This is our final post of a 3-part blog series that dives into all the insights from our 2023 STR Trends Report. If you missed them, here’s the first and second blog posts of the series. In this post, we're going to take on the crucial topic of marketing your short-term rentals. Let's dive in!
Marketing strategies are influenced by several factors, and when it comes to short-term rentals, the size of your portfolio is a key determinant. However, despite variations in strategy, most property owners and managers are using platforms like Airbnb and Booking.com to market themselves, particularly in the UK. More niche options like Vrbo and direct booking tend to follow once a property has established a presence on these major platforms.
The world of online travel agencies (OTAs) can seem complex and daunting for many property owners. Indeed, it's a diverse ecosystem—some owners pledge their allegiance to Airbnb, some spread their listings across different platforms. Here at Uplisting, we've observed an interesting trend among our clients—a general inclination toward diversification in their marketing strategies.
The decision to use OTAs isn't without its controversies, though. Yes, they're often criticized for their practices, and sometimes rightfully so. But it's crucial to also recognize the incredible opportunities they offer. OTAs serve as a launchpad for many property owners who may not have extensive marketing knowledge or SEO expertise. The ease and speed of use are key attractions—imagine being able to set up an account and get your first booking within just a few hours! That level of efficiency is hard to match.
Yet, this convenience comes with its own set of challenges. The fees charged by OTAs are often a cause of concern among property owners and managers. Some view these charges as excessively high and a potential barrier to profitability.
So what should your approach be? It depends on your goals. But what’s clear is that a diversified strategy often tends to work well regardless of the state of the economy or industry. By not putting all of your eggs in one basket, you’re better positioned to reach a wider audience, mitigate risks and fluctuations in the market, and leverage what each channel has to offer.
This brings us to direct bookings - the booking method in the absence of OTAs.
In the constantly evolving landscape of short-term rentals, direct bookings have sparked quite a debate. They are often championed as the 'smart' way forward for savvy operators. But let's clear up a common misconception: direct bookings aren't a new phenomenon. They've been an integral part of the hospitality industry long before OTAs even entered the scene.
However, it's also important to acknowledge the growing influence of OTAs in generating bookings. Their convenience and extensive reach have made them a popular choice among travelers. Yet, this doesn't diminish the role of direct bookings. In fact, direct bookings can serve as a lucrative revenue stream and offer more control over guest interactions and pricing strategies. Including them as a key element in your diversified marketing approach can help you maximize your profitability and maintain a strong, direct connection with your guests.
Whether you're new to the short-term rental industry or a seasoned pro, you’ll likely find yourself asking when it’s time to take the next step in your marketing strategy. Expanding your revenue is a journey, and as you ascend the revenue ladder, your marketing strategies should evolve in tandem. This means it’s important to grow your marketing efforts as you grow your business.
There isn’t a clear path forward that’s the same for every business. With that said, we’ve noticed a pattern. As operators, owners, and managers reach certain revenue milestones, they tend to adopt or grow certain marketing strategies. Use these as a guide for your own marketing efforts.
With your first significant milestone of $100,000 in revenue, it's time to dip your toes into the world of email marketing.
Personalized emails can enhance the guest experience, keep your brand at the forefront of their minds, and provide a channel to share new offerings or promotions. This is a powerful tool to build relationships with your guests, encouraging repeat bookings and creating a loyal customer base.
Crossing the half-million mark in revenue signals the need for broader diversification in your marketing strategies.
Paid advertising, whether on social media platforms or search engines, can significantly amplify your brand's reach and engagement.
Influencer marketing is another avenue worth exploring. Partnering with influencers can boost your brand's visibility, especially if their audience aligns with your target demographic.
Additionally, it's a smart move to expand your presence across multiple booking platforms if you haven’t already. This will help you capitalize on their existing pool of customers.
Once your revenue crosses the formidable threshold of $1 million, a sustained focus on SEO and advanced email marketing strategies becomes imperative.
SEO is crucial for improving your online visibility and attracting organic traffic, but it’s a long game. SEO results can take months and even years to appear, but the ROI is high.
Advanced email marketing can enable more sophisticated segmentation, personalization, and automation strategies.
These two techniques aren’t just about generating more bookings in the short term, they’re about laying the groundwork for sustained growth and success with a robust return on investment.
At this point, it’s likely that you have a number of individuals working for your properties and/or brand. Adding SEO and marketing experts will help take your strategies to the next level and ensure an ROI that makes your investment worth it - this is especially true if you’re taking your STR business one step further and building a brand.
Branding is about more than creating a catchy name or snazzy logo, it’s about understanding your target demographic and tailoring your offerings to suit their needs.
A successful brand resonates with its audience and is consistent in its promise and delivery. To do just that, it’s important to identify your target audience and the niche you’ll be catering to.
Here are two niches that we think are ripe with opportunity:
1. The Family-Friendly Haven - Families form a substantial and somewhat under-serviced market segment. They crave the convenience and comfort that STRs can offer over conventional hotel rooms, particularly when traveling with young children.
A brand that can assure families of kid-friendly amenities, like age-appropriate toys, safe play areas, and practical equipment like high chairs or pack-and-plays, can carve out a significant place in this niche. This space allows for storytelling around shared family experiences, building memories, and creating a home away from home.
2. Celebration Central - A different direction to consider is positioning your brand as the go-to choice for special events and celebrations, like bachelor and bachelorette parties. These groups seek fun, memorable experiences, and an STR that offers a blend of comfort, excitement, and novelty can be a magnet for such occasions. You could offer customized packages, partner with local entertainment or dining options, and create unique themed experiences to differentiate your brand.
Regardless of the niche you choose, the key is to embrace it, own it, and consistently deliver on your brand promise. Your niche will guide your marketing strategies, helping you target your ideal guests with precision and authenticity.
And there we have it! An exciting journey through the landscape of STR marketing in 2023, from the perspective of current trends to diversifying strategies, understanding the value of direct bookings, scaling marketing strategies as your business grows, and finally carving a unique niche to build a brand that resonates with your target audience.
Our key takeaway from this exploration is clear: the STR market is bustling with potential.
As we look forward to the rest of 2023 and beyond, it's evident that direct bookings, OTAs, email marketing, SEO, and brand building all hold a place in your STR marketing strategy. No single method should take #1 priority, but a diversified and dynamic approach can help ensure your success.
Remember, your strategic efforts today will lay a solid foundation for the future, enabling your short-term rental business to thrive amidst the ebb and flow of industry trends. At Uplisting, we're here to support you in this exciting journey. Here's to a prosperous 2023 and beyond!
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