The vacation rental marketplace is a competitive environment that grows more popular every year.
Search results have become a nightmare. Saturated with an overload of properties to compete with, it's become so easy to get lost in all the noise.
Some properties are professionally managed, others not.
Some are luxury, and some are bargains.
Some look beautiful, and some, well, look like crap.
Some look great but turn out to be completely misleading because the management is lazy and/or absent.
And some even turn out to be fake! Scams posted to lure people into paying for a trip, only to arrive at their destination with the surprise that property doesn't even exist!
All of this to say that travellers have begun to dig a lot deeper when researching vacation rentals. And they now hold owners & managers to much higher standards than they used to.
As a result, vacation rental marketing has become a lot more sophisticated than it was even just a few years ago. - A factor way too many owners tend to overlook.
And despite this HUGE and yet very common misconception, successful vacation rental marketing is a whole lot more than choosing which websites to list on. - So if you're hoping that your calendars are going to start filling up again by finding some new miracle site that's going to replace all those bookings you're loosing, you've got another thing coming!
It’s all relative.
Typically, the amount a business invests into its marketing is directly related to the amount of revenue that it will generate.
i.e. Spend more ⬌ make more ✔ Spend less ⬌ make less…
And your vacation rental business is no different.
So, if you’re not able (or willing) to invest the money it takes, then you need to understand that your chances of achieving long-term success in this industry will unfortunately be slim to none.
Don’t shoot the messenger! We’re only here to help.
Ultimately, the choice is really up to you.
But one thing’s for sure; if you properly implement these 9, very specific tips, not only will your bookings increase, but you'll also be well on your way to creating a self-sustaining & profitable vacation rental business for years to come.
Now, without further ado....
LEVEL 1: ESTABLISHING THE FUNDAMENTALS OF A PROFESSIONAL VACATION RENTAL BUSINESS
One of the biggest shifts we're seeing in the vacation rental industry today is a growing demand for professionally managed vacation rentals.
Research shows that as much as 31% of travellers now prefer to book with professional vacation rental managers, stating word of mouth as a driving factor in exposing the perks of professional hospitality.*
Some of the main perks assumed by travellers are were that professional owners offer better amenities (flat screen TVs, wireless Internet, etc…), better safety and security, and better customer service.
And what this basically means is that 1 out of every 3 travellers that finds your property(ies) will simply move on if you don't give them what their looking for; if don’t fit their standards for professionalism. - Hence the higher standards we were talking about earlier...
So it should as no surprise that establishing yourself as a professional business is now the foundation required for a successful vacation rental marketing plan.
From the first moment the traveller finds your property, to the day they check out, and everything in between. The level of professionalism you demonstrate will be a critical factor in how much you can increase your bookings.
Great vacation rental owners & managers generate more repeat guests, more referrals, and more 5 star reviews. All of which makes closing new business that much easier, and not to mention, more frequent.
And the first step to achieving these types of results is to do what most successful business do; to prioritize on building more value for your customers.
Tip #1. Bookings come easier and more often when value outweighs price.
Ever heard the expression "Great products sell themselves" ?
Well, it's true! At least to some degree anyway...
Obviously everything needs a little push to get it out there, and standing out from the competition is a lot easier said than done.
But the idea comes from the fact that people have a much easier time saying "YES" to a sale when the value outweighs the price.*
And the same applies to your vacation rental property(s);
The more value you can offer potential guests, the easier it will be for you to attract bookings through your marketing efforts.
There are three main ways to build value for your potential guests;
1 ) comfort and interior design,
2) quality of service, and
2) a GREAT guest experience
Building Value Through Upgrading Your Interior Design
Without a good product that people actually want use, you're going to have a really hard time making sales.
And your property IS your product.
So it should go without saying, but if your decor is outdated and in obvious need of an upgrade, you're going to have a hard time attracting bookings. No matter what you do and no matter how hard you try.
You want them to WANT to stay there, not just call you because everything else in the area is booked.
Shoddy patch jobs, unmatched furniture you've got stored in your garage, cheap smelly linens, leftover rag towels, etc... All things you'd probably never want to see in your own home, and should NEVER be part of your rental's decor. And besides, that kind of half-assed attempt is what creates the 1-2 star reviews that'll crush your business even before you get started.
We’re talking updated furniture & electronics, fully stocked kitchens, bathrooms and bedrooms, the works. You want to offer the beautiful & comfortable environment that potential guests can really see themselves enjoying, and then actually loving the comfort during their stay.
New furniture doesn't have to be expensive. You can literally perform miracles with a combination of IKEA, Craigslist, and a little paint. - View some examples here, and here.
Not only will these sort of improvements help make you generate more bookings, but they'll add a lot more value to your property too. - It's win-win.
Building Value Through Great & Transparent Customer Service
An updated interior design might be what helps to attract more new business, but great customer service is what helps close the deal.
One of the biggest differences differences between our industry and the hotel industry, is the genuine personal nature of our business. Which as you know, has both its benefits and its downfalls.
First, travellers know they're renting from real people. And as individuals or small businesses, you do not have the luxury of the instant trust that comes with multi-billion dollar brand recognition.
You're a person. Maybe a small team of people. But chances are, travellers don't know you. And they've probably never heard of you. So unlike the Hilton, or the Ritz Carleton, you have to earn their trust.
And the best way to do so is through transparent and personalized customer service.
Publish your reservation emails, phone numbers, maybe even your rental agreement. Show travellers that you are easily available, accessible, and open to communication. And then demonstrate the personalized touch by actually making yourself available and accessible, with quick responses and returned phone calls.
Second, - and the best part - is that people generally assume the worst when it comes to customer service these days.
So it's pretty easy to make a good impression that will help you stand out and ultimately help confirm more bookings.
Building Value Through Offering A Memorable Guest Experience
The design brings people in. Customer service helps seal the deal. But it’s the quality of your guest experience that sparks referrals, repeat clients, and 5 star reviews.
But making that kind of impact is easier said than done…
For years, the best vacation rental managers have been charming their guests with consistently great guest experiences that even their most loyal clients have come to rely on.
And there’s no reason you can’t do the same.
- Starting with the basics. Quality toiletry/soap kits, dish/cleaning products, towels and linens, etc… All should be replenished, fresh, ALWAYS. And it should go without saying but rooms should be in pristine condition for guest arrival. - The amount of the poor to mediocre 2-3 star reviews based on cleanliness is embarrassingly high and can be easily avoided.
But you've got to go beyond the basics.
Even the simplest of things can go a long way. Things like complementary chocolates upon arrival, quality coffee for the fancy espresso machine, and even orientation/rule guides that help your guest find their way around the home.
- Think personalization. Hand-written thank you notes, welcome guest books to sign their names, greeting phone calls to make sure everything is to their liking, things of that nature…. maybe a welcome gift basket if you’re feeling especially generous?
- Think local. It shouldn’t be too hard to find local activity/restaurants guides with coupons and discounts. Tennis, golf, surfing lessons? etc..
If you can’t find any that come in pre-made packages, see if you can try to make your own by partnering with local businesses that are looking to attract new business. Whatever your guests might be interested in, try to see if you can put together something attractive for them. - Not only will it add value to your guest experience, but it can be an extra source of revenue as well.
- Think long term. There’s always something you can add to your guest experience. Every little bit helps.
- But the real key is striving to give your guests the absolute best experience that you can. Just OK sucks. Be unique. Be GREAT!
The Bottom Line
Understandably, building value by updating your vacation rental might always not be the most affordable thing to accomplish. And going out of your way for great customer service or upgrading your guest experience might not necessarily be the most heartened of tasks.
Just the same, all three are absolutely required if you're looking to maximize the returns from your always yield a positive ROI.
LEVEL 2: THE BASICS OF VACATION RENTAL ADVERTISING
Every marketing strategy needs a solid base. Your vacation rental marketing plan included.
So before you start going wild and investing all your money into marketing projects you aren’t even ready for yet, it's best you cover the basics first.
Everyone knows that when it comes to marketing vacation rentals, the easiest place to start is by advertising on listings sites. The best ones already get sizeable amounts of traffic have proven track records of generating bookings.
But keep in mind; blindly filling out your listings without any sort of goal isn't really the way to go.
Most people reading this probably want to get the absolute most out of their listings. And at this point it's probably safe to assume to same from you?
These following 4 tips are going to help you do just that so that you can focus on getting your vacation rental business to the next level.
Tip #2. Pictures are the fuel that feeds your entire marketing engine
Do you know what the first thing is to catch a traveller's eye when browsing for vacation rentals online?
Well, it's not your headline. It isn't the number of rooms, or how many it sleeps. And it certainly isn't the price either.
It's your pictures.
When people browse for vacation rentals online, their brain gets very, very lazy. They have only one goal, and that's to find the prettiest listing that fits their list of parameters.
So after filtering everything out to find all the listings in their desired area, with the right number of rooms, and within the right price range, etc... They start clicking on the listings that have the nicest looking properties.
Your main picture is the number one, most important factor that drives a traveller to click through to view your entire listing. And then once they've clicked through, they browse the rest of them.
Needless to say, it is imperative that your photos make a heck of a good impression if you want to convert more bookings. And not just for listings, but for all of your marketing campaigns too. (Don't worry, we'll divulge a little more on that further down)
You only get one shot at a good first impression. - So why the heck would you let yourself blow it with pictures don't make any sort of impact?
The Quality of The Pictures is Number One.
High quality (preferably taken by a professional), up to date, and accurate.
Professional photographers will showcase your property so much better. They make better use of the light and colours. They use better angles to show a more attractive & realistic view the space. And last but not least, they're sharp.
Professional pictures show commitment, better value, and yes, professionalism. All of which translates into more bookings for you.
Our friend Matt Landau detailed on his blog, his own personal experience with hiring a pro to take his pictures. And the results were an astronomical 800% increase in bookings.*
800% is really high. So here's another example;
One of the most sought after authorities on vacation rental photography in our industry, Tyann Marcink was able to spark a 39% increase in revenue for one of her clients.
Here are some of the before and after pictures:
So which one do you think would entice more people to book?
Read all about Tyann's client here: The TRUTH about vacation rental photography with Tyann Marcink
Do you notice how the after shot grabs more attention? And not to mention, it just does the room better justice. It's a truly beautiful room, and you honestly can't see that from the before picture.
Hiring a pro can cost as little as a couple hundred bucks. And the return on investment is probably one of the highest, and quickest you’ll ever see in this industry. We cannot emphasize this enough!
But with that said, it's just as important not to misrepresent!
The number one concern for vacation rental travellers is property misrepresentation.*
Some professionals can go overboard and make your property look far better than what is looks like in real life. You don't want to do that. It's a recipe for disaster. Your guest will arrive with high expectations, only to be shut down when they realize: “wow, it looked a heck of a lot better online…”.
That kind of disappointment burns deep. And more often than not, it’ll result in a bad review that will just make bookings harder to come by in the future.
So professional quality, up to date, and super important; accurate.
Number Two is The Number of Pictures You Have.
You need lot’s of them. Our buddies over at FlipKey found that travellers are actually 83% more likely to inquire on listings that have over 20 photos.*
More pictures help the traveller get a better understanding of what your rental has to offer. A better understanding means less questions, less unqualified inquiries, and more confirmed reservations from motivated renters.
The bottom line.
Your property pictures do more than just grab attention. They also give the traveller a more realistic idea of what to expect from your property and what to expect from you as a host (even if it's subtle).
Professional photos give the traveller more information, and establish a precedent of value and credibility.
Sketchy blurry photos taken with your phone or 10 year old digital camera just scare people off.
They're like the fuel you put in your tank. The better the quality, the more efficient and smoother the engine will run.
All in all, photos are not the place you want to be cutting corners.
Need help finding a professional photographer?
RealEstatePhotographers.org is a directory that lists professionals by state, all across the country. And on the off chance that you don't find anyone within your budget, you can always post a gig on Craigslist.org. There are lots of able photography students who would be more than happy to take the job.
Tip #3. Optimize your property headlines and descriptions for maximum conversions
Believe it or not, listing headlines and property descriptions can also make a world of difference in the amount bookings your marketing can convert. - A factor many owners tend underestimate.
Your property title is the second most important aspect of your vacation rental listing. It should strong enough to build interest & emotion, which can also help convince more travellers to click through and view your listing.
Headlines should be:
2. Clear & concise
3. Should only focus on 1 thing that the traveller would believe to be highly desirable (your biggest & most unique selling point)
4. (And most importantly) VERY WELL WRITTEN.
Keep things like the number of rooms or special pricing out of it. That kind of stuff has already been filtered in their search and won't help them find what makes your property a better choice.
A great property headline won't just generate more click throughs to your listing, it will also set a clear and strong precedent that will help your overall booking conversions.
Your property description is your long sales pitch. Your pictures and headline got them on the hook, and now your description should be reeling them in.
A great description will:
- Maximize your property’s true value
- Command the traveller’s attention throughout, and
- Have one specific, and very strong call to action.
When we write vacation rental headlines and descriptions for our clients - or partners as we like to call them - we try to find your property’s core identity. In other words we try find out what makes your property stand out from the rest, and we emphasize it.
For example; most people don’t allow parties in their properties. But what if you do? What if your property is perfect for big get-togethers? You’d be surprised by the number of people out there who are looking for party houses. And not to mention, those types of properties are in short supply…
So embrace what you’ve got, and stay true to what your property offers. By positioning your marketing to play on your property’s core strengths, you’ll soon realize how many travellers are look for exactly what your vacation rental has to offer.
The Devil Is In The Details.
The words you use, the quality, length, etc… It's an art, really.
Optimizing your property listings for maximum booking conversions really isn't a perfect science, which can make it not only very difficult, and also most often extremely time-consuming.
If it isn't for you, it could be a good idea to hire an expert (or experts). They can do all the work for you and help you get the results you’re looking for, without having to having to bang your head against the wall trying to come up with the right words.
Tip #4. Advertise EVERYWHERE.
If you haven’t already noticed, the number of vacation rentals in your area has probably doubled, if not tripled within the past couple of years.
The top listing sites are continuously growing more saturated, less effective, and a lot of them are even increasing their pricing too.
Basically, we’ve never had as many properties fighting for the same visibility as we do today. And truth be told, it’s not going to get any easier.
We’ve got new sites coming in, blowing old sites out of the water. We’ve got old sites, huge sites, buying out our favourite newbies. This industry is the closest thing to the wild wild west right now with every man for themselves.
Trying to find the right site to invest your time and build your listings has become a little like buried treasure. - You’re going to have to dig through a lot of dirt before you strike gold. And most people never even find the big score, but rather pick up a few gems here and there along the way.
The ONLY way to put the odds on your side is to expand your reach, and diversify your marketing channels to hit all corners of the industry.
The more marketing channels (listing sites) you use, the more visibility you’ll have, and the more chances you’ve got to generate bookings.
Most of the people that come to us looking for help have marketing portfolios that consist of VRBO, HomeAway, maybe FlipKey or Airbnb, but that’s about it. Basically two, or maybe three listing sites in their portfolio.
But the interesting thing is the main reason they’re coming to us in the first place is because what they’re doing isn’t enough.
We know that staying on top of all the advertising you already have is hard enough. We also know that adding more sites to the mix is not only extremely time consuming, but that the trial and error can get pretty expensive, pretty quickly too.
Nonetheless, it’s what you have to do if you want to truly succeed in today’s vacation rental industry.
Thinking you might want to leave the task up to someone else?
CLICK HERE to learn more about how our team of vacation rental marketing experts can take the load off your shoulders.
Tip #5. Advertise a phone number when possible
Did you know that almost 60% of online searches related to travel and hospitality result in a phone call?*
Advertising a phone number where potential guests can reach you is a very important customer service factor that many owners seem to ignore.
It goes back to tip #1; Great customer service builds value.
Not everybody wants to wait or go back and forth by email. A lot of people still like to hop on the phone, first thing, and put a voice to the person that’s going to be accepting their money. - 60% of them, actually.
Don’t make the mistake of alienating all those travellers just because your phone shy or hate getting bombarded with sales calls. - Yes, we know it’s a factor...
But there's a quick solution to that problem that will not only help you categorize good calls and filter out unwanted ones, but is actually also proven to increase overall bookings by as much as 18%*.
The solution? A toll free phone number forwarding service.
Most vacation rental owners and manager are small business operators. And full fledged phone systems can be expensive. But toll free forwarding services can give you all the same features - recorded welcome greetings with unlimited extensions included and music on hold, etc... - but for a fraction of the price and the ability to forward calls to any phone you want (even your mobile phone).
A toll free number will help to give your small vacation rental business the credibility and professional image travellers are looking for.
PLUS, you can even configure to tell you what type of call is coming in. Allowing you to save time and focus on what really matters; accepting calls to close bookings & service your guests.
Keep in mind, advertising a phone number, toll free or not, probably won’t change the course of your business overnight. But let’s face it; every little bit helps.
We actually use a toll-free forwarding service called GRASSHOPPER. It allows us to answer calls onthe go, work remotely when necessary, and the calls are clear. It's really affordable, and they have super helpful, 24/7 customer service that we should all strive to emulate. And not to be pushy, but if it's something you're thinking of giving a try, these guys are defintely worth a look.
Tip #6. Don’t be afraid to accept online bookings
Online booking acceptance is rapidly becoming the norm across the industry, with most new listing sites not even offering any other way for transactions to occur.
It might not be what you’re most comfortable with. But it is what the traveller wants.
In fact, a study performed by HomeAway found that 92% of vacation rental travellers want the option to book online.* Which comes as no surprise that they’re pushing online booking as the new standard for their members.*
Simply put, travellers like the convenience of instantly confirming bookings and the protection that comes with it. And to deny it to them this capability, is to deny bookings. Probably not in your best interest…
So don't be afraid to accept online bookings, and don't be afraid to list with sites that force you to do so exclusively. Pretty soon, it won't even be an option.
LEVEL 3: GOING BEYOND LISTING SITES
In what world would YOU ever send $1,500 of your hard earned money, to a business that’s "supposedly" located halfway across the country (or world for that matter), but you've really never heard of them before until now, and you can’t find them anywhere else besides the listing site you just found them on?
Our guess is that world probably doesn't exist.
And yet, we still see so many vacation rental owners expecting travellers to do just that... but then wonder why they’re having a hard time getting more bookings?
You'd probably do a ton of research before making your decision on whether or not to even call them. Maybe you'd send them an email, just to make initial contact. But in the meantime you'd Google their business, check out their competition, etc... And only if, IF you found enough signs to convince you that it's the best decision to take, would you then give them a call.
And that mentality is the same one people have when they're looking to book a vacation rental.
In fact, vacation rental marketing guru, Matt Landau, performed a survey that showed over 70% of people will independently research the property and property owner outside of the listing environment, even before they decide to make contact.*
It's because - like we mentioned in tip #1 - vacation rentals are owned and operated by individuals, not multinational corporations that everybody recognizes like Marriot or the Holiday Inn. It's a lot easier for them to gain a traveller's trust that it is for you.
And that level of trust is exactly what you need to maximize your occupancy rates and take your vacation rental business to the next level.
So how do you earn that level of trust and put the 70% odds on your side?
By building a brand.
The truth is, we know how intimidating it can be when you're not exactly sure what it is that you need. Especially considering how limited most budgets are for people just starting out in this industry.
But neither of those reasons make establishing your own professional brand any less important.
Owners who support their advertisement listings with an actual brand and independent online presence (which means things like a professional website, active social media profiles, local directory listings, SEO, PR, etc…), have occupancy rates as much as 40% higher than those who only use listing sites.*
So if you've already fully implemented the first 6 tips laid out in this article, then it's time you move beyond listing sites because there's still a lot of room to grow.
Here's how to get it done the right way;
Tip #7. Build a professional website
NOTE: It’s not just any web design that’s going to make an impact significant enough to get the results you want.
HubSpot, a leading authority in online marketing, found that 94% of people cite poor design as a reason for not trusting a website.*
And even then, looking pretty is just one of the factors that makes a good vacation rental website design.
A very important factor, sure. But a “nice” web design and logo doesn’t necessarily mean mean that it will be any good at converting visitors into inquiries and confirmed bookings, and it doesn’t mean that it will have an easy time being found by travellers either.
And you are looking to convert more bookings after all, aren’t you?
Realistically, your vacation rental website should be built and designed in a way that it will do a lot of the work for you.
And if done right, not only will your site make the impact needed to build trust and keep people engaged, but it should also make acquiring traffic easy and actually be able to convert that traffic into inquiries and/or bookings.
All of which are very difficult to find in a template, template hosting service, or that cheap site you can get done for 250 bucks…
But the point is building a strong brand is more than just a professional website and logo. And having a website, just to say you’ve got one won’t do you any good.
Your website shouldn’t be just a simple fixed cost. It’s an investment, with a REAL purpose of increasing your bookings and adding value to your vacation rental business as a whole. And only a premium quality design can do that for you.
As we said in the beginning; it’s all relative. The better quality design might take more investment, but you’re also going to get a lot more out of it in return.
Tip #8. Climb Google’s search results to get qualified independent traffic with local SEO and citation marketing
While a large number of travellers will flock directly to their favorite website to search for vacation rentals (HomeAway, Airbnb, etc…), a significant amount will perform searches in Google.
Meaning, they’ll type some variation of “vacation rentals in …” in Google’s search bar and start their search that way.
Wouldn’t you like your website to be one of the first results they see?
Search engine optimization (SEO) does just that.
It helps your vacation rental business - well, your website actually - climb up the ranks in search results so that you can get more independent visibility and traffic.
And not only is it a great way to diversify your visibility, it’s also probably the most profitable place to invest your marketing dollars - besides professional pictures.
That’s right, “profitable”. Meaning more bang for your buck.
Let us explain;
See when you invest in SEO, it's like you're investing in a sort of search engine real estate. – Kind of like setting up a brick and mortar shop in a high traffic location on main street.
It’s all about location.
The higher you rank, the better your “location”. The better your location, the more traffic/visibility you will get, and the less you have to spend on trying to get people in the door.
The best part?
There’s so much more organic traffic than paid traffic, it’s cheaper than any other kind of traffic, and it's easier to convert into bookings!
So instead of paying search engines high PPC rates for every click (usually about $5-$10+ per click), or high listing fees for each one of your properties (we’re guessing somewhere about $1000+ per year per property), you're actually investing into your business as a whole by gaining a larger, more consistent stream of highly qualified traffic to your entire website. Traffic that not only converts better, but also costs a fraction of what you're spending to get using other channels.
Oh, and it’s commission free!
Tip #9. Strengthen your brand and online presence with social media
A lot of people claim that social media is the ultimate marketing machine that can make your business to go viral and become an overnight success. Don’t believe the hype.
Yes, it’s true. That sort of thing does happen to people in the music business, or the movie business, or the people in the funny blogosphere. But every industry is different. And for those of us in the vacation rental industry, that sort of thing just doesn’t happen.
But what social media CAN do for your vacation rental business is;
1) facilitate promotion and create more visibility, and
2) strengthen your brand.
Both of which can help increase your bookings.
And that all depends on the right strategy.
But if you don’t know what you’re doing, social media marketing can very quickly become a MASSIVE waste your time. There’s a fine line that just shouldn’t be crossed. So we put together a detailed strategy guide to give you the step-by-step plan that will help you get the most out of social media with little effort.
Since you’re already here, here are the cliff notes:
1) Facilitate promotion by giving your site’s visitors the ability to easily share your business and properties with their friends. For example, take a look at our sidebar on the left. Or if you’re on a mobile device, take a look at the bottom of your screen. All you have to do is click on one of the icons and you’ll be sharing this article with your friends. - It’s that simple.
Not only do social media shares have decent SEO benefit (helps your site rank better in Google), they can generate sizeable visibly to all of the person’s friends or followers.
You’re probably not going to go “viral” or anything. But when its optimized, it’s easy promotion that works for you, so you don’t have to.
2) Strengthen your brand by creating social media accounts that you’ll actively use for their individual intended purposes.
Every social media site has its own strengths & weaknesses. And neither of them should be used for the same reasons, or as often.
Google +, Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter. These are the big four in our industry. And maybe LinkedIn. But anything else is a most likely going to be a huge waste of your time.
With the right strategy, they will strengthen your brand and solidify your credibility for those that find your social media pages.
The Bottom Line
Together, both strategies build links that give your website more authority in Google, and help to control your brand image on the first page when someone does a direct search for your company name. Ultimately, driving more of that first page traffic right back to your site.
Tip #10. Establish professional payment acceptance procedures to increase your revenue by as much as 30%
When was the last time anyone paid for a hotel room or a plane ticket with a check?
It just doesn't happen. Not anymore.
Credit cards are the safest and most commonly used form of payment when it comes to booking vacation accommodations. - And have been for quite some time now.
Actually, one of the biggest reasons that almost a third of vacation rental travellers prefer to book with professional managers is because they feel more comfortable with a real and professional booking/payment process. Which tends to be safer, more convenient, and more familiar.*
Can you really blame them?
Start Accepting Credit Cards
Credit card payments are instant. The transaction is protected. And not to mention, travellers can earn rewards and pay off the price of their trip whenever is most convenient for them.
So it should come as no surprise that most vacation rental travellers will completely disregard any property whose owner or manager doesn't accept credit cards.
Even once you start accepting credit cards, there are still going to be some people who are reluctant to give you their private payment information. It's completely normal and should absolutely NOT deter you from accepting them.
In the grand scheme of things, it's really just a minor inconvenience with a really simple fix;
Getting travellers to pay you directly is probably the most common obstacle owners have, even once you've established a solid online presence.
Actually, it’s a really common hurdle for most small businesses, not just vacation rental managers.
But using a professional e-invoicing solution will help to solve that problem pretty quickly.
Sending an e-invoice allows your guest to securely enter their own credit card information and pay without sharing it with you. The best services allow you to customize and brand your invoices, track whether or not the person received them, make reports for your accounting, and even attach documents (like your full rental agreement for example).
E-invoices make the payment process simple, transparent and easy. - Which is exactly what your guest is looking for.
We use FRESHBOOKS to send our e-invoices because they’re super easy to use, you can connect to your favorite payment gateway and start accepting credit cards with the click of a button, and their customer service is almost unmatchable.
Another great tools is RightSignature, which allows you to send full rental agreements in order to get secure & legally binding e-signatures from your guests without going back and forth by fax.
The Bottom Line
Once you've established your independent presence, you need to start accepting credit cards and set up professional payment acceptance procedures.
Not just because it's common sense, but because it's also proven to increase the average business’ revenue as much as 30%.* - A portion of your business you probably don't want to be missing out on.
Looking for credit card processing and e-invoing solutions?
CLICK HERE to learn more about how we can help you start accepting credit cards for your vacation rental business.
And last, but not least...
BONUS Tip #11. Time is money.
Ever heard of the age old concept that "time is money"?
Well, it's true. And it's important not to waste it.
Too often we forget that managing a successful business means taking a more strategic approach; prioritizing, delegating, and staying focused on the big picture.
Your vacation rental business is no different.
Let’s say you own & manage 5 properties, renting out at an average of $250 per night booked, and netting 5k per month in revenue.
How many hours per month are you ACTUALLY working on;
1) focusing on building value, upgrading your interior design
2) managing/optimizing your advertisement listings
3) following up on inquiries / confirming reservations
4) creating the best guest experience possible
5) researching & implementing new strategies or tools to improve how you manage your business
6) researching & implementing new strategies or tools to improve how you market your properties
7) expanding/finding new ways generate more revenue?
The Point Is;
Every single one of these tasks will help you make more money and grow your business. - But do you really have time to do it all, all the time?
It's probably safe to assume that no, you don't.
And to think, we didn't even mention all the other things, like accounting and dealing with contractors!
So the next time you think of taking on a new project, ask yourself;
- What is your ultimate goal for the project?
- How quickly can you realistically achieve that goal?
- What are you best at?
- What are you not so great at?
- Where is it most important - and most logical - for you to be focusing your time & energy to achieve said goal?
- Are you even the right person for the job?
- If not, what should you delegate to someone else in order to achieve said goal?
KEEP IN MIND:
Not everyone is good at marketing, building websites, promotion, etc...
Very few people should handle renovations, plumbing, electricity, etc...
Not everyone has the right eye for interior design or staging a property.
Not very many people like cleaning or restocking bathrooms and kitchens.
And not everyone is organized enough or has the patience to stay on top of all the admin work required for this type of business.
And that's OK!
Whatever your answer is, it shouldn't stop you from getting what you need done in order to keep moving ahead.
But if you’re honest with yourself, and properly evaluate the benefits of the project, without underestimating the time necessary to complete it, you’ll be able to see exactly how much it will end up costing do the work yourself vs. delegating or contracting it out vs. not doing it at all. - Keyword here being “honest”.
Just don't waste time trying to do something you shouldn't be doing.
The amount of horror stories we’ve heard from owners who completely sabotaged themselves by undertaking projects they shouldn't have is ASTOUNDING.
Horror stories like owners spending literally months of their time, trying to learn how to build websites, using inflexible templates, and it just ends up looking unfinished and amateurish.
Another one we get often is when owners who spend full days, weekends even, literally pissing away family time because they're uploading photos, playing around titles, descriptions or promotions on all the different websites they’re listed on, until they realize they probably aren’t the best person to be doing that sort of thing in the first place.
NOW, these sort of things don't tend to be the kind that will kill your business. But they'll definitely put a fork in your spokes, slow you down and make you miss out on some serious cash you could have been making otherwise.
Hence, time is money.
A logic you MUST apply to all aspects of your vacation rental marketing plan as well to your business as a whole.
Whatever the project may be, evaluate it thoroughly, prioritize your energy on what you’re actually good at, and delegate the rest.
Just make sure you choose the right people for the job. Professionals that are going to get the job done right, the first time, so that you don’t end up wasting any more time or money. Or you might just end up sabotaging yourself like the people in the stories we just described.
A great vacation rental marketing plan requires a lot of time and energy. It’s basically a full time job.
Realistically, if you were to start implementing all of these tips tomorrow, even the ones with no definitive measurability, how much of an impact do you think you'd see on your bookings?
Make the right decisions, choose the right companies to work with, and make sure to place your effort in the right places.
You'll be surprised at how profitable and fun your vacation rental business can be.
One of our sales people received a call this week from a homeowner in Hawaii; let’s call her Lucy. Lucy was reaching out to us because she owns two condos in Hawaii. After successfully self-managing the two homes for 8 and 10 years respectively, Lucy started to notice change.
Since the changes recently implemented on the big rental sites, I am just not seeing the bookings I used to get. I thought I might be to do better with you."
This is not the first time we have written on the subject, and this is not the first time homeowners have come to rented.com with similar complaints and concerns. Recently, we looked at “what consolidation of companies in the vacation rental industry means for homeowners,” and our readers were vocal in response to our prediction of increased and additional fees (e.g., traveler fees) and instant, online bookings from booking sites like VRBO and Airbnb (Ed. Note: Thank you for being so vocal with your responses! We always love hearing what you have to say!).
In addition to telling their stories on our blog, homeowners are voicing their concerns all over the the internet. A New York homeowner named Maura Paler recently shared her story:
As a self-employed reservation agent for vacation rental properties, Marua has been using online listing sites (OTAs) like VRBO for over 13 years. Of the recent changes, she said, “I do feel taken hostage by the new algorithms, [and I’m] not at all happy...despite being one of their oldest customers.”
Regardless of whether or not one is “for” or “against” these shifts in the industry, it’s clear that major changes are coming to the vacation rental industry… but what are they? And what can homeowners do?
VRBO Instant Bookings
What is instant/online booking?
HomeAway states that “online booking allows a traveler to submit a reservation request by clicking a button on your listing with a commitment to pay. It’s a free feature that you can control through your dashboard that streamlines the booking process for you and your traveler.”
This feature is meant to help homeowners and managers get bookings faster while giving travelers a more instant way of booking travelers.
After a request for an online booking is submitted, property managers and homeowners have 24 hours to accept the reservation before it is automatically declined. In that period, HomeAway and VRBO encourages you to speak to and vet the traveler.
HomeAway also isn’t the only listing site that’s emphasizing conversion and more instant bookings on its platform:
Why are instant bookings and online bookings coming to vacation rentals?
Booking a stay in a vacation rental today is not easy. With guests reaching out to 10 properties and taking 6 days to book one, the process today is not streamlined or efficient for any of the parties involved.
92% of customers prefer being able to book online instantly, and HomeAway is responding to that. Half of properties on HomeAway today are online bookable today, and HomeAway’s goal is to have 100% of listing be online bookable by the end of 2016. Mike Janes, CMO of Vacatia, said:
Half of HomeAway's business is not instant-booking. Expedia will change that immediately. This also will increase consumer acceptance of vacation rentals even more.
Skift likewise reported that “Vacation rental owners who transact their rentals offline can get away without charging guests a booking fee, but HomeAway is threatening to boot properties that are not online bookable by the end of next year.”
Best Match & Optimizing Your VRBO Listing
Why is my listing no longer showing up on VRBO?
To increase conversion, HomeAway has changed the way search results function from static to dynamic results in what it calls “best match.” This is a major departure from past practices.
Listings are sorted primarily using the owner’s subscription level. They are then sorted within subscription levels based on “best match” and listing quality. With five levels of subscriptions, only homes belonging to the “Platinum” subscription level will be appearing first.
How do I improve my VRBO ranking?
The primary factor that will determine your ranking will be subscription level. Pay more, receive more inquiries.
To influence your ranking within your subscription level, optimize your listing and try to get the highest listing quality.
To get a better listing, do the following:
1. Make your listing online bookable.
With 92% of guests preferring to online book, they’re significantly more likely to inquire should you have that option available.
2. Respond within 24 hours, and improve your current response time.
Tripadvisor found that those owners responding within 6 hours had double the chances of booking.
3. Get at least twelve 5-star reviews from your guests, and avoid getting bad reviews.
Paula at Afford Anything had a great tip for avoiding negative feedback in your reviews: Give your guests a comment book, and let them voice their suggestions and complaints there rather than in your Airbnb or VRBO public reviews.
4. Provide at least 24 photos of your property, and use a professional photographer!
Professional photography greatly increases the chances of an inquiry. Photographer Tyann Marcink recently wrote a post on how to increase bookings through photography and has helped clients see upwards of 39% more in additional bookings and revenue through professional photography!
5. Use a professional copywriter!
Guest Hook recommends these five tips:
What are my other options?
If so many owners, many of whom have been loyal customers of the sites in question for years if not decades are unhappy with the changes, why are these companies moving forward anyway? The answer comes down to who these companies see as their ultimate customers. Think about it, for every owner or manager, there are hundreds, if not thousands of renters hitting the sites daily. Given that is where the volume of the customers come from, whom do you think they will design their product for? That’s right, the guest; the same guest who may be coming to the site for the first time, rather than the owner who has been listing on the site for 5 or more years. And in designing for these guests, what are they designing? They are designing for exactly what travelers and guests say they want: instantly bookable properties just like they are used to when booking hotels.
As we've said before, homeowners will be forced to face many decisions in 2016. Would you sacrifice the guest volume that comes with using the major platforms to maintain listing site independence? Will you continue using the big listing sites? Or will you pass off the work to a property manager?
Are you looking for someone to manage your vacation rental?
Victory Beach Vacation Rental Management is a company known for the superior management of vacation rentals in the Carolina Beach and Kure Beach area. When using Victory Beach Vacations as your vacation rental management company, you will benefit from large gross and net income numbers from your property! Your property will be professionally marketed and reach a massive audience of potential renters.
Victory Beach Vacations shows up on the first page of Google for almost all searches and uses third party sites like VRBO.com, vacationrentals.com, and a1vacations.com to attract potential customers. Victory Beach Vacations has an enormous following of nearly 7,000 followers on Facebook and nearly 1,300 followers on Google+. Leave your vacation rental in the pro's hands and reap the rewards of having your rental taken care of and rented out consistently!
Carolina Beach, NC is located 14 miles SE of Wilmington, North Carolina (center to center). The town is part of New Hanover County. The population of Carolina Beach is 5,883. The beach is quiet and peaceful and not crowded... yet! During your stay in Carolina Beach, you can visit the Carolina Beach State Park and stay in one of the many vacation rentals or hotels on the Island. You can also enjoy fishing and boating in the Ocean or at the North End. If you are searching for nightlife - you won't be disappointed! Just to name a few, The Fat Pelican, High Tide Lounge, and The Lazy Pirate are sure to keep you entertained! The town also has several houses of worship including the First Baptist Church of CB, CB Presbyterian Church. Seaside Chapel, and St. Paul's United Methodist Church. From fresh seafood to a burger at the Ocean Grille and Tiki Bar, you are sure to enjoy your time at Carolina Beach!
Kure Beach, North Carolina
Kure Beach, NC is located only 3 miles south of Carolina Beach, North Carolina (center to center), basically merging together. The town is part of New Hanover County. The population of Kure Beach is 2,063. Kure Beach is sometimes referred to as a "sleepy beach town" that is growing in popularity and price! While there is a permanent population of approximately 1,500 residents, the town still functions like any normal town with municipal services and fire protection. The town features a few restaurants, but no commercial entertainment... it's the perfect place to get-away ... or stay if you love the slow pace of life! Kure Beach doesn't have the option to expand as it is completely surrounded with the Fort Fisher State Recreation Area and Historic Site, US Government owns the west side, Carolina Beach borders the north, and of course the beautiful Atlantic Ocean forms the east border.