Real Estate Marketing

3 Ways to Attract Business Travelers to Your Short-Term Rental

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Hand with house key in foreground, living room with light wood floors, white couch and white shelves in background

One of the biggest mysteries in the world of short-term rentals is how to market to business travelers who are on long-term assignments. If you can nab them, you can earn hotel-size rents for an extended period. And that means more money with less work.

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Sweet!

Since I see the demand for extended-stay rentals trending higher with no end in sight, I’ve changed my mind about being so tight-lipped. The time has come to share some lessons learned regarding the mobile workforce.

What Is the Mobile Workforce?

As Extended Stay America’s former CEO said, there’s a growing trend in people who “live in one place and work in another.” And based on my observations from operating 22 extended-stay rentals, he’s spot on!

With the advancements in cloud storage and mobile computing, you can turn any place with high speed internet into your office. This adds fuel to a growing mobile workforce, one that has an increasing appetite for living in furnished rentals for months at a time.

Members of the mobile workforce, whether they’re project managers, insurance adjusters, doctors, campaign organizers, or fiber-optic installers, all are happy to save money by spending less than they’d pay at a hotel. They’re thrilled to live in your furnished rentals—especially if you offer them more space, privacy, and a full kitchen.

Related: 9 Steps to Develop Your Own Short-Term Rental Management Business

Here are three of my favorite strategies that you can use to attract extended-stay business travelers to your furnished rental.

Use the Breadcrumb Strategy to Find the Influencer

Using online travel agencies (like Airbnb) to fish for extended-stay guests is a great idea. However, you should think of your online efforts as just the first step in your marketing funnel. After you successfully attract a business traveler, if you want mare guests like them, then ask which company brought them to town.

To use the breadcrumb strategy, you follow the trail of recommendations backward to uncover the influencers who are able to recommend your rental to incoming travelers. Then, go introduce yourself.

Young elegant business woman in international airport terminal, working on her laptop while waiting for flight

Real-Life Example

That’s exactly what Chad did to separate himself from the crowd.

Chad had no clue how to connect with business travelers. But he optimized his Airbnb listing to attract longer-stay travelers to his furnished rental in Oklahoma City. When he told me he had booked a family of one of the Oklahoma City Dodgers, I told him to go introduce himself to their back office.

And what’s amazing—the thing that did wonders—is that Chad took action.

He took a gift basket with him and introduced himself. Because of it, he now stays booked regularly with professional baseball players traveling with their families. This allows Chad to clear over $1,000 of net income per month from a property that would’ve barely broken even as a traditional rental.

So, you can “get lucky” and attract business travelers if you make online marketing the first tactic in your multi-step marketing plan.

Use a Hyperlocal Strategy to Serve Your Community

When you act “hyperlocally,” you touch base with the businesses closest to your short-term rental. The purpose of this is to create strategic relationships with local companies of your choosing.

Simply ask them if they have any extended-stay housing needs. And when you do, it’s important to encourage them to contact you directly or visit your company’s website. Don’t send them to your Airbnb listing, where they’ll see other listings for consideration.

Real-Life Example

That’s what worked for Ruben.

After two months of complaining he couldn’t attract traveling nurses, he reluctantly went to a small airport near his furnished rental. He asked the people who operated the flight safety training school if they had any housing needs. To Ruben’s surprise, the owner of the school followed him back to his furnished rental and signed a lease.

Related: 3 Reasons I Think Medium-Term Rentals Beat Short-Term

The owner rented Ruben’s place for two of his students. Then, on the way out, the owner said with a sigh, “We need 60 more of these [units]!”

Wait… what?! Yes, he said 60 more!

Because of this newfound success, Ruben isn’t focused on travel nurses anymore. He’s too busy trying to fulfill the demand he uncovered.

Now, before you ask, the answer is no. I won’t rat out where in Florida Ruben is located… but don’t miss the point.

The point is to offer a money-saving hotel alternative to the businesses that surround your rental. By attempting to save them money, you may uncover a treasure chest in your own backyard.

Two adult male friends sit talking over coffee outside cafe

Master the Blitz and Pivot to Become Recession-Proof

The “blitz and pivot” is one of my favorite tactics. It helps you to see how large your extended-stay housing opportunities are and gives you an entire marketing strategy at the same time.

There are at least eight large categories of short-term rentals: vacation, military, corporate, student, insurance, medical, temporary, and international. And each category has its own set of best marketing practices.

By thinking about the uniqueness of each category, you can direct your marketing efforts to attract the class of traveler that best suits your rental.

Sending out customized messages that resonate with your ideal guest is far more important than knowing all the websites to post on. By knowing your target, you can show up exactly where they’re shopping.

Real-Life Example

Andy found quick success marketing to travel nurses until he started bragging about it. Soon his friends and “students” began providing housing for nurses, as well. This led to a local over-supply of travel nurse housing, and Andy started having difficulties filling his rentals.

When he told me about his “loose lips sink ships” issue, I suggested he pivot.

So, Andy changed his focus to temporary housing. He reached out to Realtors and was able to fill his furnished rental with “in-betweeners,” families waiting to move into their new homes.

This was a boon to his bottom line! Temp housing might be a little harder to get into, but if you form solid relationships with Realtors, you can do really well.

This will work for you, too. Consider serving people in one of the eight categories, and when you see the demand slowing, pivot into another category.

Takeaway: The Mobile Workforce Presents a Great Opportunity

You might be thinking, ”All of this is silly. I can keep my vacation rentals filled simply by using Airbnb.” If that’s the case, then enjoy the good times while they last. Everyone’s market is changing as more newbies become Airbnb hosts.

However, if you want to optimize your net income by serving business travelers who are on extended assignments, then you’ll want to pay close attention.

The furnished rental market is seeing lots of innovation and change. Hotels are attempting to look more like short-term rentals. And more traditional landlords are realizing they should furnish some of their rentals and join the hospitality industry.

Yup, change is in the air. But you need not worry if you use the breadcrumb, hyperlocal, and blitz-pivot strategies to stay ahead of the crowd.

So, go make some money with extended stay rentals. Add some offline marketing tactics while you’re at it. And whatever you do… buckle up. It’s going to be a fun ride.

What’s your favorite way to attract extended-stay travelers? Have you had luck serving the traveling workforce?

If so, please share your story in the comment section below.

Al Williamson is a former civil engineer with over 24 years of experience investing in real estate, including single family, multifamily, house flipping, commercial, and short-term rental propertie...
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    David Krulac from Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania
    Replied 3 months ago
    @Al Williamson, great article, thanks for sharing your experiences. David Krulac Bigger Pockets Podcast #82
    Al Williamson Rental Property Investor from Sacramento, CA
    Replied about 2 months ago
    You are very welcome
    Laura Sulak Investor from Temple, TX
    Replied 2 months ago
    Hi, @Al Williamson, great article! I plan to do just what you suggest when I convert my first regular rental to a STR this spring. Thanks for the great advice!
    Al Williamson Rental Property Investor from Sacramento, CA
    Replied about 2 months ago
    Happy to help. Good luck on your conversion
    Michelle Martin Real Estate Investor from Fairfax, VA
    Replied 2 months ago
    @Al Williamson, great article. As part of my business plan for real estate in 2020, I will be using several properties as STRs uitlizing the strategies you suggest in your article. Thanks for confirming I am headed in the right direction.
    Al Williamson Rental Property Investor from Sacramento, CA
    Replied about 2 months ago
    You’ll be way ahead of competition. Congratulations
    Al Williamson Rental Property Investor from Sacramento, CA
    Replied about 2 months ago
    You are a very smart woman. You’ll be way ahead of the competition
    Josh Stevenson Property Manager from Portland Seattle, Bellevue
    Replied 2 months ago
    I am new to this Forum! Can you please tell me what STRs are? Is there an area for such a topic on here?
    Lauren Kormylo Rental Property Investor from Phoenix, AZ
    Replied 2 months ago
    STR = Short Term Rentals There is a sub forum for STRs - https://www.biggerpockets.com/forums/530-short-term-and-vacation-rental-discussion
    Colin Wong Rental Property Investor from Millbrae, CA
    Replied about 2 months ago
    Great read! Thanks Al for the insight and some very Actionable advice.
    Al Williamson Rental Property Investor from Sacramento, CA
    Replied about 2 months ago
    Glad I could help. Now go make some money
    Sean Ploskina Investor from Virginia Beach, Virginia
    Replied about 2 months ago
    Great article. I had not thought of the realtor as an option.
    Al Williamson Rental Property Investor from Sacramento, CA
    Replied about 2 months ago
    Thanks Sean. Yes, go after In-Betweeners
    Lauren Heart Investor from Los Gatos, California
    Replied about 2 months ago
    I’ve been looking to expand my STR marketing beyond the traveling nurse/PT...blitz-pivot is a fun one! Thanks for the info Al!
    Al Williamson Rental Property Investor from Sacramento, CA
    Replied about 2 months ago
    Happy to help!
    Crystal Musser from Lancaster, PA
    Replied about 2 months ago
    Thank you for the great article Al Williamson! I am excited to put all this to practice!
    Al Williamson Rental Property Investor from Sacramento, CA
    Replied about 2 months ago
    You bet Lady C. Create separation and keep your STR full.
    Donna Haines-Williams from Fairfax Station, Virginia
    Replied about 2 months ago
    @Al Williamson, Great article! I enjoyed your reminders to blitz and pivot! Thanks for sharing the many valuable options for STR clients, Al.
    Al Williamson Rental Property Investor from Sacramento, CA
    Replied about 2 months ago
    Thanks for commenting @Donna Haines-Williams. No go make some money.
    Ethan Cooke Rental Property Investor from San Francisco, CA
    Replied about 2 months ago
    @Al Williamson - Thank you for the real-life examples and for your leadership in furnished rentals--great stuff! I have kept most of my 25 AirBnB's in the Bay Area 90% occupied by offering nice places at low prices, using long-term discounts and meeting all "business travel" requirements on AirBnB (provide a workspace, high-speed WiFi, extra linens, lots of coat hangers, iron, etc.). I price and target my listings to long-term business travelers and then reduce the minimum stays to fill vacancies with short-term rentals. But AirBnB supply is growing faster than demand, and only the creative will survive! In Feb/March I will be approaching local construction companies to increase direct business with them and reaching out to previous corporate guests to get new leads and new business.
    Al Williamson Rental Property Investor from Sacramento, CA
    Replied about 2 months ago
    @Ethan Cooke, you're correct. Bay Area is approaching 12% saturation on Airbnb units to Hotel units per CBRE 2020 report. To survive you have to act like a business owner and not simply an Airbnb Host. Congratulation on all your success. So proud of you.
    Roxanna Clements Investor from Long Beach, California
    Replied about 2 months ago
    1I love your creative ideas and examples. Very encouraging
    Al Williamson Rental Property Investor from Sacramento, CA
    Replied about 2 months ago
    Thanks Roxanna. Can't wait to share your success story.
    Renee' Dixon from Louisville, Kentucky
    Replied about 2 months ago
    As always you continue to inspire me! Thx for another great article. :)
    Al Williamson Rental Property Investor from Sacramento, CA
    Replied about 2 months ago
    You're so welcome. I'll stay on my toes
    David Patrick from Atlanta, GA
    Replied about 2 months ago
    Great valuable content Al! This got me to put my thinking cap on regarding what other need I can uncover around my STRs
    Al Williamson Rental Property Investor from Sacramento, CA
    Replied about 2 months ago
    Good! We are in changing times. ATL is near or just over 10% STRs/Hotel Rooms. CBRE thinks growth will slow and competition will tighten. Time to develop some new moves.
    Amy Ahearn from Boston, MA
    Replied about 2 months ago
    Great content! Thank you for inspiring me. I'm new and still pulling together my team /finances but I can't wait to put everything I'm learning into practice. -a
    Al Williamson Rental Property Investor from Sacramento, CA
    Replied about 2 months ago
    Great. Boston has lots of strong opportunities. Go get'em.
    Amy Biernat Rental Property Investor from Madison, MS
    Replied about 2 months ago
    Great stuff as usual Al! Appreciate the nuggets and the encouragement to aim big, can’t want to sync-up.
    Al Williamson Rental Property Investor from Sacramento, CA
    Replied about 2 months ago
    Thanks. Keep on advancing. Be at war while others are simply hosting.
    Rob Massopust Real Estate Broker from Garden Grove, California
    Replied about 2 months ago
    Hey Al Great advice, been following you on Youtube. We have been looking to do this for traveling nurses, near hospitals. Our challenge is to find properties that make sense for the nurse and still allow us to make a fair profit. Once we fix, furnish and rent we have to get quite a bit to have it make sense. Any tips on 1. Finding Furnishings at an affordable or discounted location ie Cort Furniture Clearance Center 2. Pricing - If seems most nurses are just doing AirBNB 3. Finding and getting to the agencies that hire the nurses. Thanks
    Al Williamson Rental Property Investor from Sacramento, CA
    Replied about 2 months ago
    Yes, I've got an entire coaching and training programs to walk you through this. But, in the nutshell, I'd like to suggest 1) Consider other travelers besides nurses. Don't limit yourself unnecessarily . There's a HUGE and GROWING need for furnished rentals. 2) If you pursue TNs, then you need to empathize with their internal needs. That's a very long conversation. Saving money on housing is just part of the equation. 3) Don't go cheap on furniture. Don't compete on cheap. Particle board furniture doesn't cut it it. I lived with it as a traveler myself and now I'll walk out of any home filled with CORT. 4) What are you basing your conclusion that nurses are just going to Airbnb? I'd encourage your to revisit that assumption. It simply isn't my experience with six years into this. I have incoming text messages from inquiring nurses on my phone as I'm typing this. 5) Agencies and TNs have different self interests and different marketing approaches. Agencies want to capture the nurses entire housing budget and TNs want to pocket the delta they create. This is a long conversation... but basically, if you want to compete as an insider then you need to do the work to become an insider. Since Airbnb has a big marketing reach, it's easy to rely on them.... and that opens the doors for those willing to get out from behind their computers and build real relationships over time.
    Rob Massopust Real Estate Broker from Garden Grove, California
    Replied about 2 months ago
    Also what do you think is in more demand Studio 1 Bedroom 2 Bedroom
    Al Williamson Rental Property Investor from Sacramento, CA
    Replied about 2 months ago
    This varies by location. It's easiest to start off competing against hotels. So studios and 1 bedrooms are safe places to start BUT not necessarily the mix that has the most demand.
    Virginia Schroeder Rehabber from Oshkosh, Wisconsin
    Replied about 1 month ago
    Great article. Exciting opportunity. I like the examples