“What am I passionate about? What am I already doing or good at that I can turn into an experience? How can I take something I love and share it with more people?”
These were just some of the questions that were floating through my head as I browsed through dozens of Airbnb Experiences. Could I actually start my own experience? The more I read about other hosts from around the world, the more I grew confident in getting my own idea off the ground. I decided I wanted to host an experience centered around the food in my hometown––I wanted to share what the local food culture meant to me.
I was born and raised in the southern part of San Diego where there is a rich vibrant Mexican-American culture, a community that tends to be overlooked by typical tourist activities. I decided I could use my experience to share my roots, my love for my neighborhood’s local food culture, as well as create a platform for conversation about issues like gentrification. Food is universal and it is something that unites us.
Unknowingly, I began to slowly build my brand. I’m not talking about logos, colors schemes, or marketing materials—all of that came months later. My ‘brand’ started with what I wanted my experience to evoke in people: I wanted to create something memorable. My experience could give us a place where we can all start talking to each other––and maybe even better understanding each other––over some tacos. This greater mission is where a great brand starts, and it’s what ultimately ignites the rest of the creative process of building a brand.
Many of us on this hosting journey are passionate individuals, and we genuinely want to share more of what we love and who we are with the world. In order to launch your brand, there are initial key steps that can start you off in the right direction. Here are five that helped me build my own brand and attract guests.
1. Craft your own experience story
A good brand has a clear focus and highlights its purpose in many different ways. Telling the story about who you are or why you are doing this experience is just one way to connect with your audience. Think about what you are trying to achieve and what you want people to take away when it’s over. What do you want guests to feel after taking your experience? Thinking of the reasons why you are hosting this experience can spark focus and a potential mission statement for your brand; e.g. a sailing experience, “Board as a Passenger, Depart as a Cruiser.”
2. Let people know about your experience
This one seems obvious, but I was pretty surprised how shy and conservative a lot of the hosts in my city were about getting the news out about their new experience. While it is a little more work, inviting close friends and family via a special invite can really make them feel included and special. Always include a link to your experience page to make it as easy as possible for people to sign up or share.
After reaching out to close friends and family, I reached out to my local network through my social media accounts. I also made a list of contacts that might be genuinely interested in what I was doing, and why I was passionate about it, considering them potential clients.
3. Build brand awareness by staying consistent
As you get your experience off the ground, some people may not know that your experience is something you are trying to do on a consistent basis, whether part-time or full-time. Consider opening up your calendar and remaining as flexible as possible especially as you work out the initial kinks and details. As people take your experience, remember to encourage those 5-star reviews. Like many platforms, Airbnb works on an algorithm, so the more dates you have up and the more 5-star reviews that live on your page, the more your experience will show up at the top of the site.
4. Communicate professionally with your guests
Many great brands are known for having fantastic customer service. We have all come across bad customer service in our lifetime and this can quickly spoil our opinions of a brand or business. Avoid these situations by putting yourself in the shoes of the guest and communicating with them thoughtfully. Here are some ways to do this:
- Try to give the guest helpful information before the experience takes place. The day before the experience, I send a template with details about the location, weather, traffic info, and tips on parking. These messages are a perfect opportunity to show off your professional brand and connect with your guests before you meet up.
- Create templates and outlines to help respond to your guests in a timely fashion. I have several templates saved and ready to use; I have one for thanking people for inquiring about the experience and one with an introduction with a link to my website/Instagram/gallery.
- Once the experience is over, I send a ‘thank you’ message including information about the places we stopped at, and note that if they enjoyed themselves, the biggest compliment is to leave a 5-star review and refer the experience to others.
5. Collaborate with your community
As I started to find my bearings for my experience and brand, I started to think about potential collaborations to get the word out to more audiences. I made sure to have my official branding details together, so I was prepared before reaching out to partners. Some examples of collaborations: find local photographers to help your picture game, find a friend who is a graphic designer to help create a logo/website, or find hosts in your city and become a guest on each other’s experiences to start to get to know them. Try to think outside the box for collaborations too, like working with local businesses to help promote what you’re doing at their store or at an event.
Remember that you don’t have to go about it alone—there are others that have gone before you that can help you on your way. If you haven’t already, join your city’s Experience Hosts Social Group and reach out to your Experience Community Leaders to possibly set up a workshop with a host that is knowledgeable about branding to help you and other hosts. In my experience, working together with others made the journey of branding my experience a lot more fun.
This post was guest written by Dominique Cancio, host of Cultural Food/Beer Crawl Barrio Logan in San Diego, and an Experience Community Leader.