So you’ve been taking paying guests (and they’ve been going away rather happy)
Great! You know you have a good little business on your hands and are excited for its future growth.
You also know that like any business, for growth to happen it needs investment.
OK! But where?
It’s fair to say I’ve made some investment mistakes in the past, that I wont be making again. So I want to share these with you. I also know the best investments I’ve EVER made and how I get pay back from these investments every day. It’s a lesson on where you’re sometimes told to invest and where you actually NEED to invest.
Let’s start with where NOT to invest:
Big Listing Sites
Listing with every large listing site and agency you can, just because? Well, because other owners are? And that’s exactly what you become, just another holiday home in a sea of hundreds. It’s nearly impossible to stand out because you have to fit your wording and images into their boxes and tick lists. Also this spray and pray approach (spread yourself thinly and pray for results) is not an effective way to invest your time and money. Time and money that you could be using to drive visitors to your own website. By a time (and sometimes money) investment through writing blogs, being active on social media, using simple Google SEO tips and tricks and building relationships with future and past guests you’ll get much more effective results.
Membership to Tourist Organisations
I’m talking about the big guys who cover accommodation, attractions, and all things touristy in that location.
With the promise of exposure to X number of people the temptation is too great not to be part of it! Plus there are other membership benefits such as workshops and discounts on trade suppliers’ products. Just stop and think. How many will you actually attend and how likely are you to buy from these products, discount or no discount?
But these big tourist organisations’ websites have thousands of hits a day so it’s bound to lead to more bookings? Not necessarily. You only want eyes on your property from guests who are likely to book. What if these eyes were from people looking for restaurants (they all count in the daily hit rate). Or from those looking for a caravan holiday in your area and you have a quaint cottage. Or hen parties of 12 when you only sleep 4.
It’s the quality of eyes or hits that’s important not the quantity.
OK these are lovely to have. Who doesn’t like to boast about being rated 4 or 5 star. But does it add any value to your business, for an annual cost of £150 plus, there are way better ways to do this.
Getting a star rating is merely to be checked against a checklist. The service and the added extras that you add to your guest’s holiday are what sets you apart. Yet these aren’t factored into the rating. For the record, I was graded 5*Gold but knew what I offered was 6 * minimum!
Do a quick survey amongst family, friends and colleagues and ask them how important star ratings are to them when booking self catering accommodation. I’m sure you’ll find they reply that for hotels yes, but not so for holiday rentals.
You can tell the quality of a holiday property by its photos, website and social media content. You don’t need a rating to tell you whether it’s 5 star or not!
This is so costly and again, it’s about the right eyes seeing you, not the number of eyes. Even paying to advertise in a national magazine, whose target market appears to be the same of yours, is an investment I wont be making again. A single eight page advert, hidden away on page 194 isn’t really going to have much impact is it? I’ve even been in a self-catering supplement for a glossy local magazine but saw no return on that investment. If I could have afforded a full page spread then the results may have been different. But there are much more effective ways as an independent holiday home owner to spend your marketing budget (see the Facebook adverts below,for example).
Also don’t rush straight to the printers and get flyers, letterhead, bookmarks, mousemats done for you. You’ll hardly use them and it’s money wasted. Do have some business cards (always to hand) but when it comes to print advertising they will suffice.
Now let’s look at where you do NEED to invest:
Invest in the presentation of your property
You need to stand out and bring a beautifully styled and presented property to the market does. Avoid being bland and sterile which I see so often in holiday homes. Your holiday property needs to be furnished and presented like a home, not a holiday let
Present a quality, cohesive décor scheme which can be achieved by high street purchases. Invest in co-ordinating accessories such as cushions and throws to bring a scheme to life. Add a feature wall for impact. It’s amazing what you can do with a tin of paint!
When it comes to large items of furniture invest in the best mattress and sofa that you can afford. This is not a place to cut corners. Likewise when it comes to curtains invest in lined quality curtains, rather than cheap voiles from Ikea! Touches like this make all the difference.
In the kitchen, don’t rip it all out but give it a revamp by painting the cupboard doors or changing only the work surface. You may have inherited the bathroom but now it’s time an update. Look at what you can salvage, if the tiles are OK but you need to replace the shower, aim to do so without affecting the tiles.
Look at each space in your holiday home and apply the same rule. Does each space have a focal point, something of interest, something that makes it stand out. This can be a jazzy rug or a large mirror.
You can do this, you don’t need to pay an interior designer although they’d undoubtedly do an amazing job but your investment budget would take a big hit!
Getting professional photos of your beautifully presented property is a must.
You will use these day in, day out on your website and in your marketing. Money very well spent!
Invest in you
Again, no cutting corners on this one! You are the business. So an investment in you the owner, is a direct investment in the business.
What do you need to learn right now to take your business forward. What’s holding you back? Would a course in social media marketing be of help? Would you like to learn the techy stuff behind editing and updating your WordPress website? Invest the time and the money now that you need. You could waste hours trying to find the answer for free online, or you could have bought the solution in one place, saving you precious time. Paid courses are in investment worth taking.
I have also invested in a business coach, the fantastic Emma. Emma in turn has her own coach. She’s my sounding block, my go to person for advice and direction, my bum kicker, mentor and motivator. She keeps me going through the bad days and on track , on target and on focus on the good days (of which there are many I’m pleased to say). It’s important when investing in a coach that you’re a good fit for each other so spend time to find this out. This wont be a small investment but just think of the impact going forward it will have on you and your business. A holiday rental coach is no different to a business coach and just think how many businesses employ coaches and consultants to move them from A to B.
Investing in you is also about getting help with those tasks that you’re either no good at, or you don’t enjoy or you simply need help with.
This might be the same thing? Think of all the hats you need to wear as a business owner. Outsource some of this workload.
This could mean getting a cleaner, getting a virtual assistant to help with your social media or finding someone locally to source your welcome hamper. This frees up your time to focus on the business-building activities that only you the business owner can do, such as building relationships with past and future guests.
Invest in marketing
Invest time and some spend here. Writing blogs, managing your social media takes time. But you have no choice as a strong online presence is vital today, if you want your holiday rental business to be found.
Money spent on using Facebook advertising can be an effective use of your marketing budget. Boost a post on your page, so it gets seen by more of your page likers. Or via Ads Manager you can create an advert (image and copy) and send it to a selected Saved Audience. The beauty of Facebook is in the targetting. Target by location, age, income, where they shop, what they’re interested in etc etc. You can set up Ads for a few pounds and send to 1000s of people. Of course monitor your investment and continually track the results, tweaking as you go! If you have an email list Facebook allows you to add these into a Custom Audience and send your ad to these people. Great if you have a special offer to share.
Other social media platforms such as Twitter and Pinterest also have advertising options but haven’t taken off in the way that Facebook advertising has. So give it a go and track your results!
I wish I’d had these investment tips 8 years ago. It would have saved me £1000s and many wasted hours.
At least now, hopefully, you won’t make the same mistakes as I did.