Direct Booking Simplified Podcast – EP05 – Nail your messaging to win more direct bookings with Megan Castor

On this episode we have Megan Castor. She’s a short term rental copywriter and helps hosts nail their messaging to reach the right customers. She walks us through the myth of reaching casting a wide net when going direct and why it’s critical to narrow your market in order to make an impact in direct bookings.

Podcast Summary

In this episode with Megan Castor regarding the importance of defining an ideal guest avatar for vacation rentals, several key insights emerged. First and foremost, identifying this avatar is foundational for effective marketing strategies and ensuring the guest experience is finely tuned to meet the expectations of your target audience. Without a clear persona in mind, messaging risks being generic and failing to connect meaningfully with potential guests. To construct this avatar, it’s essential to delve into past guest reviews and consider various demographic factors such as age, family status, and interests, crafting a comprehensive persona that can be vividly visualized.

Once the ideal guest avatar is established, the focus shifts to tailoring both the marketing approach and the property itself to cater specifically to their needs and desires. From amenities and property descriptions to communication style, every aspect should be finely tuned to resonate with the identified persona. Importantly, this approach allows for the infusion of personality and emotion into marketing efforts, ultimately driving bookings from those most likely to appreciate the unique offering. To implement these strategies effectively, it’s advisable to start small, perhaps by refining one aspect such as the property description, before expanding efforts across various channels like websites and social media.

The overarching lesson gleaned from this conversation is the significant payoff that comes from investing time and effort upfront in defining the ideal guest avatar. By aligning marketing efforts and property design with the preferences of a specific audience segment, vacation rental owners can create a more compelling and tailored experience that resonates deeply with potential guests. Moreover, sharing this persona with the entire team ensures alignment and consistency in portraying an experience optimized for the target audience, ultimately leading to increased bookings and guest satisfaction.

Essential Highlights

Here are a few key takeaways from the conversation with Megan Castor about defining an ideal guest avatar for vacation rentals:

  • Identifying your ideal guest avatar is crucial for effective marketing and providing an experience tailored to your target audience. Without a specific guest in mind, your messaging can come across as vague and fail to resonate.
  • To define your avatar, look at past guest reviews, consider demographics like age, family status, interests/hobbies, travel purpose (leisure, business, etc.). Create a full persona you can visualize.
  • Market and design your property specifically for that ideal persona’s needs and desires. The amenities, photos, description, and communications should all speak directly to them.
  • Having a clear avatar allows you to inject more personality and emotion into your marketing to compel bookings from those most likely to love your offering.
  • Start small by updating just one channel like the property description first. Then expand to other areas like the website, social media, etc. Progress is better than waiting for perfection.
  • Share your ideal guest persona with your whole team – photographers, writers, designers, etc. so everyone is aligned in portraying an experience optimized for that target.

Overall, taking the time upfront to thoroughly define your ideal guest pays dividends in more compelling, resonant marketing and a property tailored seamlessly to the right audience’s needs.

Follow Megan on instagram @thevacationrentalcopywriter


And just because you narrow down your messaging doesn’t mean that other people won’t come stay there too. Um, it just really means that you’re being clear and focused and targeted. Um, when you market to Everybody you’re marketing to nobody and you’re not speaking to anybody. You’re not pulling at anybody’s heartstrings.

You’re not, you know, getting anybody to say, Ooh, yes, that’s me. Of course. Like this place is for me. That’s awesome. Um,  so you’re, you know, you’re kind of missing the mark there. 

Hey Megan. Hi, how are you doing?

I’m doing great. It’s been a, it’s been a good week on my side. Um, we’ve been spending a lot of time growing the company and it’s been, it’s been really good. How are you been?

That’s so exciting. Um, it’s good here too. Um, I’ve been working on a lot of projects, um, for my copywriting clients, um, and really honing in on, um,  you know, understanding your target market.

Um, I’ve really been talking about that a lot this week. So I’m excited to talk about it with you. 

Yeah, I, uh, I think I came across you because I ended up following your Instagram. Um, and we’ll get into this, but like the ideal guest avatar, like you nailed it in capturing my attention as, as possibly your audience.

But yeah, it, it struck me pretty, like pretty hard. Like I started scrolling through your feed right after I saw that one post, I forgot which one it was, but it definitely resonated. 

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, You know, I talk about that a lot just because, um, I feel like it’s one of the biggest mistakes that people make in marketing and it’s  one of the simplest things to correct and kind of should be your starting point.

So, you know, it’s something that I address a lot.  

Yeah. Um, to kind of get us started, why don’t you give our audience a sense of kind of who you are, what you do? Um, yeah, you’re kind of your background there.  Yeah, 

of course. Um, so I am actually a former teacher. Um, I decided to switch over to copywriting because my one of my dreams was always to be a writer.

I wanted to be a teacher and I wanted to be a writer. So, um, when I had my young family, um, You know, it seemed like a good time to kind of transition to that. So I started diving into copywriting and I was really drawn to vacation rentals because I stay in vacation rentals all of the time with my family.

Um, and I’m really passionate about them because they’re such a good place for people who have families. You have all the space, you have the, you know, fully equipped kitchen. Um, it’s just like the ideal experience when you’re traveling with a family. So I love them. Um, and it was just natural for me to niche down into vacation rentals.

Um, I’ve worked with travel companies, um, but really my bread and butter is marketing and copywriting for vacation rental brands and owners. Um, so I write everything from website content and copy to blogs  to property descriptions. Um, And really focus on speaking to the ideal guests through every channel that you use to market, um, your property.

So that’s really what I do.  

Yeah. How did you make that transition from being a teacher to a copywriter?  

Yeah. Um, it seems like kind of a big leap, right? Um,  but like I said, I’ve always loved writing. So that wasn’t, um,  You know, an issue for me at all. The writing part of it, understanding the strategy behind,  um, marketing was definitely something new for me as a teacher, it was never something that I had to think about before.

Um, students don’t have to choose if they’re going to take my class in middle school, they just get put there. So I didn’t really have to market myself at all, um, or help anyone else market themselves. So, um, I actually took, um, a course. I took, you know, I learned everything that I could about it, um, as I was transitioning out of teaching.

Um, I really was looking for something where I could be more flexible for my family. Um, And it just, as soon as I learned what copywriting was, um, as a teacher, I really didn’t know anything about it. Um, and as soon as I learned what it was, I said, Oh, that’s what I want to do. Um, you know, I want to write, I want to strategize.

Um, I want to use my brain in a different way and, um, use my skills in a different way. And actually a lot of skills that you use in teaching transition over into copywriting more than you would think. Um, You know, being able to teach other people um and communicate well um and being able to write efficiently and being able to get clear messaging across um is something you have to do when you’re a teacher, being flexible um, so all those things lend themselves well to this business too, so um and when you’re writing about something that you love and that you’re passionate about it’s It’s really makes it all the more easy to transition over. 

Yeah. How did, or when in that, in that journey, did you realize that the, the audience was one of the key things that was that pretty much straight from the get go? Or is that something that you ended up discovering on your own?  

Yeah. So I think, um, a lot of times people become a copywriter from writing content.

Um, and then they learn that copywriting  Has more of a strategy behind it, right? It’s not just writing a bunch of stuff. There has to be strategy. And so I came into it learning the copywriting side of it and dove straight into that.  And it’s more about when you’re writing, you’re not just trying to put content out there and people say, use the word content all the time.

Um, but your content has to have a purpose and it has to be driven by whoever you’re speaking to, who your target audience is and their pain points. their fears, their anxieties, their goals, their dreams. Um, those are all of the things that drive the content that you produce. If you’re doing it in a copywriting marketing lens more so than just, you know, here are the things you want, here’s the things to do in my location.

Um, it’s more than that. It’s, it’s speaking directly to a person. Um, And when you don’t do that, it just becomes like this really bland, you know, um, copy that doesn’t speak to anybody. Um, so you have to focus on who your target audience is. In any case, in any area that you’re writing for. Um, but for vacation rentals, it’s your guest, right?

You have to  speak directly to a person that you can kind of picture. Um, and that helps you have a lot more clear focus messaging.  

Yeah. Do you believe that that’s probably the one, one of the biggest mistakes that hosts  kind of run through as they’re trying to go direct and, and, and kind of reach their audience and for like the first attempt?

Yeah, yeah, I think, um, a lot of people just  end up, so you start with, you know, your property description and things like that and getting your property out there. And people just list,  you know, the features, um, of their property. I have a hot tub and I have a pool and I have three bedrooms. And what they don’t do is think about who their target audience is, um, and speaking to that person.

And really what you’re trying to do is convince them to stay with you. And you have to think more about what are the benefits of  all those features that I have. Um, you shouldn’t just list them out, right? So people, Miss the mark. A lot of times they try to appeal to everybody. Um, they wanna be fully booked and like, of course you do  , you know, you wanna be fully booked, you wanna get as many bookings as you can.

And so sometimes people are afraid, I think, to  focus on one particular audience because they say, well, I want everyone to come stay here. I wanna get as many heads and beds as as I can. Um,  and when you do that, you end up missing the mark because you’re just.  saying things that are vague and aren’t speaking to anybody in particular.

Um, and just because you narrow down your messaging doesn’t mean that other people won’t come stay there too. Um, it just really means that you’re being clear and focused and targeted. Um, when you market to. Everybody, you’re marketing to nobody, and you’re not speaking to anybody, you’re not pulling at anybody’s heartstrings, you’re not, you know, getting anybody to say, Oh, yes, that’s me.

Of course, like this place is for me. That’s awesome. Um,  so you’re, you know, you’re kind of missing the mark there.  Um,  And, you know, just to go along with that, like, your,  your house, your property, it’s not designed for everyone. Like, you may have a really family friendly place and you may not.  So, to say that you’re going to have everyone stay there, um, A, you’re going to have  the wrong guests stay with you, be unhappy. 

leave negative reviews or not, you know, want to come back again. Um, and B, you’re going to have all these people that  are, you know, um,  not really enjoying your property to the fullest. Um, you’re having these people, the right people not know that the property is meant for them. Um, so you’re just kind of missing.

missing the mark when you’re not focused on who your ideal guest is. People need to be able to  picture themselves there and the experience that they want to have, they have to know that they’re going to be able to have that at your place. Um, and feel like it’s specifically meant for them. Um, so they immediately want to book.

Yeah. So it’s both the positive side of attracting the right guests, but also  making sure that you’re not also attracting The wrong people that you don’t intend to stage a place that may end up not having a great stay, may not end up rebooking with you. And probably the worst is, is leaving you a bad review that kind of tarnishes the brand as a whole. 

Yeah. Because like, if you think about it,  you know, you have  people who are staying with their young kids. You have bachelorette parties. You have people who are, you know, traveling there for work, um, and need certain things for, you know, your digital nomads. You have multi generational groups who need certain things.

And you have guys weekends for golf. They need certain things. Like these are all different types of guests and they don’t all have the same needs or desires for their trips. So, To expect that your place is set up for a digital nomad and a young family and a bachelorette party and it’s going to like attract all of those different kinds of guests,  um, it doesn’t really make sense, right?

Like, so if you have a place that’s set up for families, like your bachelorette party is going to walk in there and be like, Oh,  this isn’t maybe what we had in mind. Um,  And vice versa. So you want your guests to walk in and be like, yes, this place is perfect for a bachelorette party. Like I’m so excited about this.

Or wow, look at, you know, all of these toys and pack and play over there. Like this is great for my kids. Um, and that makes them want to book. And then when they get there, they’re so happy with their choice because the home is designed for them. And when your marketing speaks to that, you’re kind of setting yourself up for a win win. 

Yeah, that’s a, that’s a very good point. How do you  suggest people kind of pivot towards thinking like this and starting to make changes, like what, what are tangible things that they should start thinking about first?  

Yeah, so that’s a good question. Um, so  for me, I always recommend creating an ideal guest  avatar.

You can call it an avatar, you can call it just a person who’s the person you’re going to be talking to. Um, you don’t have to get all fancy about it, but it really helps to  Picture a specific person, um, who you’re writing to, as if you’re like, having a conversation with them. Um, because, a lot of times we,  we try to have this like professional language when we’re writing property descriptions and stuff like that.

Um, and it can be really kind of boring.  Um, so, if, to inject some personality into it, you just, you know, picture that you’re talking to someone, um, and saying, Hey, come stay here. This is why these are all the amazing things that are going to happen. And like, this is what your experience is going to be like.

Um, it helps you get more specific language, um, and  target someone in particular and kind of inject more personality into, um, and conversational tone into what you’re writing. Um, So I always say kind of do some research first.  Um, that’s always the first step is get clear on who your ideal guest is.  Um, and it might be more than one person and that’s okay.

Um, and you might have a different ideal person for different properties in your portfolio. Um, and that’s also okay. So you have to decide what works for you, but for each property or for your overall portfolio, um, Get clear on who your person is. Um, think about what you have at your property and who is going to love them.

Look back at your past reviews. Look at your previous guests who have stayed with you in the past. Like what are they like and what kind of people are going to enjoy the things that you have.  Um, so things like your target market,  families,  Is it people that are traveling for leisure or for business? Are they coming at the last minute?

Are they digital nomads and they need really strong Wi Fi? Are they looking for a pet friendly place? Um, you know, is it a wedding crowd? You’re near like a wedding destination, um, families with young kids, those kinds of things like that’s kind of your broad target market. You can find that from looking at your research. 

Um,  and then so next I would look more specific  at what’s kind of the age range of the people that are staying with you, um, their gender or where they’re traveling from, you know, are these moms who are planning the trip? Um, like myself, you know, moms in their thirties who are planning trips with their young kids, or are we looking at, you know, snowbirds that are, are traveling, um, somewhere else?

Are they wanting to, you know, come? for a quick trip from the city? Are they going for a beach trip? Those kinds of things. Um,  and then look at your, their hobbies and their interests. Like what kind of things do they enjoy, um, doing? You kind of have to like  make a persona, right? For your ideal guests. Like what do they like to do?

What’s their life like? Um, you know, are they busy at home? You know, running a business and, and they’re shuttling the kids here and there, and they like really, really need to relax. Um, you know, what kinds of things are they into? Do they want to know where the nearest pickleball courts are? Um, so that kind of stuff too. 

This reminds me of, um, product developments. I come from the technology world and we’re building software technology. Um, we, we think about jobs to be done quite often. And when we think about the persona, who we are, who are you solving this problem for, um, what are the, what are the biggest pain points that we have so that when we’re developing software, we’re very  honed in on what features and priorities are most important to them.

Because in software development, you can do. You can do endless development. It can, you can invest heavily on the, on, on all the wrong things, but the good stuff, the good software companies, they get really good at understanding who are their market and it could be SMBs. It could be enterprise. It could be sole entrepreneurs.

And then getting really deep into what are the problems they have, what are the substitutions they have. And we think through all these different things that that person has. And then we ultimately try to figure out what are the smallest by size pieces that we can deliver to them? What are the things that is most important to them?

So like, as you’re talking about the ideal guest avatar, it brings me back to, you know, My old w two job of  figuring out, like, how do you build software that really solves people problems in the right ways? And just, just like how in like our SDR world, you can’t build in the technology world, you can’t build technology that.

is completely uniform that solves everybody’s problems, at least not from the get go. Um, so you do have to be very, very  concrete on like who you’re trying to serve, at least for that moment. Um, and obviously as you grow, you can have a wider base, but the most successful companies are the ones that really solve, really understand the problems really intently, um, and, and try to service them as much as possible. 

Right. And like,  In, in this situation, like you feel like, you know, Oh, they just want to go on vacation. That’s the problem,  but it’s, it’s not, it’s more than that. You know, they’re, they’re traveling for a purpose.  Um, like, why are they. Coming to you. Is it to relax at the beach or is it to visit all the theme parks that are nearby or is it to hit a national park and be close to nature?

Or is it to be near a convention center for something? You know, they have specific needs that  the more you can hone in on those, the more Yeah.  

That kind of reminds me of like back to what you said earlier about like content and writing other materials as well, too, is if you get really good at understanding why they’re visiting you, what problems are they trying to solve?

You can actually produce much better content because you know, Where are they coming to? Where are they coming from? Why are they coming to you in the first place? What experiences are they seeking to find? And then you can kind of tailor the kind of like to your point of like strategy, like you can tailor where you want to invest into in your content writing. 

Right? Yeah. Like you’re solving some sort of a need for them and whatever those needs are, you need to know what they are like you, you know, they have. Your guests have travel preferences, right? They’re not just okay with any old place.  Um, they might be expecting hotel like amenities. If you have that, you should play that up.

But if you don’t, you know, those aren’t, those aren’t. Your ideal guest. Um, You know, are they looking for to be able to have easy communication with you? Like is that something where you stand out from the rest? Like you should play that up  Because you know not every property manager or host is gonna Answer them right away.

And is that something if you think about the person that’s staying with you your ideal person Are they somebody who? Really feels the need to have a back and forth. Like if they have questions, do they need somebody to go to? um And do they really need a dedicated workspace and you have that? Um, or do they really need to be in walking distance to something and you have that like whatever their problem is You know, when I travel with my family, there are certain things I want to be able to do in each location.

Like, sometimes I want to be close to,  you know, whatever the attractions are that I’m visiting for. Like, I want to be close. Um, And if that’s your best, you know, if that’s a good feature of your place, that you’re really close to that stuff, you need to tell them that, and they’re like, Oh, this place is awesome because it’s so close and it’s gonna be so easy for me to get there.

So like, whatever those preferences are, like, other people don’t care. Like, other people don’t care. If they’re close or not, they don’t mind a drive over. Um, and other people want to be walking distance from the beach because it’s just easier, or they want to have a beach cart because they have kids and lots of stuff to bring.

So like, when you think about who is staying with you. And start thinking about what they want their trip to be like. Not only can you produce content that’s  speaking to them, but you can market your property. You can make your property be what they need, um, as much as possible. And then play up those features to convince them to book.

And then when they stay with you Give you rave reviews because it was meant for them. This place is meant for them and that’s ultimately what you want. You don’t want anybody staying with you who is not going to like your, your place or your setup. Um, so you, you know, you, like you said, you really have to think about what are their needs. 

And like, how can I get them,  how can I solve those needs and show them that this is the solution, right? This place or staying with me and my business is going to be the solution that they’re looking for. They’ve got many options of places to stay. Um, so like, how do you focus them and say, this is the place.

Um, and speak right to them.  

Yeah. Um, Megan, do you have any resources that our guests can get access to, to help them through that process of defining their ideal guest avatar?  

Yeah. So, um, I actually do. I have a workbook, um, the ideal guest avatar guide.  It’s a step by step workbook to take you through creating an avatar.

Everything from looking at your research, um, about your guests, to actually writing the book. a guest avatar. So that’s like where you’re creating a person, a person with a name  Um that you can speak to when you’re writing your content and coming up with your messaging Um, so it’s a workbook you can write right in it and it’ll walk you through every step Um and make it just really easy for you to Get that  put in place so you can then share it with your team and use it for your marketing Whether that’s you know on your website your blog your social media Your emails all of that um, you can just send this avatar really simply to Everybody on your team to use 


Okay. I’ll drop the link. I’ll ask you for the link and I’ll drop it into the show notes. Um, you mentioned a few different channels where folks can market towards,  and the sense that I get is that  by defining your ideal guest avatar, you don’t have to necessarily commit all your resources in all those different areas where you want to do.

Um, is commit your resources in the places where people are looking, are discovering, are looking for materials, or that’s where they get their entertainment from. And that’s where you kind of reach your, your audience. Would you, would you agree with that?  Yeah, I 

would. Um, I think that once you have,  so coming up with your ideal guest avatar or looking at who your target audience is, is really the crucial first step in any of your marketing.

Um, so when you’re,  I would say that you use it across all of your channels,  but I wouldn’t say like you have to go today and like change everything.  Um, I would say that  um, you know, if you start small with your property descriptions um, and your social media that the stuff that you’re putting out now that’s new Make sure that it’s focused on Your ideal guests that you’re speaking to that person.

Um, Like, Hey you, you’re going to have a great time here. Um, and when you’re writing your emails, same thing. So  really across the board, once you’re, once you understand who your ideal guest is, it makes it a lot easier to create all that content because you know who you’re talking to and you can be a lot clearer in your messaging.

You’re not just like broadly talking to everyone. Um, and you can use it, you know, on your direct booking site and all of that too. It kind of helps to give your brand. a little bit more personality.  

Yeah, that makes, that makes a ton of sense.  Can you walk me through  a client that you worked with where  they were a bit more kind of generic or they’re, they’re targeting towards multiple audiences and how you’ve kind of helped them transition through, through this process and kind of what the outcome was like. 

That’s a good 

question. Um, so let me think. Um,  so I have one client, um, who I’ve worked with recently. Um, they’re, they have a direct booking site, um, and property descriptions, and all of that was, um, Pretty, um, vague. It was,  you know, here’s what we have at our property. Um, it was lists, um, and all of their property descriptions were just kind of bullet pointed.

lists of things that they have, um, that this place has two bedrooms and one bath, um, that it has a hot tub, that it has, you know, it’s on a lake. It was all really great stuff. It was beautiful, um, property.  And when you do it like that and focus on the features and not the benefits, um, You’re really missing out on a chance to like use persuasive language to convince someone right so copywriting is  Not just putting the content out there But doing it for a purpose to get someone to do something and in vacation rentals, of course, we want people to book so this client  You know, wasn’t speaking to anyone in particular, um, and they weren’t talking about the benefits.

They were talking about just the features that they had and listing them, which is fine. That’s a good first step.  Um, so then what we did is we went through and talked about who is your ideal guest? Who comes to you?  Like, who has visited you in the past and loved it? Like, let’s look back at your reviews.

What are the things that they love? What is this person like? And then when we were clear on who the person is that is coming to their location, they’re in, um, rural Canada, um, in rural Ontario, um, so they, You know, they have people coming from the city, um, to visit them and relax by the lake and be away from it all.

So when we focus the messaging on that, we write language that speaks to that and what that experience is going to be like to disconnect, reconnect with nature and your loved ones, to be close to the lake, beyond the lake, and be able to just like really enjoy each other’s company. We focus a lot on A lot more on that and that drove their bookings.

Um, so  instead of just being like, here’s the stuff we have, it’s like, Hey, if you want to get away from the city, reconnect with nature, be with your loved ones, just enjoy each other’s company, be on a boat, um, and you know, barbecue grill and go fishing and all of that stuff, then this is what, you know, you can do that here.

Like, here’s what it’s going to be like. making s’mores, you know, sitting stargazing with like no, um,  no, like light pollution at all. Right. Like you can really see all the stars when you’re sitting in the hot tub. It’s not just, we have a hot tub. It’s, we have a hot tub and you can relax and unwind and feel the stress melt away.

When, you know, You’re escaping from your day to day and you’re here. It’s like a, you know, an adult summer camp that you can come to with your kids and all of that. So,  when you just say hot tub, you don’t get that feeling. Um,  and, You want to really evoke emotion in the people that are reading it to be like, Oh, that sounds so great.

That’s exactly what I need. Um, and all that to say, you know, if they had people coming for work retreats,  it’s a different kind of language that we would use, right? We wouldn’t be talking about that as much. We would be talking about all the team building activities you can do here. Um, And so, you know, you guys can all play pickleball together by the lake.

So that’s a different,  um, person that you’re speaking to. And when you don’t think about who the person is, you’re not using language that’s directed at them, and they don’t have that all important feeling of  I want this. This is for me. Book now.  Um, that’s and that’s the feeling that you want them to get.

So we went through and we redid their website. We redid the property descriptions. All of that speaking to the people that they were trying to attract that would love their place. Um, so  It doesn’t have to be super complicated. It can be like easy adjustments, you know, um,  Just to like think about who am I talking to that’s really the only question it all boils down to Um is when you’re redoing your wording or when you’re writing new new things and new content.

Just asking yourself that one question, like, who am I talking to?  Like, picture somebody.  Picture your grandma, or picture your wife, or your, you know, whoever it is that kind of fits that mold, your co worker. Um, Picture them and talk to them. And that’s really all you have to kind of do. 

Yeah. That makes, that makes a ton of sense. 

What do you, how do you approach your portfolio when you may have different properties, maybe different markets, and they appeal to different folks. Um, you can obviously tailor the, each property page  to be tailored towards the ideal guest avatar. But how do you, when someone lands on your homepage for the first time, what do you suggest for them? 

Yeah. So, um, that’s a great question too. Um,  When you have a variety of properties, um, I would say usually to  focus on your overall market for your main homepage, right? Um, like who you’re, you have a general idea, um, of who your market is. It might be that like you have a home in the mountains and you have a home in the beach and those are a little bit different, right?

For your properties. Um, but your brand has some sort  Voice personality, there are things in your, your brand that speak to, um,  to someone in particular, whether it’s like your properties are designed for families and you speak to them, or your properties are for like weekend getaways, um,  Whatever it is that they kind of have in common, that’s what I would focus on for the home page, um, for your website itself,  and then get more specific when it comes to marketing each property, um, the property description or any social media tied to that property.

Um, you can speak to different people. You can. Divide it up that way where you like kind of have a main message and you can talk to two people, right? like so I I like to say it’s it’s not like  It’s not like the only thing to do is pick one person You can pick multiple people you can say this prop like my properties are for  families with young kids or  People who are traveling for work.

We have both things. Um, that’s okay to do It’s just what you have to remember is that  Just because you’re choosing a person to speak to doesn’t mean other people won’t  stay there, too. And the more specific you can be,  the more intentional your marketing will be, um, and the more strategic you’ll be. So if, the most you can narrow it down, like, that’s what you should do.

But if you can’t narrow it down, like, that’s okay, too. You just can’t say, everyone.  Like, it can’t be everyone. It can be this person and this person, um, but when you do everyone, then you’re kind of just being too general. Um, and it’s not as effective, that’s all. Like, it’s not that it’s bad, um, it’s just not as effective as it could be if you were to really narrow it down to a person or two. 

Yeah, and if I think if there are two polar opposites, if you have the bachelor party and the family friendly, it might be worthwhile to kind of separate the brand altogether. Um, 

yeah, I mean, it’s,  that’s a good point. Um, but it’s, it’s like,  I feel like if it’s a very family friendly place, like if that is your, um, the way that you’re attracting people is by like, we have a playroom.

Yeah. And we have baby here. You’re not really marketing to bachelorette parties. Sure, they can stay there. Like they might find it and say, wow, this place is beautiful. We want to stay here, but that’s not really your target  Um audience, so it’s kind of hard to have two that are such polar opposites unless you have two totally different.

Um, Houses and to totally like multiple properties like that. If you do, then you get specific on the property descriptions themselves and the content tied to that one house. Um, you wouldn’t, you don’t have to say like, Oh, my entire portfolio is for bachelorette parties. Right. Like  you can say my entire portfolio is for like groups of friends.

Um, and like this place is awesome for a bachelorette party. 

Yeah.  I found that over time. Hmm.  As we grew our portfolio,  I started to kind of circle around that family friendly. I don’t know if it was intentional, but as we’re designing the next house, we were thinking about  And maybe because we’re a young family, a young family ourselves, I have two kids.

We started to design it where we want to stay there and we want to make sure that the whole experience is something that we would enjoy. Um, so it almost as if like, I’m, I guess, ideal guest avatar in many ways.  

Yeah, 100%. I think it’s a lot easier to, if your ideal guest avatar is you,  it’s a lot easier to like speak to that person because you understand their needs and their wants and desires.

Um, so that’s really helpful for sure. The other thing too that, you know, with you saying that it makes me think about like, If you don’t have a specific audience, like if your portfolio is kind of all over the place,  that might be something to think about too. Um, is that like, maybe you do want to kind of  choose a lane a little bit.

Um, like it’s okay to have a broad range of places and have something for everyone, but it gets really hard to like,  distinguish yourself from everybody else. Um, if you’re not like, you want to be known for something like you want your brand,  you know, if you’re trying to get people to book direct, right.

And come to your site and book with you instead of going on OTAs or whatever it is, like you need to have a brand that’s memorable.  And if you are catering to everyone and you have something for everybody. That’s not something that’s really memorable. It’s not something that, like, sticks in your brain.

Um, it’s not something that guests are going to be like, Oh, those are the guys who Um, and that is just something to think about, right? It’s like, if I can’t narrow down who my ideal guest is because it’s everybody, well, maybe I need to think about that a little bit. Um, Because at the end of the day, if you’re known for having, like, these awesome, killer, family friendly places, like, people are gonna start being like, Oh, you should stay with these guys, they have slides in their house.

Like, that’s awesome. You know, that sets you apart from everybody else. And like,  When people go to recommend on, you know, Facebook groups and things like that, when they’re saying, Oh, I want a place to stay in X location. That’s family friendly. These people are like, Oh my God, this place was so great for families.

You should stay here. And if you’re just kind of,  marketing your place to everybody and setting it up so that everybody can stay there,  there’s no feature of your place that really stands out for people to say, Oh, this place, you need to have something right that, um, sets you apart from the rest and your brand apart from the rest.

Um, if you want people to be able to like, remember you and go to book direct with you.  

Um, it kind of ties back into the overall design and how you furnish and what you put into your place. And right now the big thing is like, everybody is trying to find ways to be unique, um, and trying to set themselves apart so that people do book with you.

Um, And I even reflect this back in my own properties is that kind of going back to like ours being family friendly and we wanting to add something unique to everybody. I, I, I come to realize, and I don’t know if it was on purpose, but every one of our like  unique amenity was always tailored towards a family with kids between the ages of three and 10. 

And that’s like, that’s our sweet spot. And like, We just went back to our first cabin and we ended up putting, um,  mini golf. We have this big lawn in the front of the place. And I was debating, yeah, we were debating like, do I put a pickleball court or do I put a fire pit or do I put a mini golf? And I was like, well, my portfolio is starting to trend towards  What is one thing that I could put in there that is unique?

So in that one, we put, we put the mini golf and the second one, we ended up putting a theater in the pool room so that the parents, when they’re watching their kids in the pool, they can stay in the pool room, make sure that kids are safe, but also enjoy a movie while they’re there. Um,  yeah.  Yeah. I mean like we, we really thought about it, like we, like kind of putting, we put, we put ourselves in that, in that position and I didn’t want to be  in that pool room for two, three hours while my kids were splashing around and I had nothing to do and be on my phone.

And I was like, okay, let me, I want to enjoy my vacation. And so we thought, okay, if we, if, how can we make this a place that not only the kids would enjoy, but the parents would enjoy as well too, because the last thing I want is a parent to get bored and end up leaving the pool room and leaving the kids by themselves.

Like I do not want that. So how do I motivate the kids? And like really create an experience that the whole family wants to be together. And 

so that’s like, that’s the point too, right? Is that like, once you figure out who your ideal guest is, you’re not just marketing to them. You’re designing your properties to have the things that they want that solve their need.

Like that’s, that’s the point.  Amazing. And, and by the way, your house has a pool in it.  

Our second place, it’s a, it’s a one bedroom, um, pool cabin in, in, in the Smoky Mountain. So it’s the loft on the very top on the main level has, um, the kitchen dining room, a rec room, which has a bunk bed as well too. And then the bottom most level has an indoor swimming pool.

And how did I not know this?  Yeah, there’s a few, and there’s a few in the Smoky Mountains. Um, it’s. Um, and it’s not that common, especially now for the smaller ones. Um, but we just fell in love with the property and we ended up like really, really designing the property with that in mind. And it’s, it’s done really well for itself.

Um, and people that stay there, like kind of to your point of like, you want people to have a really good experience. It’s like everybody that stays there really have a really good time. Um, and we’ve learned along the way through feedback that, that. They they would appreciate more amenities or they’re looking for these X, Y, Z things.

And we listen to those that stay with us that our families very, very closely. We listened to their feedback. We constantly tune on how we can make things better for them. Um, so yeah, we, we now like we, We treat our ideal guest avatars as folks that we want to come back over and over and over again.  Right?

Yeah. I mean, like that,  to your point, it’s listening to the feedback that you get, what your guests are loving and what they’re not loving and what they need, um, and tailoring your places to them. Um, it’s the same with your marketing, you just tailor it to them and what they need. If you’re not thinking about that, you’re kind of like missing out, right?

Like if you,  if you. have an ideal guest who has young family, like they’re probably not playing pickleball,  you know, they’re, they’re probably not. Um, and so you, you know, when you put a mini golf, um, course in there, like they are doing that, um, the things they can do together with their young kids. Um, You know, I can only like I have young kids and I can only imagine like my husband and I trying to play pickleball with the kids there.

Um, so, you know, like  they love mini golf, they love it. So, you know, when you know who your target market is, um, then everything that you do  gets so much more focused and just more memorable and more enjoyable because it is all about the experience for the guests.  Um, like that’s what’s going to have them come back or want to stay in another one of your places or tell people about you, um, when they have that awesome experience.

So like, how can you,  um, do that with your properties? Like how can you  hit at what they need and what they want? Um, yeah. Both in the messaging and also in just like impracticality in your place, like, what can you put there? Like, of course, not everybody’s going to be able to like put a pool in their house or a mini golf course outside.

But like, you know, there are like a lot of easy things you can do once you understand who your ideal guest is. That like, if it is young families, putting some baby gear in there or just like, um, you know, the plastic plates. and cups and, and kid forks and stuff. Sometimes I stay in places and I’m like, Ooh, I don’t want to give them the glasses.

Like you have to pack your own, you know, plastic cups. Um, but if your place has that stuff, um, that’s actually like,  Not a large investment, right? And it’s plastic stuff, so it’s easy enough. Um, but when you, when you put that in your messaging and you put that in your photos, someone like me scrolling through is like, Ooh, they have like kids plates.

Like it seems like a silly thing, but it makes a big difference to me. Yeah, and like it makes my travel so much easier, especially if you’re flying somewhere  You know to not have to pack those things like oh, they have plates perfect Don’t have to do it as soon as you start like really appealing to me as a parent of young kids  You know you’re hitting at my At my needs and my wants, like, I’m like, Oh, perfect.

I don’t have to pack this, I don’t have to pack that. And as a parent of young kids, I want my life to be easy. I want the trip to be relaxing. And that’s hard with young kids, but anything that I see in the listing that’s gonna make that easier for me, um,  is getting me one step closer to booking with you.

Um, so it’s like those little tiny things. It doesn’t have to be something huge. Um, but you have to make sure if you have, sometimes people have this stuff and they don’t put it in there. They don’t put it in the listing or they don’t put it in their pictures and you don’t know. And I get there and I’m like, Oh, they have kids cups.

Cool. That’s a missed opportunity.  You know, both for me packing  and, you know, I didn’t have to pack that stuff. And also like,  you could be convincing an extra group of people to book with you just because you have that. And if you’re not mentioning it in your messaging, because you’re not really fully thinking about who your ideal guest is and what they need, um, it’s just a missed opportunity.

Yeah. I even think about like, even beyond just the booking experience, Yeah, I love kids. I leverage, like we also have kids plates as well, too. Um, we have a set from Target that I love and I put in all. Me too. Yeah, those are all like, they, they, they clean well. They are, they’re super durable. You can’t break them.

Yeah. Yeah. I bet. Yeah, probably.  Um,  but if I recognize that I have someone with an infant or with, um, that’s staying with us, either an infant or a young child, they tell me how old their kids are. I would be sure to message them prior to their stay, maybe two weeks prior to their stay to remind them that we have our high chair in, um, in the closet.

We have our baby gate in the closet. Um, we have your, your cups and bowls all figured out. Okay. Um, so that when they’re preparing for the trip, that’s one more thing that they really don’t have to worry about. And even I, like, I listed in my descriptions and I have it in my pictures as well too. Um, but it’s just like one more thing that I want to remind them on, and it’s more so to, to make sure that they know that I’m thinking about them, um, and I’m thinking about them as they’re planning their trip.

And that makes it a lot easier if something does occur, um, and, um, if the cleaners missed anything. I’ve already showed them that I care about their stay. Um, and they’re a lot more laxed, uh, if they ever need to come to me for anything.  

Yeah, a hundred percent. That’s awesome. Um, I wish more people would do that or more hosts would do that.

Um, but you know, It’s a good point, too, is all the email communication that you have with them, um, before the trip, um, your welcome guide and anything like that, um, you want to mention those things, um, like you do, and when you understand who your guest is, it’s easier to do that, um, because you know exactly which things you need to hit at, um, in terms of what they need to know about your place, um, both for preparing to come for packing and also when they get there, um, just making their lives easier.

You know, if they’re like  a family, the things that you’ve mentioned make sense, but you know, if you have a bunch of groups of friends that come by and it’s bachelorette parties and guys weekends and stuff like that, um, then they’re going to need a different set of instructions. Um, they’re going to want to know where the closest bars are and things like that.

Um, So that’s the kind of stuff that you want to have in your welcome guide or in your email, you know, letting them know that we have X, Y, and Z that’s going to make your trip awesome. Um, and let us know if you need anything. So, you know, knowing who you’re, who’s staying with you really can help you have targeted marketing that like builds that personal connection.

Like it feels a lot more personal. Um, like you’re talking to them instead of just some random. guy, you know, um, through all of your messaging with them too. Um, so I think it just pays to know across the board, um, because you can make your properties shine for them and you can make your messaging talk right to them and they feel like they have a connection with you.

Um, and like you said, when,  you know, if they have an issue while they’re staying there, they feel like, Oh, this. person already reached out to me. They know why we’re here. They know what’s going on with us. And I feel comfortable letting them know that there’s an issue. Um, you know, and, and having that conversation with them, it’s not like, Oh, who’s my host again?

Yeah. You mentioned something very early on in our conversation about defining your ideal guest avatar.  And then notifying or not notifying, but sharing that with your team.  And it made me reflect back on  folks that are in your team that you may only use once or twice, like the folks that may help you design the place from the very, from the very beginning.

But probably the one the more impactful ones that come to my mind is your photographer  is really letting them know who your ideal guest avatar is. And in my case, it’s the young family. So I explicitly tell. My photographer, I want you to take out the pack and play. I want you to open it up. I want you to set it up next to the bed.

I want you to take the high chair out, put it in the kitchen and to make sure that we just don’t have this in the background and we actually do have pictures that we can include into our listing that shows that we’re thinking about them and it’s not just buried in as a bullet point in the listing description. 

That’s such a good point. Um, I, that wouldn’t be the first thing, as a writer, that’s not the first thing that I think of, because I think of any contractors you have working with you, like, the person who’s designing your website, or is writing for you, and things like that, um, or your marketing person, but it’s You’re so right, um, that the photographer is a great person to share it with too.

If you do the work to do the research, and it’s, it’s not even a ton of research, it’s just sitting and thinking about and looking at guest reviews and thinking about like, who is staying with me? You can share that with everyone really easily. Um, once you have it, you just have this document, this little You know, chunk of text that you can just shoot off and say, like, here’s who my person is, um, and focus on that in your writing or focusing on that in your pictures.

Um, that’s a really, really great point.  

I have two remaining questions for you. One’s a mindset question. One’s a action question.  And it could be, you could answer it in, in, um,  with the context of short term rentals, direct bookings, and the, uh, and the, uh, like what we talked about today, but also it could be something else as well too.

Um, so the first one is  as someone that is trying something new for the first time, um, what’s the one piece of, um, uh, mindset advice that you would give them?  

That’s a good question.  Um,  So my biggest one, um, is always  progress over perfection. Um, that’s kind of my mantra, um, when it comes to my business and everything that I do is  taking small steps. 

You know, a lot of times we set this big lofty goal, and it’s kind of hard to reach it like you’re not going to reach it today. And so it can get really,  it can feel really hard,  because like you’re not seeing that progress.  If you just put yourself out there, you don’t have to wait till everything’s ready to go.

You don’t have to wait till everything’s perfect. You don’t have to like for this, for instance, like you don’t have to sit down, do this and then go change all of your marketing. Um, you don’t, um, that’s too much. So for me, I like to take small steps.  Um, and even if it’s not perfect, go for it. You can always make it better later.

You can always change it later. Like just, you know, for instance, like your direct booking site, like just get it out there. Just have one,  you know, like, like just do it and, um, just have one and then go back and like worry about your messaging and then go back and like work on your SEO, um, so people can find you.

And then, you know, it doesn’t have to be the end, um, from the beginning, just progress over perfection. And just. So, um, just get yourself out there, just do it, take a small step and you’ll get there. 

Yeah, I a hundred percent agree. Not only do you kind of get things started, but you also get the chance to iterate and learn along the way because very likely you’re not going to get it right the first time.

And it does take a couple iterations to figure out how do you speak to that person. And you may make a bunch of changes. What you don’t want to do is make a bunch of changes in all your different channels and then find out like, Oh, that wasn’t right. Like I need to go back and do it again.  

Well, and that’s why I say like with this, start small, you know, just like update a property description.

It’s not that big of a deal, right? It’s not going to like impact everything, but you see how it goes. Um, and adjust from there, you know, just do a couple social media posts. It’s like, it doesn’t have to be, you know, you switch everything up immediately. Like that’s overwhelming. Um, so the more that you can break it down for yourself in bite sized chunks of like, I’m just going to try this.

Um, you know, I’m just going to post. Uh, I do a blog post like once a month, that’s all I’m going to do, like,  you know, start small, then you can do it twice a month, then you can do it like, you know, it doesn’t have to be a whole big thing, um, right from the get go.  

Yeah. It’s often that first thing is the hardest part, like writing that first blog post is probably the most challenging thing, but the second one is going to come a lot more natural.

Yeah, for sure. 

All right. So last question. What’s one action that you would advise folks to, to take today? 

Um, yeah, so I think that’s probably a layup for me at this point. The easiest thing I would say is, um, Is just to go create your ideal guest avatar. Um, You know, you can download the workbook if you want to post that.

Um, The link to that you can download the workbook and just it’ll take you step by step through it. Um, But either way just  ask yourself the one question of who is my target guest Um, what are they like and what do they want? Um, And then once you have that, share it with your team. Like, that’s your first step.

Just any team members you have, share it with them or share it with yourself.  Um, just come up with, just decide who is my ideal guest. And that’s really the only small step you have to take. From there, everything else will just be easier, um, because you know who.  Who you’re targeting. 

Absolutely.  All right.

Well, Megan, it was really good to have you here and kind of have you walk us through one. I think probably the most important thing is how important it is to define your ideal guest avatar and just how much easier the rest of it comes. Once you have that defined, um, I’ll definitely drop all the links into the show notes.

Um, if folks want to follow you or reach you, what’s the best way for them to to get in contact with you or, or follow you. 

Um, yeah, so I am on Instagram, um, at the vacation rental copywriter,  um, and I’m on LinkedIn. It’s, um, at Megan Castor.  

Awesome.  Megan. Thanks again. Um, I enjoyed having you on and hopefully we get to have you on again in the future.


I’d love that. It was really nice chatting with you. 

All right. See ya. Bye. Bye. 

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