Posted about 5 years ago

How to differentiate your vacation rental

What sets you apart from the crowd?

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I recently returned from the HomeAway Summit in Austin, Texas, after a weekend filled with live music, Tex-Mex food and lively vacation rental discussions.

Vacation rental owners – and others planning to buy – shared stories, challenges and ideas for building their business and tapping into the explosive growth of this emerging industry.

The Summit was my first, and I truly enjoyed the experience. I met people from Hawaii to Maine, from Seattle to Sanibel. They were engaged and enthusiastic, discussing best practices for getting started and realizing success as vacation rental owners.

How are you different?

At the end of the Summit, I met a woman from Texas. We talked about kids, travel, Mexico, Texas and other topics over a glass of wine. She told me about her vacation rental in Panama City, Florida.

After listening to her description, I was hooked. I hadn’t seen one picture, and I didn’t know the rental rate, but I was interested.

What did she say that was so effective?

First, she gave me the facts. She had a two bedroom condo, ocean front, community pool, close to Pier Park, newly updated. All good features, but not terribly unique.

As an example, when I search HomeAway for two bedroom condos in Panama City Beach, I find over 2300 results. When I filter by beach properties, I get over 1600 results. That’s a lot of competition.

Then, she told me what was different about her condo. It included beach towels, beach toys, even sunscreen. Plus, it had reserved beach chairs and reserved parking.

Reserved beach chairs? That means no getting up at seven am to claim chairs for the day. Even better, it means going to the beach on my own schedule – hassle free – and not worrying about finding a place to sit. The beach chairs will be there, waiting just for me.

The reserved parking was icing on the cake. No paying for ramps, lots or meters. No driving around the block waiting for a parking spot. No long walks from the car with suitcases, groceries or tired kids.

Ways to differentiate

Vacation homes have rapidly grown in popularity, with sales up 30 percent from 2012, and up 47 percent since 2011.*

Increased demand for vacation rentals has contributed to increased supply. As a vacation rental owner, you need to set yourself apart. This is a key part of marketing, and as Seth Godin says, “Marketing is a contest for people’s attention.”

To differentiate effectively, you must define how you’re different in a way that matters to your current and future customers.These are ideas on how to differentiate your vacation rental and set yourself apart from the competition:

  • Target renter. Keep your target market in mind and emphasize what appeals to them. Games, toys, local parks and children’s events will appeal to families, while a cozy fireplace and romantic restaurants will appeal to couples or honeymooners.
  • Web site. Create a website that’s visually appealing, easy to navigate and fully represents your property. Include helpful links to local news, events and your favorite restaurants, activities and shops.
  • Service. Provide guests with information or access to local services, such as transportation, parking, travel excursions, spa services, babysitting or other services related to their stay.
  • Photography. Hire a professional to take high quality images that feature your property in a unique way. Capture sunrise, sunset or other times of day that show the property’s views, features or surroundings at their best.
  • Reviews. Ask guests to write a brief review of their stay and include what they most liked. Watch for recurring themes about what they liked and emphasize these points in your marketing.
  • Technology. If you have free wi-fi, free long distance calls, keyless entry or other smart features at your property, be sure to list them in your property description.
  • Promotions. Consider themed promotions that appeal to your target renters, whether holiday-related events, golf getaways, foodie festivals or other ideas. Add value by offering related gift certificates for restaurants or attractions, or rewards and discounts for repeat visitors.
  • Brand. Create and live your very own brand. A brand is more than a name and a logo – it’s every interaction and experience your guests and prospects have with you and your vacation rental. Be consistent with your brand, from business cards to web sites, emails and customer service, because it’s all a representation of your business.

Bottom line

No matter your approach, clearly communicate how your property is different and how it offers a unique and memorable experience for guests.

After the conference, I checked out the Panama City beach condo online. I was happy to see the rates were competitive, the features were as described, and the décor and furnishings were, in fact, updated and lovely.

On top of that, the owner had received multiple five-star reviews, the highest possible. It didn’t surprise me that someone who took the time to create a lovely property was able to offer a differentiated experience for guests.

So, what makes you different? We’d like to hear.

*Source: HomeAway; image via freeimages

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