Volo’s first guide to help you start a vacation rental business is available!
Our goal is to help new real estate investors create a solid business foundation, differentiate their property and ultimately drive a big profit through this get-to-the-point guide. Our secrets will help you succeed without a property manager!
I think this article is great for those thinking about pursuing their vacation rental and hospitality dreams! Our thoughts on each point:
1. Make Good Friends :: Some of my dearest friendships have been formed by meeting people in this business (through clients, managing my own properties or working with my family’s vacation rentals over the past decade).
2. Thankfulness :: This industry has changed my life. For that, I’m forever thankful. As will you!
3. Pursue Goals :: If your dream is to have more financial freedom and flexibility, buying a vacation rental property can help bring that to fruition. Today’s the day to start taking steps toward transforming your life (if you haven’t already)!
4. Do What You Excel In :: If you don’t think you have the needed skills to excel as a vacation rental owner, Volo can help! We will give you the tools to drive your business profits through building a strong brand and differentiated experience.
5. Give :: Volo provides pro-bono work to non-profits in the voluntourism sector!
6. Don’t Chase ‘Stuff’ :: I once felt alone in a rat-race. I worked too many hours, spend too little time with my family and buying more nice ‘things’ didn’t make me complete. A remarkable change happened when I started looking at money differently and I began chasing my dreams, not things… I’m the happiest I’ve ever been!
7. Live the Life You Want :: Be courageous! If your dream is to own vacation rentals or create a specialized vacation experience, do it! You can achieve financial freedom if proper care is given. I’ve never once regretted taking my life back…
In the olden days, people based their purchasing decisions solely on previous brand experiences. Partly to minimize potential risk of buying something ‘unknown’, and partly because reviews (other than word-of-mouth) were hard to find. I think of my grandma, who to this day, has little to no doubt in her brand loyalty. She doesn’t question it’s quality- or the possible alternatives. She simply consumes what has worked for years.
This is no longer status quo as 80% of customers now look on-line to see what other people think before purchasing.
I worked at Target Corporation for years; we always questioned how the product quality and purchasing experiences drove our brand loyalty in the era of said reviews. I believe we can apply these learning’s to the hospitality industry to generate a base of loyal guests and overcome any previous negative brand association, should you have experienced it. In short, think guest experience:
1. Always deliver on your product’s promise.
The product is your vacation rental, your boutique experience or your Bed and Breakfast. You have to have a clear representation of the experience your property offers and it needs to be consistent across all channels. If you offer a private beach-front villa with spa amenities, perfect for a girls getaway- make sure you deliver on that promise.
A client learned this lesson the hard way, which resulted in heinous reviews (across multiple sites including Yelp), after guests were infuriated by the ‘spa amenities’ at a premium price. This owner posted pictures of a nostalgic spa experience- candles, dim lights and a sauna that suggested the entire properties was new, clean and relaxing. The photograph’s looked appealing! But they weren’t an honest representation of what was actually offered. In reality, his spa-tub’s were falling apart, dirty and nothing about the property was relaxing. Instead of acknowledging the complaint (and immediately booking the ladies real spa experience at a nearby resort), they were disregarded.
The major mistake made was believing that brand loyalty wasn’t needed to create a sustainable vacation rental business. That reviews simply didn’t matter. The following year (before hiring Volo), his bookings for women’s groups that previously dominated his occupancy, declined 46%. Ouch. (I know deep down the intent was to offer a great spa experience. There was just a gap between dreams and reality and this person was subconsciously immobilized by the task… even more so when complaints started being posted everywhere.)
2. Fix mistakes with a bang.
If you screw up on your promise, over-deliver on the fix! And, consider blogging about the situation. We are all people and mistakes are bound to happen. How you handle the problem is what will separate you from your competitors and the perception of your hospitality brand. Post an image or video of the problem and the results of your immediate attention. Let people know that an elevated vacation experience resulted from this hiccup. You will come off much more personable, authentic, and your potential guests know that you are true to your vacation rental promise.
3. Be gracious and helpful.
Your guests are paying the bills and your salary! Be attentive to their needs, however big or small, and genuinely try to help them create a memorable and authentic vacation. The biggest difference between successful rentals (high occupancy, profits AND repeat guests) are those who’s owners/managers are constantly trying to help and not just looking for a sale.
In the day when a tweet or a bad review can soil your brand (and sales), you have to focus wholeheartedly on your guest experience. In the end, wowing the customer is what will bring you brand loyalty.
Airbnb was recently valuated at $10B+ as the vacation rental industry booms overall and as owners rely on rental sites (like Airbnb, VRBO, Home Away and the like) versus the use of their own customized website. These vacation rental sites are great avenues to use when first starting your business, however, don’t overlook the importance of your own URL for marketing purposes.
I make it easy for potential guests to remember my properties when walking by with a cute cottage sign stating the house name and a distinctive URL. For example, www.casadeyourname.com is much easier to remember than vrbo.com/2448987542983 (or whatever it might be).
Home Away will build you a free demo of what your independent site could look like (off of your current listing, so make sure it’s dialed), making the process pretty painless. It costs $19.99/month to host and you have access to their calendars and booking amenities. And you can use whatever URL you’d like to buy, specific to your business. It’s pretty slick.
If you already have a customized website, give yourself a pat on the back! Then ask yourself when the last time you “Googled” vacation rentals in your area was? Travelers rarely look beyond the first page or two of results so the next step is ensuring your vacation property is at the top to minimize the number potential guests you are missing out on.
Ideally, you want your business in the top three to five. Below are 5 easy tips that will help your vacation rental be more visible:
Search engine’s scan websites for keywords and uses the applicable information to determine your ranking. Brainstorm a list of terms potential guests would use to research vacation rentals or boutique experiences in your area. Add generalized terms, like ‘vacation rental’, ‘yurt rental’ or whatever makes sense for your business. Also, be sure to expand upon these and include additional phrases that could potentially lead guests to you, like ‘girls weekend’, ‘romantic getaway’, etc. Words that emphasize the unique geographic location of your property also help.
It’s easy to get hung up in common words or phrases, which are highly competitive in terms of Google results. Think a little outside of the box and include keywords that will be searched for less. If those words are used by potential guests, the odds your business appears on the first page will increase. In the end, you could actually drive more traffic with this approach.
With all of this said, don’t go overboard. Your viewers will get annoyed pretty quickly if your message is laden with the same key phrases. Be sure to eloquently speaking to your home.
2. Meta description
The meta description does not increase your SEO rankings. It is the short text visible next to your listing in search results, typically 150-170 characters. It provides insight to what your page is about and gives searchers an opportunity to decide if they want to see more. Consider it your first impression. Don’t overlook these descriptions as they heavily influence your click-through rate.
3. Social Media
Not only is social media heavily influential, it’s also an SEO tool! Creating a Facebook, Twitter or Google+ profile is super easy and only takes a few minutes. Keep each profile unique. Be sure they are all branded and consistent, but unique as search engine’s respond more to copy that isn’t pasted.
Use keywords strategically in your profile and when updating your social media sites. Always have social media buttons on your website to make content sharing easy.
4. Build Website Links
Network with local businesses! I always leave local beers, chocolates, gift certificates and so on for guests. When I’m shopping for the goods, I always make sure to let those businesses know what I’m purchasing their items for. It can seem kinds of awkward at first, but as you regularly return you will begin to build a rapport with the staff and owners. When you feel like you have established a relationship, ask if they would be willing to link to your site from their website’s ‘Partners’ page. Restaurants, local activities and business are what potential guests are searching when planning their trip (before they have even booked a rental at times), being added as a partner will endorse your business! By building links, search engines and potential guests will see your property as a great place to vacation.
Note: When networking with local businesses, it is not my only intent to be listed on their website. I truly want to promote my colleagues and get to know them personally, too.
Establishing a blog will also drive the success of your content marketing. Blogs can seem like a daunting task, but if you start with one post per month, you will be well on your way before you know it (for topic creation, please refer to my blog on social media marketing, here)! In time, Internet users will share your blogs on the web, which results in links and endorsements; thus improving your site’s SEO.
Lastly, try to be patient! It’s hard to contain our excitement but know that results often take weeks or months. Try not to get discouraged too quickly. This is especially true for smaller businesses on-line (i.e. a single vacation condo website versus a Bed and Breakfast with multiple rooms). Once it takes effect though, it can turn into your most powerful method of online marketing.