My Best Marketing Idea Of 2012

Sometimes I feel like a mad scientist. More mad than scientist because the large majority of techniques I try fail miserably. Ever seen the Red Bull Flutag challenge where teams of everyday people try to build homemade, human-powered flying machines and pilot them off a 30-foot high deck in hopes of achieving flight? Well, most of my vacation rental marketing experiments resemble the infamous bath tub plane. And of course, I don’t write about those. But for every handful of terrible ideas comes one brilliant one. And just last week, a brilliant one reared its beautiful golden head.

So let’s say you’ve followed my advice and imported all your former guests email addresses into some sort of email management service. You’re sending out newsletters that help you stay connected to your former guests, provide updates or news about the neighborhood, blah blah blah.

An Aside: I had lunch a few weeks ago in Chicago with a friend who works at Groupon and he told me “a substantial percentage of buyers never ever redeem their vouchers.”

This got me thinking: in low season, if owners are tight on cash flow, what would happen if we offered gift certificate vouchers at a discounted price to all their repeat guests? It would be like creating homemade Groupon-style deals for our rentals!

So I decided to try it with a segment of my newsletter database.

“Special Promotion For Repeat Guests Only: Buy $500 of Los Cuatro Tulipanes Credit for Only $250″

Of course I made some stipulations like voucher expires in 2 years, applies only to yet-to-be-booked reservations, applies to normal advertised rate, all other minimum stay rules apply…etc.

Results: Of the 1,000 former guests on my email blast, 28 of them took us up on the offer! I was so excited about this! We brought in $7000! On a Tuesday! In low season! My business partner and I were literally doing the happy jig every time a purchase came in! And the best part? The guests were getting a great deal!!! All we did next was create a document with the buyers names and email addresses so that when they are ready to redeem, we’ll have them on record.


Here’s why I believe this voucher offer is such a good tactic:

  • First off, we LOVE repeat guests because they know what our rentals are like, they know us personally, they like our neighborhood…etc. Which is to say, we always offer discounts to them anyways and while 50% off is pretty generous, they deserve it!
  • Second, it was a great way for us to boost cash flow in the middle of low season.
  • Third, we generated new (albeit discounted) guaranteed bookings.
  • Fourth, most of these guests will almost certainly spend more than $500 during their stay with us.
  • Fifth, sure 50% OFF is a lot but in reality, owners can make any offer appropriate to their situation.
  • Sixth, Panama is a far destination for most of our guests but most of you guys have clientele in just the next town/state over which leads me to believe that weekend jaunts are MADE for these kinds of promotional deals.
  • And lastly, if my Groupon friend is right, some of them will probably never even use the credit which means free income (this is evil thinking. Evil thinking, but true thinking).


Here are the downsides:

  • (…crickets…)

This exercise worked out great for us. (I’d trademark this concept if I wasn’t basically stealing it from every other coupon site that ever existed.) And I can pretty much guarantee no other vacation rental owners are doing it, which of course means, we can start a revolution! I may be overlooking some downfalls of this offer, but we haven’t encountered any of them yet. I’ll post any updates below…


- Matt

Matt is the author of the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog, which features the famous Boost Occupancy report: The Top 54 Free & Inexpensive Ways To Generate More Bookings For Vacation Rentals. You can follow Matt on Twitter @bookmorenights.