Marketing automation is the ability to manage your calendars, prices and information on multiple websites in real time. Property managers spend many hours a week managing the websites they advertise on and as a result, many do not try out new avenues to market resulting in poor occupancy (which is a scary 35% on average).
Marketing automation also allows for better revenue management. By keeping your prices updated in one software tool, you can instantly compare the rates you advertise on all your portals versus the commissions they charge. As a result you can make more informed pricing decisions and re-publish your rates across all portals at a click of a button.
Investing in tech to automate your marketing doesn’t have to be a daunting nor an expensive task. Here are some practical tips to prepare your properties for marketing automation.
While many websites you’ll advertise on will have flexible uploads, others will be very strict on the details required. We come across new sales channel requirements every day. In order to be very sure that you’ll be able to advertise on all channels, you need to prepare the following minimum amount of information for each of your properties:
- headline title (the name of the property, 70 characters is ideal)
- property type (villa, apartment, etc.)
- description (700 characters minimum without HTML)
- minimum stay
- number of bedrooms and bathrooms
- maximum of guests
- address, country, state, province
- floor area (size in sqm or feet)
- photos (2048 x 1536 pixels minimum);
- amenities per room and floor level
- cancellation policy
- arrival instructions
- payment schedule
There are no two ways around it: If you can’t ensure accurate availability, no point reading this article further. We've heard from HomeAway that properties with accurate availability rank higher in their search results. This is true whether you’re on a subscription or instant booking model with them. While we don’t have that confirmed from the other sales channels we work with, one can assume that this is the case with all: accurate calendars result in more bookings.
If you have a large number of properties, you can connect to sales channels either via an in-house database or a Property Management System (PMS). If you do use a PMS then find out whether they are outsourcing the Channel Management part to a specialized company or would be prepared to do so. Our industry is maturing, and more and more we follow in the footsteps of the hotel industry: Hotels use systems to manage their availability and the likes of SiteMinder or Travelclick to distribute the availability. These are two very different specialities. If, on the other hand, you have a large, in-house database, then make sure your programmers have a good knowledge of API connections as most channel managers will allow you to connect to them directly.
If you’re going to take marketing automation seriously a very important question to ask yourself is: “Which other websites would like to be featured on?” I bet you a free stay in one of my Barcelona holiday rentals that some of the websites that give me bookings you’ve never heard of. There’s a whole array of vacation rental wholesalers that are incredibly successful. Then there are small specialized agencies that may only give you 3-4 bookings a year but if you don’t have to do anything for it, why not? So the answer to your very valid question is: the more, the better. Find a channel manager that has lots of channels and who are dedicated to making new connections for you every year as the market changes.
Vanessa de Souza Lage is the owner of holiday rentals in Barcelona, the founder of the holiday rental agency “Holiday Velvet” and the CMO of Rentals United, a channel manager for vacation rentals. She has a passion for new tech and looks forward taking the conversation further with VRMA members at the event in New Orleans on the 26th of October 2015.