Building a Community Around Your Short Term Rental Business
When a community becomes a competitive advantage in hospitality.
Behavioural economics and psychological research have taught us that we fundamentally crave a sense of connectedness, belonging, as well as a shared ‘mission’ particularly when it comes to performing at work. There are ample studies that suggest that companies that foster a strong community spirit have better company culture; and therefore happier employees (and of course, customers).
When you put this in context – in the short term rental business and industry – then this can quickly become your competitor’s advantage.
As operators of this industry it’s important to remember that we aren’t reinventing the wheel nor ‘doing anything new’, the concept of renting out one’s property to guests for short and long-term stays has been happening for decades.
However, to stand out as a company and make your brand more “sticky”, you can hone in on building a community around your business and nurturing strong company culture. For me, these things are a prerequisite for marketing, PR and all the other integral vehicles that help drive your hospitality brand forward.
Yet, so many people are laser-focused on only pitching products and services to their customers (like 90’s salespeople in pinstriped suites) – and hoping that that’ll be enough.
News flash: It’s no longer enough.
A Better Business Model In The Hospitality Industry
When you transition from simply selling a product (for example, rental rooms on your property) to building a community around your brand, you immediately unlock a superior competitive advantage and increase the chances of your brand becoming more memorable.
There’s a reason why hospitality businesses are big fans of loyalty schemes, clubs and membership subscriptions – that reason being that humans love to feel a part of something.
Ultimately, community building for your business leads to:
- Enthusiastic members who help acquire new members and become your brand ambassadors (at no added cost to you). This is a fantastic marketing tool.
- Higher retention levels of your brand’s community, as members (due to simple human nature), will be incredibly unlikely to abandon the community.
- Members support one another with issues, questions and concerns, meaning that you don’t have to be physically present all the time – freeing up your time to focus on other areas of the business.
As engagement within your community grows, your brand will be at the helm of it.
Remember, people may not always be talking about your specific products and services; but they will never forget who’s responsible for facilitating this “safe space”. As a result, if a genuine need for one of your services does come up, your brand will without a doubt, be the first on everybody’s minds.
Your Market is Changing
At Luke Capital Group, we’re big fans of evolving and keeping up with change, particularly on the tech front.
We’re now doing business in a world where multiple generations of people have grown up with smartphones and social media as part of their day-to-day lives. Because of this, a number of cost-efficient, scalable tools have been developed – specifically for the purpose of community building. We like to use Slack, ClickUp and WhatsApp Groups at Luke Capital Group (both internally and externally) – and then you also have platforms like GitHub, MeetUp.com and of course, WordPress.
The truth is, that consumers expect different relationships with brands these days. No longer are customer support emails and newsletters enough; millennials and Gen Z are more concerned with connecting with brands on a deeper level, with the help of shared values and principles.
It’s no surprise that some of the world’s biggest companies have heavily invested in digital and in-person community engagement across various product portfolios – this includes Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and Google. So, it’s a business model that’s absolutely worth following.
Plugging into the Magic of Community
While many hospitality business owners acknowledge the importance of community, many struggles to actually implement what is known as “community marketing”.
Often, professionals mistake brand awareness for brand awareness – when the two are completely different. Remember, boasting thousands of followers on your social channels, doesn’t necessarily mean that your brand has an engaged and loyal community. All it means is that you have a number of (unvetted) eyeballs on your business, who are at the risk of unfollowing you, at the drop of a hat.
Here are some tangible things you can do in your short term rental business and serviced accommodation, to actually drive community marketing.
1) Get to know your audience on a deeper level: A basic outline of your target demographic is no longer enough. To breed meaningful conversations, you need to get to know your guests in a meaningful way. Instead of just asking them what their favourite toiletry brands are, go one step further and ask them why. Is it because they value sustainability and eco-friendly products? Is it because they’re more drawn towards veganism? Where do these values come from, and how can you help encourage them?
2) Share value-driven content, that isn’t always about you: Your guests will be interested in you, on some level; but refrain from always talking about yourselves and “what you bring to the figurative table”. The term “newsletter” itself should be banned from the hospitality dictionary – because think about it, which of your guests will genuinely want to spend ten minutes a day reading the latest news about you and your company? Instead, answer your guests’ questions, encourage conversations that are meaningful to them, and make them the centre of everything.
3) Participate in the conversation: The biggest mistake community leaders make is “abandon” their community as soon as engagement numbers start to rise. While it’s true that you don’t always have to be present when fostering a loyal community around your brand, it’s also important that you participate on a frequent basis – as this shows you care. Say, for example, you have a Facebook Group, if a member has asked a question in that community and not many people have piped up, don’t be afraid to get stuck in yourself.
No single metric can tell you the whole story, but while implementing community marketing for your hospitality business, there are certain things you can look out for to measure its success.
The most obvious sign is an increase in brand awareness (digital and in-person), engagement, as well as leads and conversion. Also, if you notice higher consumer retention and increased referral traffic (traffic on your website, driven by social media) then this is excellent too – and the key then is to stay consistent.
True community spirit can welcome conversations and ideas that you might not have ever thought of by yourself before. So, don’t underestimate it and give it a go for your brand – and watch it evolve, beyond its time.