Five Essential Tips and Tools for Vacation Rental Agencies and Owners

Guest blog post by: Anthony Dodd, Channel Relationship Manager at Kigo

We get asked for tips and inside tricks here at Kigo all the time, so we rounded up five of our best ideas to help you maximize bookings. Some are new additions to obvious solutions; others are from feedback we’ve had from our agencies. So, our top five…..

Gmail

For smaller operations or individual owners, Google Mail is a great free tool to manage your email contacts. Its range of plugins and tool make it a real time-saver for vacation rentals agencies and owners. Tools like Boomerang (where you can automate the re-sending of emails to keep inquirers attention) and Canned Responses (where you can save a selection of template responses to inquiries to quickly respond) are just two great examples of the hundreds available that can really save you time and make sure that your inquiries are not going unanswered or leads going cold.

MailChimp

For larger operations, MailChimp is an excellent solution. Free for your first 12,000 emails per month, the fantastic selection of templates, and the ability to add your own designs give so much scope for personalization. You can harvest emails by embedding a sign-up form in your website and automate emails following actions on your site and in previous email campaigns. All this comes complete with a detailed, granular analytics package to monitor your emails’ performance and automated postings on your various social media accounts. With great free options and affordable, scalable paid solutions, MailChimp is a great product for your email marketing.

Website

This is not exactly news to most of you, but it’s crucial to have a website for your vacation rental agency or property. From WordPress and Blogger to professional design agencies, having something to refer your customers to is always a big plus. It verifies your agency in an age where customers are ever more vigilant regarding fraud, gives you a showcase for your properties and helps you to establish a brand, all of which will help you to boost your bookings.

Google Analytics

One of the finest pieces of analytics available, Google’s free analytics package is a great way to monitor your sites performance. From an overview of which keywords are driving the highest number of visitors to your site, all the way to the granular details of how individual pages are performing and how long each visitor spends on your site, all the data is exportable, instantly assessable and segment-able. To get vital data on your site performance and how you can improve your site in a variety of ways, Google Analytics is a great tool.

Channel Manager

Managing your vacation rental properties through various online channels is always a rewarding experience in terms of bookings. But it can be time consuming and difficult to keep your own site up-to-date in addition to all the listings you have on great portals like FlipKey. Using a channel manager simplifies this process; all your availability data, pricing, and property details and photos can be instantly synced with your vacation rentals website so that every channel you market with is constantly updated in real time. Saving you time and money while streamlining your vacation rental business, a channel manager is a fantastic tool for your vacation rental business.

Kigo offers a Channel Manager option as a part of their vacation rental software package. Linking your vacation rental properties to Flipkey is made effortless through Kigo’s channel manager, with all data synced in real time. Contact us today to find out more.

Driving Vacation Rental Traffic with Social Media Strategies

The social internet provides unprecedented opportunities to connect with potential guests and market your vacation property. Vacation rental owner, author, and blogger Heather Bayer shares some great advice on taking advantage of social media to help promote your property online.

Driving Vacation Rental Traffic with Social Media Strategies
by Heather Bayer

Listing your property with good, traffic-rich sites such as FlipKey is important, and this should be at the top of every vacation rental owner’s marketing plan. What is not as obvious are the huge opportunities available to drive traffic to your listing or website with free or low-cost social media strategies. The strength of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube for reaching a mass audience has never been greater. Continuing growth in all of these markets points to them sticking around a long time, so if you haven’t leaped in yet, now is the time to do it.

Before you begin, research what your competition is doing with social networking. Look at how they are interacting with clients; what they are posting and the responses they are getting. This research gives great insight into where you can position yourself in the social media scene. Here are four networking opportunities to get you started:

Blogging

Despite the growth in Facebook and Twitter, a well-designed blog remains the strong foundation of a robust social media strategy. The key to success with a blog is to post regularly, allow comments and reply to them personally, and post on a range of topics to appeal to your audience. Many vacation rental owners are now using a blog platform such as WordPress to power their web site, and featuring a blog on it gives it great value overall. It’s possible to do all this for free with a site hosted on WordPress and a free theme, but for a relatively small outlay (less than $100 per year) for a hosting service and a paid theme, you can create an elegant and well-optimized site that will generate a good amount of traffic.

Facebook

It’s very likely you already have a personal account on Facebook. For a professional approach to your vacation rental, you’ll need to create a Facebook Page. Here, you simply promote your property and the area, and connect with potential guests without them seeing your personal interactions. Mari Smith’s Facebook 101 for Business is a great place to start. There are a lot of companies offering Page design services – Custom Fan Page Designs do a great job at reasonable rates.

Twitter

Twitter gets bad press from people who are not using it for business purposes. For vacation rental owners who want to connect with the people that really matter such as travel writers and potential guests, it is a terrific social medium. It takes some time to create a group of followers on Twitter but it’s worth persevering. As with any other social network, be careful not to use it for straight promotion of your property – it’s about making a connection, starting and maintaining a conversation, and sharing your expertise on your area. When you set up your Twitter account, follow me @cottageguru and send me a direct message with the word FlipKey in it. I’ll follow you back and add you to my list of FlipKey Tweeters.

Article Writing

In 2006 I wrote a short article called Travel Insurance for Vacation Rentals and posted it on Ezine Articles, the giant of article marketing sites. In 2011 that article still ranks in the top three on Google for those key words and is consistently republished on other blogs and websites. Publishing articles is a simple and effective way to create buzz about a topic you are interested in, with the opportunity to create a signature block that includes your bio and a link to your listing or site. What better way to market your property for free?

It’s not necessary to tackle all these platforms at once – take one at a time and give it a week or two of concerted effort, and then move onto the next. Just remember that having a successful social media strategy is like spinning plates: they all need consistent attention to keep them going.

Heather Bayer is author of Renting Your Recreational Property for Profit (Self-Counsel Press) and is passionate about raising standards in the vacation rental industry. She regularly blogs at www.cottageblogger.com and runs a successful membership site at Renting For Profit – The Complete Resource for Vacation Rental Owners.