Got a Holiday Rental? Here Are 5 Marketing Mistakes That Will Cost You Real Money

Mar 08 2019
Got a Holiday Rental? Here are 5 marketing mistakes that will cost you real money

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


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Dakota Murphey has experience in property management with her portfolio of properties expanding in the South of England. Her passion for renovation and home improvement projects is shared through her writing to help educate and inspire others.

Got a holiday rental? Here are 5 marketing mistakes that will cost you real money.

Being a holiday let landlord can be a rewarding job as long as the bookings keep coming in to generate that all-important income. But how do you know you’re doing all you can to maximize occupancy? It doesn’t matter whether you’re a seasoned landlord or have only just acquired your first holiday cottage and are still finding your feet in the holiday rentals business, everyone makes mistakes.

Here are 5 classic clangers that you may not even realize you’re making. But the negative impact on your business can be very real indeed. Getting your digital marketing wrong can cost you valuable bookings, and by that I mean money. Do I have your attention now?

1. The carpet-bombing approach to marketing

How do you advertise your self-catering holiday cottage? Search in Google and list your property on every agency site and holiday let directory you can find? Surely, the more exposure you can get, the more this should translate into bookings further down the line, right?

Well, not exactly. In fact, there are several problems with this scattergun approach to marketing your holiday property. Each listing site will require a unique description, complete with photos and pricing information, to be entered to fit their specific structure.

Once you’re up and running you need to keep the information updated, including the bookings calendar. It’s time-consuming and potentially stressful work; the more sites you sign up with, the more admin there is to do. Not only that but you’re going to have to be forensic about checking individual reservations to ensure there are no calendar clashes between bookings made via different platforms.

Much better to be selective in who you want to target, and choose no more than 3 listing sites that appeal to your exact target audience. For example, if your holiday cottage is in the unspoiled countryside, perhaps with long sandy beaches nearby, the location may be perfect for dog owners going on holiday. Listing on a pet-friendly site is much more likely to produce relevant results.

2. Not bothering to define your market

Indiscriminate advertising may be a symptom of not having defined your market. What do I mean by that? Well, you might be tempted to keep the appeal of your holiday let as broad as , thinking anyone’s money is good money. This could prove a costly mistake.

Trying to be all things to all men, as it were, runs the risk of diluting your message and appearing bland, generic and weak. Instead, think about who your ideal customer would be and make every effort to target your ‘product offering’ to this niche market only.

Greater marketing success will come from the strength of the message that you’re sending: that your holiday let is not just OK but absolutely perfect for the needs and desires of your target market.

Be as specific as you can. If you’re targeting dog owners, for instance, you could say:

“Dogs love a big sandy beach – space to run around, sand dunes to explore, water to splash in, interesting smells to discover and plenty of other dogs to play with. So when you bring your four-legged friend to our dog friendly Camber Sands holiday cottages, it’s good to know that the incredible Camber Sands beach is right on your doorstep.” (Beside the Sea Holidays Ltd)

Put yourself into the shoes of a dedicated dog owner who wants to treat his furry pal to a seaside break, and paint the picture of the ideal scenario. It shows that you understand what dogs love to do and that you provide just the right setting for an ideal doggy holiday on the coast.

You could then go on to describe the dog-friendly amenities in the cottage:

“Oscar has equipped his paw picked pads with everything the hairy heartbeat of your home needs for a tail wagging holiday. Treats, bowls, poop bags and enclosed secure gardens are in all of our dog friendly Camber Sands holiday cottages.”

3. Nothing special to say about your holiday let

The holiday rental business is a competitive marketplace. Faced with such a wealth of choice, why should anyone book your property? You need to give them a good reason. Otherwise, if your holiday let doesn’t stand out from the crowd for something, it may always be the second choice and suffer fewer bookings as a result.

Identifying your unique selling point (USP) could take any form. Perhaps it’s the proximity to the dog friendly beach on the doorstep, the glorious view from the (dog secure) garden, or the fact that you as the owner take a very personal interest in the business, have two dogs yourself and live next door.

Maybe your USP is how you’ve ‘packaged’ the pretty historic seaside cottage, having lovingly furnished and fitted it out to provide everything a dog owner and their four-legged pal could possibly wish for.

Again, rather than putting out bland messages that could apply to anyone (or no-one), painting a vivid picture of the lifestyle holidaymakers can expect will work a treat. Appeal to your target market on an emotional level will sell the benefits of booking your cottage, rather than simply listing its features.

4. Not understanding about social media

When it comes to promoting your holiday let business online, a good social media presence is essential. It’s where your potential holiday guests will be hanging out and the perfect opportunity to engage with them. However, just ‘being on Facebook’ because you feel you have to be doesn’t do it.

You need to know which social media networks are right for your business and how/when/why to post updates. There’s nothing worse than having an inactive account – it sends the message that you don’t want to engage or, worse still, that your business no longer exists!

Being on social media is all about building awareness about your holiday let, making contacts and developing relationships that could turn into bookings when the time is right. It’s an ongoing process that gains its strengths through regular posts and updates at least once a week.

Whether you choose Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or any other platform, get to know your accounts well and maintain them rigorously. Be persistent and consistent once you’ve committed and post engaging content on a regular basis. Rather than self-promotion, think outside the sales & marketing box and post content that your future guests will find interesting for its own sake.

Upcoming local events, things to do in the area, best times to visit, quirky local news, nice pubs and restaurants to visit… anything you think might entice your target audience to look closely at your property when they’re ready to book a holiday.

5. No database or admin system

Every good business depends on the strength of its database, and the holiday lettings business is no different – don’t underestimate the power of your customer data! The new GDPR regulations notwithstanding, how do you deal with inquiries? Where do you store guest information and contact details, and what if anything do you do with it?

Having a customer database not only gives you the opportunity to store every detail including, say, the name of the family dog or the reason for the holiday (birthday, anniversary?), it means you can reference this information when you next speak to them and create an immediate connection.

Since you can’t remember everything about everyone, it pays to have a simple system and log everything – guest information, inquiries and booking details.

Why not send regular email marketing updates about what’s happening in the locality to whet people’s appetite to return? You could send thank you vouchers to existing customers, promote off-season deals or give last-minute discounts to help you increase those bookings.