The adage “you have to spend money to make money” does not have to guide a property owner’s marketing efforts for vacation rentals. In fact, the marketing strategy that produces the best results is word-of-mouth recommendations, also called viral marketing.
Want to get people talking about a vacation rental property? It’s easier and less expensive than many people think. Skip the advertisements in the daily newspaper, which are usually costly and are recycled after one reading. Try a few of these low-cost methods:
Include information about the vacation rental in every e-mail
Most e-mail programs are capable of attaching a small amount of information to the end of every e-mail sent, called an e-mail signature. Taking advantage of this simple feature can help reach hundreds of people without spending a dime.
Tip: Keep the information short and simple, such as “Beachfront vacation rental in downtown Miami” followed by a hyperlink or phone number.
Post on Craigslist
Free, simple and effective. Marketers don’t come across opportunities with these qualities very often; when they do, they don’t hesitate. Create a posting on Craigslist (select the city > create posting > housing offered > vacation rental). Consider posting to several major cities within a few hours of the property. In addition, if the vacation rental is in a location that would have widespread appeal, such as Las Vegas, consider posting to major cities nationwide.
Tip: Include photos of interior and exterior of the property so viewers spend time looking at the posting.
Hold an open house
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Invite local residents to see the inside of the rental property. Offer coffee and snacks to attendees so they feel comfortable and relaxed. Try to have a conversation with every person that walks through the door. While a few will seek out the free food and try to leave, many will be excited to tell their friends and in-laws about the property and friendly owners.
Tip: Have something for visitors to take with them, such as a magnet or postcard that contains information about the property.
Stock the visitors’ center with brochures
Place brochures in the visitor’s center and anywhere else visitors are apt to visit during their trip to town. Local restaurants, shops and public areas often have brochure holders specifically to provide useful information to tourists.
Tip: Brochures have six panels, which can be expensive to print and difficult to fill with content. Consider printing rack cards (two-sided 4” x 9” cards). Visit www.printpelican.com for great rates and online templates.
Create a website for the vacation rental
There are inexpensive ways to get a vacation rental online. 1&1 Internet Inc. provides an online tool that allows customers to create their own websites without having to purchase expensive software or spend lengthy amounts of time learning difficult codes. The low monthly price includes everything needed to get a website up and running—domain name, hosting and template pages. Armed with a few pictures, basic content and a credit card, a website can be quickly created in one afternoon. Visit www.1and1.com for more information. Another option is to create a free blog using a blog platform such as WordPress or Blogger.
Tip: For sites with built-in features, such as online booking or availability calendar, visit a professional Web developer or join a vacation home marketing group with an established site.
Advertise with a group
Running advertisements with a group of businesses can provide a better response and cost. Consider linking up with a restaurant and transportation company to create a package deal during non-peak tourism times. Running the advertisement in a local print source during peak tourism periods will encourage visitors to return during slower times of year.
Tip: Contact a local or regional tourism office to discuss additional options.
Using only one of the methods will not work well for a marketing strategy. Try to combine two or three together, selecting both print and Internet methods, to reach as wide an audience as possible.
The experience of vacationing at the property has to be as great as, if not better than, the marketing. Providing first-rate customer service and sending a personalized thank you card to customers are unparalleled means of retaining customers. Happy customers also speak highly of their trip…and where they stayed.
Showcase standout features
If the property itself has a standout feature, showcase it. Properties that lack built-in features need a service or two that stands out from competitors. Teaming up with other business proprietors to offer special discounts, having groceries delivered, or providing special bridal or romantic packages could work well. Include this information with all communications about the property to help develop a reputation for this service or feature.
Finally, in every print and Web source, have the same general information and one place to seek more detailed information. For the basics, include:
- Photo of the outside
- A clear snapshot of the interior
- Property address and general location (five minutes from downtown)
- Reservation information (book two months advance for best rates)
- Contact phone number (and Web site if available)
- Unique feature of service (romantic dinner for two at included)
The key is to excite the reader with pictures and text within a few seconds. Give enough information to pique interest but not so much as to overwhelm the reader.