When I hosted the Minimum Marketing roundtable at the 2013 VRMA West conference in Denver, I said that I would type up the notes of what we discussed and send them out to everyone who gave me their business card. It was a lively discussion and I heard from a few people that it was the highlight of the conference to hear from their peers about what they do in their markets.
I am sharing it here too so that you, also, can have a chance to reduce your everyday overwhelm and focus on what is most important in your business.
At the roundtable, I started by highlighting 4 guidelines to streamline your marketing efforts:
- Know your target market well. The more that you focus on a specific type of person to go after, the less marketing you do, and the more efficient you can be with your time, money and energy.
- Make sure that you treat your existing customers well. This reduces the energy you need to spend getting new customers.
- This goes for both homeowners and for travelers. If you can keep your existing homeowners happy, it’s easy to grow. If you delight each traveler that uses your services so much that they wouldn’t think of booking anywhere else, you minimize the number of properties that you need to fill with new travelers.
- Branding is easy when you know your target market and you listen to them. Branding tells you what channels you need to focus on, and reduces and the number of decisions you need to make.
- On a side note: Google rewards consistent branding. The people who have chosen you will tell you why they chose you. They will tell you what you have to offer that your competitors don’t. The more that you know what you have to offer, the more you can get the word out to your target market. This is your brand. With regard to the online world, research shows that if you rank well for a keyword phrase on your website, your Pay-Per-Click ad campaigns perform better. This also carries through to the messages and posts you do in social media channels. The more consistent you are in your messages and to whom those messages are relevant, the better your website will perform in Google.
- Another note is that your branding should produce an emotional response in those who come into contact with it. Your goal is to pay attention to the feelings that your advertising, reservationists, and customer service employees evoke in the people that they touch. Branding is not about reality; it’s about what perception that people have of you and your company.
- Pay attention to your competition. None of us operates our businesses in a vacuum. Identify your competitors based on your target market. You don’t need to watch all companies, just the ones that provide services to your target market.
Next, we took a poll to decide which of the 2 markets, travelers or owners, that you wanted to talk about. Every VRM wants to get more owners, so we decided to focus on marketing to get more owners.
We discussed that marketing for any specific market often has 2 main channels that are the most effective for that market. We went around the table asking each person to identify their most successful marketing channels to get owners. The winners, by an overwhelming margin, were:
- Marketing Channel #1: Referrals from real estate agents. (It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.)
- Find out when the brokers’ meetings are taking place and ask if you can go and speak to them.
- Bring donuts! Anytime!
- Know where your owners are coming from. One person marketed to real estate agents in other states like Texas because so many Texans were coming to her area to buy vacation homes.
- Give incentives to realtors for owners that sign with you. The referral price range mentioned at our table was a referral fee of $250-$300 for an owner.
- Some VRMs provided an estimated rental income analysis for their area. This is good to share for any homeowner you want to sign with you; don’t forget to share this information with realtors as well. A realtor can possibly sell a home quicker if it includes a rental analysis at the For Sale sign. If it’s got your logo and contact info on it, that’s free marketing for you.
- We discussed how all realtors want more leads and you have leads you could give them. However, it’s a double-edged sword. You don’t want to alienate any realtors because you didn’t send them leads. If there are ways to do this in a fair way so that you ruffle as few feathers as possible, do it that way.
- Marketing Channel #2: Direct mail.
- Go to the title company and tell them who are you are targeting.
- Do you know what homes rent well in your market? Send out mailers with valuable content to all of the homes in the best areas. Keep sending mail to those areas even if it’s a basic newsletter or tips every so often about how to “winterize your home” or other important information that people need to know.
- If you include a landing page on your website for your direct mail piece, you can track how well your mailing did, and possibly find out who you should call. However you do it, the more you pay attention to the results of your marketing, the more efficient you become.
- In any case, if you write it for the direct mail piece, share it on your website! This allows you to keep your website content fresh, which is important in ranking well, and also provides targeted relevant content, which is equally important for Google. Also consider sharing it with:
- Other partners of yours
- Google Plus
- Twitter, if you tweet.
- Email marketing
- The most efficient marketers have this set up as a system so that they create content and blast it out in many channels. Talk about simplifying your efforts!
- Other marketing ideas to consider, if you find that the top 2 marketing channels do not work well enough for you.
- Events. If you know where your target market is going to be, be at those events. You may even want to host your own events, such as a wine and cheese reception that tells all of the clients of your favorite realtors what you have to offer.
- Your reputation. Everything you do is marketing, because everything you do builds your reputation, whether good or bad. Pay attention to how well you are doing things, and you will grow your business in the most sustainable and fundamental way.
If you remember anything, just remember this.
You don’t need to do it all.
If you can only do one thing, do this:
Set up a distribution system to get your messages and value-added tips
out to as much of your target market as possible.