OK enough of all the positive talk. Today, I’m going to be mean. Real mean. I’ve put together a list of the 6 most glaring (and detrimental) mistakes that vacation rental owners and managers are making on a daily marketing basis. Chances are, you’re guilty of some (if not all) of these gaffes. And chances are, after reading the article, you’ll be in a better position to control them moving forward.
1. The one-dimensional reputation: If you don’t think your potential guests are Googling your name and the name of your rental before they actually book, you’re either ignorant or oblivious or maybe both.
In today’s online market place, if vacation rental owners want any feasible chance against hotels for the real meat and potatoes of the industry’s vacation travelers, they simply cannot survive on one-dimensional marketing plans. This applies to the owners who only have one source of exposure online (and it’s most often listing sites).
To curb this fatal flaw (because remember, guests who can find social proof online from various sources stating “This rental is the bees knees!” are far more likely to book than guests who do a search and come up empty) make sure to feature your name (and your rental’s name) on various other webpages such as social media profiles, blogs, and news articles. The surround sound effect of having multiple websites endorse your wonderful property means bookings go up, fast.
2. Not tweaking email responders: How many of you have been using the exact same auto-responder or canned email template for the past several years?
(I just saw a lot of virtual hands go up.)
Neglecting to tweak and improve your email correspondences is about as irresponsible as a vacation rental owner can get. Considering that just some small improvements can increase your conversion rate (a.k.a. the amount of inquiries that actually turn into bookings), you can’t afford not to dedicate some time to this right now. Improving just a few percentage points is like taking back your money that was otherwise left on the table.
3. Going cold tuna on marketing: OK I get it. Your rental isn’t a cash cow. You don’t pull in crazy numbers. Rather, just enough to cover the mortgage with maybe a little left over for a McRib. But in vacation rental marketing you have to spend money to make money.
There are only a limited amount of freebie techniques you can use and no-cost investments you can make. And when you realize that upping your spend (let’s say upgrading to a higher tier of VRBO or spending some money on Adwords) can have direct results, you’ll look back on this mistake down the road and think, how did we ever survive without these paid marketing channels?
Just be sure that your carefully selected paid investments are the right ones.
4. Waiting: This mistake is the shortest and perhaps the most crucial on my list. If you are waiting for your bookings to go up – if you are ‘waiting to weather the economic storm’ or ‘waiting for high season to roll around’ or ‘waiting until you finish building your deck – then you are losing time, money, and most of all market share.
As I concluded in Capitalizing On The Emerging Vacation Rental Industry, the vacation rental industry is facing a tumultuous few years ahead of it. More than ever, now is the time to get proactive on your marketing and to set the bar for rentals in your neighborhood. He (or she) who has the gold makes the rules. And those who are sitting around waiting for travelers to start flocking through their doors are in for an unpleasant surprise.
5. Not asking for critical feedback: Most vacation rental owners and managers I know are stubborn. And so am I. No one wants to hear harsh words from some dude in a fanny pack about how your water pressure could be stronger or how hypoallergenic pillows are really the way to go.
But let me tell you this: the single most tangible spike I can point out in my vacation rental marketing learning curve, was finally understanding precisely what my vacation rental guests wanted. And how did I make that revelation? I started asking guests how I could improve.
Whether your doing it in person or using a SurveyMonkey questionnaire, there is enormous value in soliciting negative feedback (probably more valuable than positive feedback). If you can work up the courage and bite your lip when the critiques come flowing in, you’ll have a checklist-like blueprint to follow and improve.
6. Being content: I recently did a podcast with the veritable queen of vacation rental blogging, Heather Bayer, in which I was asked, “who is my blog designed for?” My answer to this question was very simple: “this blog is for anyone who needs – not just wants, but needs – to increase their bookings.”
Because let’s face it: there are plenty of you out there who are perfectly content with your property’s performance, and for you guys, finances and getting the biggest ROI isn’t the most important thing in the world. For you, my blog is not.
But for others of us, those who need to generate top-dollar returns, the word content should not be in your vocabulary. You should always be hungry for new ways to generate more bookings. If you’re 100% full, you should be considering acquiring more properties. Complacency is a common worm in long-term ventures like building a vacation rental marketing portfolio. You just need to learn how to constantly reinvent your marketing spirit.
Matt Landau is the founder of Vacation Rental Marketing Blog and VRLeap, two free resources designed to help vacation rental owners and managers increase their bookings. Pick up a copy of his latest book, The Eureka Effect: How Good Vacation Rentals Become Great for free while supplies still lasts.