When you own a small bed and breakfast or short vacation rental property, trying to compete with the likes of Agoda or Booking.com seems like an impossible task. That said, you can build a reliable brand name in this industry with a tiny online marketing budget. Seems impossible right?
Read on if you would like to discover how you can build your vacation rental brand with less than $1,000 or you can read about low budget marketing strategies here.
Corporate budgets when it comes to online marketing go into the millions making it virtually impossible to invest in areas such as search engine optimization or Google Ads. However, rather than plan your marketing around a large budget and fast results, there are ways to contend in what is a very saturated industry when it comes to online marketing.
All you need is a robust and progressive strategy. Your target as a vacation rental owner, property management business or bed and breakfast owner is to discover ways to maximize your occupancy rate continuously.
We will start with the obvious, which is the fact that you should list your bed and breakfast or vacation rental property on multiple websites to gain more visibility. However, this is not the definitive answer to becoming competitive.
Therefore, we will help you further by introducing a strategy to build your brand and gain regular bookings to increase repeat guests as well as achieve recommendations through word of mouth to increase your occupancy rate.
Use Websites That Allow Free Listings
It may seem like the obvious route, and it is, but the only way to start to gain visibility is to sign up to as many online websites that will allow you to list your property free of charge. All you need to do is simply sign up and start to add your hotel and room types or vacation rental properties.
Airbnb is arguably the most popular website. The problem is, there are quite a few vacation rental owners that will stop here and only list their property on the one site. Yet, there are plenty of other websites that offer free or cheap listings. See the top 10 vacation rental websites here.
You may also be thinking that managing multiple websites is an administrative nightmare. We will come to how you solve this issue in a later section.
Listing your property on as many websites as possible will increase its visibility across the world wide web. There are millions of people worldwide using these sites as well as their apps because the website marketing teams have multi-million-dollar budgets to build awareness and bring in as much traffic as possible.
When someone searches for a property in your area, your vacation rental or bed and breakfast will appear in the search results. Now in your mind compare having your listing on just one of these websites or ten websites.
It should be quite clear to you that your listing has a much better chance of gaining bookings when it is listed across multiple sites.
Why Using Free Websites Can Be Difficult to Be Price Competitive?
Even using free websites, you are going to be competing against the thousands of other properties that are listed on them, and this is an issue as more people discover these sites.
Another problem is that the website takes around 20% of the booking as a service fee. You can read about Airbnb host fees here to get a better idea of what you can expect to pay per booking. Furthermore, you should be aware that these websites also charge their guests a booking fee.
Firstly, to stand out above the crowd, you will need reviews. Make sure that you undercut other properties that offer similar facilities in the same location when you first list your property. Also, explain why your price is lower “You have no feedback and need good people to give good reviews so don’t miss out on this bargain”.
As long as the photos and descriptions are 100 per cent honest and reflect what the guest can expect, then soon enough, your online marketing strategy will be taking its first steps into building a reputable brand.
Keeping Your Guests Happy Using Online Real-Time Chat Apps
Make sure that for each website that you use, you install their app. which has a real-time chat. You can install this on your phone and have notifications pop up.
This helps you in two ways:
- You can quickly answer inquiries to gain bookings
- Your current guests can contact you easily if they have questions
Online marketing is not just visibility, it is also about communications. That is why you see so many websites with real-time chat facilities available so potential customers can contact the support/sales teams instantly. Read about 10 live chat advantages here.
Building Your Own Website and Brand
It may take some time to build up feedback across the several websites you have listed your property. However, during this time, while offering your guests an experience of a lifetime, you should also be introducing them to your website.
Why do you need a website?
Earlier, we mentioned the 20 per cent fees and the booking fees charged by the vacation rental websites. On the other hand, if the guests feel that they enjoyed their experience so much at your property, then they may book again in the future. On your website, first, use a vacation rental website builder to get your site underway and remember the prices you put on your site will be around 20 per cent cheaper to book as there is no booking fee.
Now you may see this is an opportunity to make a profit, but repeat guests expect discounts. Plus, by offering a lower rate per night on your website, you will be giving them an incentive to book again. Furthermore, if the guests truly enjoyed their experience, staying at your property, then they will recommend your website to their friends and family. Now you are building your brand!
Aren’t Vacation Rental Websites Expensive?
Building a custom vacation rental website can be very costly. Plus, custom sites tend to have quite a few bugs which can potentially lose you sales – especially if the booking system if the calendar is not working.
A Vacation Website Should Have:
- a booking system
- a real-time chat facility
- an automated calendar
- a place to list your properties
- payment gateways with multiple options
- a branded site
- mobile responsive pages
- Fast page loads speeds
Sounds expensive right?
Well, there are website builders out there that have all these functions built-in, and they cost next to nothing to operate.
The company offers a series of themes that are all vacation rental websites with every feature mentioned above built-in. Shopify is the website builder for the e-comm industry, and Lodgify is the vacation rental website builder or the travel industry.
The point of using a website builder like Lodgify is that you have 24/7 support, a mobile responsive theme, and all the vacation rental software tools you need to manage your business all built into the website. Themes are updated regularly to keep up with modern tech such as new screen sizes and devices that come onto the market and more.
As a result, you pay very little for a website that does everything you need, and as opposed to paying for a web development company which will charge a maintenance fee, you will already have all this built into the website builder.
Managing Multiple Calendars Online
Now you have your website, and your properties listed on several websites, you have one problem. How do you manage multiple calendars?
Well, this is where the Lodgify website builder software comes into action. There is a channel manager tool that connects to calendars on other websites. When a booking comes in on one website, it sends out a broadcast to the Lodgify site telling it to block off the dates on the calendar. Next, the Lodgify channel manager will then broadcast this to all the other websites.
This avoids double bookings, which results in cancellations. In turn, cancellations will be frowned upon by the websites your property or properties are listed.
It is also the perfect time hack because you do not have to log on manually to every website and block off the calendars each time you get a booking thanks to the channel manager.
Playing the Long Game with Your Travel Industry Online Marketing Strategy
As you probably already know, unless you are prepared to spend millions on marketing or to raise investment to make your accommodation business idea work, there is little chance of succeeding within this competitive industry. On the other hand, you can be patient and build your brand slowly and methodically.
Start by gaining visibility by listing your property on the most popular websites for vacation rentals. Use a good pricing strategy to increase your first bookings to encourage reviews. Lastly, have a branded website prepared so you can give your guests the option to return at up to 23 per cent less than they paid using the site they initially found your property.