October 22, 2015

7 Ways to Gain Independence from Listing Sites

Neither professional managers nor homeowners are immune from occasional disagreements or frustration with listing sites, but how does one go about regaining control of his or her business and becoming independent of these websites?

We brought in the esteemed host of the Vacation Rental World Summit and Founder of Vacation Rental Secrets Consulting Antonio Bortolotti to reveal his vacation rental management secrets, and this is what he wrote:

It was easy, back then

If you’ve been renting out property since the early days of the online vacation rental industry, you recall how great it was to list on a number of sites:

You put together photos, descriptions, your contact details, and you waited for inquiries to flock into your mailbox.

You paid a yearly advertising fee, were treated as a ‘partner,’ and truly felt the value for the money you spent.

Listing sites needed you to build up their inventory, gain traction, and win the market, so they did their utmost to get you as many inquiries as possible and build mutual success. It was a win-win.

It was.

Once critical mass was achieved and the game got tough, most of the sites changed strategy to increase revenue and control over inventory.

Property owners and managers have been shifting from ‘partners’ to ‘products,’ without even realizing it. And this big shift made most ‘former’ partners quite upset, as they’ve seen:

  • Increasing limitations in the way they handle inquiries
  • Increasing control by listing sites over prospect information and vacation rental management
  • Increasing advertising fees
  • Decreasing inquiries, listing performance and ROI
  • Decreasing quality in customer support

So what went wrong?

In an act of faith, owners and managers handed over control, because business used to go so well that you didn’t really have to think too much about how to get more bookings. And in doing so, most vacation rental businesses put all their eggs in one basket i.e. only on listing sites, without paying much effort or focus on building alternative streams.

Some owners, like Kelly Kemper know this very well as they paid a truly high toll for not having thought strategically. Kelly’s story went viral over the internet, as it’s symptomatic of an industry that has reached a turning point.

How can you regain control of your own vacation rental business?

Focus on building a stunning website, and work on its positioning in the search results. Your website is your most important asset as you own and have total control over every decision you make. And if done right, it becomes a primary source of inquiries and bookings that can outperform listing sites in the long run.

Focus on building your Brand, build a trusted reputation as a reliable business providing over the top service and display the evidence through reviews, testimonials, press features as in the examples here, here and here.

Nurture relationships with all your guests by going the extra mile, and make their stay the holiday of a lifetime. Then keep in touch with them over time. As you’ll see them turn into raving fans and ambassadors of your property back home, you’ll gain a great source of referrals and returning guests.

Engage in email marketing, add opt-in forms on your site in exchange for valuable, unique content, such as local guides you compile to build your own list of prospects.

Learn how to use social media the right way – and most of us still don’t get this aspect, as we treat social media as a “me, me, me” rather than giving value to the audience we try to build.

Join online and offline communities of fellow ‘rentalpreneurs’ to keep up to date, learn from one another, held each other accountable, work towards mutual goals, and eventually grow your skills and your business further.

Invest in continuing education to stay on top of what this very exciting industry keeps offering. Innovations you could benefit from are one further way to stay on the shoulder of the giants and keep ahead of the game.

Be warned though: there’s no shortcut to success. Independence comes at a price. And the price is an investment in terms of resources, effort, and time, as results won’t come overnight.

But if you don’t act today, your chances of having your vacation rental still in business tomorrow are pretty slim.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rented.com.

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