When I started Boostly, I had one goal. This was to help the hospitality community with their marketing. Nothing more and nothing less.
Initially, the problems that needed to be solved seemed obvious. If I could help hospitality owners sort out their Tripadvisor, Booking.com, and Expedia listings, then we'd be going in the right direction. That priority was followed closely by Facebook, social media and email marketing. If we could cover those, we’d be home free.
However, after ticking all these boxes, it just wasn't the case.
Although there was a noticeable improvement, owners were still not converting to the levels I knew were possible. It was like I had the hospitality marketing jigsaw almost done, but a vital piece of the puzzle was missing. And this piece had to be found. (It wasn't under the sofa. I checked!) ?
So I went back to the drawing board and meticulously went through every nook and cranny of my client's websites (and a host of others) for 3 days straight. Then it dawned on me.
Around 80% of my clients had a website. And the majority of them had employed a web designer to create a visually appealing site.
This was where the problem lay.
Bear with me while I explain.
It's a common misconception that the prettier the website is, the better it will work. And as it happens, presentation is precisely where web designers concentrate all their efforts. They aim to make their creations as eye-catching, beautiful, and visually remarkable as possible. But design is only half the story of having a great website.
The other half? Functionality.
Us humans have a notoriously short attention span. If someone finds your website difficult to navigate, the guest will very quickly become frustrated and, rather than persevere, will choose the easy option and revert back to those 3rd party websites. In the worst-case scenario, they'll pick an entirely different venue.
And with that, your booking disappears into thin air. Poof!
Out of all the websites I looked at, almost none of them were set up to take direct bookings. As you know, direct bookings are the holy grail when it comes to boosting revenue.
Instead, because of their poorly designed sites, my clients were freely handing over commission fees to 3rd party websites, month on month, instead of pocketing their well-earned cash. ?
Something needed to be done.
I made it my responsibility to work with each client’s website designer to ensure they could implement the changes we needed to make the website start churning out direct bookings.
You see, I like to get things done. I don’t like to wait, and the more I’ve progressed and built Boostly, the more I’ve come to realise that everything begins and ends with your website. If you want to increase your profits, you need to have a website that converts. If it doesn't, then everything else you do is pointless.
The trouble was, I was bringing the horse to the river to drink, but the horse wasn’t cooperating. The clients I was working with had website designers who had all the power over the changes on their website.
I am done for you
My “done for you” work was being hampered because the website designers my clients were working with were too busy, too lax, or just didn't want to listen. Because of this, simple, vital tasks were being delayed or not completed. The only person suffering was the clients. ?
At the same time, people in the Hospitality Community were coming to me asking for website designer recommendations, and because of my experience, I didn't want to pass anyone on. It just wasn't fair.
After hearing horror story after horror story and after working with website designers who were out of date or didn’t understand how to create a website for the world of hospitality, I’d had enough. I decided to transform my business and focus on changing my done-for-you service on helping hospitality owners get a vacation rental website design that will work. ?
To do this, I broke my strategy down into 4 essential parts, which are critical for getting those direct bookings flowing and your website, turning lookers into bookers like never before.
1 – Vertical, one-page website design.
2 – A big “Book Now” button visible as soon as someone visits the website.
3 – Guest reviews which are updated in real time and taken from Tripadvisor, Google and Facebook.
4 – Letting the photos promote your property.
EVERYTHING CHANGED once I started applying these 4 keys to every site I worked on. Let me show you what I mean.
Sarah and Paul Wilkinson
Sarah and Paul Wilkinson have a beautiful guest house and a holiday home in France. They joined the Hospitality Community Facebook group and won a marketing review with me. During their review, I noticed some changes that needed to happen for their current website. I will include a clip below.
Sarah and Paul took on board the recommendations and sent them off to their website designer.
Then, in June, I got this message.
Can you believe it? 6 months. I’m not sure what he was up to, but Sarah and Paul could have built another guesthouse in that time.
So they came to me for help. I was more than happy to oblige and in less than a week, they had a brand new website will all the trimmings LIVE. 48 hours later, Sarah and Paul posted in the Hospitality Community to let me know they had direct bookings via their site. ?
The same goes for Maria Cheung
She’s based in Amsterdam and has a gorgeous Bed and breakfast in the heart of the city.
She was working to get a website up and running. Before Maria came into my world, she was listed on Booking.com and had no online presence or booking engine. 100% of her bookings were coming via Booking.com, and she spent hundreds of Euros monthly in commission. I’m sure she would have much rather seen that money going into her bank account.
Her story is common. She had a family member who was helping with her website, but it was taking time. Weeks and months had passed, and the website wasn’t completed. I reached out to Maria and explained how I could help, and within 72 hours, we were online with her new website, which was:
- Live on Free To Book meant she didn't have to manually close off several channels when a booking came in and risk double bookings.
- Set up on Stripe so she could accept online payments, opening up even more payment options for her guests to book with her.
- Equipped with an online booking engine, which means she will finally cut down her high commission rates.
- Connected on Google Business listing and Google Analytics, so we can track how many people are visiting her website, where they are coming from, and more importantly, how many people are going to her booking page.
Not to mention that the new website showcased her latest reviews in real-time on her website to display her stunning property in its best possible light.
Then there was Edwin
He runs a B&B in Northern Ireland. Again, Edwin had a website, but he couldn’t get hold of his website designer.
Are you seeing a common theme?
Like many people I talk to, their website designer had purchased the domain name and set up the hosting. He had not told them who it was with or how to get access to it. I wanted to help Edwin out of this pickle. He had the domain name for his property, Lisieux House, and wanted to keep it.
After doing some research, I discovered that his website designer was unreachable because he was in prison!
I was able to save Edwin's domain name via Nominet on his behalf. Then, I created a new website for him.
The old website designer had done a botched job. Edwin's website was linked directly to Booking.com. Edwin was confused about how all his bookings were coming from the OTA. He was spending on average £600 every month in commission costs! To put that another way, he was losing £7200 per year!
Within 5 short days, not only had I got him a new website up and running, I'd connected it to a new booking engine in Free-To-Book. More importantly, Edwin went from having a website he couldn't even access to one he had 100% control over and a reduction in his commission costs to boot.
And I’m still not done…
Ali and Bev King in Wales run the lovely Manordaf B&B.
They thought when they left their website provider, they would also lose their domain. I was able to help them save the domain, and in less than 4 days, we had a brand new website which clearly showed off their stunning B&B.
And last but not least, Jayne Oates
Jayne Oates of Overdale Guest House in Whitby had a website that hadn’t been updated in over 3 years. 81% of her new bookings were coming from the Online Travel Agents ?
Unfortunately, her website designer hadn’t set up Google Analytics for the website, so we weren’t able to track why this was the case.
I helped Jayne create a new website, which did use Google Analytics. Over the subsequent months, we were able to see where guests were coming from and where they were going on the website. I also gave Jayne access to my crash course on Google Analytics. She could now learn exactly what she was looking for and why.
This will future-proof Jayne’s business, as we will be able to track where her guests are coming from and concentrate her marketing efforts on her most profitable sources. (And also drop the ones for which she was throwing money in the bin.)
Now, the all-important question
“Do I need to update my website?” ?
Hang on, don't answer yet.
In the last few minutes, we've gone through numerous case studies from my clients, who now see the massive benefits from having a website that is not only attractive to the eye but also a joy for guests to use.
The odds of guests staying with you skyrocket by making the booking process as frictionless as possible. Good booking also presents newcomers with a critical, glowing first impression of your hospitality business.
The result? You'll boost your bottom line by taking back extortionate commission fees from greedy 3rd party platforms.
NOW you need to ask yourself these questions:
- Have you updated your website in the last 3 years?
- Do you have Google Analytics set up for your website?
- Is your website “mobile friendly”?
- Can someone book directly on your website via a booking engine?
- Are you getting at least 30% of your new bookings via your website?
- If you answered NO to any of these above then, quite frankly, you are leaving money on the table.
So what's stopping the hospitality owners from making these changes? Well, there are 2 BIG reasons that always pop up when I talk to clients. Let's break them down.
Time: Quite simply, clients think it will take too much time to switch over.
This myth is purely down to past experiences with previous web designers. As you can see from above, this doesn't have to be the case.
All I need is your wording and photos from your current website, and I can get started straight away. Most cases are done within a week. There will be no downtime on your site and it will be no drain on your precious time. It's an entirely hands-free service that leaves you free to run your business.
And now the big one…
Cost: I can't count how many times I’ve heard this over the years.
“I don’t have the budget to get a new website”.
I can see where you’re coming from. We all have these worries. However, ask yourself this: How much was your commission bill to Booking.com, Expedia, or the OTAs last month? £100, £200, £300 +? ?
Let's take a conservative guess at £200; over a year, that's £2400. I’m assuming you’re in this business for the long haul. Over a 5 year period, that is £12k lost!
I promise I’m not here to be the bearer of bad news. But when you look at that figure, how can you afford not to make the changes?
Hopefully, you’ve realised that I’m no used car salesman, and this isn't a hard sell. It's just not my style. But let me level with you. I want to tell you about your two options.
Take all the information I've given in this blog and case studies and apply it to your own website. If you do, your business will thrive. I honestly wish you the best of luck if this is your choice. If you do it the right way, you won't regret taking my advice.
The only trouble with this option is that you also have a business to run. More often than not, you will hit roadblocks. Time, tech issues, or any of the countless problems life has a habit of throwing at us when we least expect it will impede our efforts.
You’ll get frustrated, and your renovation will likely drag on for months. Believe me, you're not alone. It’s a common outcome.
However, if you’d instead take another, much more straightforward route, there is option 2:
This leads me to one of my greatest bugbears in this industry.
I hear quotes that other website designers are coming back with to hospitality owners:
£1k + ?
Some places I have heard of ask £5k + ?
My goal is to ensure that every hospitality owner who comes into my world can get a website that converts lookers into bookers and not have to pay a high fee to achieve that.
You will have total control over your website, and I will record a bespoke tutorial video to show you how to use it.
With all that being said, I have to ask: “If your website isn’t generating bookings for you right now, can you afford NOT to get in touch with me and get a new one?”