Lesson 1: How to Build a Successful Vacation Rental Brand

Wouldn't it be awesome to build a vacation rental "super-brand" and get tons of bookings?

When it comes to branding, it’s important that you stand out from your competitors, and that means sending a powerful message about what you bring to the table.

Before getting into your website, email, and brand initiatives that go along with them, it’s crucial that you know what your brand is all about.

If you don’t have a clear, concise description of your target market and value, it’s nearly impossible to keep your brand consistent across your website and other marketing collateral - and an inconsistent brand is an ineffective one.

I’ve got the framework to get started, and it’s as simple as answering 3 questions. 

Pretty easy, right? 

It is simple, but your answers to these blank spaces can make your break your business, so keep that in mind.

I help ________, get ________. They’re attracted to my vacation rental brand because unlike everyone else, ________

You’re probably already thinking about how to fill in the blanks, but don’t do it just yet. I’ll walk you through each blank step-by-step shortly.

The first thing you may notice about the sentence is that it’s in the future tense, as if that brand already exists. I want you to think about it as if it does already exist, because that way you can imagine what it might be like to already serve that audience.

Visualizing the future tense is important when you’re just starting out. You want to imagine that this already exists. Now let’s start with the first blank.

Number one:

I help ________.

This is who your target guest is, the people that you are going to serve.

You want to get specific here. If you’re answering the question with something like “everybody” or “people on vacation”, you’ll want to dig a little deeper.

Think about a Swiss army knife: it has tons of tools, like scissors, a saw file, a bunch of different kinds of knives, and even a corkscrew.

The corkscrew might be great if you’re in a pinch and really need to get that bottle of wine open, then the Swiss army knife is your new best friend, but what about if you wanted to cut down a tree?

Do you think the scissors in that Swiss army knife are going to help you when it comes to cutting any kind of paper, really?

It’s pretty obvious that the tools within the Swiss army knife are not the best for the job. The best tools are the ones designed for a particular job or task, and they help get it done with efficiency in mind.

Too many businesses try to help everyone and instead end up helping no one.

Do you want to be a Swiss army knife that does a lot of things poorly, or do you want to be the sharpest tool in the shed?

You get the picture, and in the world of online business, the riches are in the niches. If you’re thinking about attracting a more general audience, dig a little deeper and think about who you might want to appeal to: a market within a market.

By becoming more specialized, it’s going to be much easier for you to compete with the other properties that are already out there.

Maybe your ideal guests are active families on vacation or couples who like food and wine. Tailor your brand to your audience.

Hopefully now you can figure out what the first blank is.

I help ________.

As an example, for this challenge specifically, I help motivated vacation rental owners.

Alright, on to the next blank!

I help [your target guest], get ________.

What do you want to help your target guest get or achieve? What problems are you solving for them? 

This is very important to know because it helps frame exactly what your online content is going to be about, the questions you’re going to answer, and the activities, places, and restaurants that you might recommend.

When people say, “oh, this is what this brand did for me,'' this is going to be their answer.

Using this challenge as another example, I help motivated vacation rental owners build a website and a foundation for their online vacation rental business and brand. 

It’s as simple as that.

So what are you doing to help your guests?

Finally, the third blank.

They are attracted to my brand because unlike anyone else, ________.

This one can be the most difficult, but I have a quick story for you.

I’ve been doing digital marketing for the past 12 years, and first got serious about blogging in 2008. When I started, I felt like I knew nothing, and it seemed like there was a universe full of amazing and very successful bloggers and business owners who were way bigger than me.

It was discouraging to think about, and it’s hard to imagine how you could fit in and be successful among the best of the best. And like you, like everyone, I started from scratch and looked up to all those amazing business owners as an example of success.

When you’re starting out, you learn from the success of others, and I thought I knew what I had to do: be just like them. The topics I blogged about were the same as theirs, and I even started using the same colour schemes, and mimicked how they communicated with their audience, too.

Of course I never stole anything by copying it directly, but I did try to emulate them and figured, “well, if what they’re doing is working for them, then it should work for me too.”

Unfortunately, it didn’t. 

The growth of my site was very slow, and when it came to what my brand actually stood for, it was sort of unclear. If someone asked me, “Well, what’s the point of your website?”, I would jumble my words and couldn’t really say anything that was special about my site.

There’s a saying, “your brand is what people say about it when you’re not there.”

It’s not just about your brand name or what your logo looks like, it’s how people talk about it. And if you’re just doing what everyone else is doing, there isn’t anything special about you to talk about. Chances are there won’t even be a reason to talk about you in the first place.

What makes a person stand out is exactly the same as what makes a brand stand out: people knowing what makes it different.

And when starting my website, I had it all wrong.

I was trying to be like everyone else, and it wasn’t until I finally figured out that I had to discover what was unique to me and my brand that things finally started to click.

That’s when people started commenting on my site, talking to me about their own site, and tons of sites ended up linking back to my own site too. That’s when I started getting invitations to write posts on other sites in my space, and these were sites I had looked up to since I started. They started reaching out because they knew I had a unique message and a unique brand that they couldn’t get anywhere else.

So before you build your brand, before you pick your name and get your website’s domain name and all the other things that we’re going to cover in the later lessons, let’s first determine what going to differentiate you.

What do you want others to say about your brand?

There are a ton of different ways you can differentiate yourself, but one of the best ways is to inject “you” into your brand.

It doesn’t matter if you’re front facing and are known as the person behind the brand, or if you prefer to remain behind the scenes, you can still put your personality, your character, and what makes you unique into your brand.

This is a brand that is unlike anyone else or any other brand out there.

Second, what differentiates you could be your very unique superpowers, also known as your unfair advantage that you have over other people in that space.

It’s like when people talk about you, it’s something they always say. “Oh, yeah. I love Sally’s property because she’s the only one that does ________.”

It could be the very specific sub-niche that you place yourself in, and it becomes a lot easier for you to become that “go to property” because you’re the only one around who is doing whatever it is that you’re doing.

This may take a little bit of time for you to figure out, but it’s very important because it’s going to help frame your approach when you enter the space, when you talk to people, when you create content, and eventually market your property online.

So, back to the blanks.

I help ________, get ________. They’re attracted to my vacation rental brand because unlike everyone else, ________. 

So on a piece of paper or wherever is convenient for you, fill in these blank spaces. Keep this to yourself for now, you don’t have to share it in the comments below.

But when you do finish this exercise, comment below “done”, and click the “continue” button at the bottom of the page.

See you in the next lesson, great job!