Are you working towards getting all your own direct bookings? 

But at the moment some bookings still come to you via large listing sites or agencies.

Fine on the one hand as it gives you an income.

But so frustrating!

Why couldn’t those guests have booked with you directly.  Meaning they and you wouldn’t have had to pay any commission/fee.

Here I want to talk about what you can do as an independent owner to get your holiday home guests to rebook directly with you; once they’ve stayed

When ‘using’ a large listing site to bring in bookings ‘use’ them, in the nastiest sense of the word.

Use them to bring that set of guests to you for the first time. That’s where their role then ends and you take over.

Before the holiday you have little control

Very often before the holiday begins you can only communicate through that listing sites platform. They don’t want you and your guest speaking directly.

Who hasn’t tried to be criptic and type eg spring dot cottage , only to be found out by the platforms bots and the email not sent.

This is so restrictive when you want to reach out to your guests and start building relationships.  To connect owner to guest, person to person.

During their stay the power passes to you

If you can’t get your guests email before their stay, make jolly well sure you get it during.

The best way – ask them for it.  If you greet them personally, give your email address to them and ask for theirs in return. Many guests prefer to correspond anyway by email during their holiday.

And if you make a welcome arrival call, do the same.  If an email address is not freely handed over, a mobile phone number is your second best option.  It’s still a way of you getting in touch with guests directly.  A text can feel more intrusive than email (once the guest’s holiday has ended) that’s why their email is the best option.

Leave business cards and flyers in your holiday home, with clear links to your website. Make it obvious that you’re an independent owner and this is how you operate.  Pop a business card inside a handwritten card for that guest to take away with them.

Put a prominent note in your welcome folder that clearly states that booking directly with you guarantees no fees and the best possible price. That of course has to be 100% true!

Some guests may have seen your website before booking but for security and safety reasons chose to book via the large listing site or agency.  There’s nothing on that first booking you could have done to change their perception.   But once they’ve stayed with you, they know you, like you and trust you.   Giving them no reason but to book direct next time.

After their holiday ends, continue to do what you do best

Connect with them one to one.  Follow up with a personalised thank you email.  Or a text if you don’t have an email address.  By email let them know you’ll be adding them to your monthly e-newsletter which is full of news and events in your area and where you share special offers.

If you put a tick box on your evaluation form, asking guests to “tick here if you want to be added to my mailing list”. This can scare people away as they immediately think they will be spammed.  I assume opt in, unless they opt out. And I have this in my terms and conditions with a promise that the email address will not be passed to anyone else. And always with an unsubscribe link. This is why you should send your emails from a third party provider eg Mad Mimi or Mailchimp, as amongst other things they manage the unsubscribes for you.

What special offers you give return guests is up to you. But if you price properly (stretching yet realistic) you’ll have flexibility to still make a decent profit per booking, even with say a 10% return guest discount.

As part of your e-mail marketing campaign you could segment your list and send a newsletter just to your email list of previous guests.  In that e-newsletter you can offer special return guest only deals eg book in January and not only do you get 10% discount but also supper at the village pub. Just make sure you cost this out first.  No point making the offer so appealing that you don’t make any profit from that booking!

Given a choice people do business with people.  That said, there will always be a tiny percentage who don’t support small businesses and will always go through the big guys.  Who will always shop in supermarkets and ignore the local high street!  No matter what we do to convince them otherwise.

Our focus is not with them. It’s with the vast majority of listing site users, that given the opportunity would much rather rebook direct.  They just need educating and pointing in the right direction.  As after all, they’ll save money as a result yet still have the same amazing holiday with you.

Karen

If you haven’t started building an email list, do it NOW!  Do you already have an email list but your e-newsletters are a bit hit and miss? Then grab this Awesome E-Newsletter Class. Click the image for more details:

awesome enewsletters for holiday home owners