Developing a Stellar Social Media Strategy – Part Four: Pinterest

Social Media Series: Part Four

There was a wall in my childhood bedroom filled with photos of the exotic destinations I would someday visit, fashion trends I was meaning to try, and the recipes I would (probably never) make. I called it my “inspiration wall”.

Pinterest is the new-and-improved version of my “inspiration wall”. Not only does it store all of those travel and food photos, it organizes them into categories and provides links to the companies behind the image. So rather than pinning up that glossy photo of the Eiffel Tower on my bedroom wall, Pinterest can help me actually plan my dream Paris vacation.

Think Pinterest Isn’t For You? Think Again.

If you think your vacation rental company has no reason to be on Pinterest, you’re missing out on an untapped market of potential guests! Here are three big reasons you should reconsider Pinterest as part of your overall social strategy:

1. Ideal User Demographics

The segment of people using Pinterest aligns well with the typical person who books vacation rentals. Here’s what we know about Pinterest’s demographics1:

  • More than 150 million people a month use Pinterest.
  • Nearly half of online women use Pinterest.
  • 66% of users make more than $50k per year.
  • More than half of users fall in the 30-54 age bracket.
  • Travel is one of the top 10 categories.
2. Get in front of the undecided traveler

Pinterest Examples

One of the unique things about Pinterest is that it puts your brand in front of potential guests very early in their vacation planning process – possibly before they’ve even decided where they want to go. This opportunity to get in front of the undecided traveler gives you the chance turn your city from a place they’ve maybe never heard of to a bucket-list destination.

3. Pin Now, Travel Later

Picture this: You’re scrolling through Pinterest and come across a gorgeous photo of the lush, green Smoky Mountains. You had no idea Tennessee was so gorgeous in the springtime! So, you pin the picture to your “Must Visit Destinations” board and go on your way. Months later, when you go to plan your spring break trip, you scroll through that Pinterest board, remember how excited you were about heading to Tennessee, click the pin and boom! You’re taken to a vacation rental company’s website to start your travel plans.

Unlike other social media channels, Pinterest content sticks around. In fact, 30% of clicks happen 30 days or more from the time something was pinned.

Setting Yourself Up For Success

If (and when) you’re ready to add Pinterest to your social media mix, be sure to keep these tips in mind as you’re setting up your new account.

Pinterest for Business. You’ll want to set up a Pinterest business account. If you already have a personal account you’d like to use, you can easily convert it into a business account. This will give you access to analytics data, advertising and a few other goodies.

PRO TIP: Look even more professional by adding your logo to all of your pins. You’ll just need to confirm your website by adding some code to the head section of your website. (LiveRez partners can email our Support team to make this happen.) This will also improve your ranking in Pinterest’s search results.

Learn the lingo. Pinterest uses some different terminology than other social channels, but you’ll get the hang of it. Brush up on your Pinterest vocab below:

Pinterest Lingo Explained

Understand the Pinterest algorithm. If you want anyone to see your boards and pins, you’ll need to first understand how Pinterest works. Really, it functions like a search engine. And, just like you would for a search engine, you’ll need to use strong keywords if you want to rank at the top of the results. This article does a great job outlining the best way to utilize keywords to rank at the top of the Pinterest results.

Do some recon. Look at what other vacation rental and travel companies are doing. Note what accounts they repin content from, what types of boards they have and what pins are performing best for them (most likes and comments). This will help you understand what types of images your audience is most likely to respond to.

Start creating new boards. Before you start sending people to your Pinterest account, you’ll want to make sure you have compelling content for them to look at when they arrive. Users will give your page just a quick glance before deciding whether to follow you, so make sure you’re featuring boards with great photos and keyword-rich titles! You want to have enough that users find value, but not so many that you can’t fill them properly. We give you some ideas in the next section.

Fill your boards with relevant, eye-catching pins. Your boards are like a blank inspiration wall, just waiting for some captivating images to be pinned to it. Fill them with a mix of pins you create and repins of other’s relevant content. For example, your “San Diego Beaches” board could contain a mix of pins you create that link to your website’s local area guide and pins that you’ve found in the Pinterest world about restaurants in San Diego.

PRO TIP: Vertical pins tend to perform best, as they take up more space in people’s news feeds. It’s best to use an aspect ration of 2:3 (note that pins must be at least 600 pixels wide).

Pinterest Inspo

So, you’re ready to get started? Let’s get a little inspiration from some companies who are killing it on Pinterest. It’s helpful to do a little recon on companies similar to you (note which accounts they repin content from, what types of boards they have and what pins are performing best for them) to better understand what your audience is most likely to respond to.

Check out some of our favorite vacation-focused Pinterest boards:

WandershareTravel Cheat Sheets
Conde Naste TravelerCharleston Black Book
Cannon Beach Vacation RentalsTravel Necessities
Eastern Shore Vacation RentalsMaryland Eats
Travel ChannelEast Coast Beach Crawl
AllEars.netHolidays at Disney
Seaside Vacations, LLCBeachy Crafts
All Star Vacation HomesThemed Rooms
Wallowa Lake Vacation RentalsWeddings in Wallowa Lake
Tybee Vacation RentalsSavannah Activities

Your Feedback

What did you think? Did we miss an important tip? Have you had success using Pinterest to market your properties, and guest and owner services? Let us know in the comments below.      

Learn More About LiveRez

LiveRez is the most widely used software platform for professional vacation rental managers. The company’s cloud-based, end-to-end platform offers fully integrated solutions for reservation and property management, websites with online bookings, trust accounting, CRM, housekeeping and maintenance, reporting, reviews and more. LiveRez is a proud Gold Sponsor of the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (VRMA).

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

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Developing a Stellar Social Media Strategy – Part Three: Twitter

Social Media Strategy - Twitter

In 2015, a Canadian study determined that humans in the “smartphone” era now have shorter attention spans than goldfish. That’s right, nowadays you get only eight seconds with the average person before they get distracted.

goldfish

Maybe that’s why Twitter is so popular. The speed limit on Twitter is 140 characters. It’s the sports car of social media platforms, and is used by everyone from celebrities to internet trolls to some of the world’s foremost thought leaders (but probably not goldfish; they lack the thumbs for tweeting).   

How much is 140 characters? Not much. So, if you want to master Twitter, you’re going to have to learn to spit out those Tweets (and keep ‘em brief).

In this post, we’ll show you how to master Twitter and leverage it to promote your vacation rental properties.

If you’re a goldfish, high school teenager or busy executive, you can just read the Tweet-sized summaries at the top of each section (i.e. the TL;DR route).

If you’re a bookworm, speed reader or straight up old school homie, you can read the detailed version; it’s approximately 79 tweets long.

Ready to get Twitterpated? Let’s get started. 

twitterpated

Setting up Twitter

“The first step to be successful on Twitter is setting up a Twitter profile.” – via Captain Obvious.

Creating a Twitter profile is pretty simple. Just set up an account, enter in your business info and upload a profile and header photo. We could go through all the steps here, but we think this video does a pretty great job of explaining it:

How Twitter Works

140 characters or less. Tag others with @. Use # to tag topics (and to be clever). Shorten those links. #HowTwitterWorks

There are a few things you’ll need to know about how Twitter works before you start sending tweets out into the Twittersphere.

  • It all starts with your tweets, which need to be 140 characters or less. This means you’ll need to be pretty creative in how you craft your message. Try to get rid of unnecessary pronouns, find shorter synonyms or use abbreviations.
  • Want to tag one of your followers in a post? Use the @ symbol followed by their username.
  • Help other users find your tweets by using hashtags. They’re sort of like labels for your tweets. You can use existing hashtags to join a conversation. Often, events, products or even whole cities will have official hashtags you can use to talk about them (i.e. PartnerConference2017). But, don’t let that hold you back. Creating your own hashtag is a fun way to punctuate your tweets. #WroteThisMyself
  • URLs can be long, and they take up precious characters in your tweet. Never fear! We have a solution for you. Link shortening tools like bit.ly,  goo.gl and Ow.ly will take your super long URL and turn it into a short link that’s just a handful of characters. Most of these tools also have tracking abilities so you can monitor the number of people clicking your fancy shortened link.

Growing Your Following

Follow other people (they follow back), 2. Use hashtags, 3. Interact with others, 4. Advertise #GrowYourFlock

What good are those perfectly crafted tweets if no one sees them? Start building your Twitter following by using these four tried and true methods:

  1. Follow other users. In the Twitter world, it’s pretty common for people to follow you back. Consider following users who interact with your posts, accounts you admire, industry thought leaders, potential customers, competitors, or followers of your competitors. The sky’s the limit.
  2. Using hashtags will help you get your tweets in front of users who may not follow you. Not sure which hashtag to use? There’s a few ways to figure out which one(s) fit best. Check out the trending topics and hashtags on your Twitter dashboard and determine if you can contribute to one of those conversations. You can also use a tool like Hashtagify to search for hashtags trending in your industry.
  3. Be a part of the conversation by interacting with other users. Consider thanking anyone who shares your content, responding to questions people tweet about, or retweeting great content you come across that might fit into your Twitter strategy. Creating connections with other people on Twitter makes it more likely that they’ll follow you and could, in turn, start interacting with your tweets, as well.
  4. Advertise right within Twitter to help grow your following and increase engagement. Like many other online advertising platforms, Twitter allows you to target custom audiences to ensure you’re getting the most qualified new traffic. Learn more on Twitter’s business page.

Twitter Strategery

Establish a schedule. Track. Reuse your best tweets. Leverage hashtags and automation. #TwitterStrategy

So, we’ve started building your audience. Now it’s time to get your message out to the right people and leverage the power of Twitter to amplify it.

The Speed of Social Networks

One of the most important things to understand about Twitter is that it’s a super fast moving network. Think about online marketing as a journey. You’re in your car and you’re driving. As you continue down the road, you see a bunch of billboards on the side of the road. Some of them catch your attention; other don’t. But, a big factor in which signs catch your attention (and which of those messages you remember) is the speed of the car.

Social networks like Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Google+ move at a slower pace. Imagine the car is going like 20 miles per hour and the signs are bigger and farther apart. That’s these networks in a nutshell.

With Twitter, imagine the car is going about 65 miles per hour. The signs are smaller and you have less time to read them. Needless to say, you’re going to miss a lot of the signs and remember less of the messages. So to be successful, you need to amplify the reach and frequency of your messages.

So, while posting once a day (or maybe even 3-5 times a week) is enough on the slower networks, you need to be posting on Twitter multiple times a day. You also need the help of other Twitter users to amplify your message, in the form of retweets, mentions and likes.

But, unless you’re getting out and about (and doing a bunch of interesting things), you probably won’t have the time or the content to post on Twitter multiple times a day.

So how do you get around that? Automation.

Twitter Automation and Tracking  

There are tons of great tools for automating and tracking your social media efforts (and we’re going to be talking about them in an upcoming post in this series). But today we’re going to narrow it down to just our favorite Twitter management tool here at LiveRez, and that’s Buffer.

Buffer is a free tool (with great paid versions) that allows you to queue up and schedule tweets and other social media messages, as well as track the engagement level of those posts. The two big benefits of Buffer are that it can save you time and improve your performance.

With that said, here are a few steps for leveraging Buffer:

  • Create multiple versions of your tweets. These are tweets all on the same topic or sharing the same piece of content. You just need to write multiple variations of them. Change up the wording. Change up the images. Change up the hashtags.
  • Schedule all the different versions of these tweets, and schedule each multiple times. You’ll want to do this for a wide range of tweets, too. This will give you a huge bank of tweets to draw from.
  • Put all these tweets in your Buffer queue. One of the great things about Buffer is you can set up how many times you want to post a day, at which times (Buffer can even pick the best times for you), and then you can just add a huge list of tweets to your bank and Buffer will post them in order, at the pre-determined times. When you’re scheduling multiple posts, this makes life so much easier. Imagine if you had to go and manually set a scheduled time for each post?
  • See what performs and use it again. Buffer will keep track of all the engagement on your posts. You’ll see potential reach, likes, retweets and clicks. You’ll easily be able to identify which versions of which tweets are getting more engagement than others. Now, all you have to do is pick the winners and re-buffer them (you can do that right from the Buffer analytics interface). Now you have a data-driven way to increase your engagement. And, as an added bonus, when you’re armed with this data, you can use Twitter as a testing ground to forecast what content will perform well on some of the slower networks (like Facebook), where you don’t have as many opportunities to post and are limited algorithmically by how frequently you can repost the same content.  
Pro Tip: IFTTT

Advanced users might want to look into a program called IFTT (IF Then Then That). This service hooks in with a number of other online services and lets you automate actions based on conditions (it’s a lot like the email automation and trust accounting automation we have set up in LiveRez).  

IFTTT let’s you create recipes. Here are a two related to Twitter you might want to check out.

1. If you post something to your Facebook page, then post the same thing to Twitter (appended with a link back to the Facebook post). This is a great time saver and the link back to Facebook can help you cross promote your Facebook page.

2. If you publish a new WordPress blog, then post it to your Twitter account. Another great time saver. Just make sure your blog post is really ready before you hit publish.

One of the primary reasons to use Twitter is to promote your content. So, it’s important to have a schedule for promoting that content. With Twitter, a great formula is:

  • Post about your content as soon as it is published.
  • Post about it again later that day.
  • Post about it the following day.
  • Post about once more later in the week.
  • And, then (if the content is more evergreen than time sensitive), you can run it through the Buffer strategy we outline earlier in this section.

A big part of making this strategy work well and take off quicker is understanding what types of tweets perform well. That way you aren’t starting from scratch and learning the hard way.

Content That Performs

To get a head start of writing successful tweets, let’s take a look at a study conducted by Buffer on what elements of posts add to engagement. Here’s what they discovered:

  • Using photos increases retweets by 35%
  • Using videos gives you a 28% boost
  • Using quotes yields a 19% boost
  • Including a number gives you a 17% increase
  • And leveraging hashtags, gives you a 16% boost.

This is some powerful information to have in your back pocket when you are starting to compose different variations of your tweets. But, just remember, the real proof is in the pudding. Make sure you are engaged in a constant process of testing, tracking and refining. That’s the secret sauce that separates top-tier marketers from low-level noise makers.

Your Feedback

What did you think? Did we miss an important tip? Have you had success using Twitter to market your properties, and guest and owner services? Let us know in the comments below.      

Learn More About LiveRez

LiveRez is the most widely used software platform for professional vacation rental managers. The company’s cloud-based, end-to-end platform offers fully integrated solutions for reservation and property management, websites with online bookings, trust accounting, CRM, housekeeping and maintenance, reporting, reviews and more. LiveRez is a proud Gold Sponsor of the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (VRMA).

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

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Please consider “liking” it and sharing it on your social media channels via the buttons below. You can also follow us and get notifications of all new posts via the “Follow” button Follow Us in the bottom right-hand part of the screen.

Developing a Stellar Social Media Strategy – Part One: Facebook

Social Media Strategy: Part One

Managing social media seems so easy… Just post a few times each week and watch the bookings roll in, right? Wrong. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing everything you need to know for your business to develop a stellar new social media strategy. Roll up your sleeves. We’re going to dig deep! We’re kicking things off with part one – all things Facebook. Ready to get started?

Getting Started

The first step to success on Facebook is glaringly obvious: you need to set up a Facebook page. There’s a ton of great information out there on how to do this, so we’ll skip over this part for now.  

One important thing to note about setting up your page is that you’ll want to fill out your page information as completely as possible, including:

  • Name
  • Location
  • Business hours
  • Contact information
  • Company story
  • Cover image
  • Call to action button

Once you get your page set up, let people know it exists! Here are a few tips:

  • Link to your Facebook page from your website.
  • Put a link to your Facebook page in your email signature and in the footer of your marketing emails.
  • Invite your Facebook friends to like your page.
  • Run some Facebook advertising (more on that later).

One common misconception many people have is that you can grow your following by going and liking other company pages, hoping they’ll like your page in return (similar to other social networks like Twitter). The issue here is that when one page likes another page it doesn’t add to the “like” count and what you post goes into a completely different news feed (one that only that page’s admins can see).

To increase your like count, you want to get likes from people, not companies.  And, as vacation rental managers, it’s the people who you really want to reach, because people are the ones making bookings or listing their homes with you.

The Facebook Algorithm

One of the biggest keys to success on Facebook is understanding the algorithm Facebook uses to determine what posts to show which users and in what order. Formerly called EdgeRank, this updated algorithm has evolved to encompass machine learning and now considers close to 100,000 weight factors. However, we still think understanding the principles behind EdgeRank can give you a big advantage on Facebook.

Affinity Weight Time

The EdgeRank algorithm factored in three main categories: Affinity, Weight and Time.

Affinity – This metric measures how frequently you and your network of Facebook friends interact with content from a specific page or person. The most important factor in this is obviously how much you interact with a page. But, it’s said Facebook also takes into consideration how much your friends on Facebook interact with a page (the reasoning is that you’re more likely to be interested in things your friends are also interested in).

Weight – Not all of these interactions with a page carry the same weight. For example, sharing and commenting mean more than  just clicking Like.  Visiting a page, mentioning a page and other actions related to the page are also thought to be watched and factored into the equation. It’s also believed that videos and pictures in posts carry more weight than links.

Time – Since your feed is a “news” feed, it only makes sense to factor time into the equation as well. All things considered, older posts show up less and further down the feed than newer posts.   

Now that you understand some of the basic factors Facebook takes into consideration when including posts in people’s news feeds, let’s discuss a few ways you can use this knowledge to expand your reach on Facebook.

Tips for Getting Better Engagement

Getting better engagement on your posts is a great way to get more visibility. It’s become particularly important for Business Pages, because over the last few years, the organic reach of posts from pages has fallen considerably. Some studies show average organic reach from page posts in the 2 to 3 percent range, with pages with more fans getting more organic reach than pages with fewer fans.

There are a couple prominent theories as to why organic reach has dropped over the last couple of years. One theory is that pages were posting excessively in an effort to market to their followers, which in turn was crowding people’s news feeds. Others argue that with the increased monetization of Facebook, it makes sense for Facebook to give pages less organic reach, because they want pages to pay to “boost” posts to their fans.

Regardless, it’s getting harder and harder to reach your fans on Facebook. However, there are still a number of things you can do to improve your page’s reach and get more engagement on your posts.

Facebook Algorithm

Here are a few tips to get more reach and engagement on your posts.

  • Use Facebook Live Video – Facebook recently added a new feature called Facebook Live, where you can broadcast live video to your audience. This has been a big push for Facebook, and it seems to be rewarding pages that use live video by giving them preference in their fans’ timeline and even notifying their fans when they go live.
  • Use Facebook Video Instead of YouTube – Similar to the reasoning behind using Facebook Live, you can generally expect to be rewarded with more engagement when you use the features Facebook is really pushing. YouTube (owned by Google) is a competitor to Facebook, so they’d much rather see you use their own video service rather than adding a YouTube video link. Plus, Facebook will show live previews of those videos in your fans’ news feeds, making your post more attention grabbing.
  • Share Your Instagram Images – Instead of posting images directly on Facebook, consider mixing it up and sharing an image from your Instagram account. Why? Because Facebook now owns Instagram and wants more people using it. Sharing an Instagram photo on Facebook lets Facebook promote another arm of its company.  
  • Post the Types of Content Your Fans Engage With – If you notice that posts on a certain topic tend to get more engagement, you should try to post more often on that topic. Here at LiveRez, we know that posts with pictures and videos of our team members and our partners get higher engagement than other posts.
  • Try Using More Photos and Video – Photos and videos tend to get more engagement than regular status updates or posts with links.
  • Optimize the Images in Your Link Posts – If you add a link to one of your posts, Facebook will auto-generate a preview with an image (if available). If no image is available you can add a custom image. Either way, you want to ensure the image displays properly by making it the right size and dimension (this social media image size cheat sheet should come in handy). If you don’t have a good photo editor, you can use an online tool like Pablo or Canva.
  • Keep Selling to a Minimum  To be successful on Facebook, you have to realize why people use Facebook. People don’t go on to Facebook looking to a buy a product. They go there to interact with their friends, see news from their favorites sources and connect with the brands they are passionate about. Instead of selling, showcase something related to your product your fans would think is cool. Maybe it’s a video showing the beautiful views you can find on a local hike or a walk-through of home with some unique amenities. The key is to keep interesting and entertaining.
  • Don’t Post Too Much  If you have awesome content to share every single day and your fans are engaging with it, go ahead and post a lot. But, if you’re posting just to post because you think volume wins the game, you should reconsider your strategy. Strive to add value to each of your posts. And if you have a day where you don’t have something great to post, just take the day off.
  • Test on Twitter  If you want to predict how well a post will do on Facebook, post it a few times on Twitter first (assuming it isn’t super time sensitive). You can get away with posting a lot more often on Twitter. And if you get a higher level of engagement on your post (relative to your other Twitter posts), you can make a safe assumption that the post could also do well on Facebook.
  • Interact with Your Fans in the Comments – Interacting with your fans in the comments section is a great way to get more comments and drive more engagement. You can even go as far as tagging people who liked your post in one of that post’s comments thanking them for liking the post (just be careful to not abuse this strategy). Sometimes throwing out a question on Facebook can get you more comments. For example, let’s say you created a new Facebook group that is invite only. You could post about the new group and tell your fans to let you know if they want an invite to the group. Fans will likely comment on the post to let you know. Another great idea is to post a photo and challenge your fans to write a funny caption.

NOTE: One thing you want to avoid is specifically asking your fans to engage with your post in the post itself. In 2014, Facebook started penalizing posts that prompted their friends to like the post, share it or comment on it.  Remember those posts that said something like “Click LIKE if you’re having a good day.” Those went away quickly. Another thing to avoid is posting the same content multiple times close together, as Facebook is curbing reach on similar and duplicate posts.

The main idea here is if you post content that your fans love, Facebook will reward you by showing those posts to more of your fans.

Getting More Page Likes

In order to grow your presence on Facebook, you want to get more page likes. But, you also have to be strategic about how you do it. With the organic reach of pages dropping, it’s important to get good engagement on your posts, and you won’t get as high of engagement from fans that aren’t as targeted. Essentially, not all fans are created equally. A fan that engages is worth more than a fan that never engages (and likely won’t see many of your posts).

With that in mind, here are a few ways to grow your following:

  • Cross Promotion  As we mentioned earlier, you’ll want to make sure you have a link to your Facebook page on your website and in your emails. You also may want to cross promote your Facebook page on other channels, like other social media channels. There are even some services that can automatically take your Facebook posts and post them to your Twitter channel with a link back to your Facebook.
  • Contests  This used to be one of the best ways to grow your following. You could run a promotion on Facebook that was only visible once someone liked your page (they were called “like-gated” contests). Facebook contests still work (we suggest you find a good Facebook app to administer the contest), but just not as well as they used to. Facebook has established some strict rules on running promotions.  In addition, Facebook can manually remove likes from your page if they have reason to believe the likes are fake or were gained through a violation of their terms.
  • Advertising  Over the past few years, this has been the primary way people have consistently grown their page likes. Facebook is becoming more and more of a pay-to-play network. But, the silver lining is that advertising on Facebook is relatively cheap compared to other channels and it’s targeting methods are really exceptional. Check out the next section to learn more.

Facebook Advertising

Advertising on Facebook is an effective way to get in front of more potential customers. And, Facebook gives you plenty of options to reach exactly the people you are looking for.

When it comes to Facebook advertising, it’s important to consider both your audience and your goals. You want to connect with the right people and use messages that align with your current relationship with them.

Facebook Advertising

Think of your actions on Facebook like your actions in real life. For example, if you just met someone, you wouldn’t want to walk up to them and ask them to marry you (that would be creepy). But, if you’ve been dating them a while and you’ve been getting signs they really like you, then you’d be on more solid ground. The same goes for the subject of the conversation. You wouldn’t just walk up to a group of people, interrupt their conversation and start telling them what you do and why you are so awesome (those are the people you tend to avoid). Instead, you’d want to add value to the conversation, get them to like you, and then they’d WANT to know what you do.

Also – in real life, if you’re trying to make more friends, you’d be better off going to a place where you’d find people who share similar interests or places where your friends and acquaintances hang out.  

So, when it comes to advertising on Facebook, you need to consider the following:

  • Does this person already like my page?
  • Has this person done business with me (or a similar business)?
  • Does this person have interests that relate to my business?
  • Has this person been to my website recently?

With that in mind, here are a few ways you can target people on Facebook.

  • Demographics  Build an audience based on demographics, such as gender, age, location, job, or interests (remember, Facebook has a ton of information about its users it can use for targeting).
  • Custom Audience  Upload a list and let Facebook try to match it to current Facebook profiles. Vacation rental managers might try uploading a list of their past guests or travelers that have inquired about their properties. Once Facebook runs through your list, you’ll be able to advertise directly to those people.
  • Lookalikes  Create a lookalike audience. After you upload your list to Facebook, it can expand your audience to people who have similar demographics to those in your list.
  • Retargeting  If you install Facebook’s tracking code (called Pixel) on your website, you’ll be able to target your ads to people who have visited your site (more below).
  • Fans  Facebook also lets you boost posts to current fans of your page (and even friends of your fans). You can also choose to remove people who already like your page from any of your advertising audiences.

Depending on how you’re targeting, you’ll want to use different messages. Basically, you’ll want your advertising content to align with the Facebook users, their interests and the extent of their relationship to you. Here are a few examples:

  • If you’re advertising to people who aren’t current fans of your page and haven’t visited your website, you’ll want to make your content not as salesy. Focus on things that entertain and inform.
  • If you’re advertising to your current fans, you can include content that is more brand-specific and promotional.
  • If you’re advertising to people who have recently visited your website, you can assume they’re in the market to buy your product or service so you can get away with selling to them more. In this situation though, keep in mind that they’ve already been to your site and didn’t take the action you wanted. So, you might want to remind them of your brand and possibly sweeten the offer to give them that final push to convert.

Just like with other marketing channels, it’s always a good idea to try a variety of messages and see which ones work the best with different audiences. And, one of the primary ways you can gauge your success is by using Facebook’s tracking tools.

Tracking Facebook

You’ve put countless hours of work into getting your Facebook strategy into tip-top shape. So, how do you know if your efforts are paying off? Facebook has some great built-in tools to help you figure out what’s working and where you can improve.

Facebook Insights

Access Facebook Insights (Facebook’s analytics tool) right from your business page. Click “Insights” at the top, and you’ll be taken to the main dashboard. This is a great place to get a quick overview of new likes, how your posts are performing and how your page performance stacks up against your competitors. Let’s dive a little deeper into a few of these metrics:

  • Likes – Measuring page likes is one of the most popular ways to gauge success on Facebook. In this overview graph, you’ll see the number of people who liked (and unliked) your page.
  • Reach – This graph shows the total number of times your posts have been displayed in your audience’s news feeds. The spikes on the graph show the posts with the greatest reach. Click on the graph to see which posts caused the spike. Be sure to make a note of them, as they’re the posts you’ll want to re-share or replicate moving forward to hopefully see that increase in reach again.
  • Posts – As we talked about earlier, engagement is probably the most important factor in determining where your posts show up in people’s news feeds. This section of Insights overview dashboard shows how often your audience engaged (liked or commented) with your post in the past week. Click the graph to see the nitty-gritty details on which post types get the best engagement, which of your past posts have performed the best, and see when your audience is online (these times will often get the best engagement).
  • People – Use the left-hand menu to navigate to the “People” section, where you’ll find data to help you get to know your fans. A good understanding of your audience demographics (age, gender, location, etc.) will help you to create more targeted, successful content.

Note that many of these sections of Insights give you the option to customize the date range for the data, which will allow you to compare results over time. Additionally, you can export the data from the overview dashboard to dig a little deeper into Facebook’s valuable analytics.

Facebook Pixel Tracking

Take your analytics tracking a step further with the Facebook Pixel, which gives Facebook the ability to track actions that users take on your website. This data is incredibly powerful for a few reasons. First, it gives you the ability to retarget website visitors. By tracking the movements of visitors who are simultaneously logged into Facebook, it generates custom audience lists based on certain behaviors (i.e. people who have visited your website in the past 24 hours or people who have visited a specific page on your website). You can define these Website Custom Audiences by which pages they did or did not visit and during which time frame.

Similarly, the pixel allows you to track when someone completes a booking, signs up for your newsletter or other custom conversions on your website.

To set up Pixel Tracking, you’ll want to start by visiting the Ads Manager where you’ll generate your custom pixel. Follow these steps to place that code between the <head> and </head> tags of your web page. LiveRez users can send their code into Support to get the code placed on their website. Once the code is installed, head back to the Ads Manager to create your custom audiences and conversions!

Final Thoughts

Hopefully this article has demonstrated that Facebook can be yet another effective medium for reaching potential customers. But before you jump in with both feet, make sure you have a good idea what you’re trying to get out of Facebook and adjust your expectations accordingly.

Remember that many travelers use Facebook for inspiration and for travel planning. Facebook users are more likely to be an awareness phase than in a shopping phase, so you might be more successful if your goal is building brand awareness and keeping your business top of mind. But, that doesn’t mean that Facebook can’t work well for driving conversions, too. Just keep all this in mind when you’re fitting Facebook into your overall marketing strategy.

Your Feedback

What did you think? Did we miss an important tip? Have you had success using Facebook to market your business? Let us know in the comments below.

Learn More About LiveRez

LiveRez is the most widely used software platform for professional vacation rental managers. The company’s cloud-based, end-to-end platform offers fully integrated solutions for reservation and property management, websites with online bookings, trust accounting, CRM, housekeeping and maintenance, reporting, reviews and more. LiveRez is a proud Gold Sponsor of the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (VRMA).

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101 Tips for Getting More Bookings in 2017

101 Tips for Getting More Bookings in 2017

Are you serious about getting more bookings in 2017? Then check out our ginormous list of proven ideas for how you can supercharge your vacation rental marketing efforts this year.

Planning

Think of your marketing goals like a destination you want to get to. If you don’t have good directions, you run a higher chance of getting lost and never reaching your destination. At the very least, it will take you longer to get there. The same goes for marketing. Without a plan, you’re going to have a much harder time meeting your goals (including one of your biggest goals, getting more bookings).

  1. Have a plan! – Having a marketing plan will keep your efforts focused and strategic. Not sure where to start? You can gain a lot of insights from this blog post. But, if you’re looking for something more specific, check out our sample marketing plan for vacation rental managers.

Branding

Branding is the primary way you tell your story and explain why people should do business with you. In this section, we talk about some key ingredients for creating an awesome brand.

  1. Nail Down Your USP – It’s incredibly important to nail down your Unique Selling Point. It’s what makes you different and better than your competition. And, it also helps you determine who your target audience is. Check out this article from Open Forum for more information on how to find your USP.
  2. Create Brand Standards – It’s important to look professional when you run a business. Developing brand standards can keep your whole team on the same page and help you exude the image you want. Brand standards will lay out what logos to use in what situations, which colors are brand compliant, what fonts to use, and help you develop consistent messaging (see next point).
  3. Use Consistent Messaging – If you really want to imprint your brand and your message into the minds of your target market, you need consistency. In addition to consistent logos, colors and fonts, having consistent messaging will help you achieve this.
  4. Be Your Brand – You can talk about who you are as a company, but if that talk doesn’t align with action, then your brand won’t come off as authentic. For example, if a big part of your brand is built on excellent customer service, you better make sure you’re consistently offering top-of-the-line customer service.
  5. Find a Niche and Own It – A quick way to grow a business is to find (or develop) a niche you can dominate. Let’s say all your homes are pet friendly and in Lake Tahoe. Instead of pitching your business as a vacation rental management company in Lake Tahoe, position yourself as the most pet friendly vacation rental management company in Lake Tahoe. Focusing on a niche will reduce the number of people you are competing with and also give you a much higher market share among a specific group of customers. Check out the Blue Ocean Strategy for some great resources on how to find and own uncontested niches.

Data and Analytics

Marketing without data is like marketing blind. You can do it, but you’re not going to be very successful. In this section, we offer some tips for how you can start collecting data and use it to inform your marketing decisions.  

  1. Test, Test, Test – Make sure you’re tracking and testing all of your marketing efforts. This is probably the single most important factor to your success.
  2. Sign Up for Google Analytics – This is the industry standard for tracking how visitors interact with your site. At LiveRez, we make it really easy to connect your Google Analytics account to your website.
  3. Sign Up for Google Search Console – This service is crucial for understanding the health of your website and how visitors are finding you through Google searches.
  4. Know Where Your Bookings Are Coming From – It’s hard to know which of your channels are paying off if you’re not tracking where your bookings are coming from. There are multiple ways to do this. For more information, check out this blog.
  5. Track your Marketing Acquisition Costs  – Another important thing to track is how much those bookings are costing you. Check out our blog here to learn more.
  6. Learn How to Do Data Driven Marketing  – When you use data to inform your marketing decisions, you’ll get better results faster. You’ll eliminate a lot of the guess work and spend more of your efforts working on projects that will get you results. Check out this blog to learn Data Driven Marketing in Four Steps.

Online Advertising

Online advertising is an incredibly effective way of getting your brand and property in front of travelers that are interested in booking a vacation rental. In this section, we provide some tips for optimizing your use of some of the major online advertising portals used by professional managers.

  1. Leverage Search Engine Marketing – Advertising your properties through services like Adwords and other search engine marketing programs can get you super targeted traffic. And if advertising for the popular keywords is a bit out of your budget, try focusing on some long-tail terms that are less competitive, less expensive and bring in guests that are further along in the buying process.   
  2. Institute Google Remarketing – This is something that not enough managers are doing. Basically, Google Remarketing gives you the ability to show ads to only people that have visited your website but haven’t converted. Your ads will follow people all over the web (even on some big name news sites). It’s a constant reminder of your brand and will make you look like a major player. Plus, the cost is relatively cheap and you’ll get tons of impressions. In addition to Google Remarketing, there are other re-marketing programs like Adroll that you might want to check out.
  3. List on Online Classified Sites Like Craigslist – It’s free to list your vacation rental properties on online classified sites like Craigslist. So, it’s just a matter of the time and effort it takes to create the listings. At LiveRez, we have a tool that can produce professional looking property ads that you can easily copy and paste into these sites, cutting down on the time and effort it takes to advertise there.
  4. Leverage Listing Sites Wisely – Listing sites can be a great way for you to get your properties in front of millions of travelers worldwide. You just don’t want to become totally reliant on them for a high percentage of your bookings. If you use listing sites, make sure you are tracking your bookings and their marketing acquisition costs across all the sites you’re using.
  5. Work on Creating Listing Site Independence – If you feel like you’re too reliant on listing sites, check out our Listing Site Independence calculator that we developed in conjunction with Matt Landau and the community at VRMB. And for a more structured path to listing site independence, check out VRMB’s Listing Site Independence Framework.

Online Bookings

If you’re not taking online bookings, you’re putting a big wall between your potential guests and what they want. In this section, we talk about why online booking is so important and how you can use it even if you have some concerns about making the jump.

  1. Start Taking Online Bookings – This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you want to get more bookings and you’re not already accepting online bookings, you should get started right away. When you take online bookings, you can get bookings around the clock with less effort. Plus, when people book online, they stop shopping (instead of submitting inquiries all around town). If you’re worried about vetting guests before they book, check out our pending booking process which lets you optionally accept a booking but not charge the guest’s credit card until you’ve had a chance to vet them.  
  2. Make Sure Your Checkout Process is Mobile Responsive – More people today are searching the internet on mobile devices than desktop or laptops. It’s an expectation from guests that you have a mobile-friendly website. And this expectation doesn’t go out the window when it comes to the final step of the booking process. Don’t risk losing potential guests at the finish line by not having a mobile friendly check out process.

Email Marketing

Email marketing is the almost always rated by marketers as the highest ROI form of marketing. In this section, we cover some tips for getting started with email marketing and improving your campaigns.

  1. Start Email Marketing – Email marketing is regularly rated by marketers as the highest ROI marketing channel. If you’re not already doing email marketing, you should start today. It’s fairly easy to sign up for a service like MailChimp, import in a list of your past guests and start sending them emails.
  2. Build Your List – Most email marketing services can give you sign up forms and links that allow visitors to your website to sign up to receive your marketing emails. If you want to get even more sign ups, offer a sweet incentive for people to sign up for your list (like a discount or an added benefit on their next reservation, or even access to some exclusive content).
  3. Segment Your Lists – Your marketing emails will be more successful if they are more relevant to the recipient. One way to keep your emails relevant is to segment your lists based on subscribers interests and past purchases.
  4. Personalize Your Emails – The more personal you can make your marketing emails the better they will perform. Sometimes something as simple as merging in the recipient’s first name into the email can make a big difference. Just make sure you have good data; inaccurate personalization can have the opposite effect.  
  5. A/B Test Your Emails – Many email marketing programs will let you run tests on your emails by allowing you to create and send two or more variations of an email to a small segment of your list to compare how those variations perform. You can test things like subject lines, from lines, send times and even the content of your emails. Testing your emails will almost always result in higher open and click through rates.
  6. Mix Up Your Email Styles – A lot of marketers just want to create big, beautiful, image-driven emails. But sometimes a simple, text-only email that is highly personalized and looks like you sat down and wrote it directly to the recipient can perform just as well or better. It’s important to try different styles of emails to see how they perform.

Social Media

Social media provides you with immense opportunities to connect with your target customers and tell your brand story. In this section, we highlight a few ways you can leverage social media to get more bookings.  

  1. Sign Up for Social Accounts – If you’re not already signed up for popular social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google+, YouTube, Pinterest, etc. you should definitely sign up and start a business account/page. More and more travelers are using social media as inspiration for planning their next vacation. Social media allows you to reach your target customers in many different places and keep your brand top of mind.
  2. Use Facebook Advertising – You can do some pretty incredible targeting with Facebook advertising, whether it’s remarketing to visitors that hit your website or uploading a custom list of specific people to advertise to. Not only is Facebook advertising targeted, but it’s also less expensive than many other types of digital marketing.
  3. Focus on Engagement – While growing your following is important, it’s even more important to make sure what you’re posting on social media is getting good engagement (in the form of likes, clicks, comments and shares). Facebook uses a machine learning algorithm that uses engagement as an important ranking factor to determine which of your followers sees your content. Some reports claim that only 5 percent of your Facebook fans will see your content. You can raise that number significantly by getting more engagement on your posts. Facebook isn’t the only social network to use this type of algorithm, and other networks that don’t have an algorithm in place will likely eventually implement one.
  4. Use Tools to Automate Your Social Media – If managing all your social channel sounds like a lot of work, don’t sweat it too much. There are a number of programs out there that can help you manage and automate a good deal of your social media activity, from tracking engagement to scheduling posts and more. Some of our favorites are Hootsuite, Buffer and Edgar.
  5. Leverage Social Bookmarking – In addition to posting on social networks, you can also submit your content to social bookmarking sites like StumbleUpon, Delicious, reddit and more. Check out this article to learn more about social bookmarking.

Build Awesome Website Content

Your website is incredibly important in getting people to book your properties. Making sure your website looks amazing and is packed with valuable content should be one of your primary concerns before you even worry about setting up a blog or posting content elsewhere.

  1. Build a Local Area Guide – Showcase your expertise and give your guests an incredibly valuable resource for planning their upcoming vacation by building a local area guide. Consider sending guests a link to your guide a few days before they arrive to help them plan their trip!
  2. Sell Your Management Services with an Awesome Landing Page – If you’re looking to grow your inventory, it’s important to have a persuasive and informative landing page about your management services. Be sure to talk about your competitive advantage in the market – what sets you apart?
  3. Sell Your Guest Services with an Awesome Landing Page – Part of what makes you a professional manager is your ability to offer professional hospitality services. So, having a landing page that explains all the added perks of booking with you can be incredibly important to closing more bookings.
  4. Tell Your Story with an Awesome About Us Page – People like to buy from people they trust and even like. That’s why it’s crucial to have a page on your website that lets them know who you are and why you are so passionate about vacation rentals.
  5. Organize Your Properties into Categories and Communities – While many travelers will search by availability, other will just want to browse through your properties. That’s why your properties should be organized by category and community. LiveRez makes it really easy organize your properties this way. We even help you dynamically create landing pages for each of these categories and communities, which will help you rank better on search engines.
  6. Configure Advanced Search Options – Travelers often have one or more specific requirements for the home they’re looking to rent. That’s why LiveRez lets you create custom, searchable tags and apply them each of your properties. This makes it that much easier for guests to find the perfect home.  
  7. Consider Working with a Professional Copywriter – Whether it’s for your property descriptions or just general content on your website, hiring a professional writer can not only save you time but also help you produce content that is of higher quality and more persuasive to travelers during the shopping process.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is the craze nowadays, and for good reason. It’s cheaper and generally more efficient than other types of marketing. In this section, we’ll highlight some tactics and strategies for creating killer content.

  1. Create Unique Content That’s Valuable to Guests and Owners – The key to producing engaging content is to build content that is valuable to your target market and is better than the other available content. See the next two points to learn specific strategies for producing this type of content.
  2. Learn How to Build 10x Content – Rand Fishkin, the former CEO of SEO software Moz, is a leading authority on SEO and digital marketing. A few years ago he coined the term 10x content, the practice of producing content that is not just better than available content, but 10 times better.  Watch him explain this concept and how to create this type of content in his Whiteboard Friday video.
  3. Check out the Skyscraper Technique for Content Marketing – Another leading SEO expert, Brian Dean, has developed an extremely data-driven way to produce killer content. His Skyscraper Technique explains how to find and evaluate the best available content on a subject, and then use these pieces of content as inspiration to build a new piece of content that is significantly better than what’s available. He also builds in a process for getting it front of people who will be the most likely to share it and link back to it. He explains the SkyScraper Technique in more detail in this blog.
  4. Focus on Quality Over Quantity – When building content, focus on quality over quantity. In the past, just producing tons of content was a good way to rank better. But, times have changed, and nowadays you’d be better offer spending the time you’d use on 10 blog posts to produce one really good post. NOTE: That’s why we took the time to include 101 tips here instead of just 5 or 10.
  5. Promote Your Content – Content isn’t like the Field of Dreams (i.e. build it and they will come). To get eyes on your content, you need to promote it through all the marketing channels at your disposal. You should spend as much time promoting your content as you do creating it.
  6. Use Web Monitoring to Generate Ideas – Need inspiration for creating content? One way to find ideas is to set up a series of web alerts on different subjects related to your business. You can start by signing up for Google Alerts and using a social media monitoring service like Mention. You can also subscribe to industry blogs through an RSS feed. In fact, you can even turn your Google Alerts into RSS feeds and house everything in a feed reader/content dashboard like Netvibes.
  7. Create Evergreen Content – Evergreen content is content that will stay relevant for long periods of time. It’s not going to get outdated quickly and will thus be valuable longer and have more time to acquire backlinks and shares.
  8. Ride Trends by Hijacking the News  – On the flipside of evergreen content is newsjacking content. This is content you create that ties into something relevant and trendy. It has a built-in audience because tons of people are already interested in the subject. You just have to take the trend or news item and relate it to your business. You can learn more about newsjacking here.

Property Images

Improving your property photos can lead to big gains in bookings. In this section, we cover some of the most important aspects.

  1. Get Professional Photos – This is probably the single most important upgrade you can make to your property listings. People buy with their eyes, and if your photos don’t do your properties justice, then guests will probably look somewhere else. Don’t sell yourself short. Make the investment in professional photography, and you’ll be happy you did.
  2. Write Captions for All Your Photos – Use captions in your photos to explain all those details the photo itself can’t convey. Plus, we all know guests are going to look at the photos, so adding captions is a great way to get extra information in front of guests that might otherwise miss those details in your property descriptions.
  3. Use Big, Beautiful Images – If you already have professional photos, don’t sell them short by displaying them small on your website. Larger images have been shown to increase sales across all sorts of industries. To learn more, check out our blog post on How Larger Property Photos Can Help Your Bookings.

Video

Videos are one of the biggest trends in marketing right now. In this section, we highlight how creating and sharing videos can help you get more bookings.

  1. Create Video Tours of Your Properties – Wouldn’t it be great if you could give each potential guest a personal tour of your homes? Well, video tours might be the next best thing. Increase guests’ confidence in booking your properties by allowing them to better visualize their family in the home, understand the layout and check out amenities.
  2. Create Videos about Your Business – People like to buy from people. Tell the story of your business in a unique video featuring your company history, interviews with the team, behind the scenes clips from your office…whatever you think will help guests better understand who you are and what you have to offer.
  3. Get Your Guests and Owners to do Video Testimonials – Create an immediate human connection with potential guests and owners through video testimonials. While written testimonials are great to have, video testimonials will help your business stand out! People tend to trust video testimonials more since they come across more authentic than written reviews, and video also tends to be more memorable.
  4. Try Doing Video Responses to Inquiries – Back in 2014, VRMB’s Matt Landau highlighted how he was killing it using short videos to answer inquiries. Check out VRMB.com to see how he creates his inquiry response videos.

SEO

Search Engine Optimization is the practice of optimizing your website to rank higher in search results. Generating more organic search engine traffic can give your bookings a huge boost, so in this section, we’ll quickly explain some important concepts that are critical to SEO success.

  1. Learn about SEO – Are people able to find your website when they search for vacation rentals in your area? There are tactics and strategies, known as search engine optimization (SEO), that you can implement to help guests find you organically in the search results without using paid advertising. There is a ton to know about SEO, so we’d recommend checking out LiveRez’s Ultimate Guide to Vacation Rental SEO to get started.
  2. Go Mobile Responsive – With the staggering growth in the number of people using their phones to search the internet, mobile responsive vacation rental websites are essential. Not only does it ensure that your website looks its best on any size screen, Google also favors mobile responsive websites over sites that aren’t mobile friendly. In fact, Google is in the process of splitting its index into two separate indexes, one for people searching on mobile devices and one for people searching on a desktop.
  3. Have an SEO Plan – Developing your SEO game plan is a crucial part of any SEO campaign. A great place to start is by intelligently picking which terms to target. You’ll want to choose terms that will bring in the highest amount of qualified traffic. The tips found in part three of our Ultimate Guide to SEO will help you figure out which terms will work best for your strategy.
  4. Fill Out Your Meta Information – Meta information on your webpages tells search engines what each page is about. While you won’t see your meta information on the page itself, it’s visible by search engines and will often show up in the search results. So, be sure you have a meta title and meta description for each page on your site.
  5. Optimize Your Heading Tags – Heading tags let Google know what each section of your page is about. There are multiple levels of heading tags (h1, h2, h3, etc.) which indicate hierarchy. Therefore, your h1 tag would be used for the main headline, h2 tags for sub-headlines and so on.
  6. Optimize Internal Links – Linking from one page on your website to another page on your website is called an internal link. These links are important to your on-site SEO for two reasons. First, they create paths that users and search engine crawlers follow to navigate your site. And second, internal links play a role in passing link juice, or ranking power, to other pages on your site. Learn more about the power of link juice in Moz’s article on internal links.
  7. Focus on Site Performance – Another big factor in SEO is how well your site performs. Google pays attention to how well your site displays across devices and how fast it loads. They also look at how that affects user engagement (i.e. are people finding you through search and then just hitting the back button). To learn more about the importance of site performance (specifically load speed), check out our post here.
  8. Optimize for Click Through Rates  – One popular theory amongst top SEOs is that increasing the click through rate (CTR) to your site from search can lead to big gains in rankings. You see, Google has enough data to know the expected CTR at each ranking position. And, the theory goes that if you can achieve a higher than expected CTR for your current position, Google will rank you higher. To learn more check out this article from the guys over at Moz.
  9. Generate More Backlinks – Backlinks are one of the most important search engine ranking factors. A backlink is a link from another website directed to your website. Knowing how many backlinks you have and where they’re coming from is important for SEO because Google will give more credit to websites with a good number of quality backlinks and consider them to be more relevant in the search results.
  10. Analyze Your Competitors’ Backlinks – Running a backlink report on your competitors will give you key insights into which strategies have been successful for them and give you actionable data to help you improve your own SEO strategy. Be sure to note which sites they’re getting the most backlinks from and determine if it would make sense to pursue a link from that domain. You can also use the report to see which page on their website most of their backlinks are directing to, giving you insight into their most popular pages.

Website Conversion

It’s one thing to get traffic to your website, but once it’s there you need to do a good job converting that traffic into bookings. In this section, we’ll go over a few tactics for increasing your website conversion rate.

  1. Know Your Conversion Rate – It’s hard to improve your conversion rate if you don’t know what it is. So, the first step is making sure you have Google Analytics running on your website and have their e-commerce tracking turned on. Once you do this you’ll be able to see what percentage of your website visitors are converting to paying guests.
  2. Use a tool like Hot Jar to Better Understand Your Website Visitors – One of the tools we use at LiveRez to track how visitors interact with our corporate site is Hot Jar. It includes heatmaps, visitor recordings, funnel analysis and can even be used to survey visitors as they interact with your site. And the best part is that you can use it for free if you’re not getting more than 2,000 pageviews a day.
  3. Fix Pages with High Exit Rates – One thing that Google Analytics will tell you is which pages on your website have high exit rates. An exit rate tracks how many visitors that hit a page leave your website from that page. A page with a high exit rate suggests that page is underperforming. So, if that page gets a lot of traffic or is a crucial part of the booking process, you’ll want to work on improving it.
  4. Reduce Bounce Rates on Landing Pages – A landing page is the first page a visitor sees when they come to your website. Generally, your home page is your most popular landing page, but there are often other pages that bring people to your website. The worst thing that can happen when a visitor hits your website is for them to leave without visiting another page, and that’s what a bounce rate measures. If you have high traffic pages with a bounce rate of more than 35 or 40 percent, you should look into ways to improve them. To learn more about how to do this and use other insights to improve your conversion rate, check out our whitepaper on How to Use Google Analytics to Improve Your Vacation Rental Marketing Efforts.

Public Relations

One way to get your brand in front of potential guests is through public relations. In this section, we’ll go over some ways to get coverage from media outlets.

  1. Write and Send Press Releases – Issuing a press release detailing something newsworthy your business is doing is a good way to get coverage. The key here is to make sure you are highlighting the newsworthiness of what you’re doing, and that you’re getting in front of a reporter for whom it’s news. Every reporter has a beat. Every media outlet has a geographic coverage area or specific topic they focus on. You need to match your news with the right outlet and the right reporter.  
  2. Subscribe to HARO – Did you know that reporters are always looking for expert sources for their stories. One of the ways they find those sources is through a service call Help a Reporter Out (HARO). You can sign up to receive daily emails from HARO that list all the topics reporters are looking for more information on, organized by subject. If you’re a good fit, you can email the reporter and offer yourself a source. It’s a good way to get featured in the news and get notoriety for your business.

Partnerships

Here at LiveRez we’re big on partnership. Partnering with other people in your market can be incredibly beneficial for both parties. In this section, we highlight a few ideas for how you can work with others to increase your bookings.

  1. Partner with Local Businesses – Help connect your guests to other great businesses in your area! Have homes near a river? Consider partnering with a local rafting company to offer discounted trips to your guests. Does your local theme park have a page on their website for lodging? Ask if you can be featured, and maybe even offer a discounted rate to park-goers!
  2. Partner with Local Chambers and Tourism Organizations – Joining your local chamber of commerce and working tourism organization in your area can help get in front of more travelers. These organizations are set up to help local businesses and generate more tourism to the area, so it only makes sense to work with them.
  3. Partner with Other Professional Managers – While you might consider other vacation rental managers as competition, there are still a lot of ways you can work with them without jeopardizing your own business. Sometimes it’s as simple as referring a booking to a manager when you don’t any available properties or when one of your past guests wants to travel to a destination where you don’t have any properties. At LiveRez we’re currently working on cutting-edge channel management system that doesn’t just include listing sites, but also enables property managers to work with each other to grow their bookings.

Improve the Guest Experience

One of the best ways to get more bookings is to give guests an exceptional experience during their stay, so they come back and book with you again. In this section, we outline some tips for taking your guest experience to the next level.

  1. Step Up Your Customer Service – One of the best ways you can improve the guest experience to ensure you are offering exceptional customer service. That means everyone on your team that interacts with a guest and touches the guest experience in one way or another is committed to doing everything they can to make that guest’s stay the best they’ve ever had.
  2. Communicate Better – A big part of the guest experience is how you communicate with the guest. Are you sending them the information they need in a timely fashion? Is it thorough and accurate? Is it engaging and persuasive? One way to improve your communication is to use technology. Our CRM system at LiveRez can automate most of the emails you send your guests. And because it’s doing most of the work for you, there will be far less human error and you’ll have more time to make sure your messaging is amazing.
  3. Use a Guest Experience Portal – Wouldn’t it be awesome if your guests had their own portal where they could log in and make changes to their reservation, add options, learn more about the destination they’re heading to or even communicate directly with the manager? That’ exactly what our new guest experience portal, LiveStay, is designed to do.
  4. Leverage Smart Home Technology – Increase efficiency and “wow” your guests with smart home technology. Companies like PointCentral, which is integrated with LiveRez, offer smart solutions that allow you to lock and unlock doors, control pool and home temperature, and more – right from your phone or computer.

Reviews

Industry research suggests that nearly half of all guests won’t book a vacation rental without first reading reviews. If you’re not gathering and sharing reviews from past guests, you’re potentially alienating half of your customers. So, in this section, we offer insights into how guest reviews can increase your bookings.

  1. Gather Reviews from Past Guests – One of the biggest reasons travelers don’t book a property is that they have unanswered questions or they don’t trust the information they’re getting about the property. Having reviews from past guests front and center throughout the booking process acts as what marketers call “social proof”. This social proof is incredibly effective at getting customers to trust your brand and feel more confident in doing business with you. If you’re still not buying that guest reviews are important, go check out Amazon.com. The extensive reviews they generate on their products have been a key to their success.  
  2. Leverage Guest Reviews to Convince Owners of Home Improvements – You’ve been telling an owner for months that the master bed in their home needs replacing with no luck. Consider using guest reviews to reinforce your case! Criticism from guests, rather than just from the property manager, may help speed up those home improvement requests. With LiveScore, LiveRez’s survey and review system, you can easily share those critical guest reviews with the appropriate owner.

Phone Skills

Lots of guests are going to have questions before they book or simply prefer to book over the phone with a reservationist. The better your team is at handling these calls, the more bookings you’ll get. So, in this section, we’ll go over a few ways to close more bookings over the phone.

  1. Pick Up the Phone – Inbound calls are gold! You’re 60% more likely to get a booking from someone who took the time to call you, so don’t let that phone go unanswered! However, if you do miss a call, make sure you have a professional voicemail and that you get back to the guest quickly. The longer it takes for you to respond, the less likely that person will be to book.
  2. Improve Your Reservationists’ Conversion Rate with Better Training – Once you get a potential guest on the phone, make sure that your reservationist is friendly and energetic, prepared to answer questions about the company and your properties, and is trained to close the booking.
  3. Leverage Your Software to Aid in Closing Phone Bookings – A good vacation rental software can make it that much easier to close bookings over the phone. The ability to quickly answer a guest’s questions and match them with an available home that meets their needs is paramount. Add to that the ability to email them bookable quotes in seconds. At LiveRez, our Booking Grid can empower your reservations to do all these things and more.

Lead Follow-Up

Earlier we talked about the importance of increasing your website conversion. But, it’s also extremely important to focus on increasing your conversion rate for inquiries that come in over the phone or through email. So, in this section, we’ll highlight some tips for doing just that.

  1. Create a Lead Management Strategy – Creating a lead management strategy for your sales team can result in some big booking gains. Our partners at Big Sky Vacation Rentals in Montana recently saw huge results after their revenue manager Shelley Henslee put together a stellar lead management plan for their business. In just the first year, it helped the company add more than $1 million dollars in additional revenue. Henslee shared some of best tips with our partners at the 2016 Partner Conference. Partners can access these materials through the LiveRez Help Center. Just do a search for “Henslee.”  
  2. Improve Your Lead Follow-Up Efforts by Using a CRM System – It’s not enough to have a strategy for following up with leads, you also need technology that makes it easy to execute this strategy. There are a lot of lead management systems on the market, but most aren’t specific to the vacation rental industry (and if they are, they don’t always integrate nicely into your property management software). So, it’s important to find a technology that works with your current software and is tailored to the industry. There are a few good solutions out there. You just have to find them (or you could just click on this link).  
  3. Institute a Smart Autoresponder – Inquiries are great, but the longer you take to respond to them, the less likely the traveler is to book with you. Take the hassle out of manually responding by utilizing autoresponder technology that will automatically read inquiry emails and send out availability, quotes and links to book online. If you use the LiveRez autoresponder, it will also create a lead within your system, so you can follow-up with that guest in the future.

Inventory Growth

One of the best ways to get more overall bookings is to grow your inventory. More homes mean more opportunities for bookings. In this section, we’ll talk about a few ways to get more of the right types of homes that will not only help increase your bookings but your bottom line.

  1. Strategically Grow and Defend Your Inventory – To really grow your business as vacation rental manager you need to grow your inventory. There are tons of great strategies for acquiring new owners and keeping your current owners happy. 
  2. Skim the Fat – There’s an exception to every rule. And the exception to growing your inventory is when you have owners that are just more trouble than they’re worth. You have limited resources as a company, and sometimes you have owners that monopolize those resources while not giving you back much in return. That’s a one-way partnership that you would be smart to discontinue once their owner contract expires.
  3. Improve the Owner Experience – One way to attract new owners and keep your current owners happy is to improve their experience working with your management company. We know you already work hard to protect their properties and get them the best return on investment on their vacation home. But, something as simple as communicating with them better and giving them the convenience to check into how their property is doing or make their own booking can make a big difference. That’s why at LiveRez, we help you automate a lot of your communication with owners, as well as give you the ability to create online self-service portals for your owners to see information on their properties, view their owner statements and even make bookings for themselves.

Competitive Intelligence

One of the best ways to learn how to get more bookings is by watching what’s working (or not working) for your competitors. In this section, we pulled some ideas from David Angotti of SmokyMountains.com, who taught at our 2016 Partner Conference. Partners can find his whole presentation in our Help Center, and non-partners can check out his guest post at VRMB for more information.

  1. Monitor Your Competitors’ Pricing Strategies – Using a pricing tool such as SmartHost, you can keep an eye on your competitor’s pricing to help you better gauge what rate you should be charging for your similar properties.
  2. Spy on Your Competition’s Email Marketing Tactics – Spend time perfecting your email marketing by monitoring your competition’s campaigns. In this blog post, Angotti outlines the steps you can take to use your competition’s emails to curate a list of ideas that will jumpstart your own email marketing campaigns.
  3. Get Content Ideas from Your Competitors Best Performing Posts – Creating successful content can be super time consuming. Make sure you’re creating content that your guests want to read by using tools like BuzzSumo that will allow you to see what types of content your competition has had success with. Use these topics to help you generate successful 10x content (see tip #39).
  4. Steal the Top Performing Keywords and Ads from Listing Sites – Kickstart your campaigns by using highly-targeted keywords and perfected ad copy. How you might ask? Using tools like SpyFu, you can steal top-performing keywords and ad copy straight from listing sites! Check out this blog post for step-by-step instructions on how to leverage this tool.
  5. Use SimilarWeb to Get an Overview of Your Competitor’s Website Performance – Uncover the secrets behind that competitor that always seems to have their properties booked. SimilarWeb will give you insight into their website traffic, where that traffic is coming from (referrals, social media, paid advertising, etc.) and other similar sites that you may want to monitor.

Revenue Management

Revenue management can not only get you more bookings but more booking revenue (which should be the true goal here). In this section, we’ll outline some of the basic concepts behind revenue management.

  1. Adjust Your Rates Based on Supply and Demand – One of your primary goals as a professional manager should be to maximize revenue for yourself and your owners. One way to do that is to strategically adjust your rates based on changes in supply and demand. Just be careful to maintain the integrity of your rates. The last thing you want to do is win the race to the lowest price. Remember, increasing your rates in high demand periods is just as important as lowering your rates in low-demand periods.  
  2. Consider Using All-Inclusive Pricing – One of the toughest adjustments for travelers that are new to booking vacation rentals is the fees. Vacation rentals tend to have more fees than hotels, so guests can often be turned off when they see all the fees broken out during the booking process. One way to avoid this is to include all your fees into one all-inclusive rate. With LiveRez, we make it easy for you lump all your fees into the rental rate and then quickly break them back out for reporting purposes.
  3. Run Specials to Generate Demand – Entice guests to book by offering specials like a free night’s stay or a discount if they book during your slower season. Discover 6 more ways to get more bookings by offering specials in this blog post.

Follow Industry Publications

We’d like to say that we’ve hit every single tip for getting more bookings right here in this post, but in reality, there are so many more ways to increase your bookings. That’s why, in this section, we’re going to direct you to resources where you can find even more tips for increasing your bookings.

  1. Follow the LiveRez Blog – Subscribe to the LiveRez blog to receive advice on a variety of industry topics like marketing and SEO, read interviews with top professional managers across the country and get updates on LiveRez and its industry-leading software. Check it out at…wait, you’re already here (shameless plug: you can sign up to get notifications of new posts at the bottom of this post).
  2. Follow VRMB – If you haven’t checked out Matt Landau’s Vacation Rental Marketing Blog yet, what are you waiting for? Through how-to videos, case studies, interviews and more, Matt offers a wealth of free and inexpensive ways to increase your bookings. Check it out at VRMB.com.
  3. Follow VRM Intel – VRM Intel is the leading source of news for professional vacation rental managers. Editor Amy Hinote has tons of industry knowledge and does a great job of covering all the relevant news coming out of the industry. Check it out at VRMIntel.com

Connect With Other Managers Online

Some of the best vacation rental marketing advice you can get is from other professional managers. In this section, we’re going to highlight a few places where you can connect with other managers to discuss marketing and other best practices.

  1. Live Community – LiveRez partners can talk to each other about marketing through our new online community. This powerful new tool is an amazing way for our partners to communicate with each other, share ideas and find solutions. Get quick access to the community through the communication dashboard in your LiveRez system.
  2. Consider Joining Matt Landau’s Inner Circle Group at VRMB – Matt has assembled a community of nearly 800 vacation rental professionals, where they regularly discuss tips and tricks for taking your vacation rental marketing efforts to the next level. It’s a great place to learn. You can find out more and sign up here.
  3. Join Industry Groups on LinkedIn –  LinkedIn is a social media must-have in the business world. These groups are a great way to connect with others in the vacation rental industry, stay on top of industry news, source shareable content and even recruit new talent. Some of the more active groups in the industry are the Vacation Rental Professionals Group, the Vacation Rental Managers Association Group and the Vacation Rental News and Information Group. 

Upgrade Your Vacation Rental Software

For many professional managers, the management software they use to run their business can have a big impact on their bookings and overall success as a company. While there are a lot of options for software nowadays, there’s only one we can really recommend  :).

  1. Partner with LiveRez – This may look like the ultimate shameless plug, but here at LiveRez we really believe that we have the best vacation rental software, best vacation rental websites, best property manager partners and the best team to support these partners. And as you can see from our reviews on Capterra, we’re not the only ones that think so.

Tell us what you think!

Did we miss an important tip? Have you already tried some of these ideas and had success? Let us know in the comments section below.

Learn More About LiveRez

LiveRez is the most widely used software platform for professional vacation rental managers. The company’s cloud-based, end-to-end platform offers fully integrated solutions for reservation and property management, websites with online bookings, trust accounting, CRM, housekeeping and maintenance, reporting, reviews and more. LiveRez is a proud Gold Sponsor of the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (VRMA).

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

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Asked and Answered: Am I Too Dependent on Listing Sites?

Editor’s Note
The following is a follow-up to Tina Upson’s June 18 blog post: “What I Learned on My Vacation Rental Road Trip“.

By Tina Upson
LiveRez VP of Operations

“Asked and Answered”

Tina Upson - LiveRez VP of Operations

Tina Upson, LiveRez’s VP of Operations.

I learned this new phrase a few weeks ago when one of my beautiful daughters was driving me crazy by asking over and over the same question, hoping, of course, that the “no” would somehow magically turn into a “yes”. Like many, sounding like my own mom was a road I was not ready to travel down. So, when my daughter asked again, I would have the original conversation with her (again), and then remind her that we had already discussed this.

Then one day a magical phrase was introduced to me: “asked and answered.” Short, to the point, easy to understand, and it WORKED!

Last month I wrote an article based on partner feedback from all over our partner base. And, although each partner has specific needs and concerns, the most common concern has been changes in distribution channels.

Hoping to answer the concern that a lot of partners share in navigating the changing vacation rental space, I challenged professional property managers to start by gathering data. But, I quickly realized that although I may have given partners a place to start, the answer to the actual question still remained: How specifically can we understand if we are “dependent” or “independent”?

So, while Part 1 of my blog dealt with the “asked” part, today I need to follow-through with the “answered” part.

Let’s start by diving deeper into the specific data you need to collect. Then, we can move on to how to use this data to answer the dependance question. And finally,  we can go over some ways to start addressing the issues.

Here goes…

Step 1: Institute Tracking

If you’re not already tracking your marketing data, you should start right away. Running a LiveRez sales cycle report with the “How Heard” option checked can give you a good start, but you’ll need to add some additional information to see the whole picture.  The final report needs to include:

  • The marketing source of every reservation
  • The total dollar amount of every reservation
  • The amount of commission you earned
  • Profit from any fees and mark-ups
  • Cost of every one of your marketing channels
  • BONUS: If you know approximately how much overhead is involved in providing the reservation

Here are some tools and processes you can use to find that information:

  • Google Analytics / Google Search Console (Tracking Web Reservations)
  • LiveRez’s “How Heard” Field (Tracking both Web & Phone Reservations)
  • LiveRez CRM+ Campaigns (Tracking Inquiries from Listing Sites)
  • Integration (Direct Bookings from Channel Partners – Tracked in LiveRez)
  • Whatever method you want to use to track marketing costs (spreadsheet works well)   

If you have this data, you have the building blocks for the next two formulas we’re going to look at. If you don’t have this data, start tracking it right away.

Step 2: Calculate Your Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

Also known as marketing acquisition cost (MAC), this metric will weigh the efficiency of your marketing efforts by channel. It will show you which channels are proportionally the most expensive compared to other channels.  

Start by creating a spreadsheet that has the following data PER MARKETING CHANNEL:

  • Total Money Spent
  • Total Revenue Generated
  • Your Share of the Revenue (commission, fees, etc.)
  • CAC – This is calculated by dividing your marketing spend per channel by the revenue earned from that channel (either the total revenue or your share of the revenue, depending on who pays the marketing costs, you or the owner)

When converted to percentages, your CAC numbers should probably be in the general range of what you’d see a football team score in a game. If you’re running in the soccer/baseball score range, you’re killing it. And, I don’t care how good a golfer you are, if it’s anywhere close to your strokes for 18 holes, you’re overspending.

Step 3: Calculate the Diversity of Your Marketing Portfolio

This is going to show you what percentage of your revenue each channel is bringing you.

Start by creating a spreadsheet that has the following data PER MARKETING CHANNEL:

  • Total Revenue From Channel / Total Revenue from All Channels

This will let you know how much each of your marketing channels is contributing to your total revenue. Go ahead and put this data in a graph, so you can see a visual representation of it.

If your pie chart looks like Pac Man, you’ve got some work to do. If it looks like a pizza, you’re in good shape. The idea here is to not be too dependent on any one channel.

Step 4: Create a Game Plan for Fixing the Issues

Now that you know what you’re dealing with, you can set goals and make a game plan for how to accomplish those goals. Start by asking yourself these questions:

  • Is your marketing portfolio lacking diversity? Are you too dependent on any one channel?
  • Are your customer acquisition costs (CAC) too high?

Other than finding ways to increase your overall revenue and profitability, these should be your two biggest concerns. Both of these issues can lead you down an unsustainable path and put you in a poor position to navigate any changes in the distribution landscape.

Ultimately, you want to start investing in your own brand (your own website, your own marketing database, your own following). Building your own brand will allow you to generate more direct bookings, create long-term sustainability, and give you more flexibility in choosing where to spend to marketing budget.

In short, it puts YOU in control.

In a future posts, we’ll go over some specific strategies for diversifying your portfolio and building your brand. But, until then, make sure to check out some of the great educational resources and learning opportunities we’re already making available to partners.  

Learn from Marketing Experts at Partner Conference

The coaches track at this year’s Partner Conference is heavily focused on marketing, and we’ve assembled some of the top marketing minds in the industry to teach you exactly what you need to do to build your brand and grow your business. Here are a few of the highlights:  

  • Matt Landau of the Vacation Rental Marketing Blog is widely considered one of the industry’s most respected authorities on vacation rental marketing. He will teach two classes on building your brand and diversifying your marketing portfolio.
  • Airbnb’s Content Strategist Michael Endelman is a highly sought-after content expert. A former editor for Rolling Stone Magazine, Endelman has developed content strategy for Google and has played a key role in increasing conversions for Airbnb. At the conference, he will share his data-driven recommendations for creating content that engages guests and gets them to book.  
  • David Angotti has helped build a number of brands over his storied career in marketing. Most recently as co-founder of SmokyMountains.com, he’s built his management company into one of the fastest growing firms in the United States. At the conference, he’ll explain how he’s used innovative competitive intelligence tools and tactics to grow his business at a staggering pace.
  • And don’t forget, the conference keynote speaker Daymond John is not only a world-renowned entrepreneur and investor, but also one of the world’s most respected branding experts.  

In addition to these AMAZING learning opportunities, all attendees will leave the conference with a marketing plan for 2017.

Click here to check out the schedule!

Access LiveRez’s On-Demand Vacation Rental Marketing Training Resources

To learn more about data-driven marketing and building your brand, check out the links below to access some of the educational resources we’ve created:

Learn More About LiveRez

LiveRez is the most widely used software platform for professional vacation rental managers. The company’s cloud-based, end-to-end platform offers fully integrated solutions for reservation and property management, websites with online bookings, trust accounting, CRM, housekeeping and maintenance, reporting, reviews and more. LiveRez is a proud Gold Sponsor of the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (VRMA).

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

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Vacation Rental Marketing Expert Matt Landau Joins LiveRez Partner Conference as Key Instructor

Landau’s Vacation Rental Marketing Blog (VRMB) is one of the most followed publications in the vacation rental industry

Matt Landau - Vacation Rental Marketing Expert

Vacation Rental Marketing Expert Matt Landau will be a key instructor at the 2016 LiveRez Partner Conference. (Photo Credit: Tarina Rodriguez)

Eagle, IDLiveRez.com, the most widely used cloud-based software for professional vacation rental managers, today announced that Matt Landau will join its growing roster of instructors at the company’s annual Partner Conference October 10 through October 13 at the Lost Pines Resort and Spa in Austin, TX.

Landau’s Vacation Rental Marketing Blog (VRMB) is one of the top blogs in the vacation rental industry. Each month the publication attracts more than 15,000 visitors and its Inner Circle (a private community that financially supports the free blog) has grown to nearly 800 members.

“Matt is widely regarded as one of the world’s top experts in vacation rental marketing,” said LiveRez VP of Operations Tina Upson. “And, we’re thrilled to have him join the LiveRez community as a key instructor at our 2016 Partner Conference.”

This year LiveRez is splitting the conference into two different training tracks, a “Coaches Track” intended for company leaders that focuses on growing your business, and an “Athletes Track” that focuses on intensive system training and is designed for team members that are executing a company’s daily operations.

The instructors in the Coaches Track will be made up primarily of the industry’s top experts in different subject areas, whereas the Athletes Track will feature a mix of LiveRez software experts, ranging from LiveRez team members to professional property managers using LiveRez (called partners).

Landau will teach two classes in the “Coaches Track.” The first class will focus on creating a balanced marketing portfolio, with an emphasis on building your own brand. The second class will walk professional managers through the process of building their 2017 marketing plan.

“The definition of what it means to be a successful property manager today is dramatically different than what it meant only 10 years back,” Landau said. “Industry events like these are vital to the well-being and sustainability of the vacation rental industry as a whole because they bring progressive thinkers together under one roof, and they prove that you don’t have to run your business the way big corporations expect.”

In addition to two separate training tracks, the conference will also include a big reveal of new technology, as well as exciting keynote speakers, which the company will begin to announce in the coming weeks.

To learn more about the 2016 LiveRez Partner Conference, visit Conference.LiveRez.com.

About LiveRez.com

LiveRez.com is a complete, online, vacation rental property management solution, focused on making vacation rental property managers fully operational online and thereby increasing bookings. LiveRez.com offers an all-in-one cloud-based platform, featuring best-in-class websites optimized for online bookings, a full-featured reservation and property management system, a robust CRM system, an exclusive connection to QuickBooks for trust accounting, and a unique “Pay-for-Performance” approach, which provides a mutually beneficial partnership between LiveRez.com and its vacation rental manager partners. The company’s largest competitor is HomeAway Software for Professionals.

To learn more about LiveRez.com, please call 800-343-2891 or visit LiveRez.com. And, to receive timely updates from the company, follow LiveRez.com on Facebook, Twitter (@LiveRez) and Google+, or visit the company’s vacation rental software blog. LiveRez.com is a proud Gold Sponsor of the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (VRMA).

Data Driven Vacation Rental Marketing in Four Steps

data-driven-MARKETING

Instituting a data-driven marketing approach can help vacation rental managers make big gains in their total revenue and bottom line. But, many managers out there just don’t know where to start. In the following post, we’ll outline the data driven marketing process in four steps. Think of it like a primer on data driven marketing for vacation rental professionals.

Step 1: Institute Tracking

You can’t measure what you don’t track. You should know what marketing source(s) every one of your bookings came from. And, you should know how much you spent on each marketing channel. Here are a few things you need to institute to track this.

  • Google Analytics – Make sure Google Analytics is installed on your website and you are looking at it regularly. Setting up the eCommerce portion of Google Analytics is important as well.
  • Reservationist Tracking – For bookings that come through on the phone, your reservationists need to be asking how the guest found you.
  • Email Tracking – If you are getting inquiries in the form of emails, you’ll want to track the source of those emails (your website, listing websites, replies to marketing emails, etc.).
  • Marketing Budgets – Make sure you are keeping detailed records on what you are spending per channel. How much on Adwords, how much on email marketing, how much on listing sites, etc.
  • Lifetime Value – This is harder to track and is a more advanced metric. The idea is to know how much a guest is worth to you over the value of your business relationship with them. Many guests will cost more to acquire when they are new, but will come back to you organically or through a lower cost channel for additional bookings. Smart companies that know a customer’s lifetime value aren’t afraid of spending more to acquire a new customer if they know it will pay off over the course of future purchases.

Step 2: Measure

Now that you have the data, you need to watch it and measure its effectiveness. Here are a few metrics to watch.

  • Marketing Acquisition Cost – The percentage of your revenue that was dedicated to the marketing that brought in that revenue. For example, you got $100,000 of booking revenue as a result of Google Adwords and spent $15,000 on your Adwords Budget. Your marketing acquisition cost was 15%.
  • Website Conversion – Conversions (online bookings) as a percentage of people who visited your website.
  • Phone Conversion – The percent of bookings made over the phone as a percentage of total phone inquiries.

Step 3: Drill Down

Overall metrics are great, but you’ll see even better gains from drilling down to more specific items. Here are a few ways you can drill down:

  • Marketing Acquisition Cost by marketing channel – Which channel is providing the highest ROI (lowest marketing acquisition cost) and can you scale your investment?
  • Website conversion per marketing channel – Which marketing channels bring in the most travelers that book your homes? This is harder to track, because you’ll have leakage in the form of people coming to your website and then making a booking over the phone or emailing for more information. But you want to do your best to track your investments dollar to dollar, i.e. dollars spent versus dollars earned. Not all website traffic is equal. As you take a deeper looker, you’ll see some marketing channels may bring in less traffic but convert at a much higher percent.
  • Phone conversion by reservationist – Who are your best performing reservationists? What are they doing better than the others? How can you reward their performance to ensure continued performance and long-term employment? What can you learn from their tactics that will help you improve the performance of your other reservationists?

Step 4: Optimize

Now that you have a good idea of how your marketing is performing, how can you improve it? Here a few things to look at:

  • Scaling High ROI Channels – If one or more channels are working extremely well, can you increase your investment in them?
  • Improving Channel Performance – What can you do to improve each channel’s performance? With each channel, you’ll want to examine the step-by-step process a potential guest needs to take to book a property, and then try to optimize each one of those steps. We’ll use email marketing as an example to illustrate the process:
    • List Growth: Can you scale your email marketing success by getting more subscribers to your email list?
    • Open Rate: Can you get more people to open your emails by optimizing subject lines, from lines, send times, list segmentation, etc.?
    • Click Rate: Can you optimize the percentage of people clicking on links in your email by improving email design, calls to action, content, incentives, personalization, etc.?
    • Landing Page Conversion Rate: For the people that do click on your emails, can you improve the pages they are landing on to increase their conversion rate? Are the pages you are  sending them to not well suited to the offers in your emails? Are the pages missing crucial information that keeps travelers from booking? Are the calls to action on the page prominent and make it easy for the guest to begin the booking process?

Conclusion

Data-driven marketing can help you ensure marketing success by measuring and optimizing your marketing performance. Just make sure not to miss the forest for trees. Make sure you’re also looking at the big picture. Data is only valuable if you interpret it correctly. And no matter how well you track, there will always be unknown factors figuring into your marketing success. For example, some marketing channels may be playing a big role early on in the process that you can’t directly attribute to a booking. Your Adwords campaigns could be more expensive than your email marketing efforts, but it could be helping your email marketing efforts by getting more people on your mailing lists. Think of data like a GPS system. It lets you know where to go, but you wouldn’t let it drive your car for you.

How many of these steps are you taking in your marketing efforts? Which ones do you find to be most effective? Let us know in the comments section.

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Learn More About LiveRez
LiveRez is the most widely used software platform for professional vacation rental managers. The company’s cloud-based, end-to-end platform offers fully integrated solutions for reservation and property management, websites with online bookings, trust accounting, CRM, housekeeping and maintenance, reporting, reviews and more. LiveRez is a proud Gold Sponsor of the Vacation Rental Manager’s Association (VRMA).

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

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