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VR Marketing: Doing More With Less

10 Posts tagged with the advertising tag
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With the vacation rental industry booming and tons of new people are looking to get in on the action…

 

It’s becoming more and more clear which owners have a sharpened toolbox when it comes to marketing their property and generating bookings.

 

You can see it in the forums…

 

You can see it in guest correspondence…

 

You know you’re a vacation rental marketing veteran when…

 

1) You have professional photos

 

Anyone in today’s ultra-competitive vacation rental environment knows that if you don’t have professional photos, you’re not the real deal. Whether you beg, borrow, or trade for your professional photos, realize that they are your first impression (and probably most influential defining factor) of getting travelers to consider your rental for more than, say, two seconds.

 

Example: Owner Amy Greener reported rental income going from $65,000 to more than $120,000 per year due solely to hiring a professional photographer.

 

2) You use automated software to handle “the annoying stuff”

 

As a small business owner, you know you’re a marketing veteran when you’ve figured out how to utilize technology (whether canned messages in Gmail or third-party booking software) to do the little stuff like send lead-up and exit emails to a guest’s stay, thus allowing you to focus your limited time on the most crucial facets of your business.

 

3) You sniff out scams like they’re going out of style

 

When there’s a gold rush, scammers and con artists typically arrive quickly and it’s no secret that the vacation rental industry is ripe for their picking. You know you’re a veteran, however, when you can pick out those suspicious emails within a moment’s glance. Only the newbies fall for these fishing tricks that start "Dear Sirs..."

 

4) You send your overflow guests to competitors

 

What might seem like a strange technique to newcomers  is actually old-hat for its veterans. You know you’ve been around for a while, when you send your overflow guests – the ones you can’t accommodate – to another owner down the street. This doesn’t just generate good karma: it generates commission referrals of up to 20%.

 

Example: See the more than 70 owners and managers around the world who have jumped on a small movement to send business each other’s way.

 

5) You connect with former guests on a regular basis

 

Whether it’s via Facebook or (preferably) email marketing, the oldest players in the vacation rental game know that referrals and repeat guests are some of the cheapest (and best) guests in the world. You know you’ve been around for a while if you’ve formed a solid database of loyal guests who have either (a) stayed at your rental or (b) showed interest in your rental, in order to stay booked year-round. Keeping in touch with them regularly (without sales pitches) is key to their continued allegiance.

 

Example: Check out the Facebook Page of Isla Palenque Vacation Homes in Panama. The owner uses an ingenious “Island Problems” series to keep guests sharing his homes when he sleeps.

 

6) You help (as opposed to sell)

 

Because so many of those entering the vacation rental industry now are looking for a quick buck, only the veterans are the ones who prefer the soft-sell: who prefer the helpful, resourceful way of handling guest inquiries (as opposed to using the pushy salesman voice). The veterans are the ones who build blogs, who share expertise in the form of Insider Guides, and who establish themselves as industry experts (not sales people).

 

Example: Check out this wonderful blog created for the B-Hive Rental in Austin for a great example of an owner looking to be helpful (and not salesy) for potential guests.

 

7) You tell stories

 

The art of storytelling isn’t new. But as it relates to generating vacation rental bookings, only the veterans in the industry know that (a) the history of one’s property, (b) the story behind one’s love for the area, and (c) the hilarious/interesting/crazy anecdotes that have stemmed from owning a rental are ALL things guests love to read. Only newcomers to the industry are afraid or bashful to share candid perspective.

 

Example: Check out my free course consisting of 4 short stories that will give you an entirely new perspective on how to WOW guests and draw them in to make a booking. Hint: In story #1, I'm having dinner on Bono's yacht.

 

8) You have floor plans in your photo gallery

 

Considered by some to be a stealth tool in the vacation rental marketing armoire, veterans in the industry know that perhaps the biggest question mark for potential vacation rental guests is the layout of any given property. Unlike hotel rooms, since all rentals are different, the floor plan idea makes totally transparent everything inside your walls and it's the savvy veterans who are capitalizing on this on a daily basis.

 

Example: Check out this company dedicated to providing affordable floorplans for vacation rental owners with relatively little hassle! 

 

 

 

Matt Landau is the Founder of the Vacation Rental Software Blog (the largest free database of vacation rental marketing articles online) and VRLeap (an online marketplace for tools and services for vacation rental owners up to 90% OFF).

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Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 11.13.08 AM.pngSomewhere sitting in front of her computer is a vacation rental owner who puts her property online, crosses her fingers, and waits…

 

And waits…


And waits…

 

Until an inquiry hits her inbox.

 

I am not going to debunk this scenario because most of you are familiar with it...

 

Gone are the days when your beautiful property listing can sell itself.

 

With increased competition, properties precisely like yours are now a dime a dozen.

 

This means the question has shifted from “Where do I list my vacation rental?” to “How can I make my vacation rental stand out from all the listings?”

 

The answer to this question is fortunately right under your nose!

You see, all vacation rental owners and managers are blessed with a secret marketing tactic that they never knew existed…

 

And that is local expertise.

 

Whether you bought your property because you loved the region, or because you fell in love with the block, or you have been visiting the same place for years…

 

Chances are, you have tons of interesting bits of advice for travelers to the neighborhood.

 

With some prep, every owner can learn to leverage this local knowledge into trust.


And since trust is the one biggest components that generate bookings, here exactly where to begin...

 

 

1. Create An Insider’s Guide

 

Every owner or manager should have under their wing a comprehensive (even if it’s only a few pages) guide of where to eat, what time to eat there, what dish to order, what waiter to order it from.

 

This restaurant version is just an example.

 

It should be replicated for bars, tours, or any other activities.

 

Something as simple as a PDF document outlining your insider knowledge is best shared with potential guests as a trust-building tool.

 

You’ll be amazed at the amount of conversions you get when freely offering this Insider's Guide to essential strangers.

 

 

2. Link To Tips In Email Correspondence

 

It’s proven that going the extra mile in your email correspondence gets results.

 

So owners or managers who can integrate their local intel to messages using simple links are on their way to more bookings.

 

Share links to private event calendars, customized Google maps, or maybe just your personal favorite ice cream shop website.

 

Add enough useful links in your messages and watch the trust mount.

 

 

3. Start A Blog

 

There is no better place to compile your local expertise than a blog.

 

And if you don’t have one already, create one for free in under 5 minutes here.

 

Use your blog to share updates about the new ski gondola or the grand opening of a new neighborhood café: these are the kinds of on-the-ground tips travelers are looking for and providing them via your blog is arguably the best way to convey your regional authority.  

 

 

4. Utilize A Newsletter

 

Compiling a list of previous guests and communicating with them regularly via an email newsletter is probably, pound-for-pound, the most powerful return on your investment in the vacation rental marketing arena.

 

In these monthly newsletters, share noteworthy gossip about your area. Especially gossip that appeals to visitors or reminds them of their vacation.

 

If you don’t live in the same town, use local newspapers and blogs to glean on-goings and stick them in the feed.

 

Those who communicate regularly with past guests generate massive amounts of repeat business purely by embracing their local expertise.

 

 

5. Help, Don’t Sell

 

Besides being my mantra for everything vacation rentals, “Help, Don’t Sell” is an overarching theme for marketing as a whole.

 

It means that by sharing your local knowledge, being generous to everyone with your insider knowledge, and constantly researching to replenish your portfolio, you are effectively assisting potential guests into submission.

 

Don't feel the need to protect your time-honored connections.

 

Share!

 

If a traveler has to decide between an owner who sends only relevant booking info and an owner who provides a liberal amount of helpful information, who do you think they will choose?

 

Matt Landau is the Founder of the Vacation Rental Software Blog (the largest free database of vacation rental marketing articles online) and VRLeap (an online marketplace for tools and services for vacation rental owners up to 90% OFF).

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“Choose three and only three words to define your goals for the year.”

 

These were the words I read an article long ago that encouraged marketers of all shapes and sizes to choose three words to live by over the course of 365 days:

 

The author wrote, "In an effort to tell bigger stories, I've found that the concept of three words allows me to think in more dimensions about what I want to do with my life and it lets me apply lots of tangible goals instead of what most people do when they focus on just a finite task. It's a bit like turbo-charged goal planning."

 

I really loved this concept and so, in 2013, my theme was Help, Don’t Sell.


This theme featured prominently in all my work throughout the past year: helping travelers instead of trying to hit them over the head with the hard sell of my rentals.


When I sat down to really consolidate my goals for 2014, I knew I had a tough theme to beat…

 

Especially because the online portion of the vacation rental industry (my specialty)  is changing so massively…

 

Google-Travel.pngIn a recent Google travel study, vacation homes and rentals houses showed the largest jump (of all lodging types) from 2012 to 2013, making significant headway on more traditional upscale hotels.

 

The study showed that affluent travelers were found to rely on digital platforms more and more for travel inspiration as well as research and bookings…

 

That these travelers are increasingly comparison shopping for places to stay...

 

And that 52% of them plan to spend more time “shopping around” or researching online in 2014 before booking their accommodations because finding value for their money is most important.

 

[Note: to anyone who gets annoyed at the plethora of inquiries from listing sites compared to the dearth of actual bookings, this reason should make complete sense.]

 

So what’s clear is that the Internet is as essential today for inspiring new travel as it has ever been before...

 

And amidst this “alignment of stars” that we are all so blessed with, I have decided that 2014 needs to be about the following three words:

 

Create Optimal Experiences. 


Let me explain this a bit further...

 

What makes a vacation rental genuinely successful is a series of optimal experiences.

 

From a marketing perspective, these experiences start with the first point of contact: maybe the traveler reads a story you have written or signs up to get your Insider Guide or gets forwarded an email marketing message you have wrote.

 

These experiences segue into the query portion of the funnel: they define how frictionless your booking process can possibly be, how their desires match up with the experience your offer, and how many “holes” you can plug up so that every guest that inquires actually books.

 

This leads into the actual vacation experience (pretty self explanatory and not something I plan to elaborate on a whole lot since so many of you run impeccable vacation rentals).

 

Lastly comes the experience of staying connected with guests after their stay. How optimal is the relationship experience you provide to make sure your guest comes back (or sends a referral your way)?

 

My personal goal for 2014 is to control the way these experiences play out…not just to leave them to chance.

 

In the same way that I presented the HomeAway Summit in Scottsdale a presentation called Getting Analyical, I would like to use these same scientific methods to optimize every marketing effort that my guests experience...

 

To identify what works best (and what doesn’t) so that my rentals (and yours too) are as optimal as humanly possibly.

 

Through The Most Daring Vacation Rental Project Ever, I hope to order the information that goes into these optimal experiences in an easily digestible way.

 

With it, I hope you can find momentum in your own marketing and greatly improve the performance of your property’s bottom line.

 

Sincerely,

 

Your fearless vacation rental marketing leader,


Matt Landau

 

Matt is the Founder of the Marketing Vacation Rentals Blog (the largest free database of vacation rental marketing articles online) and VRLeap (an online marketplace for tools and services for vacation rental owners up to 90% OFF).

 


3

A recent article in Skift quoted the vacation rental industry at $23 billion, proclaiming it one of the hottest travel segments in the world. An interesting theme that could be gleaned from the article is cited as follows…

 

“One silver lining in the vacation rental startup trend is there does seem to be a relatively high percentage taking a business-to-business tack, offering marketing services and software for owners and professional property managers rather than merely going after consumers.”

 

This is probably no secret to vacation rental owners and managers…

 

Plenty of new companies are introducing a gamut of services to help them operate their rental more like a business.

 

But what about the owner or manager who wants to do things herself?

 

For a large percentage of vacation rental professionals, the challenge of marketing their own property is not just part of the fun.

 

It’s also part of their success.

 

The Problem

 

In this 2012 survey I conducted, we learned that 51% of all vacation rental owners use listing sites as their sole form of marketing and that this group experienced the lowest average annual occupancy rate across all owner types with 54 percent…

 

"Amazingly, on the other end of the spectrum, owners who, in addition to listing sites, used their own website and participated in further marketing efforts (such as social media) topped off the average occupancy rating at 76 percent."

 

Those who do their own marketing get more than 20% more bookings?

 

That is an astounding difference!

 

Yet perhaps the icing on the cake was the following statistic: almost all owners (94 percent) thought they could be doing more to promote their property.

 

The Solution

 

20.20.jpgSo as a vacation rental columnist, I asked my self the following question: "If DIY vacation rental marketing is so popular and so (evidently) profitable, why aren’t there more resources available to fill this niche?"

 

That was when I produced 20 Tips Under 20 Minutes: "The World’s Most Efficient Primer On DIY Vacation Rental Marketing."

 

At the moment free to any owner or manager that desires it, 20 Tips Under 20 Mins is an online ebook designed as a blueprint on how to generate more bookings without relying solely on listing sites. It is written in laymen’s terms with both the beginner and experienced vacation rental professional in mind.

 

And true to its name, each of the original 20 tips can be implemented in less than 20 minutes (which is to say, your lunch break). This makes it the most succinct yet powerful resource of it's kind on the web to date.

 

The book covers topics like:

 

  • Perfecting Your Listing Site Descriptions
  • Utilizing Autoresponders
  • Plugging Up Your Reservation Process Holes
  • Mastering The Follow-Up
  • Referrals, The Forgotten Revenue
  • Using Flight Alerts Wisely
  • Pitching Journalists Like The Pros
  • Creating Your Own Website


And the fact that it is free puts the book in a class of its own.

 

The Proof

 

I knew I wanted to get some feedback from the industry's leaders before making this book public:

 

The Foreward to 20 Tips Under 20 Mins is written by none other than HomeAway CPO, Tom Hale, who wrote “Matt’s pragmatic and actionable advice is a short-cut to more bookings and repeat guests while getting the most from your time and money.”

 

How’s that for an endorsement?

 

If you’re looking to generate more bookings on your own, without the use of expensive consultants and void of parting ways with nagging commissions percentages, this resource is for you…

 

Simply Pick Up A Free Copy Today and get the leverage you need on your competitors.

 

Sincerely,

 

Your fearless vacation rental marketing leader,

 

Matt Landau

1

Screen Shot 2013-01-15 at 7.00.48 AM.pngMost vacation rental owners look far and wide for inexpensive ways to get a leg up on  competitor rentals just down the street. Some build their own websites. Others upgrade their HomeAway listing for several hundred dollars. But what few fail to realize, is that the biggest, most influential vacation rental marketing weapon is sitting right under your nose.

 

As vacation rental proprietors, what almost all of us have going for us is that we know our geographic region inside and out. Whether we’ve owned in the neighborhood (or vacationed there) for years, we know the inside tips because we’ve lived them!


For owners in winter ski destinations, this may mean knowing the area’s most secluded or challenging slopes.

For owners in beach towns, this might mean knowing where to get the freshest seafood or individuals who rent out the best valued charter boats.

 

Whatever the region or specifics, vacation rental owners are a wealth of local knowledge for vacationers and learning to leverage it means generating substantially more bookings than you have ever had before. Why? Because getting the best advice significantly enhances a vacation! Think about the last time you visited a friend in a foreign place: you ate at all the best restaurants, you saw only the best sights, and you met some amazing people. Simply because you had a friend helping out.

 

Perhaps the perfect way to showcase your regional expertise to your vacation rental guests is in the form of an Insider’s Guide, or a simple PDF document that reveals inside secrets for vacationing in your neighborhood.

 

An Insider’s Guide with a punchy title can be a short as a few pages, while still managing to accomplish two goals:

 

1) Does it convey expertise? If written properly, an Insider’s Guide that’s given away for free to prospective guests manages to add value to the traveler’s experience. It’s no secret that travelers tend to migrate to rentals owned by expert owners. So by creating a guide that is valuable and accurate, owners are solidifying their position of authority and thus generating more leads.

 

2) Does it build trust? Just about everyone can explain, in person, the many intricate travel tips of a given destination. But only seasoned writers can create prose that leaps off the page. A good Insider’s Guide manages to transform helpful information into an actual relationship. A good Insider’s Guide should prompt a reader to say, “wow, this owner is the real deal, I need to stay at his/her rental.”

 

Here are some examples of successful Insider's Guides being used today by rental owners:

 

  • Cheapest and most reliable transportation services
  • 6 Things You Can’t Leave Without Eating/Drinking
  • 12 of the best happy hours in town
  • The most unusual restaurants in town you never knew you craved
  • Hawaii's 8 Top Secret Beaches
  • The most knowledgable tour guides in town
  • 6 insider's hikes for hiking enthusiasts
  • The neighborhood's TOP underground bars


In fact, you can check the Insider's Guide we use at my rentals, "5 Crackheads You MUST Meet In Casco Viejo."

 

Creating an Insider’s Guide is really as simple as sitting down for a few hours and documenting all your best, most influential travel tips, then formatting your content nicely in the form of a PDF document. By keeping the information private (and not just published somewhere on the web), owners wield a professional weapon in the process of generating more bookings. Here are some ideas for use:

 

  • Attach your secret Insider's Guide for free along with your email inquiry responses
  • Offer your awesome Insider's Guide in your VRBO description to anyone who inquires
  • Send your influential Insider's Guide to local bloggers and journalists to get your rental featured in major publications

 

Starting today, owners can commission a professional travel writer to Create Their Own Custom Insider's Guide: the offer includes a 30-minute consultation, up to 5 pages of custom-written text (and a snazzy cover) in the form of a PDF document for easy distribution. It also includes unlimited revisions. This deal is on sale now on VRLeap.com.

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madscientist-300x300.jpgSometimes I feel like a mad scientist. More mad than scientist because the large majority of techniques I try fail miserably. Ever seen the Red Bull Flutag challenge where teams of everyday people try to build homemade, human-powered flying machines and pilot them off a 30-foot high deck in hopes of achieving flight? Well, most of my vacation rental marketing experiments resemble the infamous bath tub plane. And of course, I don’t write about those. But for every handful of terrible ideas comes one brilliant one. And just last week, a brilliant one reared its beautiful golden head.

 

So let’s say you’ve followed my advice and imported all your former guests email addresses into some sort of email management service. You’re sending out newsletters that help you stay connected to your former guests, provide updates or news about the neighborhood, blah blah blah.

 

An Aside: I had lunch a few weeks ago in Chicago with a friend who works at Groupon and he told me “a substantial percentage of buyers never ever redeem their vouchers.”

 

This got me thinking: in low season, if owners are tight on cash flow, what would happen if we offered gift certificate vouchers at a discounted price to all their repeat guests? It would be like creating homemade Groupon-style deals for our rentals!

 

So I decided to try it with a segment of my newsletter database.

 

“Special Promotion For Repeat Guests Only: Buy $500 of Los Cuatro Tulipanes Credit for Only $250″

 

Of course I made some stipulations like voucher expires in 2 years, applies only to yet-to-be-booked reservations, applies to normal advertised rate, all other minimum stay rules apply…etc.

 

Results: Of the 1,000 former guests on my email blast, 28 of them took us up on the offer! I was so excited about this! We brought in $7000! On a Tuesday! In low season! My business partner and I were literally doing the happy jig every time a purchase came in! And the best part? The guests were getting a great deal!!! All we did next was create a document with the buyers names and email addresses so that when they are ready to redeem, we’ll have them on record.

 

Here’s why I believe this voucher offer is such a good tactic:

 

  • First off, we LOVE repeat guests because they know what our rentals are like, they know us personally, they like our neighborhood…etc. Which is to say, we always offer discounts to them anyways and while 50% off is pretty generous, they deserve it!
  • Second, it was a great way for us to boost cash flow in the middle of low season.
  • Third, we generated new (albeit discounted) guaranteed bookings.
  • Fourth, most of these guests will almost certainly spend more than $500 during their stay with us.
  • Fifth, sure 50% OFF is a lot but in reality, owners can make any offer appropriate to their situation.
  • Sixth, Panama is a far destination for most of our guests but most of you guys have clientele in just the next town/state over which leads me to believe that weekend jaunts are MADE for these kinds of promotional deals.
  • And lastly, if my Groupon friend is right, some of them will probably never even use the credit which means free income (this is evil thinking. Evil thinking, but true thinking).

 

Here are the downsides:

 

  • (…crickets…)

 

This exercise worked out great for us. (I’d trademark this concept if I wasn’t basically stealing it from every other coupon site that ever existed.) And I can pretty much guarantee no other vacation rental owners are doing it, which of course means, we can start a revolution! I may be overlooking some downfalls of this offer, but we haven’t encountered any of them yet. I’ll post any updates below…

 

- Matt

http://www.vacationrentalmarketingblog.com

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If you've subscribed to my vacation rental advertising blog, you know I am a huge fan of statistics and visual representations as ways to increase our undertsanding and performance of vacation rental marketing. When it comes to digesting all the information out there, I liken good metrics to telling a joke: if it takes too long to explain what we're looking at, it probably won't succeed.

 

So therefore, I wanted to use an infographics I adore -- The Famous Wordcloud -- to help owners understand what their colleagues and peers are talking about on a daily basis. If you're not familiar with wordclouds, they are visual representations of the number of times particular words are used in any particular platform: the higher the frequency, the larger the word is printed in the word cloud.

 

Below you will find wordclouds representing each of the main categories of the Community by HomeAway Forum. They can help us quickly visualize the content of what's on vacation rental owners' minds.

 

1. New To Renting

new to renting.png

 

2. Advertising Your Rental

advertising your rental.png

 

3. Furnishing & Maintenance

furnishing and maintenance.png

 

4. Interacting With Guests

interacting with guests.png

 

5.Policies & Proceedures

policies and proceedures.png

 

matt.jpg

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One of the most rewarding things about doing your own vacation rental marketing is getting featured in magazines and newspapers.  Not only is it emotionally rewarding (you get to show it to all your friends!!!) but it has a tendency to drive up reservations big time. Here’s how I’ve gotten my vacation rentals featured in the The New York Times, US News & World Report, GQ, Business Week, and Travel+Leisure, among a slew of other major publications; and all without spending a dime!

 

Enter HARO: the greatest PR secret known to successful vacation rental owners.

 

HARO (short for "Help A Reporter Out") is a free service that connects reporters with news sources and small business owners. If a journalist from, say, Conde Nast is looking to do a story on a weekend in Whistler, HARO is the platform through which he/she can solicit advice or locals for their story. If you’ve ever wondered how tiny boutique hotels or vacation rentals get featured in big-time publications, now you know. It’s one of those covert resources most PR agencies keep under wraps and you'd be doing yourself a disservice by sharing it with your competition.

 

So how do I have so much success with HARO?

 

Well, first, I sign up on their website and select “Travel” as my area of expertise. I also recommend selecting “Business & Finance” since some of the story topics overlap. You can also get creative, catering your story pitch to their particular readership. This is to say, my rentals have no business in Forbes Magazine but I pitched it properly and it worked.


Next, watch your inbox for the daily emails.  They will be composed thrice per day of various story leads and reporters looking for helpful sources. When you find one that might apply to your vacation rental business, jump on it.

 

In my experience, your email pitch is the most important thing between you and getting featured in a major publication. While you want to respond swiftly, reporters are always on a deadline, you also want to put enough thought into your pitch so that you set yourself apart from the rest. It is here where the email subject and the first line of your message itself need to be catchy and to the point. Here are three examples of my subject lines that have caught the reporter’s eye and elicited a response:

 

“Quotes For Your Vacation Article -- With A Tropical Twist!”

“Matt's 5 Reasons Vacation Rentals Trump Hotels”

“Why Are Vacation Rentals Not For Everyone?”

 

Once you’ve gotten good at the email subject lines, making sure they are action-oriented, compelling, funny, etc., make sure your message is short, interesting and to the point. Remember that the reporter is probably receiving tons of pitches so yours needs to be unique and relevant. Getting the pitch down won’t happen overnight. But over time, you’ll start to see more and more reporters responding and asking you for a quote. In a recent seminar, I gave out this tip and wasn't surprised to hear from three owners who, not one week afterwards, were featured in Home & Garden, Budget Travel, and Destinations Travel Magazine respectively.

 

If you are interested in seeing some samples of Matt's emails (and subject lines) that have resulted in major publication inclusions, you can sign up for his newsletter on the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog. Matt is on the eternal search for the best ways to increase vacation rental occupancy. He also once hosted a surprise birthday party for his mother, in which Oprah Winfrey was a surprise guest.

0

cram.gifWhen I first started out in the vacation rental industry with our fleet of (then) four apartments in historic Panama City, Panama, I would go on little marketing binges: a few hours (or in some cases, a few days) of intense, academic-like focus during which I’d do everything in my power to drive more traffic, generate more inquiries, and turn more of those inquiries to actual bookings.

 

These became known as my cram sessions (ironic, because I worked harder at them than I did on any school project) and they were as tiring as they were instrumental in our success. And while I don’t do cram sessions of this intensity any more because we’re so often fully booked, I do think the concept is a useful and motivational one to anyone looking to increase their bookings with a relatively small budget.

 

One weekend + Creative ways to market your rental = Residual bookings for a long time.

 

Here is my abbreviated version of the vacation rental marketing cram session: dedicate a weekend to improving your vacation rental’s exposure with these 6 free practices and your rental will be 10x better for it come Monday.

 

1. Giveaway: One giant value-add to promote a stay at your vacation rental should be your knowledge as an owner. Since no one else knows your area best, spend a few hours creating an interesting article or guide. We’ve used “Dining Experiences in Panama Only Insiders Can Deliver,” and “The Top 10 Panama Tours That Don’t Cost a Dime,” with great success.  Create this free piece of useful information. Then convert it into a PDF document with some nice photos. Lastly, use it to encourage users to inquire or subscribe to your mailing list (Submit to receive our free “Secret Guide To Haunted Panama City”). This is a spectacular way to set yourself apart from the competition and a tremendous way to increase your inquiries.


2. List: In addition to your paid advertised listings, post a profile for your property on every existing free vacation rental listing website in addition to classified sites like Craiglist (Tip: use the VFlyer (free) to create amazing Craigslist postings that will stand out amongst all competition). This may seem boring (that’s because it is). And while most of them won’t deliver much, a small portion of them will over time. In the end, even one or two referrals will make this blitzkrieg worthwhile.


3. Contribute: Developing a good relationship with your local newspaper and/or tourism magazine is worth its weight in gold. Since many publications these days are struggling to stay afloat, there may be no better time to offer to contribute interesting/newsworthy articles in exchange for advertising. At my company, we contribute one article per month to the local tourism newspaper in exchange for a quarter-page advertisement. This ad probably lands us between 5-10 clients per month.

 

4. Focus: To the top income-producing owners, knowing why users don’t book their rental is the Holy Grail in vacation rental marketing. The more objective and critical you can be about your website or listing page, the better. Using a third-party perspective point out problematic images, descriptions, layout…etc. has helped us identify giant holes in our marketing process that tend to go overlooked.

 

5. Follow-up: One of the most overlooked techniques in vacation rental marketing is following up with leads that didn’t actually end up staying at your rental. Once a month, to all of my leads that never ended up booking a night, I like to send an email saying something to the effect of Sorry we didn’t get to host you this past month. Should you ever look into returning to the area, we’d be happy to help with any travel arrangements or suggestions. This small email can do wonders for some people (either those who weren’t happy with the lodging they selected or those who simply like free advice). I also like to make it a habit to ask where the guest stayed and how they liked it. This gives me a great pulse on the movement of tourists in my neighborhood. It also generates a select amount of recovered business that we’d otherwise lose.

 

6. Interview: One of the coolest ways to engage users, offer them great information, and provide a value-add to staying at your lodging is to build a database of interviews with locals. By interviewing your local tour guide, ski instructor, chef…etc. and distributing the interview article either on your website or through your newsletter (or even in individual correspondences with potential guests) you establish yourself as a wealth of information and private contacts. Yes this takes time, but it also provides a huge appeal to future clientele.

 

Matt is the creator of the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog, free and inexpensive ways to increase your occupancy. If you are interested in being a case study in Matt's Video Courses, email matt[at]loscuatrotulipanes.com or simply sign up for the newsletter on his blog. When he's not marketing vacation rentals, Matt makes excellent Valencian paella.

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submit.jpgEveryone wants to improve their vacation rental’s online presence, but not everyone knows where to turn. In addition to spending your valuable marketing dollars on annual memberships, here are 8 cost-free online hotspots where you can submit your vacation rental website – whether it’s a listing page or your personal homepage (preferred) – and see immediate results. I like to suggest owners spend one hour every month searching for (and applying to) new sites like these. They are worth their weight in gold...

 

1. Dmoz:  The Open Directory Project (ODP), also known as Dmoz (from directory.mozilla.org, its original domain name), is an open content directory of World Wide Web links. It is constructed and maintained by a community of volunteer editors and it’s the database from which hundreds of thousands of other directory websites draw their data. Which is to say, once you submit your vacation rental site to Dmoz (and get accepted) the amount of residual links to your property will increase monumentally.

 

2. Google Places: Google Places is a free web mapping application and you may have seen it pop up on your Google searches or perhaps embedded in other websites. Once you submit your vacation rental company to Google Places through Google’s Local Business Center, your contact information (email, phone number, address, etc) will display on all kinds of hyper-local searches meaning, if someone is looking for a place to stay in your area, they’ll be presented with your information almost like a phone book listing.

 

3. Yahoo! Local: Much like Google Maps and Google Places, Yahoo! Local is a platform that’s still worth your vacation rental site’s inclusion. With their free basic listing, you can submit your contact information, select 5 categories in which to list your rental, as well as list any services you may offer on top of a traditional nightly stay.

 

4. Purple Roofs: Gay travel is an ever-expanding industry and lots of vacation rental owners report tremendous results when posting on sites like Purple Roofs where your free listing submission will most likely make you the only “gay friendly” accommodation in your area (a huge boost for bookings). The only requirement is that you are actually friendly towards gay travelers: easy enough!  

 

5. Gay Journey: The gold-standard in gay travel sites, Gay Journey is the go-to site for many gay travelers and posting your rental on their site is guaranteed to bring in good new traffic. They even give you the option of registering as gay owned (in addition to gay friendly). Gay owner listings are highlighted with a rainbow flag and tend to get extra clicks.

 

6. TripAdvisor Forum: TripAdvisor is the world’s largest travel review site so it’s not a surprise that their massive traveler forum is frequently crawled by tourists looking for new accommodations, especially alternatives to traditional hotels. By creating an account on TripAdvisor (if you don’t have one already), browsing the discussion threads in your area, and anonymously recommending your rental with a link, rental owners have reported huge upticks in bookings. 

 

7. LinkedIn: One of the most direct and no-nonsense ways of getting the details of your vacation rental in front of potential guests is using one of LinkedIn’s Groups. Joining groups like travel agents, tourism boards, specialty travel, etc and posting a simple introduction message to its members about you, your rental and your excitement to host new guests can do wonders to generate new bookings.

 

8. Thorntree: Imagine taking Lonely Planet’s loyal traveler following and consolidating the individuals who have area-specific travel questions all in one place. There might be no better place to plug your vacation rental as an authentic/private/alternative place to stay than Thorntree, Lonely Planet’s uncensored traveler forum. Thorntree also tends to be very easy on moderation, meaning as long as you’re not overly promotional in your posting, the advertising is free! I also recommend offering advice in your area of expertise as this tends to garner much more traffic. 

 

Matt is the author of the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog where you can find lots of juicy free tips for generating more bookings as well as his $77 report, which on average increases owners year-round occupancy by 10%. When he's not marketing his vacation rentals, Matt plays soccer with members of the US Men's National Team.