It’s the oft repeated rule of marketing: know your customer.
For the hospitality clients I work with, it’s common that they skip this part of the marketing research process. After all, what is an outside consultant going to tell me about my own guests?
Put simply: guest personas. What is a marketing persona? I’ll let Ardath Albee from Content Marketing Institute help us out:
A marketing persona is a composite sketch of a key segment of your audience. For content marketing purposes, you need personas to help you deliver content that will be most relevant and useful to your audience.
Sounds pretty high-level, right? After all, how does researching a guest I already know a lot about going to help me with marketing to them? Today, we’re going to cover how to create a guest persona for your vacation rental company and how to use this information to improve your marketing messaging.
Getting Information About Your Own Guests
Before diving too far into far-flung corners of marketing research geekdom with SQL databases and custom code, let’s remember that we often have our own guest customer data to review. From just a simple email list, Google Analytics and Typeform you can easily find out common traits of your guests and begin the process of building a full-fledged guest persona.
Without taking a lot of research time, it’s easy to begin the process of finding persona information in Google Analytics. Using the demographics tab in Analytics lets you know the demographic data according to Google for your website visitors. (Tip to David Angotti’s guest post on VRMB.com for an excellent breakdown of this tactic).
Viewing data about your guest personas in Google Analytics is really easy. For this client, I can see that most of the website visitors are female aged 25-44. With just a few minutes of research I am already starting to fill out my ideal guest personas with the help of Google’s data.
In addition to basic demographic information, we can also learn what interests our guests have here as too. For this client example, I find some categories I expect (Travel/Hotels & Accommodations) as well as ones that I can learn from too (Home & Garden Home Furnishings). When you’re coming up with content ideas for your blog or other marketing efforts, you may want to research those topics more in-depth to find ideas you can leverage too.
Exploring the Google Demographics reports is great, but there’s another fantastic data source worth reviewing as well: Facebook.
Facebook is the world’s foremost authority on consumer data collection. While Google can see what webpages you visit, which news websites you read as well as the types of services you search for, Facebook has even more data. Facebook has interests based on the pages you like, age, family size and a lot more. Luckily for us, Facebook’s tools let us see this data for your page fans that you already have on Facebook!
Facebook Audience Insights tool is a goldmine of data for both the general area (covered more below) as well as your own page fans.
Once in the tool, you can search by two very valuable features: custom audiences and fans attached to your page. Once you upload a custom audience into Facebook, you can compare the demographic information that Facebook returns versus your website visitors in Google Analytics and see where there may be slight differences in metrics. However, in my experience the overall data will be largely the same between Facebook and Google.
Surveying Guests With Typeform
Once you have your guests exported into an email list, you can collect even better data points than just their age and gender. Using surveys and open ended-questions, you can learn what phrases guests use to describe your rentals which can help you when writing your next homepage copy or HomeAway property description.
Once you’ve signed up at Typeform, you can enter in questions and get feedback from your guests easily. Common questions you may want to ask guests include:
- [Link to your website] How would you describe our rental property in just two sentences?
- What is the main factor you have when deciding to travel to [your destination]?
- How do you pick your budget for a vacation rental?
- What do you expect to be in a rental home when you arrive?
- Who do you normally travel to [your destination] with?
Feel free to use these or come up with their own — what you’d like to learn about your guests may be unique just to you. Performing qualitative research is a major component to understand how your guests think, speak and feel about the hospitality experience.
To help boost the number of responses you get to this form, you can offer a $25 Amazon gift card to one lucky guest that fills out the survey form and run the questions for a short (15-30 days) period of time. It’ll provide more insights with $25 than almost any other marketing investment you can make!
Finding Guest Persona Keywords In Google
One of my personal favorite ways to collect new guest personas is Google Search.
Guests are doing us a huge favor when they search for vacation rental accommodations in their destination: telling us exactly what they want. Just by putting in common search terms in Google, we can learn a lot about what other information or rental options potential guests are looking for. Guests often self-identify with their search terms used — let’s leverage this to our advantage.
Here’s going to be our simple trick for learning about these guest personas in Google: don’t hit enter.
Personas Are Not Fiction, But Real Guests
While doing this research, it’s easy to forget the type of research we’re doing is meant to connect our marketing to real guests. If you’ve been renting professionally for some time, you’ve likely got a head start into the research we’ve done today — but don’t assume you know everything. Always do your best to tie the personas you create to real guests that are renting your properties. After all, knowing your guest is how we opened this post and it’ll serve you well to know exactly how to respond to inquiries, work with different guests and close more bookings.
How To Use Personas To Raise Rates
The most valuable element that can impact your rental revenue often comes down to two main actions: raising rates or raising occupancy. Depending on when your properties are typically booking, it’s often worth first visiting rates of weeks or days that always book and raising rates. During your research of your guest personas, you may find that a festival is in town attracting a guest persona of “Taylor”, your millennial traveler from Sacramento, California. Taylor is 24 and loves to visit your destination when his favorite band is playing. He’ll probably look on Airbnb, but also uses Google search to find rentals in the area and hopes to find place that’s easy to share with his two friends. Understanding the time of year, the needs of this guest and your rental properties that may fit Taylor you could probably raise rates $50-$75/night without any issue. For a 3 night stay, adding $225 in extra cost won’t deter Taylor and his trip after he has booked his festival tickets.
Performing persona research into your market may let you learn about the retired traveling couple that values security, minimal stairs and easy-to-understand home technology. You may also learn about the family reunion demographic that aims to get everyone together once a year and places a premium on a large dining room table to share meals.
Guests on vacation become automatically less price sensitive during their stay. Found just the perfect place? As long as it’s still in budget, guests will pay your rates. Knowing your guest does one thing very well: allows you to align your marketing with your pricing to make more revenue.
That’s the power of guest personas in your vacation rental marketing — and improving your marketing will make a deep positive impact into your business.