Though we all plan for it, and most of us soldier through these difficult and stringent times, it’s hard not to look at those empty booking dates and wonder what could be, in the grand scheme of things. Fortunately, even when the wheels grind to a halt and the seasonal birds flee, there are still opportunities waiting to be tapped; you just need to know the right ways to reach them. To help you reach that end, here are some of our top tips to ensure you maximize your off and shoulder seasons, so you can keep your property management business chugging year-round.
Market Your Region’s Off-Season High Points
Every region’s off season is an off season for a reason. Even with that said, there is plenty to be seen or done in most areas, regardless of the season. With that in mind, it’s up to you to work tirelessly to promote your area’s high points, even when they may not seem that beneficial. Dead in Michigan for the winter? How great is that skiing? Sitting pretty during that awful Arizona summer heat? Why not run an article in the most authoritative publication you can about the plenty of pools and fantastic events happening year-round? Whatever that bright spot is in your area, it’s up to you to find it and broadcast it to the world – it may not turn your off season into a peak, but you just might attract a few more customers, and that’s all you’re trying to do.
Tap Into Your Old Guests
Before you target anyone else, your biggest gold mine should always be previous guests (particularly the happy ones). These are the people who have been with you before and who know how much fun your area can be; as such, selling to them will be much easier than anyone else. The trick is how you reach out to them, and there are always a few creative ways to do exactly that:
- Email Marketing Specials: Do you have a newsletter with legions of dutiful followers? If not, you definitely should; if you do, then you’re halfway there! Use that newsletter list to create off-season marketing specials that make it almost impossible for your past customers to say no. From the obvious [insert percentage off] deal to the more creative holiday packages that drum up excitement and give your guests a good deal, there are plenty of things you can offer your newsletter followers (and past guests) in order to draw them in, even if it’s not your peak season.
- Dial for Dollars: Want more bookings? Then it may be time to sit down and start utilizing all that past renter information you’ve gathered over the years. Give personal calls to previous renters and see how their stays were and ask if they’re ready to come back for another trip. Don’t forget to let them in on all the great past customer appreciation specials they’re eligible for.
Paid search is one of the most potentially profitable forms of online marketing you can use to promote your vacation rentals. However, if you truly want to tap this potential goldmine during your off season, it’s important to tailor the message your ads promote to the type of traffic that’s most likely to convert: In this case, we are talking about the deal hunters and the penny pinchers. To do this, leverage your Google AdWords and run ads in your off season that promote “naming your price” (and make sure your site – or at least your email system – allows for that exact functionality). By allowing deal hunters to “haggle” with you and win lower deals than your normal prices, you can (1) pique curiosity and hopefully attract a demographic that you were not before and (2) keep rooms filled that otherwise would be standing empty. Though you may technically be “losing” money on giving away rooms at percentages of the normal cost, cheap bookings are better than no bookings at all, and should keep you running throughout the off season.
Leverage Off-Season Demand from Charity Auctions
Many managers have already had good success with something new and outside the box. Promoting your empty vacation rentals at non-profit fundraisers is a great way to put some off-season revenue in your owners’ pockets. Vacations are popular types of experiences promoted at non-profit fundraising events; and with over 1.4 million non-profits looking for interesting experiences to sell at charity fundraising auctions and raffles, there is a huge market that is waiting to be taken advantage of. Fortunately, with services such as Geronimo, whom we also work with, you can promote select off-season inventory (that typically sits vacant) to non-profit auctions, receive meaningful revenue (you have the option to receive half of the proceeds), and automatically put your destination and your brand in front of thousands of non-profits. Many events will even run a video or a slide show to promote your properties and your management company. Geronimo’s vacation certificate platform now makes it extremely easy to set up, and no calendar integration is required (certificate holders fill in holes on your calendar by calling you to book). This creates an entirely new audience for your vacation rental properties, while extending your peak season further than ever before.
Joshua Guerra is the founder and SEO director at Bizcor.