Vacation Rental Email Marketing: 6 Steps to a Killer Plan

Want to build great relationships with your vacation rental guests, and turn them into loyal customers who recommend your place to others and book again and again? Of course you do.

That’s why you need a killer email marketing strategy. And it doesn’t have to be complicated, take you hours, or require a super-complex piece of software.

Vacation Rental Email Marketing: 6 Steps to a Killer Plan

Having an 'email marketing campaign strategy' simply means that you have a strategy to keep in touch with guests after their stay, and ensure your place is top of mind next time they go on a trip.

After all, it’s much easier to get existing short-term rental customers to become repeat guests than it is to get new ones to book. And, although texting and social media are perhaps newer, sexier forms of marketing, email still pays off—literally.

But we know you’ve probably got questions.

Don’t people find emails annoying? What do you write so people actually book? And how can you do it all without spending your whole life attached to your laptop?

This post will show you how.

We’ll explain why email marketing is so powerful, and give you a step-by-step roadmap on how to do it, for maximum success, minimum stress.

Read on for our 6-step process to an effective vacation rental marketing campaign, including:

RueBaRue lets you send automated emails to guests who’ve stayed with you so you can encourage them to book again. Book a demo personalized to your rentals to see the platform in action.

Why should you invest in email marketing for vacation rentals?

As we just said, email marketing is simple, and there are some great vacation rental guest communication tools out there that can help you make it even easier. But why should you invest in email marketing at all?

Well, for one thing, it can help make you money, rather than cost any, in the long run.

What’s more, small business email software company CampaignMonitor has found that despite the impact of the pandemic:

Beyond the stats, the main argument for email marketing is simple: it’s a channel you can control.

Your “reach” (how many people see your emails) is not subject to the whims of social media or search engines. What’s more, people who’ve given you their email address are likely to be “warmer” traffic than users who randomly interact with you on social or via Google.

With email, you own those addresses, and you can get in regular contact with the same people over and over, without the vagaries of algorithms. This means that you’re more likely to stay top of mind for your audience, and are much more likely to get repeat bookings and recommendations from people who receive your emails.

If social media is the dating app and OTAs are the first date, email marketing is like the follow-up texts and messages that keep the relationship going. It’s more personal, more regular, and sets you apart from the crowd.

Building an effective vacation rental email marketing plan in 6 easy steps

So now you know why you need email marketing, let’s move on to how to do it effectively.

Step 1: Collect your guests’ email addresses

The first thing to do is figure out a way to capture guest email addresses and get their consent to use them for marketing and follow-up emails (emails that are extra to the minimum ‘confirmation’ and ‘transaction’ messages).

This is a crucial step because OTAs don’t give out guest email addresses, so in order to establish direct communication with your guests, you’ll need to ask them for it separately.

That email address is the super-precious data that you will later own, and you can use it for newsletters, updates, and invitations to rebook with you directly.

Guest communication platforms such as RueBaRue can make this easier, offering SMS messaging that allows you to text guests a direct question via a form, and receive their answer directly.

You might ask them for their email address as a requirement of the booking so you can update them directly about any changes or information about their stay.

You can also capture their email address via tools such as the vacation rental Wi-Fi solution StayFi, which requires them to log in using their details at your rental space.

One caveat: It is super-important to be aware of any data protection laws in your state, country, or region, such as the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) or the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

For example, GDPR means that users must opt-in their consent to receive marketing emails specifically, and reserve the right to ask you to delete their data if requested.

So if you capture their email address, you need them to agree (or check a box agreeing) to receive not only emails about their stay but also follow-up marketing emails and newsletters. As long as you make this explicit and required upon sign-up, you’ll be within the law.

Once you have these email addresses, you can add them manually or automatically to a CRM (customer relationship manager) or email campaign software such as MailChimp, Mailerlite, ActiveCampaign, and many more.

Step 2: Establish a schedule

Once you have these email addresses in a database, it’s time to start sending emails!

From the start, it makes sense to establish a routine schedule, not only for your own sanity but also because it’s important not to send guests too many emails, which could overwhelm or annoy them.

It may take a while to find that sweet spot: not enough emails, and your guests could forget about you. Too many, and they may hit the unsubscribe button. It’s a balance.

Maybe you send a discount or deal email every Wednesday and a “roundup” local news email with new attractions or restaurant reviews every Friday.

Maybe you only send one email every couple of weeks, with a mixture of everything; or always time your emails with some kind of national day or holiday. Whatever works for you and your business.

A weekly newsletter or monthly update is a great schedule to shoot for at first, especially if it’s an “end of week” round-up. Studies suggest that Fridays are the best time to send an email, with nearly 19% open rates globally, compared to the lowest open rates (17%) on Saturdays.

Step 3: Come up with irresistible offers to send your guests

Remember that even when you’re sending updates to guests about your business and your local area, you’re still making it about them.

When writing to your list, always bear in mind the questions: “What’s in it for them? Why do they care?”

This means coming up with irresistible offers that you can send your past guests to encourage them to book again.

Maybe you can give them a great deal, discounts or a voucher for the best local restaurant, a weekend package to coincide with a popular local event, an extra night for their birthday, or a Champagne breakfast deal for their anniversary or for Valentine’s Day.

Appeal to their memories and emotions from their first (or most recent) stay with you and consider how you can tempt them to relive those same feelings by coming right back.

People buy from people, so if you can appeal to their human emotions, they’ll be much more likely to book directly from you.

Step 4: Create email templates

You don’t have to write an essay or become the world’s greatest copywriter every time you send an email. Some emails can be quick, easy, and straightforward.

Many guest communication tools offer email templates that make this even easier. You can use the templates as a base, and fill in the blanks with your own information, for a quick and simple way to keep your audience updated.

There are a few different kinds of emails you’ll send.

Platforms such as RueBaRue not only include vacation rental email templates of the most popular and recommended kinds of email to send, but also enable you to personalize them with details such as the guest’s first name. This will build an even better, personal relationship.

Using email templates will save you time, stop you from needing to type the same details from scratch every time, and ensure your emails contain all the necessary information.

Step 5: Schedule automated emails

Once your emails are written and ready to go, it’s time to schedule them.

This not only saves you time and effort (because you’re not having to sit by the computer or phone waiting to send manually), it also means guests receive emails at the exact right time.

This might include automatically scheduling arrival and check-in information a few days before their stay, or sending an upsell offer just before they’re due to leave.

In terms of post-stay marketing, it can also mean that you line up emails well in advance for special deals, such as a series of pre-Christmas emails from November onwards, or in mid-January for Valentine’s Day.

This looks professional and gives guests time to plan, meaning they will be more likely to respond well to your messages.

In RueBaRue, you can do this easily by heading to the Automate section of your dashboard and clicking Scheduler. You can then schedule messages (emails and SMS) by specifying how many days before or after check out you want to send.

Some marketing email platforms can take this even further. For example, you might save data such as the guest’s birthday, and send them a personalized birthday offer automatically. RueBaRue is developing this functionality right now—so it may be possible within the same platform soon too!

Step 6: Make it easy for guests to rebook

If you’re going to all this effort to build a great, lasting relationship with guests, the next thing to do is ensure that it’s easy for them to rebook directly through you.

At the moment when they think: ‘Yes, I’m ready to book’, you want it to be as obvious and easy as possible, so there are no obstacles that could put them off, or send them back to an OTA.

This means having a clear ‘Book Now’ button on your vacation rental website, or similar, and giving them incentives to book through you. Perhaps if they book directly, you can offer them a discount, an extra night free, or luxuries such as a welcome hamper or vouchers for a local restaurant.

Ensuring that the booking is confirmed immediately, such as through automated email confirmations and follow-up emails with all the crucial details, gives guests added peace of mind too.

The easier, simpler, more reassuring, and enticing it is to make direct bookings through you, the more likely guests will be to do it.

How to write subject lines and compelling email copy

Writing compelling emails is an entire discipline in itself and can take years to perfect, but there are a few tips you can bear in mind to improve your messages right off the bat.

These include:

Subject line

Take time to consider a great subject line.

Email open rates vary by industry, but 15-20% is a good benchmark. So if your open rate is lower, this can be improved significantly with a great subject line.

Subject lines that are short, sweet, and pique the guest's curiosity are best, without being sleazy or misleading. You want your email to stand out in an overflowing inbox.

You can also use personalization tools to include the guest’s name in the subject too, which increases the likelihood they’ll open it. Email expert platforms such as MailChimp suggest that subject lines should be between 40-60 characters long for optimum results.

Email body

Try to keep your emails as to the point as possible, and focus on just one main point per email (such as one piece of news, or one new update).

Always consider that the reader will be asking: “OK, but what’s in it for me?”.

Even if you’re writing about updates on your side, make the email about them, not you. Why should they care? How will this help them?

Give value (such as genuinely helpful tips or information), keep the tone professional but friendly and approachable. Don’t be too sales-y or sleazy—the best emails will lead guests to a logical conclusion or CTA (see below) without pushing too hard.

Call to action

A call to action, or CTA, is marketing speak for “What you want the reader to do” when they’ve finished reading.

This might include everything from hitting the reply button to send a one-word response, or hitting the “Read more” or “Book now” button. It doesn’t always have to be “Buy now!”— CTAs help to “train” the reader to take action, so you can start small.

Keep it simple, very clear, and choose one per email.

And don’t forget about text messaging

We’ve written this entire blog post about a successful email marketing campaign, but communicating with your guests should also include text messaging.

Text messaging for vacation rental guests is often a quicker, easier way to reach them. Texts sent to a mobile device are also more likely to be read than emails, which can get caught up in an overflowing inbox.

Platforms such as RueBaRue enable you to schedule texts easily, simply by toggling if the message is to be sent via “SMS or email”.

You might not want to send lots of marketing messages via text (as this can come across as spammy), but essential details such as check-in, check-out, and post-stay survey requests can work well.

Keep your texts short and sweet, with only the most important details. You can also include links if you want to send guests to a blog post or website page.

Vacation rental email marketing: Boost your repeat bookings effortlessly

Ultimately, setting up a solid email marketing strategy with guests is one of the best ways to build up a good relationship with them, and boost repeat bookings effortlessly, without having to be too sales-y or relying on OTAs such as Airbnb.

Using tools such as RueBaRue, which offers easy templates and message scheduling, makes this even easier, to ensure your marketing messages are sent on time and are personalized and tailored to the guest, ensuring an even better return on your investment.

Happier guests, and more repeat bookings—the perfect combination.

RueBaRue lets you send automated emails to guests who’ve stayed with you so you can encourage them to book again. Book a demo personalized to your rentals to see the platform in action.

Frequently asked questions about email marketing for vacation rentals

Why should I send email marketing emails for my vacation rentals?

Marketing emails are one of the most effective ways to build relationships with guests and boost the chance they will rebook. It improves engagement with your brand, boosts revenue, and is a marketing channel you can control (in contrast to the changing whims of social media algorithms).

How can I set up an effective vacation rental email marketing strategy?

An effective vacation rental email marketing strategy is about building a relationship with guests who’ve booked before, so they are more likely to rebook directly through you. Collect their email addresses, set out your email schedule, send great offers, craft good copy, schedule emails for the perfect time, and make it easy for guests to rebook.

What should I write in emails for my vacation rental?

The best emails are short and/or concise and focus on a single point. Include a compelling subject line and headline that piques curiosity, show guests why they need to care and what’s in it for them, and include a simple “call to action” for what you want readers to do when they’ve finished reading.

When should I send marketing emails for my vacation rental?

The best time to send emails varies based on what you’re communicating. You might want to offer an upsell midway through their stay, for instance, or send a Christmas deal several months ahead of December 25th. Tools such as RueBaRue enable you to schedule emails so you can line up emails in advance, and hit inboxes automatically at the perfect time—without having to sit by your computer all day long.

RueBaRue lets you send automated emails to guests who’ve stayed with you so you can encourage them to book again. Book a demo personalized to your rentals to see the platform in action.

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