Much like everything else this year, vacation rental marketing has quickly shifted to a “new normal.” 2020 has seen well-laid marketing plans and proven strategies tossed to the wayside, making way for dynamic marketing methods with the ability to adapt to the unpredictable landscape surrounding the pandemic. It seems for the foreseeable future, the “new normal” is going to be anything but normal, and there is no way to be sure what circumstances will be affecting the market for the peak 2021 booking season at this time.
With the announcement of multiple COVID-19 vaccines and improving treatments, it is safe to assume that things will be getting better as we move forward, but unlike what we saw at the beginning of the pandemic, this change will not happen overnight. Some important marketing trends that have proven impactful over the last year will remain important aspects of your overall marketing strategy.
Collecting Guest Information & Email Marketing
Just as important – if not more important than ever – email marketing is a tool that has become the backbone of any solid vacation rental marketing campaign. Simply put, this is a cost-effective, highly customizable, targeted marketing tool that allows for a host of opportunities regardless of current market trends.
You can build email marketing campaigns around any number of strategies, including special offers, last-minute deals, highlighted properties, events, holidays, and anything else that fits your long-term or immediate needs. It doesn’t matter if you manage one property or one thousand properties; this is a tool that can not be overlooked or underestimated in 2021.
Keep in mind that email collection must comply with the relevant regulations. In the USA and Canada, the CAN-SPAM Act allows direct marketing email messages to be sent to anyone, without permission, until the recipient explicitly requests that they cease (opt-out). You may send direct marketing email messages only to recipients who have given their prior consent (opt-in) (source).
In the EU, for vacation rental managers and hosts, GDPR is the relevant statute. To gather emails following these guidelines is to collect consent that must be “freely given, specific, informed, and unambiguous.” Requests for consent must be “clearly distinguishable from the other matters” and presented in “clear and plain language.” (source).
Make sure to follow all relevant laws and regulations when collecting and sending newsletter emails.
A successful email marketing campaign starts with building a database of current, potential, and past guests. The more information you can obtain, the easier it will be for you to use this database to your benefit by targeting specific demographics in your email campaigns. While you need to collect email addresses and names, there are other questions that you can pose to your guests that can help you when it comes to direct marketing opportunities. Some great questions you may want to consider are listed below.
What is the purpose of your stay?
Your guest may be traveling for a particular reason. It could be anything from a business conference to celebrating a special occasion, anniversary, or birthday. This data can be used in the future to market to this guest directly by developing campaigns with special offers for specific events, birthdays, anniversaries, or any other event or occasion. For instance, you can set up an email campaign to send ‘Happy Birthday’ messages for everyone in your database with a birthday for any given month. This broadcast could be a simple birthday message or even include special offers and incentives to book.
Do you usually travel alone or with family, children, etc.?
You can use better information to directly market-specific events, specials, and discounts based on your guests’ needs. Remember, you are marketing your location as much as your property. The more information you have about your guests, the better host you can be, and the easier it will be to target your marketing efforts and increase bookings.
Ask about birthdays, anniversaries, or any other data you may find useful.
While it is probably best not to have a five-page questionnaire for your guests, it is perfectly acceptable to ask questions about birthdays, anniversaries, or any other information that may be relevant to your location. For example, if you rent a home in an area that offers different activities depending on the time of year, it may be useful to have a little insight into the activities your guests are most interested in, such as skiing, fishing, or hiking.
The most important things to remember about email marketing campaigns are starting early, always being consistent, and being purposeful. Don’t let your database go stale. Get started on your marketing as soon as you have the guests’ information and follow up with consistent campaigns. Whether you opt to send updates weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, be consistent in the number of emails you send.
Of course, as you grow in inventory and guests, it will become more challenging to keep relevant content going out to the right guests – but that’s where tools like StayFi make a massive difference in keeping everything organized.
Updating Out Of Date Blog Content & Creating Timely Information
Of course, we all know that Google, and other search engines, prefer current, regularly updated content, but with changing search trends since the beginning of the pandemic, this has become more important than ever. Of course, search rates for terms involving sanitation, information on mask mandates and lockdowns, and other matters directly associated with COVID-19 are on the rise, but other search trends that are not directly related to the pandemic have emerged as well. More and more people are looking into outdoor activities like rafting, hiking, biking, etc., and your blog content must reflect these trends.
You can learn more about search trends here. As we move through 2021, it would be safe to assume that some of these trends will change along with the pandemic’s evolving state, so monitoring search trends and keeping up-to-date information available at hand will help drive traffic to your site. Creating timely topics related to travel and vacations in your destination can earn you lots of traffic.
Having a page detailing what’s closed vs. open as protocols change and your compliance with current guidelines can earn trust with guests, build traffic, and lead to bookings. Here’s an example we’ve seen driving thousands of page views for our client in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.
Flexible Digital Ad Budgets & Adjusting Weekly
If we learned nothing else in 2020, it’s that everything can change overnight, and it’s essential to have a backup plan in place and the ability to change the flow of advertising dollars at will. With current market trends, it’s critical to review any digital ad campaigns weekly to ensure you are getting the ROI you expect and to catch potential problems or declines before they become costly.
Using tools like Optmyzr, we’ve been able to adjust budgets into winning campaigns more quickly in terms of ROI and pause or at least lower the amount spent on lesser performing campaigns. The quicker we can respond to changing marketing trends, the fewer dollars we waste on poorly performing campaigns. 2020 has also required that we increase our ability to fill last-minute cancellations.
It is just a matter of directing funds in the right direction and guiding the virtual spotlight as needed. Facebook ads and direct email campaigns have proven very successful in getting out information on last-minute deals and filling vacancies.
2021 promises to be an exciting year for the entire travel industry. With the release of vaccines, improved sanitation procedures, and a market that has been held back to some degree for the better part of a year, it looks like a business should be booming more and more as the year progresses. It’s going to be very important to stay on top of what are sure to be constantly changing trends and adjusting your marketing strategies in real-time to accommodate those changes.