For many of our clients, the 2015 rental season is winding down. Over the past few months, you’ve had your head down working; dealing with the needs of your homeowners and guests. Now it’s time to take a more detailed look at 2015 and plan ahead for 2016 — and I have some tips and tricks to help you set your marketing budgets for 2016.
When setting an annual marketing budget, you’ll want to make sure you’ve carefully collected and verified all of your marketing and revenue data. After all, you wouldn’t want to make assumptions and critical decisions based on inaccurate data! You’ll want to get your invoices all in order for VRBO listings, Homeaway commissions and Flipkey charges as well as other key investment areas that you’ve made in marketing for 2015.
Here’s a quick checklist for to capture all of your core revenue data:
- Listing sites charges (pay-per-booking, subscriptions, units, etc)
- Google Analytics data (verified for accuracy)
- Invoices for your digital marketing investments (Facebook Ads, Google AdWords, SEO service fees, email marketing)
- Offline marketing investments
- Phone bookings breakdown versus online bookings
During this process, it’s helpful to have an assistant in the company helping you collect this critical data. You’ll want to double-check all of these numbers to make sure you’re capturing the essence of your current marketing investments. It’s worth reviewing to make sure everything is as accurate as possible.
We understand this can be quite the time consuming task but rest assured it is important to have a barometer metric in which to measure all marketing costs moving forward.
Here, really digging in and reviewing how each investment performed is key. For example, you’ll probably review how many bookings your website drove in 2015 compared to 2014. Where were the biggest gains or losses per traffic channel? If you had a larger Facebook presence in the recent year compared to the past, you’ll want to see those results now.
Reviewing stats everyday can cause more issues than it solves, but a year’s worth of data should have accounted for any off days or weekends. Wrapping up a season means you have the time to analyze hundreds of conversions and tens of thousands of website visitors - use this data to your advantage.
During this time, we typically recommend you set up a large Google Spreadsheet that contains columns for marketing cost (investment), bookings generated per channel and total revenue per channel. At the end, we’re typically distilling all of these complicated numbers into a single metric that captures the hot-topic issue: What’s the best marketing channel for you to invest more in 2016?
On the website side, I’d recommend you keep a close eye on key performance data like first click versus last click conversions as these numbers tell a much better story of your marketing revenue. For example, we recently found that a client was investing $60,000 yearly into a pay-per-click campaign that was driving around $150,000 more revenue than what shows in Google Analytics ecommerce tracking. This all happened through secondary visits to the website. Your paid media platforms often don’t convert on the first visit to your website - you don’t want to make the mistake of cutting critical targeted web traffic without reviewing your ecommerce data carefully.
Reviewing your website analytics can be a rewarding and eye-opening experience. Due to the nature of large listing websites, you won’t have the same type of data available to you on any other platform. Keep an eye out for potential issues like poorly performing properties on the large listing sites, high-bounce rate traffic to your website and tourism shifts in your area.
At the end of this phase, you’ll have a large spreadsheet highlighting your marketing investments across channels, which will help tremendously with the next stage: setting budgets.
Typically, we find that you will have a marketing budget anywhere from 5% to 12% of your annual rental revenue from 2015. How you break this down varies, but typically we find that most budgets include the following categories:
Digital Marketing For Your Website
* SEO & Content Marketing investments
* Paid advertising budgets (Facebook Ads, Google AdWords, Bing Ads, Adroll)
* Social media investments (Twitter, Facebook, Google+)
* Email marketing (note: typically the highest ROI channel)
Listing site subscriptions & fees
* Dwellable (time to implement)
* Third-party sites depending on your area
Local media investments
* Local chamber advertising
* Billboards & print media advertising
* Tourism incentives
Gear Up For 2016!
We’re thrilled for the future of the vacation rental industry, and your marketing investments are a huge part of the reason for continued growth. We’re in a booming time for the VR industry, and the VRMA community is at the forefront of this trend. Everyone at InterCoastal Net Designs wishes you good luck and hopes you can exceed your revenue from 2015!
Questions? I’d be happy to help. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to talk to our team and help set you up for success in 2016.