10 Cost effective ways to increase your bookings in 2011


   
David Prescod has a Masters degree in marketing, and lectured in tourism marketing at the North Warwickshire & Hinckley College. In 2006 he and his brother fulfilled a lifelong dream of buying a holiday house in Barbados, in memory of their parents who originated from the island.

Since they began to rent it out, David has applied various marketing techniques to promote his property to the public, at great success. Here he shares some of the techniques he plans to use in the year ahead to have a prosperous 2011.

 

 
 
 

 

With the recession beginning to bite, public sector workers losing their jobs and travellers becoming more cautious about their expenditure, it has become increasingly important for holiday home owners to demonstrate value for money and make potential guests feel special, privileged and valued as a customer. 

Greater emphasis has been placed on the annual holiday by travellers as they increasingly seek to relax and unwind from their increasingly stressful daily routines.  So how can you engage with your customers reassuring them that your holiday home is the one for them?  How can you do this in a cost effective way when your own finances are stretched?  The answer is Digital Marketing.  Simply put, this is the promoting of your holiday home using the Internet, mobile and other interactive channels.  You can use digital marketing techniques effectively to increase your enquiries and ultimately bookings for 2011.  The following are my top 10 tips for 2011 that I will be seeking to implement for my property.  I have indicated the time and cost for each.


1. Know your customers

It is important to know the profile and trend of customers travelling to your destination so that you can effectively target them with your marketing.  HomeAway.co.uk provide market information for popular destinations so use this and do your own research too.  Are there any new airlines and routes planned to your destination? Are there changes in the exchange rate? Is there a new national tourism board campaign targeting customers from new markets? All of this is important as you must know who your target customer is.

Time: Medium    
Cost:
Zero


2. Research what your customers want

The requirements of travellers constantly change so being aware of their needs and wants is crucial.  This may differ from what you think so it is important to research consumer trends and also ask current and past guests how you could improve your offer.  Surveymonkey  is a free online tool that you can use to survey past and future guest.  Or you can also download the Owner Resources Guest Feedback Survey for free. Feedback is invaluable and it also demonstrates to repeat guests that you care.

Time: Medium   
Cost:
Zero


3. Review your listing

It may be time to update your HomeAway.co.uk advert with new narrative and photos.  Have you visited recently and have new photos?  Are there new attractions and facilities in the area of your home that you are simply not telling guests about?  Does your listing read as a personal message to the reader?  Make sure that your listing is up to date and appealing to the reader.

Time: Low
Cost:
Zero  


4. Facebook business page

Whether you have your own website or not, it is vital that you create your own Facebook business page.  It is free to do and creates an additional presence of your holiday home on the web.  Most of all Google love listing these pages!  If you have a personal Facebook page then it is easy to invite your friends to join your business page and select ‘like’ your business page.  This will automatically be seen by all of their friends and they will in turn spread the word about your holiday home. This is called 'viral word of mouth marketing', as powerful as a testimonial and a recommendation.

Time: Low       
Cost:
Zero


5. YouTube Video

Video will be significant in 2011 as more travellers access websites from more mobile devices.  Youtube is one of the key drivers for this trend and is the second biggest search engine after Google. You may already have video footage which you can upload to Youtube.  If so post it up there including key data about your holiday home. Again Google love listing videos in their search results.  If you do not have any video, you at least have photos which you can use to create a video.  I suggest creating one by using free online software such as Animoto. The results are fantastic!  Add some music from their free music library and you can create a very emotive and powerful promotional video.

Time: Medium   
Cost:
Zero


6. Create a Unique Selling Point

You are competing against other holiday home owners so it is important to stay competitive.  Review what your competition is offering by looking at other property listings in a similar location.  Once you know the profile of your typical customer you must tailor your offering to meet not only their needs but what they might want.  Desirable ‘added value’ can create a unique selling point and make you stand out from your competition.

Time: Medium   
Cost:
Medium


7. Pay per click advertising

This can be a very effective way of placing an advert in front of your target customers.  Google AdWords and Facebook Ads are the two key methods of applying this technique. I personally favour Facebook ads because, if you know your target customer, you can focus your advertising campaign on just these potential guests.

Time: Medium   
Cost: Medium


8. Email marketing

Responding quickly to booking enquiries, keeping booked guests up to date with information and communicating with past guests is essential communication and best practice. This can be time consuming but there are free tools that can make this process simple and efficient for you.  Mailchimp currently offers a free account subscription which enables you to automate all of your communications to potential, current and past guests. 

Time: Medium   
Cost: Zero


9. Chase testimonials

This may seem like an obvious suggestion but I know that I have guests who have left testimonials in my guest book but not on HomeAway.co.uk!  Christmas is a great time to get back in touch with them, thank them for their custom this year and, if they have not left a testimonial, ask them to do so. A testimonial remains the first thing that potential guests look at when choosing a holiday home.

Time: Medium   
Cost:
Zero


10. Boxing Day Bonanza

Be prepared for the Boxing Day surge of enquiries!  Many tour operators start their media advertising campaigns on 26th December.  When the turkey has all been eaten, it is common behaviour for travellers to spend time off searching for their 2011 holiday accommodation. This could be your holiday home so make sure that you are ready!

Time: Zero       
Cost: Zero



David Prescod

These are the activities that I will be focusing on over the next few weeks to improve my bookings for 2011. I hope that my insight and suggestions has been of some use to you.

David Prescod
Digital Marketing Mentor

Read David's Insider Advice for Marketing your Holiday Home