Top Tip: Anticipating Enquiries Pays
We noticed that one of the influential factors in converting an enquiry to a booking is a timely response. We’ve also noticed that there is a distinct correlation between the weather and the number of enquiries received. These things are worth noticing as they help to ensure that you can be standing by ready to receive and respond to enquiries as and when they arrive. You may well have discovered your own patterns – and feel free to share your thoughts on this, but speaking personally, I love and hate (the latter, just a teeny bit) a sunny Sunday. That’s because people tend to drift outdoors, enjoying the fine weather with a BBQ or day trip into the countryside and loving it.
This appears to prompt people into thinking about their, as yet unbooked holiday, resulting in an hour or two surfing the internet after tea, looking for likely places to stay. By about 9pm in the evening they are ready to contact their shortlist of possible cottages and send e-mails winging their way to the likely suspects. That’s the bit I love. The bit I hate is that these always start arriving around 9.30pm and continue until around midnight.
Being committed to good customer service (or a sucker for punishment as my wife occasionally mutters), I feel honour bound to respond straight away with a decent, well-crafted response. It may be beyond the call of duty but it does work, and Sunday nights or Monday mornings can be very profitable indeed. As ever, the enquiries it is easiest to convert to bookings are those that come from a property’s own website. I spoke to a few guests who had been one of the Sunday enquiry gang and booked the following day and asked why they had chosen us. The common factor in their response was that they were impressed with the ease My Favourites allowed them to go straight to an owner's own website which offered more information than an advert, but when they then received a swift response to their enquiry it helped to back up their initial gut feeling that this was indeed the cottage meant for them.
All this means is that you need to be aware of the times when enquiries are most likely to arrive, and be in a position to respond to them straight away and, like the effort put into mowing a lawn, the result is very, and in this case financially, rewarding. So, bring on the Sunny Sundays and be prepared to work late! On our part we will continue to help you by channelling prospective bookers to your website as quickly as we can. Whether it is a sunny Sunday or not.
The next 'Must Have' for your cottage?
It wasn't so long ago that things like a dishwasher, digital TV, Wi-fi and an iPod docking station were only to be found in luxury cottages. Not any more! We've been wondering what the next 'Must Have' gadget is and got to thinking about the level of technology that guests arrive with, and the needs all these gadgets bring. The last time my family went away I worked out that we a total of 2 laptops, 2 digital cameras, 4 mobile phones, 2 Kindle's and a video-camera recorder. Each evening that mean going in search of 11 plug sockets to charge them. That's an awful lot of plug sockets and a lot of gadgets scattered about the house. It's not going to be long before a phone or other gadget becomes the most common piece of property left behind when guests leave, which is going to become a pain when returning them by post.
So, we think a really good 'Must Have' (early 2014) is a multiple docking station. A gadget that allows for multiple devices to be charged all at once and in the same place. They don't cost a fortune and your guests will love them. As a parent, it also means I know that my kids will be asleep upstairs rather than online as I'll be able to see all their gadgets in one place at night.
As an owner it'll reduce the number of times you'll have to deal with a gadget that gets left behind because it was being recharged in an out of the way corner of the cottage and forgotten in the final flurry of departure.
As a potential booker, it also sends a strong signal to that the owners of this cottage genuinely care about their guest's well-being, so it could even help attract more bookings. It's just a thought - but I bet it is one that a lot of people will be having as the use of hand held technology grows.
Cottage Marketing: A Fundraising Parallel
Every tried to raise funds for a good cause? The absolute golden rule of fundraising is this: No one will give you a penny simply because you need the money – no matter how good your cause. The reasons people give is because of the benefit to them. It might be the knowledge that in giving they will save the life of a child or a precious painting for the nation, but it is the justification for giving. It’s that old ‘WIIFM’ (What’s In It For Me) factor. As important is that you have just 5 seconds to give a potential donor a ‘light-bulb moment’ as they make up their minds whether to give. It’s called creating an emotional response. Get the emotional response right and people will then look at the small print to find reason to justify their emotional decision. This also works for marketing holiday cottages and persuading people to book yours.
So, when you are advertising your own holiday property, ensure you do two things. Allow a potential booker to believe within 5 seconds of landing on your site, why a holiday in your country cottage or seaside apartment will benefit them. Then follow this up with the information they will seek to back up their initial reaction such as prices, availability, list of facilities etc. We’ve purposely designed the format for presenting a cottage on My Favourite Holiday Cottages to facilitate this response – how you draft the content and select images is up to you. Just keep this golden rule in mind when writing. You should do the same with your website. What is the ‘wow’ moment that is created on your home page or advert when someone uploads it? Generally it is a decent-sized beautiful photo that makes the exterior or interior look utterly desirable in a way that the booker imagines themselves and their family in the image. A good, catchy title can work too – but they can be subjective.
The camera cannot lie! Remember – no one will book your holiday cottage simply because you need them to! When describing your property and its features, try to focus on the benefits. Explain why its location or facilities will help to make a holiday more relaxing or enjoyable. For example: “Bunk beds: Children love our bunk beds which means you won’t have trouble getting them to bed earlier than usual – giving the grown ups a little more time to themselves in the evenings. And of course your children will be less tired and irritable the following day.”
If you are redesigning your website, or just refreshing your listing on My Favourites, then give a little thought to how you can use the photos and content to create an instant, positive emotional response to each page. Get this right and you’ll find it a lot easier to convert enquiries coming from the visitors we drive to your site into bookings. There’s a very good article on this theme published by our friends at Kissmetrics worth reading called (and don’t be put off by the title) Using Neuroscience to Design a Better Blog As the admen (and women) say – “Sell the sizzle – not the sausage.”
Reviews and Testimonials
You can tell people how great your self-catering accommodation is, but, in addition to photos, the other great persuader is a good testimonial or review. Don’t forget that you can display both on your listing free of charge. Our analytics show that those of you who are posting reviews are enjoying additional traffic as search engines like what they call ‘user-generated content’ – which probably means more enquiries for your website late in the evening after a sunny Sunday. Sorry about that. By the way, you can upload a copy of a testimonial left in your visitors’ book AND invite guests to post their own reviews by sending them the web link to your listing page on My Favourite Holiday Cottages. We moderate all reviews from guests. If any are openly critical, we will run them by you first and let you tell us whether you want them published or not. If you’re reading this after your Easter guests have departed – collect their feedback and upload the juicy reviews today! If you cannot remember your user name (it’s generally your property’s e-mail address) – e-mail us and we’ll tell you. There’s nothing like a glowing up to date comment from a guest to sway a potential booker’s opinion.
Cut VAT on Visitor Accommodation
If you haven’t heard about it, there’s a very persuasive campaign being fought to persuade the government to reduce VAT on visitor accommodation. Apparently the UK is only one of 4 European Union countries to charge maximum levels of VAT to self catering accommodation, hotels and attractions. In countries where the rate has been cut, the subsequent boom in tourism merely restores the level of tax collected by the Exchequer, so everybody benefits. If you want to find out more about this campaign and lend it your support, then you can follow it on @CutTourismVAT or find it on www.cuttourismvat.co.uk You’ve got nothing to lose!
I hope you’ve found this Newsletter to be beneficial to you and your plans to get more bookings for your holiday cottage. Do let us know if there are any areas of advice, from how to make better use of your listing to other holiday property-marketing topics, and I’ll cover them in future issues. And don’t forget, any suggestions and ideas we can use will be rewarded with a Featured Favourites listing. Send them to Rick