How to Properly Name your Vacation Rental
How to Name your Vacation Rental Property (or Re-Name it if Necessary).
Thanks to TheSmilingGuest.com for this article!
Naming your vacation rental is a very important thing to do, and a very important thing to do right. Although it is very difficult to measure this, I believe the right name can have a huge impact on your success. It is one of those ‘great business mysteries’ that can make or break you without you even realizing it, and if you’re struggling and can’t figure out why, your property’s name could be one of the reasons.
McDonald’s Hamburgers just as easily could have been called Krok’s Fried Burgers and Eatery, but I suspect they wouldn’t have done as well with the latter name. Someone smarter than I may someday figure out the science behind successful company names (I know of one fellow who believes that having a K sound in the name is crucial, as in Kodak or Coca-Cola) but I intuitively think that it is as much an art as a science. This being the case, there is nothing wrong with hiring help in coming up with a name, just like it makes sense to get a real artist to paint a mural on your vacation rental’s bedroom wall. You might be able to slap paint on a wall too… but the result may not please your guests in the same way!
Successful businesses always have good branding. Branding (or your brand) is everything about your business that identifies it or makes it distinctive in the mind’s of your customers and potential customers. A name is the most important identifying characteristic your vacation rental business has, because it is the first and most common thing that your customers will identify your vacation rental with. And the greatest thing about a name is that it is completely and totally under your control! You may not be able to afford the most expensive location possible for your vacation rental, but the name is a completely wide open possibility, available at no charge to you. To waste such an opportunity is, in my opinion, simply foolish.
Another aspect of successful businesses is they aren’t afraid to change or shake things up if necessary. Having used a bad name for three years is no good reason not to fix the problem and change it. Businesses are organic. They change and evolve over time, or they die. Apple pulled itself out of the doldrums to become one of the most successful companies in history, and along the way, they frequently killed product lines that were the number one performers in their category to replace them with something better. Their competitors were still trying to compete with their old product line while Apple was bringing something new to the table. If abandoning successes can make a company spectacularly successful, surely abandoning failures is always a reasonable choice.
Business names are admittedly highly personal, and change for many people is hard. The ability to recognize that something isn’t working and needs to be corrected is an important attribute of being successful in business as well. Make sure you’re the flexible adaptive type. Generally speaking, the only successful people in business who say “That’s just the way I am!” are those that are referring to their flexible and adaptive natures.
So, how do you come up with a good name for your vacation rental?
To name your property think about its characteristics, no matter how mundane, and write them down in a list. What area, neighbourhood, street is it located on? What does it overlook? What is nearby? Which direction does it face? Is is shady, windy, sunny? Is it bug infested, smelly or filthy? What kind of plants, landscapes or water features do you have around it? Write down everything that you can think of that is an aspect of your property in any way. Keep going until you have written down at least 40 words, even if some of them get silly. That’s okay, it opens up your thinking.
Then take a few of those aspects and start putting them in a string and seeing how they sound together and what sort of feeling they evoke. For example you may have written down amongst others the words ‘giant’, ‘bright’, ‘lodge’, ‘ranch’, ‘valley’, ‘skies’, and ‘pines’. From these you may come up with Giant Pines Lodge, or Bright Skies Ranch. I’m not saying these are great names, but they demonstrate how the process works.
Come up with at least five different solutions that you like. A few will likely stick out to you as favourites. It is an excellent idea to do the whole exercise a couple of times a week or two apart, as your mood and other distractions can affect what you come up with on each occasion. Take your short lists and set them aside for a few days and then review them with a fresh mind. Ones that you liked will seem poor choices and others will appear better than they did at first.
If a name suggests a feeling, that can be very powerful, but you don’t want to name your property after a feeling or opinion itself, like ‘serenity’, or ‘beautiful’. Those aren’t names, they are attributes, and shouldn’t be used for a couple of reasons; they sound much too flowery and your guests may not agree with your assessment. A property fulfills a certain number of very utilitarian functions and prissy names often don’t serve that purpose, nor ring appropriately to all of your potential guests. For example many men won’t want to tell their buddies they stayed in a place called ‘Serenity daisies by the shore’. On the flip side, a lot of women won’t want to stay at ‘Ted’s drinking shack’ either.
Don’t use the trademarked names of your neighbours’ either. You may be right next door to Disney World but you have no right to use the name Disney in your property name unless it’s your family name too. Doing so is a direct copyright violation, and because it is, it makes you look unprofessional, simply because a pro wouldn’t do something like that. Place names are okay, because they are sort of public property, and descriptive, so using Gulf Coast or Aspen in a name would be fine, especially if they help potential guests understand something about your property, but be careful – there may be hundreds of others doing the same thing.
Avoid unusual spellings or pronunciations that are not obvious to everyone.
My very first business name sucked. I loved it, as I had based the company name on a US city that evoked everything about my business I wanted my customers to associate me with. The name was a slight variation on the city’s name, but the change of two letters changed the pronunciation to everyone but me. After the third person looked at my newly printed expensive business cards and mispronounced the name, contorting it into a painfully sounding weird word, I realized I had really blown it.
Another great example of this is in the Tom Hanks written and directed movie That Thing You Do! The naming fiasco in that movie is important to the story and there is a good business lesson in the solving of the problem. I won’t spoil it for you, but check it out and learn and be entertained, all at the same time!
This may be making things too complicated, but it may be worth paying attention to how your vacation rental’s name may appear in another language or culture. Two well-known mistakes of this nature include when Chevrolet introduced their Chevy Nova into latin countries without renaming it – ‘Nova’ means ‘No Go’ in Spanish, and when the home sales giant Amway introduced a successful cologne called Night Winds into Australia – only to discover that in Australia ‘Night Winds’ is what you get after eating too many beans around the camp fire!
After having worked through the naming exercise once or twice, take your favourite results, and type them into Google and see where and how they are being used. How unique would your name be? If you have a competitor a few miles away using one of the names you came up with or something similar, it just makes bad business sense for you to use it too. You’re trying in your own small way to build a brand, and that means having something distinctive.
After your first round of Google name searching, do it all again, but from a different location. Your computer has an address, called an IP (Internet Protocol) Address, which identifies it on the internet. It also identifies you to Google, and Google in their infinite wisdom has been keeping track of the things you search for and look at online, and they use this information to try to anticipate what kind of search results you want to receive and then provide them to you. This means that when you type a search into Google, the results you see are not what someone else sees. You want to run your name searches as if you were a potential guest seeking out your property. To do this, use an IP blocker web site like www.mask-myip.com which hides your identity and location from the sites you visit online. There are many free services like this on the internet. Some paid ones are very sophisticated and let you choose where you appear to be. The point of all of this is you will get very different results in your Google search when your IP is hidden, suggesting that you aren’t you.
My own vacation rental property name, when typed into Google from my computer, will command the first two pages of results (19 of the first 20 hits). But when I type it in a search from a remote IP location, I get eight of the first ten hits and only four of the second page ten hits. Now in either case, that’s not bad, especially for a privately owned and run single vacation rental. One of the reasons I am so easy to find on Google is I made sure the name wasn’t being used much by anything or anyone else when I chose it, and I now have it in enough places online to bring it to Google’s attention. Unfortunately there are some other properties that are now starting to encroach on the name and showing up in the results too. Thankfully one is thousands of miles away in a different area so it won’t cause confusion.
To dominate the first two or three pages of results on Google out of 100,000 hits is a very important objective of properly naming your vacation rental, and this was accomplished with practically no SEO efforts at all. (That’s Search Engine Optimization for those of you who care, a complicated topic for those who run their own web site and want to place highly in internet search results relating to their subject matter.)
These internet searches are important so that you choose a name that is fairly unique, in order to avoid confusion amongst your customers about exactly who you are compared to other entities, and most importantly, your competition.
As you go through the naming exercise a few times, and run all of your Google searches you can, be a little poetic. Certain combinations of words are tongue twisters and others just roll off your tongue. Others sound too much like other things, some of which you don’t really want to be associated with! We have all seen the pictures on the internet of restaurants legitimately named Wa-Tah-Fuk Thai Cuisine!
Speak (out loud darn it!) your top choices, over and over again. Listen to how they sound.
Pass the ‘Next-Generation Test’
Ask your kids or grand kids (under 15 years of age is best) about your top choices but don’t tell them why… just walk up to them, say the name once and watch their reaction. Then walk away. If they stand there looking confused, you have passed the ‘next generation’ test. If they start to smile, smirk, laugh or look uncomfortable, there is some reason out there on the internet that you and I don’t (and likely won’t) know about why the name should be avoided. Don’t worry about confusing them with this test… this is no different than how you appear to them normally and can’t do any damage.
Write out the name on a blank piece of paper. Ignore the meaning of the words, but instead look at their shape. Do they look balanced and attractive, or harsh and jarring? Can you see anything in the shapes of how the letters combine that should be avoided? Think about the cute little pictograms created with text in emails and text messages. Are there any hidden messages that should be avoided (or perhaps embraced)?
Finally, in choosing your name, don’t be trendy. What is current right now will seem tacky and dated in five years, and your name should be good for decades.
Hopefully this will give you enough of a head start to make naming or renaming your vacation rental as painless as it possibly can be. Remember that a great name is a very important business asset. It doesn’t come cheaply (the price is hard work), and needs to be protected. Although it is hard to measure, there is little doubt in that the effort you put into coming up with a great name will be rewarded in bookings and future success.