From your website to your listings and advertising — not to mention actually attracting someone’s attention and moving them to inquire about availability — it takes a lot of effort to get someone to book your vacation rental property.

You can start from scratch with every potential renter, or you can shorten the cycle by reaching out to your “warm leads”: People who have previously stayed with you, or who inquired about your property but didn’t book.

There’s definitely some legwork involved, but by following these steps you can create a newsletter that will help you stay in touch with both your previous guests and potential renters.

Step 1: Create your contact list

When compiling your contact list, you may want to focus on people who’ve sent inquiries over a set period of time, like the previous year, to keep the volume more manageable.

In a spreadsheet, create the following columns:

  • First Name
  • Last Name
  • Email
  • Optional: Description (why people were interested in your property)

Now for the grunt work: Go through each inquiry email that you have and start recording the information. Also include contact details for people who have actually rented from you.

Step 2: Decide your newsletter’s purpose

The next step is to figure out what you’re going to tell people. Hopefully some themes will jump out at you from the work you did in Step 1; if not, you’ll have to rely on your best guess for now.

The most important thing to remember about your newsletter: It’s not all about you! We’re all bombarded with information, and if something isn’t relevant we’ll tune it out.

When planning your newsletter, try to

  • Identify what your potential renters need, then
  • Highlight your property as a solution.

While you don’t want your vacation rental information to be buried by other information, you should reflect that your property matches something that’s important to your reader.

Step 3: Collecting content for your newsletter

When it comes to collecting content for your newsletter, it can help to have a theme. For example, you might focus on

  • A significant upcoming local event
  • Travel tips for winter vacationers,
  • Stress management

Tailor your primary content around that theme. A focus on stress management, for example, could feature an article about how vacation time can boost productivity, with a coupon for a stress-busting mid-week getaway.

Other important information you could highlight includes

  • Updates you’ve made to your home,
  • Local events and activities,
  • Recent reviews, or
  • A coupon or promotion.

Also be sure to add any relevant contact information, like

  • Your website, email address and phone number,
  • Your property address,
  • Links to any other channels like Facebook or Twitter.

Step 4: Building your newsletter

Creating a newsletter no longer requires doing the layout yourself and sending a PDF file. Tools available online have taken much of the headache out of formatting these publications, making them easier to both create and read. They also manage people who subscribe or unsubscribe to your newsletter.

A few of these marketing tools include:

  • MailChimp (free for a mailing list of up to 2,000 people, with a few minor restrictions; paid packages are available)
  • Constant Contact ($15 or more per month after a free 60-day trial, depending on the size of your mailing list)
  • AWeber ($19 per month, up to 500 subscribers; packages for larger mailing lists are available)
  • Benchmark Email (a variety of plans starting at $9.95 per month)

Compare services, support and training to see what best fits your needs. Also, ensure the service you select will allow you to upload the spreadsheet you’ve created.

Another benefit to using these tools is that they generally force you into compliance with the CAN-SPAM Act – a federal law that sets the rules and regulations around commercial email.

According to this legislation, you must honor several requirements including:

  • Identifying your message as an ad
  • Including your physical location
  • Telling people how to opt-out

While you can likely meet the CAN-SPAM requirements using a personal email system like Gmail, you would need to do it all manually; email marketing tools can automate the administrative work, and it makes sense to take advantage of that functionality.

Step 5: Newsletter logistics

Before you hit the “Send” button, there are a few questions you need to figure out for yourself:

  • How often will you send your newsletter? Monthly newsletters are generally a good idea, but aim for a quarterly email if you feel that’s a more realistic commitment. You can always adjust your schedule once you start receiving feedback.
  • What should your subject line be? That old adage applies here, too: Keep it simple! You can also refer to the three key elements of irresistible email subject lines from the folks at Copyblogger.
  • When should you send your email? When it comes to email marketing, day and time do matter! This guide from Benchmark Email considered the data to recommend a starting point.

Your very first message

One important step to take before launching your new newsletter: Give all the people on your contact list the opportunity to opt-in to your newsletter.

This chart from AWeber provides a nice overview of when it’s OK to add contacts to an email list. In short: You should only add people to your list when they’ve given you permission.

Write a brief message that describes

  • Who you are, with a brief description of your rental property
  • Why you’re contacting them
  • What your newsletter is about
  • Why it will benefit them (discounts, travel information, etc.)
  • A link to your subscription page (which you will have set up using the email service)

This extra step may cut the number of people on your email list, but you’ll know that each subscriber is clearly interested in what you have to offer. Plus, this is an important way to avoid the dreaded “spam” button!