When you own a vacation rental, whether it’s a cabin, condo, or house, it can be a good source of revenue. This is especially true if your property has a great view or is close to in-demand and popular tourist attractions.
You can manage to pay the expenses of the property and its management, and if you market it properly and keep it booked, you might turn a profit as well.
If you don’t have a mortgage or any associated expenses, all of your booking revenue may end up being your profit.
There’s a lot of competition in the vacation rental marketplace, though. In order to increase bookings and revenue, you have to be savvy with how you market the property, and the following are some of the critical things to keep in mind.
Building a Marketing Plan
When you’re going to rent out a vacation property, it’s a business in and of itself, and you have to think of it that way and approach it as such.
With that in mind, one of the first things you should do is create a marketing plan to go along with a larger business plan.
You’ll start to identify the ways you’re going to utilize different forms of marketing, likely with a focus on digital marketing. You can have metrics that will show your success or where you need to make changes and methods for tracking your return on investment.
As you begin planning your marketing, you want to have an idea of who your ideal guests are. You’re not going to be the right property for everyone. Don’t waste time or money trying to be.
Define your targeted audience and focus on them.
Maybe your rental is great for multigenerational travel, or perhaps it’s very kid-friendly. Having a pet-friendly rental can make up a big chunk of your income too.
When you know who you’re targeting as a renter, it can help guide everything else you do in your marketing. For example, if you’re targeting families with young kids, you can mention the in-house and nearby amenities and attractions most likely to appeal to them.
Decide on Distribution Platforms
Once you have a general marketing plan and business plan for your rental, you’ll start to assess which listing sites and online travel agencies you’re going to focus on.
You can’t be everywhere, so you want to make sure that you’re choosing distribution sites that are going to be where your target renters are most likely to find you.
When you’re choosing distribution sites or booking platforms, you want to think about logistics, such as what their software requirements are and whether or not you’ll need to use a property management software system. You have to consider whether travelers who are in your market are going to use the website to find properties and how the distribution platform deals with cancellation rules and policies.
The merchant of record is who handles the money between a guest and you as an owner or manager.
Don’t focus exclusively on bigger platforms like Airbnb and Vrbo. There are also emerging platforms and smaller niche sites that you might find valuable.
If you choose boutique or niche distribution channels, you might be able to home in on people who are looking for features and amenities that are specific to your property.
For example, maybe you want to attract renters who are looking for pet-friendly or waterfront accommodations.
Descriptions and Photography
By this point, if you’ve followed the steps above, you should be ready to start thinking about putting your marketing plans into action, beginning with descriptions and photography.
The last thing you want to do is over-or under-promise. You want your description and photos to be appealing and compelling, but you don’t want to create expectations that aren’t realistic. At the same time, you don’t want to go so far in the direction of being realistic that you’re underselling what you have to offer.
You want beautiful photography that’s well-done, but you also want your pictures to be an accurate representation of the property.
Hiring a photographer who’s experienced in real estate can be one of the best investments you make as far as your marketing and rental business. A professional real estate photographer will understand how to use space, angles, lighting, and small details. You don’t want good photos—you need them to be great.
You might also consider hiring a professional to write your property description, or at least have someone edit it once you write it.
The description of your property is what’s going to drive people to book it, but it’s also how it’s going to be found and show up in searches.
Include keywords you think will drive traffic to your listing or website.
This is a good time to talk about search engine optimization or SEO. SEO involves how people are going to find your property when they’re searching on Google or booking sites.
If you rank well, it’s going to make a big difference in terms of how many people are able to find you and, in turn, your revenue.
You should have a separate website for your property, in addition to your listings on distribution channels.
Your site, when it’s well-optimized, will have relevant content using targeted keywords.
You need an online hub that’s going to tie together your marketing, even outside of your listings on other websites.
Once you have the website, you can continue to optimize it for search engines by blogging.
You can create blog posts with localized keywords, in addition to keywords that relate directly to your rental. You’re going to then end up driving traffic from people who might not have ever considered your property until they came across your website.
Expand Your Presence with Social Media
Social media is going to be another key component of marketing a vacation rental.
Instagram and Facebook, in particular, are two platforms that you should use to expand your messaging.
Instagram is especially good because it’s image-based and can be inspiring for travelers or would-be travelers.
On Instagram, you can showcase your property in detail, but also local attractions and things to do.
When you’re using social media for marketing, it’s not just about posting your own photos and content. You want to have a two-way conversation with people there. You are marketing not just a rental home but an experience. Social media allows you to convey an immersive, engaging experience.
Consider Paid Online Advertising
Depending on your goals, other facets of your marketing plan, and your budget, you might want to pay for advertising.
You can use paid advertising on search engines like Google and also on social media.
Big rental companies like Vacasa will often spend millions a year advertising their vacation rentals, and they target their ads very specifically.
Work with Local Businesses
A lot of what we’ve talked about so far when it comes to marketing a vacation property is digital. There are more traditional, in-person things you can do too.
For example, work with local businesses to cross-promote.
Maybe you go to popular restaurants and talk to them about offering a discount to your renters or having an event together.
The more you can get involved in the local community, the more likely it is that renters are going to be able to find you online too.
That’s because other businesses will be amplifying your rental on their own social media and website.
You want people to feel like they know what they can expect from your rental, even if they’ve never stayed there before. A lot of making this happen will depend on your credibility, and a key way to build credibility is to have plenty of guest reviews in different locations.
Proactively encourage your guests to leave reviews not only on vacation booking sites they used but other places as well, like on your social media.
When you have a lot of great reviews, it’s going to help you stand out.
You can also encourage guests to not only leave you reviews but share experiences. For example, maybe you create an Instagram hashtag for your property and then leave a note for renters to share their stories and videos with the hashtag.
Word-of-mouth marketing is powerful in any business, and this certainly includes when you’re renting out a vacation property.
Finally, stay in touch with your past clients. Collect email addresses, and with their permission, send out regular newsletters and updates. It’s cheaper and easier to keep your current renters compared to finding new ones, so don’t forget about their value.
You want to build your hospitality business and marketing approach with your renters central to everything you do. You can offer discounts and special offers to your previous renters to give them a nudge toward coming again.
The more you can build a relationship, the more word of your rental and service will spread, and you’re going to start to see a lot of momentum as far as your number of rentals.
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