How many of your bookings in 2011 have been from referrals? Or more to the point, how much of your revenue in 2011 is from referrals?
Are you content with your answer to these questions? Wouldn’t it be nice to have one or two more referrals each year? In this blog we’re going to look at five ideas that, when used together effectively, will help to drive incremental bookings through referrals.
- Be Worthy of a Remark – The best form of advertising for any business is a customer testimonial via word of mouth. Give your guests a reason to tell anyone who will listen about their time in your home. Whether it’s your attention to detail, your amazing collection of board games or your 120” home theater screen, give them something to be excited to tell others about.
- Get “Real” Business Cards – Invest a little money and have some professional business cards on heavy stock printed up (rather than the cheap looking “print at home” variety). Business cards are often the first impression someone gets when hearing of your business. Include your HomeAway.com and VRBO.com listing numbers along with a one-liner or a few key words that articulate the reason why someone should consider calling you for their next vacation.
- Implement a Guest Referral Program – Give your guests and others who know about your business a reason to refer people to stay with you. Money is always a great motivator, it’s what we’ve used for several years now. We pay $15/night to any person who refers a booking to us, that’s over a hundred bucks for a week long booking. Cash is a good reminder and incentive for someone to mention your business.
- Ask for Referrals – Without being pushy, ask your guests and those acquainted with your business to refer anyone who they think may be interested in staying with you. With our business we do this a couple different ways. First, in each of our homes we have placed an 8.5 x 11” acrylic stand with a full color flyer in it that talks up our referral program and encourages our guests to take several cards to hand out when they are back home. The acrylic stand has a built-in business card holder and our property managers make sure they are always full. Second, in both the checkout email and in the handwritten “Thank You” cards (remark worthy) our guests receive we remind them that we have a referral program and point out that if they enjoyed their time in our home the best compliment they can give us is to refer us to a Loved one.
- Stick with the Plan - Given the nature of our business, long sales cycles and relatively few annual transactions, referrals can be few and far between. But, that makes each referral even more valuable to business such as ours. Angela and I diligently performed the actions above for nearly a year before we actually booked our first referral. Yes, we frequently discussed whether it was worth the extra effort, but that first referral payment we made for $105 on a 7-night booking that was clearly incremental (and off-peak!) made it all worth it. You are planting seeds that may or may not bear fruit down the road, but at least you are giving them a chance to bear fruit if you keep planting.
The Bottom Line: Referrals are one of those areas of business that can seem easier said than done. But each referral is an incremental booking, which can be the difference between a good month and a great month. Word of mouth is the most powerful form of advertising for any business. Giving your guests a reason to tell others about their experience in your home, and making it easy for them to do so, is an effective and inexpensive way to maximize your revenue. If you will give them an experience that is worthy of a remark, and if you make it easy for them to refer you to others, your bottom line will reflect your efforts.
Here’s to bigger bottom lines…