Part 2: Confessions of a Vacation Rental Marketing Director

Vacation rental inbound marketing: The lowest-hanging fruit with the highest payoff.


In my first "Confessions of a VR Marketing Director” post, I shared some marketing stats from my time with a VRM on the Outer Banks.

I'll let you jump over to that post to take a peek at the stats, but the quick recap is that we were performing very well with a focus on online marketing – the highest "Unique Website Visitor Per Home” of all the OBX competition we were tracking.

And I'm going to share the amazingly simple secret to this success with you.

In one word.

Low-hanging fruit.

Our marketing success at Seaside Vacations was built on this single noun:


"Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing about.” - Benjamin Franklin

I closed my last "Confessions”post with that quote from Benjamin Franklin. It sums up my approach as a VRM Marketing Director perfectly. Amazing to think Big Ben had such a firm grasp on content marketing waaaay back in the 1700's!

As marketers in today's increasingly online world, we need to firmly embed Mr. Franklin's quote in our noggin. We need to wake up every day eager to find a reason to create. Blog post, video, pictures, infographic. It doesn't matter. Just create each and every day.

The world of online marketing really is this simple. And the world of online marketing is most definitely the best bang for your buck.

Sure, there are a variety of nuances to inbound marketing, but if all you did was focus on entertaining and helpful content and ignore the nuances, you'd be miles ahead of most marketing teams.

But let's take a step back and add a framework to what I'm talking about.


Vacation Rental Content Marketing: What is it, and why should you care?

Here's how Wikipedia defines Content Marketing:

Content marketing is any marketing format that involves the creation and sharing of media and publishing content in order to acquire customers. This information can be presented in a variety of formats, including news, video, white papers, e-books, infographics, case studies, how-to guides, question and answer articles, photos, etc.

Content marketing is focused not on selling, but on simply communicating with customers and prospects. The idea is to inspire business and loyalty from buyers by delivering consistent, ongoing valuable information.


Nice work, Wikipedia. That is a spot on definition. But allow me to highlight a few quick points…

  1. Content is anything you put online. The more engaging, entertaining, helpful, and creative, the better. The only rule is be cautious with your viewer's time.
  2. Create content that is worth consuming.This is a marathon, not a sprint. Get creative and enjoy the journey.
  3. This is worth repeating: Focus on communicating, NOT selling. The idea is to inspire business and loyalty from buyers by delivering consistent, ongoing valuable information.

Here's a good visual to give you an idea of the varied sources of "content”:

Why is Inbound Marketing Is the Bees Knees?
1. Print might not be dead, but it sure is close.
VRMs have tight budgets and limited resources. Online marketing offers a whole lotta bang for your buck that print can't touch – ease of use, cheaper, faster, more engaging, much easier to track. You get the idea. Your customers are online; give them what they want – great content.
2. Content creation is the new SEO.
Search Engine Optimization is a rabbit hole of differing opinions, misdirections, and shifting strategies. You could easily work yourself into a tizzy trying to wrap your head around it. So don't. Keep it simple.
  • Links: It's estimated that links to your site (i.e. "back-links”) account for 75%+ of Google's search results algorithm. Google will never verify their algorithm, so who really knows, but one thing is clear, Google wants authoritative sites at the top of their search results. And one the best ways to know if your site is an authority on any given topic is to have a lot of other sites (preferably also authoritative) linking to it. But how do you build links?
  • Content: Like SEO, "link building” is a ridiculously confusing array of opinions. There is no clear path to great links…other than the easiest and most rewarding method: Building great content. Google rewards great content and it rewards great links. The good news is that content creates links. Great content is shared online, and shared content creates links back to your site. Bing, bang, boom. Your content strategy = your SEO strategy.
  • SEO Formula: Content + Links = Great SEO. Spread this fantastic content through a variety of social networks, and you have a pretty killer marketing/SEO strategy. Focus on the nuances of SEO if you can find the time, but don't stress about them. Content is still KING!

{Infographic: Why Content for SEO}

{SEO Moz blog post: Why I Love Google Panda}


3. The big guys LOVE content creation.

Big brands have big dollars. Big dollars develop the best marketing tactics. And inbound marketing is catching on BIG TIME. Big brands are embracing this shift in consumer behavior and marketing strategy. Take a look at the brands you admire most. My guess is most are leveraging content for marketing on their website, blogs, social media sites, video sites, email marketing, etc.

Inbound marketing has leveled the playing field. You can now compete with the big brands at their own game…and WIN!

Examples of Big Brands & Big Love for Content Marketing:


4. The competition is already doing it.

My guess is at least one of your local competitors is already embracing inbound marketing to some degree – a blog, a YouTube channel, Instagram feed, etc. It's catching on in the vacation rental industry.
But here's the big picture reality: You are competing against EVERY other vacation destination and travel brand, not just the company down the street. As the Marketing Director for the OBX VRM, I most definitely wanted to steal your guests, and I created content every day to show them why the Outer Banks was their best vacation choice.
See that note I made about Marriot a few lines up? Marriot wants nothing more than to turn your guests into Marriot customers, and they have committed to inbound marketing. And how about Airbnb?! You can't win if you don't play.
5. Content creation is the PERFECT fit for vacation rental managers.
Content is Everywhere. Content ideas are all around us. We just need to open our eyes to them. I've been able to jam out 50+ blog posts in the past 8 months on the subject of property automation. Not necessarily the most exciting topic, right? I beg to differ. There are subjects that beg to be discussed. Like Cellular vs. WiFi!
But I digress. Imagine a blog about something exciting, fun, and inspirational…like vacation! Holy moly! If there was ever an industry perfectly crafted for fantastic content creation, it's the vacation rental industry.
As vacation rental managers, you have awesome content ideas coming at you all day long – guest questions, local events, great local businesses, local tips, top restaurants, local reports (surf, ski, fishing, etc.), gorgeous pictures and videos, area tours…the possibilities are only limited by your creativity. Guests and homeowners want the local perspective, and you have an entire team of employees, partners, and vendors full of great local information. You're selling fun, and you have the inside secrets to make the most of that fun. Share your secrets with your captive audience that is begging for it.
{My Former VRM Blog: Seaside Vacations}
6. Content creation is fun – for the customer AND you!
Traditional marketing (i.e. print) isn't much fun. You put a whole bunch of time and effort into it (not to mention dinero!), and the you just let it go hoping for the best. Boring! Inbound marketing is the complete opposite. You create great content, share, engage, build relationships, demonstrate value and draw your customers closer to you. It is no longer a one-sided, disconnected conversation. It's real value and real relationships being created every day. And that's fun!

Super Awesome Example: A quick side story to demonstrate how fun and effective content marketing is. A few weeks ago I met with Sun Realty on the Outer Banks to discuss PointCentral, and during our meeting child care came up – they're local, I'm local, and we both have kids.The website was mentioned. I was a bit intrigued, but I filed it away in the back of my mind…most likely never to be retrieved.
Until last night.

My lovely bride shows me the below Lie Like a Mother video, and tears shoot out of our eyes from the laughter because we do indeed use similar tactics with our three kiddos. Then the inbound marketing magic happened at the end of the video – the logo appeared! No mention of or advertising throughout the video. Just a great viral comedy video…with a small logo at the end. And my wife is now in the process reviewing providers to babysit the kids. Hilarity (i.e. humor as a strong value) leads to a new customer. It's as simple – and fun – as that.
Ready to kick your inbound marketing into high gear?!
Awesome. I'll be back with my content marketing tips, tricks, and strategies in my next post. In the meantime, a little homework…
  1. Notice all of the links I shared in this post.Each of those links is providing SEO value to the respective websites. They created great content and shared it. I used their content to make my content more authoritative and enriching, and they got SEO credit for their effort. A beautiful system. (As a bonus, we're potentially creating an online "partnership” between forward-thinking online marketers sharing each other's content. As the great Mr. Sheen would say, "WINNING!”)
  2. Notice the variety of content I shared in this post. Video, infographic, SlideShare, images, and this just scratches the surface. The creative possibilities are endless, and the more variety you share, the more engaging your content will be.
  3. Take a peek at How To Create An Awesome Vacation Rental Blog. Blogs are the backbone of inbound marketing. And they are extremely user-friendly.
  4. Check out HubSpot if you haven't already. They have an awesome blog about inbound marketing…and their services are pretty great too.(Bonus: This is the perfect opportunity to start to subscribe to blogs through RSS feeds. Check out the Feedly RSS Reader.)
  5. While you're at it, check out (apparently now just Moz). This is candidate number two for your new found RSS feed addiction.


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