Hear from Liz Stack, Owner of The Old Mill Holiday Cottages about how the business has improved profitability and cut their commission costs by turning the website into an online showcase, managing bookings through one easy-to-use system and driving customer bookings via social media.
I’m Liz Stark, the owner of The Old Mill Holiday Cottages and we’re based in Nannerch in Flintshire, and we’re in the Clwydian Range which is an area of outstanding natural beauty so that’s a massive plus.
We now have three cottages in total. We’ve got two one-bedroom cottages and a large two-bedroom cottage with further space for expansion in the future. We do plan to have another one-bedroom cottage but we’ve modernised while keeping the charm and traditional features of the old properties – the nice beams and stone walls, for instance. But guests really tend to say they love the homely feel and the cottages are very cosy in a beautiful setting.
Tailored website advice
I attended a training course with Superfast Business Wales and as a result of that I had a one-to-one session to advise me about my website which was great. It’s helped me incorporate widgets onto the website, embed a video of the property, so all those things that make it really a showcase really for guests so when they’re looking at the website they can see what we have to offer.
I am a novice with digital technology but it’s absolutely essential to do business within this day and age, really. The technologies that I’ve started to use in the business has greatly helped me to improve the profitability. To begin with, I used an agency so obviously they charged high amounts in commission so I’ve recently started to use freetobook, only since January this year (2017).
Freetobook are a facility which provides you with a booking system which you can programme and that enables customers to log onto our website and clearly be able to have a look at the availability and the tariff, and do an immediate booking so it’s a really simple, seamless process – and actually, it saves me an awful lot of money through commission.
Promoting the local area
I also use Facebook. They’re fantastic for advertising local area. I try and do cross-promotion with local businesses and really try and share how beautiful our local area is and Facebook gives me a great opportunity to do that.
What I also find fantastic with the freetobook system is that it links in with Facebook so guests can actually book via Facebook as well with the ‘book now’ system. Freetobook has also enabled me to dovetail in with Airbnb so it’s one calendar that I manage via freetobook but it gives me different streams of booking facilities, different channels which is fantastic.
Broadband is obviously very important to the business, not only for me to be able to work from home but obviously it’s imperative for my guests that are staying. They like to be able to make their bookings for days out and trips and access tickets and that type of thing.
Digital technology for independent businesses
Absolutely, as a small, independent business recommend being involved with digital technology. Take advantage of the training courses out there. There’s fantastic opportunities that you can attend these courses for free and digital technology is absolutely the way forward as it gives you the opportunity to control your business and it really gives you the exposure to communicate better with your customer base and get the new business.