Branding your VR is key to your survival in the new world of vacation rentals, without a brand you are lost in a sea of thousands on the listing sites – buried at their whim. Once you have a catchy name, its time to have a logo made and start plastering your VR’s name and logo everywhere you can across the internet. The goal here is to be easily found.
When we started our VR, I remember sitting on the back porch with a group of my wife’s discipleship 18 year olds brainstorming on a name. We narrowed it down to two; Shell Yeah! or BeachsideBungalow, I like alliteration so BeachsideBungalow was the winner. It might be even better if you are able to incorporate your vacation area into your house name. I end up saying Turks Beachsidebungalow in a lot of my posts so that Google picks up on those keywords mentioned together.
Next step was to have a logo made, and I called on a friend Andrew Bartolotta, Andrew.firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website at andrewjpgdesigns.com. Highly recommended, and not very expensive. I get compliments All The Time on our logo. It really makes us stand out and look very professional. He came up with several ideas and we picked this one and tweaked it for about 2 weeks, wanting to get the colors just right. This is what we finally decided on:
As you can see, Joanie and I are standing in front of our VR with our very large and visible sign. Now that we have a name and a logo, we start putting it up everywhere, including physical locations. We have cruise ship tourists who wander past our house everyday and we have had several bookings off of our sign. You might want to have a car magnet or a back window vinyl sticker made if you are local and drive nearby a lot.
Next steps are to plaster it all over your website and Facebook page for you VR – you DO have a website and a Facebook VR page don’t you??? If not, this is your Absolute Must Do Next Step!
I can’t emphasize this enough: If you aren’t willing to have a website and use that as your main booking hub, then you will never have as much success as you have enjoyed in the past. VRBO is no longer your friend in the VR world, they have become adversarial to us as owners and are only looking to use us to extract as much money from our customers as possible. Up until 2015 they were a great partner but after the corporate buyout they are no longer operating as a classified ad service. The time is now to break free of their control, but still USE them in the process. You’ll have to make a decision if it is worth it, it will take you more time than it used to to be successful – things change and there is no use crying over spilled milk. I still have a listing with them and still get a few bookings though their sites, but mainly I am using them….
Here you can see my listings as they appear in search on both VRBO and Airbnb. This might be a little risky to have my logo implanted on my main photo, but they haven’t asked me to take it down yet! At the very least, I have my house name in my title and also throughout my listing over and over (19 times actually). With each passing day, the public is learning more and more that they are getting ripped off by these listing sites to the tune of 8% to 20%. The national #bookdirect campaign is spreading the word to consumers to look on the listing sites, but book direct with the owner. Hotels and airlines are both also pushing the Book Direct message. As time goes on there will be more and more savvy buyers looking to book direct on your website, but if you aren’t up to speed and able, those buyers will be moving on to your competitor who is. I am unfortunately still relying on the big listing sites to bring me guests in this model, but one day I hope the guests will quit using the big sites as much, and instead search for “vacation rental Turks & Caicos”. I am already ready for this to be the case! We rank on page 2 or 3 for this very search and I am already getting direct bookings. This means I’m getting extra bookings from another source that I wasn’t previously using – Google- this will only grow in the future. My website tracks where my visitors come from and many are coming from Airbnb or VRBO where they see my house name and then do a google search for Beachside Bungalow. This is in addition to the direct searches for VR in T&C mentioned above. Try it and see where I come up for those 2 words – Beachside & Bungalow – you’re going to be amazed. You don’t even have to add Turks at this point. That’s how to use VRBO and Airbnb!