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The newsletter for rental home owners, BY rental home owners: helping you use the internet to get year-round bookings.
Wherever I lay my hat, that's my home Issue number 1
  How to respond to enquiries  |  Best sites for advertising  |  Owner's Secrets  |  Subscribe to Newsletter  |  Past issues

Paolo pic.    

Hello again - another month, another Lay My Hat!

In this issue of Lay My Hat we're going to look at the next, vital step in the booking process-responding to an enquiry: when you know someone's interested, you have to convert them before someone else does. I'm telling you everything I know about this. I'd like to hear from you on what I've missed out.

I've had a lot of enthusiastic reactions to the idea of a discussion forum. This would allow us all to talk to each other, ask questions and share advice in 'real time'. UPDATE!  The forum has arrived - see it here.

Some of you have gone beyond ideas and told me you have rental-related services you'd like to offer your fellow owners-see the piece about it in this newsletter.

Also in this issue, the question many of you are asking-which are the best sites to advertise on? I can tell you a simple way to find out for yourself. I can also tell you which are NOT good sites to advertise on: the ones that email you offers out of the blue. I just delete these emails because any company worth its salt knows it's illegal to send them.

Well done to John and Liz for guessing where I was in the last Lay My Hat-see their 'Where am I?' at the bottom. I had no idea where this was-do you?

Paolo De Paolis signature
Paolo De Paolis
Editor, Lay My Hat
paolo@laymyhat.com

Since I wrote this newsletter, the Lay My Hat forum has been launched. It's where rental owners talk about anything to do with the business of rentals, and plenty else besides! See the forum by clicking here.



10 tips for responding to an enquiry

When someone emails you about your property, that is only half the dance - how you respond is crucial, because this first point of contact is your opportunity to serenade someone into feeling good about you and your home. Here's what I know on the subject:

  1. React first Most people looking for accommodation will email a shortlist of candidates with an enquiry. If you are the first person to respond, you have the best chance to make the booking. So check your emails often.
  2. Save time  You can use pre-written emails that cover the usual communications: first enquiry, payment enquiry, rental contract, and directions. Then you just copy and paste these into a reply and tailor them as necessary. A great time-saver.
  3. Identify yourself  You're probably not the only person the enquirer has emailed so identify yourself by including their message in your reply. It's also a good idea to add the web address of your website after your sign-off-they can then click through to the site and fall for its charms again.
  4. Use questions to say more  There are usually questions attached to email enquiries. When you answer these questions, try placing the enquirer in the property. If they ask about the size of the bed, tell them what a lovely view there is from the bed in the morning. If they ask about the garden, say how lovely it is to be cooking at the barbecue as the sun is setting.
  5. Get them involved  Tell them a story. How you found the house, why you love it, how you renovated it, its history. Then tell them about the local area, what are your favourite places, restaurants, activities, etc. In a sense, make them fall for it like you did. Make them feel involved and it will be harder for them to say no.
  6. Tell them something they don't know  It sounds contrary, but try holding something back from your ad/site, which you can reveal when they enquire. Not something big like a pool, but something like 'We have hairdryers in the bathrooms so you don't have to pack them', 'We have a library of classic films', 'Local phone calls are free'. These will not break a deal, but they may just make one, especially in a market of similar properties.
  7. Already booked  If you get an enquiry for a period that is booked, suggest a week that is not booked-some people will change their dates if they really like the property.
  8. Tone of voice  Tone of voice is important. Don't talk to them like a hotel does, because they don't want to book a hotel. Talk to them as if you are writing a letter to a friend. Let them get to know and trust you and they will be much more likely to book your house instead of another.
  9. Call to action  At the end of your email, make sure you state what you would like to happen next, e.g. 'Please let me know if you'd like to go ahead and book'. Sometimes a little nudge is all that's needed.
  10. Telephone or email?  People who switch from replying by email to telephoning say that their conversion rate improves dramatically. Your response time will be quicker and if they like you they may commit there and then. But this is not best for everyone-if you come across poorly on the phone but write well you will be better off charming your prospect by email.

Find this useful? Disagree? Tell me what you think, and send in your best tips for responding to an enquiry - email me at paolo@laymyhat.com

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Owner's secrets

Owners share their trade secrets - if you find them useful, why not join in? Email to paolo@laymyhat.com

Owner's secret #1

Here's a tip which costs almost nothing and generates fantastic goodwill with guests. If there's a fridge, boiler, or whatever in the kitchen with an exposed white face, buy a box of magnetic letters from a toyshop. Spell out on the fridge "Welcome to the Anderson family" or "Welcome back, Jane and Jack", or whatever. A small personal touch which almost every guest remarks on.

And, incidentally, about 50% of guests will leave you a nice message in return when they go!

Thanks to Geraldine for this tip. You can see her rental properties here: http://www.crosswoodhill.co.uk/


Owner's secret #2

We all get enquiries for weeks that are booked, or for something we can't provide-one more bedroom, a pool, a rural setting. It's frustrating to have to say no to these.

But we probably know someone who isn't booked that week, or who has that extra requirement. So a good way of 're-investing' that enquiry is to have an informal agreement with rental owners nearby to pass on enquiries you can't satisfy. You should get roughly the same amount of referrals to your property as you give out, so no enquiry is wasted.


Do you have any good owner's tips? Let's share what we know about holiday rentals - email your tips and suggestions to paolo@laymyhat.com and we'll discuss them in future newsletters.




Where am I?

In the last issue I asked you to guess where I was standing in the pic on the left - the answer was Mullion Cove in Cornwall, UK, one of my favourite places in the world. Well done to John and Liz from Surrey, England - pictured on the right - for guessing correctly.

But where in the world are they? First correct answer wins a sensational prize - you get to set the next 'Where am I?' photo quiz. Email your answer to me at paolo@laymyhat.com




Owner-to-owner services

There is no advertising in Lay My Hat but some of you do offer relevant services that fellow owners may find genuinely useful. I am planning to include a page listing these owner-to-owner services in the next newsletter.

UPDATE!  You can now post your owner-to-owner service at the Lay My Hat forum. Click here to go there.




Coming soon...

Now we have (hopefully) converted an enquiry into a booking, the next step is how to prepare your home for your guests so that they are impressed enough to return next year. I'll be telling you everything I know about this in the next newsletter.

Also in the next Lay My Hat: more advice on getting your rental property seen on the internet, more reader's tips and owners' secrets.

Tip: If you want to pass this newsletter on to other owners, please do so, just hit your 'Forward' button and put in the address you want to send it to. You can also type a message at the top of the newsletter to explain what you are sending - this newsletter looks like a webpage but it behaves like an email.



Remember, the point of Lay My Hat is that it's an exchange of ideas and opinions for holiday rental owners, so please don't be shy in sharing yours. Here's my address: paolo@laymyhat.com



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What are the best sites to advertise on?

A lot of you would like to know which are the best sites to advertise your property on. And a lot of you don't know about these sites at all.

Personally, I get 10-11 months of bookings a year using holiday rental listing sites. No brochures, no agencies, no personal web site. So I rate them very highly.

Which are the best? I can't tell you! Each case is different. But I can tell you how to find out for yourself - you have to Google for it.

As you may know, Google is the most popular search engine in the world. So put yourself in the shoes of someone looking for a property like yours.

Using Google, type in the words and phrases that might be used. For example: 'costa del sol villas', 'holiday rentals in costa del sol', 'marbella self-catering', etc. Be sensitive to national variations e.g. 'holiday cottages' for the UK, 'vacation rentals' for US.

Type in lots of permutations and note which sites repeatedly come up on the first page of 10 results (beyond which few people tend to look). These sites are your shortlist.

Now you should look at what each site costs and what they offer: how many pictures, how much description. Generally the more the better. And do you like the way they present properties?

This is really what it comes down to - Google doesn't lie: don't be drawn to beautiful-looking obscure sites - if they don't get found high up in a search, nobody will ever see them anyway.

And don't bank on free sites either - if they are free they probably don't have the budget necessary to boost their search engine rankings and get your ad seen.

Although Google is the most important search engine, you can use this system with any search engine.

If you want to discuss the relative merits of listing sites, how they work, which give the best customer service, etc, etc, go to the Lay My Hat discussion forum where fellow rental owners are discussing this now.


Are you making the most of the internet?


Are you getting the bookings your home deserves? If yes, great. But if you are hardly getting any bookings from the internet, there is probably something wrong with your site or ad. I think you should get it looked at. Get someone who has had a lot of success with bookings on the internet. And also a professional copywriter specialising in travel. And then someone who can fix your site without charging you too much.

Just a minute - that's not three people! That's me!

I can give your web presence a complete health-check: from minor tweaks to total rewrites, I can help you get more bookings. You can email me for help by clicking on this line



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Tip my hat...

The Lay My Hat newsletter is free (mainly because I didn't realise how much work it would be). However, my wife is not happy. As she puts it: "Why do you spend all your time on that ****** newsletter when you should be earning money to buy me shoes and handbags?" So to appease her, if you find Lay My Hat especially useful, you have the option of making a small donation towards its upkeep. Just click on the button below, no amount is too small. PayPal is free to use and secure. But please don't feel obliged - how many shoes can one person wear anyway?


Copyright 2003-2004 Paolo De Paolis. All rights reserved in all media.