Costs turned upside down The price of marketing is tumbling but the price of caretaking is spiralling
Cast your mind back to the last century when the internet was in it’s infancy and think what it was like to run a cottage agency. There was no google and the vast majority of people had no internet or even computer in the house. Given what I do for a living it’s amazing to think that I didn’t get an email address until 1995.
The only way that people could hear about you was through advertising and the two main weapons were national newspapers and mailshots. Demand was high and supply was limited so a 2 inch square advert in The Sunday Times could be £1000 and there were many local newspapers and magazines with relatively small circulations funded by being able to charge a premium for advertising.
Hundreds of thousands of expensive glossy brochures were sent out with printing, post and packing making these cost perhaps £1 each. Of course once your guest had the brochure and chose a cottage the process was just beginning. There was no way of seeing availability so the only way to find out was to call and check and the later in the season the longer the conversation would be as your first, second or all of your choices could already be booked.
Finally having found an available cottage in the right place at the right price all we had to do was send a booking form with a return envelope, wait for a cheque to arrive, send a confirmation, send a reminder for the balance, wait for the balance cheque and send a confirmation with arrival details. To be honest it’s a wonder that anything got done and 25% commission for sorting out that lot seemed quite reasonable. The other effect was that guests often booked very early to secure their cottage with many booking the same week for next year before the end of their holiday.
On the other side of the coin 10 or 20 years ago most cottages were looked after by a wonderful lady down the road who cleaned and did the laundry assuming you were upmarket enough to provide sheets. She might put a pint of milk in the fridge and if the guests had a problem they had to go and bang on her door or find a payphone to call and you probably paid £20 a changeover.
Fast forward to today and things are very different, the majority of bookings are online with customers finding, selecting, booking and paying without speaking to us at all. Confirmations, balance reminders and arrival details all go out automatically and most traffic to the site is from natural search which has no direct cost (though you do have to work hard at optimisation)
Caretaking however is a very different proposition indeed. Nothing less than a totally spotless property will do. Quality crisply ironed sheets, welcome packs, wine, flowers, perhaps robes and slippers and normally a personal visit to make sure everything is alright.
Prices have certainly gone up but the standard that is expected is stratospherically higher. It’s a pleasure to work with owners and properties nowadays to a much higher standard and pass on the savings provided by technology but may well be balanced by the additional costs of higher standards- ‘the more that things change, the more they stay the same’ (special prize for anyone who emails me with the song this is from)