Your No-Nonsense Vacation Rental Marketing Guide

Mar 15 2022
featured image of vacation rental franchise

Get tips on how to use Hostfully to optimize your vacation rental business and make more profit.


What’s in this article?

Welcome to your crash course in vacation rental management marketing. Whether you’re a vacation property management company or a vacation rental owner, creating your own marketing strategy can feel overwhelming.

In this mini-guide, we’ll break it down into these four simple steps:

  • Step 1 – Define your product.
  • Step 2 – Determine your pricing strategy.
  • Step 3 – Choose your distribution channels.
  • Step 4 – Actionable steps to get you started.

4P’s of vacation rental marketing

Successful marketing is largely a by-product of asking yourself the right questions. When we get clear on what we have to offer and what our ideal guests crave, we can provide our clients with the accommodations and amenities they genuinely desire, making converting browsers into bookers much easier.

However, getting to that point requires you as a vacation property manager or rental business owner to clarify what is referred to in the marketing world as “The 4 P’s”. Once you have crafted your “4P’s”, you’ll be well on your way to creating a successful marketing strategy to help you smash your business goals.

Product questions:

  • What am I selling? If you’re a vacation property manager looking to grow your short-term rental property business or a vacation rental owner with only one property to book, make sure to get very specific on what your goals are.
  • What are the most desirable features of my vacation rental property? Examples of a desirable feature would be highlighting that you’re a beachfront location or some of the high-quality amenities you offer. At this stage, you want to list all the desirable features associated with you or your vacation rental business. Don’t be shy!
  • How do these features benefit my customer? Understanding the difference between a feature and a benefit is essential in marketing. It’s not enough to state to a target audience that you’re within walking distance of the beach. You’ll want to express how that feature will benefit your guests. For example, being close to the beach could mean that guests don’t have to worry about taking their car for a beach day and won’t have to struggle for parking like everyone else. Expressing benefits like this will make your vacation homes stand out above those who only list their property’s features. Try to be as benefit-heavy as possible when describing your vacation rental home.

Be remembered: Once you’ve completed an inventory of your unique selling points, benefits and features, see if any of those words spark an idea for a creative name for your property. Having a memorable name will help potential guests remember you in the sea of other properties they may scroll past on listing sites.

“The most powerful brand names connect with people and move them to buy because they are based on familiar words and concepts that they understand and appreciate”

Alexandra Watkins, Hello, My Name Is Awesome: How to Create Brand Names That Stick

Pricing questions:

  • Am I offering luxury accommodations, or do I offer budget-friendly options? Like in the real estate industry, your pricing needs to align with the type of property you offer and the location. Ensure that your pricing reflects the amenities and the experience staying in your vacation rental offers.
  • What is my minimum nightly rate? It’s essential to have a clear understanding of what your nightly minimum rate is. When figuring out pricing, think of immediate profitability. But also consider that a good marketing tool is offering discounts to repeat guests. Then consider price fluctuations between low and high seasons to make sure you’re still profitable. A final point is on occupancy vs price. Many hosts and managers fall into the occupancy trap: that is trying to achieve 90%+ occupancy rates. But consider that successful vacation rental operators oftentimes raise nightly rates and accept higher vacancies to be more profitable (check out the analysis in this article).
  • What do similar properties charge in my area? Here’s where doing some research comes in handy. Take a look at what other companies offer in the area and compare. Don’t forget to look a little deeper to see how their prices reflect high and low seasons, holidays and special events in the area.

Where to start: To get assistance with your pricing strategy, you may want to consider using a dynamic pricing tool. Using this tool will give you more control over your pricing strategy across multiple distribution channels (aka listing sites). You can also easily implement the Airbnb smart pricing tool that automatically updates your pricing based on key factors like time of year and type of property.

Placement questions:

  • Where will I “place” my marketing? There are many options for vacation property managers and rental homeowners to market their properties. The tricky part is knowing which distribution channels work best for you. Of course, there’s Airbnb, Vrbo, and (formerly HomeAway) and Tripadvisor, but there is also an assortment of alternatives that you might want to look into. Branching out to different online travel agencies (OTA’s) can help you advertise directly to a specific niche. For instance, if you offer a pet-friendly property, you may want to look into Bring Fido a popular site that shares everything anyone could want to know about traveling with their dog, including rental listings.

ways to get vacation rental bookings

  • Will I invest in a direct booking site? Deciding whether to have a vacation rental website is essential when choosing which marketing strategies to pursue for your property. It’s true that you can solely rely on listing sites, but having a site for guests to book directly with you, will mean paying less booking fees and commissions to online travel agencies. It will also offer you more control over your branding and provide more opportunities to create a loyal client base.

link to paper on direct bookings

Most top-tier vacation rental property management software (PMS) offer pre-built websites. However, if you see some success with direct booking sites, you might want to commission (or DIY) a custom website. A custom site will allow you to also get search engine traffic (like Google, Bing). And with a bit of search engine optimization (SEO), you’ll be able to really boost your traffic for ‘free’ (note that it still costs money to write the SEO content and keep it up to date).

  • How will I leverage social media for my vacation rental marketing strategy? Social media is a massive opportunity to connect with your ideal guest and receive bookings. To make the most out of your Instagram, Facebook or Tik Tok platforms, the one thing you’ll have to get good at is consistency. That doesn’t mean posting all day, every day, but creating a content calendar with scheduled posts in a consistent manner communicates to your guests that you are actively in business and gives them an extra layer of insight into what your vacation rental property has to offer.

Note that if you manage properties, you should also have some sort of presence on Linkedin to attract potential homeowner clients. You might not need a sophisticated content marketing plan for Linkedin for now. But at the very least, you should claim your company name on this niche marketing channel.

Promotion questions:

  • Will I offer any promotions? Offering promotions can be a great way to help fill your calendar and get some attention, especially if you are new or have a lot of competition in your area.
  • What kind of promotions should I offer? There are a few different types of promotions that you can consider. For starters, if you’re new on Airbnb, you can offer a 20% discount for the first three bookings you receive in your first 30 days. This can work well to gain momentum and add some reviews to your profile. You can also offer long-term discounts for guests who want to stay a month or more. Or you can create a discount program for returning guests.
  • How should I advertise my promotions? Some low-budget, high-impact strategies for having your promotions seen are to leverage your online travel agencies, social media platforms and your network.

Easy promotion ideas: This is your opportunity to get creative on social media with videos, reels and photo posts; you can promote discounts through your own blog, connect with travel bloggers to offer an exclusive discount to their audience and put out the word to your network through email.

call to action to book a demo for Hostfully PMP

Low budget – high impact creative vacation marketing ideas

Thinking up innovative vacation rental marketing strategies can be challenging, mainly if marketing isn’t your expertise and you aren’t sure where to focus your budget and energy. Here are some ideas that you can start to implement right away at little to no cost for advertising your short-term vacation rentals.

Email marketing: Cheap, but requires a list

The easiest vacation rental marketing tactic is by far email marketing. Here’s how this marketing tool works: a few weeks after a guest stayed with you, you send them an email offering a discount on their next reservation with you. You can automate email marketing with software like MailChimp so that you don’t have to think of timing, or copy/pasting the guest’s info. Note that to do email marketing right, you’ll also need a direct booking site (which is free if you use a top-tier PMS).

The biggest challenge to email marketing is building a list of guests. You can do this with a few marketing tactics. The first is through social media (see below). With the right posts, offer a discount for stays through your direct booking site. Once a guest books, you’ll capture the email, which you can use for future campaigns.

Another trick that’s popular in the vacation rental industry is to get emails from Airbnb guests. You can do this with products like:

  • StayFi: adds a portal to your wifi that forces guests to enter their email. It’s also a great way to monitor if there are any undeclared guests.
  • Hostfully Guidebooks: adds a mini splash screen that prompts the guest to leave their email in order to get valuable local information or the house manual.

Social media: Great for direct bookings

Whether you’re renting out a condo in San Diego or have prime beachfront real estate in Florida, it’s crucial to have a consistent presence on social media. In 2018 almost 60% of Airbnb users were millennials. Millennials make up the highest group of users on social media, followed by Gen Z. Social media presence is now a must for any digital marketing plan. Here are a few tips for social media marketing for short-term rental operators:

  • List your rental properties’ best features in your profile bio
  • Follow accounts you admire
  • Ensure your bio states your location
  • Include a link to your booking site or Airbnb Listing in your bio and your Instagram stories
  • Follow and comment on travel influencers’ accounts
  • If you have the budget hire a social media manager to keep you consistent
  • Send a message to every new follower to thank them and connect by asking them a question or continuing the conversation.
  • Collaborate and promote other businesses and exciting things happening in your area
  • Have a branded hashtag and promote it with guests at check-in to encourage guest generated content
  • Plan out your content marketing ideas in a spreadsheet to capture upcoming seasonal trends in your area.

Paid ads and Pay per click: Set it and forget it

This is another marketing effort that will require your own website. Essentially, create a Google Ads account and look at the cost of buying ads for the keywords “vacation rental + [your area]”. Some short-term rental markets with low competition are sometimes really cheap for pay per click (PPC). Other markets with high demand and lots of competition from professional managers could be too expensive for PPC. If you find that your market is expensive to list ads in, that’s ok. Move on to another marketing tool and revisit when your business is more established.

Optimize your property listings: A few tips

  • Use a headline that features your property’s best qualities
  • Make sure you have clear house rules and policies so that there aren’t any negative surprises for your guests and you receive great reviews.
  • Hire a professional photographer. High-quality photography with good lighting and captions helps potential guests imagine themselves at your vacation rental.
  • Highlight your neighborhood, festivals, events and exciting things guests can do while they stay. Lots of details here will show your dedication to the guest experience.
  • Mention the strength of your wifi and highlight a work area to capitalize on the work from anywhere trend.
  • If your property is pet-friendly, make sure it’s evident in your listing and add amenities pet parents will love.

Putting it all together

After learning the 4P’s of marketing and asking yourself the right questions, putting together an effective marketing strategy can become a lot less overwhelming. Having a plan and working that plan can save you money and create a system to connect and convert your ideal guests into happy clients.