Marketing It’s always refreshing to get a vacation renter’s perspective on what we do, and an eye-opener to find out how many haven’t got a clue that our business even exits. Having spent yesterday at the Mississauga Home & Cottage Show talking to a stream of people who stopped by our booth, I wanted to share some of their comments and feedback. There were a lot so I’m splitting them out into two posts. The first covers the issues raised in actually looking for that perfect rental and the challenges of sifting through thousands of options. Tomorrow, I’ll cover the comments made about previous rental experiences – what made some people return again and again to the same property, and what were the big turn-offs. Finding a rental There were a lot of comments about how challenging it was to find a rental that was available, with complaints that availability calendars were not up to date, or there was no calendar at all. Most said they would move on to another listing rather than have to email or call an owner to check availability. Web sites should be easy to navigate and clearly show on the front page how many the property slept and if it was pet friendly or not. Users wanted to see a list of facilities and features; bed sizes; entertainment options; bathroom configuration etc, clearly and easily rather than hidden away in text. Sites that had a lot of information about the area – links to events and attractions etc were cited as being the most interesting and many said they returned to these, even after they had booked elsewhere, just to get more information on the place they had chosen. Someone commented they had finally chosen their cottage because the owner had a blog with a lot of information about the day-to-day happenings at the property and the surrounding area. She said it felt more personal and welcoming than a basic listing. The biggest complaint about listing sites were those that asked a user to choose a town as part of a search as most had no idea where the towns were. They had heard of the popular regions such as Muskoka and the Bruce Peninsula but could not identify where the towns were in relation to the regions. Sites such as www.cottagesincanada.com or www.cottagelink.com that defined the regions clearly, were more popular. Photos were the most important aspect of a listing with exterior, bedroom and kitchen pictures being most valued. We heard a lot of negative comments about bedrooms being shown with bare mattresses or old comforters, looking stark and uncomfortable and unclean. We were demonstrating some listings and those that showed light and bright sleeping accommodation with attractive bedding, sparked significantly more interest. The cottages that had been staged for photos were in much more demand. “They never got back to me, so we guessed they were already booked” was a common remark when we asked how responsive owners were. That one always amazes me because if owners are neglecting to respond to enquiries after their weeks are filled, they are missing out on a stream of hot leads that could become future customers It was a good day and we learnt a lot. I’ll be expanding on many of the issues raised in articles on www.rentingforprofit.com . If you haven’t taken a look at my new web site, please head on over there and sign up for our free Weekly Tips Newsletter and download a copy of my new Ebook, Staged To Rent. This is full of tips and tricks for setting up and presenting your property for impressive photos.