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Building your brand can be a challenge in uncertain times, particularly when every week seems different, making it difficult to stand confidently by your experience, convictions, and foresight. Add that to the relative youth of the vacation rental industry that does not have decades upon decades of well-established standards, and it may at times feel like a free-for-all.
A foundation of consistently communicating your distinct value creates a well-designed brand promise. To compel people to think of you as an expert, you must be able to communicate not only the problems you solve but also the way you solve them uniquely.
The formula is simple: your brand name + solves this specific problem + uniquely this way + for these specific people.
However, filling in the formula with your details is not so easy. In fact, most people get stuck on “uniquely this way” and “for these specific people.”
Some of the vanilla answers business professionals provide in an attempt to differentiate themselves include claiming to have “exceptional customer service” or to be “very experienced” as their unique way of solving problems and identifying “anyone who wants a vacation rental experience” as their ideal customer.
The reality is that countless professionals in your market—let alone the country—could likely claim those same things. So they’re neither unique nor specific. It is essential that you dig deeper, evaluating who your best customers are and what they all have in common.
When you find that sweet spot—your most profitable customers with whom you also enjoy working—it is time for you to study those people and seek more like them through your branding and marketing efforts.
A TALE OF TWO BRANDS
To illustrate how a clear brand promise can increase your reach and revenue, consider the power of two high-end brands that consistently gain market share, despite their substantial price tags and limited audiences: Rolex and Louis Vuitton.
You will never see them market nor advertise in the same places as Walmart or Dollar General. Spending time and money advertising to those who are only interested in budget-friendly retail is not in their best interest. They clearly define who their ideal customers are so that they can accomplish the following:
Share their brand promises through compelling storytelling to emotionally trigger their ideal customers
Visually uphold their brand promises in a way that delights their ideal customers
Deliver on their brand promises in a way that meets the high expectations of their ideal customers
HOW TO SHARE YOUR BRAND PROMISE THROUGH COMPELLING STORYTELLING
The personal stories of you or your founders hold all the clues you need to differentiate yourself from other brands. By following the breadcrumbs you have left behind in life, patterns will emerge that combine your personal satisfaction and your ability to effectively contribute to people and situations. Consider your professional and personal experiences when reflecting on what makes you unique.
For example, if you have served in the military, it communicates that you possess a special kind of discipline and dedication. You are likely to attract others who have or currently serve in the military as well as those who particularly respect those who have military service. Does serving your country have anything to do with selling vacation rentals? Not exactly, but it’s a piece of your story that can create an emotional connection between you and your ideal customer.
Perhaps you have political experience, empowering you to navigate the law and key stakeholders involved in a deal. Or perhaps you are the third or fourth generation in your family to work in the hospitality industry. How do you think that stacks up against a rookie when you can reference a lifetime of multigenerational hospitality conversations at the dinner table?
Be intentional about telling such stories while networking; participating in media opportunities; or speaking through your blog posts, videos, social media, website copy, or any other marketing activity you pursue.
HOW TO VISUALLY UPHOLD YOUR BRAND PROMISE
Rolex and Louis Vuitton both have visually compelling brands that invite prospects and customers into their story of luxury, prominence, and success. They share a glimpse of what it feels like to sport their products. Their visual branding is designed to evoke an emotional response to trigger a purchase of their products.
Of course, another reason it is important to understand your target market is to gain insight into what other brands they enjoy and thus give you a road map of how to visually stimulate your ideal customer. You can simply ask your previous and current guests what their favorite brands are via a survey, or you can simply observe along the way. For example, if your ideal customer wears an Apple Watch, has an iPhone, and is concerned about how close the nearest Whole Foods is to the property, you can do a quick scroll through those websites and social media profiles—of Apple and Whole Foods—for inspiration. Whether it’s the font style or color selections, the amount of white space, or the style of images, you can easily use those visual cues to help you craft your own visual brand.
Remember, you cannot illustrate a book until you write the story, so ensure that the visuals for your unique visual brand represent your unique brand story.
The visual side of your brand is merely an aid for telling your brand story. Importantly, your branding should always be consistent, so be sure whichever path you choose is the one you remain on day in and day out through all marketing channels.
HOW TO DELIVER ON YOUR BRAND PROMISE
If a Rolex watch or Louis Vuitton purse had any issues, undoubtedly its owner would know that the respective company would fix it in short order. These companies are trusted to deliver on their brand promises of quality, excellence, prominence, and more. In the same way, you must make it clear that you will always deliver on your brand promise.
First, you must do good work. While that seems obvious to the experienced vacation rental professional, it is unfortunately not the norm. Simply doing what you say you will do will go far for your brand reputation. Furthermore, be sure to obtain secure testimonials as soon as you delight your guests. Allow your customers to toot your horn for you and then reap the powerful benefits of consumer reviews. Note any awards, certifications, education, or media coverage you have received, as appropriate, which are also forms of social proof that you are great at what you do. While you may feel like you’re bragging, any such announcement is a small blip on the radar of the average person who consumes an incredible amount of content each day. If you do not share your successes, how do you expect anyone to choose you instead of a less worthy company who may not look out for its customers’ best interest? Save your potential guests from a lazy or less reputable VRM company by simply sharing the proof that you will have their best interest at the forefront of all you do.
CLEAR BRANDING EQUALS CLEAR MARKETING
When you are clear about your brand, you become clear about how to strategically market your brand for results. Understanding who you serve, what problems you solve, and how you solve them uniquely empowers you to position yourself through targeted campaigns and strategic networking. You can’t be everywhere, all the time. Not every social media channel is for you, nor is every magazine, conference, or website somewhere you should invest time and money, as your ideal customers are not everywhere, either.
Furthermore, when you are clear on your brand, you can be clear on your internal processes and train your team to uphold your brand promise as well.
Remember, no one wants to be sold to, but your ideal customer does want to buy from someone who attracts their business. If you effectively share your brand story and its results, you will become the only option in your ideal customer’s mind, eliminating competition altogether.
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