I don’t mean where geographically or even metaphorically.

But where are your guests on the customer journey?

The what?

The customer journey is a marketing term given to the process of turning potential guests into actual guests.  It’s about bringing new people into your business, nurturing them and turning them into paying guests.

Even your most regular guests, at one stage didn’t know you existed.   All guests start this way.  So how can you affect this? How do you then take guests to the next stage, to get them to make a booking with you.

In other words, how do you take them on this customer journey?

I’ve broken the customer journey into three key stages.  Each stage needs attention from you.  Here’s what you need to be doing at each stage.

Stage One: They don’t know you exist

Marketing speak – cold leads

Those potential guests who don’t know about you yet. But would love to book with you if only they did!

Because your holiday rental would fit their holiday needs exactly.

Firstly you have to identify this group of people.  Be specific about who your ideal guest is and who you want to attract. Who is your holiday rental a perfect fit for?

These are the people you want to get in front of.   So where will they be hanging out?

On Facebook for example run an off-page Facebook advert targetted at these guests. Use demographics but also their interests and their behaviours (that you’ve identified), to get your message in front of these potential guests.  Bring them into your fold by seeing you on Facebook.  If you know they live 3 hours drive away, join in some Twitter hours, for people who live in that location.

How you can get them to visit your website? Research niche listing sites which will show your contact details.  This ensures you can liaise with guests directly and start to build relationships from the start. For example listing sites for coastal, for pet friendly , for kid-friendly holiday homes.  If your ideal guest will be looking here then that’s where you need to be listed.

And do all you can for your website to be shown organically in Google searches. Ensure you have on page SEO (search engine optimisation).  Use long key word phrases to help you get found by potential guests. What will your identified ideal guests be typing into Google? Keep adding fresh content to your website eg blogs. Google likes updated websites! And make sure it has a SSL certificate as Google are starting to rank higher, those websites that do.

Stage Two: They know about you but haven’t booked yet

Marketing speak – warm leads

These are the people who like your Facebook page and who engage with you online, by like and commenting on your posts.  Or people who have seen your flyer in a local cafe.  Potential guests that you know about you. Some you could go as far as to say, are fans of yours.  A stay with you could even be on their bucket list.

These people are closer to booking than in stage one, but still need persuading and reassuring before they spend their hard earned cash on a stay with you.

How do you get these people to book?  You reach out to them and ensure your marketing messages resonate with them: consistently and persistently.

Continue posting a mix of content on your social media channels. Not just of your holiday home but of your area too.  Share behind the scenes images, and info about you the owner.  Enhance the know-like-trust factor.  Offer a free guide to your area, in exchange for an email address.  Send out a relationship-building, informative e-newsletter every month.

Remember it might be circumstances outside their control that are preventing them from booking at the moment eg no holiday entitlement, they can only visit in the school hols and you’re already booked then.  So keep going!

Stage Three:  They’ve booked

Marketing speak – Your customers

Before the holiday happens, keep in touch with your guests. Be helpful and informative and available.  Once their holiday is over you also need to do all you can to get them to rebook.

Even if they’ve loved their time with you, you can’t sit on your laurels and wait for that repeat booking to come. The may need a gentle nudge from you to make that booking.

What can you do to help that along?

Keep in touch with them via your monthly e-newsletters.  When your email, packed full of your area’s latest attractions, events and places to visit, arrives in their inbox, they’ll remember you.  You’ll be top of mind and may be all they need to rebook.

If a guest has specifically said they’ll return in comments in a visitors’ book or email, make a note of these.  These guests need special treatment.  Six months after their stay send them a personalised email “it’s been 6 months since you stayed, where’s the time gone…..”.  Keep it friendly and not pushy, but be clear that your objective is to spur them into making a booking.  Also ensure they’re on your Christmas card list.  Call it favouritism; it is!  But for a business reason.

It’s worth putting that extra effort into getting these repeat guests to return. You know them, you know they looked after your place and being known to you makes welcoming them as a host, less stressful.

You’ve taken all that effort to bring them down the customer journey it would be a shame to lose them now!

It can sometimes feel like hard work, but keep going. Much better to be proactive then sit and wait for the bookings to come in via one of the large, generic listing sites.  The more proactive you are and the more bookings you get directly the higher your profits as you have no commissions to pay.

Think about the different stages in the customer journey that your guests and potential guests are on.

In your marketing make sure you give equal focus to each stage of that journey to ensure you a steady supply of paying guests.