We had the pleasure of interviewing Matt Landau from VacationRentalMarketingBlog.com. If Matt’s name or blog rings a bell with you, it is probably because you have come across his articles on Vacation Rental Marketing Blog, BiggerPockets, HomeAway Community, or even heard him talk at HomeAway’s Annual Summit.
Kigo: For over 7 years you have managed your own vacation rental properties in Panama. What made you go into providing marketing information for vacation rental managers?
Matt: Long ago, I sent my marketing blueprint to a first-timer vacation rental owner (a friend) and he went 94% occupied in San Diego (a very competitive rental industry) over the course of his first year. I did the same thing for another friend who had very similar results.
The moment I realized I needed to collate my years of research into some commercial and digestible format was when they both swore my little “cheat sheets” shaved years (and thousands of dollars) off their learning curves. Since most owners and managers are in similar positions (they don’t have tons of free time or huge budgets), and considering there existed practically no other blogs on the subject, I decided to enter the vacation rental marketing blog niche!
Your properties are quite often featured on National Geographic and the New York times. How were your properties picked up by these publications?
Almost all of our press features have been a result of two things: First, I put a lot of time and effort into establishing our brand as the authority on our neighbourhood itself. By becoming the neighbourhood expert on what to eat, where to visit, and who to meet, travellers and locals are organically drawn to us for information.
The second part of that one-two punch is actively reaching out to journalists and pitching stories. Leaning on that foundation of our local expertise, hosting these journalists became the natural next step. So while vacation rental PR may be time consuming, a homerun press piece can mean a year or more of solid bookings (the reward is worth it).
Oh and now that I’m starting to see my clients get the same results, I’m extra excited.
What is the most common question vacation rental managers ask you?
The most common question is some rendition of “What’s the one thing I can do to increase my bookings?” and frankly, I really hate this question. What I preach on my blog is an attitude, not any single technique. This attitude is about getting proactive, getting analytical, and embracing the process of improvement. Anyone who asks “What’s the one thing…” is looking for a quick fix and my consulting services are not designed as one-time panaceas. They’re designed to help managers decode the secrets of the game and then to play it, honestly and persistently and lucratively, for years to come.
Can you give us an example of a big no-no you see a lot of vacation rental managers doing? How can they fix this?
Sure, here’s a really big no-no with a convenient and cost-free solution: most managers don’t regularly keep track of their marketing efforts. They try one listing site here, another press release there, some SEO tomorrow…but they never really focus on metrics or goals to test what’s working and what’s not.
By sitting down for 30 minutes each month, managers can use something as simple as an excel document or some scrap paper and track a metric like ROI for each marketing channel or inquiries-to-bookings conversion percentages. Oftentimes the mere act of sitting down to assess your performance has winning effects (not to mention, all the managers are smart people and seem to enjoy the challenge of improving).
Kigo: We might also add that Kigo’s Reservation System allows you to easily create reports on your property’s bookings, helping you reduce the time of measuring your Marketing success metrics.
You are a big advocate of “helping not selling”, can you expand on this principal? Do you think this principal can be applied to portals with 500+ properties?
I think this principle can apply to any business in any industry in today’s marketing age. It’s not anymore a Madmen era of buying TV spots: today, everyone is competing online and the trick now is to see who can tell the best story. If you “help” instead of “sell,” you’re immediately setting yourself apart from the competition because you’re being useful, earning attention, and gaining trust. Any company that can do this better than their competition (1 property, 500 properties or 1000 properties) wins. Fact.
You have started the Vacation Rental Referral Pledge, where vacation rentals managers pledge to refer a fellow vacation rental manager’s property if they are fully booked. Here at Kigo, our customers have access to a database of vacation rental agencies that they can partner with in order to promote their property on the partner’s website. A lot of the partnerships that are established are international rather than local. Can you give our clients a good reason to use this feature locally?
I believe that emerging vacation rental destinations are a team sport. No single owner or property manager can do branding for a destination on his or her own (because let’s face it, they’re going up against huge hotels). So I encourage neighbours (competitors) to work with one another (no matter where they’re based) in order to succeed locally. Individuals don’t need to sign my pledge in order to contribute to this movement: but they do need to band together. As vacation rental managers, we are like ants: individually we can all carry many times our own body weight, but we need the help of other ants in order to carry a big log.
You are a big fan of giving away products to your website visitors in exchange for comments or social media shares and by the looks of it, it is working out great for you! If a vacation rental manager wanted to also give away online products, can you name 3 things they can giveaway and what would they exchange it for?
1. An insider’s guide that shows off your inherent expertise about the neighbourhood. Compile all your awesome advice into a pretty little eBook and give it away like candy.
2. Free credit that you offer as a purchase deal ($250 for $500 credit) like they do with GroupOn or LivingSocial. Do this in the low season and you’ll have tremendous cash flow and a record month.
3. A massage: I LOVE giving away massages because a) they cost us so little and b) they just ooze the idea of vacation so well. Make a deal with a local masseuse. Use it as a carrot to entice longer stays (Stay Three Nights, Get A Massage!). Watch guests line up.
Join the conversation and feel free to ask Matt any questions you might have about marketing in the comment section!