The Secret Weapon Most Vacation Rental Owners Ignore

Jonathan Murray —  January 27, 2015

I posted about this recently in Matt Landau’s Inner Circle forum. It’s been a while since I blogged about autoresponders, a tool many owners still aren’t taking advantage of, so I wanted to share the information with you here. If you aren’t already participating, check out the Inner Circle forum or connect with Matt Landau’s Vacation Rental Marketing blog.

"welcome" written with magnets, photo by Christian Schnettelker (CC BY 2.0)Done well, with some fine-tuning, using autoresponders in my vacation rental business have helped me capture more bookings, cut demands on my time, and build better relationships with my guests.

Inquiry autoresponders are messages that send automatically and immediately when someone sends a new rental inquiry. Some owners choose not to use autoresponders, but many don’t realize they’re even an option.

Here are seven reasons why I think every owner should include autoresponders in their booking process.

1. Boost conversion rates by getting there first

Response time matters in this business: someone who receives a response within an hour is up to 7x more likely to convert. Being glued to your email isn’t a solution — we’re all busy people. I personally find it hard to consistently respond immediately to every renter, but I know an autoresponder will land in their inbox within that one-hour sweetspot. That buys me a bit more time to respond to them myself.

2. Build trust with your professionalism

In an industry where many owners and property managers don’t even respond, getting a message into the renter’s inbox first doesn’t just get conversions — it helps you stand out. It shows you take their business seriously, a sign you’ll give them the attention they need before, during, and after their visit. An effective autoresponder will also point potential guests to your website and introduce your brand, which will help solidify that good first impression.

3. Establish your brand

Nobody’s going to remember “VRBO #3537208,” so I call my property “Sonoma Square Cottage.” An autoresponder gets my property’s name into their head. This increases the chance they’ll recognize and remember it later, which is good for repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals, and it will help if I remarket to them later with a promotion or newsletter.

4. Push the renter to your own website

I created a website for Sonoma Square Cottage, where I draw people in with lots of photos, local information. Your autoresponder will get to their inbox as soon as they send an inquiry to you — before they’ve looked at a dozen other properties, while you’re still top-of-mind. What a great opportunity to distract their browsing and pull them onto your own website.

5. Be a resource for your guests

I’ve added a lot of helpful information to my website about the local area, not just my vacation rental, and I use the autoresponder to point renters to it. Other owners use their website to collect responses to frequently asked questions, or to highlight other details. A local guide positions you to help with your guest’s travel planning, which boosts both your credibility and customer service.

6. Respond to all inquiries

Sometimes, inquiries don’t work out — the dates are taken, the group is too big, they’re travelling with pets, etc. I feel better when I know every inquiry is getting a response; it’s mark of professionalism and makes a good impression. It’s easy to ignore the ones you know aren’t going to work out, but that will kill any chance they’ll think of you next time.

7. Have more time for guests that are a perfect fit

When you free up time by using autoresponders to point people to your website for FAQs or to respond to inquiries that won’t lead to bookings, you can shift your attention to other things — like the inquiries that are a perfect fit. Customer service is a big differentiator in this industry; “high touch” service can help you clinch a new booking.

In my next post, I’ll share a few autoresponder variations that I use as part of my system to help inspire your own efforts. How have autoresponders helped your business?

Photo by Christian Schnettelker (CC BY 2.0)

Jonathan Murray

Jonathan Murray

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Before starting MyVR, he co-founded Lift Media (acquired), a lead generation company that worked with clients like American Express, Netflix, and Fandango. He started MyVR after being frustrated with setting up his own Sonoma cottage as a vacation rental. He studied engineering at Bucknell University and received his MBA from Stanford University.
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