Short term rental marketing can sometimes feel you’re taking a stab in the dark. With more than 6 million active listings on Airbnb, not to mention other popular listing sites such as Vrbo and Booking.com, it’s tricky to make your holiday rental property stand out from the crowd.
Luckily, Kate, Touch Stay’s CMO, recently joined other pros at the Short Stay Summit to chat about short term rental marketing. Led by Damian Sheridan, Kate discussed practical vacation rental marketing ideas alongside:
- Mark Simpson – Founder of Boostly
- James Cassidy – Senior Director of Partner Success Vacation Rentals at Expedia
- Mieke van den Nouland – Global Commercial Excellence Manager at Booking.com
So, if you’re a short term rental host interested in enticing more eyes to your property, and converting those eyes into bookings, read on!
Why it’s important to market your holiday rental property
Why is it worth investing time and money into marketing your vacation rental property? Can’t you just create a listing on Airbnb and let them do the work for you?
Well, in theory you could do this. But you’re potentially competing with thousands of other listings in your area. If you’re not doing anything to convince travellers that they should book with you, you’re likely to lose out to other properties.
This doesn’t just mean pumping money into an email marketing software, or developing an intricate social media strategy (although both of these are certainly handy!). Kate and her fellow panellists discussed some simple strategies you can implement to help you see:
- increased revenues
- more direct bookings
- a stronger brand presence
READ: How hosts can ace the holiday let marketing game
1. Know how your guests are behaving right now
Keeping up to date with what travellers want and how they’re behaving is crucial. You need to understand your audience in order to effectively communicate with them. Panellists discussed how vacation rental marketing has changed as a result of the Covid pandemic. Each one of them had their own take:
Mark identified needier guests who ask more questions. Hosts now have to ensure that their listing and communications detail practical property info, plus information about the local area.
You need to become the local brand ambassador for your area
James has noticed a significant jump in domestic travel – no surprise given the raft of travel restrictions we’ve experienced – and people booking earlier for peak holiday season. In October 2021, Booking.com was seeing record numbers of bookings for summer 2022. It’s important to keep track of how far ahead guests are booking so that you can tailor your communications to their timeline.
Mieke has noticed the growing influence of Gen Z – those travellers born between 1997 and 2012. These travellers want to be inspired, and they generally find this inspiration through social media platforms.
Kate noted hosts’ growing independence from online travel agencies (OTAs) such as Airbnb and Booking.com. Short term let owners have had time and opportunities to test their own marketing strategies, and are now driving more travellers towards their direct booking sites.
2. Balance efficiency with the human touch
Your marketing communications need to feel like they come from you. But this doesn’t mean you have to write every message from scratch.
Kate recommended setting up your own guest communication flow (Tyann, Touch Stay’s Queen of Guest Experience, has a flow that includes fourteen separate steps!). Planning out when and how you’re going to communicate with each guest allows you to provide a consistent experience every time. Message templates allow you to craft communications quickly and efficiently, whilst retaining your brand voice and leaving room for details personal to each guest.
Other panellists had a similar message: it’s all about productive communication. Mieke recommended that you look at your data to understand when and why people are getting in touch. For example, James observed that the most common reason guests contact their Booking.com hosts is to ask about access information. If you can serve this info to your guests before they ask, you’ll be in their good books before they even pack their bags.
Mark emphasised the importance of using your online presence to encourage prospective guests to get in touch. For example, a live chat box on your website gives them the chance to immediately ask about anything that’s unclear – and you can use your answer to persuade them to book.
Discover balanced communications with a digital guest welcome book
We designed the Touch Stay digital guidebook with you and your guests in mind. By depositing all of your practical and inspirational information in one hub, you empower your guests to have an exceptional stay, and reduce the number of repetitive questions you field each day.
Give guests a truly personal experience by telling them about:
- your favourite local coffee spot
- the best bakery for grabbing a morning pastry
- the secret parking spot that only locals know about
- how they can pre-order groceries to be delivered before they arrive
- what they should consider packing
With Memo – our guest notification system – you can schedule emails and SMS to share your guidebook with guests throughout every stage of their visit. Create warm, personal communications with customisable message templates, and allow your personality to shine.
3. Let your guests do the work for you
If you can provide an exceptional guest experience, your guests will do your marketing for you. They’ll come back for their next holiday, and they’ll encourage all their family and friends to pay you a visit. They might just need a little nudge…
Mieke emphasised the importance of actively encouraging guests to leave a review. With all the business of packing, travelling, and arriving home, it might slip their mind. That’s why we’ve created two separate message templates in Memo which include requests for reviews. We recommend scheduling one to send the day guests leave, and one for a couple of days later.
Mark suggested sending a simple message that asks guests, “Do you know anyone..?”. Prompt them to start spreading the word to friends and family, and get those word-of-mouth referrals flowing.
Kate recommended getting guests involved in your social media journey. Use the interactive features of Instagram stories, such as polls and reactions, to make people feel as though they’re part of your community. Encouraging guests to invest in your brand makes it more likely that they’ll openly advocate for you to other people.
READ: 101 social media marketing ideas to help you promote your vacation rental business
4. Find your short term rental niche
One audience member was concerned about the short term rental market becoming saturated. Mark highlighted that no matter how many holiday rental properties are operating in your area, if you can find your niche and provide a unique offering, you’ll always attract guests.
If your rental property is perched high up in the mountains, your niche could build on your stunning location. If you’re located in the centre of London, your niche could relate to the depth and care you put into your local recommendations. Think of the key thing that you really love about your property, and build out from there.
Bury yourself so far down in a niche, there’s no room for anyone else
Kate highlighted the importance of playing in your niche. Don’t just find your unique selling point and hunker down, keep experimenting with what you can provide, and how you communicate. Use your social media to tell and re-tell your brand story, making sure that even new followers are up-to-date on what you stand for.
5. Develop a flexible vacation rental marketing strategy
Kate’s top tip when it comes to your marketing budget is to recognise that your spend will change as your business grows. You’ll spend different amounts of money, and you’ll spend it on different things. One short term rental marketing strategy might work perfectly for you now, but be ready to evolve it as you need to.
Hint: view your OTA fees and commissions as part of your marketing budget – use them to get more eyes on your property, and then send guests to your direct booking site.
Add a digital guest book to your holiday rental marketing toolkit
When it comes down to it, marketing is all about communication. It’s how you communicate your property in the right way, to the right group of people, so that they’re persuaded to book with you.
A digital guidebook allows you to communicate your offering in far more detail than a booking site listing. With all the details guests could possibly need – from appliance instructions and driving directions, to your recommendations for the best local food spots – it’s the perfect resource for converting potential visitors.
For example, if a guest enquires but doesn’t book, you can follow up with a link to your digital guidebook. Written in your voice, complete with your logo, pictures, and videos, it’s an effective means of tipping guests into booking a stay. Read about how Bob Garner, owner of Casal Dei Fichi, uses his guidebook to do just that.
So, if you’re looking to start raking in more direct bookings, why not give us a try?