myvr vacation rental website

No Website For Your Vacation Rental? Why It Could Cost You

I had the pleasure to recently  speak with Jonathan Murray, co-founder of myvr.com. A San Francisco based vacation rental website builder & marketing software solution for vacation rental property owners. Jonathan and his team have created a beautiful product and in my opinion have filled a much needed void in the industry. No longer is creating a website challenging, time consuming or expensive. I personally use it for a few of my rentals (here is one: Fitz Lodge) and have really enjoyed the experience.

I will let Johnathan take it from here. Enjoy the recent guest post below:

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No Website For Your Vacation Rental? Why It Could Cost You

myvr-vacation-rental-marketing-image

Does your vacation rental marketing strategy have a hole in it? Your listing ad is going gangbusters, driving a steady stream of inquiries and bookings. You regularly connect with guests and other fans on your Facebook Page. You’re doing fine without a website.

 Or are you?

I believe that committing to your own website is the most important thing you can do to protect and grow your rental business — and that without one, you’re all but leaving money on the table for someone else to sweep up.

 A website isn’t a “cure all” for an occupancy rate that falls short of your ideal. But it will give you the greatest flexibility over:

  • What your potential guests think of you, and

  • How easily search engines can point those potential guests in your direction.

 It’s Your Site And You Can Do What You Want To

Don’t get me wrong: listing sites are an important part of vacation rental marketing. I’m also a big advocate for testing other online advertising, like Craigslist and airbnb; don’t stop marketing just because you find one channel that works!

HomeAway, VRBO, and FlipKey all make it easy to link to external websites from your listings; they’re not isolated billboards for your rental, but part of a bigger ecosystem that works in harmony to attract attention and deliver remarkable customer service.

Build trust and credibility

None of us wants to become wrapped up in a vacation rental scam — least of all travelers spending limited, hard-earned dollars. This question of trust is a key factor that makes people wary of vacation rentals in general, and dealing directly with owners in particular.

Showing your history and roots with a comprehensive website helps dissuade these concerns by showing that you’re a real person who’s committed to your business.

Show a high degree of professionalism

Having a good-looking website makes a great first impression. When I’m looking at vacation properties — or any small business, really — a thoughtful and organized website indicates that the owners probably run the rest of their business with the same attention to detail.

I also take it as an indication that they’re in it for the long haul; if I’m planning ahead to next summer, I’ll have more confidence that they will still be around with my reservation (and my deposit!).

Better showcase your home and attract more bookings

Listing sites are a bit like movie previews: they capture the highlights and make it easy to find important details.

If someone wants more specific information, however, these sites fall short. They’re not optimized for depth of information, but your own website can be.

  • Find that you’re always answering the same questions? Start a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) section or — better yet — start a blog.

  • Add value for your guests by creating a local guide to help kickstart their trip planning.

  • Add videos to bring your rental to life. Introduce yourself, show off your house, or tour people around town.

  • Share testimonials and top tips from previous guests. What have other families enjoyed? Business travelers? Honeymooners? Customize your site to provide exactly what travelers are looking for.

All of this information creates a better experience for your guests. It also gives search engines quality information to latch onto, which helps with something called “search engine optimization” or SEO.

SEO is the information search engines like Google and Yahoo! use to determine the most relevant information for someone’s search query. There are many different facets to SEO, but it starts with good and original web content.

Generate more inquiries

Your website is all you, all the time: there’s no link to “see similar properties”, no advertising from the property up the road.

So, make the most of it:

  • Consider the ideas above and look for different ways to inspire people and tweak their imagination.

  • Add as many photos of your property as you want — and include photos of the local area

  • Share your own list of favorite things to do

  • Start an enewsletter to share news and upcoming events (and start experimenting with email marketing)

  • Highlight testimonials, or add links to reviews you’ve received on different listing sites

  • Look for ways to get people more actively involved, like a photo contest.

There are numerous ways to expand your marketing, using your own website, that an ad on a third-party site can’t compete with. Some tactics will work while others won’t, but you can track your results and adjust your efforts when and how you wish.

Jonathan Murray is a seasoned entrepreneur who co-founded MyVR, a vacation rental website builder & marketing software solution, because of his frustrations marketing and managing his own vacation rental. MyVR’s vision for all owners is simple: more renters, less work

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For anyone who is motivated to get their procrastinated website project into action please visit myvr.com and enter promo code: “Breakaway” for a special discount off all paid plans.

Vacation Rental Customer Service

How to Turn a Complaint Into a Lifelong Vacation Rental Customer

How to Turn a Complaint Into a Lifelong Vacation Rental Customer

8 Key steps to satisfying an unhappy Vacation Rental Client

Good customer service seems to be dead in many industries, yet when it comes to vacation rentals, excellent customer service is essential. In the rental industry, there are so many things that are out of the owner’s control, that complaints are inevitable. When the Wi-Fi company works on the lines and cuts service for a day, the owner has no control over that. We rely on housekeepers, maintenance staff, resort associations and the like, to maintain our property and amenities so guests can have an amazing vacation in our property. Understanding how to handle customer complaints can increase customer satisfaction. If customers feel we are uncompassionate we can lose a customer and all their friends permanently. Here are some ideas on creating a satisfied customer, even when things go wrong.

1)     Set accurate expectations. Avoiding complaints are always a good thing. When it comes to vacation rentals, customers have saved money and set aside time for rest and relaxation. Anything that disturbs these expectations, takes away from the “getaway”. Having accurate photographs and property descriptions is important. Laying out your terms where they are easy to find and reminding customers what they are is also critical. If you do not accept cancellations inside of 30 days that needs to be listed everywhere. On the website, on the rental contract, and reminding the customer when having a phone conversation. These steps will reduce the number of complaints received.

 

Vacation Rental Customer Service

2)     Listen and be sure you understand what the customer’s issues are. When a customer launches into a complaint, they will often begin to nitpick every little thing they can think of, yet only one or two items are really bothering them. Do not cut the customer off. Let them vent. The process of venting and being heard, alone generally calms them down. This is their vacation. That means this is a special time for them and their family. They want the matter fixed yesterday.

While they are expressing their complaint, use active listening skills. Empathetic listening, like saying, “I understand…” Repeat back to them a summary of what you hear to be sure you understand their issues. Say things like, “So I hear you saying that the cable was not working when you arrived, is that correct?” This ensures that they feel heard and that you are clear on the issue that needs to be solved.

3)     Empathize and apologize, but do not blame, argue or take it personally. This is not an attack against you or your property. It is a problem that needs solving. It is easy to blame someone else for what has gone wrong, but that feels like an excuse to a customer. In the end your customer doesn’t care why the air conditioner when out in July or the housekeeper got caught in traffic, so the room was not ready in time. What they care about is that they have a few days to enjoy away from the troubles of their daily life, and here they have trouble again. Saying things like, “I understand that you are frustrated and I will do everything in my power to resolve this issue as quickly as possible,” is what they want to hear.

4)     Respond quickly and follow through with whatever you have promised to do. If a customer leaves you a message it is tempting to make a couple phone calls to resolve the issue, and be done with it. This is not a good idea, because the customer with be upset until they get the call from you. It’s hard to enjoy the beach when you feel you are being ignored. Return the customer’s call immediately, even if you already feel like you know the solution. Refer back to item two. Let the customer tell you again what the problem is. Then describe what you will do to fix the issue. After speaking with the customer, take the steps necessary to resolve the problem. Then follow up again with the customer and make sure the problem has been resolved to their satisfaction.

5)     Involve the customer when it comes to resolving their inconvenience. After the issue has been corrected, the follow up conversation may include some sort of compensation for the issue. Let the customer help you determine what is fair. If it took 12 hours to fix the air conditioner offering a gift of some sort is appropriate. Often, if you allow the customer to suggest a solution, you may find that it is a lot less than what you were thinking. If they go the other way and say they should have a free weeks stay, you can counter with a more reasonable solution.

 

Vacation Rental Customer Feedback

6)      Learn from customer feedback. If there is a legitimate issue with your property, as an owner you really want to know. So often if the issue is small, customers will not complain and the problem can go on for weeks. For example if the microwave goes out, some customers will just do without it, but may choose not to return because of the broken appliance. Often the owner learns of the problem only because a customer brings the issue to your attention. When you approach complaints with a thank you for letting me know, and giving me the opportunity to solve the problem, you can build real loyalty with the customer.

7)     Write down each complaint and review them periodically. This allows you, as the owner, to assess where problems are occurring. If you have several housekeeping complaints, it may be time to retrain the housekeeper, or find another one. If you are having regular issues with appliances it may be time to replace them, rather than continue to repair. If customers are looking for certain amenities that you are not providing, a complaint is a method of feedback that can help you improve your property. If a number of customers are asking for certain things, adding that to your listing, can increase bookings.

 

Vacation Rental Contact

8)     Make it easy for customers to get in touch with you. Provide all your contact information. This includes cell phone number, email and even Facebook or Twitter information. The key however, with social media is that you not try and resolve the issue through public forums. If a customer posts an issue on Facebook or Twitter, call them, email them, or send them a private message. Going back and forth on a public site, regarding a complaint, has no good results.

When customer complaints are handled well, customers often reward owners with loyalty. In today’s world of immediate gratification, customer service in the vacation rental industry becomes even more critical. Customers are quick to share their experiences on social media. This can work to your advantage, by handling complaints with the grace of a pro.

Vacation Rental University

New VR University Video Course: Marketing & Operational Hacks, Tips, Tricks and Tactics

New VR University Video Course

We’re very excited to announce our new educational platform: The VR University. Where owners and managers alike can come together to learn and grow their Vacation Rental Businesses. This direction from our end has grown from more of a necessity to teach. Our current clients and readers frequently ask these questions, so we decided to create detailed online training videos with the same tactics and strategies we use with our personal consulting clients.

In this specific Course we go into great detail on how to Market and Operate your Vacation Rental property in todays ever changing and technology driven world. Specifically revealing strategies, tactics, tips, and even hacks to add potentially thousands in extra yearly revenue to your property.

You, our readers mean a lot to us. So we want to extend a special thanks for being part of our growing effort to help educate and build successful Vacation Rental Businesses worldwide. All you have to do is enter promo code: vrbhacks1 to receive the course for 50% OFF.  The specific VR University Course: Marketing & Operational Hacks, Tips, Tricks & Tactics will officially go live November 15th 2013 9:00AM and will cost $79.00 for anyone who purchases on or after the course launch. Once Purchased you then can access the course anytime from then on, for life.

Click the image below or here to access the course page directly.

Vacation Rental University

Access the course here: http://university.vacationrentalbusiness.net/course1/

Thanks and look forward to launching this course and many more!

Tyler

Vacation Rental Photography Lighting

Create great pictures to show your property in its best light

Increasing Your Booking Rates With Better Photos

10 things that create great pictures to show your property in its best light

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. There is no statement truer, than when it comes to photographing your vacation rental. Improving your rental photographs can significantly increase your click through rates, and increase your bookings. In the studies I reviewed the bookings more than doubled when photos were taken by a professional photographer, as opposed to the typical pictures seen on rental sites.

The challenge today is getting your property to stand out, among the hundreds of rentals available in any given vacation spot. While it is well worth the cost of hiring a professional photographer, here are some tips on getting better pictures to showcase your listing if you chose to do it yourself.

1)     Post lots of pictures. Studies have shown that listings with more than 20 pictures get the best click through rates and the most bookings. Remember that visitors to your site are not looking to purchase your property they are looking for a vacation. So often vacation rental photos make the home look clean but empty. Keep this in mind with each picture.

Ask yourself: Am I helping the visitor imagine themselves renting my vacation rental. Each picture should have a purpose that reaches this goal. So if you have a description of watching sunsets or sunrises, have a photo showing the sunset or sunrise. If you have a description of having breakfast overlooking the mountains, have a picture. This extends to beds, bathrooms and kitchen. If you describe the unit as having 2 bedrooms, sleeping 6, show the sleeping for 6, not just two general pictures of bedrooms.

Remember we are visual creatures. Even off property pictures, as long as they are identified as such, will help your site visitor imagine a vacation at your unit or home. Remember that each photo sets an expectation for the visitor. Make sure the photos show an accurate picture of what a holiday would be like at your vacation rental.

Photograph your property after it has been cleaned. Taking photographs of your property needs to be planned, not an afterthought. Having a clean and clutter free property will give sharp clean images to work with. Beds should be made, the kitchen cleaned, swept and ready for renters. Attention to detail will help show each room in its best light.

2)     Photographs need to have descriptive tags. Don’t just write: balcony, master bedroom and kitchen. Describe it, in concise terms. For example: Balcony overlooking Blue Ridge Mountains. Master Bedroom with king bed and 56 inch TV. Remember the importance of features and benefits. The balcony is a feature, overlooking the mountains is the benefit. If you are including off property pictures here is a good place to add closeness, such as saying: just 2 minutes from Swain Lake.

Vacation Rental Business Photography

3)     Use a professional camera and a tripod. Taking pictures with your cell phone, even a good one, will not produce good enough photographs to capture prospective renter’s interest. While you can get away with using a high end point and shoot, the SLR’s take significantly better pictures.

Tripods are essential for getting clear photos. When photographing your vacation rental, set the camera to the landscape mode. It is also very important to take all pictures straight on. Do not point the camera up or down. It will distort the perception in the picture making walls look awkward and it can make objects look far away.

4)     Edit Photographs. Very seldom is a photograph ready with no editing. Software like Lightroom and Photoshop are available to sharpen pictures, improve coloring, and take out unwanted items that distract from the photo. It is also important to size your images. They need to be quick loading, but large enough that when put on a full computer screen, they show sharp and crisp details. This is why the tripod is so important. Otherwise when a picture is enlarged it no longer looks like a clear picture. Using too high of a resolution will slow down loading speeds and site visitors hate to wait.

5)     Lighting is perhaps the most important and the hardest to capture correctly. For outdoor pictures, blue skies are a must. No one wants to imagine their vacation in a cloudy, rainy location. If you present pictures showing dreary weather, that is how the visitor imagines a holiday at your property. The best time of day for outdoor pictures is dawn and dusk. The light is softer, the sky is more radiant and the shadows can be used to make more dramatic pictures. Avoiding the sun’s glare is essential to good outdoor pictures.

Indoor pictures are best taken mid-morning or late afternoon. Open all the shades and doors to bring in as much natural light as possible. If the sun is shining it needs to be at your back. Turn on all the incandescent lights. Then as you photograph watch for shadows. Every room needs to be light and bright. Even for outdoor pictures of the property, having the shutters, blinds and doors open create a more inviting photograph, than showing everything closed.

6)     Show off the most marketable features of the property. This includes anything that will make your vacation rental stand out among others in the area. Peruse rental sites and look at other vacation rentals that you compete with and see what features and benefits are offered. What do you offer that makes your property unique? Is it a better view, updated furniture, or newer amenities? Find your unique selling point which answers the question, why would a potential renter choose your vacation rental, over the rest. Then photograph, describe and highlight that selling feature.

7)     Put your best shot first. Too often pictures are loaded in the order they are taken. It is also not necessary to always show the front of the property in the first picture. Look through your photos and ask yourself: Which picture captures the essence of a vacation in my home the best? It might be the pool, the view from the balcony overlooking the ocean. Whatever your strongest selling point is, that should be the picture you lead with. The front of the home or picture of the condo building can come 2 or 3 pictures in. You have about 30 seconds to capture your visitor’s attention to look further into your vacation rental. Your first photograph, headline and opening sentence is your only opportunity to draw the visitor in, to take a closer look.

8)     Account for seasons. Websites today make it easy to change pictures. Most vacation places have different activities for different seasons. Make sure your photographs reflect that. If a vacation rental is used for skiing in the winter, having snow filled pictures helps the visitor picture themselves skiing down the mountain. That same visitor will dismiss your site in the summer because they are not imagining a snowy vacation.

It used to be that people booked summer vacations in December. Today visitors often have a shorter window for vacation planning. Seasonal picture postings need to keep this in mind. I recommend posting winter pictures in early fall and summer photos in early spring. As a property owner, you are aware of when bookings take place, have your photos coincide with the season being booked, not necessarily the season you are in.

9)     Use color. Pops of color in photographs help draw the visitor into the photo. For example: If you have beds with white comforters, put a bright throw at the bottom of the bed for a splash of color. If you have a wooden table and chairs in your dining room, put fresh pink flowers or a colorful fruit bowl in the center of the table to capture more color. If you have lounge chairs by the pool, add colorful beach towels as accenting colors to gray chairs and a blue pool.

10)  Stage the property. The bottom line, when it comes to vacation rentals, is that people want vacation homes that are inviting. They want to rent homes they can picture themselves in. Stage every room, inside and out. Set the dining room table, adding color, so it looks as if guests are ready to sit down and eat. By the pool, stage the table with a book, or sunscreen, or a bottle of wine with glasses. Light the BBQ and stage the patio for a grilling party. If you have a balcony with a great view, stage the table and chairs so it looks as if a guest was having morning coffee, overlooking the natural scenery around them. Set up everything in the way the guest will most likely use it. Often when a guest first arrives outdoor chairs may be stacked. For the photo shoot, stage it as if the guest were enjoying the pool or the scenery. Staging the bathroom with folded towels and an amenity basket turns an ordinary bathroom into a spa like feel. Each photo needs to invites the guest in, to enjoy the property.

Follow these tips and see your bookings increase. It takes a little time if you’re doing it yourself or a little money if you are hiring a professional to photograph your property. Whichever you decide, make sure you have amazing pictures which highlight your vacation rental. Remember great pics equal more clicks.

 

Photo Credit: fijimerchants

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Commercialize your Vacation Rental

Commercialize your Vacation Rental 

The popularity of the vacation rental industry has continued to surge over the past ten years and the short term home rental business is on pace to continue growing even more through the near future.  As the vacation rental industry continues to grow, the market is becoming more competitive and consumers are demanding more out their stay.  The days where owners could simply put up a listing on VRBO or Homeaway and make a killing are gone.  Do-it-yourself vacation rental home owners and property managers need to find a way to differentiate their product offerings to the public.  One of the best ways for owners and managers to offer a unique lodging option to consumers is through “commercializing.”
What is “commercializing,” you ask?  “Commercializing,” is basically the process of making your vacation rental look and perform more like a hotel….while at the same time, of course, preserving the unique qualities of your home that make it a much more enjoyable stay than a typical commercial lodging property.  This concept might sound simple but it is something that people in the vacation rental business often fail to grasp, a costly mistake.  Consider one of the biggest complaints from people who spend their vacations in privately owned rental properties is “the lack of professionalism from property manager or owner.”  You are running a business people, get with it!  Owners and property managers can avoid costly complaints from consumers by taking just a few simple steps to “commercialize.”
Step 1.) Get yourself a legitimate inventory management system.  There are oodles of free software packages and cloud based services that allow property managers and owners to book with the best of them.  Take time to stay organized and you will avoid a lot of trouble.
Step 2.) Step up your interior game!  I am not talking renovations and loads of cash spent on new cabinets.  Start with matching pillow cases, sheets, and blankets.  Sticking with the same colored sheets and blankets for all of your rooms throughout the house creates a sense of clean and professional.  You might even consider embroidering a cool little logo onto the bed linens as well to show your customers you mean business.
Step 3.) Commercialize the bathroom.  Just like the bedrooms, we are talking same colored towels and possibly cool logos stitched into them.  Make your spot look legit.  Don’t forget to always provide shower gel and the like, perhaps even in convenient dispensers located on the bathroom walls.
Step 4.) Labels.  Some people think this looks tacky, but it’s not….not even if you are renting out a million dollar home.  Labels are convenient and when you are renting out larger condo or home, this is important.  Make sure all of your labels are laminated and looking good before slapping them up.
Commercializing goes beyond the four steps outlined in this post but hopefully this provides homeowners and property managers with some good ideas. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel to make your place look and feel more professional.  While providing your customers with a hotel like experience in your cozy abode, you are sure to avoid costly mistakes and keep your booking calendar full!
hotel vs home Vacation Rental Business

Travel Trends: The Hotelization of Vacation Rentals

The Hotelization of Vacation Rentals is happening now.  How will you adjust your Vacation Rental Business to these coming changes? Do you know what you need to do to stay competitive? What changes can you expect in you local marketplace? Well, over the next year you will see drastic industry changes that will without a doubt affect your business. This is what I want to focus on for the next month. Writing content that directly addresses these changes and how you can prepare your Vacation Rental Business. 

Vacation Rentals are no longer the small guy in the room.  Though still considered the David of what seems to be a battle vs Goliath, short term rentals are now starting to make some noise. Really pissing Hotels off… To be frank.  Vacation Rentals in general account for $85Billion of a $230Billion accomodation market size according to a recent study done by Homeaway in 2012 (which includes the US & UK markets). To further that picture, of the 116 million homes in the US there are only about 3.3 million actively doing short term vacation rentals.  It’s no surprise hotels are worried. (They should be) It’s also important to realize that The hotel Industry “Goliath” isn’t going to fold easily. Expect legal battles, local laws in favor of hotels, lobbying, etc. This is especially true in high traffic tourist markets where Hotels feel they’re losing market share.

Expect Hotels to really start laying down the red carpet, extras and grand amenities for their guests. As well more boutique hotels gaining popularity. As travelers seek more “vacation rental” type accommodations. One more reason you need to be ready to offer your guests more. You’re not only going to be competing against other property owners, management companies, but now Hotels. 

The more you can “Hotelizize” your Vacation Rental business model the better. What I mean by this is really treating it like a business. There are too many Vacation Rental business owners that don’t have their act together. In short you need to streamline processes, have smoother operations, bring all things digital, have impeccable professionalism and create an amazing customer experience. These will be your new keys to success for 2013, and onward. 

 

The Following Includes an Excerpt from EHOTELIER:

 

The “Hotelization” of Vacation Rentals

The vacation rental industry is relatively new and one of its biggest flaws – inconsistency – will start to rear its ugly head in 2013 more than ever before. Owners will need to start focusing more on the “hotelization” of their rental: in other words, streamlining their operations process to be more professional, consistent, and hotel-like. 2013 will probably see a few fiascos (like the great AirBnB robbery of 2011) that will highlight a need for more regulation and formalization in an otherwise Wild Wild West industry.

If you’re new to this Vacation Rental scene this may seem somewhat intimidating. I work with new Vacation Rental homeowners daily and can assure you with the right pieces and processes in place you “CAN” do this. Have a question or need help with your Vacation Rental? Email me here or leave a comment below and I would be more than happy to help. You can also browse through our blog and read more of what we have written. 

Vacation Rental Customer Profile

Create your Ideal Vacation Rental Customer Profile

“Spend a lot of time talking to customers. You’d be amazed how many companies don’t listen to their customers.”Ross Perot

The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.”Jerry Gregoire, CIO, Dell Computers

I truly believe that the customer experience will be the defining moment in your vacation rental and management business. How each customer interacts with your company, every individual touch point and even down to each word written.  Knowing who you will serve will set the stage for your success. But before you can create an exceptional customer experience you need to define and understand what type of customer you will market to. What is your Vacation Rental Customer Profile? Most people skip this step or neglect truly writing this process down. Even if you know your customer in your head it needs to be written down on paper. So how can you create your ideal vacation rental customer profile? This is what I want to go over in detail for you. It’s truly a foundational step that will help tailor the rest of your business around your customer. But more than that it will help you better visualize and understand who your client really is.  I will break it down in 7 easy to follow steps so you can create a profile,  find out who your customer is, what they like, and how to interact with them constantly to continually improve your business. So grab a pen, some paper or open a fresh word document and let’s get started.

1.  Describe Your Vacation Rental Customer

It’s important to understand who your ideal customer is and what similarities they have. Define your vacation rental customers with the following criteria.

Lay out your Vacation Rental Customer Demographics :

  • What are your clients average age?
  • Their Gender?
  • What is your customers average income level? (Estimate)
  • Can you determine any buying habits?
  • What do they do?  What is their occupation?
  • Marital status?
  • What is their location? Where do they live or travel from to get to you?
  • Do you know what they like to do? What are their hobbies?

Let’s use my local market of Aspen, CO as an example. My clients are usually between the ages of 45-55 years old, Family of 3-6, Income level of $150k+, tend to have quick buying habits, Stay roughly 4-7 days on average, Most are business owners or higher level executives in a variety of industries, Most are married with families,  Majority tend to come from Denver, Texas, Utah, New York, Florida and California. Majority love skiing, hiking and biking and are usually an active Clientele. 

Does that not help you visualize the customer? Based off that information it creates a much easier road map to cater marketing, amenities, and services  towards my exact customers. As a general starting point, it’s very important to have access to this information. I know my clients very well and I’m able to cater my marketing towards them. I know what they like, don’t like and where they hang out. If you sell coffee you wouldn’t want to market your coffee where people drink soda would you? If you know your clients hate the color blue would you use blue in all your marketing outlets? If your customers are corporate travelers that stay for months at a time you wouldn’t send them rental options of large homes that rent by the week would you?

Psychographics: If you really want to dive in you can do this section.  No one person is the same but as a whole “client base” you can generalize and get close.

  • What is your clients personality type?
  • Read this article to gain direction in finding out your clients personality type

Behavior :

  • What’s their likes and dislikes?
  • Do they like sports? Do they like to lounge?
  • Any particular hobbies or activities?
  • How much they usually spend on a reservation?

If your customer love skiing you should probably tailor your marketing and packages for that. If there are certain hobbies they like you should be offering perks within their interests. If your property is on a Golf course and your clientele love Golf. Catering your marketing for that as well offering amenities that benefit Golfing directly would be key.  This can include local area discounts to Golf Courses, restaurants, Golf events, etc. 

 

2. Where are Your Customers? Let’s Locate them

Locate your Vacation Rental Customers

Find the places your customers are attracted to, whether a physical location or cyberspace.  Where do they gather?

  • Where do they hang out?
  • What do they read? Both online and offline?
  • What do they search for online?

This step is usually thought to be much harder than it is. Every client you talk to on the phone or lead that calls in that you interact with should be asked the following: How did you hear about us? Where abouts do you live? Where do you usually search online for properties? Feel the conversation out and use it as an opportunity to get as much info as you can. Keep track of this info to help you better understand your customer. 

 

3. Understand Their Purchasing Process and Patterns

Review the needs and benefits that make your customers rent. Are their needs being met? What holes in your local market place aren’t being filled? Also what is working well for others in your local marketplace?

  • Where do they begin their research? And why there?
  • What is their problem or need they need solved?
  • What are the benefits to finding a solution?

 

4.  Connect with your Current Customers. Start the conversation today

Connect with Vacation Rental Customers

Reach out to your current customers to gain additional insight into what made them select your business over others. Conduct interviews, formally or informally, and ask them:

  • Why did you originally rent our property or from our company?
  • Why do you continue to rent our property or from our company?
  • What do we do that others don’t?
  • What do you like most about our property?
  • What do you like most about working with us?

 

5.  Survey Your Customers and always be learning what they like / Dislike

Survey Vacation Rental Customers

Here are a few ways you can interact and survey your customers easily:

  • Simply call them directly and take notes
  • Email them using Surveymonkey.com
  • Use Google Forms
  • Create Questionnaires
  • If you have a Sales Team have them takes notes and continually ask these questions
  • Listen and Listen some more


6.  Time to Create your Vacation Rental Customer Profile

Vacation Rental Customer Profile

Now it’s time to take and put all the above information into one place.  Ensure that your profiles are tangible, so that you can envision your client and what would motivate them to fuse your business. I would recommend having your customer profile created on a normal 8.5 X 11” piece of paper. Typing it out is recommended. (I will be posting a sample of my customer profile soon for an example)

  • Describe your clients in writing
  • Include images of ideal clients, either real or a hypothetical individual
  • A good way to get started is to create a web chart. In the middle having a circle called “My Ideal Customer” with sub categories that go indepth on who your ideal customer is.

Once you have completed the above steps you will have a clear picture of the type of customers your business should be targeting.  Creating a strategy with these ideal customers in mind will help you avoid wasting time and resources on unsuccessful marketing efforts. Through focused and more consistent marketing communications, you’ll be able to better reach the new customers in order to take your business to the next level.

 

7.  Share your Customer Profile with your “Team”

Here I would like you to share your customer profile with whoever will be involved with your vacation rental business. By doing this your “Team” will better understand who you will be serving. This may include:

  • With your sales team,
  • Cleaning team
  • Maintenance team
  • Marketing team, etc. 

 

Biggest takeaway- Listen to what your customers want and cater your business around that. Encourage feedback to better yourself and business.

 

 

Did you enjoy this post? Dislike it? Let me hear your thoughts below in the comment section

Vacation Rental Marketing Must Haves

6 Vacation Rental Marketing Must Haves

While marketing your vacation rental property there are many moving parts that create a successful campaign. When I meet with clients it’s easy to see why so many owners and managers get frustrated and feel overwhelmed when trying to market their property(s). I have created a list of simple vacation rental marketing action steps that I believe are mandatory in marketing your vacation rental property the right way. Review all 6 but don’t try and do them all at once. Look at what you have already done, then what you haven’t completed yet and start there. Focus on what you believe is your weakest marketing outlet first.  Then move onto the next action step. There will always be ways you can improve any marketing avenue but the important thing is to actually have a starting point. So if you don’t have a video put up a photo slide show with music. If you don’t update your calendar set a reminder to do it once per week. Small steps turn into habits. Remember everyone walks before they run.

Here are my 6 must haves for running and marketing your vacation rental business. A lot goes into this but these simple steps will put you on a the right starting path. Whether you’re a seasoned owner or manager look at each of the 6 action steps and make sure each is being tended to in the right way. Most have a base of the action marketing steps below but rarely does everyone do all of them at the level needed. So let’s get started improving your vacation rental marketing efforts today one step at a time.

My 6 Vacation Rental Marketing Action Steps 

  • Online Video
  • Updated Calendar
  • Proactive with Reviews
  • Personal Website
  • Quick Response
  • Pro Photos

1.  Online Video 

Vacation Rental Video Sample

Video can truly paint a picture and create an experience for the potential guest before they even arrive at your property. Most people skip this step because high quality video is associated with high production cost. Which is not the case. Yes there are companies that will charge an arm and a leg but there are many ways you can get around that. Here are some great alternatives to getting your video off the ground today:

  • Start with a video photo slide show if you’re really tight on your budget.  A service I really like for this is: Animoto. Here you can use photos and create a beautiful video slide show with ease.
  • If you have a MAC I would suggest using Imovie which is very simple and easy to use. For a great tutorial watch this video here.
  • Check with local Photography and Videography colleges within your area and post a job for a video. Here you can get top talent looking to build their portfolio usually for free or a fraction of the price a professional will charge.
  • If you do have a great Videographer you want to use that does charge a premium, get creative. Leverage your vacation rental and offer to let them stay in the house during any of your off peak dates. I have received most of my property videos for free by doing this. They are usually thrilled by the idea and excited for a free vacation getaway.

Overall I don’t believe you should spend more than $500.00 USD for a high quality 2-3min video of your property. On average for the videos I have paid, I haven’t spent more than $300.00 and that is in Aspen. So I know that in your local market you can easily do the same. The importance of Vacation Rental Video Marketing is increasing in importance. Not only does it help you sell your property to potential guests but most sites like VRBO, Homeaway, airbnb, etc. Place a high importance in their ranking algorithm ranking you higher if you have a video.

2. Updated Calendar 

Vacation Rental Marketing Calendar Update

This is a very simple marketing step that is often overlooked. Like adding video, updating your calendar regularly will improve your vacation rental on all major listing sites as well save you time and money. Having an updated calendar allows you to focus on real time, filtered, hot lead requests and increases your closing ratio drastically. As well prevents double bookings. Simply put, keep your calendar updated on a regular basis.

3. Proactive with Reviews

Vacation Rental Marketing Reviews

You should always be actively pushing to get as many reviews as possible for all your properties. This is truly where you can shine and stand out from other properties. What I like to do is usually 1-2 days after any of my guest checkout I follow up with a phone call thanking them and asking them how their stay was. If it was bad feedback (rarely) then I write everything out so I can better improve my guest and customer experience moving forward. If it was good feedback I also write that down. It’s important to know what you are doing right and wrong. Based off this phone call I proactively ask for a review. 99% of guests that enjoyed themselves have no problem giving a review. You just have to make sure to follow up and make it easy for the guest to leave a review otherwise even if they loved the place when they get back into their daily grind it’s very difficult for anyone to make time. Based on the property and where you need the review the most send the appropriate direct link.

  • On VRBO a mistake I often see with my clients is that they send just the URL for their VRBO. Example: www.vrbo.com/314629 This is fine but creates an extra step for the guest. You need to make it easy for the guest by sending them a direct link. Example: www.vrbo.com/314629/reviews/write This will drastically improve your review response rate.
  • Once you receive a review it’s very important to respond to it directly then post it to all your social media, website, and other marketing outlets you have available.

4.  Personal Website

Vacation Rental Marketing Website Example

Having a personal website for your property if you’re a single property owner is vital to your image, brand and marketing. Yes focus on the main marketing channels that are truly creating leads for you but also create a personal website to send clients to even if that is not where a majority of your leads stem from. Best part IT’S simple &  FREE.

  • There are a few options out there nowadays but in my opinion no one does it better than my friends over at www.myvr.com. Create a powerful, visual, personal website brand for FREE. For additional exposure they also have some great paid plans as well. Enter promo code: Breakaway for 10% OFF any paid plan if you choose to go down that route. 

Here is a great sample of a website I created through myvr.com for one of my clients: Fitzsimmons Lodge

5.  Quick Response 

Time is of the essence. If you want to take this business seriously whether you’re a individual property owner or manager with many properties responding to leads/inquiries quickly is vitally important. Not 2 hours, 1 hour or even 45 min later but within 15 mins. Yes 15min. A lot can happen within 15-30min and when you have a potential client searching for homes they on average inquire to 7 different places across 3 listing websites. So when you respond first and quickly the chances of them are booking with you drastically increase.

  • The important thing to note here is to respond back to your inquiry/lead as quickly as possible. I shoot to respond to all leads within 15min from when they originally inquire. Respond first always with a phone call response then emails.
  • If you know that you won’t be able to respond to a lead quickly set up your email autoresponder. You can do this via your email like gmail and as well through the VRBO/Homeaway dashboard. (If you have any questions in regards to how to set up and manage your autoresponder messages please leave a comment below.

6. Professional Photos 

Vacation Rental Marketing Photos

 I talk about this often and I hate to sound like a broken record but seriously if you don’t have professional photos and are still wondering why your property isn’t getting bookings then I don’t’ know what else to say. The ROI on high quality photos compared to poor photos is astounding. Remember it’s all about creating a reason, a vision, a picture of an amazing vacation. Words are great, the price is good but the photos are the golden goose. I won’t rant on this (i‘ll save that for another post) but make having high quality photos a priority as soon as possible. You will not regret it.

As always if you have any specific questions regarding any aspect of your vacation rental business please leave a comment below and I would gladly respond.

Tyler

 

 

Vacation Rental Double Bookings

Accidental Double Bookings?

Accidental Double Bookings

“Doublemint Gum is delicious. Vacation Rental Double Bookings aren’t”

Years ago it was simple to keep track of reservations but with so many listing options and platforms available online today it has made it very difficult to keep track of all your bookings. Some listing services are working on making it easier to manage everything in one place but until that day you’re stuck with managing everything yourself.

Multiple Listings

In order to keep up with the competition and make sure that your vacation home in (“X” city) is the vacation home selected by the Jones family over the other 5,000 plus rentals available you’ll most likely have your property listed on several listing websites. As well in order to market your property you’ll want your own personal website. With tools like availability calendars on each site it is difficult to keep track of who has booked what each week, unfortunately leading to double bookings.

These double bookings occur when reservations are made in the same exact or the overlapping time period on two different sites. Depending upon how frequently you are updating the availability this could occur quite often.

So how do we prevent this from happening?

A simple fix for this is to pick one listing site or create a master calendar that you or anyone else who is doing bookings for your property can check easily and quickly. This will be the main calendar no matter where else you have the property listed.

 

Put it in Writing

Things do happen every once in a while even with careful record keeping. The best way to protect yourself is to establish a double booking policy. Examples of double booking policies are as follows. Many property owners play it fair and look at it in one of two ways – they either let the person who has paid for the vacation in whole have the rental or the one who booked it first have it. We would recommend letting the customer who booked it first have it. This is granted of course that they have left the necessary deposit. Giving to the person that paid more money is just turning your home into a money game. You do not necessarily always want the person with the most money renting your home. Instead, if your home is located in a quiet community you would want the perfect family not a rich person who may do nighttime entertaining.

 

Having a Written Policy is Only the First Step

Having a policy will help those who read it but many times those who end up double booked have not read your policy and end up getting very upset that their favorite vacation spot is not available especially if it is during a popular vacation period. Sure you can begin by stating your policy but if a family has planned and saved up for this vacation all year long they are not going to want to hear about your policy. They are only going to care about one thing – that it is your fault and that they want it fixed. So being in the customer service business you need to address the situation the best you can.  If you have worked in retail then you know the saying “the customer is always right.” In this case it is true because when you have double booked you have made an error. The best way to fix it as with any type of error is to try and fix it as soon as you can. Don’t wait or put it off.

There are many ways that you can fix it and the best way to find out is to talk to the customer. Some customers will be happy with a date change. That is the first step as a change in date will not cost you anything and you get to keep both customers. Possibly giving the customer a discount. Again, since you are not paying yourself you will not really be losing out. If they really have to travel these dates, it is time to get creative. The best option is either to locate and find a comparable alternative property or worst case, offer to put them up in a local hotel. No matter how you fix the problem always be sure to follow up with a Sorry Card.

Double bookings come when you do not update the availability of your vacation properties and more than one customer is scheduled to rent the place for the same dates. Sometimes it ends up being an easy problem to solve and other times you may find yourself scratching your head wondering what to do next. If you have tried everything and can’t figure it out; ask the customer what would work for them. If it is not unreasonable than make it happen.

If you don’t have a double booking policy in your rental agreement I would add one right away. Having this will drastically help you “the owner” when situations like this occur. Here is a sample policy you can take and edit to fit your own property:

If the unit is unavailable due to the sale of property or double booking, renter will be advised at the minimum 2 weeks before move in date and be offered the following to choose from.(Pending availability and mutual agreement) (a) 100% full refund of all monies. (b) Placed into similar place of equal caliber (as per renter and owner agreement) (c) Placed into a location that is inferior and refunded any differential accordingly. NOTE* 100% full refund is a definitive option if the alternative property cannot be located or agreed upon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Five Steps to the Best Vacation Rental Description

Would you like more bookings? 

“I know nothing in the world that has as much power as a word. Sometimes I write one, and I look at it, until it begins to shine.”
― Emily Dickinson

If you’re in the business of marketing your vacation rental, the best tool at your disposal is your words! More often than not, potential guests won’t be able to see your property before it comes time to stay in it—and as a result, all they have to go by to decide whether or not your rental is the right place for them is 1) your description and 2) your photos. While quality photos do a great job of showing potential guests the beauty your property has to offer, what will actually convince them to stay there is the amenities that go along with it. That being said, the goal of your description should be to let interested parties know all of the key features your property brings to the table—and most importantly, how it stands out from the rest.

Here are five surefire ways you can use your vacation rental description to grab the attention of your guests:

1.     Make your first sentence interesting.

Think of the first sentence of your description as the first look into your property. When crafting this sentence, keep these things in mind:

  • Don’t repeat the same adjectives you use in your headline. Instead, use other adjectives that give more information about what your place has to offer.
  • Don’t include basic, boring details like rates, max occupancy and location in this sentence. Most people will have found your listing through a vacation rental website’s search results, and will have already filtered these options anyway. They want to read something exciting to paint a picture perfect vacation. 
  • Most importantly, make this sentence count by highlighting something that stands out about your property.

 2.     Be very descriptive.

  • Try to think about what your guests would want to know, and let them know how your property fits that mold.
  • Make sure you talk about your neighborhood—especially if it’s in a popular or pretty area. However, make sure it’s not the only thing you focus on. Your goal isn’t to advertise your neighborhood—it’s to advertise your home.
  • If your property is perfect for certain groups of visitors, tell them why. Is your house fit for kids? Does you welcome pets?

 3.     The longer, the better!

Don’t write a novel, but feel free to keep your description between 300-400 words. Writing too little can hurt your chances of attracting more guests.

4.     Keep your writing and your photos consistent.

Make sure your adjectives match what is portrayed in your photos. Your photos should be a colorful representation of what you have to say about your property. Make sure to describe each photo with a tasteful photo description/caption.

5.     Make it easy to read.

Through all of your description, make it easy to read! Keep your paragraphs short and sweet, and highlight key words or phrases by putting them in bold or italics. While some websites won’t allow it, if possible, use bullet points to outline what you have to say. This makes it very easy for the “guest” to read what your home has to offer in a easy format.

Your Vacation Rental description is one of many important pieces that go into operating a sucessful vacation rental business. Be sure to take the time to craft something unique to your property. Often the cover photo and title will catch them but your vacation rental description will reel them in. A good way to see other great listings is to search your local area for similar properties to yours. Sort by reviews and then read the top 3-4 properties that are listed.  See what they are writing and saying about there properties to get some ideas for your own.