Where would you rather spend your holiday?
©fotolia

How to make sure you get your marketing right.

You’re busy with the purchase/renovation of your gîte. You want/hope to rent it out next year… plenty of time yet before you need to work out how and where you are going to market the gîte.

WRONG

For inclusion in ‘brochure’ type advertisement opportunities, the deadline for publications out in the new year is August. With the increase in internet only based advertising, you may not be so tied for time – but – the kitchen isn’t finished in the gîte and at present the ‘en-suite’ doesn’t actually exist so you decide…

… it’s better to delay the marketing until they are finished, and you can photograph them properly.

WRONG

Rather like the gardening and landscaping of your property your marketing CANNOT wait. Delay it at your peril…

How often have you returned from your summer holiday only to immediately start dreaming of and planning the next one? So – don’t lower your chances of letting out your property by delaying the marketing. There will be people looking much earlier than you think.

To gain maximum effect from your investment in marketing a new gîte, you need to place advertising preferably the autumn before you hope to let it.

The last thing you want to do, however, is mislead anyone hoping to rent your property next year yet you need to get going. So what do you do? Concentrate your photographs on the parts that ARE finished, and use an accurate description of things which may not actually exist now (‘ensuite bathroom to main bedroom’) but which most definitely will exist by the time the property is let.

Wording the description

Don’t know where to start? One of the easiest ways it to put yourself in the guise of a holiday guest and search the Internet or in appropriate magazines for an advertisement for a similar property that attracts you. Notice why it appealed to you – and use that as a framework.

Essentially, the rule of thumb is to stick to a relatively short snappy accurate description of the property, its surrounding area and attractions.

Remember, it needs to attract attention. It also needs to be accurate. Calling the road outside your cottage an open terrace and photographing it with table and chairs outside – which is really something we have honestly come across – is not the way to impress!

Other things to think about. Start with a good name for the property – although everyone is aware of the use of the word ‘gîte’ the word ‘cottage’ evokes a better image. Try and work out what appealed to you when you bought it and use that – so ‘five minutes stroll from the bustling centre of a market town’ might be just the thing, or equally ‘secluded in private grounds with own swimming pool’.

Deciding how much to charge seems difficult but really isn’t. Do your research. Take a look at the internet for holiday rental in the area where your house is. See what is advertised and compare amenities and features and you’ll see a pattern emerging.

Don’t underestimate listing local amenities and attractions which add value to your property – holidays are the things dreams are made of, and taking some of the risk away for your potential guests will help raise the number of weeks you have booked. In my own little Breton market town, I could point out the local lake with artificial beach and well stocked childrens’ play area: the amazing cycle track created from an old railway line which runs for over 100kms, and the French workers restaurant in town where you can have a 4 course meal with wine for €11 each…

The sophisticated potential guest wants an “all in” cost nowadays and adding charges for bed linen or cleaning is likely to put them off. Include in the weekly rental what you might have once considered added options, so that they know exactly how much the holiday is going to cost them without needing to do any mental arithmetic.

Finally, place your advertising with a letting agency which has a good presence in your area, and one which neither demands nor expects exclusivity. We often act as advisors to our clients who let their properties, and we would advise a portfolio of three letting outlets – not all of these need to be paid for up front: several appropriate outlets have a “no book, no fee” option nowadays. It’s not necessary to have your own website because you still need to point advertising to it – so better to spend your budget on the advertising portals if you can’t afford the advertising as well as a website.

Photographs

©freefly via fotolia

Not surprisingly the better the photographs, the greater your chance of catching the interest of potential guests. Many of the holiday letting agencies that I deal with will advise their clients to involve a professional photographer. The picture here is far more appealing than one showing a drab outside.

Getting good pictures is not just a case of wandering around taking a few snaps. You need to think carefully about dressing the inside of the house and its contents for photographic appeal. For example…

You and I may know that you bought that beautiful polished oak dining table at the local French antique shop at huge cost. However if in a photograph it looks like a few planks of wood nailed together, cover it with a crisp white cloth, put on a bowl of fruit or a vase of flowers.. a bottle of red wine (more attractive than white in a photograph) together with some glasses ‘casually’ placed on the sideboard and voila!

That throw on the (comfortable!) settee may well be in place to avoid the visitors children’s sticky fingers marking the upholstery – but in photographs it can look messy, so remove it.

The duvet has just been laundered and is folded neatly on the bed, looking quite smart. Forget it! Stop and make the bed up with some lovely linen: smooth the cover, fuss over how the curtains are hanging – make it look like you care, as indeed you do.

You only get one chance to make a first impression and that’s what your photographs are going to do (or not).

And finally…

Be prepared to follow up your initial advertising with additional information and act quickly if you have an enquiry. Think outside the box with your marketing – take the details into your local health centre and offer the staff there a discounted rate if they rent your gîte. Put postcards in the local post office window – or on the notice board of your local supermarket. Cheap, but effective.

Remember one really salutary point – just because you love your holiday home in France, it doesn’t automatically mean everyone else will. Do your best to stand back and be objective and be prepared to take advice. Turning a much loved holiday home into a gîte suitable for letting out commercially may involve some changes to your thinking – things you and the family have worked around for years may need changing to make sure your guests have a happy stay and either return or recommend your property as a result. Take a deep breath, and be open to advice and to making some adjustments!

And why not start right here, right now? Get in touch with your queries, and we will do our best to help.

•With thanks to Sally Stone
Les Bons Voisins
www.lbvfrance.com
email: info@lbvfrance.com

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