The Wider World: We have been working on our own marketing tools (like our website, and this blog of course), for a really long time. One of the main challenges we've been facing through this build, is how to market and showcase something when it's not finished, and we don't have any photos yet of what the inside will look like. Mainly as the inside still looks like this:
But in our heads it looks like this:
The Promise: I have written about this challenge before, when I posted our Mood Board references. We both know what the finish will be when it's all in (3 weeks to go - gawd!), and we know the kind of furniture, furnishings, fixtures and so on that we've bought and that are either sitting in our lovely neighbour's garage in France waiting to be installed, or are sitting in Darren's parents' garage in the UK waiting to be transported out there. But how do you communicate this vision and 'promise' to potential renters? We've tried to do this via the tone of our website design, via the copy we've written to describe the facilities and the kind of holiday we know people can have there. But, we can't rely on those tools alone, nor on the discoverability of our two sites with so much competition out there.
Listings: I did some pretty basic and unscientific market research into which listings sites we should sign up to. I went on several holiday lettings forums to explore others' experiences of those sites, and the varying success rates of each. I got thoroughly confused and spun by the amount of advice and considerations to take on board out there. But essentially it seems to be very subjective anyway. So I typed in a few versions of search terms into Google of what I think someone who'd love our chalet would be searching for (holiday chalet, self catered chalet, ski chalet self catered, luxury rental chalet, family chalet Morzine and so on). Basically we've signed up to the 2 listings sites that come up most frequently first or second in each search, which means that hopefully our potential customers will be finding us quickest via those sites. These are Owner's Direct and Chalet Finder.
Owner's Direct: Our Owner's Direct listing has been up for exactly a week. It has been a protracted and rather difficult process, to be brutally honest, but finally the listing has the right number of bathrooms, the right spot on the map pin pointed, and the photos look normal (not overlaid in a scrapbook sort of way as it was in the beginning). The main difficulty with the upload process is that you can't see how your listing will look when you make key changes to the copy/ photos and so on, and it takes 24 hours for the site to update each time a change is made. This is presumably so that the changes can be rolled out across all their sister sites that we have also signed up to. This is us in France, this is us in Italy, this is us in Holland, this is us in Spain, this is us in Germany, this is us on a different UK site, this is us in Portugal. Having our information and photographs (albeit mock ups at this point) displayed in someone else's formatting, and therefore having to stand by the way they present it, is difficult when it's not how you would necessarily do it, and especially when there are inaccuracies along the way. Having said all of that, we've taken our first 3 bookings in one week via this site, as well as several interesting enquiries, so layout, presentation and process issues aside, our discoverability has increased no end. I must also add that they've offered us a free month's premium listing as compensation for these various difficulties and their customer service support has been excellent.
Chalet Finder: I have been extremely keen to list with Chalet Finder as well (it's the other top searchable listing site via Google for our kind of property). I have used their site in the past to browse holiday chalets, and have found in years gone by that the properties listed on there are beautiful and well presented, and their search function is super user friendly, which really helps in what is otherwise a bit of a mire and information overload. The way they display their properties is really attractive, and it's easy to compare like for like properties to feel really informed about the property you're about to sign up to. For one reason and another (mainly as the Owner's Direct difficulties have been sucking up a lot of marketing oxygen and headspace this week), our entry only went live late last night, but I'm absolutely delighted with it. The photographs and scrolling function look great (before the final interior shots come in), and the information and facilities are presented in a clear and functional way. You can preview the listing immediately, and changes are instantaneous, which means that copy can be tweaked and adjusted based on the layout and presentation. As it's only been live a whole half a day thus far - it's too early to say about how it will stack up against Owner's Direct in terms of enquiries and bookings, but I'm really hopeful about this one.
Future Steps: Obviously, as with the website, this blog and these two listings sites, I'm sure that as soon as the property is finished and we have proper photographic depiction of the interior, then this will vastly improve our rental chances across the board. I will also need to be thorough, consistent and up to date with all 3 sites once bookings are confirmed. I have a list of further sites we could list with, if needs be, but at the moment our marketing budget feels well spent and worth it on these two.
Update: As of 2 mins ago, we have just got our first Chalet Finder enquiry, in half a day. This bodes well.