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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Note By BiggerPockets: These are opinions written by the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions of BiggerPockets.