Achieving A 75% Occupancy Rate in the your First Month with Calum MacLeod
Glampitect and North Coast 500 Pods co-founder, Calum MacLeod, is back for the 10th episode of The Glampitect PODcast.
Today, we speak about how to market your glamping business on social media so that you achieve a high occupancy rate as soon as you open. Calum spent lots of time marketing the NC500 Pods site in Brora long before it launched, and this led to guests flooding in once the doors opened.
If you’re in the process of setting up a glamping site and you haven’t started marketing your site yet, you need to give this a listen.
Calum MacLeod: 0:08
Because it’s a tough slog at the start of setting up a social media page, it gets easier as it gets bigger. But that first year that we spent setting things up was a really tough slog. The main thing that I’ve realised is don’t cater for yourself. So the Instagram stuff I created for myself, I went well, I’d be on Instagram. So I’m going to cater for me. I realised that that was wrong. I’ve gone to sleep, and I’ve woken up the next day, and we’ve made 1500 in bookings or 2000 in bookings over six or seven bookings, because you have that system in place. Whereby, if you are that other model, that is a lot more hands on, it’s impossible for that to happen.
Nick Purslow: 1:04
Hello, and welcome to the Glampitect podcast. Today I’m joined for our 10th episode by Calum McLeod, co founder of Glampitect and the first person to appear as a guest twice on this show. In his first appearance, we introduced Glampitect as a company and touched upon some glamping industry trends. But today we’re gonna dive a lot deeper into a specific topic, and that’s marketing your glamping site before the site is open. Before Calum founded Glampitect, he set up a glamping business called North Coast 500 Pods, or NC 500 Pods. And in his first site in Brora, he achieved a 75% occupancy rate in the first month as a result of all the social media marketing work he did, which started before he’d even applied for planning permission. If you’re in the process of setting up a glamping site, or you’re thinking of doing so soon, this one is worth a listen. Social Media Marketing is so important in 2021, and getting it right early on can really help you hit the ground running. Just before we start, I’d like to say thank you to all of our listeners. We recently passed 1000 downloads of the podcast, which is something we’re really happy with at Glampitect. If I could ask one more favour if would be for you to pass the podcast on to anyone who might find it useful. As ever, I hope you enjoy and find value in today’s episode. Hello again, Calum. This is Episode 10. You were obviously our first guest, Episode One. We’ve come a long way since then, we’ve recently just found out that we’ve hit 1000 downloads, which is amazing. What have you been doing since we first recorded, because a lot has happened at Glampitect.
Calum MacLeod: 2:27
Hi Nick. Yeah. Well done on 10 podcasts already. That’s crazy. It seems like it was only a couple of weeks ago that we were doing the first one. So yeah, well done. You’ve obviously been busy. Just about as busy as me. It’s been crazy at Glampitect. The Dubai launch, the UAE launch that I think we spoke about in the first one, maybe said it’s a bit of an idea, is now a fully fledged thing. That is we’ve fully launched, we’ve got guides out, we’ve got landing pages, lots of information on the website. We’ve been in the news a lot actually today about it, there’s loads of different articles on various different channels about it. We’ve also grown our team, probably by four or five people since our last conversation. We have more jobs out at the moment for people right through the business. So yeah, just growth, crazy amounts of growth, crazy amounts of being able to help people start up glamping sites. It’s Yeah, everything’s just going great. Just now, you know, we’re primed to be able to help people that are looking to set up glamping sites. And there’s lots of people wanting to do obviously, because of the current climate and the way things are with holidays, there really has never been a better time to start a glamping business. And the innovators out there that own land, or are looking at land, looking to set up glamping sites are, you know, biting at us at the moment, they’re all desperate to get things going.
Nick Purslow: 3:57
Again, so obviously the future of Glampitect’s exciting, but we’re going to go a bit further back today. We’re going to discuss marketing your glamping site, but specifically, before you actually launch your site, because that’s something that you did with nc 500 pods to great success really, you know you were constantly marketing nc 500 on social media long before long before you actually set the site up. And that’s something that we recommend all of our clients do. So could you just just just tell us basically, what gave you the idea to start the marketing campaign long before you launched? And actually how far in advance you did start the marketing.
Calum MacLeod: 4:36
Okay, yeah. So what gave me the idea? I don’t really know. It wasn’t like we had an amazing resource like for Glampitect now is for the people looking to set up glamping businesses. We didn’t have that back then. And at the time, I wasn’t really that business aware, I don’t think. It was more of a subconscious thing. I think, you know, I think I’ve always had quite a lot of business mind subconsciously, it’s now obviously come to the forefront. And I think you know that there was a little thing talking in the back of my head saying, you know, you should do this. And so yeah, we launched our social media, crazy, crazy early, we launched the social media before we even started a planning application. And to be clear, I would never necessarily recommend that people do that. We did, I don’t want to say backwards, because long term, it’s massively benefited us. But at the same time, I don’t want to say to everybody, you know, go and employ, or go and spend your time, your own time, setting up a social media page and spending all the time, or employ a marketing agency, or employ Glampitect to do your social media marketing, spend all this money or all this time, and then you put in planning and it gets refused. So I don’t want people to run away and do that thinking that what we’ve done is going to work every time. But if people want to do it, knowing that there is a risk that you could spend that time and get planning refused, and you’ve kind of wasted a bit of time, then, you know, absolutely go for it. Now, what I would say, is that has massively benefited us in the long run, as I’ve said, but it’s a bit of a risk at the same time. So long term, we now have 35,000 people on Facebook, 25,000 people on Instagram for North Coast 500 Pods. And I can say for certain that we wouldn’t be anywhere near that if we didn’t have that year in advance that we set the groundwork, you know, prepared the foundations. And because it’s a tough slog at the start of setting up a social media page, it gets easier as it gets bigger. But that first year that we spent setting things up was a really tough slog. And you know, if you want to do that in advance of getting planning or you know, as soon as you get planning approval, to give yourself the best opportunity to have a good social media by the time you’re open, it absolutely makes sense.
Nick Purslow: 7:07
So what sort of content were you posting, because obviously, if you post in a year in advance of your site actually being set up, it must be difficult to come up with ideas.
Calum MacLeod: 7:16
Yeah, of course. So that is a good question. Difficult to come up with ideas, I wouldn’t say massively. Um, once you start to think slightly outside the box there’s plenty of stuff that you can do. Local Area, there’s unlimited local area, you can post something new every day about your local area and never run out of stuff. You can put up the pods themselves. And you know, if you’ve decided on the manufacturer, you can get photos from the manufacturer, post them on. Finally, and I would say most importantly, and this is something that people don’t necessarily think is good, but actually, we strongly recommend it, is build progress. You know, here’s the land that the glamping site is going to go on, because crucially that will be bringing people along on the journey with you. And people coming on the journey with you means more bookings right from day one. We had 75% occupancy in our first month of opening purely because of social media because of the following that we gained. I would say people became fans of our business, because they came on the journey with us through social media. So it’s very emotive, you can make it very, you know, people get involved. You can say, oh, guys, we’re thinking about buying sofas. What do you think we should have, this one or this one? What kettles should we have? People get involved, they feel like they’re part of the journey. And if they pick the kettle, and they pick the sofa and whatever else, and then they see that you’ve actually selected that kettle and that sofa they want to go along, so that they can say, Oh, look, they picked the sofa that we we said they should go for. And it brings people on that journey with you, which is invaluable long term.
Nick Purslow: 9:03
And I know nc 500 Pods does really well on Facebook now. But am I right in thinking that you initially heavily focused on Instagram with your marketing?
Calum MacLeod: 9:12
Yeah, absolutely. So we, well I, at the time, spent the vast majority of my time on Instagram, I am Instagram generation. And I believed at the time that Instagram was going to be you know, by far the best way to market and I spent probably 80% of my time on Instagram, and the remaining 20 I spent on Facebook. I would basically just be copying the posts that I put on Instagram, onto Facebook. And as time went by, we were getting a disproportionately high amount of stuff going on in Facebook versus Instagram. So as I say always putting up 80% or 80% of my time to Instagram and 20% of my to Facebook, and we were probably getting, you know,
50 in terms of people talking, people commenting, liking, going to the website and all these sorts of things and ultimately working. And, you know, it made me question, is Instagram the right thing to be working on? Or more, so should I be focusing more time on Facebook. And so I went to 50. And the Facebook stuff proportionally grew. So suddenly, Facebook was now well ahead of Instagram for interactions, comments, likes, people going through the website, people booking when they were getting the same amount of time put into each of them. So from there, I switched to a much more Facebook focused model, and just kind of posted everything that was designed for Facebook, onto Instagram. And it’s it really pushed us on from there. There’s a lot more people wanting to book on Facebook than on Instagram. People are happy to give you a like on Instagram, but not necessarily, to book. So if you were to choose between the two, I would 100% say Facebook, although I would recommend you that you do at least do a bit of Instagram. But focus around Facebook, generally. The best model would be to focus around Facebook, but then also post the same sort of stuff on Instagram.
Nick Purslow: 11:29
Nice. And obviously you learned during that process that Facebook can actually be really powerful, particularly when it comes to converting engagement into into cash for when people are booking. Is there anything else that you learned in that process about maybe marketing or in general or about the glamping audience or anything like that?
Calum MacLeod: 11:49
Um, so people love to get involved, there’s kind of a similar tone to what I was saying about making things emotive. But people really like to get involved in the process and see what’s going on understand what’s going on. So that that was something that surprised me, I didn’t expect that. And actually, here’s a really key learning that that I’ve taken from this, from that stage, to exactly answer your question. The main thing that I’ve I’ve realised is don’t cater for yourself. So the Instagram stuff I created for myself, I went well, I’d be on Instagram. So I’m going to create for me. And I realised that that was wrong, I realised that more stuff goes on in Facebook, there’s a bigger demographic there. So that that was a bit of a stumbling block for me. And I realised that not just with that, but with things like the emotive joining the journey. Again, I wouldn’t do that. So I didn’t bother doing that at the start. Because I thought, well, I wouldn’t be interested, so why would anyone else? But people are. And so what I would say is not to confuse things. I always say try and cater for yourself when you’re setting up your glamping site, because you’re going to be able to sell it the best if it matches your expectations. But when it comes to marketing, I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that you do that. I would say that you need to think of what the broader audience is going to be interested in what they’re going to be doing. And our broader audience is on Facebook. And that’s why we’ve pivoted to that. And our broader audience wants to join in their emotive journey of setting up the glamping site. And we pivoted to know, catering for that as well. So to distil all that down to our sentence or two, don’t think that the way that you think is how everyone else does. You know, get an understanding of what the majority of the markets like, and cater for them.
Nick Purslow: 13:55
Again, you said that your your audience wanted to get involved with the journey and things like that. Was there a particular demographic that you were aiming at? Presumably, it’s in parallel with the demographic that you want, that you’re aiming for to stay at your site?
Calum MacLeod: 14:10
Yeah, absolutely. So it’s generally women from age 25 or 30, up to 45 or 50. They get involved in Facebook and and you know, showing their friends or we said this and it happened and show their partner and all those sorts of things. You know, older men aren’t going to do it, younger men aren’t going to do it. It’s typically the demographic that we get most involved is women of around that age. And that ties in quite wellt o our bookings, exactly as you say, it typically is women of around that age booking, or men of around that age, whose partners of around that age have said, oh look, they got the kettle that we said, we need to go book there and then the partner books. So yeah, it all ties in, basically.
Nick Purslow: 15:03
Okay, and was there any particular post that led to a big leap in following? Or was it quite gradual?
Calum MacLeod: 15:11
Yeah, so this is something that probably everyone seen is competitions. You know, like and share this post, tag your friends that you would take, and win a free stay. They always bump us up, you know, by potentially 1000s of likes at a time. So it’s one that it does mess a little bit with the Facebook algorithm. So I wouldn’t suggest that you do it all the time. But it can give you a very good boost in traction, likes people, seeing you and all those sorts of things.
Nick Purslow: 15:43
Okay. And obviously, as you build up more of a following, you get more and more engagement, but engagement is one thing and income is another. How did you ensure that, and still continue to ensure that, the engagement you get and the followers you have they convert into bookings?
Calum MacLeod: 15:58
Yeah, absolutely. So this is crucial to people and they sometimes don’t realise it, a lot of glamping sites will, you know, be busy on on Facebook, busy on Instagram, and they don’t have the back end to back it up. So we would strongly recommend that you have a good website and channel manager system through the back so that when somebody sees one of your Facebook posts, Oh they look great, come on to your Facebook page, and then go right, what now? We’ve seen that even at that point, some of these Facebook pages for glamping sites don’t even have a link to a website. And then you’ve done all the hard work, you’ve done the stuff that you need to do on Facebook. And then some of these come to actually look at you. And there’s not even a link. So first things, make sure you’ve got a link to your website. And then from there, make sure your website’s strong enough that our potential buyer can flow through it nice and cleanly, to a point whereby they’re ready to book. And then from there actually book on the website as well. So getting a good channel manager system that makes things nice and clear is again, strongly recommended. And that means that you can literally make money whilst you sleep. You know, we see a lot of people glamping sites that say, DM us on Facebook to book and then that’s completely manual. And now that works for some people. I often speak about the two different types of glamping site owner: the purely hands on one that may be retired and wants to get involved day to day, and the person like me, that wants to be as hands off as possible. And they are two completely different people. And you know, for the guys I mentioned first, the Facebook DMs and stuff potentially suits them. But for somebody that wants to have a stronger business with less time input daily, you want to make sure that you’ve got the strong website through the back and put in the least amount of time possible. And for that, a good channel manager system is an absolute must. You know, I’ve got some examples of when we’ve, I’ve got to sleep. And I’ve woken up the next day. And we’ve made 1500 pounds in bookings or 2000 pounds in bookings over six or seven bookings, because we have that system in place. whereby if you are that other model that is a lot more hands on, it’s impossible for that to happen.
Nick Purslow: 18:16
And so obviously, a channel manager system brings together all the booking systems that you’ve got. Obviously, the main one that you want to book through is your website, but nc 500 pods are also listed on Airbnb and Expedia. And we suggest to our clients that that’s something that they should consider as well. Were you listed on those external sites in the build up to your site launching?
Calum MacLeod: 18:39
Yeah, absolutely. So here’s another key thing about setting up in advance of being open. And this is general, this isn’t just Airbnb and Expedia. In general, pretty much the day that you know, for certain that you’re going to be able to open by a certain date. And I would recommend that from that point, you get yourself live on everything: your website, say on social media Come and book us. booking.com, Airbnb, all these places. Make sure though, this is absolutely crucial, make sure that you can 100% make that day. Because if you start having people pay you money, and then you don’t have a water supply, that turns into a complete disaster. And so make sure that you’re completely in control of the things that still need to be done before you open. But as long as you’ve got that covered, yeah, get live on your own website, booking.com, Airbnb and all these things. One thing, a slight tangent, but still along the same lines is that we’ve got a lot of data on the different channels. And we would change your approach based off of the information that we know have. We spent a lot of time trying to get something right for Expedia, Airbnb, as you said, and TripAdvisor rentals as well. And what we’ve actually seen is that we get barely any bookings from any of them. booking.com is by far the industry leader in terms of actually getting your bookings. And beyond that our own website gets us the vast majority of our bookings. So because of our good marketing, because we set things up in advance all these sorts of things, we get 80% plus of our bookings, through our own website, we then get probably about 15 to 18% of our bookings come from booking.com. And then the Airbnb, TripAdvisor and Expedia literally fight for the scraps. So what I would say is that you 100% want to focus on your own website, and on getting all that right, and the channel manager system to put the booking platform in place in your own website, and then also focus on booking.com. But I would say that, beyond that, it’s not as much of an important thing to get on the rest.
Nick Purslow: 21:00
And you want to be directing the majority of your traffic through the website anyway, as well, because you know, booking.com will charge a commission on your bookings.
Calum MacLeod: 21:09
Absolutely, so booking.com are 15%, they take 15% off of you. Expedia are like 10 or 15%. Airbnb are a bit cheaper, and charge the front end as well. And I can’t even remember what TripAdvisor is, which tells you how few bookings we get from them. But what I would say is that if you have a good channel manager system, you can add percentages on to your costs nightly for various different channels. So for example, with our own sites, all we do is say to booking.com, here’s the price, but it’s plus 20%, on top of what our standard prices on our website, which means that actually, we don’t pay the commissions, meaning that it doesn’t matter if we get a booking from booking.com, or our own website. And as well as that, it means that people that come through our own website get rewarded, versus ones that go to booking.com. Because they get a cheaper rate, which is a win win, as far as I’m concerned.
Nick Purslow: 22:07
Yeah. And in the whole process of marketing your site, your glamping site before it launched, is there anything that you wish you’d have done differently?
Calum MacLeod: 22:16
So, not really. And that’s always a question I get asked. And it frustrates me when I don’t have answers to that. Because I know that that’s what people are really interested in. But just get busy. That’s one thing that probably a lot of people would get wrong. We didn’t, we got very busy right from the start. And so it’s not something we got wrong. But it’s something that I would say, a lot of the people at home listening potentially would get wrong. Get busy on social media, get busy on your marketing, prioritise your marketing, because ultimately, that’s going to be what fills your glamping site once it’s set up. A lot of people at home probably think, Oh, you know, build, and they will come. And that’s wrong. Or it’s not necessarily wrong, but it’s not going to give you the best opportunity at success.
Nick Purslow: 23:04
Certainly not when you’re just launching as well. Word of mouth marketing plays a part eventually, but we’re talking about getting on the first night that your site opens, you want to be as full as possible. And marketing is obviously huge for that.
Calum MacLeod: 23:16
100%. So we could scale back on our marketing now and probably do okay. Because exactly as you say, the word of mouth comes with time. But as I said, we were 75% full in month one, we were at like 98% for month two and 100%, month three and four. That’s impossible without shouting about yourselves on social media and beyond.
Nick Purslow: 23:40
And it’s, you know, you’re not expected to be putting out, you know, award winning photography that you know, it’s just something that something that gets across your your brand and can get your audience involved, I imagine as well, you don’t have to be perfect every time every post.
Calum MacLeod: 23:56
So here’s the thing about marketing that a lot of people get wrong as well. In my my opinion, you know, there’s plenty of opinions out there. But in my opinion, I believe that a lot of people get this wrong. They try and make things perfect. They try and get the best photo in the world to try and get the best text in the world. And what I would say is that, you know, in fact, there’s a great book title that I love, it says Start Now Get Perfect Later. And I think that that’s an amazing principle not just for marketing but for life. But in this, when we’re dialling into marketing in particular, you know, start doing things put things up, see what works, see what doesn’t, because if you put up a post that nobody’s interested in, exactly that, nobody’s interested in it. You’re not going to do yourself any damage,all that you’re going to do is nobody’s going to like it. And so what move on.
Nick Purslow: 24:51
Unless you put out somethign horrible.
Calum MacLeod: 24:53
Yeah, I mean, don’t start abusing people or fighting people, don’t do don’t do anything like crazy, but you know something that you think is not going to annoy anyone, post it up and if if it doesn’t do anything, so what? Post something better tomorrow and just try everything, you know, put up a post about the local area, put up a post about the pods, post about the build, the kettles and beyond, you know, say, oh, here’s a glamping site that we’d love to look like. We’re planning on doing that. All these things you can post about, and then see the ones that are good, the ones or bad ones are ugly, never do the ugly ones, again, see if the ones are bad can be improved. And, you know, do more of the good ones. And you’ll learn with time, what works, what doesn’t. Do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.
Nick Purslow: 25:42
And obviously we spoke to Moray, I think it was Episode Five, the Glampitect in house marketing guy. And although obviously it is important, you know, to just get content out there and experiment with stuff, but he also did mention the importance of having a bit of consistency when it comes to your brand and the sort of the graphics that you’ve put out. So I would add in there, while it is important to get stuff out there, you also must remember the brand image that you’re trying to create, whether that’s the colours or the personality should you should aim and be consistent. Eventually, once you get into the groove, you should certainly aim for a bit of consistency as well.
Calum MacLeod: 26:21
Yeah, I think a key point there that you said is once you get into the groove, and I would say that if it’s a case of making sure everything is uniform and great or not posting at all. And you’re absolutely want to be avoiding that and posting rather than getting everything uniform. But I would say that with time, you’ll get everything out there to begin with. And as you grow, and as you get a following, and as you open, then start to focus a lot more on getting things you know, a lot more in line with the business as a whole, brand colours, brand guidelines, as you see, because I completely agree that once you’re open, that’s important. But until that stage, I would say the priority is just on getting things out.
Nick Purslow: 27:09
Okay, and obviously at Glampitect, we do offer marketing services. So you can just give us, let’s cap it at 30 seconds, because we don’t want to pitch too much. What sort of services do we offer for websites and marketing?
Calum MacLeod: 27:23
No problem at all. So we have an in house marketing team that can deal with just about anything, marketing wise, and one of the hires that I mentioned at the start of the podcast that we’re taking on is a marketing lead, that’s going to revolutionise the team even further. But the main things that I would say that we would recommend for glamping site owners is one of the first things is brand guidelines, as you said, to make sure that your marketing is consistent once you open. And then beyond that we can help with setting up social media, with consistent posting on social media, dealing with any questions that people post on Facebook or Instagram, and beyond. I wouldn’t necessarily necessarily recommend that you have anything like Google Ads or anything like that, unless you’re a little bit bigger, maybe 10 plus units. But for anything that’s less than 10 units, we can absolutely help with all social media needs, all posting, all content to make sure that you have lots of bookings from when you open, or if you only work with us after you’ve opened from beyond that stage.
Nick Purslow: 28:27
Okay, I think that stretched the definition of 30 seconds but it will do. Who can they contact if they want to hear more about the marketing services that we offer?
Calum MacLeod: 28:37
Yep, so the best thing to do would be to just email into firstname.lastname@example.org. and you’ll be put in touch with the right person. Alternatively, phone us on the new phone number of which I actually don’t know what it is, but if you google Glampitect phone number.
Nick Purslow: 28:53
They’ll be in the description to this episode as well. Okay, so thanks for your time again. Calum, really appreciate it.
Calum MacLeod: 29:00
No problem. Thank you for continuing to do a good job in the podcast.
Nick Purslow: 29:06
Thank you for listening to another episode of the Glampitect podcast. I hope you enjoyed and that you found value in today’s episode. If you did, feel free to leave a rating or review on Apple podcasts because it really helps us move up the podcast rankings. Thank you.
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