Makeover Session 3.0: Want To Stand Out? Send A Newsletter | VRMB
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Makeover Session 3.0: Want To Stand Out? Send A Newsletter

Note: This post is part of the VR Marketing Makeover. You can see all posts in this category by clicking here.

We all want to stand out from a crowd. And while the mobula rays (above) have their own way to do that, our Inner Circle community focuses on three main things: Attraction (how to stand out and generate inquiries), Conversion (how to stand out when converting inquiries to bookings), and Advocacy (the art of standing out by nurturing repeat guests).

This last part, Advocacy, is comprised of a number of different techniques, the most exciting of which is email marketing. Chances are very few (if any) of your competitors are doing this…it cost practically nothing…and requires relatively little time. Here’s the theory:

Envision your best existing repeat guest.

Chances are, he or she is someone who you have formed a relationship with. You’ve chatted with them on the phone, gotten to know their preferences, perhaps even gone out of your way to help them with something outside of your duties as host?

This is such a perfect guest because they know your rental, they trust your knowledge, and they respect your business.

Now envision that you had that same amazing relationship with 10% or 20% or even 50% of your former guests.

This is what we aim to do with email marketing: clone those “perfect repeat guest” profile with all of your former guests, using free technology and a bit of old-fashioned charm.

And it’s a beautiful project that can be done by anyone (with or without a website) because each guest you host now has a potential lifetime value!

In this week’s Makeover Session, Alanna and Holly realize that the goal of their first newsletter, isn’t quite what one may think…

Understand The Fundamentals

I asked both Alanna and Holly to review Email Marketing 101 for Vacation Rentals, which is imperative towards understanding what email marketing is, why it’s so effective, and how precisely to get started. If you haven’t yet watched these video summaries, I’d highly recommend it.

Ready?

First Alanna and Holly needed to select an email marketing platform. After reviewing most of the different options, they both opted for Mailchimp, which is free for up to 2,000 contacts.

According to Alanna, “I did not have a formal list of guests email addresses and have never used any form of contact other than the occasional personalized email. I actually have a stack of leases filed away and am going to put together a spreadsheet this week in preparation. This will allow me to easily upload to Mailchimp so that I can send out my invite to my newsletter.”

You’ll need a provider like Mailchimp to send out mass emails for a few reasons:

1) If you send out mass emails from your Gmail or Hotmail or Yahoo account, you’ll get tagged as Spam and your email address may be penalized forever

2) A provider allows you to analyze your results such as open rates, click-through-rates, bounces, and unsubscribes

3) A provider organizes and segments your contacts lists, allowing you to better target your newsletters or promotions

Alanna and Holly both loaded up their contacts into the Mailchimp system. They also installed “Sign Up Forms” on their websites for future interested travelers to receive their updates.

Here’s Alanna: “I uploaded my contacts from VRBO into Excel and then organized my contacts by First Name, Last Name, and Email and I would say that took about 30 min. The info that VRBO spits out is not perfect so it requires some clean up work but once its done it feel great to have a final and organized guest list that you can add to.”

Aim. (Preparing Your Newsletter)

With their contacts all loaded up, we needed to decide what the first newsletter blast would look like.

Email newsletters should be sent once every month (once a quarter if you’re tight on time) and they should be primarily full of helpful information as opposed to sales pitches.

If you associate online newsletters with some smarmy phone service salesman who bought your email address (along with a list of a million others), that’s definitely NOT what we’re going for here.

Vacation rental newsletters are designed to be a friendly, informative, permission-based way to build a relationship with your former guest.

So when I helped Alanna create the message for her first blast, we wanted to focus on a) reconnecting with past guests, b) telling a story, and c) NOT SELLING IN ANY WAY.

Click To Reveal Alanna's First Newsletter Text

Email Subject: We’re back!

Hello! It’s Alanna Schroeder here from your Kauai vacation rental!

(Long time no talk!)

I’m writing because of the following little inspirational story that you may enjoy:

If you didn’t see one when you were here, an Albatross is a large seabird that spends most of its life on the open waters of the north Pacific. They eat and sleep on the water, and they are BIG. With wingspans of more than 6-feet.

Once every few years an adult Albatross will touch down on land here in Kauai (of all places!) to breed and raise their chicks. If you were lucky, you may have seen them in the neighborhood.

And the coolest thing is that after an Albatross chick is born, despite thousands of miles traveled and years away from land, it typically comes back home to the exact same yard where it hatched…totally naturally, without any fancy GPS system or road map!

(Here she included an image of an Albatross)

So upon seeing this photo of today’s Albatross arrival near our rental, I realized something important:

Arguably the most fulfilling aspect of our vacation rental business is our guests.  

I don’t know what it is. We just seem to attract amazing guests that cherish our family home and are totally “in their element” here in Hawaii.

So when I think about the albatross returning to its place of birth, I realize that I have totally dropped the ball in looping back around with my past guests…the very people that have made my rental so successful in the first place

So that’s really just my way of asking How are you guys?!?!

It’s been a while since we chatted but I’m now making a concerted effort to reconnect with our wonderful “extended” family. And I really look forward to hearing from you!

I’d also like to use this newsletter as a way to stay in touch with all my favorite guests.  If you are not interested in hearing from us, please just hit the unsubscribe button below.

Sincerely,

Alanna

P. S. Oh and we finally got around to launching our new website www.princevillevacationrental.com. Let us know what you think!

You’ll notice that we’re not aggressively asking those guests to book another stay. Instead, we’re apologizing for absence, politely reconnecting, and asking how everyone is doing. The sheer goal of this email was to re-establish that connection and to prime guests for future updates and news about the region.

Holly created a very similar email, only her twist featured a hidden secret called Fern Spring in Yosemite National Park. The goal for both participants is to continue sending out monthly newsletters – each with something helpful or memorable – until it feels like an appropriate time to share a special offer for future booking.

Remember, this is a long play. You are not likely to see more bookings immediately. Instead, you are planting perennial seeds, then watering them on a regular basis.

Fire! (Sending Your Newsletter)

This was the moment of truth. Holly and Alanna reviewed their drafts to make sure there were no spelling or grammatical errors.

“Testing is super easy,” Alanna recalls. “I will elaborate more on this later but it only took seconds to send a test email. When you send yourself a test email make sure you test every link you have used. This is just good practice. I did not have a lot of links in my first newsletter (only one to my website) but as you get more into newsletters I can see the links increasing and checking those is very important.”

And to Holly, just sending that first newsletter was exhilarating:

“Mailchimp is awesome. It helped me so many ways. Told me my picture was too big, automated making it smaller, helped me use its own software to avoid mistakes. The reports are AMAZING. I can’t wait to see what percentage of views, responses, unsubscribes, etc are from 2014 guests vs 2012 guests etc.”

“Just sending this newsletter and seeing my former guests at least opening it makes me feel connected to my guests. It’s so exciting. I want to hug the ones that opened and say “I remember you! Thank you for being my guest.”

And The Results Are In!

Here are Alanna’s stats:

Alanna-Vacation-Rental-Newsletter-Stats

Here are Holly’s stats (Note: she sent one batch to Serenity Suite guests and another batch to Royal Suite guests):

Yosemite-Stay-RR-newsletter-performanceYosemite-Stay-SS-newsletter-performanceThese reports will show you who is opening, forwarding, and clicking on links in your email blasts. Remember that the initial goal of a vacation rental newsletter is not to get your former guests to book. Rather, it’s to reignite that relationship you once had with relevant and useful information, so that when that guest is ready to book one day down the road, you will be front of mind and he or she will know precisely who to call.

So, Are Vacation Rental Newsletters For You?

I’d love to hear from our readers who have used newsletters to generate results OR are thinking about whether it’s the right fit for their vacation rental business. Alanna and Holly are also happy to answer any questions in the comments section below.

About the Author Matt Landau

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. Google+ | More Posts (230)

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