It’s a good idea to start your marketing prior to launch if you can, or straightaway if you are taking over an existing site; it will take a while to get into the guides and onto the right marketing sites, plus repeat visits are more prevalent and crucial in this market so you’ll have to build and maintain your reputation. Awareness is key and so too is regular communication.
Here’s what you should be doing:
Review your competition. You need to know what the offerings are both locally and regionally and identify where you fit into the market. How are you different?
Start to build a database of potential customers. Contact medium to large local companies who work nationally and internationally for example; they will have staff/customers from abroad who visit for extended periods e.g. a fortnight or a month. These are the type of customers you need and you can start communicating with them straight away.
Plan a launch or relaunch event. Then plan some more, every few months after that – invite the local decision-makers to the apartments for an exclusive event with a few goodies thrown in. Don’t be fooled – this isn’t likely to be the MD – go for the HR personnel, personal assistants, top-level assistants and so on, who are likely to be booking the accommodation – also see if they have liaison personnel for any national or international offices.
Choose the best online portal to win bookings. There are a number of serviced apartment portals and you need to look at which ones offer you the best opportunities. Booking.com and Saco are just two of the well known ones out there. Look at what they are offering in your area and see if you want to join up with them. Like the hotel portals they all have different commission rates and terms and conditions so do your homework thoroughly before signing up.
Put together ‘exclusive packages’ for local businesses. Incentivise them to book and then once they book again, say ‘thank you’ with another deal. They shouldn’t get a deal every time, but a deal as a thank you for loyalty always goes down well – alternatively, a bunch of flowers, bottle of wine or chocolate for the person responsible for the booking will put you even more front and centre for future trips.
Day-to-day occupancy planning is crucial; hotels can and do expect a number of ‘walk-ins’ according to the season, month and day of the week. Unfortunately, serviced apartments rely heavily on advanced bookings and last-minute occupancy is unlikely unless it is properly marketed. The marketing lead-time will be a trial and error approach; can you afford to wait until a week before, or do users in your area consider a month to be ‘last minute’? Market these vacancies through social media, booking sites and with your existing database, but don’t do deals too often or it will undervalue your product.
This feature first appeared in the August 2014 issue of Hotel Owner magazine