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How to Market Vacation Rentals: 7 Steps Expert Property Managers Take

As the short-term vacation rental industry continues to evolve and professionalize, property managers require a more mature and robust marketing strategy to build a sustainable, lucrative vacation rental business. 

Gone are the days when the bare minimum was enough: market your properties on only one or two websites now and you’ll struggle to succeed – or even survive – in this competitive environment, where it becomes increasingly difficult to find prominence. 

The simple fact is that travelers are holding vacation rental owners and managers to much higher standards than they used to, something that the new era of post-pandemic travel is only exacerbating. 

Don’t fear that – embrace it! 

We’ve put together 7 practical marketing steps, that’ll ensure you’re well on your way to achieving long-term success. 

Photo by Ralph (Ravi) Kayden

How to market your villa rental

In the wake of Covid-19, there’s a growing demand for rented private accommodation as travelers prize cleanliness and safety more than ever and have been gravitating to lodgings where minimizing human contact is their number one priority. Villas are rocketing in popularity, owing to the space and seclusion they provide. 

The surge in popularity of vacation rental properties also ties in with the shift towards remote working. The pandemic has proved that people can work from anywhere, as long as there is a good Wi-Fi connection, and that they’re willing and able to be away from home and the office for longer periods of time.

A recent survey ‘Destination X – Where to Next’ by Amadeus found that 55% of travelers said they would travel for 14 days or more and 60% said they now expected to take fewer trips a year, favoring longer stays over short breaks. Airbnb has already shifted its entire business model to mid-term stays.

This development presents opportunities for the shrewd vacation rental market property manager. Now is the time to capitalize on ‘bleisure travelers’ looking for a home-away-from-home, and those looking to reconnect with friends and family in a spacious home. 

With so many rental properties out there, here are the 7 steps you need to take to make sure your vacation villa rental is most findable and stands out from the crowd. 

Step one to villa marketing: quality photos are the keys to unlocking your entire marketing operation

As we all know, first impressions count, so it goes without saying that professional-looking photographs are the best way to show off your properties. Your business will benefit as a direct result, lending it more credibility, value, and, yes, professionalism. 

Hiring an experienced photographer to take pictures of your real estate is advisable as they know about lighting, lenses, and the best angles to deliver the wow factor. Amateur photographs will give the impression you cut corners, and that you’ll perhaps do the same elsewhere. The better your images, the better your chances of a booking. It’s as simple as that.

If you do decide to take the photos yourself, here are some things to consider when photographing your property:

  • Tidy and clean beforehand. A camera will pick up crumpled bed linen and stains on the carpets that you may not have noticed. Clear away clutter and arrange furniture so the house looks presentable and welcoming.
  • Maximize light by opening curtains and turning on lamps in dark rooms or corners.
  • Keep the camera straight. Jaunty angles confuse and put off the viewer.
  • Mix close-ups with wide-angle shots. Provide interest by having a range of different perspectives in your photographs. People want to get an overview of the whole room and the space but they are also interested in details. Show close-ups of cozy corners and wall art or bookshelves.
  • Take lots of photos! Customers want to see an extensive gallery of images – think of 20 as a minimum to offer a tantalizing portrayal of the property (but be careful not to misrepresent your property, as discovering things are not as advertised is a bugbear for travelers). 

Think carefully about the main photo. You’re relying on this to hold the attention of potential guests and entice them to click through the gallery. Your opening image will be the showpiece: the heart of the home, or the exterior.

It’s worth staging the space to maximize its appeal and make it sing. Potted plants outside the front door? A roaring fire in the hearth? A continental breakfast on the kitchen island? Flowers on the sideboard? Don’t hold back! 

Step two for how to promote your villa: build a professional website

Another great way to help cultivate a professional identity and build trust is by having a high-quality website, especially in an industry where dated designs are commonplace. 

As the industry evolves, increasing numbers of travelers want to book exclusively with professional vacation rental managers (as opposed to home-owners) so your website is a chance to build trust and demonstrate your professional credentials, for example, your profile, your territory, and the number of properties you have, as well as to showcase all those wonderful property photographs. 

A professional looking website can also act as another sales channel – even if you expect the majority of your bookings to come through listing sites, such as Vrbo, Airbnb, or Tripadvisor, or via a Metasearch the first time, if renters have a good experience, they’ll likely book directly through your website on repeat visits.

Don’t be daunted by the prospect of integrating booking features into your website – your vacation rental property software should offer this as part of your package. If not then now might be the time to consider an alternative. 

Having your own website will give you, as a property manager, more control of your business and will save you commission on rental listing through external sites.

There are a lot of things to consider when building your own listings website, but priority should be given to an uncluttered, user-friendly interface and a robust, secure booking system. Elements like user reviews, an “about us” page, and details about the local area are also elements that ought to be considered.

Step three in the property manager’s guide to marketing: harness the power of SEO

Male hand drawing SEO sketch on blurry interior background. Analysis concept

For those who aren’t familiar with Search Engine Optimization, think of it as the way you super-charge your website’s content to increase the quantity and quality of visitors to your online business from Google and other search engines. Statistics show that every minute 3.8 million searches are made, where users are looking for desired information and seeking out new brands. It’s vital you have a strong SEO strategy to stand a chance of being found organically in this highly competitive sector.

Well-written content is just the start – a website that is optimized for search engines “speaks the same language” as its target audience, with keywords that help connect searchers to your site. 

A blog linked to your website is a surefire way to gain you visibility. Writing regular, topical blog posts using keywords will boost your business in search rankings. By offering relevant information to your target audience, you are positioning yourself as a local expert and building credibility and trust among your potential customers.

Bear in mind that users are able to spot content that has been written with the sole purpose of SEO ranking. You must provide people with qualitative information that they want to read, or else you risk losing their attention and trust.

For example, this article from CMI explains that travelers book places to stay because they have already decided to travel. They don’t travel based on finding a place to stay. With this in mind, the article explains the value of building experiences around pre-existing reasons for travel (business, passion for exploration) as a way to connect with a ready-made audience seeking what you’re able to offer.

Here’s what to consider when defining your content strategy:

  1. Know your audience 

You’re aware of the typical questions and inquiries from tourists coming to your area, so make sure you address these and share expert local insight in the content you publish. 

  1. Choose the right tone

Make your copy clear and easy to understand. You want to connect with the largest audience possible, so avoid jargon and industry speak that might alienate people unfamiliar with the topic. Also, keep things snappy and concise, especially important for mobile users.

  1. Research the needs of your customer

Understanding what your target audience needs and is interested in on Google will help build content appealing to them.

  1. Keyword optimization

The keywords for your area, properties, and services should appear in your content. This is important for your SEO, and the reader can quickly and clearly identify your content as relevant and expect the same of the rest of your content.

Ultimately, your aim is to rank higher than your competitors by uploading interesting material that’s deemed attractive to Google. The huge benefit is that not only should SEO lead to more sales, but it’s essentially free advertising.

Step four: list on niche channels

How do you stand out from the crowd in an overcrowded marketplace? The global player listing sites such as Airbnb, Booking.com, and Expedia promote an avalanche of luxury villas with competitive pricing. Although it’s important to have visibility here, if you market solely on these sites, you’ll always be fighting for prominence. 

👉 Check out our list of 8 vacation rental sites to list your villa rental on that aren’t Airbnb

Your vacation rental management platform should enable you to easily connect with the rich tapestry of smaller, less well-known – often territory-specific – channels that are emerging all the time. It’s on these smaller listing sites where your rental property can really stand out. 

If connecting with niche channels isn’t possible through your existing software provider then you should really consider making the switch to one that can. 

The bottom line is you need to market your vacation home everywhere. 

Step five: market on social media

Sankt-Petersburg Russia April 13, 2018: Apple iPhone X on office desk with icons of social media network instagram application on screen. Social network. Starting social media app. Photo taken at company office

There’s no denying the power of social media and its popularity is ever increasing. Did you know that nearly 100 million photos and videos are shared on Instagram each day? And over a third of Instagram users have used their mobile phone to purchase a product online?

For your short-term rental business to be a success, it’s vital that Instagram is at the heart of your marketing strategy. But do you know how to take advantage of this medium to promote your vacation rental properties? Here are some tips:

  1. Use your company logo on your picture profile so that your brand is easily identifiable.
  2. Your username should be your business name but without any spaces.
  3. Include your URL on your profile page so that followers can click through to your business website.
  4. Add a BIO (biography) where you list the services you are offering as a vacation rental business, the types of property, and location. 

However, there’s more to social media marketing than Instagram –  Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, and a host of other platforms all offer opportunities to develop and hone your social media messages. 

It’s important in most cases to run bespoke accounts for your rentals rather than promoting them through your existing personal profiles, where the messaging may not always be relevant or complementary.

When you have social media accounts set up for your rentals, don’t just use them to post pictures of the property: feature the local area, tips for guests to get the most of their stay, and anything else that could add value and sell the overall experience on offer.

Be sure to encourage guests to tag your property in their photos during their stay and to use relevant hashtags during their stay associated with your rental. These things can all help to build your brand and get fresh eyes on your property.

 Step six: give a virtual tour

While photographs are extremely important, a virtual video tour gives people a more accurate sense of the space and helps them picture themselves there. It will also differentiate you from smaller, less professional players. 

You don’t need to include every room of the house (washrooms under the stairs rarely look good!) but try to visualize how travelers will experience the property from their initial arrival. Think about walking from the front door through the hallway and into the heart of the home. 

Make sure the property is looking its best – clear away clutter, make all beds and ensure curtains are fully open to maximize natural light flooding in. 

Choose the time of day when your house is looking its best – if you’re hiring a photographer or videographer, they will advise on this. 

Hold the camera steady (nobody wants to feel seasick!) and consider giving a running commentary when you edit the footage to let people know what they are looking at and to bring a personal touch.

Step seven: provide a quality product

There’s no point investing in a fabulous marketing strategy unless your product is up to scratch week after week, month after month, year after year. Yet as successful professional property managers know only too well, ensuring consistently excellent service is a huge undertaking. 

We’ve put together some tips to ensure you’re able to deliver guests a first-rate experience that will stay with them, keep them coming back, and help spread the word: 

Upgrade your interior design

Photo by Ralph (Ravi) Kayden

Your aim is to create a comfortable environment that will be a home away from home for your guests and simple improvements will go a long way. Buy quality linens and towels, replace faulty electrics, put some artwork on the walls, and if necessary give the house a fresh paint job.

Offer a refined guest experience 

Unexpected touches make guests feel valued and leave a lasting impression. It’s the little things that don’t cost the Earth but will go a long way to create a first-class experience for your guests. Consider providing a welcome basket of fruit or a bottle of wine, and leave new toiletries in the bathroom for guests’ use.

There are several features your property may already have that you might not think to mention in your listing. This could include your surround sound system, the DVDs and books on offer to guests, the outdoor furniture available, or the fact you have a dog bowl in the kitchen cupboard.

At a minimum you should try to ensure the following:

  • Bedrooms should be welcoming: pillows plumped, bedding pristine, lamps by the bed, hanging space for clothes. 
  • The kitchen should be equipped with a coffee machine, tea, salt, cooking oil and bottled water in the fridge for that refreshing drink after a long journey. 
  • Leave out a hairdryer and an iron.  
  • Make sure you have high-speed Wi-Fi – it’s more important than ever with people choosing to work remotely. Does the TV and sound system work properly?

Personalization 

People like to feel they are renting from a person, not a business. Help nurture this with a handwritten welcome note and a user’s guide to the house, which includes information about how to work the TV, internet codes, and the day the trash gets put out.

Provide information and leaflets about the local area – the best restaurants, walks, bus routes and local sights for instance.

How to market your villa rental

To summarize, in an industry that continues to professionalize apace, a robust marketing strategy has got to be the number one priority for property managers who want to build a sustainable, lucrative vacation rental business. 

The good news is that implementing the steps outlined here need not be a chore if you’re already partnering with one of the leading vacation rental management software providers. 

Whether you need help building a professional-looking website featuring an integrated booking engine, advice on how to super-charge your content with Search Engine Optimized keywords or the technology to connect you with the largest number of potential customers using multiple channels, Avantio’s suite of industry-leading marketing tools can help you implement a successful marketing strategy in no time at all. 

Join the growing number of professional property managers around the world who are already using Avantio, the most established, high-end vacation rental management software provider, to deliver marketing solutions for their business. 

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