1. Make a Logo
Make a logo for your property, it can be as simple as the name of your rental typed in an interesting font. Hiring a graphic designer is best if you have the budget for it, but there are lots of helpful online tools if you want to save money and put something together yourself. I have used Creative Market for everything from stock photos to illustrations, and you can also use it to build a professional logo (go to 'Templates', then 'Logos'). If you don't have Photoshop, you can download a free trial on their website (where there are some great tutorials for beginners). If all of that is too complicated, try the free Squarespace logo generator (you don't have to have an account to use it!). Beyond a logo, try Canva, a free design site for everything from newsletter to gift certificate design.
2. Create A Website
The majority of travelers today search for and book their accommodations online, which makes a stylish website and savvy marketing skills key in your success. Many vacation rental owners skip this step and rely on a service like Airbnb or VRBO exclusively, but they are missing out on marketing opportunities and direct bookings.
If you have never set up a website before, start by choosing a hosting service and then a website builder. It is so easy to make your own website now, when I opened my first restaurant I spent $5,000 to have a graphic designer set one up for me, and then $7,000 for my B&B! Thankfully, you don't need to invest that kind of money in order to have a great looking brand & site any more.
SHOPIFY is an easy to use website builder that also allows you to integrate reservations (in conjunction with the 'Book That App') and a shop if you plan on selling anything (local products, amenities, recommended travel books for the area, etc.). Shopify plans start at $168 per year, credit card processing fees start at 2.9% + $.30 per transaction, and the booking app is $19.95 per month.
WORDPRESS has a lot of great hotel related themes, something that Shopify lacks (plans start at $99/ year). Check out Hotel Engine for my favorite 'Hotel Comfy' theme (a $89 one time fee). You will also need to install a separate payment app like Pay Pal or Stripe (whose transaction fees are the same as Shopify's).
BLUEHOST offers hosting services for websites, added security, faster load times, etc. If you haven't registered your domain yet, I would recommend keeping the hosting and design aspects of your website separate. Blue Host works well with Word Press. For $3.49 per month you get a hosted website, domaine name and email account.
4. Build An Online Presence
Make sure that you show up in local searches, you can try a free trial on Ranking Coach, which will offer you suggestions on sites you should be listed on to increase your visibility online. List your property on Trip Advisor and Google Hotel Finder. Make sure to set up an account on Facebook, Yelp, Google My Business, etc. Also, Shopify has great tutorials on how to drive more traffic to your site.
Here are a few travel focused sites that will give you a boost in traffic (and sales!):
TRIVAGO is the world's largest search for hotels, it scans over 150 site simultaneously to find the best match (price, availability, and reviews). If you are a hotel owner I would highly recommend creating an account in their Hotel Manager, it is a great tool to compare your rates & reviews to other similar properties and to present your hotel in the best way possible to the 50 million people who use the site every month. Tripping is the vacation rental version of Trivago.
JETSETTER is a flash sale hotel booking site. I have used it 3 times with great success to boost occupancy during the winter in a hotel located in a very seasonal beach town.
5. Email Marketing
Retaining current customers is much easier than attracting new customers, other than doing everything in your power to make sure your guests have an incredible stay, you can also increase the likelihood that they will return with a smart email strategy. Your reservation system should have the capability of sending the following automated messages to your guests (if not, you can set them up through a company like Mail Chimp):
- Thank you for your reservation, we look forward to your stay, here are some suggestions on what to plan during your stay.
- Your trip is coming up, here are directions & contact info, please let us know if we can do anything for you before your arrival.
- We hope you enjoyed your stay, please let others know what you thought (link to trip advisor page, yelp page, or other review site).
- Happy birthday and/or anniversary, here is a gift certificate for $$ toward your next stay with us
4. More Ways To Market Your Property
Keep business cards on you wherever you go, give them to friends & family who will recommend you (or anyone else that might be interested). Print a discount code on the back to direct people to your site for a first time stay, or give them to guests to encourage them to return! An online presence is important, but a physical presence is equally important.
MOO is an easy to use online printer for business cards, post cards (send them to your guests after they return home as a thank you), letterhead (write personalized welcome letters to your guests), & stickers (for custom packaging- bagged cookies, jams, gift items, etc.).