Target Marketing a Niche Business

By James Maguire | Posted August 12, 2004
As the owner of MFW Vacation Rentals, Cheryl Quist needs to reach an almost invisible sliver of the Internet audience: People looking for short-term rentals near the little town of Mendicino, Calif.

Her company manages six rental homes in the Mendicino area. These luxury bungalows -- with names like Chez Baleine where you can "watch the whales from just about any room" -- rent for about $2,500 a week.

To reach potential luxury vacationers, Quist advertises on a couple of vacation portals such as VacationRentals.com. But her main marketing tool consists of buying keywords on the Overture search engine.

"I couldn't run my business without it," she says.

Quist spends $100 a year to advertise on VacationRentals, and her annual Overture expenses run close to $3,000. Still, she feels Overture provides better value.

Thousands of search engines across the Internet include Overture's results with their own, which expands Quist's marketing reach considerably.

The ads for MFW Vacation Rentals appear only when searchers enter select keywords. As a result, searchers qualify themselves as being likely prospects.

"The keywords that people use when searching for vacation rentals let you carefully target your audience," she says. Quist gets about 60- to 70-percent of her leads from Overture.

Two Techniques
Quist tried using Google keywords but found it unsatisfactory. In her view, Google's account management interface is "way clunkier" than Overture's. And she likes Overture's cost management function better than Google's.

With Overture, I can absolutely control my spending", she says. The program lets her bid on her keywords -- which can get pricey and require careful expense controls. "My top keyword started off at about two dollars a click, and now it's up over three dollars," says Quist.

Overture's account management tool lets Quist view the other bids. She usually beats them by a penny, and her goal is to always appear in the top three paid search results.

Quist has learned two techniques for getting the most out of Overture in order to attract only the most qualified leads. First, she chooses keywords that hyper-target her prospective customers -- even "Mendicino lodging" is too broad, Quist says she has found.

Instead, she uses "Mendicino vacation rental." Despite the cost of each click -- she averages about eight clicks a day -- having more qualified leads makes for a better ROI. MFW Vacation drives most of its luxury rental business from Overture listings.

Quist's second key technique involves good advertising copy. Search marketers enter a short description of their products into the Overture results page.

Quist knows she must romance the customer into checking out her company's homes.


MFW Rentals
MFW Vacation drives most of its luxury rental business from Overture listings.

Seasonal Flux
Quist greatly appreciates that she can vary her Overture costs based on seasonal changes. In the summer, of course, she spends more money because more people are vacationing; Thanksgiving is also an expensive ad season.

On the other hand, she stops spending the minute she no longer needs a listing -- thanks to Overture's ability to quickly activate or de-activate keyword campaigns.

"When I'm full-up, I can take my Overture listing offline," says Quist.

But she always goes back online with Overture. "Mendicino is a pretty rural area, and it's difficult to make connections with people looking to come to this area," she says. "The Internet, and particularly this tool from Overture, is phenomenal."

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Adapted from ECommerce-Guide.com, part of internet.com's Small Business Channel.

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