How small actions can get big results

If we asked you right now what are the top priorities for your community centre, we’re willing to bet one of the below would be in your top 3:

  • Increase utilisation of the space
  • Make more use of empty or quiet times
  • Advertising the space
  • Increase revenue from the centre.
  • Automating or outsourcing admin tasks that take up time

We’re also guessing that these priorities need to be achieved with little or no budget, no increase in staff and no time to spend on it!

We’ve been lucky enough to work with many community centres, and through growing our own community, we’ve learned a few things along the way about how you can attract new users for little or no budget. Here’s 18 ideas for small, inexpensive actions you can take to increase bookings at your community centre.

community circle

Understanding your customer's journey can increase bookings

We like to think about the journey a customer goes on when they're looking for a space for their next event. Being mindful of how your customers find and book your space, and their specific needs and problems can give you great insights about what you can do to help them choose you. 
 
In a customer's journey to booking and rebooking with you, there are four main stages:
Attract customers to book with your community centre

ATTRACT

How can you let customers know your community centre  exists?

Engage Customers to book with your community centre

ENGAGE

How can you get customers to engage or look at your facility's website or socials?

Convert customers to book with your community centre

CONVERT

How can you convert customers to book with your community     centre?

Nurture customers to keep booking with your community centre

NURTURE

How can you get customers to keep coming back to your space?

18 Tactics you can take to increase bookings at your community centre

 
Here's a BIG PICTURE visualisation of your customer's journey to finding and booking your community space.
We've divided the ideas into 6 big themes across the Attract, Engage, Convert and Nurture stages.
 
Click on each theme below to go direct to those tactics. 
Attract -engage-convert-nurture
how community centres can make the most of your location
how community centres can engage the community on social media
how community centres can help people find you when they're looking
how community centres can create new customers
how community centres can make it easier for people to book with you
how community centres can get regular bookings

make the most of your location

Make the most of your location

 

One of your biggest assets as a community centre is YOUR LOCATION! You're right in the heart of the community you serve and your existing and potential new customers are walking and driving past your door every day. Here's what you can do to make the most of these opportunities.

1. shake up your signage

Shake up your signage

  • Make sure you have a big bold sign that people can see and read (do the optometrist test - can you read it from across the street!)
  • Does it shout about your amazing community facilities for hire?
  • Does it change? People ignore what they've seen once? How could you change it up or create something people want to engage with...
  • Chalk pavement drawings, Christmas window decorations, funny post it murals?

Your visitors, visitors

Not everyone who visits your centre has booked with you. They're most likely to be the guests of your customers - e.g. think yoga groups, mainly music. How can you let these visitors know about your facility hire? Some ideas are:

  • Promote what you do in or near the visitor book
  • Grab people's emails on check in, so you can send them an intro offer for hiring the space
  • Put up posters and business cards around the facility

Everybody needs good neighbours

  • Are there opportunities to promote your facility hire with other businesses near your centre?

    Many small businesses need external meeting space, and they may not be aware that your amazing and reasonable space is literally on their doorstep. Go door to door to meet your neighbours or print of flyers or business cards.

    You can also ask the neighbourhood cafes if you can leave post cards.


Engage the community on social media

Engage the community on social media

 

Your social media channels are a really great way to keep your centre front of mind when people are looking for a venue. Everyone has different resources, approaches and purposes to updating this, so we've just put a few ideas that specifically help increase bookings.

2.Engage the community on social media

Share pics of people using your space

Sometimes people get stuck with what to post on social media - but  as a community centre, you have an unlimited supply of amazing 'content worthy' moments happening every day. Talk to your regular users and ask if you can photo what they're doing and post to your page - they will probably love that you're promoting what they do too.

This content helps future bookers understand the potential of your space for their ideas and activities.

Special offers for followers

If you have lots of followers for your community work, but not many that actually book with you, you could promote a special offer or competition through facebook to get people to start using your facilities. Some ideas...

  • Ask people to submit a caption competition for a funny pic to win a free booking
  • Make a Where's Wally style puzzle with a hidden discount code
  • Promote a discount for quieter periods e.g. lunchtime special

Add a 'Book now' button

Did you know Facebook enables you to add a button to your page so people can book direct with you. This can take people direct to:
  • Your space page on an online booking platform (like Spacetoco)
  • Your website's booking enquiry form
  • A facebook booking tool

This is really simple to set up. Check out this easy article for how to add a Facebook Book Now button to increase bookings

Check out kete aronui's Facebook page for how they use Book Now. 

kete aronui facebook

Help people find you when they're looking

Help people find you when they're looking

 

Most people start their search for a space to use on google with a search like 'community space in X' or 'cheap venue for X.' Do you know how easy it is for people to find you through google? You don't have to pay expensive SEO experts to improve your place in the results. Here's some basic tips.

3.Help people find you when they're looking

Know your magic keywords

What would new customers search for if they were looking for a space like yours? Maybe ask your latest customer how they found you. An example might be 'Kids party space in Papakura'

Take this key phrase and look on your website - how many times do you mention this phrase or the words?

Write a couple of blog posts or update your pages to reference this phrase in titles and content on your site. You'll be amazed the difference this makes.

Google my business

If you want google to rank you in your listings, then do everything you can to tell google about your business.

Quick and easy things to do are:

  • Make sure you have a Google My Business Listing It takes a little time, but it's going to pay dividends in helping people find you.
  • Make sure your centre is on google maps, that the address and open hours are correct and that it links to your website or facebook. You also do this through Google My Business.

List on free marketplace sites

You build up 'authority' with google by being referenced and linked to across other web pages on the internet. The more places you are mentioned and linked to the better. You can list your space or offering for free on:

Spacetoco.com

Neighbourly

yelp.co.nz

All of these...

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Create new customers

Create new customers

 

If you want to get more bookings, you might need to help new customers understand the true potential of your facility. Getting new customers who might bring opportunities for your community may involve thinking a little differently. These are a bit out of the box, but bear with us - we've seen them work!

4. Create new customers

Do something different

How might you get a few hundred new people into your space, who've never been in before?  Look for organisations who are looking for space for their communities and offer to host them as a one off freebie to help them and their guests know you exist. We work with Sofar Sounds and have helped churches host rock concerts and community centres host folk nights.

Read about how we've helped our community centre hosts put on Sofar gigs.

Collaborate with suppliers

Do you ever host weddings or bigger events? These often have a few suppliers involved - like caterers or florists. One thing everyone wants more of is images to showcase what they do. If you have suppliers that work with you a lot and you know a photographer that needs some new content, you can offer to host a collaborative photo shoot. Everyone brings their stuff to mock up an event, and everyone gets to share the photos and amplify each others offerings on social media. Win, win win.

Become a hub

If you have community space, you might have an area you could invite people to hang out and meet in for free. Maybe you have a nice patch of grass that would be perfect for a few bean bags. Maybe you have a car park that could host a monthly market. The more people that interact with your space and feel welcome and invited in, the more chance they will remember you for future event or group bookings.


Make it easier for people to book with you

Make it easier for people to book with you

 

When we think about about the journey our customers go on when they book community facilities, there may be some hurdles that are inadvertently stopping customers from booking with you. These are usually pretty easy to solve and can make a huge difference to converting 'maybe' customers into actual bookings.

5. Make it easier for people to book with you

Descriptions and photos

Putting more information about your space (e.g. what you can and can't do, the equipment, the access, the catering policy, the lighting....) means you're answering customers questions, saving them and yourselves time. Many customer's would find it easier to choose a space where they have the info they need to make a decision, rather than a space with limited info that forces them to call.

Lots of great photos from different angles and floor-plans are also helpful

Blitz the barriers

An interesting exercise you can do to understand what might be an unintentional barrier to people booking with you is to step into the customers shoes. Try to forget everything you know and be as true to a new customer as you can. As you go through the process take note of any information you can't find, any glitches in the process, any frustrations. These are the top things to look at and see if you can smooth over with new processes or improved information.

Read more about how St Luke's in Remuera benefitted, when they chose to improve how their customer's make bookings.

Take bookings online

Sad as it may be that customers no longer want to speak to a human when they book, that is the norm for many customers. We can book taxi's, hotels, hair apps and our dinner online and people expect the same for community facilities.

At SpacetoCo you can get list your spaces for free and get set up to take online bookings in as little as 20 minutes.

The benefits of online bookings for community spaces

If you're thinking about moving to online bookings, check out our guide to the benefits of enabling online bookings for both community spaces and the people they serve.

Read the guide here. 


Get regular bookings

Get regular bookings

 

Most community centres we work with get the majority of their bookings revenue from regular customers, who use the facilities weekly or monthly. Regular bookings create predictive revenue and are far less hassle to administrate - so we recommend you take an active approach to finding these customers.

6. get regular bookings

HEY! We take regular bookings...

Have you made it very very clear that you're open to regular bookings? You'd be surprised how many people won't ask if they can't see it's a thing that you do.

Make sure it's clear on your website, in your facility and in email campaigns to your customers.

You can also advertise the slots you want regular bookings for e.g. if 9am on Thursday's is freed up - shout about it on social media - it may be the nudge someone needs to start hosting their group with you.

Go fish

You don't need to wait for community groups to find you. You can find them! Often new groups are forming on Facebook all the time, and they're looking for space to meet. You can search for groups near you that might be a good fit e.g. Book groups in Remuera. You can then follow or join them or direct message the organisers with an introductory offer. You can also post what they're doing on your feed - everyone loves some extra publicity for their organisation.

Incentivise regular bookings

If you notice a group is showing signs of becoming regular, you can reach out to them and incentivise them with a special rate if they commit to a series of bookings with you. This means you get more predictable revenue and they get a nice deal and no more bookings hassle.

Other incentives customers like is having the slot guaranteed for them, being able to post pay for bookings monthly, being able to promote what they do at your facility. If they're successful - then you're successful!

 

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