Entrepreneur Bella Given shares her marketing know-how which helped develop Longlands, a glamping business with an annual turnover of £200,000 and 95% occupancy in its first year.
Not simply important to the success of your business, marketing is absolutely essential. It’s about creating a brand that will set your business apart from every other glampsite. At its simplest, your brand is a promise to your guests. It is more than just a set of features or benefits; it should encapsulate the values and feelings that run through everything, from your logo to the manner in which you answer the telephone.
Marketing is about identifying your potential future guests, or ‘target market’. You need to understand what they expect from a glamping holiday so you can deliver it. A family with four children and a dog will be looking for different things compared to a couple or a group of friends. Marketing is about knowing what to say, how to say it and through which media channels to ensure your messages not only reach your future guests but engage and motivate them to take action: to book!
Here are a few of the key branding and communication tools that you need to consider, plan and budget for.
- Name and logo: these are the primary branding elements and will appear on everything. The longer the name the harder it will be to recall.
- Photographs: a picture paints a thousand words. Find a professional whose work is in keeping with your brand and don’t skimp on the number of shots you take. You need fantastic photography for your website and your brochure, and for editorial coverage: those with the best pictures will get the publicity. Without great photographs you cannot expect to engage potential guests. They are judging your offering from the pictures they see on your website, listing page, TripAdvisor page or advert. You need to hire a photographer who can help style the images so that guests can easily see themselves in each setting.
- Your competitors: keep an eye on other websites, particularly those who you feel are direct competitors because they are in your area or offer something very similar. Benchmark yourself against two or three and ensure your website and photographs are as engaging and inspiring, or more so.
- Networking: there are real opportunities to learn from others in the same business and, possibly: your competitors may become some of your best allies! Take the opportunity to attend glamping shows or sign up for a course and get networking. So often it is about who you know and not what you know.
- Pricing: check what others charge, in your area particularly. What will you ask extra for? How will your pricing change throughout the season?
- Promotion: think added value rather than discounts when offering special promotions during the year. ‘Free’ is the biggest motivator of all! Think what will be relevant to families with children of different ages or to couples.
- Remember: marketing is essential to the success of your business so budget accordingly.
- Domain name: keep it simple, short, easy to spell and easy to remember.
- Website: ensure it is responsive (easily viewed on devices such as mobiles and tablets) and can be updated easily by you or your web agent. An active management package should allow for monthly updates of text and photos. The website needs to be easy to navigate, be highly visual and have a clear call to action, usually ‘Book Now!’ Your logo and branding should sing through and copy should be kept to a minimum and in clear, easy to understand sections or pages.
- Copy: when writing about your accommodation never talk ‘features’, always talk benefits and paint pictures for your future guests to engage with. You can then use features as support points. When you think about what you are offering ask yourself, ‘so what?’ For example, ‘there is a wood burner,’ becomes ‘curl up in front of a flickering fire with a good book.’
- Blog/latest news: ensure your website has this functionality so you can add content regularly. Think of it as a means of story-telling; guests love to hear the tale behind a particular site or read more information about an area. This is vital for search engine optimisation (SEO).
- Search engine optimisation: your website copy needs key search terms built in so that when a potential guest types a search term into Google your website ideally appears on page one, but certainly page two. To increase and maintain your Google ranking you need to add ‘refreshed, relevant content’ to your website on a regular basis.
- Links with local businesses: include links on your website to businesses that offer relevant activities, along with a list of favoured restaurants and pubs. Some of these business may reciprocate with links to your website. This helps boost your search engine rankings and, most importantly, provides guests with more information about things to do in the area and where to eat.
- Social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest… the list keeps growing. Learn to use Facebook at the very least. Think of it as a photo album to showcase your accommodation, site and area. It should engage guests who will then want to share with friends. Link your Facebook presence to your website’s blog or latest news section.
- bitly.com: this is an invaluable website enabling you to convert long links to short, bitly links. For example http://www.longlandsdevon.co.uk/news/blog-159-10-reasons-to-come-glamping-at-longlands becomes just bit.ly/1OTaXub
- Booking agent: even if you decide to take bookings direct think about using a booking agent, at least in the first few years. A booking agent will increase your exposure and maximise your reach and awareness. Canopy & Stars, part of the Alastair Sawday group, generated half the bookings in our first year.
- Booking engine: Supercontrol is an excellent booking engine enabling guests to book any time of the day or night. The majority of my bookings are made between 10 and 11pm at night. Most people will spend an evening researching their preferred holiday options. Once they have identified where they want to stay they want to be able to book then and there. If you don’t have the means for them to book immediately you may well lose the booking to someone who does have online booking.
- Endorsements: VisitEngland and the AA are now offering glamping accreditation and are worth considering if they will motivate your future guest.
- Glamping listing sites: these are sites where you pay for an annual listing rather than a commission per booking. These will certainly increase your reach by generating interest and enquiries. The top sites with a Google search for “glamping” are:Love Glamping – love-glamping.co.uk
- Go Glamping – goglamping.net
- Cool Camping – coolcamping.co.uk
- Cool Places – coolplaces.co.uk
- Glamping UK – glamping-uk.co.uk
- Quirky Accommodation – quirkyaccom.com
- VisitEngland – visitengland.com
- Don’t forget county, area and local websites
- TripAdvisor: sign up and pay for a business listing so you have links to your site, can manage your page, post offers and announcements and monitor reviews. Do not invite guests who have experienced any problems to write a review! Tell them you hope they will rate you as ‘excellent’ and, if not, ask why they wouldn’t. Act on feedback.
Press & PR
- Adverts and advertorials: think who is the key decision maker in making a booking and what they might read. Magazines allow for more images and more information than, for example, radio. Keep it simple with one key message and some supporting text and some knock-out visuals. Ensure you know the circulation and readership of the magazines you want to use and take time to compare costs between similar titles. The best way to do this is to calculate the cost per thousand people reached. Remember that price is negotiable depending on the size of the advertisement and the number of issues you want to advertise in.
- PR: good editorial is priceless. Go out of your way to make friends with a freelance travel writer or good freelance journalist. Make good use of coverage on your website. Don’t expect all coverage to generate enquiries; some just helps move people from interested to actually booking.
- Competitions: the offer of a free weekend as a competition prize should buy you some good coverage. Make sure you ask for entrants’ email addresses for the future.
- Use your local area: people aren’t just coming to stay at Longlands they’re also buying into North Devon, the coast and Exmoor. We use photographs and stories from the locality to help us promote our glamping operation.
With so many elements to consider it is easy to lose sight of what you are trying to do. This is why it is important to capture your objectives and actions in a marketing plan. Know what you are trying to achieve for each part of the year so you can be clear what messages you need to convey in what months. These objectives will then cascade into a series of action points against the marketing vehicles you have decided to employ. For example, offers on TripAdvisor or which magazines you are advertising in and for how much.
Be clear about how much you intend to spend and ensure you measure the effectiveness of each element of your plan so that you can be certain it is generating value for money. At the very least ensure you know where every booking comes from!
About the Author
With 18 years of marketing experience working on brands such as Beefeater Gin, Solpadeine, Hedex and Huggies nappies, plus two of her own businesses, Bella Given knows how to create and market brands. Five years ago she started Longlands, a glamping operation in Devon. With an occupancy of 95% in its first year, Longlands produced a turnover of almost £200k in year two and is generating an operating profit almost twice that of the business plan.
In response to the dozens of would-be glampsite owners visiting Longlands and asking for the secrets behind the site’s success, Bella decided to package her insight, guidance and useful contacts for setting up and running a successful glamping business into a one-day course. As one delegate said: “Bella has not just been in the business, she is the business! Fantastic and essential insight from the dream to the first guest arriving. Save yourself a fortune and get a guru!”
If you would like to learn more about how to plan, set up and run a successful glamping business Bella runs one-day courses at Longlands and also provides bespoke consultations. Visit www.learningsfromlonglands.co.uk or telephone 01271 882004. For more on Longlands, visit www.longlandsdevon.co.uk