Confessions of a Vacation Rental Marketing DIrector: Part 1

    I recently wrote a blog post on the PointCentral blog that discussed the amazing growth and maturity the vacation rental industry to experiencing right now. It’s an awesome time to be in the vacation rental industry.

    As VRMA members, you know this well. You experience the growing pains (and opportunities!) day in and day out.

    A large part of this growth and maturity (as an industry and as individual VRMs) will depend on marketing. How effectively can we craft and share a valuable message with our audience?

    Marketing is crucial, but it often feels complex and overwhelming. I’d like to demystify VRM marketing. I believe is it easier than it seems…and I want to show you how.

    My current role is to help VRM’s leverage technology to improve business operations. But my former position gave me the opportunity to experiment with vacation rental marketing for almost five years. This marketing experience is what I’d like to share with you.

    Over the course of a few posts, I’m going to pull back the marketing curtain and share my perspective of vacation rental marketing. I’ll show you all my cards. Pull no punches. And answer any questions you have. I’m an open book. (Enough clichés?)

    My goal is to simplify the complex world of VRM marketing and offer practical information that you can put to use…immediately. I see a HUGE opportunity for vacation rental managers to become much more efficient and effective with marketing tactics. Small adjustments can have large impacts.

    However, before I share my perspective, perhaps you’d like to know about me…

    1. Who am I?
    2. Why would you want to listen to me?
    3. Why would I spend my time sharing this information – i.e. WIIFM?

    Who Am I?

    I’m Adam Norko, and I’m a vacation rental marketing junkie.

    I won’t bore you with my resume. You can find my professional background on my LinkedIn profile. (Side note: Let’s connect on LinkedIn. Shoot me a message.) The crucial piece for this discussion is my time spent as Marketing Director for Seaside Vacations on the Outer Banks from May 2008 – September 2012.

    I spent almost five years with Seaside falling in love with vacation rentals. I lived vacation rentals day in and day out.

    I designed websites, wrote blogs, took videos, shot pictures, inspected homes, managed vendors, worked with every division of a VRM. I even sat on the Executive Council for Seaside Vacations and Coldwell Banker Seaside Realty and participated in the PR Committee for VRMA. In short, I lived the VRM lifestyle day in and day out for years; I was in the trenches, my hands got dirty, and I’m better for it.

    There is no question that I have a deep passion for the vacation rental industry, and I’d like to think that my experience has given me a pretty good understanding of how the industry operates.

    In late September I made the transition from the Marketing Director at Seaside Vacations to the Sales & Marketing Director at PointCentral.

    I did not take this transition lightly. I loved my time marketing the Outer Banks vacation rental experience, but when I came across the PointCentral system, I saw an awesome opportunity to help the VR industry embrace technology to help revolutionize how we do business – the ability to remotely monitor and control properties can offer an astounding change to business!

    So, with the same vigor I brought to vacation rental marketing, I jumped on board the home automation train. And luckily, I get an opportunity to help the industry that I love so much.

    Why Would You Want to Listen to Me?

    Good question. My kids will probably tell you to ignore me. However, as I tell the kiddos, you don’t have to agree with everything I have to say, but if you can grab just one new idea, I’d say it’s time well spent.

    Although, let me offer a couple data points to establish some VRM marketing credibility.

    As I said, I was the Marketing Director for a VRM on the Outer Banks, and if you know the OBX market, you know it is exceptionally competitive – 20+ companies with sophisticated VRM practices vying for a limited number of guests.

    Below are marketing metrics I used to gauge our marketing success against the competition on a monthly basis. This data is from August 2012, the last full month I acted as Marketing Director. Clearly we were performing well, and I’d like to think I had a firm grasp on the VRM industry to help us be positioned so well.

    One last preface – these results are based on a two person marketing team (i.e. me and a graphic/creative designer) and a marketing budget just north of $100K. I believe it is safe to say that we created these results with one of the smaller marketing teams and budgets on the OBX.

    Adam Marketing Metrics:

    • HubSpot Marketing Grader: A holistic measure of a site’s online presence as measured by HubSpot’s Marketing Grader on a scale of 0-100.
    • Website Unique Visitors by Unit: Data is from Compete.com, so it’s not perfect, but everyone is measured using the same method.
    • Posts
      • Total = 1,774
      • 2008 = 93
      • 2009 = 329
      • 2010 = 408
      • 2011 = 416
      • 2012 = 492 (3/4 of the year)

    Why Would I Spend My Time Sharing This Information?

    1. I’ve moved from the VRM side of the industry to the vendor side, so I’m not worried about sharing "secrets” with the competition.
    2. A rising tide of great marketing will help the entire vacation rental industry improve.
    3. My experience is still fresh. The longer I’m away from the VRM side, the less meaning this experience will have.
    4. I have a passion for VRM marketing. I believe VRM’s have an amazing potential to share a very valuable message.


    Geesh, that’s a whole bunch of words about me so far. How about those practical, useful ideas, right?

    Each post I’ll share some "homework” ideas with you. Small projects, research ideas, new tools or websites to review, etc. Your mission – should you choose to accept it – will be to spend a little time assessing these new ideas, seeing if you can find room in your marketing plans to integrate the new ideas, and hopefully sharing your feedback with me…let’s grow together!

    1. Familiarize yourself with "inbound marketing.” A quick Google search will suffice.
    2. Take a look at www.HubSpot.com. They are super rad. We’ll definitely be discussing them more.
    3. Take a peek at my former blog for examples of my work: http://Blog.OuterBanksVacations.com.
    4. A few quick quotes to plant some seeds…
      "Stop selling. Start helping.” - Zig Ziglar
      "Content is king.” – Bill Gates
      "Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about.” - Benjamin Franklin

    To Infinity & Beyond!

    I’m super jazzed to spend some time with you over the next few posts/weeks. Below is a rough outline of topics I intend to cover, but this is a free-flowing series of posts, so please feel free to share your thoughts and questions. Let’s create a two-way discussion and adjust our flow as we go. Leave a comment below about what you'd like to see.

    • Results
      1. Why listen to me?
      2. Background
      3. Hard results/data in competitive OBX market
      4. Why spend my time sharing this info/experience?
    • Why inbound/content marketing is perfect for VRMs
      1. Cost effective
      2. Efficient
      3. Measurable
      4. Great locations
      5. Core audience of guests/homeowners
      6. Valuable content – guests need info
      7. Fun – selling vacations to great places!
    • Overview of Inbound Marketing for VRMs
      1. What is it
      2. What is needed
      3. How to get started
      4. Long-term plan
    • How does Inbound Marketing relate to other marketing initiatives…
      1. SEO
      2. Link building
      3. Social media
      4. Blog
      5. Website
      6. Print ads
      7. Direct mail
    • Content Suggestions
      1. Content ideas & schedules
    • How to curate content
      1. Good blogs to follow
      2. How to follow blogs
      3. How to keep up/stay ahead
      4. What to do with content
    • Reporting
      1. What to report
      2. Easy reporting
      3. Good measure of competition - Unique visitors per unit on website
      4. Free online resources
    • When to use a marketing vendor
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