Marketing Lessons from Airbnb

Tuesday 26th, July 2016

airbnb photoThey started in 2008 and their growth can only be called explosive. What took the Hilton Hotels 93 years to achieve, Airbnb did in 4 years! Today they have more than 1,500,000 listings in 35000 cities across some almost 200 countries!

Airbnb, as we know, is a platform where home owners the world over share or rent their properties – which could be anything from small apartments to massive penthouses. The modern traveler prefers the comfort and the personal touch of staying in a home rather than in an impersonal motel.

They started off with a great referral scheme where for any new person who opts to stay in an Airbnb registered place, you get a $25 voucher. And any references of new registrations of properties would get $75 (post their first booking). What ended up happening is that users started to promote Airbnb’s services. And what works better than something being referred by a trusted friend?

They added some PPC to this mix. And then hit Craig’s List in a big way. They posted ads about their house listings and made it easy for users to post their listings there as well. Their content is something that works despite Google’s changing algorithms.

And they met with phenomenal success.

Here are some lessons one can pick up from them –

  • Value for Customers – They offer a product that people want – a fun, comfortable and interesting home as opposed to an expensive and impersonal hotel. A simple solution to an age-old want. And you can do all the strategizing you can come up with, but unless you have a product or service that either satisfies some desire or solves a problem, it won’t work at all.
  • Great Referral system – When you offer something of value to your customers, they are happy. And happy customers spread the word to others. Great word of mouth marketing. And their incentives for referrals when they started out, was a great way to get more people on board.
  • Great Customer Service –  Airbnb works with very quick turnaround times. With everyone expecting quick answers and solutions, Airbnb hosts know that unless they respond to interested prospects quickly, they would just move on to something else. Pretty much like the kind of customer service that you should offer your customers. When they have an issue, it makes great sense to sort it out instantly.
  • They think out of the box. Their content works great despite changes that Google does with its algorithms, but they didn’t stop with that. Craig’s List was a great move! That is also where people look for things. List things that they want to sell or buy! Great move! So when you formulate your marketing strategy, don’t do what everyone else does normally. Think out of the box and do something unique!
  • Offer a great Customer Experience – Airbnb has a 5 star rating system. If your place gets just a single star, it pretty much messes your chances of getting more people to stay with you. What really works are the great homestays that provoke people to not only give you a 5 star rating, they also leave glowing reviews! What matters ultimately is a great customer experience. And that will keep your customers coming back for more!
  • Checklist – When a host signs his place up, Airbnb gives you a checklist that you need to follow to make your place “AirBnB ready.” It includes everything from an extra set of house keys to clean towels and sheets. It is a great idea to have a marketing checklist as well – once you have your marketing goals and strategy in place, a detailed checklist helps.

Image by Gustavo da Cunha Pimenta 

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