Tip 5. MARKETING AND CUSTOMER SERVICE
Achieving success in this industry is far more than jumping on the latest bandwagon and listing in a ‘scattergun’ fashion. Smart owners know exactly what their return is on marketing trends. There is much more to marketing than creating a listing. However, no amount of marketing and advertising can beat the success of word of mouth endorsements. You want your guests to be raving fans – they are walking bill boards for your business.
Listing your property on the various third party booking sites has positives and negatives. You do get more exposure, however it come at a cost either to the owner or the guest. Your website is your very own marketing tool so make sure it is a true reflection of your business. It should be easy to navigate and responsive, so intending customers do not get put off and jump to one of your competitors!
The best web listings and sites have only the best photographs. The old saying ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’ is never truer. Fabulous quality photographs taken by a professional photographer tell the story and paint the picture and should be so good that words are not necessary. Bedrooms showing bare mattresses, uneven and crumpled linen on beds, kitchens with dishes and empty beer bottles, outdoor images with junk lying around are not acceptable. Once you are on the internet whether on another site or your own, your property is exposed to the rest of the world.
Keep your branding for your business consistent, that is the same colours, the same fonts, consistent logo imaging. Your signature branding needs to flow through not only your website, but your business card, templates, email signatures, brochures, any advertising, sign boards and so forth.
When managing a short term accommodation business there are two types of customers – guests and property owners. It takes time to build a relationship with a property owner who have entrusted their property to your management. They are often concerned that everything will move forward as planned and may become ultra-sensitive and worry over trivial matters (at the time they do not think they are trivial matters of course). Communication is essential in these early stages & regular updates on their property, guest feedback and reviews are high priority. They also need to feel comfortable to pick up the phone and talk to you. There is so much more meaning in a conversation rather than a black and white email. Understanding their individual requirements is essential, for example, if they would like to use their property from time to time, or would prefer a more regular income and so may like the idea of a longer term guest. Over time, strong trusting relationships are built and through that connection, these owners are great ambassadors for your business and are a great referral resource.
Some guests will seek interacting personally with you, from the initial enquiry, to the ‘meet and greet’, to their departure. Appreciating the different needs of guests and treating them as individuals goes a long way toward having the guests repeat their business with you. Guest love customer service that is responsive and personable.
Responding to guest enquiries is the cornerstone to beating the competition in an overcrowded market. People will remember you and your property if you are quick to respond. If there is a delayed response, guests will have already moved on to another site or listing. Respond to emails within 24 hours, and that means answering enquiries daily. If there are vacancies, rather than email, pick up the phone and you will be surprised how this will increase your booking rates. When the response to an enquiry comes back instantly, it creates a positive perception within guests’ minds, particularly if it is friendly and personal reply rather than canned or generic.
Despite your website, third party booking sites, marketing and promotion material, advertising and social media, it is important to remember that owners and guests are still the greatest ambassadors for your business.
The end of the five tips in the series for creating success in the Short Term Rental Accommodation.