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I started Vacation Rental Marketing Blog about 4 years ago and it’s been a roller coaster learning curve for me.
You see, I have experience generating bookings for vacation rentals.
But I am NOT an expert in selling online products (that stuff was — and still is — pretty new to me).
So in a lot of ways, the evolution readers have seen with VRMB is very similar to the transformation owners and managers are personally experiencing with their vacation rental marketing.
We both started with very little information.
We both did lots of research and experimentation using trial and error.
We both identified things that worked and used muses to inspire new ideas.
So what you see before your very eyes is actually a parallel universe: it’s your learning curve in the works!
Now that you understand we’re very much in the same boat, I wanted to share with you one of the more powerful mantras I have developed from this process thus far (and something which I really think resonates in the vacation rental marketing world).
It’s only three words:
Help, Don’t Sell.
This is a concept that seems to be pervasive with today’s top marketers (can’t remember where I heard it first) but it took me almost 2 years to really understand it.
To elaborate, here are 3 facts that — if they’re not true already — will become more apparent with time:
> Our competitors will have nicer vacation rental properties (than we do)
> Our competitors will have bigger marketing budgets (than we do)
> Our sheer number of competitors will increase over time
This leaves us with a natural dilemma: with all this competition, how does our rental correspondence stand out from the crowd?
You’re probably thinking to yourself:
Yes, I have a great VRBO listing, I have a proper website, I have lots of Twitter/Facebook followers, I know how to convert inquiries into bookings…etc.
But here’s the thing: so will everybody else (if they don’t already)!
Sharing The Authentic Local Experience
This brings me to the pre-thesis statement of this article: the most successful vacation rental owners and managers in the world provide one priceless variable when guests stay at their properties and that is the authentic local experience.
So assuming you have already embraced this authenticity, the crux of your challenge (and mine in creating this blog) becomes abundantly clear:
In order to leverage that authenticity (perhaps the only true, defining variable in the vacation rental game) we must help travelers (not sell travelers) in the correspondence process in order to ensure their business.
Esthetically, the difference between helping and selling is no more than two letters. But in reality, the different is HUGE.
The best vacation rental marketers I have ever seen manage to “help” their potential guests far more bluntly than they do “sell” them.
They provide Insider’s Guide, they share links to blog posts that answer questions, they make videos, they answer questions free of charge or sales pitches.
They aren’t trying to sell you their rental – at least not up front – they are being helpful with useful, reliable and fresh free stuff!
These owners are informing, they are revealing, and they are educating.
Who Can I Help Today?
When you begin your marketing efforts by asking, “Who can I help today?” you enter into an entirely different mental universe than if you ask, “Who can I convince to reserve my rental today?”
Here’s the whole point: you may be fine right now, but the vacation rental market will get more and more saturated over time, making your property (no matter how shabby or chic it is) just another fish in the sea.
When this happens, HELPING is only one thing that will distinguish you from your competition: it represents the trust travelers have in your relationship.
When pitting you (the ultra-helpful owner) up against them (the profit-focused competitors down the street), who do you think most travelers would choose?
What Do I Do Next?
If you’re inspired by this idea, do the following:
Make a list of ways you can help potential travelers to your region.
Maybe this means designing fun interactive maps of your region.
Perhaps you can create your own infographic to educate.
Maybe you send out amazingly helpful newsletters every month?
Whatever you do, stick with this wholesome mantra – help, don’t sell – and your rental will be better for it in the long run.