Letting your holiday home: DIY marketing, local or nationwide agent?
Now that you’ve bought your Cornish holiday let you need to think about how to fill your booking calendar. In other words, how to get your first guests. You have two options – you can take on the marketing and booking management yourself. Or you can place these in the hands of an agency. Here too you’ll need to decide between a local Cornish agent or nationwide agency.
The three options come with pros and cons, all of which need careful consideration. To help you make a decision, this article lists the advantages and disadvantages of going solo, choosing a local agent in Cornwall to do the work for you, or placing the responsibility in the hands of a UK-wide agency.
What’s involved in marketing and managing a holiday let
To make an educated decision on who markets your holiday lets, it is first worth looking at exactly what’s involved.
This process advertises your holiday let to the wide world of holidaymakers and aims to persuade them to book your property. In a very competitive market, adverts and promotions need to appeal and stand out.
Marketing a holiday let takes place on a number of channels:
Online – by far the biggest and most popular. You can place adverts on holiday letting portals or on agency sites. Or set up and maintain your own website and use it to promote your property. Online marketing also includes social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.
Offline – channels include print marketing (for example, adverts in specialist magazines and flyers) as well word-of-mouth referrals and local networking.
PR – efficient public relations spread the word and ensure that holiday lets are talked about in relevant travel and lifestyle publications, local and national TV and radio programmes, online and in print.
A.K.A. paperwork. This aspect of holiday letting is far less sexy than marketing. It involves the nitty gritty of:
Fielding enquiries – answering booking requests and questions promptly. In the busy world of holiday lettings, guests need a reply within a few hours.
Taking bookings – keeping track of who has booked when. This ensures you have no overlaps on holidays or worse still, double-bookings!
Collecting payments – following and chasing up payments through a secure booking site. Payments include fees for the stay itself as well as deposits (booking and damages) plus managing cancellations and refunds.
Keeping up with legislation – making sure your holiday let is bang up-to-date with the latest rules and regulations, not just for the property but also for your marketing (e.g. data protection measures) and admin (secure payments).
Communicating with guests – once you’ve confirmed bookings, you’ll be asking for guest details, sending key collection info and asking how their stay was, then encouraging them to write a review and hooking them in for a repeat visit next year.
Marketing a holiday let yourself
If you decide to take on the marketing and admin of your holiday let yourself you’ll enjoy the following benefits:
With zero agency fees you stand to make more money from your Cornish holiday let. However, this obviously depends on a steady flow of guests…
It’s relatively easy to place an advert on a holiday lettings portal. It’s also fairly straightforward to set up a website yourself and upload the content. Managing social media profiles isn’t difficult either. Getting potential guests to see your advert, website and social posts is, however, another matter…
You run the marketing and admin, and you’re the boss. You aren’t constrained by agency restrictions (some limit an owner’s use of the property, or don’t allow owners to stay in the property in high season). You can also manage discounts and deals quickly and easily.
On the other hand, going solo isn’t all plain sailing.
Running social media profiles might be straightforward but no one said it was quick. Ditto keeping track of enquiries and your booking calendar. All marketing and admin for a holiday let takes time and if you’ve chosen the DIY option that time is yours.
The time you dedicate to the tasks is obviously up to you but a successful holiday let requires lots of dedicated time. If you plan to make your Cornish holiday let a business then you’ll have the time. If you don’t and/or you have a job as well, marketing and managing your holiday let will have to be done in your free time.
You might be internet savvy and run your own accounts like clockwork but that doesn’t make you good at managing your holiday let. Novices (always) make mistakes and this can lead to dramatic consequences for your holiday property.
Your website may not rank well on Google meaning your holiday let doesn’t appear on the screens of potential guests. Your fantastic Facebook post may look good but reach just a smattering of people. And if no one knows about your holiday let no one will book.
Lack of experience may also lead to more serious problems such as confusion over payments. Or that nightmare scenario for both the holiday let guest and owner, a mix-up over bookings. Running a holiday let by yourself is a steep learning curve. Ask yourself if you’re prepared for the ride.
Letting an expert run your holiday let marketing and admin
If you’re daunted by the drawbacks of going solo mentioned above, your next step is to put the marketing and admin in the hands of an expert. Among the advantages are:
Time on your hands
As we mentioned above, marketing a holiday let takes time and lots of it. Handing over the responsibility to a reputable agency frees up literally days of your time. Time you could spend on other more enjoyable and/or useful things.
It’s also worth considering the stress-free factor – let an agency sweat the booking figures and payment problems.
Tap into experience
The best agencies have years of experience in the sector. They understand how it works, the potential problems and the areas to focus on. They also know how to deal with clients. As a result, your guests get better and more efficient attention.
Get better reach
Well-established holiday let agencies have been around for a while. That means they have forged a name for themselves both off and online. Media consult them regularly for comment; tourist offices get in touch for recommendations; and locals know and trust them.
Google favours websites with a reputation for quality and ranks them accordingly. The same applies to social media channels. Holiday rental agencies also have the budget to create new content – for example, blog posts – on a regular basis, which in turn boosts their website presence.
Not all good news
But it’s not all about gain if you put your marketing and admin in the hands of a professional. You’ll have to pay fees or commission – although these will probably be offset by an increase in earnings – and may not have as much control over your holiday let.
Bottom line? Your chosen professionals are doing the hard work to ensure your holiday let gets the maximum number of bookings and you receive the highest possible return.
Should you opt for a local or national self-catering agency?
Once you’ve taken the decision to allow the professionals to take over, you need to choose your agency. In Cornwall you can go with a local agent or one with a presence nationwide.
Choosing a Cornish letting agent will give your property the edge in the following ways:
Local knowledge – a holiday letting agency based in Cornwall knows the area inside out and more importantly, knows exactly what holidaymakers want and need. Based on this insider knowledge, the agent will be able to advise you on how to enhance your property and know exactly how to market it. Local agents also know their stuff when it comes to Cornish legislation, an aspect that may slip through the net at UK-wide companies.
Specialist knowledge – local agents will attract more potential guests interested in the area than a national agency. If a client types in “holiday lets in Cornwall” Google favours sites with a specific area focus. And a site specialising in Cornish lets is more likely to appeal to the client. If you were booking wouldn’t you rather look at a site that focuses on just your chosen area?
Tried and tested – Cornish self-catering agencies usually have well-established reputations, both locally and as go-to sources of information about holidays in Cornwall. At a local level, this works for referrals. At national, it raises awareness about holiday lets in Cornwall, thereby promoting properties marketed by the agency.
Make the decision
Of course, no one option fits all. We know owners of holiday lets in Cornwall who successfully market their property themselves. But there’s no denying the fact that marketing a holiday let successfully takes time and expertise. Our very long list of satisfied customers who have placed the marketing and administration in our capable hands echo this.
We’re obviously biased, but we think that more than 50 years’ experience certainly counts for something. Get in touch to find out how we can make your holiday letting experience time-rich and stress-free.