What is Vacation Rental Marketing?
When most people think of vacation rental marketing, they think of listing sites like Airbnb, Vrbo, and Booking.com.
These platforms are marketing platforms: they give hosts the chance to market their property to the world. In fact, the various channels for distribution represent one of the biggest springboards contributing to the rise of professional vacation rentals.
But like a one leg on a table, a true marketing portfolio needs more support. True marketing consists of creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging vacation rental offerings that have value for guests. Over time.
And yes, that includes the listing sites.
The concept of Listing Site Independence was coined in 2010.
In this post, we'll explore the themes worth embracing about marketing: understand these pillars and you'll start to see a roadmap for your direct booking strategy.
What Are The Different Stages of Vacation Rental Marketing?
Since marketing consists of so many different activities, VRMB categorizes each activity into one of four chronological vacation rental marketing Stages, which together make up a truly "independent" direct booking strategy.
VRMB believes each marketing activity has a different place in the maturity curve of a business and that doing said activities in specific order is important. Oppositely, doing advanced vacation rental marketing activities (like SEO or PR) before the foundation has been laid can be unnecessary -- in some cases damaging.
- The first Stage of independence is utilizing all the listing sites available to generate bookings.
- The second Stage of independence is "A Strong Foundation": creating a unique identity that reflects your personality and the reasons you were attracted to the property and destination.
- The third Stage of independence is "Assembling the Framework" in which we bolt on tools like website, email marketing, and social media to the foundation.
- And the fourth and final Stage of independence is "Growth Mode" in which a vacation rental business flywheel of momentum begins to take effect.
Within each of these Stages fit activities to invest your time or money. Make sure you have fulfilled most of each Stage before you proceed to the next.
Note: Baked into each component of these Stages you will find VRMB's mantra of Help, Don't Sell -- a way to leverage your local knowledge and expertise into bookings. The more helpful you can be to prospective guests, the more trust and respect you will earn. This converts into loyal and appreciative guests.
How is Marketing Different from Vacation Rental Branding?
The Stages of marketing independence you just read are tactical: complete each Stage then move onto the next in a chronological fashion.
Whereas vacation rental branding is much more strategic: it's about creating a recognizable vibe about your business that your guests can FEEL -- from the moment they stumble across you online to the stay to the moment they depart and recommend you to friends.
VRMB's concept of Limited Edition was inspired by the world of collector's items and antiques. It is an 8-part branding checklist that can help any vacation rental professional build a one-of-a-kind brand or defensive "moat" around their business.
When it comes to branding, be sure to look not outwards at bigger, richer hotel competition, but inwards at the elements that make you, your family, your home(s) and your destination truly unique. For example, we created A Day in the Life of Video of Matt Landau video to help subscribers get to know me, away from VRMB.
Why is Guest Experience "The New" Marketing?
The big goal of any business is to use listing sites to generate new inquiries, convert those inquiries into actual guests, and then convert those guests into repeat and referral fans of your business.
Traditional marketing tends to stop at the moment of the sale.
But for VRMB, the guest's experience (from the moment they open the door to your home(s) to the moment they leave) is a most pivotal cog in the wheel. Do a good job with the guest experience and your pipeline for future bookings begins to fill.
VRMB chooses to focus on The Feeling of Premium and Customer Zero -- as the two big concepts that help any host (big or small, affordable or expensive, near or far) to cultivate an award-winning experience.
We encourage you to view the guest experience as a huge component of your journey and allocate resources (ie. money & time) to that process. That "ROI" or return on investment is often the best bang for your vacation rental marketing buck.
How to Measure Your Marketing Success?
It can be easy to generate plenty of bookings from your listing site of choice and call it a success. But that would be overlooking a kind of dependence your business has on a third-party organization (the listing site itself).
VRMB prefers to measure success by looking at a) retention (the amount of guests who return year after year) as well as b) your ratio of direct bookings to third-party bookings over time.
These two metrics tend to paint a clear picture about your success.
- Retention: Suggests you're doing a great job with the guest's experience (see above)
- Increased Ratio Direct Bookings (to third-party bookings) Over Time: Suggests you're listing site independent portfolio is working.
And remember, a fully booked calendar on your first year (thanks Airbnb!) isn't the same kind of success as a fully booked calendar on your 3rd year made up predominantly of direct bookings from guests who return to and refer your business.
What Are The Secrets?
In the vacation rental marketing sphere, you'll find plenty of tactical items like we mention above in the listing site independence framework: blogging, SEO, social media, PPC...etc.
These avenues available to us today are more robust and powerful than any time in the history of small business.
But we at VRMB have taken things a step further and decided to examine the patterns beneath the surface of the most successful campaigns.
What do the most sustainably profitable businesses do behind the scenes?
We present these patterns in the form of VRMB's Concepts. Not unlike learning a new sport or skill, VRMB's marketing Concepts are like fundamentals: designed to be learned and then interpreted for your style of entrepreneurship to move and create best.