Renewing Our Outlook on How to Promote Owner Resales

By Kelley Ellert 

It’s no secret in this industry that legacy resorts are in a predicament – they are no longer doing high-volume developer sales, but they have a plethora of owner resales and deeded-back inventory sitting around just begging to be sold. A question we constantly ask one another in this industry is “how do we promote and sell that inventory?”

One of the biggest obstacles to overcome when trying to unload this inventory is the product itself. Renowned salesman and motivational speaker/author Zig Ziglar says that “every sales has five basic obstacles: no need, no money, no hurry, no desire, no trust.”

Timeshare resales struggle with all of Ziglar’s sales obstacles.

No Need: most people (especially Americans) view vacations as a non-necessity, luxury item.

No Money: vacations can be pricey, especially committing to paying for them year after year.

No Hurry: thanks to new platforms such as Airbnb people have more vacation accommodation options than ever, this increased supply makes the demand decline and therefore people don’t feel rushed to lock down their vacation plans.

No Desire: while this one is the weakest obstacle for our industry since people do have a desire to travel, they don’t necessarily have a desire to own their vacation property and purchase something.

No Trust: due to a shaky past, the timeshare industry is one of the least trusted so this obstacle is strong when dealing with selling inventory.

So, there’s the problems with selling timeshare. Now how do we overcome those obstacles?

While I know there’s no magical button that I can tell you to push to make all your inventory be sold, as a marketer I can tell you that the resales in this industry are not the most imaginative. In order to sell this inventory, we need to look at it, our industry and our customers differently.

Know Your Audience
There’s a way of thinking called “design-thinking” and while it derives from the way designers think it is now being applied to all industries and centered on the theory that designers don’t just start doing something and hope it works. Designers reverse engineer things by thinking first about WHO a message is for. Their goal is not to make a bunch of money. Their goal is to deliver something that resonates with their customer and if it resonates with a customer in theory the company goal of more sales will follow.

So, we need to not think of marketing resales as “how can I get a sale” instead we need to come from a place of “what will my target audience respond to.” Hint: it’s not the same things they responded to 20 years ago. Sales tactics from pre-internet times will not be as effective as meeting your customers where they are – online.

I recommend anyone who works in sales research their audience. Step back and remember that you work in the travel industry – your customers don’t. Reverse engineer the process by thinking about how travel options would seem if you didn’t work in the industry and traveling was more of a luxury. We get so close to it that we forget to some people don’t get to travel as often as industry insiders.

Knowing what matters to your audience helps you understand what messaging will resonate with them. Google is a powerful tool, search target audience statistics and you’re bound to find some interesting insight to the things that make them respond. Take that information and get creative with how to reach them.

Tell A Story
The most successful marketers have moved away from sales and instead take a storytelling approach to their marketing. What’s more effective: a stagnant ad with a pretty picture and some text saying “Travel to a specific location” or a video SHOWING people swimming, giving testimonials and demonstrating the joy of that location.

Apple is a great example of storytelling to sell a product no one understands. When the Apple Watch came out people were confused – what could they do with this crazy product they had never heard of? So, Apple created a series of ads targeted to audiences that didn’t tell them what the product did – they showed them. Athletes were targeted with ads showing runners tracking their performance. Business people were targeted with ads showing multi-tasking abilities. People suddenly wanted the watch because Apple showed them the possibilities.

In closing here’s some ways to combat Ziglar’s main obstacles:

No Need: my number one resource for combating this one is ProjectTimeOff.com. The U.S. Travel Association created this resource to help spur travel and demonstrate that travel is a necessity. If you haven’t visited the site I highly recommend you do for graphics, stats and more that will help you paint a picture of the need for time off.

No Money: You can’t tell people resales are a more affordable option for traveling. You have to show them. Story-telling with descriptions and statistics is the best way to overcome this obstacle.

No Hurry: utilize special, limited-time offers to create a sense of urgency, but make it a genuine offer that’s truly a good deal and doesn’t make the person feel swindled and unhappy in the end.

No Desire: Paint a picture, create content that builds desire and inspires action. Showcase the benefits in ways that truly illustrate the benefits of this product. Go talk to happy owners and you may discover stories and benefits that have been previously overlooked because no one has asked. Doing surveys and obtaining information is the best way to spur marketing ideas.

No Trust: most people don’t understand WHY timeshare is such a tainted industry. Explain to customers that it is shady resale companies and what those companies do that created the negative reputation. When people understand the root of the negativity they are more capable of seeing the trustworthy side of it.

Kelley Ellert

Kelley Ellert is the Director of Marketing for Defender Resorts, Inc. based out of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. She is a graduate of the Ball State University School of Journalism and has worked in the travel and tourism industry for more than nine years.