If you’re even browsing the Community by HomeAway chances are, you could use some help with more bookings for your vacation rental. Your competition has grown, prices with listing sites have increased, and bookings are harder to come by. And instead of sulking, there are a lot of things you can do about it.
Here, for the first time, I have detailed my Top 7 mistakes as an opportunity for other owners to learn. These are mistakes that have cost me and my team countless hours (and not to mention, tens of thousands of dollars) of zero results. Use these mistakes as an anti-blueprint and your vacation rental marketing will be a better busines for it come tomorrow.
- Renewing subscriptions with listing sites that don’t produce: You are a careless (and wasteful) vacation rental owner if you are not carefully documenting which of your listing sites are generating leads and which are not. Every owner should have some way (at the very least, an excel document) that enables them to track the amount of leads and bookings from each of their paid sites. If you are not doing this, and you are renewing your subscription to each site every year, you are being tremendously irresponsible.
- Blindly spending on Google Adwords: Anyone who thinks that spending money on Google Adwords will directly and simply translate to more bookings is seriously delusional. If you have not spent some time analyzing your account, what’s working, what’s not, where you are flushing money down the toilet and EXACTLY how much you can afford to spend for a lead, you should not be permitted to use Google Adwords. Otherwise, it’s about as impressive as a clown doing juggling movements with no pins.
- Investing in Facebook marketing: It's laid out in the famous VR Boost Occupancy report -- Facebook and other social media outlets are a hot topic amongst internet marketers. Should you spend time and money getting “Likes” on your Facebook page? The answer is a definitive “No.” I know of only a select crew of vacation rental owners who have managed to convert Facebook Likes into actual bookings on a regular basis. (Note: if you are an exception, please contact me immediately).Spending your marketing time generating the wrong kinds of clients can be just as wasteful as not generating clients at all.
- Hiring a PR professional: This is one of the biggest “silver bullet” solutions that almost never actually pans out. Not only is hiring a good PR professional ridiculously expensive (way beyond the marketing budgets of most vacation rental owners) but it’s also very hard to measure one’s success. One or two articles in a major news publication may help you in the short term, but consistently good press is an ongoing responsibility that’s not solved with a magic-beans PR agency.
- Buying TV, magazine, & radio advertisements: If there is one technique that has wasted more of my time and money while marketing my rentals, it’s buying adverts on TV, in magazines/newspapers, or on radio shows. Since there’s virtually no way to track these sorts of investments, you never know if they work or not. Unless you’ve developed a sophisticated tracking method, do not waste your hard earned resources on these outlets. Do so with online platforms that allow you to carefully monitor your success.
- Neglecting to use Google Analytics: On the same note as above, any vacation rental owner who has his or her own website and has NOT installed Google Analytics (free tracking software) is being reckless. There is no way to know what websites are sending referral traffic, what keywords travelers are searching, where travelers are coming from…etc. After installing Google Analytics after almost one year, I estimate I was anywhere from 50-75% more efficient in my marketing commitments.
- Constricting your marketing budget: Here is the absolute most idiotic decision an owner with low occupancy can make: “I will hold onto my money and hope that bookings will increase.” If your bookings are down and your budget is tight, what should you do? If your answer is “cut marketing budget,” you are entering a death spiral. Low bookings mean you need to increase your marketing (and not specifically your dollar spend) and not pull its plug. Get creative, use tips from my blog, contact friends or co-workers who have vacation rentals, and for pete’s sake, START TAKING CONTROL.
It’s important to remember that low bookings does not mean you should stop trying. Marketing is an integral part of a successful vacation rental operation. Understanding that improvements will take some time, effort and energy is a very important first step. Follow my lead, and help yourself along this journey.
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