Author Archives | Matt Landau

7 Reasons To Fear The Property Manager?

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 5.52.50 PMOrganic farmers in rural Guatemala have been on a roller coaster ride for the last 15 years.

They started off below poverty levels.

But when the organic food craze began to take hold, the farmers began successfully selling their organic produce to supermarket chains around the world.

Pretty much every farmer that cultivated organic fruits and vegetables (especially cacao and coffee) could sell it at a premium to these supermarkets and as a result, they all did very well for themselves.

It was good to be a small farmer in Guatemala during this period.

But amidst this boom, the megastore chains – popular with consumers for low prices, variety, convenience – started demanding a more consistent supply without any ups and downs…

And that’s what the mom and pop farmers lacked.

They lacked the expertise (and money) to invest in modern greenhouses, drip irrigation, and pest control that would have helped them feed the growing demand.

The rural farmers simply didn’t have the capacity.

And as time went on, the small farmers’ weak attempts to sell to major supermarkets demonstrated how the odds were increasingly stacked against them.

In the end, most small farmers in the region got left behind (back to poverty), whereas the medium-sized and larger growers (the ones with more money and marketing panache) went on to benefit immensely.

 

Times Are Good For Vacation Rental Owners

 

The vacation rental industry has been good to owners over the past few years:

> Owners have hotel lobbyists shaking in their boots [AirBnB].

> Owners have travel trends shifting in their favor [TripAdvisor].

> Owners are bringing in $56,000 in annual rental income using one inexpensive advertising means alone [HomeAway].

But there’s another player lurking in the shadows of the vacation rental industry that benefits from all these dynamics too…

In fact, this player is not only benefitting…

It is leveraging the momentum in a far bigger scope and with much bigger ramifications than a single or multiple-property owner could ever imagine.

You guessed it: that lurking monster is the property manager.

 

7 Reasons To Fear The Property Manager

 

Below are my 7 concerns why vacation rental owners may be like the small organic farmers of Guatemala, and why their property manager counterparts could represent the larger growers poised to truly benefit from — and in some cases sink their competitors during — these fruitful times:

 

1. Property Managers Scale, Quick

 

Whereas success as a vacation rental owner may likely plateau at full occupancy, the property manager’s business is scalable.

Instead of the complexities of buying real estate and getting mortgages, property managers merely form relationships: they acquire clients.

Once the infrastructure is in place, adding properties by the handful is the name of the game in property management. PMs are rewarded by listing sites with bulk discounts (the more listings they buy, the cheaper each one gets).

Every owner knows the feeling when her listing category has been inundated with PM listings.

As it relates to sheer supply, this volume should be a very real concern for owners.

 

2. Property Managers Are Professional

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 6.28.48 AMMost owners have other (“real”) jobs, whereas most property managers do this for a living.

I like to point at the simple litmus test of a business card as it represents the formality of having a business. 7 out of 10 owners I come across do not have business cards representing their vacation rental. 9 out of 10 property managers do.

In fact, property managers tend to be more business-like in all facets of their business than their owner counterparts:

From providing official receipts to using CRM systems to following proper email etiquette, property managers run businesses, whereas too many times owners are running lemonade stands.

 

3. Property Managers See Increased Return On Marketing Investments

 

When an owner receives an inquiry she cannot accommodate, she is forced to send it to a friend or worse, ignore it completely.

My buddy Jon Murray over at MyVR.com pointed to this as a major strength of property managers:

“They have the potential to convert each inquiry across their network of properties.”

Considering their ability to shuffle bookings and offer a greater variety of similar (or different) alternatives, Jon says, “property managers can likely achieve a much higher conversion rate on any given marketing spend.”

 

4. Property Managers Have Low Overhead

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-17 at 6.30.01 AMImagine an owner managing his or her vacation rental without a looming mortgage to think about, and you’ve imagined a property manager.

All that really constitutes a property management company is someone caring for the financial and physical well being of multiple properties.

This represents relatively little risk.

With such low overhead, property management agencies can pop up over night (and they are!). They can grow at record speeds. They can undercut you in price. And they can do so with relatively few obstacles.

 

5. Property Managers Have Bigger Marketing Budgets

 

In much the same way that it’s nearly impossible to compete with the marketing budget of the nearby chain hotel, an owner’s marketing strength typically pails in comparison to that of property managers.

This means PMs can spend more money, get more exposure, and potentially eclipse any given individual owner’s brand. Simply with brute force.

Kirby Winfield over at Dwellable believes that this brute force can be a game-changer particularly when responding to inquiries:

“Small managers and homeowners lose out on thousands of bookings a month from our app because they simply do not respond quickly enough,” he said.

“The big property management firms jump on new leads immediately, drive them to call centers and book them at high rates. Many times, owners and small shops just can’t get on the ball in time.”

 

6. The Best Property Managers Act Just Like Owners

 

A 2013 survey I conducted showed that 67% of vacation rental travelers prefer an on-site property manager to a perfectly accessible owner.

This is a startling percentage.

And it’s even more startling if you consider that the remaining 33% of folks who cited reasons like trust, responsiveness, and proximity (as the reason they preferred dealing directly with the owner) could probably be persuaded by an excellent manager who is super trustworthy, responsive, and close by.

Owners should fear property managers who transcend traditional service barriers and act on behalf of the owner themselves. These PMs, I believe, have cornered the best of both worlds.

 

7. Property Managers Fill A Niche

 

As much as owners may hate property managers, there’s no ignoring that PMs actually fill a tremendous niche in the vacation rental world.

Andrew over at VacationFutures helped me articulate just why that niche is so darn good…

“Most vacation rental owners work difficult, time consuming, and high paying jobs (that is how they afforded the second home).  And as a result, their time is valuable, and they do not have as much time to put to renting out the home.”

“This can lead to them taking time away from things they should otherwise be doing (like spending time with their family) or cause them to not put enough time into managing the property to get the most from it.”

“These people are ideally suited to have a professional property manager handle that workload.”

 

So, What’s A Helpless Vacation Rental Owner To Do?

 

I wouldn’t be your “fearless vacation rental leader” if I didn’t have some ideas up my sleeve as to how owners can combat (or maybe learn to co-habitate with) the force that is property managers.

There ARE ways that you can leverage your position as owner and make tons of money!

Referring back to the case of the Guatemalan farmers, plenty of development experts invented ideas to give them a fighting chance:

> Enforcement of laws meant to curtail monopolies and oligopolies (including mergers of major supermarket chains)

> Improved security and cleanliness at small-time farmer open-air markets

> Infusions of government credit and technical expertise

Heck, they even created their own association of small farmers led by a shrewd and enterprising businessman to represent their cause.

 

Solutions: 5 Ways To Combat Property Managers In Your Region

 

But we’re not going to rely on others. Below are my 5 beliefs that give owners the best and most realistic chance possible to succeed, regardless of what the property manager is doing down the road (if you have any additional ideas or feelings about this theme, please share them in the comments section below):

To conclude (and I appreciate you reading all the way to the bottom):

As you can see from my 5 solutions, the rise of property managers is not the end-all be-all.

But PMs do provide a very healthy and challenging form of competition.

In my opinion, PMs will be just the influence needed to sink only the owners who are not on their game…to filter out those who are not professional or serious or both.

The other owners — those who are aware of all these dynamics and who actively aim to optimize their marketing work — can feasibly carve out their own successful and profitable little niche…whatever or wherever that may be.

What do  you think?

Posted in Property Management0 Comments

What To Do When A Guest Says “Yes”

This post is all about managing the expectations curve of vacation rental guests, because most owners focus on marketing before (NOT after) the booking. Reading time: approx. 3 minutes

Vacation Rental Guest Expectations

About two years ago, I took my girlfriend to a secret new upscale beach hotel for her birthday.

The price per night of this exclusive hotel was…more than I’m comfortable revealing publicly…so I assumed that every component of the visit (including communication) would be first-class.

But the trip got off to an iffy start when we drove through a very rough neighborhood where some dude tried to open the trunk of my car.

It got worse when the actual road to the hotel was gone, so I had to maneuver my small SUV through the rubble like the Mars Rover.

Already, we had been driving 3 hours (and here I was thinking it was 45 minutes away).

The trip’s negativity climaxed (almost like a movie at this point) when we arrived in the little port town and witnessed an old man shooting a dog at point blank range.

This was not a charming birthday present.

But thankfully, we parked, took the boat, and from the moment we arrived at the hotel itself, we were able to finally relax, drink passion fruit mojitos, and zone out everything from the dubious car ride.

(Except for the dog. That image still haunts my dreams to this day.)

 

Do Your Guests Know Exactly What To Expect?

 

Screen Shot 2014-04-14 at 12.03.31 PMMany of us do a tremendous job of generating bookings.

But once a booking is completed — once the guest says “YES” — we mistakenly think our marketing ends there.

It doesn’t.

In fact, once the booking is completed, our marketing must go into overdrive to please and retain loyal guests.

I would wager that if the owner of this amazing little hotel had provided instructions about how to arrive, perhaps provided a bit of history about the region, and the potential “sights” we might encounter, then my girlfriend and I would have been far less annoyed.

After all, the same occurrences would have taken place either way, so it’s really just a matter of expectations.

If we had known what to expect, we would’ve been (more) prepared.

But as things were, in the dark, we arrived very ruffled.

 

Share Both The Good & The Bad

 

The absolute worst thing you can do as a vacation rental professional is try to hide (or conveniently leave out) anything negative about your property.

Chances are some components of the vacation rental experience you offer – be it the loud parakeet next door, a nearby nightclub that tends to rage on the weekends, inclement weather at any given time of year – are less than exciting.

This is normal: no rental is perfect.

And so learning to share these expectations (both the good AND the bad) is a fine skill to add to your marketing repertoire.

 

Utilizing The “What To Expect Next” Email

 

The “What To Expect Next” email that I use at my rentals is exactly what it sounds like…

It’s an email we send out to all our guests after they say “Yes” and book: designed to communicate precisely what they should expect from their experience with us.

It’s also very clearly paraphrased in all of my email correspondence.

If a guest doesn’t like any of it, they are more than welcome to make a fully refunded cancellation.

Apart from the relevant logistics like “who will let you in” and “how to let us coordinate tours during your stay” the remainder of my “What To Expect Next” message is filled with information like:

> Secrets for avoiding the long immigration lines at Tocumen Airport

> The annoying taxi driver hawks at the airport (and how to arrive like a local)

> The history behind the severe socio-economic diversity upon entering Panama City (there are slums up against luxury high-rise buildings)

> The dramatic tides in the Bay of Panama

> Why our neighborhood of Casco Viejo looks more intimidating than it actually is…etc.

> That famous article: 7 Reasons Casco Viejo Is NOT For You

 

How To Compile Your “What To Expect Next” List

 

In my humble opinion, a solid “What To Expect Next” email is composed of the following three parts:

1) Sights and Sounds: The way I created mine was by listing every negative comment I’d ever received from guests, adding those to every curiosity that I always wondered myself, then explaining them each in one paragraph or less.

2) Recommended Reading: I chose to recommend books like A Path Between The Seas and blogs like The Panama Report as “homework” or required reading prior to arrival (guests love required reading).

3) Logistics: If there are payments or deposits required, be sure to list these in your “What To Expect Next” email. For me, I just say, “you can now expect to hear from our Super Concierge, Ivana to help coordinate your arrival.” Besides just setting the right expectations, this last part also includes our various policies so that no miscommunications take place.

Forget to include “What To Expect Next” in your marketing and you risk an unexpected guest experience, sub-par reviews, and one-time (as opposed to repeat) guests.

Image Credit: http://aubenoire.files.wordpress.com/2011/05/no-expectations2.jpg

Posted in Email Marketing, Guest Interaction18 Comments

The ONLY Way To Find Out PRECISELY What Vacation Rental Guests REALLY Want

customer insights vacation rentalIf you have ever dreamed of having x-ray vision into your potential guest’s thought process, this post is for you.

Below I share the process that I use to:

> Find precisely what travelers are looking for in a rental in my destination

> Learn the exact terminology they use when describing my rental

> Then turn the tables and “speak their language” as the foundation for my marketing approach

OK before we begin, here’s something personal about me that not many people know:

I have severe allergies to milk and eggs.

And from 32 years of experience, I can tell you that someone selling allergy medication to me will never quite know what it feels like to have their throat seize shut or have their face swell up UNLESS they have experienced it before.

They may know, medically, how to describe it.

But they will never know that my throat feels like, say, a Brillo pad has been lodged inside.

Or that my face feels like it’s a massive water balloon about to explode! (Yuck)

These are very unique (and annoying) experiences.

And since not everyone selling allergy medication HAS allergies themselves, the companies typically use focus groups of allergic folks (like me) for market research…

 

Focus Groups Are NOT New To Marketing

 

But until only recently, they were pretty much reserved for big companies with massive budgets.

So, taking a page out of their book, I wanted to share with you a technique that costs nothing and has given me what feels like a superhuman corporate ability to peer into the minds of my vacation rental guests and understand their needs and preferences.

Of course, once I’m inside the head of my guests, I can serve them up exactly what they want.

 

“To The Worm In The Horseradish…”

 

One of my favorite Yiddish proverbs goes like this:

“To the worm in the horseradish, the world is horseradish.”

It can be interpreted to mean that when you are so enveloped in your rental (your horseradish) on a day-to-day basis, you lose perspective on the rest of the world.

Most owners and managers (including myself) suffer from this:

We are so engaged and enamored with our properties that we often lose sight of how outside travelers (strangers) might view us.

Understanding that it’s not OUR OWN views that sell the property but rather THOSE OF OUR GUESTS, is the first step in the process.

Now that we have that clear, let’s move on…

 

Ask, Don’t Tell

 

It’s practically impossible to know what guests like without asking them.

And typically that focus group model of soliciting advice is prohibitively expensive.

[Although I Came Pretty Darn Close Using Zipinion]

But my process focuses on past guests (guests who have already stayed and who appreciate your rental experience)…

And it presents them with a survey of 4 simple questions using Survey Monkey (the easiest free survey service online).

When you see the results of this survey, your mind will be blown.

Even owners who’ve been operating for 10 years are amazed by the results of this exercise.

It will provide you with not just the direction in which to aim your marketing…

It will provide you with the exact verbiage (think copy/paste) to use on your listing, website, emails…etc.

Guests will read your words and magically be drawn to your rental: simply because you read their mind!

 

Creating The Guest Insights Survey (Estimated time: 5 minutes)

 

1. Sign up: Visit SurveyMonkey.com and create a free ‘Basic’ account (this takes about 1 minute)

2. Create survey: Click the green +Create Survey button in the upper right screen

3. Add questions: if you choose, you can add the following four questions that I’ve determined – after years of use – work best to glean insight. For the Question Type, select ‘Comment/Essay Box’ (this takes about 2 minutes)

- Why did you choose our rental and not another one down the road?
- What was the best part of your rental experience?
- If you were to recommend us to friends & family, what would you say?
- What was the biggest surprise about your stay?

4. Check your work: Select “Preview Survey” to make sure everything looks good

5. Publish and share: Select “Send” to get the survey link to be shared with guests


Getting People To Fill Out The Survey

 

When it comes to the concept of guest insights, Tweet: I believe VR owners should focus not on “BIG DATA” as you’ll hear so often. But rather on “SMART DATA.”

Obviously, the bigger the sample size (in other words, the more guests you can get to complete the survey), the better.

But having (a) honed in on the right target group and (b) asked the most perfectly insight-filled questions…

EVERY SINGLE RESPONSE MATTERS!

That means even just five responses would be a world of insight!

Try sending the survey request to your past guest list.

Ask guests to fill out the survey while still at your property.

Maybe even promote a small discount or special offer for guests that fill out the survey.

When you do this even just a small handful of times, you get a secret road map to your customer’s thought process.

 

Utilizing The Intel To Your Advantage  

 

Everyday my subscribers need to be asking themselves ‘What can we do differently than our competition rentals down the street?’

I can GUARANTEE that 95% of your competitors are not doing this kind of research.

So once you’ve got a good set of responses, sit down and pick out the star points:

In other words, the comments or the phrases that are repeated the most often.

In my case, here are a few golden nuggets that I gleaned (along with my actions to implementation):

Example #1: My guests referred to our condos as “villas” quite often. Corresponding Action #1: Use the word “villas” in my marketing verbiage.

Example #2: A bunch of guests said, “We weren’t sure about the security of Casco Viejo, but after staying with you we realized it’s super safe.” Corresponding Action #2: Describe the safety of Casco Viejo (in my marketing) using statistics, testimonials…etc.

Example #3: A handful of guests said, “Our favorite was the ice cream shop downstairs.” Corresponding Action #3: Offer guests coupons for 1 free “world famous” ice cream upon arrival.

You get the idea.

This is all stuff that I never really had known prior, even though I had been operating for so many years.

I was the worm in the horseradish.

And I had yet to truly gaze into the world outside.

Posted in Feedback, Guest Interaction33 Comments

Calling All Facebook Users

Vacation Rental Facebook MarketingSo I have to admit…

I’ve fallen for one particular owner’s Facebook marketing.

So much so that I booked a visit to his property and I’m right now sitting on the deck of an oceanfront terrace writing this post.

###

Now, if you follow my work regularly you know that I rarely discuss Facebook.

That I barely log into my Facebook more than once or twice a week.

That I don’t get excited about Fans or Shares or Pokes or any of that…nomenclature.

Why?

Primarily because as the owner of a small business, I’d gradually come to the conclusion that my very limited time available for generating bookings was not best spent on the Facebook [You can read my summary post here].

Sure it may be good for engagement or keeping in touch with previous guests…

But generating new bookings?

Never really had any success in my years of testing and prodding.

But I have been proven wrong!

 

The Owner & His Strategy

 

Vacation Rental Facebook MarketingThe owner to applaud is Ben Loomis (originally from Chicago) who promotes his project in Panama called Isla Palenque Resort & Vacation Homes with the following Facebook Page:

https://www.facebook.com/IslaPalenque

So what has Ben done that has me so impressed?

Besides successfully building an ultra high-end fleet of homes in the middle of nowhere Panama with very limited Spanish…

Ben launched the “Island Problems” FB series in which he intermittently posts things that “only a whiny island guy” would say…

Things like “Island Problem #27: I wanted to take a picture of the sunset over the ocean, but flocks of birds kept getting in the way.”

And “Island Problem #8: High tide is at six today so I have to make my bonfire to grill the fish I caught under palm trees and not on the open beach.”

Here are a few more examples:

Look at the activity he is getting on these posts!!!

Friends sharing them with other friends is such an amazing way to get your brand established.

So to investigate a little further…Ben told me his Facebook approach is two-fold:

 

1) Crafting The Facebook Post

 

Ben chooses a great photo (“sunset photos as well as photos of cocktails work best”) and gives them a great caption (“the wittier the better.”)

Since they all have the theme “Island Problems” he tends to come up with them simply sitting around or going about his daily routine.

Ben said he spends a total of about 10 minutes per week actually doing the posts.

 

2) Pay For Exposure

 

He boosts the post using Facebook’s paid advertising platform to have it appear in the Facebook feed of all Isla Palenque’s friends and friends of friends. Ben does this to encourage shares, because he believes that “friends word of mouth is much more compelling than just random Likes.”

Seeing as though if he did not pay to boost the post, it would only be seen by his existing fans, Ben spends $5-$10 per post and says that it gets him around 3,000 views as opposed to the 500 the post would normally get otherwise.

 

The Results

 

So, you know that I typically shun FB marketing because it doesn’t result transparently in bookings…

But Ben actually says, “that’s not the point.”

Ben does the post series to build a tribe.

To get his fans and former guests to share the story and beauty that is Isla Palenque (trust me, this place is world class awesome) with their inner circles.

Most likely, no one will see a post and make a booking on the spot.

(For instance, I didn’t do that.)

But rather, Ben says he does this “for the long play.”

To build trust and front-of-mind referrals (“and at a $200 investment plus less than an hour per month, it’s relatively low risk”).

He does this so that when someone like ME is thinking about a vacation to the most spectacular island, guess who they’ll call?

 

Time For Action: Follow Ben’s Advice In 6 Simple Steps

So, loyal readers: who wants to get creative?

I would love to see unique ideas for your own “Island Problems” marketing series in the comments section below…

Whoever has the best sounding series gets a free copy of my ultra limited distribution eBook: Trailblazing.

Posted in Owners, PR, Tools22 Comments

Vacation Rental Marketing Makeover Session 1.4: Amateur vs. Professional Photos

If you haven’t heard, I am working to totally makeover one lucky vacation rental owner’s marketing portfolio live (and step-by-step) for my subscribers to follow. You can read all the prior posts here.

Professional vacation rental photographsWhat is the most impactful thing that ANY vacation rental owner or manager can do to increase their bookings?

Get professional photos.

And in this post, you’re about to see precisely why.

A vacation rental business needs pro photos the same way a lawyer needs a suit

You’re just not serious without them.

This unequivocal bit of advice has been in my repertoire since the very first article I ever wrote.

Perhaps you’ve put the chore of professional photos off for too long?

Maybe you think you don’t have enough money to hire a good photographer?

It’s even possible that you believe your current amateur photos are good enough to get by?

 

4 Reasons Every Owner/Manager MUST Have Professional Photos

 

In case you need reminders on why professional photos are absolutely positively necessary in vacation rental marketing, here are some bullet points:

> Pro photos speak a thousand words: since they are the most influential factor in soliciting inquiries and THE main differentiator between you and your rental competition, allocate your time and money in securing them wisely

> Pro photos create the first impression: good ones can hook a guest immediately with “WOW Factor” while amateur photos say “we are unprofessional” or “we take shortcuts” or “we skimp on things”

> Pro photos are an investment, not a cost: they will pay for themselves year upon year

> Pro photos are EASY: unlike much of the stuff I discuss on this blog, hiring a professional photographer is as easy as a phone call (no extra work involved!)

 

Proof That Professional Photos Work

 

If you want proof that making the investment in professional photos is worthwhile, here are three supremely compelling research studies:

> Pro Photos Increased Bookings By $8,000 In One Week

> 78% Of Travelers Prefer Professional Photos To Amateur Ones

> Professional Vacation Rental Photos Result In “HUGE” Profits For Debbie In Scottland

> $200 Pro Vacation Rental Photos Makes Massive Change

 

How To Find The Right Vacation Rental Photographer

 

So you’ve accepted the fact that you need professional photos, but don’t know where to start?

Simple geography makes recommending ONE singular vacation rental photographer to all of you impractical…

However if you don’t have any contacts or recommendations, any owner or manager can conduct a simple Google search for “[Your city] architectural photographer” like I did…

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 12.17.45 PMMy search for Amy’s makeover brought me to this database of Las Vegas architectural photographers.

I looked at a bunch of the work and settled on Cameron Carothers whose website showed some pretty amazing work at a reasonable price (the investment cost us $1500, roughly the rate of 3 nights booked at Amy’s rental):

Website: Carothers Photo

After chatting with him on the phone, Cameron expressed an interest in expanding his business more into vacation rentals (if you’re in the Las Vegas region, contact him for sure).

From there, it was just a matter of scheduling to get Cameron in there when Amy didn’t have guests!!!

Next, Cameron put in about a 2-week turnaround on the photos and BOOM, we’re live on Amy’s VRBO page.

The result on day #1?

“4 Inquiries Today!!!” Amy wrote to me. “No booking yet. But HECK, it is active!!!”

 

Examples: Before & After Professional Vacation Rental Photos

 

This is very exciting: to watch Amy’s property marketing really come together.

As you can see from this cool little interactive slider tool below (best not viewed from mobile device), there is quite a difference here between amateur and professional vacation rental photos:

  • Before-Backyard
    After-Backyard
    Before Backyard After
  • Before-Kitchen
    After-Kitchen
    Before Kitchen After
  • Before-Living room
    After-Living room
    Before Living room After
  • Before-Trellece
    After-Trellece
    Before Trellece After
  • Before-Master bathroom
    After-Master bathroom
    Before Master bathroom After
  • Before-Master bedroom
    After-Master bedroom
    Before Master bedroom After
  • Before-Den
    After-Den
    Before Den After
  • Before-Bedroom
    After-Bedroom
    Before Bedroom After
  • Before-Front
    After-Front
    Before Front After

And beyond just the before and after photos, check out these ‘money shots’ that Cameron took, which we will be using in all of Amy’s marketing from here on out (Hello Architectural Digest!!!).

Considering the first booking Amy generates with her new fancy pics will make that investment back, the rest is smooth sailin…

front ext dusk webfront door webdining room webrear overall dusk web_1

 

Posted in Makeover Series, Photography51 Comments

Information Sells!!! 20 Booking-Boosting Articles EVERY Owner Must Have On Their Desktop

Screen Shot 2014-03-24 at 3.48.59 PMDo you wish you owned a portfolio of hand-written articles that were so perfectly targeted and thoughtful and authoritative that their mere presence actually helped convert inquiries into bookings?

If done properly, you could post them on your blog (if you don’t have a blog, create one in under 5 minutes)…

You could use them as canned messages in correspondence….

Even promote them on travel forums and local blogs, seeing travelers drawn to your expertise (and your rental)?

 

Information Sells

 

It’s proven that owners with good travel advice generate more bookings.

In fact, it was only about a year ago that I sorta invented The Insider’s Guide (now sold out) only to watch HomeAway and a few other experts launch their own version of it a few months later.

You can see proof of this tactic working (in blog form) with my amazing subscriber Lianna Mills’ in Austin, Texas.

Wanna be even more impressed? Check out the new fascinating partnership with LinkedIn and Delta airlines below that embraces the idea of sharing information…

So what is stopping you from allowing your expertise to seal more bookings?

 

Typical Concerns

 

When I tell most owners or managers that they need some kind of information to share, they get nervous:

-       I don’t have creative writing skills

-       I don’t have enough interesting info to talk about

-       I don’t have all day to be sitting at my desk and writing

These are all acceptable and common excuses that I hear day in, day out.

But fortunately, I have a solution that ANY owner or manager can utilize.

 

4 Steps To Assembling FAQ Articles That Boost Bookings

 

If you want to supply your prospective and confirmed guests with amazing content that will make them go, “Wow, this owner really knows her stuff! I’m gonna stay at her rental!” Well then here’s what you do:

1. Use your experience: Sit down with your family and write out the 20 most frequently asked guest questions about your area/region

2. Start to do one per day: Each day, pick one question and answer it elaborately using 200-400 words. Think of it like a little challenge to answer each question completely, not forgetting any minute details

3. Make it memorable: Give each piece a catchy title (if you need help, use the Portent Idea Generator)

4. Be consistent: Continue until you have completed all 20 FAQs

 

Examples

 

So to give you a few examples, the question, “What restaurants can you recommend near Bermuda Springs?” turns into 9 Insanely Good (And Cheap) Restaurants In Bermuda Springs.

The question, “What activities do you recommend for our vacation?” turns into Warning: You’re Missing Out By Skipping These 6 Secret Bermuda Springs Sights.

The question, “What’s the best mode of transportation around Bermuda Springs?” becomes How To Get Around Bermuda Springs (Without Looking Like A Tourist).

You get the idea.

For reference, here are some examples from my own rentals blog…

> The Anti Tourist: Eating & Drinking Like A Local In Casco Viejo

> 9 Rules About Minimarts In Casco Viejo

> Panama’s Most Authentic Workout (And It’s Here In Casco Viejo)

 

Why Is This FAQ Process So Powerful?

 

A recent hotel marketing report revealed there is a clear opportunity for travel businesses to boost conversion rates by delivering customer experiences that are underpinned by data driven insights.

Using guest FAQs as a blueprint for your content is something that EVERY owner or manager can do…

Because you already know precisely what potential guests are asking (you don’t have to think too hard when compiling this list)…

You already know the absolute best answers (you probably answer them in emails every day)…

As a successful VR professional, you have a wealth of knowledge sitting untapped in your brain just desperate to come out and be leveraged in your favor.

All you need to do is sit down and put it on paper, almost as if you were writing a comprehensive email response!

Posted in Blog, Guest Interaction, Vacation Rental Marketing36 Comments

“Ask Matt Anything” Question & Answer Session: Part II

Albert Einstein once said that ______ is the most powerful force in the universe.

Can you guess what it is?

The answer was compound interest.

And today, I am about to show you why compound interest not only saves lives, but also generates vacation rental bookings!

Many of you have followed my foundation in Panama, Esperanza Social Ventures Club.

It aims to first intervene and then reintegrate young men of conflict (commonly known as gangs) in my tiny neighborhood of Casco Viejo.

And it was only several months ago that we began our second phase with a gang known (formerly) as Ciudad de Dios.

Here’s what they looked like on that first retreat to the countryside…

Captura de pantalla 2014-02-02 a la(s) 11.17.59

These retreats serve as an amazing way to take the boys out of their element and open up…

It was incredible that most of them had never had that level of quiet before (considering their entire lives are spent in the busy city).

Most of them had never seen that level of pure darkness.

But from that point on, our methodology consists of a 10-week intensive program led by six specialists (psychologist, psychiatrist, sociologist, art instructor, business coach, and community connector).

And after a difficult yet supremely successful 10 weeks, yesterday was our graduation!

We graduated 10 of the original 20 (or so) below…

IMG_7867Which for us is still a great success percentage.

But the point is, these amazing 10 boys have completely transformed

And at the end, I attribute it to one fundamental concept: compound interest.

The process of learning a little bit each day and building momentum on their mission to change our community’s perception.

So in honor of yesterday (in which the boys’ words and actions shook a large convention room full of business owners and community leaders) I wanted to do something nice again…

From the last Question & Answer Session, you all know that MANY people email me daily with questions about their particular vacation rental.

And of course, I’m not able to answer most of them due to sheer volume.

And while I do personally answer every single email from anyone has purchased The Vault, I wanted to honor the idea of “compound interest” by offering up my free advice to anyone who wants it for a limited period of time (24 hours).

That means that you can ask me any (one) question you want (relevant to vacation rental marketing) below using the comments section and I’ll respond with my best advice possible as soon as possible.

I’m hoping that this inspires a few new subscribers into embracing all the amazing information on my blog as well as revealing many of the questions or concerns out there that my subscribers share.

Sorry, this Q&A Session has ended. Please subscribe (using the orange box up and to the right) to be informed of any in the future!

Posted in Case Studies, Feedback, Opinion95 Comments

Studies Find Short-Term Rentals Bring Enormous Economic Benefits to Chicago, St. Joseph, Michigan

Last week I received an email from Tim Doyle, who heads up the Short Term Rental Advocacy Center and who I met and had dinner with in Scottsdale…

Tim was about to release the results from a massive study (below) and he was kind enough to give my subscribers access first. What you see below is Tim’s press release with some pretty compelling stats… 

Screen Shot 2014-03-13 at 7.07.42 AM

Last year, short-term rentals in Chicago generated $108 million in overall economic activity and created 920 jobs; $24 million in overall economic activity and 300 jobs in St. Joseph

March 13 – In the Lake Michigan hamlet of St. Joseph, Mich. and Chicago—America’s third largest city—residents and local tourism economies are enjoying the enormous economic benefits of short-term rentals, according to two economic studies commissioned by the Short Term Rental Advocacy Center (STRAC).

In Chicago, short-term rentals generated $108 million in overall economic activity in 2013 with $70.6 million of that activity attributable to visitor spending on short-term rentals and related on food, recreation, transportation and other expenses, according to the study by TXP Inc. For every $100 a traveler spent on short-term rentals, they spent an additional $69 on food, $24 on transportation, $59 on shopping, and $48 on arts, entertainment and recreational activities.

The study also found short-term rental activity created 920 local jobs, primarily in restaurants and bars and in the arts, entertainment and recreation sectors. Beyond the $70.6 million in direct and indirect spending on short-term rentals, that activity has a multiplying effect on the local economy in the form of increased wages, which are spent in those local communities.

TXP’s study looked at short-term rental listings of Airbnb, HomeAway and FlipKey in Chicago. Those companies had a combined 171,000 nights booked in Chicago and surrounding Cook County in 2013 across 3,620 properties. While the average visitor stays in Chicago 2.4 nights, short-term renters stayed an average of 4.5 nights and had an average party of 2.5 people. Those figures, coupled with an all-time high hotel revenue and occupancy rate last year, suggest short-term rentals address a different market segment than traditional lodging options.

“Chicago’s hundreds of events, unique attractions, vibrant culture and nightlife attract a range of visitors with diverse interests and budgets,” said Jon Hockenyos, president of TXP and an economist that has conducted dozens and dozens of local economic impact studies. “While the number of short-term rentals pale in comparison to the number of hotel rooms and overall housing stock, short-term rentals provide important variety to visitors and play a key role in the future of Chicago’s future tourism growth.” 

 

St. Joseph

 

While the Lake Michigan destination of St. Joseph, Mich. has a population of just 8,311 compared to the 2.7 million residents of Chicago, its residents are nonetheless enjoying the benefits of short-term rentals.

According to a separate study conducted by TXP, an Austin, Tex.-based economic analysis firm, St. Joseph and the surrounding Berrien County experienced $24 million in overall economic impact from short-term rentals in 2013. Visitor spending on short-term rentals and related activities amounted to $22.2 million and supported 300 jobs. The higher overall economic impact figure reflects the multiplying effect short-term rental spending in the local economy, namely in the form of increased wages.

“Like in Chicago, short-term rentals in St. Joseph provide much needed diversity to visitor housing options and are key to the continued growth of St. Joseph’s tourism economy,” Hockenyos said.

Short Term Rental Advocacy Center member companies—Airbnb, HomeAway and FlipKey—listed in 695 properties on its sites, leading to 18,000 nights booked last year. This data also revealed that the average short-term rental party size was 5.7 people staying an average of 3.3 nights. Those figures, rising hotel occupancy rates and hotel revenue suggest that short-term rentals and traditional lodging sources are not in conflict with one another.

“Tourism is very important to St. Joseph and Southwestern Michigan. Visitors spend money at restaurants and they shop at our local stores thereby strengthening our local economy,” said Torrence Moore, a local homeowner who is part of a local group advocating for fair and reasonable regulations. Last year, the city passed a restrictive measure to forbid new short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods.

“St. Joseph needs to have an adequate number of housing options to meet the demand from families coming to St. Joseph,” Moore added. “Currently there are only two hotels in downtown St. Joseph, and short-term rentals offer a solution. However, we risk losing the strong economic benefits of short-term rentals and families will choose surrounding towns with good, fair and responsible short-term rental policies. We believe there’s a better solution for regulating short-term rentals in St. Joseph.”

The Short Term Rental Advocacy Center commissioned TXP to assess the economic impacts of short-term rentals attributable to STRAC members’ customers (termed “participating short term rentals” in the reports) in St. Joseph, Mich. and Chicago. The reports capture visitors spending on short-term rentals in those markets, as well as related spending and the broader implications on those economies, but not necessarily all short-term rentals.

About the Short Term Rental Advocacy Center (STRAC): STRAC was formed in early 2013 by a coalition of short-term rental marketplace stakeholders, working with local residents and short-term rental providers to share information, establish best practices and advance smart short-term rental regulation that safeguards travelers, alleviates neighborhood concerns and provides a framework for ensuring compliance. With 35 local groups across the country, STRAC is facilitating local advocacy efforts aimed at fair and reasonable regulations benefiting all stakeholders. Learn more and sign up for our monthly newsletter at www.stradvocacy.org.

Posted in PR12 Comments

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