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VR Marketing: Doing More With Less

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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.




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).



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, 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.


ML.jpgNearly a decade ago I decided to trade three-piece suits for flip-flops and make the jump from corporate America to entrepreneurship in the tropics.


I landed in Panama City’s UNESCO World Heritage district of Casco Viejo: a Latin-American pastiche of New Orleans and, in my opinion, the most interesting neighborhood in Central America. It was here I began my career with vacation rentals; and it was here I learned how, with a shoestring budget, property owners anywhere can book their units solid using the right tools.


My typical days in Panama consist of lots of exploring: I have gorgeous beaches on both the Pacific and Caribbean coasts within 45 minutes of my front door. I jog every morning under a rain forest pantheon of monkeys, toucans and sloths. I eat way too much local shrimp ceviche, and I do all these things with the comfort in knowing that my rentals – a fleet of historic apartments known as Los Cuatro Tulipanes – are churning a healthy flow of vacationers through their doors.


But business wasn’t always this smooth.


Like a lot of owners or property managers, listing sites such as and were the first places I turned to generate reservations for my properties. Inquiries were good, but with the recession about to hit, I thought I’d need far more creative exposure and promotional material if I wanted to achieve occupancy levels above 90% year-round.


As a general rule, 90% occupancy has always been my gold standard: it is a realistic occupancy level any self-respecting property owner should and can accomplish.


Striving for more bookings, I spent seven years analyzing my properties’ performance. I gleaned secrets from expensive advertising agencies, haughty PR experts and ultra-successful vacation rental owners, split testing every single minute technique against another to determine, statistically, the most effective way to spend my time and money. By the end of this journey (at a time when my own rentals started operating at capacity), I copyrighted my system in the form of a report: 30 Bookings in 30 Days - a recipe book of innovative ways to increase vacation rental bookings on a shoestring budget.


The report represents seven years of my own time, six months researching successful vacation rental owners and a collective trial investment of tens of thousands of marketing dollars. "30 Bookings in 30 Days" sold just under 500 copies in 2011.


As an example of the quick tips you can adopt from my report are the use of free services like HARO (the resource I used to get my vacation rentals featured in Conde Nast and Travel+Leisure) and ASmallWorld (an invite-only travel-minded social network that generates about 15 bookings each month). I look forward to opening my knowledge base and sharing with you many more valuable additions to your marketing arsenal.


I now enter 2012 with one very ambitious goal: I will participate in the Ironman Triathlon (my first event of this sort) on February 12th, swimming through the Panama Canal, biking through the InterAmerican Highway and running on a historic oceanfront causeway. Throughout my training process, I have learned that the only people awake at 4AM in Panama are triathletes and insomniacs. And as motivation for this event, I have started referring to myself as IronMatt.


I look forward to sharing my knowledge for vacation rental marketing "on the cheap” and can’t wait to see more owners benefit from my tips and earn more cash!