Marketing The Key to Attracting the Right Rental Guests We are real people, not anonymous booking staff. We’ve sweated years to create a beautiful space we want to share with our guests. And we are offering it to real people – not anonymous families that will come and go without us knowing a thing about them. This is the sentiment I hear from a lot of owners who express concern about the move to booking online and the hotel-style systems that will move guests in and out of your property with very little input from you. Of course, there are many owners who don’t want to engage with their clients – they use an agency to handle all communications, the changeovers, maintenance and follow-up. And that’s fine. For some, it’s the preferred method of rental and if that is the way you want to go I have no argument with it. But for those of us who like to be hands-on; who have high standards and understand the nature of this hospitality industry, we have to differentiate – and show our guests why it really works to rent by owner. I have been a rental owner for many years – my places rent weekly in the high season but tend to attract guests on short breaks for the rest of the year. This means a constant changeover of groups – all coming with expectations and perceptions which are often widely differing. In a year we might have 40 – 50 groups …..and we talk to them all and ask why they have chosen us. I don’t want anyone to have a surprise. My cottages could be considered remote and would not suit anyone who wants to pop out to McDonalds or visit a casino. There is wildlife, not nightlife; the nearest (decent) restaurant is over 45 minutes away, and the road can be a real challenge in the winter. But, this is our top performing cottage and has a lot of repeat guests and that success is largely due to the relationship we’ve developed with them. Creating that relationship can be the key to building a strong rental business – arguably far more important than the ability for a guest to easily book online. The starter to that relationship is your ‘Owner Profile' on a listing or your website. So many of them are left empty or simply have a name of the owner but little else. The best ones tell a story, show authenticy and create confidence in the mind of the potential guest, that the property is genuine. Martha Tullberg does this at Chalet La Foret, her Chamonix property. The page title on her website – Booking with Confidence says it all as the goal of the page is met thoroughly. It is open, welcoming and friendly, and loaded with links to her social sites, other websites and reviews. Gigi Guyton takes it a step further with her Meet the Owner page on the Husk Homestead website. I would challenge anyone who was interested in going to the Blue Ridge Mountains not to be enchanted with her description of why she loves it there. In the warmer months I adore the wrap around porch – I practically live on it in the summer! You can gaze at the mountains; watch the fog roll in. There is something about Husk Homestead that makes me relax. You can't be there and not relax. I feel rooted and grounded there, closer to nature and at peace spiritually.” Travellers to California wine country will be drawn to Ken and Rebecca’s Blue Canoe Inn, particularly because the owner’s description delivers warmth and friendliness that is very appealing. We read about where they are from, why they bought the property and their own views on what’s best about the area. I was also attracted to The Moon House, owned by Terry Reynolds and her partner, sculptor Bryan Tedrick. Bryan designed and built the property and it stood out, not only because of the unique design, but because of the owner’s description. We picked Glen Ellen for our home because we love the small town feel, yet it has all the conveniences of a larger city…our fabulous grocery store is just down the street, along with some terrific restaurants within walking distance.” Even that short and simple piece of text grabbed my attention – together with the cachet of renting a property built by a recognised artist. If I was looking for a one-of-a-kind getaway in the Sonoma Valley, this would be top of the shortlist. When I was exploring ideas for this post, I spent a couple of hours looking through Home Away and Trip Advisor listings in ‘rental mode’, getting into the shoes of a prospective guest. It’s quite overwhelming to explore so many listings and they all blend into one after a while with a lot of bland descriptions listing the bedrooms and bathrooms and the 50” TV. The ones that stood out and differentiated themselves from the pack, were those that showed a personal side. As this business continues to grow it will be in danger of losing one of the most appealing aspects to many people – the feeling that the owners are sharing a much-loved property. For those who don’t want to transition to the more sterile, impersonal nature of hotel-style vacation rentals, it’s time to connect with your guests. It took a little time to find these examples which says a lot. I’d love to see more of these well-crafted, personal stories shown on listing and owner websites. Let me know how you share your love of your property with your prospective guests in the comments below. Include the link to your listing.