Archive for September, 2008

How to Boost Bookings for your Vacation Rental During the “Low Season”

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

Even though the autumn is looming, you have to step into the scary low season fully armed with powerful marketing strategies which will help you attract travelers and keep your vacation rentals booked.

I believe one of the most important things to think about is your main audience during October, November and December. You need to answer yourself the following questions: Who are they? What are they looking for? And how can we meet their needs?

The “who question” is fairly easy as it’s proven that this slower travel season belongs to savvy travelers who love bargains, special deals and discounts. There can also be families with little children who want to avoid crowds and are not tied with any school schedules yet. You may also expect outdoor enthusiasts who find autumn the best season for hiking, hunting or fishing.

Knowing who you should cater for will help you define your marketing and action plan. So how can you entice all these audiences and make them want to spend vacation in your rental, even if it’s gloomy and rainy outside?

First try to think about possible upgrades of your amenities or new features that are especially great in autumn/winter time. It could be a hot tub or a Jacuzzi – travelers will love spending time with friends enjoying your beautiful mountain views. You could also offer a wide movie collection for long evenings. Ideas are simply infinite.

It is also equally important to communicate all those attributes to travelers. Remember to update your property listing. There are several options you could change.

Change your photos. Add seasonal pictures of your vacation rental during fall. Your house surely looks different covered in colorful leafs.

Update your property description. Highlight all the unique features of your place such as fireplace, central heating, cozy living room with DVD player, Jacuzzi and more.

Promote cultural events. Inform travelers about special events and festivals going on during this time of year.

Give them what they want. Make sure savvy travelers fishing for great deals find your property so add special offers to your Rentalo property listing. Maybe you could also run specials for families with young children.

Lure outdoor fans. Introduce travelers to your area at this time of year. Talk about great hiking trails, fishing ponds and golf courses.

Target history enthusiasts. Inform them about interesting sites in your area that are ideal for fall season such as museums and galleries.

Use upcoming festivities. Talk about Thanksgiving and Christmas to lure those who are planning their trip during this holiday.

I think there is a large room for creativity here and it’s actually fun to plan all this.  It takes your mind off the fact it’s not the best time of year for bookings and keeps you focused on the best results. If you have any other ideas on how to prepare yourself for the low season, I would love to hear your suggestions as well!

Marta

Mark your calendars… its time to book!

Wednesday, September 24th, 2008

As we have previously posted here, travelers need information in order to make an informed decision about what vacation rental to book.  Not providing important data upfront may discourage travelers from even contacting you.

One very important tool that many vacation property owners overlook is their availability calendar.

Travelers in Rentalo have the option to enter their travel dates right from the home page.  Properties that don’t have this information updated wont benefit from being displayed as one of the first options for the traveler.  Travelers NEED to know if you are available or not, otherwise, many won’t even take the time to contact you.

Over the years I have spoken to many property owners that have given me similar reasons for not updating their calendar.  Here are the top ones, and my thoughts on them.

1. I don’t have time to update my calendar every time someone books my property.  I understand we are all busy, but owners should create a habit of updating their calendar online immediately after a booking has occurred.  In Rentalo this takes no more than 2 minutes, and will help you get better inquiries and avoid inquiries for booked dates.
2.  I don’t want to show travelers that my property has very little bookings.  Again, I understand the reasoning behind this; however, travelers value information more than ambiguity.  Leaving your calendar open with no booked dates, looks worst, than having at least a few days booked.
3. I don’t want thieves to know when my property is empty.  I have heard this from more than one property owner in the past.  If you don’t have homeowners insurance, you shouldn’t be renting your house in the first place!

Owners that have their information up to date have higher chances of booking their vacation rental, bed and breakfast or hotel.

Update your calendar today and make a habit of keeping it updated.

Frank

 

What Travelers Want & Why to Have your Property Listing Fully Edited

Friday, September 19th, 2008

In the couple of previous posts we’ve been consequently pointing out the importance of having a fully edited property listing. We will continue to repeat it for one good reason: A complete property listing with a high quality description, prices and photos is absolutely necessary for you to receive booking inquiries. Although it may seem trivial, our internal analysis shows that a good number of our property owners do not have the minimum information provided in their property listings!

In today’s world we business people and service providers have to deal with extremely demanding clients. In fact a group of brilliant trend spotters called our economy “an economy that is inhabited by well-informed and experienced consumers who have a long list of high expectations that they apply to each and every good, service and experience on offer”. Those new-age consumers don’t have time to waste and they DEMAND high quality information as soon as possible in order to purchase a product.

As a response to this new trend, countless services appeared to help consumers compare offers. Looking for good flight fares? Visit seatguru.com.  Want to buy a cheap digital camera? Try pricegrabber.com. Examples go on and on and every day include more and more services and products. Today we can become experts and find the best offer available within couple of clicks. Obviously we will choose the best described product with good pictures, reviews and additional information.

Now imagine an average Rentalo user, a young woman between the age 25 and 34. She logged on to our website to find the best deals in vacation rentals and wants to leave knowing which is going to be her next vacation home. This young traveler doesn’t have time to look at each and every property we have in particular location. She will refine her search and choose those vacation rentals that have the best description, high quality pictures, prices and updated availability calendar.

For those of you who have low quality photos, poor description, no prices and empty availability calendar (and believe me when I say, it’s the case of many), do you really think you can compete with owners who have fully-edited property listing, rich in information? As I mentioned before, in our business it’s all about good content. If your website, or in this case, property listing doesn’t have a high quality content, then do not count on good results.

Even though you pay a subscription fee on our site and others you advertise with, you shouldn’t expect your vacation rental to rent by itself. Vacation rental directories like ours provide you with the best tools to promote your property online. But to make sure you rent your property, it’s essential for you to provide the best possible pictures, informative and sophisticated descriptions, catchy titles and complete pricing information, not to mention special offers, excellent customer service and much more.Ask yourself: How do I keep my property booked? Make sure you provide your potential customers with complete and useful information! As simple as that.

Now, the only thing left for me is to invite you to edit your property listings.

Marta

How to Make your Guests Come Back to your Vacation Rental? – Key Points of Unrivalled Customer Service

Monday, September 8th, 2008

There are several small grocery shops on my street. All of them have very similar assortment of products and prices, however, only one of them, the shop on the corner has a long line of people every time I pass by. Many ask themselves, why is that? The answer is very simple. It all comes down to an excellent customer service. Owners of this lovely place know the names of each customer, are extremely nice and always have smiles on their faces. Why should I go next door, if here they know exactly what I want to buy and will make my day by having a nice chat with me?

I always repeat to people that no matter how many competitors their business has, they will always be on top of everyone else as long as they provide their clients with the best service there can be. It may sound as cliché, but I believe it’s true what they say that “good customer service is the bread and butter of any business“.

So, once you already got your bookings for the season, your job is to make sure your clients will absolutely love your vacation rental and will want to come back. As your “first buyers” come, you only have one chance to make a good impression on them. How to build a database of loyal customers who will return to your vacation rental?

In our business the key is in details and providing guests with an additional service that they cannot get anywhere else. Little touches can make a huge difference and distinguish your property from your competition. Here are some details that can make your vacation home stand out above others:

- Warm welcome. Be at your vacation home when your guests arrive. Help them with the luggage and show them around. It would be nice if you knew their names so that you can greet them personally. If you cannot welcome your guests personally, have someone you trust to do it or leave a hand written welcome note.

- Be their home away from home. Make sure all the appliances are working well (coffee maker, BBQ, TV etc) and offer as much as you can to keep their packing of the car to a minimum ( e. x.: pillows, bedding, towels). Offer a fully-equipped kitchen with spices and condiments, your guests might want to cook something sophisticated at times.

- Offer Extras. Be prepared for every kind of weather. Raining? Prepare board games, puzzles, books and DVD movies. Leave a bag of microwave popcorn in the kitchen as well. Time for the beach? Chairs, soft drinks in the fridge and beach towels are some ideas. Let your guests know what you offer.

- Show them around. Make a list of things to do in your area and share this information with your guests. Be sure to have itinerary of any special events happening in your area that your guests might want to take part in. Also, provide them with restaurant recommendations, maps and transportation information.

- Cater to all kinds of guests. Guests with children and large families? Be prepared and offer high chairs for kids, a cradle, even beach toys as well as big picnic tables with extra chairs for family meals.

- Go an extra mile. Keep a register of all your guests and send them a nice message before the next season starts. There is large room for creativity here. You can offer special promotions and discounts as well as send your guests Christmas wishes.

How can you know your guests enjoyed their stay and found everything perfect? At the end of their stay, it’s an ideal time to ask for feedback. (Although I think a guestbook is the subject of a separate post, I will just mention it.) If you do not have a guest book yet, make sure you start one and have guests write down their experiences. It’s a good thing to make it easily accessible for guests to leave comments at anytime and not to pressure anyone. If they are satisfied, you will hear about it for sure. Make sure to let your guests know their review might be posted online to help other travelers.

Finally, when you send your guests away happy, they will most likely pass positive feedback along to others and WILL come back next year. Although great customer service is supposed to be part of every business, it is really hard to come across unrivalled services these days! The clue is wanting to go that extra mile. Can you?

Marta

It Pay$ to have FRIEND$

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2008

Have you heard the buzz about Social Media?  If you haven’t, you are probably living under a rock!  Just what is Social Media anyways and how can a vacation rental owner or manager benefit from it?

The most basic description of Social Media is the use of technological tools to facilitate the interaction between humans.  In other words, Social Media helps connect people from all over the world in a way that was not possible even years ago.

Some example of Social Media sites are Facebook, Youtube and MySpace.  There are thousands of  social media sites out there that have niche sections of the internet population, some cater more to younger crowds, some to young adults, single mothers, etc… 

All this is pretty new to most of us, and the idea of this post is not to go to deep into details about social media, but to spark your curiosity to explore and look for ways to book your vacation rental more using new tools that are at your disposal. 

Lets start with the most basic Social Media tool that has been around for quite a while, the good old Blog.  A blog is a webpage were you can post information, including text, images, videos, etc.  There are tons of free blog sites and getting started only takes a few minutes.  A good place to start would be http://blogger.com .  Once you get your blog started, you can place a link from your website or ad on rentalo to your blog.  On your blog you can write interesting things about your vacation rental such as special amenities, things to do, or even tips about what to look for when traveling to your destination.  Another thing that you can post in your blog is guest comments or experiences as well as pictures and videos from guest that have stayed.  Imagine that a traveler can see your blog and hear about the experience of other travelers that have stayed in your place.  Whether you have your own personal website or not, a blog is a great idea to give your vacation rental business a warm human touch. 

Facebook is a great site to connect with people and spread the word about your vacation rental, bed and breakfast or hotel.  All you have to do is visit http://facebook.com and create an account.  You should take a few minutes to go through your privacy settings and your profile.  Upload pictures, write a description, have fun with it!  Now here you also have a few choices.  You can create a profile for yourself, you can create a separate account for your vacation property or you can create both.  After you create your profile, you can start looking for friends.  It would be a good idea to get your guest, past and present, to become your friends.  By having your guests as friends through a site like Facebook, you could communicate things like vacancies, special offers, or simply remind them that it’s that time a year to come back.

If you have noticed, Rentalo has already added social bookmarking links on all our Smart Search pages, so travelers can remember the page for the future and also let others know how useful the page was for them.

I would like to recommend a book called Groundswell by Charlene Li and Josh Bernoff from Forrester Research.  Great book about Social Media for those of you that would like to dive deeper into the subject.

Whatever you do, look to incorporate social media strategies in your plan to increase your client base and your return bookings to your vacation rental. 

By the way, we are on Twitter, Youtube and Facebook.  We would love to be your friend, look for us in Facebook by Rentalo Rentals. 

http://twitter.com/rentalo
http://youtube.com/rentalovideo

Frank Suarez