Costs vs. Investments: The Mindset That Generates Bookings

Recently I spoke with a client who was lamenting over the fact that hiring a professional photographer to take stunning photos of her vacation rental would cost between $1000-$2000. After listening for a few minutes, I suggested she consider the photos not as a cost, but as an investment towards the future profit of her vacation rental. But she was having none of it.

“Whatever you want to call it. $1500 is still eating away at my bottom line,” she claimed. “I just don’t have thousands of dollars to throw away on these kinds of things, you know? I mean to say, I already bought plasma TVs for all the bedrooms and had the entire upstairs repainted.”

Vacation rental owners generally fall into two categories: those who view marketing techniques as costs and those who view them as investments. This particular client definitely viewed the photographs as a cost, as in, hiring a photographer would be yet another expense in operating her vacation rental business: an addition to the growing list of payments that she would never recoup back.

But what this client failed to realize, was that having strong photographs would directly impact her sales. Having strong photographs is an investment to her vacation rental, not a cost.

It can be very helpful to try and view your marketing decisions through a different lens. Ask yourself, does this purchase have the ability to pay for itself over time? In other words, will this purchase generate more bookings and if so, how many? If the answer is yes and future profitability is apparent, then you’d be an ignorant businessperson not to seize the opportunity.

As a vacation rental owner looking to generate more bookings, you need to be able to discern whether you’ll be paying a cost or making an investment. Let’s take a look at one of my favorite purchases – a one-time $89 Press Release with the industry gold standard of online public relations, This is one of my go-to tools to promote seasonal specials at my rentals, to boast about awards we receive, or to announce new features that we have added to our properties.

For just $89, I get my article distributed to all the major search engines (Google, Yahoo!, Bing…etc.), submission to the major online news platforms (like Yahoo News and Topix), and permanent placement on PRWeb, a very powerful site. Other than my time spent writing the release, my cost here is $89 and it usually equates to several hundred clicks through to my rental website and a large handful of actual bookings. Since the cost per night at my rentals is $150, I multiply the return on my investment over and over again, every single time.

Investments aren’t just monetary either: time is a valuable expenditure too, particularly since many of us have other jobs. One good example is associating your property with niche tourism segments such as green travel. What might seem like an expensive “cost,” the roughly 15-20 hours I invest every year researching and posting on green travel forums pays for itself in a heartbeat. I am referring to open forums like Green Travel Forum by Yahoo. Since so few of my competitors ever think to list here, we enjoy year-long referrals, which more than compensate for the hours spent in registration.

It is possible, of course, to make poor marketing decisions that end up not working (and qualify as costs). But as long as you’re asking yourself the big question – will this purchase contribute to the future well-being of my rental bookings? – you’ve made a giant step in the right direction.

Matt is the author of the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog, which outlines free and inexpensive ways owners can generate more bookings. He is also the creator of 30 Bookings in 30 Days, a $77 report that is guaranteed to increase your occupancy in 30 days or less. When he's not marketing vacation rentals, Matt researches the best recipes for traditional Peruvian ceviche.