You can build your vacation rental business without online marketing, although not easily and it’s likely that progress would be slow; at least 76 percent of travelers do their planning online, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
That said, if you overlook offline marketing opportunities you could be leaving a lot of business for your competitors to scoop up. Speaking to search engine use in general, marketing agency iProspect says that “67% of online search users are driven to search as a result of some offline channel.”
Since travel planning skews so heavily towards online channels, the impact on your business is likely not dramatic. However, offline marketing — and networking — are still a critical part of getting reservations into the calendar.
A Couple of Scenarios
Not convinced print advertising, brochures or connecting with other businesses is worth your time or money? Pictures this:
- A couple on a weekend getaway fall in love with the area and decide to return next year. They stop by the tourist information center on the main street to get more information about local accomodations. Do you have a brochure in the office, or a listing in the directory of rental properties?
- A local inn receives an inquiry from someone traveling with two dogs; the inn has a strict no pets policy. Do they know your home is pet-friendly, or have your contact information handy?
- A local tour operator is expanding their business with multi-day guided vacations, and they’re looking for exclusive accommodations to include in their package. Do you come to mind as a potential partner?
Each of these scenarios offers an opportunity that’s potentially a perfect fit for your business — if you’re ready for it.
Offline Marketing Tactics to Consider
If you live in a different area than your vacation rental, pursuing some of these tactics yourself may be out of the question. However, it may be included as part of the services offered by your property manager or management company. When hiring a property manager, ask what they’re doing on-the-ground in the local community to promote their clients so you can make an informed decision.
Business cards are considered a standard tool for a reason; having a supply on-hand makes it significantly easier to talk to someone in person about your vacation rental, and easier for them to find the information later.
Your card should include:
- The name of your vacation rental business,
- Your name and, if relevant, the name of the property manager,
- Direct contact information for you and, if relevant, the property manager,
- Your website address, and
- A distinctive photo of your vacation rental, if possible.
Even if you only visit the area once or twice a year, knowing people in the area can help you stay on top of relevant local issues — whether it’s changes at city hall or a rash of break-and-enters.
Other business owners can help inform your own planning; what do they do that works that you aren’t? Is a decrease in reservations specific to your business, or are others facing the same challenge?
Look for ways your vacation rental business can support or boost other businesses through partnerships or referral agreements. For example, you can arrange with other homeowners to exchange leads during busy periods, or create a referral agreement with professionals like tour guides or wedding planners.
Business cards are a great complement to in-person conversations, but a brochure needs to guide the whole interaction all by itself. Your brochure needs to have enough information, and a strong call-to-action, to hook someone’s interest.
How can you do that?
- The description from your web listing, describing your property and its features in detail, should be a great fit for the brochure.
- Include photos of your vacation rental that convey the experience renters can expect.
- Ensure your contact information is provided, including your website address, phone number and email.
Advertising (i.e. newspaper and magazine ads, radio, television) has the potential to be effective, but it’s not always a great option for small businesses because it also tends to be expensive — television in particular.
While the cost of a radio campaign is more affordable than television, it’s still a significant investment and has a big drawback: Broadcast channels like television and radio are OK for broad awareness, but it’s difficult to reach the people who are most likely to impact your bottom line.
Print advertising, however, offers a lot of much more affordable options — some of which can be very targeted. If you have a niche market, you may find that the readers who pick up a particular publication are exactly the people you want to connect with; many communities offer publications for tourists, for example, or magazines to promote the local lifestyle.
Another way to build the profile of your business in the community is to actively be involved in it. If you don’t live in the area this can be difficult to do, but participating in events, volunteering, and sponsoring local causes shows your interest in supporting a healthy and thriving community and helps build your reputation as a good neighbor.