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5 ways to generate bookings for your self-catering property

DIY | Self Catering - 28.03.2018

Whether you’re launching a new venture or 20 years down the line of running a self-catering property or site, the how-to of securing bookings can continue to feel like somewhat of a dark art. 

Particularly since the dawn of the internet, it’s become much harder to predict how guests will book a stay with you as each season comes and goes. So, here’s an insight to 5 tried and tested ways to secure those all-important bookings. 

Many of these you will have tried and some you may not, but it will give you a reminder of the tools to have up your sleeve as you gear up for a new season!

Your website is your shop window 

Not only are the majority of holidays booked online, but guests are now spending longer than ever researching potential places to stay before they commit to a property. Therefore, it is more important than ever that your website is able to convert those bookings. 

Things to think about: 

  • Is your website easy to navigate around?
  • Does the style of the website reflect your property?
  • Is your website mobile friendly?
  • Is the booking system easy to use?
  • Are you using high quality imagery and video?

It’s easy to get complacent with a website. It can be such a big project that once it’s done you want to turn your attention to other things, but it’s really important to keep it up to date and easy to use. 

Top tip: form a focus group and recruit friends-of-friends (people who aren’t too close to you to be honest!) and ask for feedback on your website: how easy is it to use, and does it reflect your business.

Don’t trip up with TripAdvisor 

These days a pretty picture and a one page write up in a travel brochure won’t cut it unfortunately. Guests seek out all the information they can get their hands on before they commit to making a booking, and TripAdvisor has leapt onto the back of this behaviour. 

If TripAdvisor is still somewhat of a mystery to you, then you may want to take a look back at our blog on Tackling TripAdvisor for a full run down how to best to manage the platform. 

At the very least, keep these words of wisdom at the forefront of your mind: 

  • Don’t underestimate the power of a peer recommendation – people pay a lot more attention to what past-guests say than the businesses themselves 
  • People will be talking about you whether you have a profile or not, so why not join the conversation to show you’re listening and acknowledge the feedback 
  • When people have something positive to say, celebrate it! And use that feedback across your marketing platforms.

It’s time to chat 

Social media offers a low-cost avenue to reaching a large volume of potential guests. Channels like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are all platforms that your guests will be using to both find destinations that they want to explore, and research properties that they like the look of. 

We know, using social media for marketing can be daunting. It can be a huge investment of time and it can sometimes feel like you’re not making much progress, but it can and will pay off! Here are three top tips to making social media marketing manageable. 

1. Only use the channels that are going to work best for you… less is more. 

Don’t make the same mistake as many business owners in thinking that you need to use every single channel! Spend your time wisely on channels that are easy to manage and will reach the right audiences. 

  • Facebook = mass reach across wide ranging audiences
  • Instagram = visual platform that’s popular with guests, typically 40 and under
  • Twitter = less dependence on high quality visuals and easy to build following
  • Pinterest = a low maintenance channels that’s effective in driving web traffic
  • Snapchat = a live channel that’s popular with a younger audience set

2. Let your guests do the hard work. 

Re-sharing your guest’s content is a great way to strike up conversation, promote positive guest experiences and publish high quality content that you haven’t had to create yourself. This is a popular tactic on Instagram and if you’re thinking of setting up this channel you can check out our blog on Creating Instagram Moments. 

3. There’s no need to hard-sell. 

When you’re using social media bear in mind that this is a personal and sociable environment. People don’t want to be sold to consistently, they want to be entertained. 

Be clever with your content to peak people’s interest; create a desire to stay with you and leave people wanting to find out more. The power of social media is to engage a large number of people and then eventually direct them to your website where a booking can be secured. 

This can take time though, people are served a huge amount of content online every day so you really need to give people a reason to want to find out more about you. 

What’s the deal with Online Travel Agents (OTA’s) and Tour Operators (TO’s)? 

You don’t need us to tell you that the more direct bookings you can attract the better it is for your business, but sometimes additional exposure is needed to compete in such a saturated market. 

We know that many bookings are made online and it’s very difficult to compete with all the noise around where to stay, what to do, how to book. Therefore, sometimes OTA’s and TO’s can be a necessary means to an end. 

For some however, this is simply a short-term strategy as brand loyalty can fill a gap that OTA’s and TO’s are no longer needed to fill. If you can attract a good foundation of guests in the early days, then it’s much easier to retain those guests or rely on positive reviews and word of mouth to sustain a higher rate of direct bookings in the future. 

Does word of mouth still work? 

Which brings us finally on to the trusty traditional tactic of past guests spreading the word and promoting your self-catering property on your behalf. Don’t be fooled by the seemingly old-fashioned nature of this form of marketing, this is actually more present than ever before with an amplified reach through the means of social media. 

This doesn’t just account for attracting a booking or two from a past-guest making a recommendation in the local supermarket! This is a powerful referral from past-guests sharing an album of holiday pictures on Facebook, or live content from their stay on their Instagram Stories and Snapchat. 

It’s a positive review on Tripadvisor and a recommendation to a call out made on Facebook and Twitter for ‘where someone should stay’. 

This is not a tactic to be ignored so keep this at the forefront of mind when you engage with every guest at your property, most importantly, continue to challenge yourself to create a guest experience that will really get people talking!

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