Creative and innovative ideas for marketing a holiday rental property
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Boy am I busy at the moment! And loving every minute I have to say. But when you are a service provider it’s often the case that you dedicate so much time to managing your clients, you don’t find the time to look after your own business. Do you find that with your holiday rental and the home where you live? You put so much time and effort into your holiday let business, your place of residence doesn’t get a look in! I bet some of you can identify with that, even though you don’t like to admit it.
Right now we are writing content, developing websites and brand strategies for clients, and running their social media channels. It’s been so busy we had to decline an invitation to speak at the VRMA European Conference in Amsterdam this March. There’s always next year! Are you going? I’ll be writing on the conference for my next article.
As busy as I have been, I always have time to collaborate with Vacation Rental colleagues around the globe and I wanted to share some of the content here on our Rental Tonic blog. Enjoy, and I promise we’ll be back to regular writing very soon!
How to Market your Vacation Rental to Business Travellers
If you haven’t thought about attracting the business travel market, it’s about time you start. The business travel market is worth 1.2 Trillion dollars and there was a 57% growth year on year in 2016 for business travellers using Airbnb and HomeAway to book accommodation.
I spoke to vacation rental software experts, Lodgify about what owners and managers need to do to attract the business traveller.
Why Guest Experience Matters
I had a super interesting conversation with Jonathan from property management and guest experience experts Vreasy on why the guest experience matters so much in today’s market and what you can do as an owner or manager to build a more memorable vacation rental business.
If you want to achieve full calendars and happy, repeat guests, you need to read this article on the guest experience and start considering if your standards are high enough to entice guests back for more.
Top 10 Tips for Family-Friendly Vacation Rentals
In 2015, according to the ABTA Consumer Survey, 38% of British consumers took a holiday with their immediate family, and 20% took a holiday with their extended family, that’s grandparents, uncles, aunts, etc. In terms of global figures: family holidays represented around a third of the market, that’s 115 million annual holidays!
So if you have space, and you don’t mind welcoming children to your holiday home, you need to think on how to furnish and market your holiday let to attract families. Family holidays can take painstaking organisation and lots of patience, so when a family finds the perfect accommodation, they repeat book time and again. Don’t leave it to chance to attract families to your holiday home, read this article and make it happen!
Why Holiday Homes Don’t Make A Profitable Property Investment
Ok, Ok. I know. But if it’s decision time and you are not sure whether to buy that second home as an investment or not, there are a number of factors that need to be taken into consideration before splashing out. This articles covers some of the cons of owning a holiday home.
And if you are in the decision-making process, please do get in touch with our Rental Tonic team. We’re always happy to give your a virtual assessment on your vacation rental business plan.
How to Convert Enquiries into Bookings for your Holiday Cottage
Your holiday home is one in a million. Or should I say one amongst a million of other holiday homes listed on the likes of HomeAway, Airbnb and my partners for this article, Direct Holiday Cottages. In fact every holiday rental is unique, but as an owner you have to work hard to create a home-from-home experience and to convert enquiries to real bookings, there’s a few things you need to do, to make your property be that ‘one’ in a million potential clients want to book.
How Rich Guest Profiles Can Transform Your Holiday Rental Business
An oldie, but one of my favourite articles. I am a firm advocate for enriching the guest experience, and one of the most effective ways to do so is by profiling your guests and personalising your communication and experience. Check out this article I wrote for Spain-holiday.com on how to harvest guest data and use it to create a rich personalised experienced pre, during and post-stay.
Finally don’t forget our Rental Tonic team is here to support you in the creation of an enriching guest experience and in developing all of the marketing tools and resources you’ll need attract to your ideal guests.
If you follow the Rental Tonic marketing blog you’ll be accustomed to our banging on about selling the experience, not the accommodation. These days you have to sell the guest experience. Nothing less will do.
There are two ways you can do this through visual content. You can create your own or use the visual experiences of your guests. This is called user generated content.
What is User Generated Content?
UGC isn’t a new medium, but it’s snowballing in terms of its true potential, especially within the travel and accommodation sector. User Generated Content is any content: blogs, images, social media posts, reviews, which have been created and are shared by unpaid contributors, i.e. fans, i.i.e. your guests.
The evolution of visual content marketing
Visual content plays a huge part in how marketers convert consumers to their brand and its come a long way since the days of banner and button advertising. The objective of which was to convince the client of a quick sale, playing up to consumer pricing – something we want to avoid. The visual aspect was uninspiring.
These days the way we create, view and share visual content has become somewhat of a phenomenon. We play out our lives through a camera lens and share it with the world. We are in a moment of perpetual discovery, continuously seeking new experiences to live and share; not just with friends and family, but with like minded people around the world. Our reach is limitless.
Our shared experiences make the consumer buying process more enjoyable. No longer do we have to rely on what a brand tells us. We can find out what like-minded consumers think about a brand or product. We trust ‘people like us’ more than we trust the advertising message. In fact we have at our fingertips visual content that echoes our dream holiday and motivates us to plan and book the next adventure.
As travellers enter into perpetual discovery mode, your task as a holiday rental owner or manager is to grab them with visually exciting content at the inspiration (planning or dreaming stage), before they’ve reached the buying (booking) stage, when you lose them to a hundred other accommodation options.
Reaching your ideal guests through visual content marketing
Consumers attracted to visual content tend to purchase with their heart and are much better at engaging with content and using review systems. Ultimately they are not driven by price, the trigger we most want to avoid, so instead of creating content you should be creating experiences; capturing inspiring, authentic moments that captivate your ideal guests and provoke a reaction.
Question: What do you think is the more convincing review?
Getting your guests to share their instagrammable moment during their holiday is a super way to grab the attention of potential holiday rental guests who want to visually digest travel experiences. If text reviews already offer potential guests a credible assessment of a travel experience, can you imagine adding a photo? All of a sudden the review becomes even more authentic and anticipated. It instantly humanises your holiday experience.
Customers want to be able to picture themselves in the place of the reviewer, so all visual content should be relatable, not perfect. Nobody can imagine themselves in a stock image. Your focus should always be on content that’s authentic and original.
Will my guests want to share their best moments with me? Some will, some won’t. Take the attitude that if you don’t ask, you don’t get. Mention the concept during pre-stay communication, perhaps when you send them your insider’s guide or digital welcome book. You might want to wrap up the request with an offer, such as a discount off future bookings (more repeat guests), or a free welcome pack (happy arrivals).
How should I use them? Visual reviews should be featured across your own holiday rental website, as part of an evergreen social media campaign and linked to within your pre and post stay guest communication.
Getting influencers involved
The next step, or rather ‘big leap’, in your user generated content journey is to get influencers involved in your story. Influencers – travel bloggers, photographers, instagrammers – take photos of everything: on the way to the airport, on the plane, arrivals hall, in their accommodation and during every moment of their trip. They use geofilters and hashtags to map out their adventure, so their followers feel like they’re travelling with them.
Clever travel brands use these influencers to reach out to new and wider audiences, and there’s no reason why you shouldn’t too. Their take on your holiday home could have far reaching possibilities for the future of your holiday rental business.
The thought of reaching out to a travel blogger to ask them to review your holiday experience may seem a daunting thing, but it’s worth a few knock backs. Start by following the top influencers in your region or target market. These might be micro influencers in the grand scheme of global audiences, but they will help you reach and captivate new audiences that you wouldn’t be able to reach on your own steam.
You’ll need to start by building a rapport:
- Add your expert and, importantly, friendly opinion as comments in some of their blog posts
- Follow, like, share and retweet their posts to your followers
- Share your holiday experiences, visual reviews and related travel and destinations news with them via social media
- Recommend them to your followers and guests as an expert travel blogger for your destination or holiday experience
Once you’ve built that rapport and shortlisted the influencers that are most engaged with your content, you could take it to the next level and ask them to personally review your holiday accommodation.
Before you go wild, you’ll be disappointed if you aim to convince macro influencers to review your holiday. Those guys and gals are earning big bucks from big brands to review their product. Do your research well, identify influencers who are either currently travelling your region or live within a reasonable distance and offer them a stay in your holiday home.
Obviously that’s not going to work for all of you. To get a travel influencer to stay in your holiday accommodation you have to have a pretty special proposition. A unique home, location or a quirkiness that might just grab their attention. This level isn’t for everybody and it will cost you a weekend (that you probably couldn’t fill), but the opportunities are far reaching and outweigh the expense.
Look out for our next article: Five Countries, Five Top Travel Bloggers and Instagrammers to Follow!
Doing it for yourself
While you’re building up your user generated content, there’s no reason why you can’t be creating your own visual content. Think about your holiday experience, what are your instagrammable moments? What moments would evoke your guests to take a photo during their stay?
Until you can get them to capture the best moments for you, you can recreate them through your own eyes. Just remember to make them authenticate and rich with life. Forget photographing your holiday home, step outside and look at what’s around you. Capture the view, the locals, the sunset, the cuisine, the cocktails. Basically capture life. Remember forget picture perfect and focus on the human experience.
Where to be
Ok, so for those taking the first steps onto the social media marketing ladder, the first question is always where should I be? Is it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google Plus, LinkedIN? The answer is everywhere, but don’t panic. There are tools and methods that will help you schedule and share your social media and blog posts, so don’t worry about where. What you mustn’t lose focus on is the what. It’s the medium that counts. And that medium should be visual content.
Instagram and Snapchat are the visual platforms that have really snowballed in 2016. The most important statistic you need to know about Instagram is that brand engagement is 10 times higher than Facebook, 54 times higher than Pinterest and 84 times higher than Twitter. Revealing Instagram as an essential channel in any travel marketing strategy. (Oh and pizza is the most popular instagrammed food 😉
Top tip: Nearly 80% of social media time is spent viewing on a mobile device, so whilst traditionally we would recommend taking horizontal shots, vertical images and video bring experiences to life better on a mobile device.
Make it actionable
As with any marketing, there’s no point in doing it if there’s no ‘call to action’ or route to purchase, in our case, to book your holiday home. All of your beautiful experiences need to be actionable, so showcase the experience together with a call to action. Your engagement should always follow through, whether that be to your website, advertising listing, email or other sales funnel.
- Showcase the experience not the features: think outside the box to highlight your experiences
- Highlight your best moments, the instagrammable moments: take your guests and followers along for the ride
- Take them on the journey and provide advice and guidance along the way
- Use visual and even video reviews: they’re authentic and humanise your experience
- As always, knowing your ideal customer is key to delivering visual content they want to see
- When reaching out to travel influencers first research their reach and followers. Do they resonate with your ideal guest persona?
- Make all customer experiences actionable
What are you waiting for? Go get started creating inspiring visual content!
If you want to find out more about how visual content marketing and user generated content can help your holiday rental business, get in touch with me today and tell me about your instagrammable moment.
The holiday rental landscape is growing at a rapid rate. Worth in excess of $100 billion dollars, it now sits proudly amongst mainstream travel accommodation. In the US alone, over 40% travellers have stayed in holiday rental accommodation.
As our industry grows, technology platforms and booking partners launch channels to streamline the work of the holiday home owner or rental manager, and the landscape of advertising portals is constantly changing.
To run a successful holiday rental business in today’s market takes commitment and perseverance. It will always be a work in progress: marketing channels grow, the market becomes ever more competitive and your guests demand more. Yet if you get down to the core of the business, there are still fundamental elements, that if you get right, will prepare you to compete with the best.
Know your ideal guest
‘Ideal guest’ seems to be a buzzword in the world of holiday rental marketing at the moment, but our Rental Tonic team have been working with clients for many years to identify and create successful holiday rental businesses with the ideal guest in mind.
Taking the time to identify your niche market and defining your ideal guest are essential elements within your marketing strategy, which help you create a holiday rental experience targeted at guests you want staying in your holiday home.
It’s also more effective and less of a strain on your marketing budget, when you communicate your proposition to a smaller target group. And importantly, it’s far more enjoyable to connect with the one person who is going to book and love your home, over any other.
Tip: When you have a good idea of who you want to target, it becomes much easier to create the story around your holiday, and create a home that will attract your ideal guests time and again.
The prime objective of any owner is to develop a holiday rental business that enjoys full calendars, ideally based on a high percentage of repeat bookings.
Why repeat bookings? Less marketing expenditure and work to fill your calendar. And guaranteed happy guests.
It doesn’t matter whether your holiday home is budget or luxury. If you don’t fit it out with good quality furnishing and equipment, and update and maintain the property on a regular basis, you will be chasing new bookings every season. If you want to create a serious income generator, it’s time to inject sensible quality into your holiday home.
Good quality doesn’t have to mean expensive. You will need to invest time, over money, in finding furnishing that will be comfortable and withstand wear and tear.
Tip: Tight budgets can go further when you think on your feet: add a mattress topper and good quality pillows to an economical bed; scatter comfy quality cushions on your sofa and adorn your walls with lovely destination photos and tasteful artwork. Coffee tables can be expensive, but two attractive side tables will give your guests some space to put their coffee down, and to add a lamp.
Do you ever scroll through your advertising channel to see what your competition is up to and then get despondent about how they achieve such a professional look? It’s no big secret. It’s all in the staging…
Holiday rental staging and good photography are essential in creating an enticing presentation for your holiday home and ultimately will maximise your booking opportunities.
Good staging and photography will paint a picture so entice, a guest can imagine themselves in the scene; as if they are living the experience already.
Another essential reason to maintain a good level of photography is to maximise the opportunity to be seen in listing search results. In most cases, a percentage of your quality score is based on posting a decent volume of images.
TripAdvisor statistic: Travellers are 150% more engaged with listings that have more than 20 photos than properties with only a few photos.
Don’t compete on pricing
The first and only thing I want to say on the subject of pricing: never compete on price.
Do not enter into a price war with the local competition, there will always be someone prepared to beat you on price. If you have followed the previous steps: set up a quality holiday home, know your niche market and ideal guest and have taken the time to create a compelling story, then you should be able to step out of the price war and charge the rate for your holiday home that meets YOUR expectations i.e. covers costs and somewhere down the line generates a profit.
Tip: Price should be based on three principles: running costs + location + quality. It’s really very simple.
Placement? It’s a jungle out there….
In today’s holiday rental landscape there are a myriad of portals to choose from. The likes of the giants, such as Holiday Lettings/Trip Advisor/FlipKey, Airbnb, and HomeAway/Owner’s Direct, will be a necessary evil when you start out and need to get immediate bookings, but ultimately your long-term goal should be to become independent, before they gobble up your profit and run your business how it suits them; taking away your client interaction and sitting on your booking payments.
In the first couple of years you should be testing the water with the international portal sites, and getting regional coverage from some of the smaller destination-focused portals. Use forums such as www.laymyhat.com to get advise from owners who have tried and tested the market.
Tip: Whatever channel you use, your holiday rental must be instantly bookable.
Copy that creates that WOW factor!
Anyone who knows me, knows I am a bit of a content freak. I have been travel writing and blogging for many years, and I can say unconditionally that getting your headline and description just right – or incredibly wrong, can have a huge impact on holiday rental enquiries.
Of course, if you’ve done your preliminary work and know your niche and ideal guest, writing exclusively for them is much simpler than trying to please everyone within a 500 word description.
Tip: Stop focusing on your accommodation. Become the local expert – create local experiences.
Learn how to create WOW-FACTOR copy and achieve full calendars and happy guests. Click here to grab a copy of our FREE 7-Point Checklist to WOW-Factor Copy!
Happy holiday experiences
So far, so good. You’ve got the bookings. The guests have arrived. Now you have to ensure they have a happy holiday experience. One that they want to share and replay.
Of course, if you’ve worked out your ideal guest credentials and created a quality rental, it’s reasonable to assume they’ll enjoy your accommodation. Perfect scenario, they’ll be leaving with long-lasting memories of their holiday experience.
Here you have a part to play.
Two of the biggest motivators for choosing holiday rentals, is authenticity and connection. The way you interact with your guests, even before they’ve arrived is like gold. It can be the make or break of a booking. If you think about the success of Airbnb. It’s actually the guest/host interaction that makes its proposition special.
During their stay, your guests will appreciate how much effort you, or your manager put into making their stay just perfect. It will be the icing on the cake, the part of their holiday that gives them a warm, cuddly feeling inside.
Tip: Nothing is too much for the ideal guest. Help as much as you can. You may want to consider adding a concierge-style service to your business.
What do we want? Listing independence. When do we want it? Now!
No longer is having your own holiday rental website a question for debate. The consolidation of the global listing sites has lead to a controlling and costly marketing landscape.
The only way to survive is to strike out for independence. Creating a content rich website, which shows you for the local expert you are, and creates a platform for personal connection with travellers and guests.
Your social media channels should then become a natural extension to your holiday rental website, where you can freely engage with guests, media and the industry.
A good social media strategy will help you build a community of people who have a common interest in your destination. Where you can share stories, and ultimately earn the trust of potential guests. Studies have shown that people need to “see” your brand as many as 7 times before they will consider doing business with you. This makes social media an important asset in your holiday rental strategy.
Reviews and reactions
In today’s market, guest reviews are at the very heart of travel marketing. They can tell a traveller everything they need to know about accommodation, activity or transport mode, to help them make more informed decisions. So we recognise how important reviews are to our travel business, but it’s not just about getting five star reviews and publishing them.
TripAdvisor statistic: 70% of guests say that seeing a management response to a guest review influences where they stay.
When you reply to a guest review, you aren’t just interacting with that guest, you are also engaging with the hundreds, even thousands of people who read your reviews and your reactions.
The mother of all things. The icing on the cake. The reason for living… OK maybe that’s a little exaggerated, but as an owner it’s ultimately what you should be aiming for.
If you’re working hard to achieve all of the above, then your repeat bookings will start to follow. But if you want to go a little step further to achieve those, then how you interact with guests and clients post-stay is as important as your interaction before and during their stay.
Email marketing, post-stay surveys and guest profiling, are just three of the ways you can stay on top of client preferences, dislikes and key dates i.e. anniversaries, and create perfect personalised marketing actions to attract them back.
Tip: Research shows that personalised promotion is 9x more effective than generic marketing, so don’t follow the crowd. Don’t try solely to compete on generic advertising listing sites. Consider your ideal client, communicate to them, be local, and make it personal.
High season is over. You’ve said farewell to the last guests of summer, and brushed away the final grain of sand from your doorstep. You can breath a sigh of relief… Hang on! Don’t relax just yet. You’ve got work to do to get your holiday rental ship shape and ready for this year’s autumn/winter season and for the coming year’s spring/summer bookings.
If you want to run a successful holiday rental business, there’s no sitting on your laurels after high season. Now is the time to plan, update and maintain contact with your valued guests. So, what’s next?
Depending where your holiday rental is located you might have 4-6 weeks turnaround between the end of the summer season and the all important half-term school break. Many families choose to catch the last rays of sunshine in the October half-term.
If you have a family-friendly holiday rental, this will be a key week for you, which if prepared well, can be the start of some valuable family repeat bookings.
Here are some ways to put your family-friendly holiday rental in front of potential half-term guests.
- If you have your own holiday rental website, write an article, or listicle, for your blog on the Top Attractions/Activities for Half-Term in your area and share it like crazy
- Promote special half-term offers on the advertising portals you are using
- Use your social media profiles to shout about the reasons why spending half-term in your destination is fab, fun and family-friendly
- If you don’t already, start to connect with family-friendly specialists via social media and tag them in your ‘Things to do’ and ‘Promotional’ posts. Make the posts fun, interesting and shareable.
Blue skies and swimming pools might be the primary draw for guests visiting your holiday rental, but if you want to attract low-season bookings, you need to paint a four-seasons picture.
Even if your destination enjoys year-round sunshine, show potential guests what your holiday home looks like dressed up for Christmas; how locals celebrate New Year’s Eve and Easter, or what your ski destination looks like in the spring and summer months, with flowers blanketing the ski slopes.
Just after summer season ends, start to populate your advertising listings and website with autumn/winter seasonal photos and quirky mentions of what guests can expect during this time. During, or just after the Christmas period, you can start to add seasonal photos and descriptions for spring and summer next year, and so the cycle goes on.
Of course you will always focus on your high season, but adding a touch of four-season magic, could be just what your holiday rental needs to secure those low season bookings.
Keep in touch
If your guests leave your holiday home happy. Having had a positive holiday experience. Keeping in touch via email marketing is not just a courtesy, it’s a very impactful way of getting them back for another stay. Repeat guests provide the best ROI (return on investment). You don’t have to spend a lot of marketing budget on them. In their case it’s time and effort, over budget. Plus they often reflect your ideal guest profile, which means they are likely to stay loyal and recommend you to their friends and family.
When the busy holiday season is over, get in touch with your guests. Tell them what they can expect out of season. Use an early bird discount for next summer to get to them to fill out a post-stay survey, keep them up-to-date with your latest offers and articles, and of course, invite them to follow you on social media.
Review your holiday rental marketing
Better the devil you know? Not when it comes to spending your hard earned holiday rental income on marketing. At the beginning of each year, or at the end of each advertising contract, you need to decide what provides the best ROI (return on investment) and ditch what doesn’t perform.
Stay on top of new platforms, investigate local portals focused on your destination and develop your own holiday rental website and social media profiles. Perfecting your self-promotional channels will ultimately provide a better ROI and more credibility for your holiday rental business.
Focus on the audience
We’ve already discussed adapting your holiday rental marketing to attract families during half-term, but you can also target couples looking for a quiet break, retirees looking to get away for the winter, or group activity bookings: golf, hiking, cycling, etc.
Remember: consumers like added value over discounts, so think about offers that will make them feel as they are getting extra:
- Special one month winter stay prices
- 14 days for the price of 10, or 7 from the price of 5
- Long weekend special promotions
- Weekday rates for weekend stays
Maintenance check: fix and replace items
On to the boring stuff. I know, I know… But keeping your holiday home updated, clean and fresh, and with a full inventory, is an essential part of your holiday rental business.
Here are some of the spot checks and updates you need to do after the busy season ends:
- A lick of paint will freshen your place up and make it feel like new
- Buy new bed linen and towels. After a season of lotioned up guests, your sheets and towels will have seen better days
- Give the cupboards a clean to get rid of unwanted breadcrumbs, coffee stains and sugar granules.
- Stock up on complimentary items, such as coffee, tea, soaps, toilet paper and washing up liquid, etc. Make sure your new guests won’t be left short.
- Make a recce of utensils and cutlery: Recently, an owner mentioned to me that when she came to clean up after her last guests of the summer, she had no teaspoons left! You should be keeping check throughout the season, but after the last guest has left, make sure you restock all kitchen utensils and cutlery, ready for new guests, new season!
- Maintenance check: Check all your kitchen appliances function properly, light bulbs don’t need changing, the toilet flushes and there are no dripping taps.
- Bathroom and kitchen fungus: With so much usage during high season, areas such as the bathroom might need a touch up. Make sure all surfaces, tiled floors, showers, etc. are cleaned and free of mildew and if you’re feeling up for it, why not reseal the bath and shower edges, so everything looks sparkling new.
- Wash down your patio and terrace: If you can invest in the rental of a jet washer to bring out the original colour of your patio and get rid of all the dirt in between the tiles, go for it!
Write a list of things you could have done better and action them for next season!
Changeovers, marketing and advertising, guest communication, post-guest surveys, maintenance, and security. Now is the time to evaluate how success your holiday rental business was this year, and what you can do better for the coming season. Need help bringing all this together to create a holiday rental success? Rental Tonic is here to help!