Listen to this episode below:
Dale Smith is back on the show with us today for the 3rd time, so he needs very little introduction. I’ll make sure the links are shared for his original interview back on episode 177 where he was on the brink of leaving the corporate world, and for his very recent appearance on episode 217 where he gave us an update on his first year as a full time investor.
Today’s episode focusses specifically on Serviced Accommodation advertising and marketing tips, something we personally are just branching into and I’m sure will be of interest to a lot of you as well. We talk about channel managers, OTAs, direct bookings and much more.
If you want a behind the scenes look at some of Dale’s properties that we discuss in this interview, check out this Vlog from our recent trip to Whitby to visit him:
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Getting Started with Serviced Accommodation Advertising
Dale has marketed some of his Serviced Accommodation properties as much as a year in advance, and others have been left till much closer to the renovations being complete, being launched onto the market only a few weeks before they’re ready for guests.
Both approaches have their merits, but in most cases Dale prefers to leave the marketing until close to the end of the project. The main benefit to him is that you can have the property looking its best for marketing pictures and you can showcase the quality of finish, without relying on CGIs or using images from another property which may mislead your early guests and get you off to a bad start with early customer reviews.
The presumed downside of this approach is that you miss out on high occupancy rates in your first weeks and months, but whilst Dale admits it can take some time to reach full capacity, there are plenty of prospective customers looking for last minute breaks and accommodation who’ll jump at a high quality house or apartment that’s available with short notice.
And with occupancy rates in excess of 90% on his more prestigious properties and all of his portfolio achieving 75-80% as an average across the year, his preferred approach obviously works.
Picking a Channel Manager
After getting confused about channel managers and OTAs, Dale gave me a brief education on which is which and what each does.
The beauty of a channel manager is have central coordination of availability, pricing, and marketing materials so you don’t get conflicting bookings or need to maintain the same information in multiple places.
Dale uses a channel manager called InnStyle, due in large part to the great user experience for guests looking to book directly, a big part of his marketing strategy to increase direct bookings and therefore reduce commission payments to OTAs.
Regardless of which you choose, Dale thinks it’s a pretty essential tool to use even for new SA investors in terms of adding efficiency and professionalism to your business, and given they cost as little as £10-15 per month it seems like a no brainer.
In terms of making a decision, key things to look for are the OTAs they sync with (not necessarily the most OTAs, but the specific ones you want to list your property on), the cost/value proposition (ranging from £10 per month to more than £50), and the accounting and payments system as this can help (or hinder) cashflow massively and give you more assurances about getting paid.
The Different OTAs (Online Travel Agents)
Unfortunately it’s not as easy as saying one OTA (Online Travel Agent) is better than the others, as some property types or locations will perform better on one OTA, and another style or location could get better results on another.
Dale ensures all of his properties are on Booking.com, AirBnB, HomeAway and TripAdvisor as a minimum.
With his first SA, he want for as many different OTAs as possible, but with some of those charging an annual listing fee, he’s gradually cut them down only to those which consistently deliver bookings.
With his more recent properties, he’s moved away entirely from the OTAs which charge a fixed listing fee, opting only to use those with a variable commission charge based on the booking value.
During the interview we also discuss which OTAs deliver the best volume, and how location, guest profile and property style performs on the different platforms. Dale also gives some advice on how he uses the OTA data to decide where he’s going to source and develop his next projects.
Building Up Direct Bookings
Direct Bookings are obviously the holy grail when it comes to maximising the profit from your Serviced Accommodation, and it’s something Dale is hugely passionate about with his background in marketing and sales.
I’m going to make you listen to the interview if you’re interested in direct bookings as Dale goes into a lot of detail that I can’t do justice to here, but some of the things he’s tested and had great results from are launch competitions to generate early interest in new houses, social media profiles for specific houses to engage with potential guests, and plenty of list building activities for ongoing marketing campaigns.
Further Information and Links
WeAreModest.com – Find out more about the services offered by Dale’s marketing agency
Burnsyde Beach House – Arguably Dale’s favourite SA property
Park View Whitby – Another great SA website generating direct bookings
View Point Port Mulgrave – And a final example of an SA website for you to explore
InnStyle.co.uk – The Channel Manager used by Dale to manage all of his SA units