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It’s About People Not Plugins. A Website Marketing Makeover.

by Paul Montreal. Average Reading Time: about 5 minutes.

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I’m doing a marketing makeover on Sally’s website. She’s got a couple of holiday rental homes over in Italy. She’s proud of her homespun website, but she’s feeling overwhelmed about all the conflicting advice she hears. And all the new tools and technologies people are telling her she needs to adopt. (I’m listening to the Gladiator movie soundtrack while I work). So, hold onto your gelatos, here are my top 7 tips for turning this website around…

Click for full size.

Click for full size.

1. Looks can be deceptive.

So, I land on a page where I’m greeted by a cheerful Sally and I’m offered a selection of two holiday homes. At first glance the site looks about 20 years old and made by a non-designer.

Here’s the copy on the page…

Sally’s Holiday Homes in Italy

Relax in a holiday home that feels like a home.
Mingle with the locals in authentic small villages.
Choose from two real homes in two real places.

Are you looking for the charm of lakes & mountains?
My holiday home in Bellagio on Lake Como is for you. Visit Casa Bellagina

Are you looking for the peace of the countryside on the doorstep of the city?
My holiday home in the countryside on the doorstep of Rome is for you. Visit Casa Fagiolina

Take a look at CASA BELLAGINA – your ‘home from home in Bellagio, Lake Como
Take a look at CASA FAGIOLINA – your ‘home from home’ in the Sabina, near Rome.

Aside from the aesthetics of the page, I like it. It’s welcoming, clear, I’m already feeling the warmth that Sally is trying to create. “Home from home” is the message here. But she’s also done a good job of making her two properties distinctly different. The visuals also reflect the key selling point of each property (and not just some generic interior shot). You can choose the mountains and lakes, or the countryside by the city.

Action: Not every brand is supposed to be super slick. Yes, first impressions count, but aesthetics are also quick and easy to fix. Better to start with what you have, and get your copy and your marketing ideas right first. They are what’s most important. You can hire someone with great taste later.

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2. Help your customers make mental movies of a better life, with you in it.

So, each of the two properties has its own website. I’m going to go straight to the Lake Como property and take a look.

We have more aesthetic issues. Comic Sans headers. Strange color schemes. But once again the copy is pretty good. I’m welcomed by a postcard containing the message…

Slow down! Take a few minutes to view my apartment and contemplate a holiday on Lake Como. Thank you for visiting, Sally.

I like these little human touches. They’re not pushy, but they are directing the user, who does quickly scan and quickly abandon hundreds of holiday home sites. What Sally is instructing people to do, is to start painting mental pictures of a better future, with her holiday home in them. That’s the core of all motivation, especially when you’re selling something.

The rest of the copy on the page reinforces her earlier position. She’s all about the “home away from home”. And I think “comfort” is something clearly missing from most holiday home websites. I’m not talking about the size of your sofa or the depth of your mattresses. I’m talking about making your customers – people who are physically out of their comfort zone – feel like they have all the resources a human being needs to feel comfortable and safe.

Experience life in a real Italian village
5 minutes’ drive from central Bellagio.
Relax amongst real home comforts.
Walk to restaurants, grocery, bakery & bar.
Park your car for free a few steps away.

There are basic human needs we all crave unconsciously. Things we don’t even think about in our day-to-day life, because we have them all sorted out. We know where the hospital is if we have an accident. We know where the good restaurants are and which to avoid. We know what our favorite brand of alcohol is and where we can park without getting a ticket.

What we have to remember is that by asking someone to come and stay in our holiday home, in another country, we’re taking away all that certainty and replacing it with uncertainty. As people, we like a “little” uncertainty. It adds spice to life. But too much creates a ton of stress. And stress is no good for business.

Action: Whatever raw materials you present to your customer on the page, your goal is to have them take those words and images and start creating their own mental movies. Movies where they are living a better life, with you and your products in it. A life with less stress.

Click for full size.

Click for full size.

3. Photography is a big deal for holiday homes.

If you have any sort of product or service that’s visual, it’s really worth mastering photography yourself. Super high-quality cameras are so cheap, and there are so many skilled photographers you can learn from online. Don’t try to wing it yourself. Learn some basic techniques. Yes, it’s a real skill. But it’s also not rocket science.

With a holiday home, it’s not just about documenting your property itself, there are also a million opportunities to create additional visual stories from the surrounding area, people and events.

If you have to call in a professional every time you have an opportunity, you’re simply going to miss out on most of those opportunities.

Throughout the site, my biggest concern is the size of the images. We’re in a strange period where screen sizes have gotten both bigger and smaller at the same time. People have really high resolution but on small laptop or tablet screens. The good news is, connection speeds are higher than ever. So don’t skimp on image size. You could easily double the size of every image on the site.

And you could quadruple the number of images showing the surrounding area. As long as they are easy to navigate, you really can’t have too many beautiful pictures of a place you’re trying to sell. The building, inside and out. The local area. The happy people. The natural surroundings. And the sights and events.

Action: These days everyone can be a photographer or movie maker. You don’t need to be Mario Testino. But you can learn some basic techniques and tap into an endless source of inspiration. Remember, it’s all raw material to help your customers make those mental movies.

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