Are you serious about getting more bookings in 2017? Then check out our ginormous list of proven ideas for how you can supercharge your vacation rental marketing efforts this year.
Think of your marketing goals like a destination you want to get to. If you don’t have good directions, you run a higher chance of getting lost and never reaching your destination. At the very least, it will take you longer to get there. The same goes for marketing. Without a plan, you’re going to have a much harder time meeting your goals (including one of your biggest goals, getting more bookings).
- Have a plan! – Having a marketing plan will keep your efforts focused and strategic. Not sure where to start? You can gain a lot of insights from this blog post. But, if you’re looking for something more specific, check out our sample marketing plan for vacation rental managers.
Branding is the primary way you tell your story and explain why people should do business with you. In this section, we talk about some key ingredients for creating an awesome brand.
- Nail Down Your USP – It’s incredibly important to nail down your Unique Selling Point. It’s what makes you different and better than your competition. And, it also helps you determine who your target audience is. Check out this article from Open Forum for more information on how to find your USP.
- Create Brand Standards – It’s important to look professional when you run a business. Developing brand standards can keep your whole team on the same page and help you exude the image you want. Brand standards will lay out what logos to use in what situations, which colors are brand compliant, what fonts to use, and help you develop consistent messaging (see next point).
- Use Consistent Messaging – If you really want to imprint your brand and your message into the minds of your target market, you need consistency. In addition to consistent logos, colors and fonts, having consistent messaging will help you achieve this.
- Be Your Brand – You can talk about who you are as a company, but if that talk doesn’t align with action, then your brand won’t come off as authentic. For example, if a big part of your brand is built on excellent customer service, you better make sure you’re consistently offering top-of-the-line customer service.
- Find a Niche and Own It – A quick way to grow a business is to find (or develop) a niche you can dominate. Let’s say all your homes are pet friendly and in Lake Tahoe. Instead of pitching your business as a vacation rental management company in Lake Tahoe, position yourself as the most pet friendly vacation rental management company in Lake Tahoe. Focusing on a niche will reduce the number of people you are competing with and also give you a much higher market share among a specific group of customers. Check out the Blue Ocean Strategy for some great resources on how to find and own uncontested niches.
Marketing without data is like marketing blind. You can do it, but you’re not going to be very successful. In this section, we offer some tips for how you can start collecting data and use it to inform your marketing decisions.
- Test, Test, Test – Make sure you’re tracking and testing all of your marketing efforts. This is probably the single most important factor to your success.
- Sign Up for Google Analytics – This is the industry standard for tracking how visitors interact with your site. At LiveRez, we make it really easy to connect your Google Analytics account to your website.
- Sign Up for Google Search Console – This service is crucial for understanding the health of your website and how visitors are finding you through Google searches.
- Know Where Your Bookings Are Coming From – It’s hard to know which of your channels are paying off if you’re not tracking where your bookings are coming from. There are multiple ways to do this. For more information, check out this blog.
- Track your Marketing Acquisition Costs – Another important thing to track is how much those bookings are costing you. Check out our blog here to learn more.
- Learn How to Do Data Driven Marketing – When you use data to inform your marketing decisions, you’ll get better results faster. You’ll eliminate a lot of the guess work and spend more of your efforts working on projects that will get you results. Check out this blog to learn Data Driven Marketing in Four Steps.
Online advertising is an incredibly effective way of getting your brand and property in front of travelers that are interested in booking a vacation rental. In this section, we provide some tips for optimizing your use of some of the major online advertising portals used by professional managers.
- Leverage Search Engine Marketing – Advertising your properties through services like Adwords and other search engine marketing programs can get you super targeted traffic. And if advertising for the popular keywords is a bit out of your budget, try focusing on some long-tail terms that are less competitive, less expensive and bring in guests that are further along in the buying process.
- Institute Google Remarketing – This is something that not enough managers are doing. Basically, Google Remarketing gives you the ability to show ads to only people that have visited your website but haven’t converted. Your ads will follow people all over the web (even on some big name news sites). It’s a constant reminder of your brand and will make you look like a major player. Plus, the cost is relatively cheap and you’ll get tons of impressions. In addition to Google Remarketing, there are other re-marketing programs like Adroll that you might want to check out.
- List on Online Classified Sites Like Craigslist – It’s free to list your vacation rental properties on online classified sites like Craigslist. So, it’s just a matter of the time and effort it takes to create the listings. At LiveRez, we have a tool that can produce professional looking property ads that you can easily copy and paste into these sites, cutting down on the time and effort it takes to advertise there.
- Leverage Listing Sites Wisely – Listing sites can be a great way for you to get your properties in front of millions of travelers worldwide. You just don’t want to become totally reliant on them for a high percentage of your bookings. If you use listing sites, make sure you are tracking your bookings and their marketing acquisition costs across all the sites you’re using.
- Work on Creating Listing Site Independence – If you feel like you’re too reliant on listing sites, check out our Listing Site Independence calculator that we developed in conjunction with Matt Landau and the community at VRMB. And for a more structured path to listing site independence, check out VRMB’s Listing Site Independence Framework.
If you’re not taking online bookings, you’re putting a big wall between your potential guests and what they want. In this section, we talk about why online booking is so important and how you can use it even if you have some concerns about making the jump.
- Start Taking Online Bookings – This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you want to get more bookings and you’re not already accepting online bookings, you should get started right away. When you take online bookings, you can get bookings around the clock with less effort. Plus, when people book online, they stop shopping (instead of submitting inquiries all around town). If you’re worried about vetting guests before they book, check out our pending booking process which lets you optionally accept a booking but not charge the guest’s credit card until you’ve had a chance to vet them.
- Make Sure Your Checkout Process is Mobile Responsive – More people today are searching the internet on mobile devices than desktop or laptops. It’s an expectation from guests that you have a mobile-friendly website. And this expectation doesn’t go out the window when it comes to the final step of the booking process. Don’t risk losing potential guests at the finish line by not having a mobile friendly check out process.
Email marketing is the almost always rated by marketers as the highest ROI form of marketing. In this section, we cover some tips for getting started with email marketing and improving your campaigns.
- Start Email Marketing – Email marketing is regularly rated by marketers as the highest ROI marketing channel. If you’re not already doing email marketing, you should start today. It’s fairly easy to sign up for a service like MailChimp, import in a list of your past guests and start sending them emails.
- Build Your List – Most email marketing services can give you sign up forms and links that allow visitors to your website to sign up to receive your marketing emails. If you want to get even more sign ups, offer a sweet incentive for people to sign up for your list (like a discount or an added benefit on their next reservation, or even access to some exclusive content).
- Segment Your Lists – Your marketing emails will be more successful if they are more relevant to the recipient. One way to keep your emails relevant is to segment your lists based on subscribers interests and past purchases.
- Personalize Your Emails – The more personal you can make your marketing emails the better they will perform. Sometimes something as simple as merging in the recipient’s first name into the email can make a big difference. Just make sure you have good data; inaccurate personalization can have the opposite effect.
- A/B Test Your Emails – Many email marketing programs will let you run tests on your emails by allowing you to create and send two or more variations of an email to a small segment of your list to compare how those variations perform. You can test things like subject lines, from lines, send times and even the content of your emails. Testing your emails will almost always result in higher open and click through rates.
- Mix Up Your Email Styles – A lot of marketers just want to create big, beautiful, image-driven emails. But sometimes a simple, text-only email that is highly personalized and looks like you sat down and wrote it directly to the recipient can perform just as well or better. It’s important to try different styles of emails to see how they perform.
Social media provides you with immense opportunities to connect with your target customers and tell your brand story. In this section, we highlight a few ways you can leverage social media to get more bookings.
- Sign Up for Social Accounts – If you’re not already signed up for popular social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, etc. you should definitely sign up and start a business account/page. More and more travelers are using social media as inspiration for planning their next vacation. Social media allows you to reach your target customers in many different places and keep your brand top of mind.
- Use Facebook Advertising – You can do some pretty incredible targeting with Facebook advertising, whether it’s remarketing to visitors that hit your website or uploading a custom list of specific people to advertise to. Not only is Facebook advertising targeted, but it’s also less expensive than many other types of digital marketing.
- Focus on Engagement – While growing your following is important, it’s even more important to make sure what you’re posting on social media is getting good engagement (in the form of likes, clicks, comments and shares). Facebook uses a machine learning algorithm that uses engagement as an important ranking factor to determine which of your followers sees your content. Some reports claim that only 5 percent of your Facebook fans will see your content. You can raise that number significantly by getting more engagement on your posts. Facebook isn’t the only social network to use this type of algorithm, and other networks that don’t have an algorithm in place will likely eventually implement one.
- Use Tools to Automate Your Social Media – If managing all your social channel sounds like a lot of work, don’t sweat it too much. There are a number of programs out there that can help you manage and automate a good deal of your social media activity, from tracking engagement to scheduling posts and more. Some of our favorites are Hootsuite, Buffer and Edgar.
- Leverage Social Bookmarking – In addition to posting on social networks, you can also submit your content to social bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon, Delicious, reddit and more. Check out this article to learn more about social bookmarking.
Your website is incredibly important in getting people to book your properties. Making sure your website looks amazing and is packed with valuable content should be one of your primary concerns before you even worry about setting up a blog or posting content elsewhere.
- Build a Local Area Guide – Showcase your expertise and give your guests an incredibly valuable resource for planning their upcoming vacation by building a local area guide. Consider sending guests a link to your guide a few days before they arrive to help them plan their trip!
- Sell Your Management Services with an Awesome Landing Page – If you’re looking to grow your inventory, it’s important to have a persuasive and informative landing page about your management services. Be sure to talk about your competitive advantage in the market – what sets you apart?
- Sell Your Guest Services with an Awesome Landing Page – Part of what makes you a professional manager is your ability to offer professional hospitality services. So, having a landing page that explains all the added perks of booking with you can be incredibly important to closing more bookings.
- Tell Your Story with an Awesome About Us Page – People like to buy from people they trust and even like. That’s why it’s crucial to have a page on your website that lets them know who you are and why you are so passionate about vacation rentals.
- Organize Your Properties into Categories and Communities – While many travelers will search by availability, other will just want to browse through your properties. That’s why your properties should be organized by category and community. LiveRez makes it really easy organize your properties this way. We even help you dynamically create landing pages for each of these categories and communities, which will help you rank better on search engines.
- Configure Advanced Search Options – Travelers often have one or more specific requirements for the home they’re looking to rent. That’s why LiveRez lets you create custom, searchable tags and apply them each of your properties. This makes it that much easier for guests to find the perfect home.
- Consider Working with a Professional Copywriter – Whether it’s for your property descriptions or just general content on your website, hiring a professional writer can not only save you time but also help you produce content that is of higher quality and more persuasive to travelers during the shopping process.
Content marketing is the craze nowadays, and for good reason. It’s cheaper and generally more efficient than other types of marketing. In this section, we’ll highlight some tactics and strategies for creating killer content.
- Create Unique Content That’s Valuable to Guests and Owners – The key to producing engaging content is to build content that is valuable to your target market and is better than the other available content. See the next two points to learn specific strategies for producing this type of content.
- Learn How to Build 10x Content – Rand Fishkin, the former CEO of SEO software Moz, is a leading authority on SEO and digital marketing. A few years ago he coined the term 10x content, the practice of producing content that is not just better than available content, but 10 times better. Watch him explain this concept and how to create this type of content in his Whiteboard Friday video.
- Check out the Skyscraper Technique for Content Marketing – Another leading SEO expert, Brian Dean, has developed an extremely data-driven way to produce killer content. His Skyscraper Technique explains how to find and evaluate the best available content on a subject, and then use these pieces of content as inspiration to build a new piece of content that is significantly better than what’s available. He also builds in a process for getting it front of people who will be the most likely to share it and link back to it. He explains the SkyScraper Technique in more detail in this blog.
- Focus on Quality Over Quantity – When building content, focus on quality over quantity. In the past, just producing tons of content was a good way to rank better. But, times have changed, and nowadays you’d be better offer spending the time you’d use on 10 blog posts to produce one really good post. NOTE: That’s why we took the time to include 101 tips here instead of just 5 or 10.
- Promote Your Content – Content isn’t like the Field of Dreams (i.e. build it and they will come). To get eyes on your content, you need to promote it through all the marketing channels at your disposal. You should spend as much time promoting your content as you do creating it.
- Use Web Monitoring to Generate Ideas – Need inspiration for creating content? One way to find ideas is to set up a series of web alerts on different subjects related to your business. You can start by signing up for Google Alerts and using a social media monitoring service like Mention. You can also subscribe to industry blogs through an RSS feed. In fact, you can even turn your Google Alerts into RSS feeds and house everything in a feed reader/content dashboard like Netvibes.
- Create Evergreen Content – Evergreen content is content that will stay relevant for long periods of time. It’s not going to get outdated quickly and will thus be valuable longer and have more time to acquire backlinks and shares.
- Ride Trends by Hijacking the News – On the flipside of evergreen content is newsjacking content. This is content you create that ties into something relevant and trendy. It has a built-in audience because tons of people are already interested in the subject. You just have to take the trend or news item and relate it to your business. You can learn more about newsjacking here.
Improving your property photos can lead to big gains in bookings. In this section, we cover some of the most important aspects.
- Get Professional Photos – This is probably the single most important upgrade you can make to your property listings. People buy with their eyes, and if your photos don’t do your properties justice, then guests will probably look somewhere else. Don’t sell yourself short. Make the investment in professional photography, and you’ll be happy you did.
- Write Captions for All Your Photos – Use captions in your photos to explain all those details the photo itself can’t convey. Plus, we all know guests are going to look at the photos, so adding captions is a great way to get extra information in front of guests that might otherwise miss those details in your property descriptions.
- Use Big, Beautiful Images – If you already have professional photos, don’t sell them short by displaying them small on your website. Larger images have been shown to increase sales across all sorts of industries. To learn more, check out our blog post on How Larger Property Photos Can Help Your Bookings.
Videos are one of the biggest trends in marketing right now. In this section, we highlight how creating and sharing videos can help you get more bookings.
- Create Video Tours of Your Properties – Wouldn’t it be great if you could give each potential guest a personal tour of your homes? Well, video tours might be the next best thing. Increase guests’ confidence in booking your properties by allowing them to better visualize their family in the home, understand the layout and check out amenities.
- Create Videos about Your Business – People like to buy from people. Tell the story of your business in a unique video featuring your company history, interviews with the team, behind the scenes clips from your office…whatever you think will help guests better understand who you are and what you have to offer.
- Get Your Guests and Owners to do Video Testimonials – Create an immediate human connection with potential guests and owners through video testimonials. While written testimonials are great to have, video testimonials will help your business stand out! People tend to trust video testimonials more since they come across more authentic than written reviews, and video also tends to be more memorable.
- Try Doing Video Responses to Inquiries – Back in 2014, VRMB’s Matt Landau highlighted how he was killing it using short videos to answer inquiries. Check out VRMB.com to see how he creates his inquiry response videos.
Search Engine Optimization is the practice of optimizing your website to rank higher in search results. Generating more organic search engine traffic can give your bookings a huge boost, so in this section, we’ll quickly explain some important concepts that are critical to SEO success.
- Learn about SEO – Are people able to find your website when they search for vacation rentals in your area? There are tactics and strategies, known as search engine optimization (SEO), that you can implement to help guests find you organically in the search results without using paid advertising. There is a ton to know about SEO, so we’d recommend checking out LiveRez’s Ultimate Guide to Vacation Rental SEO to get started.
- Go Mobile Responsive – With the staggering growth in the number of people using their phones to search the internet, mobile responsive vacation rental websites are essential. Not only does it ensure that your website looks its best on any size screen, Google also favors mobile responsive websites over sites that aren’t mobile friendly. In fact, Google is in the process of splitting its index into two separate indexes, one for people searching on mobile devices and one for people searching on a desktop.
- Have an SEO Plan – Developing your SEO game plan is a crucial part of any SEO campaign. A great place to start is by intelligently picking which terms to target. You’ll want to choose terms that will bring in the highest amount of qualified traffic. The tips found in part three of our Ultimate Guide to SEO will help you figure out which terms will work best for your strategy.
- Fill Out Your Meta Information – Meta information on your webpages tells search engines what each page is about. While you won’t see your meta information on the page itself, it’s visible by search engines and will often show up in the search results. So, be sure you have a meta title and meta description for each page on your site.
- Optimize Your Heading Tags – Heading tags let Google know what each section of your page is about. There are multiple levels of heading tags (h1, h2, h3, etc.) which indicate hierarchy. Therefore, your h1 tag would be used for the main headline, h2 tags for sub-headlines and so on.
- Optimize Internal Links – Linking from one page on your website to another page on your website is called an internal link. These links are important to your on-site SEO for two reasons. First, they create paths that users and search engine crawlers follow to navigate your site. And second, internal links play a role in passing link juice, or ranking power, to other pages on your site. Learn more about the power of link juice in Moz’s article on internal links.
- Focus on Site Performance – Another big factor in SEO is how well your site performs. Google pays attention to how well your site displays across devices and how fast it loads. They also look at how that affects user engagement (i.e. are people finding you through search and then just hitting the back button). To learn more about the importance of site performance (specifically load speed), check out our post here.
- Optimize for Click Through Rates – One popular theory amongst top SEOs is that increasing the click through rate (CTR) to your site from search can lead to big gains in rankings. You see, Google has enough data to know the expected CTR at each ranking position. And, the theory goes that if you can achieve a higher than expected CTR for your current position, Google will rank you higher. To learn more check out this article from the guys over at Moz.
- Generate More Backlinks – Backlinks are one of the most important search engine ranking factors. A backlink is a link from another website directed to your website. Knowing how many backlinks you have and where they’re coming from is important for SEO because Google will give more credit to websites with a good number of quality backlinks and consider them to be more relevant in the search results.
- Analyze Your Competitors’ Backlinks – Running a backlink report on your competitors will give you key insights into which strategies have been successful for them and give you actionable data to help you improve your own SEO strategy. Be sure to note which sites they’re getting the most backlinks from and determine if it would make sense to pursue a link from that domain. You can also use the report to see which page on their website most of their backlinks are directing to, giving you insight into their most popular pages.
It’s one thing to get traffic to your website, but once it’s there you need to do a good job converting that traffic into bookings. In this section, we’ll go over a few tactics for increasing your website conversion rate.
- Know Your Conversion Rate – It’s hard to improve your conversion rate if you don’t know what it is. So, the first step is making sure you have Google Analytics running on your website and have their e-commerce tracking turned on. Once you do this you’ll be able to see what percentage of your website visitors are converting to paying guests.
- Use a tool like Hot Jar to Better Understand Your Website Visitors – One of the tools we use at LiveRez to track how visitors interact with our corporate site is Hot Jar. It includes heatmaps, visitor recordings, funnel analysis and can even be used to survey visitors as they interact with your site. And the best part is that you can use it for free if you’re not getting more than 2,000 pageviews a day.
- Fix Pages with High Exit Rates – One thing that Google Analytics will tell you is which pages on your website have high exit rates. An exit rate tracks how many visitors that hit a page leave your website from that page. A page with a high exit rate suggests that page is underperforming. So, if that page gets a lot of traffic or is a crucial part of the booking process, you’ll want to work on improving it.
- Reduce Bounce Rates on Landing Pages – A landing page is the first page a visitor sees when they come to your website. Generally, your home page is your most popular landing page, but there are often other pages that bring people to your website. The worst thing that can happen when a visitor hits your website is for them to leave without visiting another page, and that’s what a bounce rate measures. If you have high traffic pages with a bounce rate of more than 35 or 40 percent, you should look into ways to improve them. To learn more about how to do this and use other insights to improve your conversion rate, check out our whitepaper on How to Use Google Analytics to Improve Your Vacation Rental Marketing Efforts.
One way to get your brand in front of potential guests is through public relations. In this section, we’ll go over some ways to get coverage from media outlets.
- Write and Send Press Releases – Issuing a press release detailing something newsworthy your business is doing is a good way to get coverage. The key here is to make sure you are highlighting the newsworthiness of what you’re doing, and that you’re getting in front of a reporter for whom it’s news. Every reporter has a beat. Every media outlet has a geographic coverage area or specific topic they focus on. You need to match your news with the right outlet and the right reporter.
- Subscribe to HARO – Did you know that reporters are always looking for expert sources for their stories. One of the ways they find those sources is through a service call Help a Reporter Out (HARO). You can sign up to receive daily emails from HARO that list all the topics reporters are looking for more information on, organized by subject. If you’re a good fit, you can email the reporter and offer yourself a source. It’s a good way to get featured in the news and get notoriety for your business.
Here at LiveRez we’re big on partnership. Partnering with other people in your market can be incredibly beneficial for both parties. In this section, we highlight a few ideas for how you can work with others to increase your bookings.
- Partner with Local Businesses – Help connect your guests to other great businesses in your area! Have homes near a river? Consider partnering with a local rafting company to offer discounted trips to your guests. Does your local theme park have a page on their website for lodging? Ask if you can be featured, and maybe even offer a discounted rate to park-goers!
- Partner with Local Chambers and Tourism Organizations – Joining your local chamber of commerce and working tourism organization in your area can help get in front of more travelers. These organizations are set up to help local businesses and generate more tourism to the area, so it only makes sense to work with them.
- Partner with Other Professional Managers – While you might consider other vacation rental managers as competition, there are still a lot of ways you can work with them without jeopardizing your own business. Sometimes it’s as simple as referring a booking to a manager when you don’t any available properties or when one of your past guests wants to travel to a destination where you don’t have any properties. At LiveRez we’re currently working on cutting-edge channel management system that doesn’t just include listing sites, but also enables property managers to work with each other to grow their bookings.
One of the best ways to get more bookings is to give guests an exceptional experience during their stay, so they come back and book with you again. In this section, we outline some tips for taking your guest experience to the next level.
- Step Up Your Customer Service – One of the best ways you can improve the guest experience to ensure you are offering exceptional customer service. That means everyone on your team that interacts with a guest and touches the guest experience in one way or another is committed to doing everything they can to make that guest’s stay the best they’ve ever had.
- Communicate Better – A big part of the guest experience is how you communicate with the guest. Are you sending them the information they need in a timely fashion? Is it thorough and accurate? Is it engaging and persuasive? One way to improve your communication is to use technology. Our CRM system at LiveRez can automate most of the emails you send your guests. And because it’s doing most of the work for you, there will be far less human error and you’ll have more time to make sure your messaging is amazing.
- Use a Guest Experience Portal – Wouldn’t it be awesome if your guests had their own portal where they could log in and make changes to their reservation, add options, learn more about the destination they’re heading to or even communicate directly with the manager? That’ exactly what our new guest experience portal, LiveStay, is designed to do.
- Leverage Smart Home Technology – Increase efficiency and “wow” your guests with smart home technology. Companies like PointCentral, which is integrated with LiveRez, offer smart solutions that allow you to lock and unlock doors, control pool and home temperature, and more – right from your phone or computer.
Industry research suggests that nearly half of all guests won’t book a vacation rental without first reading reviews. If you’re not gathering and sharing reviews from past guests, you’re potentially alienating half of your customers. So, in this section, we offer insights into how guest reviews can increase your bookings.
- Gather Reviews from Past Guests – One of the biggest reasons travelers don’t book a property is that they have unanswered questions or they don’t trust the information they’re getting about the property. Having reviews from past guests front and center throughout the booking process acts as what marketers call “social proof”. This social proof is incredibly effective at getting customers to trust your brand and feel more confident in doing business with you. If you’re still not buying that guest reviews are important, go check out Amazon.com. The extensive reviews they generate on their products have been a key to their success.
- Leverage Guest Reviews to Convince Owners of Home Improvements – You’ve been telling an owner for months that the master bed in their home needs replacing with no luck. Consider using guest reviews to reinforce your case! Criticism from guests, rather than just from the property manager, may help speed up those home improvement requests. With LiveScore, LiveRez’s survey and review system, you can easily share those critical guest reviews with the appropriate owner.
Lots of guests are going to have questions before they book or simply prefer to book over the phone with a reservationist. The better your team is at handling these calls, the more bookings you’ll get. So, in this section, we’ll go over a few ways to close more bookings over the phone.
- Pick Up the Phone – Inbound calls are gold! You’re 60% more likely to get a booking from someone who took the time to call you, so don’t let that phone go unanswered! However, if you do miss a call, make sure you have a professional voicemail and that you get back to the guest quickly. The longer it takes for you to respond, the less likely that person will be to book.
- Improve Your Reservationists’ Conversion Rate with Better Training – Once you get a potential guest on the phone, make sure that your reservationist is friendly and energetic, prepared to answer questions about the company and your properties, and is trained to close the booking.
- Leverage Your Software to Aid in Closing Phone Bookings – A good vacation rental software can make it that much easier to close bookings over the phone. The ability to quickly answer a guest’s questions and match them with an available home that meets their needs is paramount. Add to that the ability to email them bookable quotes in seconds. At LiveRez, our Booking Grid can empower your reservations to do all these things and more.
Earlier we talked about the importance of increasing your website conversion. But, it’s also extremely important to focus on increasing your conversion rate for inquiries that come in over the phone or through email. So, in this section, we’ll highlight some tips for doing just that.
- Create a Lead Management Strategy – Creating a lead management strategy for your sales team can result in some big booking gains. Our partners at Big Sky Vacation Rentals in Montana recently saw huge results after their revenue manager Shelley Henslee put together a stellar lead management plan for their business. In just the first year, it helped the company add more than $1 million dollars in additional revenue. Henslee shared some of best tips with our partners at the 2016 Partner Conference. Partners can access these materials through the LiveRez Help Center. Just do a search for “Henslee.”
- Improve Your Lead Follow-Up Efforts by Using a CRM System – It’s not enough to have a strategy for following up with leads, you also need technology that makes it easy to execute this strategy. There are a lot of lead management systems on the market, but most aren’t specific to the vacation rental industry (and if they are, they don’t always integrate nicely into your property management software). So, it’s important to find a technology that works with your current software and is tailored to the industry. There are a few good solutions out there. You just have to find them (or you could just click on this link).
- Institute a Smart Autoresponder – Inquiries are great, but the longer you take to respond to them, the less likely the traveler is to book with you. Take the hassle out of manually responding by utilizing autoresponder technology that will automatically read inquiry emails and send out availability, quotes and links to book online. If you use the LiveRez autoresponder, it will also create a lead within your system, so you can follow-up with that guest in the future.
One of the best ways to get more overall bookings is to grow your inventory. More homes mean more opportunities for bookings. In this section, we’ll talk about a few ways to get more of the right types of homes that will not only help increase your bookings but your bottom line.
- Strategically Grow and Defend Your Inventory – To really grow your business as vacation rental manager you need to grow your inventory. There are tons of great strategies for acquiring new owners and keeping your current owners happy. While we could talk about a lot of them here, we couldn’t do it as good as our Chief Strategy Officer Steve Trover did in a recent webinar. As the CEO of one of the best vacation rental management companies in the US, Trover has developed some pretty incredible tactics for growing and defending his inventory. He shares a lot these strategies in his webinar on Five Owner Acquisition and Retention Secrets to Multiply Your Inventory.
- Skim the Fat – There’s an exception to every rule. And the exception to growing your inventory is when you have owners that are just more trouble than they’re worth. You have limited resources as a company, and sometimes you have owners that monopolize those resources while not giving you back much in return. That’s a one-way partnership that you would be smart to discontinue once their owner contract expires.
- Improve the Owner Experience – One way to attract new owners and keep your current owners happy is to improve their experience working with your management company. We know you already work hard to protect their properties and get them the best return on investment on their vacation home. But, something as simple as communicating with them better and giving them the convenience to check into how their property is doing or make their own booking can make a big difference. That’s why at LiveRez, we help you automate a lot of your communication with owners, as well as give you the ability to create online self-service portals for your owners to see information on their properties, view their owner statements and even make bookings for themselves.
One of the best ways to learn how to get more bookings is by watching what’s working (or not working) for your competitors. In this section, we pulled some ideas from David Angotti of SmokyMountains.com, who taught at our 2016 Partner Conference. Partners can find his whole presentation in our Help Center, and non-partners can check out his guest post at VRMB for more information.
- Monitor Your Competitors’ Pricing Strategies – Using a pricing tool such as SmartHost, you can keep an eye on your competitor’s pricing to help you better gauge what rate you should be charging for your similar properties.
- Spy on Your Competition’s Email Marketing Tactics – Spend time perfecting your email marketing by monitoring your competition’s campaigns. In this blog post, Angotti outlines the steps you can take to use your competition’s emails to curate a list of ideas that will jumpstart your own email marketing campaigns.
- Get Content Ideas from Your Competitors Best Performing Posts – Creating successful content can be super time consuming. Make sure you’re creating content that your guests want to read by using tools like BuzzSumo that will allow you to see what types of content your competition has had success with. Use these topics to help you generate successful 10x content (see tip #39).
- Steal the Top Performing Keywords and Ads from Listing Sites – Kickstart your campaigns by using highly-targeted keywords and perfected ad copy. How you might ask? Using tools like SpyFu, you can steal top-performing keywords and ad copy straight from listing sites! Check out this blog post for step-by-step instructions on how to leverage this tool.
- Use SimilarWeb to Get an Overview of Your Competitor’s Website Performance – Uncover the secrets behind that competitor that always seems to have their properties booked. SimilarWeb will give you insight into their website traffic, where that traffic is coming from (referrals, social media, paid advertising, etc.) and other similar sites that you may want to monitor.
Revenue management can not only get you more bookings but more booking revenue (which should be the true goal here). In this section, we’ll outline some of the basic concepts behind revenue management.
- Adjust Your Rates Based on Supply and Demand – One of your primary goals as a professional manager should be to maximize revenue for yourself and your owners. One way to do that is to strategically adjust your rates based on changes in supply and demand. Just be careful to maintain the integrity of your rates. The last thing you want to do is win the race to the lowest price. Remember, increasing your rates in high demand periods is just as important as lowering your rates in low-demand periods.
- Consider Using All-Inclusive Pricing – One of the toughest adjustments for travelers that are new to booking vacation rentals is the fees. Vacation rentals tend to have more fees than hotels, so guests can often be turned off when they see all the fees broken out during the booking process. One way to avoid this is to include all your fees into one all-inclusive rate. With LiveRez, we make it easy for you lump all your fees into the rental rate and then quickly break them back out for reporting purposes.
- Run Specials to Generate Demand – Entice guests to book by offering specials like a free night’s stay or a discount if they book during your slower season. Discover 6 more ways to get more bookings by offering specials in this blog post.
We’d like to say that we’ve hit every single tip for getting more bookings right here in this post, but in reality, there are so many more ways to increase your bookings. That’s why, in this section, we’re going to direct you to resources where you can find even more tips for increasing your bookings.
- Follow the LiveRez Blog – Subscribe to the LiveRez blog to receive advice on a variety of industry topics like marketing and SEO, read interviews with top professional managers across the country and get updates on LiveRez and its industry-leading software. Check it out at…wait, you’re already here (shameless plug: you can sign up to get notifications of new posts at the bottom of this post).
- Follow VRMB – If you haven’t checked out Matt Landau’s Vacation Rental Marketing Blog yet, what are you waiting for? Through how-to videos, case studies, interviews and more, Matt offers a wealth of free and inexpensive ways to increase your bookings. Check it out at VRMB.com.
- Follow VRM Intel – VRM Intel is the leading source of news for professional vacation rental managers. Editor Amy Hinote has tons of industry knowledge and does a great job of covering all the relevant news coming out of the industry. Check it out at VRMIntel.com.
Some of the best vacation rental marketing advice you can get is from other professional managers. In this section, we’re going to highlight a few places where you can connect with other managers to discuss marketing and other best practices.
- Live Community – LiveRez partners can talk to each other about marketing through our new online community. This powerful new tool is an amazing way for our partners to communicate with each other, share ideas and find solutions. Get quick access to the community through the communication dashboard in your LiveRez system.
- Consider Joining Matt Landau’s Inner Circle Group at VRMB – Matt has assembled a community of nearly 800 vacation rental professionals, where they regularly discuss tips and tricks for taking your vacation rental marketing efforts to the next level. It’s a great place to learn. You can find out more and sign up here.
- Join Industry Groups on LinkedIn – LinkedIn is a social media must-have in the business world. These groups are a great way to connect with others in the vacation rental industry, stay on top of industry news, source shareable content and even recruit new talent. Some of the more active groups in the industry are the Vacation Rental Professionals Group, the Vacation Rental Managers Association Group and the Vacation Rental News and Information Group.
For many professional managers, the management software they use to run their business can have a big impact on their bookings and overall success as a company. While there are a lot of options for software nowadays, there’s only one we can really recommend :).
- Partner with LiveRez – This may look like the ultimate shameless plug, but here at LiveRez we really believe that we have the best vacation rental software, best vacation rental websites, best property manager partners and the best team to support these partners. And as you can see from our reviews on Capterra, we’re not the only ones that think so.
Tell us what you think!
Did we miss an important tip? Have you already tried some of these ideas and had success? Let us know in the comments section below.
Learn More About LiveRez
LiveRez is the most widely used software platform for professional vacation rental managers. The company’s cloud-based, end-to-end platform offers fully integrated solutions for reservation and property management, websites with online bookings, trust accounting, CRM, housekeeping and maintenance, reporting, reviews and more. LiveRez is a proud Gold Sponsor of the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (VRMA).
Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:
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