Imagine a future where enquiries flow in at a steady but manageable rate, repeat bookings and referrals make up a large proportion of your income and your advertising costs are consistently and permanently low.
Does this sound like an unrealistic dream? Well it’s really not, in fact it’s probably more achievable now than it ever has been.
The tools to make this happen are out there and are getting easier to use all the time, what you need is a plan, a strategy to work towards which will deliver the results you want.
One of the crucial aspects of this self-sustaining strategy is owning your own website.
In my last post I made the point that relying on the large listing sites for your future rental income is probably a bad idea.
You might have read that and thought ‘Great, now what do I do?’, well I hinted at a different way forward and this starts with having your own website.
But how does this sound to you?
Are you thinking ‘Man, this sounds like a lot of hassle which is probably going to cost me a small fortune’, or are you sat their smugly thinking ‘Well duh! Of course everyone should have their own site, I’m way ahead of you and already have one’.
To the former I’d say consider the very real and major benefits to having your own site, which I’ll get on to in a moment, before ruling it out.
And to the smug ones amongst you? Well done you, but read on to see if you’re actually making full use of your website.
More Than an Online Brochure
For most property owners I think that they look at a website as an online brochure for their property, it has pictures on it, some content about the property and local area, a list of rates and perhaps an availability calendar.
This is a good start and the items mentioned should definitely be a major part of the site, however I believe that a bit of a mind-set shift will take having a website from a ‘nice to have’ to a ‘must have’.
The way I think you should look at a website is as a central hub for all your rental property related tasks. Almost everything you do online and off-line should include your website as some part of the process.
Doing this will improve your marketing efforts and could help reduce the costs of running your rental business.
Reducing Your Marketing Costs & Listing Site Reliance
So how does having your own website reduce your marketing costs and help mitigate against ever rising rental listing website costs?
Let’s say that you created your website ‘www.myrentalwebsite.co.uk’, and you went about promoting that address consistently both online and offline. With a bit of work it would eventually start attracting traffic through search engines, social media, referrals, emails, etc…
Because you’ve created some good quality original content about your property, the local area, events and attractions, then visitors coming into the site would naturally be interested in seeing what you had to offer in terms of holiday accommodation.
This would then lead to enquiries and bookings, and because they have been generated by your own website then there would be no commissions due to 3rd party listing sites.
Generate enough of your own bookings and you could scale back your listing site subscriptions to lower levels which will definitely help save you money.
Owning Your Referrals
Are the renters of your property having a great time? If they are then you should be encouraging them to refer people to you, people are naturally happy to do this when they feel like they have had excellent service.
If you don’t have your own website then they might refer friends to your ad on a listing site, which is just 1 click away from hundreds (or thousands) of other properties that might take their fancy.
Having your own site means that the referral is coming back to you and only you.
If you’re serious about staying in the rental business with your property then you can use your own website as a foundation for some pretty advanced marketing tactics over time which will help drive further visitors, enquiries, bookings and then referrals.
It’s a snowball effect that you can achieve, little by little adding more to the mix so that eventually you are operating completely independently and are in control of your own future.
That’s the dream but it is unachievable without having the fixed home base of your own website.
Increasing Your Enquiry to Booking Conversion Ratio
If you read forums online where owners talk to each other then one of their pet peeves is dealing with pointless enquiries, answering the same questions over and over again.
You’re always going to have to deal with enquiries that come to nothing, that’s part of the game, but you can certainly take steps to try and mitigate some of the questions by using your website more effectively.
For example, you could create an FAQ page (or collection of pages) which address all the questions you regularly get asked. Visitors could answer their own questions here and even if they don’t you at least have somewhere handy to point them with a quick email reply.
Look at it this way, for every person emailing you asking a question you probably have 7 or 8 people wondering the same thing but not being bothered to even ask you about it, they just leave and never come back.
It’s a generally accepted principle of modern online marketing that the more content you provide about a product or service the higher the number of sales or conversions.
Regularly adding new pages or content about your property, the local area, local events and things like that will only help sell your property over someone else’s, and the cost of adding these extra pages? Nothing but a bit of time.
Prepared For an Ever Evolving Future
As much as you might not want it to, the future is happening and it is unavoidable.
Everyone’s talking about online bookings and online payments, cheques are dying and potential renters are being told not to wire / bank transfer money as it’s not safe.
It’s debatable how true all this is, you probably have your own data or gut feeling on how it’s all playing out for your property, but projecting forward for a minute, technology is changing the face of how we all interact and pay for services and we at least have to consider the implications of it.
It might seem like a daunting task now, but if you integrated an online booking process into your own website this could help secure extra bookings, bookings that you may currently be missing out on from people who prefer the convenience and security of paying with a credit card.
Accepting payments this way is almost certainly going to be cheaper and you’ll likely get your money paid to you quicker than using the services of the big listing sites.
I’m not saying you should definitely do this right now, it may or may not make sense for you, but it is something you should be aware of and perhaps be planning towards at some point in the future.
Setting up a solution like this is going to get very convoluted if you don’t have that website as a base of operations.
A Valuable Asset
It may not be something that you’re thinking about in the near future, or perhaps ever, but if you ever did need or want to sell your rental property then supplying it with a fully functioning website would be a big selling point.
Imaging you’re looking into buying a property, there are 3 that you’re interested in and they are as follows:
Property 1: No website, current owners never rented it out before.
Property 2: Basic website and advert with a listing site.
Property 3: Has its own website which generates 8 – 12 bookings a year. Also has an email list of past renters and people who have made enquiries.
All other things being equal which one would you go for? It’s a total no-brainer, everyone would choose property 3, you might even be tempted to pay a little more for it perhaps?
Building a website can build you value in more ways than one.
Hopefully by now you can see why having your own property website is a pretty good idea?
I could go on about this some more to be honest, I haven’t even touched on how and why you need to start owning the customer relationship or the idea of digital sharecropping and how it is likely already taking away opportunities from you.
I’ll probably get to them at some point soon though, so don’t worry!
Having your own website is not something that has to cost a fortune and there are a number of ways of getting a website up and running which take varying amounts of time, effort and money, I’ll explore some of these shortly.
But for now, why not let me know below how you feel about the subject. Do you already have a site? If so how is it working out for you? I’d love to hear from you.
Dana Bowers says
How can I get started on a website?
I’ll be running through the various options for getting up and running with a website in a new post very soon!
I manage websites for a property owner/manager in Clearwater Beach, Florida. We accept online bookings via the site(s), and we have built an entire reservation management system on the backend for Confirmation Notices, Check-in Documents, Payment Reminders, etc. I’m currently building a Housekeeping system based on the checkout dates from the condos.
In the past we have used VRBO for listings that sent visitors to our site for booking. Now with VRBO bought by Expedia, they want us to use their “Book It Now” system. Thankfully we don’t need their greedy system and we handle our own bookings, deposits, refunds, cancellations, and everything we do is with our own Terms and Conditions. We own the system, we know our clients, we have TOTAL control of everything.
Yes, if you have vacation rentals, you need your own website. I agree with Darren 100%.
That’s really good to hear that you have gone down your own route, kept control of your customers and bookings, and seem to be running a successful operation. Proof that it is possible for everyone to do…