by: Tim Blackwell
Branding has become an essential component of effective vacation rental booking strategies. Today’s travelers are more sophisticated and choosy about where to look for their next getaway. And for vacation rental managers, depending only on online travel agencies (OTAs) for bookings can be like trying to stick out in a crowded subway.
Some of the vacation rental industry’s leading marketers convened at HOST 2020 in November with a big message: Branding matters, especially now as property managers seek ways to be competitive and survive in a world changed by the pandemic.
The panel featured Robertin Nunez, President, Co Host Expert Co.; Sascha Hausmann, Partner, HOWZAT Partners; Henry Bennett, CEO, YourWelcome; and Jasper Ribbers, Founder, Get Paid for Your Pad.
Branding on multiple platforms
One recurring theme was that properties should widely disseminate their listings and work with multiple platforms, helping spread their brands to as many avenues as possible.
Property management companies that work with a single OTA tend to be viewed as an extension of the platform and not an independent provider. They are also at greater risk of losing visibility if the relationship with the OTA is severed.
Working with multiple channels gives the brand greater visibility. When vacation rental guests see the property listed on more than one OTA, the property builds an identity.
It’s better marketing for prospects to see you as a company or brand rather than a link on an OTA, panelists agreed. And implementing a brand strategy is best done early rather than after the business has been running for some time.
Taking control of branding
For the purposes of the panel, branding was defined as the reputation or image of a company that ultimately creates trust with the guest. The reputation has to be managed from the start to have the best chance to grow.
Vacation rental property management companies often make the mistake of making their brands too small and unimportant. But image and brands underpin vacation rental booking strategies and motivate consumers to take a look.
Companies must start by understanding and marketing to their ideal customer, which involves encouraging property reviews to learn more about this customer. Any information a guest can share about why they booked and what they liked or disliked is gold.
It’s more the location than the specific property that drives guests to book. Understanding what interests them about the locale can help a property manager build business.
Panelists said that you can’t build a brand if you haven’t profiled your ideal customer. The best way to do it is by perusing reviews that tell you why they come to your property. You can also ask for feedback from your customers. And it doesn’t have to be in the form of a survey.
Following up after the stay is an excellent way to learn more about the guest experience. The review is important, but asking guests specifically about their experience following checkout can yield an even more accurate picture.
Using technology to enhance branding
Effective branding doesn’t stop at booking, either. The company should leave a lasting impression throughout the entire stay, which can be effectively managed and promoted through property management technology.
Kigo recently entered a partnership with YourWelcome, which automates guest communication through a tablet that is customizable to the property. Guests use the tablets as resources for property and amenity information, as well as to learn about area attractions. Tablets serve as a handy aid that guests can take with them on day trips to find their way around.
Branding can be as simple as putting the property’s logo on an area map accessible on the tablet.
The ideal time to “own” your brand and your customer is during the stay itself.
Broadcasting the brand
Panelists concluded that a good brand is essential to vacation rental booking strategies, which can be fully developed through property management software. Operators can extend their brand through multiple platforms with varied approaches to create more market visibility.
You can’t put all your eggs in the same basket, the panelists added. You really need to have a means of distribution through OTAs, and also through your websites. It’s your property management system that allows you to do these things.
Learn more about how Kigo can help your vacation or short-stay rental company manage its brand and create more market visibility.