3 Crafty Vacation Rental Marketers Who Are Helping (Not Selling)


Two of the biggest challenges in building archetypes and frameworks for vacation rentals are that (1) the industry is so new that limited data is available and (2) us hosts are all so darn different.

A $70/night cabin in Pigeon Forge has entirely different operational needs from a $500/night penthouse in Tokyo.

And a 60-year old mom of three has entirely different operational skills and interests than a 30-year old who just graduated with a digital marketing diploma.

But regardless of our commitment levels, most of us (well, at least if you care enough to be reading a post like this) are REALLY good at what we do!

And on my ever-evolving quest to deeper investigate and better understand the DNA of the most successful hosts, I am increasingly seeing mindset or attitude as a big differentiating factor. To be more specific, an owner or manager with the "can do" mindset about their marketing is likely to succeed. Whereas someone less proactive or less optimistic is likely to be limited by their success.

3 Real Life Marketing Success Stories

But to many people getting started in the vacation rental world, the big picture of success can be misinterpreted to mean millions of hours and thousands of dollars spent towards the cause. Whereas actually, success is not nearly as rigid or status-based.

To prove that VR success -- by way of that go-getter mindset -- is not a cookie-cuter definition...that it can actually look like a number of different things...I wanted to share with you three Inner Circle members who are doing things their own way:

1. Rick Oster: The Golf Nerd

Rick has vacation rental homes located on a famous Robert Trent Jones golf course and 100% of his guests are golfers looking to stay for a few days and relax. So Rick asked himself, "How can I leverage my own love for golf in a helpful way?" The answer: convince his wife to let him buy a drone, fly it over each hole, and narrate insider tips for his guests:

As you can see, you don't need to be specifically interested in Rick's rentals to be able to appreciate his marketing. And even if you don't choose his rentals this time, chances are that when you come back to the area next time or when you've got a friend looking to stay, who are you gonna call?

This technique works so well because it can be adapted to your passions or interests. And based on this drone photo that Rick took -- showing his homes in relation to the course -- you may become a bit of an artist in the process.

2. David Angotti: The Foliage Guru

Guests were always asking David's property management team "when do the leaves change color?" to plan their visit to the Smoky Mountains region. But instead of just repeating his answer over and over again, David chose to take it a step further and -- with the help of his website programming partner Wes -- created an interactive Fall Foliage Map:

If you look where David hosts the map on his Smoky Mountains site, they even go into the science of it all. And it turns out, it wasn't just vacation rental travelers that wanted this information. David's little tool was soon picked up by Mashable and like a gazillion other websites.

David and Wes' work is proof that being methodical, taking what your potential guests want to know, and putting effort into delivering that information in a useful way can earn you tons of exposure. They've credited this success story to successively record years in bookings.

3. Kim Bergstrom: The Queen Of Blogging

Kim is not an inbound marketing expert, nor a hospitality guru. But she does know that helpful blog posts are a way to turn researching travelers into actual guests. And she has clearly found a calling in becoming a regional expert: her blog evolving as one of the most authoritative (and frankly, just fun to read) in the Manzanita region.

Check out her blog post The Aboslutely Essential Packing List For Your Oregon Coast Trip, which is as good (if not better) than any travel magazine out there: 

It's definitely not your humdrum packing list...it features gorgeous photos, interspersed with Kim and her husband Eric's recommendations, like a portable coffee maker great for hikes:

And their favorite vineyard to pick up a case of Pinot Noir...

Kim even begins to test the waters of fashion advice with inspiring bathing suits (below) and "my current crush on these cute mahabis slippers."

Kim ads so much value to her vacation rentals simply by conveying her personality and taking the time to share her regional tips on this blog...it could very well be the most valuable asset in her marketing portfolio.


You don't need to spend a bunch of money or hire any expensive consultants to be successful with your vacation rental marketing. But you do have to embrace a proactive mindset. You do have to understand that sustainable marketing requires some creativity and some elbow grease.

But be sure to play to your strengths: if you like to write, create a blog like Kim. If you are a fanatic about birdwatching, create an insider's birdwatching guide. If you're a fishing fanatic, help prospective visitors understand what they can catch and when.

The more and more I learn, vacation rental marketing is not about your budget or your location or even your property itself. It about your desire to help travelers (not sell them)...and to put as much effort into your forward-facing brand as you do when that guest steps through the door.

  1. Wonderful post, Matt! I love seeing these three Inner Circle members highlighted. They are each very accomplished – and very deserving of this Shout Out! Congrats Kim, David & Rick!

  2. Pretty spectacular genius! When you line them all up in one post it’s a great demonstration of the Inner Circle collective genius. The IC provides a wonderful array of inspiration, actionable tips and of course HELP!

      1. It’s definitely an idea worthy of consideration! I’ll trust your decision to implement.

        “I don’t recommend that people spend a lot of time on splitting hairs over the SEO either…”

        @LunaDaughnn thank you for the comment! It’s been my personal experience splitting hairs can be a mental block and thwart creativity.

      2. @Matt – so there is an application process for the IC? And yes, I believe that the “Help, Don’t Sell” message/approach is so critical.

  3. We love staying at Kim ‘ s oldest beach house. No one else provides the ambiance her rentals have.
    You truly feel like it’s your private home.

    1. Wow – how nice Constance! And how wonderful to find you here!

      As always, I’m trilled you think of our Manzanita vacation rental as your own private getaway – without all the work. We always love hearing from you. Hope you’re enjoying the beautiful second summer weather!

  4. Kim is a client and she’s doing a great job with her blogging. She’s so passionate about it we set up a new, shiny blog site that’s integrated with her vacation rental website.

    BTW, Ralph, who is also a client, is great at blogging and so his new VacaRental site is set up to showcase all the great info he’s putting up for travelers & guests.

    [disclaimer: both sites are still in the process of being developed]

    1. Kim’s blog is better than most regional travel websites. Ralph’s new site rocks too: we did a big long Website Review of it in the Inner Circle: my favorite comment from Amy Greener was “Here’s my gut-reaction when first landing on your home page: I so want to go to Paris or Nice!!”

      Dawn, can you share a link to your agency in case others want to contact ya?

        1. This review took place on Sept 30th: I think he revamped his site with a recommendation by @Kim and @Seb Grosjeans software installed.

      1. Thank you Matt. Both Kim’s and Ralph’s websites are still “in-progress” with some fine-tuning and revisions as things unfold. So, stay tuned. Oh yes, I LOVE working with Ralph…and his blog posts are so wonderful. Much both he and Kim can teach others who are just getting rolling!

        My consulting website is http://redspiralhand.com and I offer free, introductory marketing and web assessments for vacation rental owners and managers as well as other businesses: http://redspiralhand.com/free-vacation-rental-marketing-assessment/

        You can read about me and my experience here: http://redspiralhand.com/about-2/

  5. Matt: You are spot on in stating that this approach to creating quality content about things the author/owner is passionate about does way more than just spending thousands on technology. Yes, a good framework for the vacation rental website and blog is important but up there in the top 3 priorities needs to be meaningful content. As far as search engine rankings and saturation blog posts gain far more attention than static pages do…and they get shared far more on social media too.

    So, yes! Although sometimes it’s hard to communicate just how powerful this is to web/marketing clients until they see the results…which takes a little time and consistent posting…

    1. Agree! And I’d add that I don’t endorse creating anything for SEO ranking anymore. Instead, I create stuff that I think people will really enjoy. Then see if I can optimize it for SEO. I think too many people get overwhelmed thinking their website needs to rank for great big search terms (which it likely never will)…when in reality a direct user (someone who comes from your VRBO listing or after speaking with you on the phone) is just as relevant and 10x more valuable.

      1. Geesh! I totally agree with you. I have been working in SEO/online marketing for many, many years but it’s a completely different playing field. I have been working with quite a few clients from diverse industries and when it all comes down to it the blogs with great content do the best, marketing-wise, hands down…even better when combined with video.

        I don’t recommend that people spend a lot of time on splitting hairs over the SEO either…

        That being said, I only use Genesis for wordpress because a lot of the SEO comes built in, if people want to take it a little farther…. And the sites are solid and really secure. But these don’t cost thousands…they don’t need to.

        And I’d much rather see clients spend the time/money on great content, anyway.

        Thanks for the interaction.

  6. Very motivating post, Matt. Makes me want to stand up and go do something right now: buy a drone and fly it over the coast of my Sardinian property (how cool is that?), take that Go-Pro video I shot of the coastal road, which I never edited for lack of time and place it in my blog (actually on my to-do list for next year) and the list goes on…

  7. Thank you Matt for including me. The Queen of Blogging!

    More like a despot, with my ICU Blogging Club deadlines. The wonderful thing about blogging with an accountability group is with deadlines, the work gets done. No more excuses!

    A word of warning: the bad thing about following Matt’s suggestions and sharing ideas with other vacation rental professionals – my To Do list of wonderful vacation rental ideas is a mile long! But once done, the satisfaction can’t be beat.

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