Here's some questions….
- Do you have a clear marketing plan?
- What targets have you set for occupancy this year?
- Have you got a budget for advertising and promotion?
- Is your web site working effectively for you?
- What strategies will you use to attract more visitors to your site?
- Are you ready to deal with enquiries professionally and promptly?
The vacation rental market is getting crowded. It's busy with new listing sites, blogs, forums, tweets, Sqiudoo lenses and articles. It's a great time to be involved in and influencing the market, but you need to be visible and proactive to stand out in the crowd.
It is not a good time to be complacent, haphazard and without focus, and if you are an owner looking at maximising your occupancy this year, it is going to take some work.
If you haven't got your own web site yet – and by this I mean one with a unique domain name – then use a blogging platform like WordPress to get one up and running. I have minimal technical skills but have started one for Osprey Cottage to see how far I could get without help. It is a work in progress but I welcome comments on my efforts so far. All it has cost me is the price of the domain name and hosting and the purchase of the Thesis theme which I feel works well for this type of site, and is user friendly.
Learn the basics of search engine optimisation. This is all about getting traffic to your site because its a total waste of time if you set one up and nobody comes. Read the Google SEO Starter Guide if you haven't a clue, or just need a refresher, but don't ignore the importance of creating a good flow of traffic.
Decide on your listing sites wisely and advertise on a couple that focus on your region, state or province, and one or two that market properties worldwide. I've had success with Perfect Places but not much with Home Away. This is a tough one because if your area is highly competitive, you may be jostling with hundreds of similar properties on the larger sites. Make sure wherever you list, that you can link back to your own web site that has an up-to-date availability calendar, otherwise your life will be spent updating calendars on a dozen different listing sites.
Plan how much you are going to spend and stick to it. Between 5% and 10% of your expected rental income is a good figure to be looking at to start with. Once your web site is established and you get a good amount of traffic to it (and you are adding value for your visitors), you'll be able to reduce that figure.
There is so much more to all this than just throwing up a quick Kijiji ad and hoping for the best. The big lesson is that if you really want to create some income, you have to work for it and earn the occupancy.