Vacation rental marketing. What does this really entail?
Let's be honest. Sometimes, marketing can be an intimidating and kind of scary word. It refers to a lot, and I'm guessing that you most likely got into this business because of your joy or passion for hosting and maybe not necessarily marketing.
I know that some vacation rental homeowners want to run and hide when they hear the term "vacation rental marketing," but I will break it down for you in a really simplified way by breaking down three core areas.
Core Area #1: OTAs
The first core area of marketing here, of course, are the OTAs, your online travel agents. The online travel agents include VRBO, Airbnb, HomeAway, Booking.com, FlipKey, and a slew of other sites.
The OTAs are generally the starting point for most of us. What makes the OTAs so great is that they are considered a marketplace, which means that they have their own marketing in place, and they are driving an audience there. When you utilize an OTA, you don't have to worry about driving people to the site. You just have to make sure that you are standing out on that site and getting noticed over the other listings or your competitors.
There are a number of factors that are going to be important to your marketing when you're listed on an OTA.
Marketing fundamentals on OTAs
Do you provide instant booking to make really easy for the potential guests?
Are you getting back to your inquiries in a really timely manner, ideally about an hour and absolutely under 24 hours?
And are you a reliable host? You're not canceling on people. By being a reliable host, you will be ranked more favorably on the OTAs.
The importance of accurately pricing your rental
Then, the next key piece of this will be your pricing, of course. You want to have competitive pricing in line with your market, so you'll do your research there and not only make sure that it's competitive but you know how your pricing fluctuates throughout your various seasons.
Reviews are crucial
And, of course, great reviews is going to be incredibly important. You need to have several reviews, and they need to be highly rated so that people know that they can trust you as a host.
You need an optimized profile
Next, you will want a great profile, and there are a lot of factors that go into this, and I have a lot of posts that break these down individually:
How to Write an Airbnb & VRBO Headline That Gets CLICKED
How to Write a Killer Vacation Rental Listing Description
How to Hook a Potential Guest with Amazing Vacation Rental Photos
When I say great profile, I really refer to stellar pictures that are going to pop in the feed, a really strong headline that is going to get you noticed when people are scrolling really, really quickly, and then, of course, a nice description that ultimately helps complete the sale and get them to book because you've given up all of the information that they're looking for in that description.
Your OTA status is important
The last piece of marketing yourself well on the OTAs, of course, is status. Now, on OTAs like Airbnb and HomeAway or VRBO, you can earn a badge that helps position you as a stellar host. This will come with time if you do all of the previous factors well.
Core Area #2: Digital Marketing
The second core area of vacation rental marketing is going to be digital marketing. Moving to a digital marketing strategy makes sense when you've been on the OTAs and you're getting bookings pretty easily on the OTAs and you've got your marketing mastered over there.
Then, the next logical step is to start building out your digital marketing presence and really start working on those direct bookings.
I'm going to break down a few key areas here, but, just heads up, I will be diving into each of these areas much deeper in next week's post.
First, you need a website
The high level overview here is that you first, of course, have your website. If you're moving from the OTAs and want to focus more on direct bookings, you need a place where those bookings can happen, so you need to establish your very own website, and you will treat this as your hub of marketing activity when you get into digital marketing. All of the other tactics that I'll talk about ultimately should be pointing people to your website because this is where you convert them into a booking.
Prioritize email marketing
The next key area of digital marketing is email marketing. Email marketing is fantastic for vacation rentals because it helps us keep in touch with our guests all year round.
Once a month really is a great way to start, have a newsletter or something that you can stay top of mind so that, when they're ready to book that next vacation, they remember who you are, they've gotten to know you better through your email, and it just helps build a deeper connection and really helps you focus on those reoccurring bookings.
Ensure your website can be found through SEO and local marketing
Next, you have your SEO and local marketing. SEO refers to search engine optimization, and this is really the process of optimizing your website so that you appear on those keyword searches that people are using to look for rentals in your area. When you're optimized, it makes your site that much easier to be found in those search results.
Along the same lines of SEO, you have your local marketing, and local marketing is establishing those local profiles on Google Maps and it's another way to get visibility in the search results. You would ideally have your website come up on a term that makes sense for your rental, and then you would also have your local business profile come up in that same search result.
How social media fits in the mix
Then, the next key piece of this, of course, is social media. Everyone's saying, "You've got to be doing social media." I go into this deeper next week as well, and my thoughts about when you should incorporate social media because I think a lot of people are jumping way too quickly to social media as it's going to be this magic bullet, and there is a lot more that goes into it.
Stay tuned for that, but, when I say social media, of course, I'm referring to having a Facebook page or an Instagram page, and those are the two that would probably make the most sense for a vacation rental.
Digital advertising options
Then, last, you have your digital advertising. You have the ability to promote your rental on sites like Facebook and Instagram, and that is considered social media advertising.
Then, you also have advertising on search engines. In order to get seen on Google, you can also run pay-per-click ads, PPC ads.
This really helps when you're working on your SEO and you're still not getting indexed in the search results in the organic listings. In the interim, you can purchase keywords on Google and really help your website get seen on those key searches, and then you will only pay when someone clicks on your listing.
Core Area #3: Traditional Marketing
The third core area of vacation rental marketing is going to be traditional marketing. If you're just getting started, if you're a smaller business, that doesn't necessarily refer to TV or radio like it would for some bigger businesses. Usually, that's not going to make a lot of sense for a smaller vacation rental business.
Direct mail opportunities to stay top of mind
But there are a few tactics that do make sense, like direct mail, for instance. Specifically, something that I think is a great tactic to work into your marketing plan is sending a Christmas card every year.
Much like an email newsletter, it's a great way to help you just stay top of mind and give that warm and fuzzy and really position you as a thoughtful host. That is an easy starting point where you could just start with that if you're looking to send out some kind of mail.
Local partnerships for deeper community integration
Also, there are a lot of great opportunities with local partnerships. You are likely very integrated into your local community, and there are some opportunities there to work with other local businesses where you can each support each other.
Then, last, you've got flyers as well, so just getting out into your local community and advertising through business cards or flyers is another easy way to start getting your feet wet with traditional marketing.
There you have it. Those are the three core areas, and I have listed them in order of priority of where you should really start if you're new to all of this and then build and work your way through these other core areas.
If you're just getting started on Airbnb or VRBO, and you want to make sure you have a great year in 2019 be sure to check out my free online class, it's called Four Steps to Create a Profitable Vacation Rental, and I go over ALL my best tips and tricks for setting your listing up for success!
Also, please comment below and let me know what phase of marketing you are currently in!