What’s the best marketing strategy for your vacation rental business?
The question may be straightforward, but the answer is… well, not. Your strategy depends on the size of your business, your potential guests, and your goals for the future. Some vacation rentalists are perfectly happy to put their marketing energy toward creating the best listing possible for platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo. Others have their sights set on being more self-reliant with a search-engine-friendly website, social media, email marketing, advertising campaigns and automated messaging.
In this post we’ll give you a 10,000 foot view on vacation rental marketing, covering both the main pillars of a successful Airbnb/Vrbo listing and the basics of developing your own off-platform marketing strategy.
Step one: make your rental photo-worthy. Step two: hire a pro photographer to accurately capture its “wow factor. ” Not all real estate photographers are great at vacation rental photography! These two marketing steps are non-negotiable in the current vacation rental marketing landscape. Without high-quality photos, it will be difficult to find success on the listing sites, where options are plentiful in most markets.
It won’t shock you to know that reviews are hugely influential to a guest’s booking decision. A 5-star average can be a difference-maker—that’s even more true if guests rave about their experience in the text of their review.
Frequent guests will be good at reading between the lines of wishy-washy reviews. “The house was pretty nice and met our needs” just isn’t going to cut it.
Now we’re getting to Guest Hook’s core area of expertise. As pro copywriters, we know that the headline is the handshake—along with your feature photo—and helps to entice the click. The headline moves them to read the first line of your description, the first line moves them to the second line, etc.
“But guests don’t read!” Or so we hear from many rentalists. Our response? Some don’t, sure. But some do. Especially if you make the description worth reading. After all, some guests are super-planners and really want to learn as much as possible about a property before booking.
We’ve lost count of how many people have told us over the years that they read every word of a description before booking their vacation. Those are the guests you should have in mind when you write your description.
Now let’s talk about Phase 2… branching out from the listing sites and creating your own vacation rental marketing. This is the leap that turns a hobbyist into a professional.
Keep in mind that this is a 10,000 foot view. Marketing for vacation rentals is a complex topic, and it takes years to master. And by the time you do, the landscape has changed, thanks to the pace of change in our digital world… But here are some core ideas to get you started.
The first thing you’ll want to do is make your vacation rental business memorable. The most surefire way to do this is to craft a brand.
The idea of a “brand” is actually a bit tricky to define. But in short: it’s how guests perceive your property (and/or your vacation rental business). They are going to brand you regardless, because that’s what humans do—we categorize things to make sense of the world. Quirky, luxury, laidback, chic, shabby, classic, snobby, etc.
The key is for YOU to take control of that perception, and cultivate the right one. Intentionally.
Estimated Cost: $10
Creating your own website is an exciting (and at times overwhelming) step for vacation rentalists! Here is where you start to take greater agency over your vacation rental business and rely less on the listing sites.
Estimated Cost: Up to your discretion
Love it or hate it, social media is where more and more purchasing decisions are made…and that definitely includes vacations. First things first: create your profiles, then you can dig into the world of PPC (pay-per-click) ads on sites like Instagram and Facebook (more on that in a second).
Email is one of the most affordable marketing channels out there for vacation rentalists. It’s also a great middle-ground move away from marketing strictly on the listing sites, because you don’t need a website to do it.
It does, however, require more action from potential guests (first seeing, and then opening an email) compared to social media, which presents your ads mid-scroll. So keep that in mind when brainstorming your email marketing campaigns.
Organic traffic is traffic that comes to you without you having to pay a cent. If you manage to land on top of the heap when a guest searches certain terms, they may click through and begin to engage with your brand. Organic search traffic is usually among the highest converting!
In contrast to organic search, paid search is when you pay Google and other search engines to play you on the top of the heap of search results and/or share your ad on other websites.
This can often bring quite a big bang for your buck, depending on the keywords you choose and how they perform.
You can also pay to target guests who visit your website—and maybe even begin the booking process—and then drop off before solidifying their reservation. We’ve all experienced re-targeting in action; think about when you visited that site for a new pair of sunglasses, didn’t buy, but then started seeing those sunglasses everywhere… on social media, on different websites, in your email, etc. That’s retargeting.
Using this tool, you can stay top-of-mind for guests… and ideally, with a little time to marinate, they’ll go ahead and make that booking!