Digital Media Best Practices for Vacation Rentals
The natural follow-up to understanding your channels, data, and guests is to put this CRM goldmine to work. With a torrent of digital opportunities, it is easy to get swept away with initiatives—trying to push out so many campaigns that quality suffers. It’s also easy to rely entirely on listing sites, which are essential of course, but doing so overlooks digital marketing opportunities that can boost more profitable bookings. The following selection of our best practices for digital media, sprinkled with a few good ideas for how to reach your targeted audiences, will help keep quality in check so that you are sure to drive the highest ROI for digital advertising, email marketing, and social media.
Digital Advertising Best Practices
Some VRMs shy away from digital advertising, assuming that listings sites are the only exposure necessary. However, digital advertising and listings sites are two different, and necessary, avenues of promotion. While listing sites drive reservations on a commission or subscription-fee basis, digital advertising is key to increasing more profitable phone and web reservations, as it is typically less costly than third-party reservations.
- Geo-Target – Ensure all digital advertising is geo-targeted with promotions that are specific to guests’ locations.
- Google Ad Extensions – While Google CPC is cost prohibitive in some markets, if it is in your budget, CPC can drive both on- and offline Use Google Ad Extensions that include location and phone number details, so that guests have everything they need at first glance. An added benefit: if two competing ads have the same bid and quality, the ad with extensions will appear in a higher position.
- Mobile – Ensure all paid digital advertising is optimized and targeted for mobile devices. eMarketer projects 2016 will be the year that mobile online travel bookings outpace desktop.
- Click-to-Call – Consider that 58% of travelers report they are highly likely to call accommodations from a smartphone if click-to-call is available. Click-to-call campaigns can drive your highest profit voice reservations (Google, Click-to-Call in the Path to Purchase). Click-to-call is a core feature of NAVIS Narrowcast: agents will see which campaign the call originated to better speak to the caller’s needs. Then in reporting, the overall success of every campaign and channel can be reviewed in detail.
- Up-and-Coming Vacation Rental Meta Search – According to Tnooz, 36% of American travelers use meta search engines to compare rates. With the major online travel agencies (OTAs) integrating vacation rentals and vacation rental meta-search sites, such as Tripping, popping up, meta search will soon become a VRM marketing standard. Rates and bids will need to be managed daily to stay competitive for optimal ROI.
Email Marketing Best Practices
According to an Adestra Email Marketing Report, 75% of travel and leisure businesses reported excellent or good return on investment for email marketing campaigns in 2015, and 88% of retailers studied believe email will continue to be one of the highest ROI channels in the coming years. Email outreach offers the ability to craft highly targeted messaging to a segmented audience as well as the opportunity to track every aspect of the return and fine-tune follow-up messages. From our perspective, there are three key types of email marketing: Reach (general promotional), StayCycle (pre-arrival) and LifeCycle (automated with preset triggers). Following some simple guidelines will ensure your success in smarter email marketing.
Tips to keep in mind for all forms of email marketing:
- Create and cultivate a relationship instead of just trying to make a sale.
- Always be relevant. Give your audience a reason to take an unplanned trip to your property. Related topics include upcoming events, activities and attractions in your area, awards, new packages, and special offers.
- The quality of the landing page affects the success of the campaign. Invest in both aspects.
- Include the offer deadline date in the subject line to increase open rates.
- Instead of using generic HTML alt text descriptions for images (image 1, image 2), write alt text to deliver critical messages in case the images do not
- Resend to recipients who clicked through and did not book within 48 to 72 hours and with the offer more prominently displayed.
- Don’t bait and switch with subject lines. While you may be able to grow open rates slightly with cryptic or highly enticing subject lines, be sure they clearly relate to the content or your brand can deteriorate and your opt-outs (or worse, spam reporting) will rise.
For StayCycle messaging, the automated confirmation and pre-arrival emails your guests receive prior to their stay at your property, consider the following:
- Reinforce the guest’s decision to stay at your property to reduce cancellations.
- The messaging should be short enough to print on one page, as many guests will print it for their trip.
- Personalize your content to their interests and past behavior to (again) ensure relevance so guests will open future emails from your property.
LifeCycle email marketing gives VRMs the ability to segment leads and guests according to their status, spending habits, and length of time as a customer so that you can communicate through a series of touches based on preset triggers. What follows are a few ways to use LifeCycle along with tips for crafting the appropriate message:
- “Stay Anniversary” campaigns – Use personalized language, such as “Remember your last stay” to create a one-on-one conversation with the guest. Deploy 40-51 weeks after the last check-out date.
- “Guest-Type” campaigns such as Reunion, Family, or Corporate guests – The goal is to persuade them to return, either as a group or on their own. “Are you planning for your group getaway this year?” or “You stayed with your group. Consider returning on your own.”
- “Call-In Follow-Up” emails – Deploy within 24 hours of a received reservation phone call and route the guest back to a booking channel while providing them with the details they requested on the call. Messaging looks like a thank you for inquiring and includes the details they conveyed along with a personalized message with a strong call to action.
- “Birthday Touches” – There are two types of birthday campaigns. One is a simple birthday wish on the day of the guest’s birthday, and the other is a special offer or package focused on their birthday, which can be sent 30-45 days before
Social Media Best Practices
VRMs use social media very differently: some for branding, some conversationally with guests, some to drive bookings. No matter the strategy, it can absorb a substantial amount of time, and while it is certainly track-able, the return on investment can seem elusive. The following best practices focus on actionable messaging that drives bookings, but they are useful no matter your strategy.
- Photos – Photos have a substantially higher open rate than text when it comes to social media. Associate a relevant image with all promotions and offers on social media to attract more attention. Get familiar with the different optimal photo sizes for your social media channels. Generally, the following are a good rule of thumb:
- Facebook: 1200 x 628 pixels
- Twitter: 1024 x 512 pixels
- Pinterest: 735 x 1102 pixels
- Instagram: 1080 x 1080 pixels
- Keep All Messaging Short but Meaningful – For most social messages, you should keep it short and sweet; however, make sure it’s “Good Morning” posts and the like are more likely to annoy your followers than engage them unless there was a one-of-a-kind photo op that morning on your property worth sharing. To the end of being succinct, avoid posting the complete details of a promotion; instead, use a teaser with just enough information and provide a link for the details.
- Don’t Forget Your Locals – Locals can be an important part of a VRMs social media following. Not only will they be your market for last-minute offers year-round, but they will also spread the word on your behalf.
- When The Message Is Important, Put It on Repeat or Pay for It – If you are running a campaign and want to ensure the greatest reach, repost it periodically. Many companies are finding they need to sponsor posts to get the widest visibility on Facebook; however, proceed with caution. Taking up too much real estate on social media may turn off some of your followers.
- Include Your Phone Number When Appropriate & Possible – Just because guests find it on social media doesn’t mean they won’t Post a phone number so that your guests may reach you quickly and in whatever way they desire.
According to Forbes, “The vacation rental market now accounts for close to 15% of the lodging industry revenues and the outlook remains strong, given improved service quality, ease of booking and lower homeownership rates.” While vacation rentals are poised capture more market share, VRMs typically have fewer staff resources on hand and more conservative budgets for attracting new guests.
What will set apart those VRMs that succeed in capturing more revenue is knowledge. VRMs that combine their understanding of industry trends with a detailed review of their guest data will be the most efficient and effective at using that data. Moreover, the results will be an increase in bookings and rates.