vacation rental marketing plan

How to Create an Effective Vacation Rental Marketing Plan

Starting a short-term rental business may not seem that difficult. However, the vacation rental industry is incredibly competitive. And making your rental stand out in a sea of other properties online is by no means easy.

So, you need an effective vacation rental marketing plan to attract potential clients and turn your newfound passion into an ongoing success.

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.  

Don’t see the form to download our online marketing guide for vacation rentals? Click here.

What is a vacation rental marketing plan?

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. So, 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.

short term rental marketing strategies

Why you need a vacation rental marketing plan for your business

A good marketing plan is at the heart of any successful business. It 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.

Questions to ask when creating your vacation rental marketing plan

What are your goals?

Take some time to define your marketing goals and objectives. Be as specific as you can.

Of course, you want to generate more bookings and inquiries and increase your rental income. However, perhaps you only want to rent out your property during a specific time of the year, reserving 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, when you see the lowest number of bookings?

By knowing exactly what you want to achieve and when, you can set smart marketing goals to grow your business.

Who is your target audience?

When crafting your vacation rental marketing plan, it’s important to consider who your ideal guest is. Are you hoping to attract families, big groups, business travelers, young couples, or digital nomads? Maybe you even want to market to guests from a specific country or region.

This will likely be determined by 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.

Research your ideal guest online by checking out online communities and social media channels. You can even try speaking to this type of guest in person about their needs and preferences. Next, consider creating a fictional guest persona (or multiple) 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.

Once you’ve developed your guest personas, you can use them to better target your marketing.

For example, Gordon from Yellow Block BnB explicitly states in his property description that his property is “purposely designed for large groups” and that “it comfortably sleeps 25, so it’s perfect for family reunions, Broadway Show groups, sports teams and more.” As a result of his spot-on targeting, many of the reviews on his website are from guests who traveled in large groups.

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.

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.

short term rental marketing plan

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 unique selling proposition, or USP, you can highlight this in your messaging 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.

For example, Kerri and Philippe from Chalets Hygge focus on the fact that you can experience hygge (or coziness) at their rentals. They do this by highlighting the many ways guests can disconnect from our fast-paced world and reconnect with themselves and loved ones at their rental.

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.

Pay attention to the latest vacation rental industry trends, and take a look at what competitors in your area and your niche are doing.

 What are your key messages?

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. This will guide your messages and the way you present your property online and offline.

So, if you’re targeting digital nomads, your messaging might highlight your property’s benefits for workationers:

Escape to your ideal work-from-home haven with our centrally located property, offering high-speed fiber internet, a dedicated workspace, and a tranquil environment for maximum productivity. Embrace the perfect blend of work and leisure with nearby coworking spaces, cultural attractions, and seamless connectivity, ensuring an inspiring and efficient remote work experience.”

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. 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 fine-tune your marketing efforts.

For example, a blog post on your website about why your destination is great for digital nomads 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 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 multiproperty owner with some experience and a bigger budget, you may want to consider appointing a freelance marketer or company to take care of this part of the business.

Online marketing doesn’t have to be expensive. And if you’re just starting out, there are risk-free ways to set up a vacation rental website and dip your toes in the water, so to speak, before investing more.

marketing plan for short term rentals

Marketing tactics: Which ones are right for your business?

Once you’ve 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 online travel agencies such as Airbnb, Vrbo, Expedia, or is a good way to get wider exposure for your rental.

In your listing descriptions, 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, you want to create your own bookable website to work toward getting direct bookings, which you won’t have to pay any commission on.

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.  This is where search engine optimization (SEO) and online marketing come in. In other words, this is where the work (but also the fun!) starts.

Search engine optimization

What happens when travelers type “family holiday vacation rentals near Boston” into Google?

Google’s so-called spiders will crawl millions of web pages to find the most relevant answer to that specific search query. They’ll then present the results 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, you have a chance of ranking your website on the first page of Google’s search results. This means the vacationer 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.

You can use blogs and guest blogs (content marketing) to help your site rank for different keyword phrases. For example, you might have a blog post on “Family Activities in Boston” if you’re targeting families visiting this city.

Search engine marketing

Similar to SEO, search engine marketing (SEM) also helps your website appear in the top search results. But in this case, you’re paying for advertising on Google. The moment you stop paying, your page disappears.

Learn more about how to create an SEO and SEM strategy for your website by doing one of Lodgify’s free online Academy courses.

Social media guide for vacation rentals

Social media marketing

Social media is a great way to help draw attention to your website and listings online. When doing 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 digital nomad guest persona spends most of their time on Instagram, you should focus your social media efforts on this social media channel.

There is no point in spending a lot of time on LinkedIn, for example, if you know your audience is not using this channel.

Email marketing

Email marketing continues to be 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 with things for digital nomads to do 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. This also helps you target repeat customers. For example, if you had great reviews from clients, send them a campaign during the usual booking period to remind them 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, imagine your goal was to attract more digital nomads to your business and your tactics included social media, email campaigns, and blog posts. After carrying out your plan, you could measure the traffic and engagement on your blog post, the emails’ 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 in the future. 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 and boost your performance.

It’s time to implement your vacation rental marketing 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. You can start generating more inquiries and driving more bookings, including direct bookings.

So, dive right in! You don’t need to be a seasoned expert to get started. And remember to be patient. 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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