“Putting Heads on Beds”

“Putting Heads on Beds” by Michael Cockman (How To Books Ltd; £16.99)

The product of 25 years’ experience in the hospitality sector, Michael Cockman’s “Putting Heads on Beds” is an accessible, wide-ranging overview of what independent accommodation providers can do to get more business. Broken up into easily digestible sections, it leads you through the whole process of maximising your property’s potential and does so in a logical, systematic way.

He begins by encouraging you to take a clear-eyed look at your property and ask yourself some searching questions, from the simple (Does it look good inside and out?) to the more complex (Do your amenities benefit the different sectors of your market appropriately?) He then moves on to ways in which you can bring the reality of your property in line with your vision for it, through reaching new kinds of customers, modifying your leadership style and building an effective team. I doing so, he not only offers concrete suggestions (ensure that you share your vision with your customers and your team; define who does what in your team and set everyone, including yourself, realistic goals; have a well thought-out incentive scheme) but also astute warnings (beware of the costs of long distribution chains; be careful about giving away to much to wholesalers without guarantees).

The heart of the book – and the part that most accommodation owners will probably find most useful – is the middle section: “Reaching Your Prospects.” He is particularly strong on using the internet to drive sales, since, as he points out, “It is now definitely possible to compete on equal terms with the ‘big boys.’” In terms of traditional advertising, he shows a refreshing scepticism about how appropriate it is to smaller properties: “No independent accommodation business has money to waste on ineffective advertising… At the very least you need to know: the number of responses; how many responses were converted to a sale; how much that was worth.” He also makes a useful distinction between ‘image’ advertising and ‘direct response’ advertising.

Perhaps the book’s greatest achievement is the way it guides the less tech-savvy accommodation owner through all the online methods that can be used to attract more customers, offering lucid explanations of such topics as Pay Per Click Ads (PPC), Cost Per Thousand Impressions Ads (CPM), Google Places, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) amongst others.

“Putting Heads on Beds” is an immensely readable, well-informed book. Regardless of whether you read the whole thing or just dip into the parts that interest you, it’ll give every independent accommodation provider plenty to think about.