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Long-Term Vacation Rental Owners: You Need a Digital Marketing Strategy

Long-Term Vacation Rental Owners: You Need a Digital Marketing Strategy

Lucas Firmino
Lucas Firmino January 24, 2023
Long-Term Vacation Rental Owners: You Need a Digital Marketing Strategy

No segment of the hospitality industry has grown as quickly as long-term vacation rentals. And that expansion exploded even more dramatically over the course of the pandemic. 

The result of that rapid growth is an increasingly crowded and competitive marketplace where owners are scrambling to sustain their occupancy rates and maintain their market position. And with the growing number of remote workers, people are booking long-term vacation rentals just for a change of scenery, not necessarily a vacation.

Yet the vast majority of vacation rental owners exclusively rely on third-party sites and platforms like Airbnb, VRBO or Expedia to market and book their properties, forking over a substantial portion of their revenue as a commission. 

But there is a better, more profitable way for you to keep your property occupied.

Whether you own a single vacation rental home or a portfolio of multiple properties, deploying a comprehensive digital marketing program can have a major impact on your bottom line. 

Prior Outcomes Don’t Guarantee Future Results in Hospitality 

Up until this point, it’s a good bet that your long-term vacation rental success has depended on equal parts timing, luck and location.

But relying on that good fortune to continue uninterrupted is risky given the increasing competition, economic uncertainty or other unforeseen disruptions. Developing a comprehensive digital marketing plan now can prime your enterprise for greater profitability and better safeguard you against challenges. 

In addition to the fees involved, listings on third-party sites leave little room to distinguish your offering from competitors who may pop up next to yours in a search. 

Prospective guests search a site based on certain criteria such as date, location, number of rooms and amenities with the results returned by price. Where will your listing show up if at all? You have no control over whether someone will see your property let alone book it.

A digital marketing strategy gives you more control over who sees your property and allows them to book directly through your website, saving you from third-party commissions. 

While the fact remains that a sizable percentage of potential guests will begin their search for a long-term vacation rental on a third-party site, having your own digital marketing strategy at least gives you a fighting chance with those who start by Googling something like “pet-friendly vacation homes in Boulder.”

Marketing Plans Work for Any Size Vacation Rental Operation

You don’t have to be a major player in the long-term vacation rental space, either. Digital marketing services can be designed to scale with your business as it grows. 

Here are the building blocks of an effective marketing strategy, in order of impact:

  1. Website with compelling imagery and/or video, accommodation details, amenities, nearby attractions, contact information, etc.
  2. Booking engine to show available dates, capture reservation, and collect payment 
  3. Pay-per-click ad campaign and SEO to drive prospective guests to your website
  4. Social media campaign to raise awareness of and engagement with your property
  5. Email newsletters with seasonal offerings or special discounts for returning guests

You might opt to build these out piecemeal initially, but each of these tools and strategies builds upon the previous one, and collectively they provide a multi-prong approach to driving more business directly to your doorstep.

If you’re worried about the cost, here’s an exercise (and you probably don’t even need a calculator): Ask yourself how much you are spending today on third-party commissions. Then estimate how much of that you could put back into your pocket if you marketed your own property and captured bookings directly through your website. 

In our experience, you might need as little as one new direct booking a month to cover the annual cost of a comprehensive digital marketing strategy. And as the success of your campaign grows, so does your profitability.

A Marketing Plan Can Take Your Rental to the Next Level

We are not suggesting that you completely abandon whatever platform you’re currently using, whether it’s Vrbo, Airbnb, Expedia or the like. We are recommending that a marketing strategy be implemented in addition to what you’re currently doing. 

The goal is for you to develop a strategy that gives you the ability to reach and convert a wider audience. By creating a website with a booking engine and supporting it with the other elements we’ve discussed, you can start to build your own brand and set yours apart from others who are only using a third-party platform. 

Third-party platforms are largely homogenous, fenced-in sites where properties can get lumped together and sacrifice their unique value proposition and identity. A hospitality agency partner can help you develop a brand that best represents your property and distinguishes you among your competitors, allowing for long-term growth and success. 

The Right Website Design Can Lead Users to Your Front Door

In the hospitality industry, 80 percent of prospective guests leave a website without booking a stay. 

The problem is most of those websites aren’t built for “prospect qualification,” which allows a potential guest to answer three key questions directly on the site:

  1. Is this the place I want?
  2. Is the place within my price range?
  3. Is the place available when I need it?

The problem is that most sites don’t provide answers to any of those questions until a prospect clicks away from your site and enters the booking engine. It’s like going to the checkout counter without knowing what you’re buying, whether it’s in stock, or if you can afford it.

No wonder most of them leave without making a reservation. 

However, a website built with “Guest Experience” design gives prospects the answers they need to make a purchasing decision on the spot. They only click out to the booking engine to complete their transaction.

Give Your Property a Better Chance To Stand on Its Own

In the increasingly competitive world of long-term vacation rentals, you need every advantage you can find to stay ahead of the curve. A comprehensive digital marketing strategy can be a powerful differentiator, raising your property’s profile while driving more revenue directly to your bottomline.

If you’d like to learn more about how O’Rourke Hospitality can help you make the most out of your long-term vacation rental business, we’d love to hear from you