potential clients see just what they’re in for. Also add them to your website and post them on social media to increase awareness of your holiday event offerings and catch the eyes of new planners.