Starting from zero?
When you're getting started with a vacation rental, the goal is to get your calendar fully booked as quickly as possible. But how do you do that when you're starting from scratch?
It may feel daunting when you're looking at an empty calendar and wondering how in the world am I going to fill this thing.
I remember the same exact feeling when I started as a vacation rental homeowner about five years ago.
While it will take work up front (sorry, no magic solution here), you will get there. Here are my five best tips to grow your vacation rental when you're first getting started.
Step #1: Listing Optimization
The very first step to filling out your calendar is ensuring that your listing will attract your ideal guests. You have to know who your ideal guest is, why they're coming to the area and what's important to them in terms of this space and amenities. Once you know this, then you want to make sure that your listing appeals to this audience.
You want to optimize your headline for this ideal guest and make sure that you have great photos.
For a deeper dive on how to write a headline that gets your ideal guest to click, check out this video:
The final point on listing optimization is to make sure that you're taking the time to really fill out that owner profile or the owner bio.
This includes making sure there is a nice, good quality and clear photo of your face (ideally you are smiling!). You'll want to make sure you don't skip this part or put in a generic image. They need to see who they are renting from to build the trust factor.
Then, also take some time to fill out the bio and not just a sentence real quickly about how you like to host. Make it a little bit more personal, dive a little bit deeper and make sure that your profile is going to allow them to get to know, like and trust you.
This step is so important at the beginning because you do not have the reviews to show that you are trustworthy yet.
If they are a little skeptical of renting from someone that doesn't have any reviews, they might be going to the profile and looking for a nice bio, so that they can get to know you better.
Be sure to take some time to fill the bio out and if you're listed on Airbnb, go through all the extra verification steps, so that you come across as a verified profile.
Step #2: Share with Friends and Family
A really great way to fill your calendar quickly is to offer a friends and family discount and put a time frame to it. Let's say that you are going to offer a 30% friends and family discount if anyone books within the next month. Then share this out via email, social media and tell as many people as you can in your network and try to get your calendar filled out for the next month or so.
This will allow you to work out the kinks, so if there is something that's kind of missing with your experience, your friends and family can gently know what it is and so you can fix that before you start inviting guests in.
The other great part of this is that they can help you build up your review count. If you're going to go this route, and especially if you are on Airbnb, they do have to book through the platform because that's how the reviews will show up on Airbnb. Be sure to make sure they book through the system and then you can offer them a nice friends and family discount to bring that cost down.
If you are on VRBO, you can actually send them the link to review you, even if they don't book on the platform.
Sharing with friends and family to get started is a great way to work out the kinks and also start building your review count, which is so important when you're growing from zero.
Step #3: Choose Your Platforms
When you are first getting started, I recommend that you really first start with about two platforms. The reason I say this is because it allows you to concentrate your efforts and get your review count built up, which a huge factor in your growth, especially when you are just getting started.
I recommend you choose about two platforms and put all your concentration into those and I have a whole video that walks you through how to choose your listing sites right here:
Step #4: Strategic Discounting
We talked about this a little with the friends and family discount and then the next step would be to keep opening your calendar just one month out and offer about a 20% discount from your direct competitor.
You want to set your pricing 20% less than your direct competitors one month out at a time. I would do this until you have built your review count up and then you consider backing off of that discount strategy.
You'll want at least five reviews, possibly more depending on your market. Take it one month out at a time so that you don't have guests booking with this great pricing six months out and start with a discount strategy and that will help you build momentum quickly.
Step #5: Roll out the Red Carpet
We want to roll out the red carpet for all of our guests, but this is especially important for those first few guests and those first reviews.
You want to make sure you have glowing reviews for every single one of your guests that first stays with you and make sure their experience is top notch. Check in on them and make sure that there's no anything missing, or that they don't need help with anything; you definitely want to be attentive during their stay.
You can also think about a few ways that you might be able to go above and beyond. Whether it's leaving them a gift on their first night, offering to pick them up from the airport, whatever you think that would be helpful for your guests to really feel welcomed and comfortable in your home, try to go above and beyond because it is going to be crucial for you to get that five star review from these first few guests.
Remember, a fully booked calendar can take a little bit of time, especially if you are in a highly seasonal market, but stay consistent, continue working on providing an excellent experience for your guests, both online and offline and you will get there!
If you want to dive even deeper into this and really make sure that your listing is set up for success, be sure to check out my free online class, it's called Four steps to creating a profitable vacation rental.
In this one hour class, I dive deep into providing all my best tips and tricks for setting your listing up for success.
Thanks for stopping by! Please let me know in the comments below, what steps have you taken so far to grow your rental from zero?