We got THE vacation rental marketing expert, Matt Landau, to answer the 5 most asked questions owners and managers have about vacation rental marketing, namely: “What softwares should I use?“, “What pricing strategy should I have?“, “What websites should I advertise on?“, “How can I get guests in low season?“, “How can I get repeat guests?“. Get ready for quick, to-the-point answers to help you improve your sales now.
We’re in an age that software can help us save time, organize better, and earn more bookings. But because the vacation rental industry is so new and the software landscape so fragmented, most vacation rental hosts — all of whom have different needs and interest levels — tend to piece together their own a hodgepodge of softwares.
If I were to highlight the common denominators of the leaders, they are all utilizing a booking software to organize their reservations (in some cases, this is built into a listing platform), an email marketing software like Mailchimp to send out their monthly newsletters, a website software to build/host/manage their website such as MyVR, and in many cases video email software like jiveSYSTEMS to connect better with guests.
I like to advocate a relative pricing strategy that gives you the right to increase your rates once (and only once) you have earned it. With more and more vacation rentals arriving to the market daily, I always suggest newcomers price their rental slightly below the market average to start.
After a year of successful bookings (and learning the business), you earn the right to increase your rates to market average. As years of successful operation mount and former guests begin to stack up like stripes on a badge, you can fairly and sustainably rise into the upper echelon of pricing in your region. But just remember: it’s all relative and top-shelf pricing is an earned trait.
Because different listing sites are stronger in different regions, I like to recommend advertising on all of them (paid and free, mainstream and niche) when you first begin. Be diligent about tracking the performance of each so that when it comes time to renew, you can determine whether the return on investment was worthwhile (or not). Do this several years in a row and you’ll be left with a lean portfolio of exclusively listing sites that deliver you results. If you don’t feel like being this patient, examine the volume of similar rentals (to yours) on any given site: that’s typically a good litmus test as to whether or not the advertising site will deliver.
Too many hosts try to attract guests in the low season the same way they do in the high season, thinking they’re offering the same product. But in truth, a low season vacation rental typically requires an entirely different pitch.
In the low season, anchor your marketing around events and experiences that emphasize the benefits of affordability and the pleasure of bypassing “the crowds.” If your climate is dramatically different in the low season, don’t forget to switch out your ‘high season’ photos to accurately reflect it…
For instance, don’t depict photos of skiing, fireplaces, and warm cozy living spaces for your Aspen rental in the summertime. Instead, show hiking trails, barbeque festivals, and nice sunset shots from the deck.
You don’t get them. You earn them. Cultivating the relationship of a repeat guest begins the moment they leave after their first stay. In a research study I did with Rachael Plitch from MIT’s Sloan School of Management, 91% of guests said they were open to staying at the same rental next year. To serve this niche, send ‘Thank You‘ notes, include the former guest in your newsletter to stay front of mind, and always offer to discount their future stays or those of their friends. Repeat guests come from wholesome relationship building: there’s no hack or shortcut to earning someone’s trust and business.
@vanessa says: thanks Matt!!