That being said, there is also a lot of competition in the industry and making your rental stand out in a sea of other properties online, is by no means easy. As with any business, you need customers and in order to find them, or rather, for them to easily find you when they plan their vacation, you need to know how to market your vacation rental property.
Wondering where to start? Don’t worry. In this article, we’ll share tips for marketing short-term rentals, including how to write a vacation rental marketing plan.
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A vacation rental marketing plan is a documented strategy that outlines how you plan to promote your property to a specific audience, in this case, your potential guests. It sounds like a mouthful, but it really just means that you take the time to reflect on what you are hoping to achieve and who you hope to attract.
Niche markets are increasingly popular in the vacation rental management sector, which means that with the right marketing strategies, you are more likely to find guests interested in exactly what you have to offer, even for more offbeat rentals such as tiny houses or cabins.
Why you need a vacation rental marketing plan for your business
A good marketing plan is at the heart of any successful business because it really helps prioritize your marketing efforts to enable you to reach your business goals while making the most of the resources you have.
By spending time researching your target market and thinking about the best and most cost-effective ways to reach them online and offline, you have a much better chance of appealing to them.
Without a plan, you may end up spending too much money, effort and time on the wrong tactics that go unnoticed, while your property stands empty.
Questions to ask when creating your vacation rental marketing plan
What are your goals?
Take some time to define your marketing goals and objectives and be as specific as you can. Of course, you want to generate more bookings and inquiries and increase your income as a vacation rental owner.
However, perhaps you only want to rent out your property during a specific time of the year and you want to use it for your own family during the peak season, or maybe you specifically want to appeal to guests who book longer stays. You definitely want to drive direct bookings, as this cuts down on commission charges.
Do you want to increase the number of bookings during the shoulder season, as your rental normally is booked out during the peak season?
By knowing what exactly you want to achieve and by when you can set smart marketing goals in line with these strategic business goals to grow your business.
Who is your target audience?
An important question to ask when drawing up your plan, is who your ideal guest is? Are you hoping to attract families, business travelers, big groups or even guests from a specific country or region?
This would often have a lot to do with the type and size of your property. For example, if you have a large rural property, you are probably looking for groups or families. However, if you have a small pad in the city center, you probably want to target business travelers who fly in and out for meetings and business conferences.
Do some research into your ideal guest online, for example in online communities and social media channels. Also, speak to this type of guest in person about their needs and preferences. Next, consider creating a fictional guest persona or a few guest personas for your typical guest(s), naming them and including their demographic profile, such as age, income and address. Don’t forget to include their wider interests and hobbies.
For example, if you want to appeal to families, you would probably target the mom, who often does research about family holidays.
What are her priorities when looking for a family getaway? Often moms look for nearby family activities and attractions and children-friendly restaurants and other facilities. Safety is also very important to this potential guest.
Similarly, thanks to the shift in traveling trends, you may want to target remote workers to drive longer stays. So, in this case, you would target this guest profile by highlighting the features and nearby facilities of interest to them. You could, for example, point out running trails near your property or an attractive workspace and a coffee machine.
Where can your target audience be found?
Once you’ve identified your ideal guest profiles, spend some time researching where they might look for vacation homes. Rental listing sites, yes, but for example, in the case of the mommy persona identified above, she also may rely on word-of-mouth recommendations from other moms on social media groups, in online family communities or Instagram reviews from influencers in this sphere. Perhaps one of your tactics could be to invite an influencer in this sphere to visit and review your property.
Finally, make a list of all the places, both online and offline where you are likely to reach your target audience for each persona.
In the past marketers relied heavily on traditional media such as print and radio vacation rental advertising but nowadays, digital marketing for vacation rentals is extremely important as most of your guests will find you online.
That is not to say you should ignore traditional marketing altogether, though. For example, vacation rental business cards or brochures still have a place when attending events in your area. A strategically placed brochure or beautifully designed business card could also encourage your guests to promote your property to their friends.
What makes your vacation rental unique?
Working out what it is that makes your property special and why guests would prefer your rental over your competitors’ properties is key to your marketing strategy. Once you know your USP or unique selling proposition, you can highlight this in your messages to promote your property to the guest profiles you identified above.
Rather than copying what a competitor is saying about their rental, focus on the things that guests will appreciate about your property and that set yours apart.
Where does your rental fit into the market?
As with any business venture, it’s vital to understand the market and industry before you get started. Spend some time doing market research by reading industry websites and online forums to get a better understanding of your market.
What are the most important things you want the guest to know about your property? The messages are closely linked to the guest personas mentioned above. Once you know who you are talking to, it’s much easier to understand what they are looking for and this would guide your messages and the way you present your property online and offline.
So, for example, in the case of our mommy guest profile, you could include a message that would appeal to her, highlighting all the small details she would appreciate:
“Enjoy a relaxing glass of wine on the patio with your partner, while your children sleep safely upstairs. Our property offers baby monitors, stairgates and a safety catch on every window to give you peace of mind.”
What is the timeframe for your marketing efforts?
Next, take some time to reflect on when you want to attract visitors, for example, if you want to fill up your calendar for July and August, you need to know when guests are starting to book their holidays and target them at that time.
Another factor to bear in mind is the typical guest journey online or the sales funnel in marketing speak. In other words, are you going for guests who are still daydreaming about a holiday and a destination, or are you targeting those who know what they want, but just need that final push?
You could also target all stages, but knowing who you are targeting and at what stages they are, helps to finetune your marketing efforts.
For example, a blog post on your website about Why your destination is great for families is aimed at the daydreamer (top of the funnel) stage of the guest journey.
What is your budget and how much time do you have?
So, here you want to think about the amount of money and time you want to invest in marketing your property. If it’s just you who has to divide your time between marketing, property management, guest communications and all the other 101 tasks related to vacation rentals, your time will be limited. In this case, it’s wise to focus on one or two key tactics and do them well, before expanding.
If you are a multi-property owner with some experience and a bigger budget, you may want to consider appointing a freelance marketing person or company to take care of this part of the business.
Marketing tactics: Which ones are right for your business?
So, once you have done the homework above, you’re in a much better position to consider which tactics to focus on.
Property listings: OTAs
Listing your property on one of the online travel agencies such as Airbnb, Vrbo, Expedia or Booking.com, is a good way to get wider exposure for your rental.
In your property listings, pay attention to everything we discussed above. Target your descriptions to specific guest profiles and highlight what makes your rental special. If you struggle with the listings, you could always try a title and description generator tool for some ideas.
Whatever you do, don’t skimp on the photographs. Most vacationers will choose a rental based on images, so investing in a professional photographer to get quality photos highlighting your property’s most attractive features, will make all the difference.
Create your own website
In addition to listing on the channels mentioned above, you also definitely want to own your own channel – in other words, create your own website – to work towards getting direct bookings, without having to pay commission.
So, once you have your own site, all you have to do is sit back and watch the bookings roll in. Er, no. Not so fast. That is where search engine optimization and online marketing comes in. In other words, that’s where the work, but also the fun, starts.
Search engine optimization (SEO)
What happens when your client types ‘family holiday vacation rentals near Boston’ into the Google search engine?
Google’s so-called spiders will crawl millions of web pages to find the most relevant answer to that specific search query and present them in order of ‘relevance’ to the vacationer who typed in the query.
Depending on how many people tried to ‘rank’ their sites or pages for that specific keyword phrase and how well your site has been optimized for it compared to the otters, you have a chance of ranking your website on the first page of Google search results. This means the vacation will see your rental as one of the first options on the first page of results.
Researching the right keywords for your site and knowing where to use them, is key to helping your niche audience find your site before those of your competitors.
Blogs and guest blogs (content marketing) are used to help websites rank for different keyword phrases related to their site. For example, ¨Family things to do in Boston,¨could be a blog post on your website, if you are targeting families visiting this city.
Search engine marketing (SEM)
Similar to SEO, SEM also helps your website to appear in the top search results, but in this case, you are paying for advertising on Google to help you stay at the top of results pages. The moment you stop paying, your page disappears.
Social media is a way to help draw attention to your website and listings online. When doing your business research at the start of your marketing campaign, also take note of which social media channels your guest personas tend to use and where they spend their time online.
If, for example, your mommy guest persona spends most of her time on Instagram, you should focus your social media efforts on this social media channel.
There is no point spending a lot of time on LinkedIn, for example, if you know your audience is not using this channel.
Email Marketing still is one of the most effective marketing tactics as it gives you access to a guest’s personal inbox. Start by collecting the email addresses of your guests and getting their permission to contact them with future promotions and news in the area.
You could also build this valuable database through lead generation tools such as opt-in forms to download lead magnets (for example a free Guide about Things to do for Families in Boston) in exchange for an online visitor’s email address.
This way you build a valuable database consisting of a warm audience you can reach out to and you can also target repeat customers this way. For example, if you had great reviews from clients, send them a campaign during the usual booking period to remind you of your property and explain new features and amenities added to your rental that they may like.
Measuring your results
No marketing plan is complete without measuring the impact of your efforts. When you set your goals, you also need to set corresponding measurements to see if what you do, is actually making a difference, or at least moving the needle in the right direction.
For example, if your goal was to attract more families to your business and your tactics included social media, email campaigns and blog posts, you could measure the traffic and engagement on your blog post, the email opens and clicks and social media engagement. This would tell you which of these marketing tactics was most successful in generating inquiries and ultimately, bookings.
If something worked very well, you know what to focus on for the future, and you can also identify what has not been very successful. A marketing plan is never done. You are always using your learnings to improve the plan to boost your performance.
It’s time to implement your plan
If you have worked your way through this text and done your research, you should now have enough information to draw up a marketing plan for your short-term rental business to generate more inquiries and drive more bookings, including direct bookings.
So, dive right in! You don’t need to be a seasoned expert to get started and remember that Rome wasn’t built in one day. Some of these tactics such as SEO, take longer to show results but can be very effective in the long run.
Start implementing and measuring your marketing efforts and continue to tweak your plan, and your hard work will soon pay off! Good luck!
Don’t see the form to download our online marketing guide for vacation rentals? Click here.
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