When I started out with my own properties, doing vacation rentals, there were 80 other owners doing the same thing in my small town. Now there are more than 1500. In 5 years.
As vacation rentals become more popular the competition increases. It gets harder to attract new guests. It’s harder for you to differentiate yourself.
Having a strong brand can help with that. A good vacation rental brand can help you attract new customers, retain old ones, and stand out from the crowd.
Below I list some of the steps you need to take when considering building your brand. The list is not exhaustive but should provide you with a good starting point.
Understand who you are
This is the fun part and the longest part. Take a step back and breath. Close your eyes and think for a second.
Why did you start with vacation rentals? Just as a side business? Or do you want to build it into something more?
What do you like about hosting? I there something you don’t you like?
Moreover, what did you like when you visited other places and used a vacation rental property? Did the hosts speak to you in a certain way? Did they do something special or out of the ordinary that you liked?
Then, take some time to think about you? What gets you excited? How are you in interactions with other people/
These are not all the questions. It’s just a small list to get you started. Your objective should be to build a baseline. To understand where and who you are.
Get a clear picture of why and how you want to do vacation rentals. That will make it easy to move to the next step.
I explained this in the vacation rental business plan article. The core principles stay the same. See who is doing the same thing around you. See how they are better, see how you’re better, and understand how you can improve.
The vacation rental landscape is always evolving at a very fast pace. Some things that are cool today might not be in 2 months. Learn to differentiate between trends and real differentiators.
It’s hard to give examples here as every property has some very specific pluses or minuses, even so, I’ll try some general ones.
Your competitor has a touchscreen fridge – that’s a coolness factor, not a differentiator. Your competitor’s property has a view. That’s a differentiator. And a hard one to beat sometimes.
Read through reviews in your area and see what people appreciated or not. You’ll be surprised by what they actually mention in their reviews. And you’ll realize it’s the little things that count.
Don’t try to categorize competitors in any way at this point. It’s easier after the next step, once you have ad ideal guest profile. For now, just take the time to understand the market. See who gets the most attention.
Even if it feels scary at first, you’ll see that the more you read and research the more comfortable you’ll be.
Determine your ideal guest
Every time I talk to a vacation rental owner this is the fun part for me. Imagining his ideal guest. And it can become fun for you as well.
Just think about it. A grumpy old man enters your property in the middle of the night. He’s tired and hungry. He starts cooking this smelly beans and sausage recipe. He sleeps on the couch, gets up late, and checks out 1 hour after the agreed-upon time.
I can assure you that’s no one’s ideal guest. However, if you want to avoid certain types of people now is the time to think about it.
Let’s take my example. For me, the ideal guests are a young family. In their late 20s to mid-30s. They have one or two kids and they love traveling and exploring new places. They choose vacation rentals because it’s easier to take care of the kids this way. Most importantly, they usually stay 3 or 4 nights and leave the apartment in good shape.
Write this stuff down for yourself. And try to analyze each of them. Let me explain how.
Number of guests, I listed 2 plus kids for example. Think of the group size. When you allow more than 6 people for example you might get parties. Are you ready for that?
Passions are hard to pinpoint and they depend on the area. Sports activities are a good example here. You are located in a mountain area, your guests love to ski but you are very far away from the slopes. Not ideal.
The length of stay determines your costs and the pricing strategy. If you want to offer a lower price some guest profiles are better than others. The same applies if you want to price above the market.
Build a story for your brand
Build your story. It starts with you imagining yourself in the same room as your ideal guest.
Tell him how you got started. How you found the property he will stay at. How you renovated or decorated. Tell him all about why you love doing vacation rentals.
Talk to your imaginary guest about things they can do around the city.
And write all of it down. A rough version will do for what we’re trying to achieve here.
This draft will become at one point your vacation rental brand story. Before it does that you still need to work on it. A lot.
From this first version, I imagine another 6 to 12 months of actually hosting people and talking to them. See how easy I moved form an imaginary ideal guest to a real one? I hope it’s as easy for you.
After that, try to write a final version. Less about you and more about this new brand. Imagine you are passing it over to someone and they in turn are passing it over to someone else as well.
How would you like them to host people? to talk to them? to great them? What amenities should the properties have? Talk about everything that’s encapsulated in the experience you provide.
The main advantage of this story is that you’ll never forget who you are and what your vacation rental business is. Hopefully, using this, you’ll find the resources to stay true to yourself and to your guests.
Create a visual identity
This is the part that everyone thinks of when I say vacation rental brands. And I can’t blame them. The brand has been for so long associated with its visual key elements. The ethos and the meaning behind it have been lost.
But now that we know better and we went through the entire brand-building exercise, creating the visual identity should be easy.
From personal experience, my opinion is to hire a professional designer. They will get the job done faster and better than you ever can.
Things to ask for would be:
- A Logo
- A list of fonts that go well together for you
- A color palette
- A website design
- Stationery design, if you use this
- Merchandise design – I love this one. Hats, umbrellas, t-shirts, and anything else that you can provide your guests with.
- Anything else you can think of
It’s hard to give advice on this topic. There are all sorts of trends going around each year when it comes to a brand’s visual identity.
Just some examples for 2020:
And all I can say is that 2020 is almost over.
After you have all of these done. Test it out. With friends, family, past, and current guests. See any reactions. Gather all the feedback you can and iterate a couple of times with your designer.
In the end, find something you love most of all. I know it seems counterintuitive, but out of all the people, you’ll be interacting the most with your brand so it has to be something you love.
Everything you and I discussed here is constantly changing. Your competitors are getting better. The ideal guests profile changes as you host more people. Above all else, you change and adapt as you build up experience in vacation rentals.
Even if your brand has some directions defined from the get-go it should adapt. Adjust your identity as things evolve and always keep improving.
Building a vacation rental brand is not that hard
Even if it seems overwhelming at first building a vacation rental brand is not hard. It takes patients, research, and a lot of iterating.
In conclusion, take the time to go through every one of the aspects discussed and contact me if you think I can help.