It's easy to be average. It's hard to be extraordinary. But for those who strive for the latter, the rewards can be fantastic. So you have invested in a second home, perhaps as an investment or perhaps as often as not, to be used as rental income. The theory goes that you can use your home to generate income that offsets its cost of operations and pays the bills. So that warm fuzzy glow of satisfaction pervades your thoughts and now its time to hang out your shingle. Post it up on the usual Online Travel Agent (OTAs) sites like VRBO or AirBnb and wait for the customers. Easy enough. Beyond a doubt that's the decision for most owners. However in doing so, you undoubtedly miss a huge opportunity. What would the returns be like if you closely understood your target audience, their domicile, their habits and their needs so as to rise above the pack into that top 10% of properties out there? Do you dare to be different? We do.
Let's take a few examples of just what this means.
The heat map displays where our 2018 Folly Beach clients come from in the USA. We have the occasional alien visiting (I'm one of them!) but for the most part, our guests are solidly from within the US, looking to enjoy a beach vacation. A good percentage come from nearby states like Georgia or Virginia, with a vast majority from North and South Carolina. These are the "drive-ins", they bring their vehicles packed with everything necessary, often arriving en mass with multiple generations. They need storage space, a quiet space for grandparents, plenty to do for the kids and a BBQ for the family. We also do well with the Plains states, from Utah through to Colorado and Oklahoma. They need to see the sun after their winters, they need the sea that's so far from their homes and they are unfazed by the wide open spaces and huge horizons of the lowcountry. What would seem a shock to my European sensibilities, many also drive-in, taking the long 20-hour road trip as part of the experience. Needless to say though, their vehicles tend to stay stationary once here. The West Coast would seem an impossible distance but it's also a growing source of our visitors, perhaps it's our history they seek to explore, or a chance to experience the "#10 City in the World " (Travel + Leisure 2018) for themselves.
It's tempting to paint the motives of all visitors the same color, but in truth that would be a mistake. The next heat map displays 2018 data as well, but this time for visitors to our downtown vacation rental portfolio. All of our properties on the downtown peninsula are located in the historic district and this has a unique attraction to those history buffs, foodies and general partygoers amongst us. We see many fewer visitors from the hinterland of South Carolina where most of the state is within an easy days driving distance. We see an increase in visitors from the North East, a similar spread to those beachgoers heading for Folly Beach but in fact, many more heading for downtown even if the distribution pattern is similar. Mid-Westerners in general, do not go for the downtown option, preferring instead the beaches - and the same is true for West Coasters. Those populated northern states with their economic might and an educated population just seem hooked on our history and cultural assets like no one else.
A mistake I made when coming to the USA was to think of each state in terms of my own small European geography - that they were similar to countries, right? Wrong. They are more like individual countries in their size and populations. So to say a large percentage of visitors to Folly Beach are from North Carolina is only part of the story. In truth, a large percentage are from Charlotte with its focus on white-collar banking and investment employment. The distribution from the rest of NC is pretty average to be fair but in Charlotte, they seem to love us. The cause may be one of mainly income and social, those who have the time to take in the golf and country clubs, the restaurants and coffee shops and the word is generally spread of the great family holiday here.
Once you know your clients, it is much easier to both cater to their needs and to target their interests. Take promotion for example - do you promote your home to an audience in Alabama or North Carolina? Our data tells us that it looks like North Carolina is the better return. Once that's decided, do you promote it in Asheville or Charlotte? I know that having read this, the answer should be obvious and that's the power of data and the knowledge it creates.
Note: Understanding data is key to knowing the next steps to take when marketing to an audience that will have a greater likelihood of booking with us. That's how you can elevate the returns on your investment from the mediocre to the marvelous and how the growth of your portfolio can go from the average to the avaricious. It's precisely what we do for our own portfolio and that which we manage for our clients. Want to speak with a company who will help you achieve exactly this type of performance? Then come and speak to us.
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