There is one thing all holiday rental homeowners can identify with: wanting more bookings. Whether you just started renting or you have over ten years of experience under your belt, promoting your home is the single most important element in keeping your home booked and maintaining a steady cash flow.
You’re probably thinking, “But HomeAway.co.uk and OwnersDirect.co.uk do all of that for me!” While it’s true that listing websites likely do the majority of your advertising heavy-lifting, there are other ways to increase your home’s exposure. Fortunately, the marketing solutions we’ve compiled here are generally low cost (or free!) and require nominal effort on your part.
Incorporate these 10 simple strategies into your life to broaden your marketing reach and see more bookings this year.
1) E-mail Signature
Be sure to include an email signature with a link to your property listing in your correspondence, you never know who it may get forwarded to - maybe a distant cousin is in the market for a holiday rental!
2) Community Outlets
Churches, gyms and your alma mater are great places to spread the word about your property. There’s a built-in feeling of knowing someone without actually knowing them, so the trust is already been established. The easiest way is to hit up the community bulletin board (churches and gyms) or ask for space in newsletters or magazines (alumni organizations).
Think of it this way: renting to people within your community cuts down on the majority of the screening you have to do, but your potential renters most likely won’t know you well enough to ask for a free stay!
3) Social Networking Sites
Social networking is one of the easiest ways to promote your property. There’s no shortage of sites to join, but we recommend Facebook and Twitter above all else.
Facebook. Sign up, fill out your profile information, post pictures of your property, and start connecting with everyone you know. It’s really that easy. This method helps reach friends of friends, plus you can post as many photos as you want on Facebook.
Twitter. This mini-blogging site will test your skills in brevity. Twitter is unique in that all of your posts are public, but there are also smaller niche groups that follow one another and “re-tweet.” It’s an easy way to connect with other owners and potential renters you might have a harder time finding on Facebook. It’s surprisingly addictive, too.
4) Business Cards
Business cards don't have to be boring. They come in all shapes and sizes and a variety of different paper stocks. It really doesn’t matter which style you choose, as long as you include pictures of your property. Moo.com will print a set of business cards with different photos on each, which can be especially helpful if you have several properties. A picture is worth a thousand words, so get printing!
5) Your Local Chamber of Commerce
Just about every holiday rental market has a Chamber of Commerce, a non-profit organization owned and operated by business leaders. Depending on the regulations of your local Chamber of Commerce, you may be able to purchase banner ads (which include images) as well as text ads on their website or mailings. While this method may seem a little old fashioned, it lends credibility to your holiday rental business for those more skeptical travellers.
And let’s face it, the Chamber’s job is to bring more money to area businesses. Although you may not think of yourself as a business, you are! Take advantage of all the local business resources made available to you.
6) Photo and Video Sites
The two big names in photo and video networking are Flickr and YouTube.
Flickr for photos. The real benefit to using Flickr is that you have the ability to tag your photos with searchable keywords and add your photos to “pools.” Don’t underestimate how powerful this is; tagging and pooling your photos ensures that your photos come up in a general search on Flickr, and they often times find their way into the first few pages of Google image search. Most users tag photos with their geographic location and nearby attractions to reach as many viewers as possible.
YouTube for videos. While there’s some “stumble upon” potential with YouTube, this is really more of a tactic that will help you seal the booking. Taking a video walk-through of your holiday rental home provides renters with the advantage of actually seeing how the rooms are connected and getting a better feel for the space than photos can provide. Be sure to keep yourself out of the shots and watch out for mirrors — otherwise you may end up as the unintended main attraction.
Keeping your past guests up-to-date on your property is a great way to encourage repeat renters. It’s up to you whether you send out a traditional newsletter via Postal Service or an e-mail newsletter. Include any information about upcoming festivals or other goings-on in your town, new restaurant reviews, or current weather conditions (especially if you are in a tropical location).
First and foremost, you are reminding people that your property exists and the types of amenities you offer. You will want to update your past renters on any changes you’ve made to the property. Added an addition? Replaced your queen-size beds with kings? Built a bigger deck? Tell them! Your guests will love all the thoughtful information you’ve included, and it may be enough to entice them to return to your home.
8) Online Forums
If you are currently a member of an online message board (Like Community!) add a signature with your property’s info and URL. This works in the same way as an email signature, except that each and every post you’ve made will be updated with your new signature.
This is a tricky one because there’s a fine line between a business blog and a personal blog. After all, it’s not a typical advertisement for your rental property — people will visit your blog because they want a behind-the-scenes look. Write about what’s going on in the neighbourhood, post pictures of the scenery, and share reviews from renters after they leave. But please, spare potential guests from rental horror stories, copious pictures of your family, and anything else you wouldn’t want to appear in a Google search.
10) Personal Website
Although sometimes described as merely an extension of an online listing, a personal website is much more than that. This website should be your go-to referral spot if a potential renter has a question that your listing cannot answer. Be sure to include a thorough description of your house, photos, frequently asked questions, reviews from your guestbook, and anything else you can think of.
If you’re not convinced you need a personal website, think about this: how are you going to let people know about your new blog, Facebook page, and upcoming newsletter? While it may sound daunting, you don’t have to be a marketing guru or a computer whiz to effectively advertise your home using any of these tactics. All of the websites that we’ve recommended have customer service if you need any help — and, of course, you can always ask anyone under the age of 30.
© Copyright HomeAway, Inc. 2010