By CRAIG WHITE
Product, place, price and promotion. Those of you who took Marketing 101 in college and University will instantly recognize the 4Pís of marketing, but itís amazing how many people (and companies) fail to realize the importance of getting all of them right.
If youíre looking to rent out or sell a vacation property, your considerations are no different than purveyors of anything else Ė from high-priced diamonds to the carrot-dicing wonder available only by special order from a late-night infomercial.
If you already own a cottage or resort, there is not a whole lot you can do to change Product or Place that doesnít significantly impact your budget. On the other hand, proper attention to Price and Promotion can make your little piece of heaven a much sought-after retreat.
Of course, even heaven needs to sound the trumpet now and then. To keep yours from becoming the Betamax or Edsel of the vacation market, weíd like to offer a few tips on marketing your property Ė specifically, how to make sure youíre getting the most out of your web advertising.
First of all, you have to rethink your old ideas. Ads used to mean a compromise of cost, space and information. As a result, it is not uncommon to find something that reads like "2br Wtft, Lk Huron, 3pc, sand, $500, 555-5555". This is, in fact, a code that has to be understood by both the vendor and the buyer/renter. Itís much easier to understand something that reads "Two-bedroom Lake Huron waterfront cottage. Three-piece bath. Sandy beach. Rents for $500 weekly in season. For more information call 555-5555". Not only is this easier to read, but it is a little friendlier as well. The problem is, saying it that way will likely triple the cost of a print ad.
With your Internet listing(s), itís important to remember that space is cheap, very cheap. Instead of restricting your listing to the bare minimum, make sure you list all of the details that people want to know.
There is more than one advantage to this. First of all, the obvious benefit is that you donít have to make the price/space compromise. You can include details that will appeal to many people. The windsurfer that you include with the rent may draw a few people who never would have bothered to call had you neglected to mention it.
Secondly, you can save yourself a lot of time with judicious use of text. By specifically noting items having material impact - for example, deep water, which would make the property unattractive to families with small children - you can eliminate a lot of unnecessary calls. Ads can generate literally hundreds of callsÖno sense dealing with the ones you can avoid up front.
Another "old world" trap to avoid is the use of short forms. Again, the temptation may be there to use the old standby abbreviations like BR and wtft, but why bother? Why risk the possibility of a potential customer not understanding your ad?
A corollary of this is that you must now pay a bit more attention to grammar. While sparse listings are not expected to contain structured English, detailed listings in which remedial grammar rules are violated may send would-be renters elsewhere. If writing is not your forte, hiring someone to articulate your propertyís best points might be a good idea. The nice thing is that you can re-use the description on any number of listings on different sites.
Everyone knows the old saying that a picture is worth a thousand words. Thatís one adage that probably has not been changed by technology. It would take a talented writer indeed to convey the details present in a few well-selected photographs. Make sure your listing contains a photo of every feature that will attract attention. At a minimum, we suggest a shot of the exterior and one of the waterfront, if applicable.
Photos can generally be added to websites at very low cost (CottageLINK charges a one-time $5 fee for each photo). If you plan on running the listing on a permanent basis, you may wish to invest a little extra up front Ė perhaps hiring a professional photographer to bring out the highlights.
Select photos that convey the image you want, rather than just showing the items you want people to see. For example, a lake photo may appear black or grey if taken on a cloudy day. A shot taken from the same location on a sunny day, however, reveals a deep blue reflection of an azure summer sky, the subtle shades of green of the lakeside pine forest and deep reds of PEI sand. The items in both photos may be identical, but the latter better tells what the cottaging experience is all about.
Now letís consider price. Obviously, you want to be priced properly. If you price your property too high, it will sit vacant at least some of the time. If you ask too little, you are cheating yourself out of the value your property holds. How do you know what the proper figure is? There are a number of factors to consider.
The best way to determine your price is to compare with properties of the same type in the same area. Careful review of the competition is standard practice in any business - the vacation property market again is no different. Of course, if you feel you have set your price too high or too low, just contact your webmaster and have it changed.
If youíve built it, they WILL comeÖ.but only if they know itís there!
Tip summary for a successful CottageLINK ad