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VR Marketing: Doing More With Less

22 Posts tagged with the advertising_your_rental tag
0

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).

0

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).

0

Screen Shot 2014-02-23 at 6.27.00 PM.png1.7 million people are calling for an investigation into the Sochi Olympics this past week, when a Russian figure skater won the gold medal under some very...questionable...circumstances.

 

The judges in the case of figure skating wield so much power and are not necessarily as honest as we would like.

 

I mention this because my subscriber base exploded like a bottle rocket this past January, and I realized I’ve reached critical mass and now have something of a personal responsibility in our industry:

 

Beyond being responsible for conducting experiments…

 

Apart from participating in forums like the Community by HomeAway…

 

Aside from sharing all (or most) of my findings for free…

 

I realized that it’s my job more than anything else to be transparent.

 

It can be tempting for a consultant like me to try and exaggerate ease (“I Reached 100% Occupancy Over Night!”) or to instill fear or to leave out pertinent information that is critical to the success of any given technique so to keep you guys guessing and relying on me…

 

All in an effort to sell more books or videos or whatever.

 

But I am in this for the long haul...

 

And with my new-found "Transparency Mission" (not to mention, in keeping the Olympic spirit alive), I wanted to judge ten of the more publicized techniques and rank them (on a scale of 1-10) based on true levels of difficulty and required commitment...

 

Since most of my subscribers are not prodigy internet marketers, I hope this will help everyone prioritize (or at least calibrate) your to-do lists...

 

1. Blogging: Difficulty Level 2 out of 10

 

If you read my quick guide How To Create A Vacation Rental Blog In Under 5 Minutes, you know that getting a blog set up is super easy. What adds to the difficulty here is a) figuring out how to write good posts and b) doing so consistently. Once you've overcome the one-time hurdle, blogging is a downward slope. When I asked one of my most successful subscribers, Sophie Johansson of Spanish Vacation Rental how she increased her website traffic to 100 visitors per day, she said, "I am almost certain the main reason for the new readers is the blog."

 

2. Email Marketing: Difficulty Level 3 out of 10

 

Email marketing is arguably the most important thing nobody is doing and it consists of two components: a) getting your email marketing campaigns set up with a provider and b) actually being consistent about sending good information to your list. Since emails themselves are a cinch to write, the only barrier to entry here is getting comfortable with the platform. Once you’ve crossed these barriers, the difficulty level of email marketing stays consistently low.

 

3. Personal Website: Difficulty Level 7 out of 10

 

Launching your own site is one of those things that most owners/managers will probably need professional help with. If you have DIY blood running through your veins, use an assistance platform like MyVR.com or WebChalet. If you want control of a delivered product, look to VillaMarketers. If you want both a web presence and simultaneously nothing to do with any of this, check out Evolve Vacation Rentals. Because the difficulty level of building your own website is relatively high, it's smartest to use a service so not to waste your time.

 

4. Professional Photos: Difficulty Level 1 out of 10

 

The only hindrance to getting this done is procrastination. It should be no secret than any owner or manager worth her weight has professional photos. No excuses. And calling up the local architectural photographer or college photography student takes about 2 minutes. Don’t try and do them yourself – unless, of course, you are a professional photographer.

 

5. Search Engine Optimization: Difficulty Level 9 out of 10

 

The reason I don’t talk too much about search engine optimization on this blog is because it’s beyond most peoples’ grasps. There’s no point in trying to dissect the complications of an ever-evolving marketing trend without all the foundational elements (solid website, good content, compelling text…etc.) in place. Stick to the basics. Conquer them. Then read this guide.

 

6. Increasing Conversions (Inquiries>Bookings): Difficulty Level 4 out of 10

 

This is a task that all of us face and the good news is that you need ZERO resources to improve (apart from some time). The difficulty level here requires patience, diligence, organization, and the ability to stay methodical. Track your efforts like an A/B testing scientists and there is absolutely positively NO way you can NOT improve.

 

7. Listing Site Optimization: Difficulty Level 2 out of 10

 

If you have a listing page on VRBO or HomeAway and have not edited it since you first signed up, it is not because you are not capable of improving. It is because you are lazy. Read 3 Interviews With Vacation Rental Listing Specialists and realize that the only thing standing between you and a more optimized listing is focus.

 

8. Automated Booking Software: Difficulty Level 4 out of 10

 

There is one reason (alone) that adopting online booking software is considered “difficult” and that is intimidation. Fear is a very real deterrent: don’t think that I don’t understand that. But it is NOT an excuse to not proceed and streamline your vacation rental business like a professional. Realize that from fulfillment to profitability, some of the most optimal vacation rental marketing experiences take place when a difficult task has been conquered. Services like Lodgix and Rezernet make this difficulty jump as easy as possible.

 

9. Getting Featured In The Press: Difficulty Level 7 out of 10

 

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise…getting featured in major press publications is not simple! The good news is that when you get featured in one medium, the rest fall into place like dominoes (and it can change your vacation rental business FOREVER). If you have the time to implement any number of press suggested tips, you’ll realize that the challenge is less skill and more persistence.

 

10. Analytics: Difficulty Level “Undefined”

 

“Getting Analytical” was the subject of my talk at the HomeAway Summit in Scottsdale. And since then, I have come to realize that getting analytical is both very easy and very difficult for owners and managers of all skill levels. What’s easy? Something as rudimentary as a little chart scribbled on paper that tracks where your inquiries are coming from. What’s more difficult? Analyzing and pouring over data in a full-blown analytics account like Google Analytics or Rentallect. Analytics is a theme that divides many of us: depending on your level of commitment, the challenge could really fall either way.

 

Sincerely,

 

Your fearless vacation rental marketing leader,


Matt Landau

 

Matt is the Founder of the Vacation Rental Marketing 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). To receive his updates, you can sign up HERE.

0

“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

2

Let’s face it: building and maintaining your own personal vacation rental website is merely the first (albeit massive) step on the road to long-term and sustainable vacation rental success...

 

But after the initial work is done, there are a lot of smart moves you can make to start generating more leads through a variety of different techniques. As you may read in discussions like these, the mere act of building a site is not nearly enough to experience marketing success.

 

So today, I’ve outlined 7 of my favorite secret weapons (which very few vacation rental owners or managers know about) to help you maximize your newest prize possession and leverage your growing role as vacation rental extraordinare:

 

1. Help A Reporter Out (HARO): Most owners know how impactful it can be to get their vacation rental featured in the press, but they also don’t really know where to start connecting with journalists. HARO (free) connects reporters with news sources (including local experts just like you) and in exchange for suggesting interesting, funny, or breaking news about your region, your rental can earn tremendous exposure.

 

2. Fiverr: Fiverr is the world’s largest marketplace for $5 services (thus their namesake) such as graphic design, writing, video, animation, and pretty much everything else artistic under the sun. Whether you’re getting a new logo, having some translation work done, or creating a animated welcome note, each of the deals cost $5, there’s not a whole lot to lose.

 

3. Hootsuite: For owners who want to have the vast gulf of social media platforms at available at your fingertip, utilize Hootsuite. Once you register and set up (free), it’s a platform that allows you to Tweet, post on Facebook, share on LinkedIn, pin on Pinterest all from the same web browser frame saving you plenty of time (and frustration).

 

4. Bitly: Every smart owner with a vacation rental website must know about Bitly, the URL shortener of the internet. Bitly (free) is a very simple tool that allows you to take your long website pages (let’s use this page of my rental as an example: http://www.loscuatrotulipanes.com/index.php/casco-viejo-apartments/1bdrm/monjas-2b/) and convert it into a concise, sharable URL (like this: http://bit.ly/15YghWN). This is perfect for inserting into email correspondence or sharing on social media.

 

5. Portent’s Content Idea Generator: A blog is perhaps the absolute best way to make yourself helpful as a vacation rental owner to prospective guests. When travelers view your blog as a source of expertise, they’re bound to be drawn to you when exploring where to book. And now, there’s no excuse for a lack of ideas on blog articles. With Portent’s article title generator, you’ll never lack a catchy, useful or viral headline ever again.

 

6. Open Site Explorer: Part of the responsibility you adopt when launching your own vacation rental website is knowing what your competitors are doing and how you can do it better. The smartest owners utilize Open Site Explorer (free up to 5 searches per day) to laser pinpoint your competitors’ backlinks, and then replicate them for your own site.

 

7. Wordle: Wordclouds are an amazing way to visualize a theme or topic about your rental and whether you’re using them for strategic purposes or to post on your blog, Wordle (free) is among the easiest and best tools to create these diagrams.  Simply plug in your vacation rental website or a body of text and let Wordle do the rest.

 

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

1

I would find it hard to argue that there is any one more influential factor, as it relates to long-term vacation rental success, than having good social proof (i.e. guest reviews) about your property.

 

Positive guest reviews – not unlike old-school testimonials used by most businesses around the globe – are probably already a hugely powerful component of your marketing. Every owner or manager knows that the more positive reviews they have, the more credibility they have with future guests.

 

And in analyzing reviews over the course of several years, I thought I had come to one main conclusion: that quality always trumps quantity.

 

Which is to say, when soliciting reviews from travelers, I had always professed that it’s better to cherry-pick the absolute most satisfied guests to write the review, leaving the remainder to fill out a survey on how you could improve [Read: Eliminating Negative Feedback].

 

After all, your review page is precious and we wouldn’t want any blemishes on your immaculate reputation, right? A negative review could take down an entire organization!!! (I know because on Trip Advisor, my rentals have 258 positive reviews and 1 poor review.)

 

Well, not so fast...

 

In a recent survey using Zipinion, I asked 100 people “When selecting a vacation rental, which option would you choose? Vacation rental "A" with 30 positive reviews and 3 negative reviews or Vacation rental "B" with 5 positive reviews (and no negative reviews)?”

 

Screen Shot 2013-08-08 at 7.19.13 AM.png

 

Results: An astounding 87% of respondents chose vacation rental “A” citing a myriad of reasons why:

 

  • More sheer reviews usually means more insight
  • Sometimes the negative reviews you have to look over because sometimes people will give a negative review for no reason
  • Rental “A” is obviously rented more often (thus more popular) because it has many more reviews than rental "B"
  • 5 reviews could have been the 'friends and family' group. 33 reviews, is a large enough pool to ensure real customers
  • I prefer a lengthier review history. More people telling similar stories is more convincing and reassuring
  • I want to know both the good and bad of what I'm getting into (which is why I appreciate some of the negative reviews)
  • To have a few negative reviews is expected these days. You can't please all of the people all of the time. I would skim the good and read the bad
  • I would never choose the rental with 5 reviews. People don't review a rental if it was ok. It has to be great or really bad to get people to post a review
  • I prefer a much larger sample size. A few negatives are inevitable
  • I like to see what people think is negative about a place or thing before I commit to it
  • It’s all about the most positive reviews. Rental “B” just hasn't had time yet for the haters to come out
  • Even though there are negative reviews, through experience, I know that some people will write negative reviews for the smallest things. I've seen 1 star reviews on Amazon because the shipping took a little longer than expected. With 30 positive reviews, rental “A” is most likely the better choice

 

Of course, there were a small percentage of individuals who chose rental “B” and here were some of their justifications: "I prefer a 100% positive rating compared to rental A’s 90%," "Generally speaking I always opt for the rental with the highest (100% 5 star) review percentage," "Rental "B" might be a new rental and thus a lower price," "Rental “B” is most likely a new rental and so the owners will be trying extra hard."

 

But what I take away from this survey is the following:

 

Vacation rental success, as it relates to guest reviews, is about both quality AND quantity. The good news is that one or two (or three!) bad reviews aren’t going to deplete your attractiveness as long as you have a disproportionate number of good reviews. The bad news is that you need to acquire enough good reviews to offset the occasional bad apple.

 

Most importantly, we can conclude that vacation rental “shopping” is mostly about comparison. Which is to say, your “grade point average” is irrelevant if it’s not competitive with those of your competitors.

 

So there you have it: continue soliciting great reviews, don’t get freaked out if you get a couple bad ones, and if you’re mainly focused on a listing site like VRBO or FlipKey, be sure to keep an eye on the review GPA of the rentals around you as those might be the biggest influencers of all.

 

Matt Landau is the founder of Vacation Rental Marketing Blog and VRLeap, two free resources designed to help vacation rental owners and managers increase their bookings. Pick up a copy of his latest book, The Eureka Effect: How Good Vacation Rentals Become Great for free while supplies still lasts.

2

Vacation rental marketing is all about helping the prospective traveler: not selling them. And one of the best ways to do that is to create your own blog. Fortunately, with my little guide below, owners and managers can do so for free in under 5 minutes.

 

Long gone are the days when anyone could buy a magazine ad and POOF, their rental was booked year round.

 

If you haven’t realized yet, competition is getting fierce: both in the sheer increased amount of properties available for rent and (perhaps more importantly) in the fight for attention of the online user.

 

This second point – you the owner competing for the attention of the online traveler against their family members, friends, co-workers…etc. – is why creating a blog is so important: to gain your guests’ trust, you must give them tons of useful information about your region and there is no better way to do that than with a blog.

 

Now, the good part is that you probably already know the ropes: that is to say, you’ve probably invested in a vacation rental property because you love the area and if you love the area, chances are, you know a lot about the area (the best restaurants, tours, sights, insider tips).

 

So as you may have assumed, creating a platform – a brand extension – for that wonderful knowledge is the name of the game. And we do so via a blog.

 

Here’s how it’s done...

 

Now that you’ve learned how to create your own vacation rental blog, try the following challenge:

 

Sit down with your spouse and write out every single question that has ever been asked about your region. What’s the best dish at the local diner? When’s the best time to go surfing? Where can we rent local DVDs? If you’re like me, that list will probably start getting pretty long (which is good). Try to avoid questions about your rental itself. That would qualify as selling (not helping) and that's not what we're going for here.

 

Next, choose one question per week and dedicate a few paragraphs to the response. Then publish that response as your first blog article. Start knocking out one article per week and you are on the road to helpful greatness! 

 

I recommend using a blog because it's what has worked tremendously well for me. You can read my story from nothing to vacation rental greatness HERE.

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Screen Shot 2013-06-04 at 5.18.30 PM.pngOK enough of all the positive talk. Today, I’m going to be mean. Real mean. I’ve put together a list of the 6 most glaring (and detrimental) mistakes that vacation rental owners and managers are making on a daily marketing basis. Chances are, you’re guilty of some (if not all) of these gaffes. And chances are, after reading the article, you’ll be in a better position to control them moving forward.

 

1. The one-dimensional reputation: If you don’t think your potential guests are Googling your name and the name of your rental before they actually book, you’re either ignorant or oblivious or maybe both.

 

In today’s online market place, if vacation rental owners want any feasible chance against hotels for the real meat and potatoes of the industry’s vacation travelers, they simply cannot survive on one-dimensional marketing plans. This applies to the owners who only have one source of exposure online (and it’s most often listing sites).

 

To curb this fatal flaw (because remember, guests who can find social proof online from various sources stating “This rental is the bees knees!” are far more likely to book than guests who do a search and come up empty) make sure to feature your name (and your rental’s name) on various other webpages such as social media profiles, blogs, and news articles. The surround sound effect of having multiple websites endorse your wonderful property means bookings go up, fast. 

 

2. Not tweaking email responders: How many of you have been using the exact same auto-responder or canned email template for the past several years?

 

(I just saw a lot of virtual hands go up.)

 

Neglecting to tweak and improve your email correspondences is about as irresponsible as a vacation rental owner can get. Considering that just some small improvements can increase your conversion rate (a.k.a. the amount of inquiries that actually turn into bookings), you can’t afford not to dedicate some time to this right now. Improving just a few percentage points is like taking back your money that was otherwise left on the table.

 

3. Going cold tuna on marketing: OK I get it. Your rental isn’t a cash cow. You don’t pull in crazy numbers. Rather, just enough to cover the mortgage with maybe a little left over for a McRib. But in vacation rental marketing you have to spend money to make money.

 

There are only a limited amount of freebie techniques you can use and no-cost investments you can make. And when you realize that upping your spend (let’s say upgrading to a higher tier of VRBO or spending some money on Adwords) can have direct results, you’ll look back on this mistake down the road and think, how did we ever survive without these paid marketing channels?


Just be sure that your carefully selected paid investments are the right ones.

 

4. Waiting: This mistake is the shortest and perhaps the most crucial on my list. If you are waiting for your bookings to go up – if you are ‘waiting to weather the economic storm’ or ‘waiting for high season to roll around’ or ‘waiting until you finish building your deck – then you are losing time, money, and most of all market share.

 

As I concluded in Capitalizing On The Emerging Vacation Rental Industry, the vacation rental industry is facing a tumultuous few years ahead of it. More than ever, now is the time to get proactive on your marketing and to set the bar for rentals in your neighborhood. He (or she) who has the gold makes the rules. And those who are sitting around waiting for travelers to start flocking through their doors are in for an unpleasant surprise.

 

5. Not asking for critical feedback: Most vacation rental owners and managers I know are stubborn. And so am I. No one wants to hear harsh words from some dude in a fanny pack about how your water pressure could be stronger or how hypoallergenic pillows are really the way to go.

But let me tell you this: the single most tangible spike I can point out in my vacation rental marketing learning curve, was finally understanding precisely what my vacation rental guests wanted. And how did I make that revelation? I started asking guests how I could improve.

 

Whether your doing it in person or using a SurveyMonkey questionnaire, there is enormous value in soliciting negative feedback (probably more valuable than positive feedback). If you can work up the courage and bite your lip when the critiques come flowing in, you’ll have a checklist-like blueprint to follow and improve.

 

6. Being content: I recently did a podcast with the veritable queen of vacation rental blogging, Heather Bayer, in which I was asked, “who is my blog designed for?” My answer to this question was very simple: “this blog is for anyone who needs – not just wants, but needs – to increase their bookings.”

 

Because let’s face it: there are plenty of you out there who are perfectly content with your property’s performance, and for you guys, finances and getting the biggest ROI isn’t the most important thing in the world. For you, my blog is not.

But for others of us, those who need to generate top-dollar returns, the word content should not be in your vocabulary. You should always be hungry for new ways to generate more bookings. If you’re 100% full, you should be considering acquiring more properties. Complacency is a common worm in long-term ventures like building a vacation rental marketing portfolio. You just need to learn how to constantly reinvent your marketing spirit.

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In the past year, I have established my Vacation Rental Marketing Blog as the most comprehensive database of DIY vacation rental marketing on the internet. But does this mean that all owners should partake in improvised marketing for their property? Does this mean that anyone can just jump in and begin? Does it really mean that everyone has the same opportunities as their competitors?

 

Here are 6 pros and cons that everyone should realistically contemplate before diving in. Vacation rental marketing is a combination of art and science. Here’s how to determine whether it’s right for you:

 

Pro: The Cost


As a one-man business, my rental fleet had a singular dedicated asset when getting started and that was my time. I decided very early on that I may not have the financial budget of other, bigger companies or owners, but I was going to make up for my lack of funding using innovative techniques and a steadfast work ethic.

 

For the first several years, I was like the guerilla warrior of vacation rental marketing, testing out improvised, unorthodox techniques to see what might work in generating bookings. Much to my surprise, a handful of them started working...really, really well. 

 

Probably the most transparent benefit of doing your own vacation rental marketing is the cost-factor.

 

Sure it would be nice to hire expert vacation rental marketing consultants to do all the work for us. But as vacation rental owners, we don’t have unlimited budgets set aside for marketing and in fact, most of us run very tight ships when it comes to profits versus expenditures.

 

So when we do the marketing ourselves, we are saving the money of having to hire a specialist who can be prohibitively expensive.

 

Not unlike home improvements, DIY marketing for your rental takes some education and some research. In the same way that most of us wouldn’t just jump right in and try to fix our car engine when it’s broken, owners looking to save money by doing their own marketing must compensate with some time and patience in learning how to do things properly. The money saved in the end is well worthwhile.

 

 

Con: The Fears


Brand new to the vacation rental industry, Toula Hatziioannou needed to take baby steps. She had just started renting out her home in Vancouver Island, but she felt totally overwhelmed. So, the smartest thing she did to get over her many fears and obstacles was to develop a good mentoring relationship with the owner of a fellow vacation rental agency, a woman with whom she struck a deal.

 

“What intimidated me most was the paper work, contracts, billing, payment, all of that. It just felt beyond me,” Toula told me.

 

So Toula asked if this other owner would handle the payment part of her rental process her for a 10% fee. Under their agreement, when an inquiry came in, Toula would respond immediately (something she always did), thank the guest, and tell them she would be forwarding their note to someone else, who took care of the administrative side of things.

 

“I did this quite happily for about 6 months before I started getting little nudges that perhaps it was time I learned how to do this part of my business myself. Then one morning, I had two inquiries from people who wanted to complete their bookings right there and then.  I sent my friend the contacts and she responded immediately but for some reason, her phone was not sending out her messages that morning and I lost both bookings.  It was at that moment that I decided I would accept this as a $2,000 lesson and take full responsibility for my business,  learning to run every aspect of it myself.....which I started to do, that very day.”

 

Toula now has 4 months doing her own contracts and payments and she said this period of transition was just the lesson she needed to overcome those nagging but surmountable fears.

 

Oftentimes, the only thing standing in the way of a vacation rental owner and a successful self-built marketing portfolio is fear. Overcome it and take the bull by the horns.

 

The fear of not understanding. The fear of the internet. The fear of competition. The fear of stepping outside your comfort zone.


Fears are a scary thing! And there’s no doubt they are psychologically challenging many new owners from getting involved.

 

But one of the most fulfilling things I do, as a vacation rental marketing blogger, is help owners like Toula overcome their fears. Of course, it’s not easy to convince someone who’s just started using email (!!!) that they can, in fact, increase their bookings with new online techniques!

Of course Toula isn’t an expert vacation rental marketer just yet: but she is 10x ahead of her competitors (all of whom have failed to even begin this process).

 

I have found that fear is a great motivator. Learn to leverage your fears about vacation rental marketing into momentum and not only will your bookings improve: but your sense of self-accomplishment, like that of Toula, will be through the roof.

 

Pro: The Control


Dennis Hoffman owns a gorgeous vacation rental villa in Roatan, a tiny, funky island off the coast of Honduras. His bookings were good, his family was happy, and he visited his rental a few times a year to enjoy the view.

 

Before I started working with him, Dennis’ success was fastened to the listing sites he paid for. If there was a dearth in inquiries, that meant Dennis' villa (from $3,000 per week) sat empty. If he spent a little more money on his exposure, he could hope for (but not guarantee) more bookings. He was reactive, not proactive.

 

That’s when we sat down to restructure his Google Adwords account. Google Adwords is a pay-per-click platform that allows vacation rental owners to literally “buy” interested guests via clicks on the Google network. It is the ultimate example of control because the more you spend, the more visitors you are guaranteed.

 

 

There is nothing quite like the feeling of being in control of your own vacation rental success.

 

If you are slow on bookings, the ability and knowledge that permit you to independently bump up your efforts and see more inquiries are equivalent to gold.

 

But too often, owners expose a potential weakness by relying exclusively on listing sites whose membership rates could fluctuate. As small business owners, the last thing you want is to be tied to a  company’s corporate decisions. So with the magic of DIY marketing, owners of all skill levels can add foundation, stability, and control to their vacation rental operation.

 

When I finished with him, Dennis in Roatan had turned his Adwords campaign around. Here is the proof that he was generating nearly double the web visitors for nearly half the price as before. But not only is his campaign now supernaturally honed: he now enjoys the luxury of supreme control. His Adwords account is designed like a light switch: when he wants more bookings, he cranks up the heat. When he’s busy, he turns the account off.

 

This type of control is invaluable to a vacation rental owner: simply because it allows you to roll with the seasonal punches.

 


Con: The Learning Curve


Approximately 1 year ago, my friend Brendan decided he wanted to complete a full Ironman triathlon about 4 months before the actual event. He had biked sparingly, he ran once or twice a week, and his swimming was practically non-existent. But as any good trainer will tell you, improving any three of those disciplines takes time.

 

Just three weeks ago, he completed his 2nd full Ironman with a time nearly 60 minutes better than last year (a remarkable improvement). This was a direct product of nearly 1-years worth of training, learning, and improving. His swimming pace – this time around – was almost 2x as fast as last year. His fast-twitch muscles propelled his biking almost 40 minutes faster than previously recorded. Which is to say, Brendan’s learning curve is on the rise.

 

 

Unless you are a freak, learning the fundamentals of vacation rental marketing will take time and patience as well. Don’t expect to get it all figured out in one day.

 

It would be nice (oh, so nice) if bookings were slow and all it took was a weekend of crunch time and then *poof* you were booked solid. But unfortunately, learning vacation rental marketing is not unlike learning to swim: you can pick up the basics in a very short period of time, but developing a proper stroke, improving your speed, and covering professional distances takes time.

 

Anyone who’s preparing to do their own vacation rental marketing should be mentally prepared for the long haul – the Ironman, if you will – and not a sprint to the finish.

 

 

Pro: The Time Is Now


One of my favorite vacation rental owners, Gene Fahey, has several gorgeous properties in Vail, Colorado displayed on his site www.myvailcondos.com. Gene isn’t much of a technology guy, but he knew that the merits of online vacation rental marketing were sound. So he built a website.

 

With this one fell swoop, Gene launched himself into an elite category of vacation rental owners (those who have their own website). While it wasn’t something he necessarily expected to produce massive, immediate results to his bottom line, he knew that launching a website now would act as a powerful investment for the future.

 

 

The vacation rental industry is very new and the vast majority of owners are doing almost no vacation rental marketing. Apart from listing on the major sites, most owners simply sit back and hope their property gets booked.

As you might imagine, this leaves the door wide open for those who want to get a leg up on the competition. This leaves a giant advantage for the taking, to any owner who’s more proactive than his/her nearest competitors.

 

If the giant surge in vacation rental services is any indicator, the near future will prove to be a very influential period for local vacation rental markets: now is the time to scramble for the best Internet presence, the best copywriting, the best photos. Not unlike most booms, those who have a head start on their competitors are the ones who – several years down the road, when the industry is more developed – will enjoy the fruits of their labor.

 

In a few years time, I can tell you where Gene’s rentals will be: with an established website drawing web traffic for the phrase “Vail Condos,” he’ll have a sizeable lead on any of his competitors. He’ll be high atop a group of owners just then – a bit too late – realizing the need for some DIY marketing. Gene will be grateful he invested when he did.

 

 

Con: The Lack Of Resources


The first time I ever tried yoga, I was thrust into a group of professional yoga instructors at a seminar in Tulum, Mexico. As you might imagine, I was so overwhelmed with their positions and nomenclature that, in just minutes, I felt like a failed pretzel.

 

Oppositely, I was convinced to give yoga a second chance down the road in a learning environment for beginners in Chicago, and guess what? I loved it! I got to joke around with the other guys who were inflexible like me! We shared our amazement about the amount of sweat produced! We cried, harmoniously, when the toughest portion was over.

 

 

Roughly a year ago, I set out to create the most innovative community of vacation rental owners in the world for one reason and one reason alone: support.

 

When doing anything for the first time, support plays a huge role and the presence of similar-minded folks acts as everyone’s crusade fuel.

And since the amount of resources online to help first-time vacation rental owners improve their occupancy rates was next to nil, I became determined to connect owners from across the world who shared the same common aspirations.

 

What I have now is a resource (Vacation Rental Marketing Blog) that is read by thousands of owners every week.

 

Why?

 

Because owners like the safe, non-judgmental, scientific learning environment we’ve established for one another.

 

When someone has a good idea, we share it with the group. When someone has a failure, we share it with the group. Owners of all levels are drawn to my blog, not only because it contains, inarguably, the best material in the industry, but also because being in a circle of like-minded individuals helps – almost through osmosis – to spur everybody on.

 

Unfortunately there are not a ton of great resources to help owners improve their online marketing at this point in time. So learning to seek out the best and the brightest can be a difficult and overwhelming task. 

 

Like any new discipline (whether it’s yoga or swimming or vacation rental marketing) be patient, seek out the best advice, and surround yourself with good energy. The rest will take care of itself.

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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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The vacation rental industry has been humming along now for nearly a decade, but 2013 is poised to bring with it more changes than any year prior. From legal issues to increased competition to newly emerging traveler segments, owners will have their hands full as the new year epitomizes how this little industry is most certainly growing up. Here are 8 of the most powerful trends that will define vacation rentals as we know them:

 

1. Prepare for growth: The vacation rental industry is in the second inning of a 9-inning baseball game and 2013 will see some fireworks in terms of growth. As more and more travelers will demand alternative lodging, the supply side (property owners and marketing companies) will make enormous strides in 2013. Those who get out in front first may be able to ride the wave and oppositely, vacation rental owners who were used to full occupancy with little effort will be increasingly under the gun.

 

2. The “hotelization” of vacation rentals: The vacation rental industry is relatively new and one of its biggest flaws – inconsistency – will start to rear its ugly head in 2013 more than ever before. Owners will need to start focusing more on the “hotelization” of their rental: in other words, streamlining their operations process to be more professional, consistent, and hotel-like. 2013 will probably see a few fiascos (like the great AirBnB robbery of 2011) that will highlight a need for more regulation and formalization in an otherwise Wild Wild West industry.

 

3. More mobile bookings: As 2013 surges onward, discounting mobile platforms will be more and more of a mistake for vacation rental owners with their own websites. Record numbers of Internet users are on mobile devices as a whole, and this trend is accentuated in the vacation rental industry, which is notorious for it’s stunted technology. In addition, owners will need to learn to write better descriptions to convert these mobile users into paying guests.

 

4. Live or die by reviews: As reviews have become the de facto influence in the hotel industry, traveler reviews of vacation rentals will follow suit in 2013. Because traveler reviews equate to more original content, the major listing sites will try to replicate the success of TripAdvisor in soliciting as many reviews as possible. Slowly but surely, this will result in good vacation rental owners (the ones who go above and beyond) superseding their less-invested counterparts once and for all.

 

5. Be gay friendly: 2013 will be a very competitive year for vacation rental owners trying to get a leg up on their competition and perhaps the #1 swing segment that owners will be vying for is gay travelers. Gay travel websites like Purple Roofs and Gay Journey will see vacation rental listings boom as owners realize the high quality of gay guests. Capturing even a tiny segment of gay travelers in any given region will be a game changer.

 

6. Experiential travel: While travel in general will continue to edge towards experiential travel and away from generic, big-box, all-inclusive, air-conditioned-tour-bus-style hotels, vacation rentals will emerge as the perfectly-poised solution thanks to their affordability and growing supply. Rental owners able to articulate their authenticity (thus effectively overriding the same old hotel world everyone is bored with) will skyrocket in 2013. The use of a powerful vacation rental blog will emerge as perhaps the most popular trend.

 

7. Hotels will get feisty: As the vacation rental industry continues to mature and steal hotel market share, hotel lobbyist groups will get more organized and aggressive in 2013 pushing hard for city and state legislature to outlaw short-term rentals. From here, it is inevitable that stricter regulations will be formulated. After all, the vacation rental industry DOES need more formalized regulations. The densest vacation rental regions will also lead the way as owners join to form a unified voice in opposition to the hotel oligarchy. If they don't, more bans (and huge losses) like this in Manhattan will unfoil.

 

8. New services will turn the art of managing a vacation rental into a science: Up until very recently, the vacation rental industry has been a jerry-rigged one, comprised of part-time owners, band-aid solutions, and makeshift excel documents serving as occupancy calendars. 2013 will mark one of the most evolutionary years for the industry as more companies (than ever before) will enter the market to make things easier for the first-time owner. These services, competing for the loyalty of the almighty client, will start lowering their prices and offering their free tools to capture market share.

 

Conclusion: 2013 will be a year of turmoil (both good and bad) for the vacation rental industry. At it’s most fundamental level, this coming year will set the stage for performance-based rewards for owners: no more will it be enough to simply buy a listing with VRBO. Owners will need to start getting proactive and persistent: that or watch their competitors emerge victorious.

 

Matt is the founder of the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog and VRLeap, tools and services for vacation rental owners at 50-90% OFF. In his spare time, he enjoys Spanish-language crossword puzzles and birding.


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email.jpgMany of you may have read my article this past August, My Absolute Best Marketing Idea of 2012, in which I experiment with a "Groupon-style" deal offering $500 of credit towards a stay at our rentals for only $250. By offering this deal to all my previous guests, I was not only rewarding them for their loyalty. I was also enjoying the fact that repeat guests are way less difficult (and costly) to seal than new ones. This one example alone of email marketing for vacation rental owners returned my investment almost 700%.

 

Here are two strong facts that might make things clearer:

 

1. On average, it costs vacation rental owners anywhere from 5-8 times more to gain a new guest than to retaining an existing one. Considering all the time and money you put into online marketing, phone calls explaining the property, and inquiries that never go anywhere, the value of repeat guest bookings is astronomical.

 

2. Nearly 70% of all vacation rental guests will not stay at your property again if they feel unappreciated. If you don't stay connected with them, they won't stay connected with you.

 

Staying in touch with previous guests. It sounds so simple, but you'd be surprised at how many owners ignore this type of vacation rental marketing.

 

In sync with the release of Matt's Definitive Handbook On Email Marketing I want to encourage all owners to take advantage of what might be the cheapest, fastest way to generate more bookings. Here are 7 steps to start taking advantage of this untapped resource today.

 

  1. Gather the email addresses of all your former guests
  2. Sign up for one of the email marketing platforms that I use
  3. Start drafting the content for your first newsletter
  4. Remember that you need to offer more value to the recipient than to yourself AND that you need to send a first "opt-in" email to confirm their permission.
  5. Stick to a ratio of 9:1 (interesting content: offers)
  6. Test your email blast, stick to all the industry standard specifications, and be sure you've proofread everything and that all the links function
  7. Sit back and enjoy the leads

 

My first email newsletter was a stab in the dark. I didn't really know what I was doing, but I genuinely wanted to reconnect with all my previous guests: many of whom I really enjoyed getting to know during their stay: many of whom really inherited my trust. I sent the email out to almost 1,000 individuals who had stayed with us over the course of 4 years.

 

The response was phenomenal! Besides the huge amount of guests who responded saying, "Hey Matt, we loved hearing from you and we really cherished our family time in Casco Viejo," was the actual repeat bookings we got on the spot! 30 repeat bookings! No prompt needed!

 

In fact, since we began using email marketing to stay in touch with previous guests 4 years ago, here have been my estimated results on a year-to-year basis:

 

Screen Shot 2012-10-03 at 6.09.16 AM.png

 

I would encourage any owner out there to take a look at Matt's Definitive Handbook On Email Marketing and start an email marketing campaign as soon as possible. Every month you neglect your former guests is a month your competitor can steal them for their next visit.

 

Matt is the founder of the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog and VRLeap, discounted tools and services for vacation rental owners and managers.

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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

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2. Advertising Your Rental

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3. Furnishing & Maintenance

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4. Interacting With Guests

interacting with guests.png

 

5.Policies & Proceedures

policies and proceedures.png

 

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