The idea that you may actually need a marketing plan to promote your vacation rental may at first seem more complicated than necessary, but it can make a very big difference in the number of bookings you receive. You may be fortunate to have friends and family who help spread the word however it is not reasonable to think that this will achieve your occupancy goals. Ultimately –even if you have only one property that you rent for a limited number of weeks– you are still running a business. As a business you need to allocate your marketing resources wisely so that you can get the best possible result.
In the vacation rental business, limited resources to invest in marketing is a very real concern. There are an overwhelming number of advertising and marketing opportunities available, all of which could generate the needed bookings, but the cost could completely erode your profits if not used wisely. In every market there will be free alternatives available and you should always take full advantage of those. The added value of many of these free alternatives is that they are local and grass-roots in nature which will ensure you are at the very least reaching your local market.
Some of these local free alternatives include drive-way signage in front of your property, posters or postings at the local stores, gas stations and restaurants. A great way to obtain space for you’re at a local business is to request cards or flyers from the local business that you can then make available to your customers who may potentially patronise these businesses during their stay. Create business cards detailing your property that can be handed out easily, or left at coffee shops or attached to community bulletin boards. Also don’t forget to simply spread the word. Visit all of your local businesses and tell them about your property and what you have to offer. Finally take the opportunity to talk to your cottage neighbours and tell them what you are doing with your property. This is also a great time to ease any concerns they may have.
The number of paid marketing opportunities are virtually endless and it is very easy to be tempted to throw money at a large number of these in hopes of obtaining more listings. Developing a marketing plan can help ensure that your marketing expenses remain in line and that you are allocating resources where they can obtain the best possible impact. There are a two basic methods for setting your marketing budget. Some owners prefer to use a percentage of projected revenue which sets a budget based on a set portion of revenue from the previous year or expected revenue for the current year. The other way is to use a cost of acquisition model where by the owner determines how much they are willing to pay to obtain each booking. The percentage or dollar amount used will be derived from your overall business plan and it should be closely adhered to so as not to jeopardize the success of your business.
Paid options include numerous online listing services, cottage oriented magazine listings, newspaper and community newsletters to name a few. Do your research with any of these alternatives by reviewing the ads listed by other property owners. How long has the company been in business, estimate your potential listing cost and quality of the final advertisement. In selecting which paid advertisements or marketing opportunities to use, start by determining where your potential customers will come from. Does your cottage property region tend to have owners and visitors from specific cities or areas? Is your property best suited to families or individuals? Is it an affordable or luxury alternative? The answers to these questions will determine which of the paid options will work best for your property.
When creating an ad take your time to ensure you are describing your property in the best possible manner, and include images that both truly represent your property but also present it in the most flattering manner. Keep in mind that you are describing your property to someone who has never seen it. Your future guests are taking a leap of faith-based on how you present your property through your marketing efforts. There will always be some trial and error as you try different alternatives, so it is extremely important that you track your results. Ask your customers where or how they heard about you, and adjust your marketing plans accordingly to leverage where you are successful, and change or drop anything that is not working.
Marketing plans seldom work well if not continually adjusted and refreshed based on your results. Take the time to make sure you are getting the most out of every dollar you spend.