Over the past few weeks I have been running a survey to find out exactly what your biggest challenges are when it comes to running a holiday let business.
From the feedback I have been getting it seems that many of you are keen to embrace new ways to promote your holiday rentals, but are unsure where to begin. There are mixed feelings about which websites to advertise on, confusion over the social media minefield, and even doubts about setting the right price for your rental in today´s market. I also see examples every day of very poor decor, staging and photography which I am sure will be having a real impact on bookings for the owner.
I know that many holiday home owners will have been hard at work since the Autumn to breathe new life into their marketing ahead of the 2013 bookings season, so I guess the purpose of this post is to recap the steps that we advocate for successful rentals.
The following 6 steps are what we call the “Holistic Approach” for holiday rental marketing. How would you say you are doing? We would love to hear your thoughts and how you might be doing things differently
Step 1: Preparing and presenting your property
You may know that my background is in Quality Management with the Tour Operators, but while trying not to let my own bias get to me ( ;-)) the most important piece advice I could ever give is to focus on Quality, Quality, Quality. Quality is what builds trust, creates happy holidays, good testimonials, repeat bookings, and quite simply, without it you will be in a perpetual cycle of chasing 100% new bookings each season. You can be the best salesperson in the world but if your property sucks then no one will come back.
Secondly, its one thing having a luxury equipped rental with designer guest bed room and a beautiful guest welcome basket for the finishing touches, but why would you then go and use a load of low-grade free listing sites with a few grainy iPhone photos? Believe me, I see it regularly! Quality should pervade everything in your holiday let business, from the care taken over choosing the guest room decor and furnishings, to the copywriting for your ads, to your photography, to the standard of your own website and the professionalism with which you treat your enquiries, guests and suppliers.
Step 2: Pricing & advertising your rentals
This very much ties in with step 1, because if you take care over the quality and presentation of your property then you should be able to charge prices your holiday home is worth and rise above the price war. Yes of course you must research your competition, take care to keep pricing realistic and keep abreast of trends and discounting tactics, but is it worth running your business at a loss just to get a few more bookings?
The other aspect of this is that you must be prepared to invest in marketing your holiday property online, unless you have a thousand friends on Facebook all ready to get their wallets out! The best holiday rental sites will cost you money, but many would agree that they are essential to get you going. You may also have to pay a property management company or agents commission to begin with, at least until you build up your client base, but these are all just natural expenses for running a small business and the benefits should far outweigh the costs.
Step 3: Getting a website for your holiday home
Whether it is essential to get your own holiday home website designed is a debate I often hear, and I also see many owners who do quite nicely just from advertising each year on holiday rentals listing sites. However if you are serious about making a solid business from your holiday home then you definitely need a website. In a way, it goes back to that issue of Quality – how much more impressed will a potential guest be when they land on your professional looking website and realise that this is a serious holiday proposition with real people and real stories behind it?
There are many practical advantage of having your own website too, some of which I talk about more in this post about the Self Catering Web Awards 2012
Step 4: Spreading the word via social media
Social Media sites such as Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest can be valuable in promoting your holiday let. They can be integrated as a natural extension to your own website and are increasingly important factors in winning search engine traffic for your business. But even if you do not have a website, social networks can also be used to boost visitors to your holiday property listings page and potentially generate more enquiries.
A good social media strategy will help you build a community of people who have a common interest in your destination, share stories about your area and property, and ultimately earn the trust of potential guests. Studies have shown that people need to “see” your brand as many as 7 times before they will consider doing business with you – so social media could be a vital asset.
Step 5: Perfecting guest relations
No matter how your guests found you, its how you treat them through every stage of the process from enquiry, to booking, to arrival and departure that really matters. If you behave impeccibly and hold the (somewhat clichéd) belief that “Customer is King” then you will not go far wrong.
In my old world of Tour Operating, it was often the guests with the worst problems that left the best reviews, because what counted was the hotels attitude towards resolving their issues and attend their needs. In an ideal world everything will be perfect from the outset and your holiday home will exceed their expectations and generate lots of 5 star reviews, but in reality there is huge potential for error when first starting a holiday rental business. This is to be expected, but the key is how you overcome it and the experience that your guests walk away with.
Step 6: The power of testimonials and repeat bookings
If you have already nailed steps 1-5 then you are almost certainly going to be in a position to be able to collect some powerful testimonials from your happy guests! These in turn can be published on your website, shared across your social media channels and hopefully be seen by massive audiences worldwide if you have the good sense to use websites like Trip Advisor.
There is no disputing the fact that the world has gone “Social”, so one of the most powerful tools for capturing more bookings is by giving people Social Proof that your holidays are good quality, priced right, include what you say they do and are, quite simply, worth booking!
As we develop the Rental Tonic website we plan to write more on these topics. So please do let us know what your holiday rental challenges are so that we can add more valuable free content for our readers and give even better support to our consulting clients. Please leave a comment below or contact us directly.