It’s the inaugural Guest Education Day, a day for property managers to band together and educate travelers about the perks of booking direct on a property manager’s website. At Guest Hook, we’re excited to watch PMs and other VR pros find new ways to diversify away from listing sites and take greater control of their business model!
So, you have a bookings-enabled website for your property management company. How can you use it to really compete with the big listing sites and increase your direct bookings?
In short, you have to get friendly—and get found. You have to leverage search engine and content marketing to make sure potential guests find your company’s website. And you have to cultivate a brand identity that ensures they stick around, and trust you enough to book right then and there.
Read on to learn about both pieces of this #bookdirect puzzle, with tips and suggestions Guest Hook gives to our property management clients.
How do you attract guests to your sparkly, highly functional, branded website (more on that in a minute)? In short: it takes time and a solid strategy. Here’s how you can get started.
Optimize. Optimize. Optimize.
If a guest isn’t using a listing site (and believe it or not, lots of people don’t even know what listing sites are yet!) or booking a repeat rental, chances are they’re going to Google.
Make sure they land on your website by targeting the appropriate keywords. And not just “accommodations in [fill-in-the-blank]” or “vacation rentals in [insert your destination here].” Create killer content so that you rank for all kinds of relevant, travel-oriented keywords (for example, phrases like “kitesurfing in the Florida Keys” or “best honky tonks on Music Row”). That way, guests have the chance to find you throughout every step of their booking journey.
Don’t just post on social media because you feel like you have to—make your accounts ones that potential guests will want to check in with. Not sure how to make your channels follow-worthy? Take a second to learn from the vacation rental pros. The bigger an audience you build, the more eyes you have on your own content when you share it. And when it comes to reeling in direct bookings, getting potential guests on your own website is half the battle.
Create a local network.
Booking direct also means booking local. It’s all about preserving small businesses and immersing guests in a unique community instead of a cookie-cutter experience (that’s what chain hotels are for!). As Matt Landau’s Sense of Place series aims to show, you are your guest’s entry point into your one-of-a-kind community, and that’s utterly invaluable.
If you haven’t yet, get acquainted with your fellow local business owners; the ice cream shops and breakfast joints and boat charters your guests frequent. Cross-promotion—both online with social media and blog posts and offline with community events and referrals—benefits everyone involved!
Connect with your chamber of commerce and visitors bureau, too, and participate in volunteer opportunities locally. Bonus: cultivating these local relationships helps to lessen the skepticism your neighbors might have for the vacation rental industry in general.
Once guests find you, you have to ensure that your brand identity captures their interest and, more importantly, their trust. Not only are listing sites familiar—they’re also carefully branded to be approachable, warm and trustworthy (think: Nick Offerman’s HomeAway commercial).
We won’t kid you: winning guests over from the giants is a tall task. But your best shot at succeeding is creating a brand persona that’s just as familiar and friendly as the listings sites.
Websites that feel corporate, sterile, or amateur won’t do a thing to sway potential guests away from the listing sites. Brainstorm who your ideal guests are, and use your site to talk to them in a way that feels authentic and personable—whether that means telling the story of your historic rentals, filling them in on your favorite restaurants, or clearly and honestly explaining your services for busy corporate travelers. Whatever it is, adopt a tone that connects—not drab business lingo that speaks to no one.
TIP: Here’s Guest Hook’s take on amateur, vague, and salesy words and phrasing to avoid in your listing.
Dish on your destination.
Your website offers an opportunity that listing sites don’t: the chance to show off your local knowledge. Sure, you can give a quick rundown of the highlights in your listing site property description. But on your own website, you can offer guests rich, detailed and relevant content like guides, itineraries, blog posts, and more. The numbers show that authentic local experiences are a major reason why travelers book—use your site to show off how authentically local your business is.
Keep a schedule.
You can’t make friends with guests if you don’t keep in regular contact. We’re not giving you permission to clog their inboxes, but you should be generating relevant, quality content on a regular schedule. Set yourself up with a blog calendar. Commit to monthly check-ins via newsletter. Post on social media on set days. Use your content to establish a relationship with your guests and stay on their minds for when their next vacation rolls around.
So what’s the next step? Browse our blog for more tips on creating vacation rental content that converts. Or reach out to Guest Hook today to create a content strategy that convinces guests to #bookdirect.