"You're special, and don't ever forget that!"
It's the classic line every kid hears from their parents when life deals some adversity.
But when my mom said it to me on the heels of a life-changing medical diagnosis, I found the cliché especially hard to digest (no pun intended).
Our trips to the Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania (CHOP) were becoming so frequent that I knew the on-site restaurant employees by first name.
My nonchalance in the lab when it was time for blood tests was borderline comical:
"Can you please use a butterfly needle?" I'd ask the nurses. "Don't worry, I have big veins. See?" pointing to the sweet spot on my arm.
The first ten years of my life were spent with what seemed like every allergist on the East Coast attempting to diagnose my situation.
There was the time where I was permitted to eat nothing more than white rice, salt, and apple juice for one week in order to cleanse myself for testing. [Picture eight year-old me at the school lunch cafeteria with a box of take-out Chinese rice, a few salt packets, and a plastic spoon.]
Then there was the experimental medicine that cost $10/pill, which I'd take three times in the morning, and again three times at night. I am not sure that pill is even in circulation anymore but we pretty much financed its production for several years in the late 1980s.
The ups and downs of my childhood allergy confusion came to an abrupt end when a scratch test -- nearly 100 needle pricks on my back that looked not unlike a checkerboard of irritation -- proved once and for all the exact items that were making me so terribly sick...
The list of culprits was long: milk, butter, eggs, cream, cats, dogs, seafood, dust, pollen...etc. I would never be (intentionally) consuming these things again.
Basically, my life as a young adolescent was doomed.
And I remember coming to grips with the diagnosis and breaking down in the car outside the doctor's office. It was there that my mom said those famous words:
"Not everyone gets analyzed like a superhero by these doctors. You are special, Matthew. Don't ever forget that."
Gotta love Moms.
I share this sensitive personal story for two reasons:
First, when my mom chose those words, I definitely didn't believe her. Heck, I felt like the least special kid ever. But she was right! I was different from all the other kids and to this day my allergies -- at business lunches or when hosting guests at my rentals -- are very much a part of my identity. A uniqueness that allows me to connect with people on different levels.
The second reason is because when I ask vacation rental owners or managers to tell me their story, most of them don't believe they are special either. They don't fully realize how wonderful or serendipitous or inspiring their journey is to outsiders.
But you are special!
Now here's how to go about recognizing and profiting from that fact...
How often do you meet a vacation rental guest who, in the course of conversation, asks how you got into hosting vacationers?
With me, it happens pretty much every single day.
This is not just because they're curious.
It's because they want to be inspired.
Travelers want to be part of the spontaneous love your story that brought you to a new country. The chance relocation that changed the course of your career, the family home that's been passed down from generations, the “I’ll give it a go” attitude that turned into a lifestyle.
Travelers want to be moved by the mother of three who pursued her passion for hospitality in between soccer practices, or the grandparents of 75 who rekindled their love for travel by hosting guests in a spare cottage.
But your personal story doesn’t need not to follow the story arc of a Hollywood movie in order to be aspirational.
It merely needs to convey that you are human...and in hosting hard-working folks on vacation...you are kind of living the dream!
You are special!
A good owner story builds trust, convey respect, and establish authority with travelers.
It also sets your rental apart from the competition because no longer are you a faceless property in a long list of commodities...you're now a unique story. The moment you have increased these factors, your chances at closing an inquiry go up ten-fold.
Sit down and write out your "About Us" story as if a journalist from Travel+Leisure was on the receiving end. Make it short and to the point (don't ramble, don't include any detail that doesn't need to be there). Where applicable, touch on feelings of awe, inspiration, courage, triumph, underdog...etc. Aim to connect your core values with your vacation rental success. Leverage this story on your listing sites and the "About Us" page of your website.
Get ahold of as many landmark or milestone images to help tell the story as possible. If you don't have historic photos of your first trip to the destination or the day "everything changed," hire a professional portrait photographer (or heck, get your spouse to use their iPhone). Add these photos into your About Us area to add texture to your storyline. If you don't have a profile photo on your listing site or website, you're playing into commoditization.
Hire a videographer (or if you're low on cash, post an ad at the local arts college) to do a mini-documentary. Include some voice-over and shots of you doing your thing. I invested a full day and a few hundred bucks to pull this off. But it’s become the most powerful conversion mechanism in my vacation rental marketing portfolio:
I'd like to present a challenge to anyone who hasn't already articulated how they got started with vacation rentals (and even to those who have): please use the comments section below and tell us how you got started in the vacation rental industry in two sentences or less.
Add a backlink to your property or listing site page so others can take a look and give feedback on how to make your brand even more compelling.
Who's up for the challenge?
Matt Landau is the Founder of the VRMB and the Inner Circle, two online resources dedicated to helping vacation rental owners and managers generate more bookings.
Please log in again. The login page will open in a new tab. After logging in you can close it and return to this page.