LiveRez Teams Up with Blizzard Internet Marketing to Offer Wider Range of Services to its Property Manager Partners

The partnership will allow the vacation rental software leader to quickly scale services to meet increasing demand

SEO-LiveRezEagle, IDLiveRez.com, the most widely used cloud-based software for professional vacation rental managers, today announced that it has signed an agreement with Blizzard Internet Marketing to provide LiveRez’s customers with a wide range of digital marketing services.

Based in Glenwood Springs, CO, Blizzard is a leading provider of online marketing services for professional vacation rental managers. As a preferred LiveRez industry partner, the company will become LiveRez’s go-to recommendation for online marketing services for its rapidly growing base of customers (called partners).

“We carefully vet every single one of our preferred partners, and over the years we’ve seen Blizzard’s commitment to the long-term, sustainable success of professional managers,” said Tina Upson, LiveRez’s VP of Operations. “As we’ve continued to grow, we’ve had a huge influx of our property manager partners requesting additional online marketing services. Partnering with Blizzard will allow us to provide our users with these services at scale.”

Traditionally, LiveRez has accomodated its partners’ needs with its own in-house professional services team, but due to the increasing interest in additional marketing services Upson said the company knew it would need to find an industry partner to help meet the demand.

“With all the recent changes to the marketing landscape in our industry, we’ve witnessed a fundamental shift in our partners’ marketing strategies, trending toward online marketing services focused on building a manager’s brand and helping them secure more direct bookings,” Upson said. “But, as a company hyper-focused on our users’ long-term success, we had to find a provider that shared our values.”

Upson noted the work that Blizzard has done for some of LiveRez’s current partners as a big factor in the company’s decision, as well as Blizzard’s ability to offer LiveRez partners a wide variety of services, including search engine optimization (“SEO”), paid ad management, email marketing, social media, and content writing.

“LiveRez is committed to the success of the professional managers using their property management software,” said Susan Blizzard, CEO of Blizzard Internet Marketing. “That means having a solid online marketing presence. SEO and all other digital marketing strategies are constantly changing, and they are evolving even more rapidly now because of mobile devices. Blizzard has a team of experts specializing in each major area of online marketing, and we’re excited for the opportunity to help LiveRez’s partners further diversify their marketing portfolios and take their businesses to new levels.”

About LiveRez.com

LiveRez is the world’s most widely used software platform for marketing and managing vacation rental homes online. The LiveRez solution offers professional property managers all the tools they need to run their business in a single, cloud-based platform. And, the company’s unique “pay-as-you-book” business model creates a mutually beneficial partnership between LiveRez and its vacation rental manager partners. This partnership fuels the company’s mission of continually developing and supporting cutting-edge solutions that empower independent property managers to compete in the rapidly evolving vacation rental space.

 

About Blizzard Internet Marketing

Specializing in the Vacation Rental Management industry, Blizzard Internet Marketing provides comprehensive online marketing services, employing a group of in-house experts in all areas of online marketing, including SEO, Pay-Per-Click, Email Marketing, Social Media, Local Search, Analytics, Usability and Website Services. Our experts regularly attend online marketing symposiums, ongoing education courses, and subscribe to all of the most highly relevant blogs for their area of expertise. In addition, we offer training and consultation to our clients through our services as well as holding in person Blizzard University Workshops about digital marketing techniques.

Meet Matt Landau: An Interview with the Vacation Rental Industry’s Marketing Guru

Meet Matt Landau

We couldn’t be more excited to have Matt Landau as one of our featured speakers this year at Partner Conference! You probably know Matt from his website, VRMB, which is one of the go-to sources in our industry for innovative and forward-thinking strategies around vacation rental marketing.

Our own Tina Upson sat down with Matt to talk about how he “fell into” this crazy vacation rental space, the class he’s teaching this year, and why he regards Partner Conference as the best in the industry.

FULL INTERVIEW: Matt Landau, VRMB + Tina Upson, LiveRez

Tina Upson: So, you were one of the favorites last year at Partner Conference. I’m hoping you’ll give us a little sneak peek at what people can expect from your class this year: “Limited Edition as the Great Differentiator.”

Matt Landau: When most people hear the phrase “limited edition,” they think “expensive” or “exclusive.” But really, when we broke it down, the concept of limited edition is just about limited supply. And, the way we got to this idea was actually when I first moved to my neighborhood here in Panama City. I was walking around with the realtor and asked, “Who would want to invest in a neighborhood like this?” And she said, “Well, because we’re a UNESCO World Heritage site, and because you cannot build up and you cannot build out, this is a limited-edition style investment.” And, I liked the way that she phrased that. I began to learn a little bit more about this idea of limited supply in relation to demand.

And then I entered the world of collectibles. You know the show Antique Road Show?

TU: You’re dating yourself a little bit…

ML: I totally am. I must have watched 40 hours of Antiques Roadshow. And, I learned that collectors’ items are very similar in that they are produced in extremely limited supply. And, therefore, there’s always a great demand for them. Amplify that to the world of vacation rentals, and we observed that vacation rentals are increasingly being forced to choose between one of two buckets. The first is what I call the commodity bucket. This is the mainstream type of vacation rental that frankly our industry desperately needs. It’s a baseline of expectation that a traveler should have when they choose a vacation rental. The second bucket – the opposite end of the spectrum – is what we’re calling the limited edition. These are the vacation rental businesses that are steeped in personality, passion, personalization and all these things that a lot of LiveRez partners already do. They just didn’t know there was a name for it.

The goal of the limited edition framework is to help them see that there are two games that you can play in the world of vacation rentals. The first – the commodity game – is huge and amazing and necessary for the industry. It’s also very challenging. The limited edition game is something I think is more tailored to small independent businesses, like all of the LiveRez partners I’ve met.

TU: So, it’s all about focusing on your niche and being the local expert and all of those things we know have become big drivers in this industry?

ML: Exactly. The more limited edition you are, the less you have to play by the rules of the game in your territory, and the less market shifts apply to your business. It provides immediate incentive for people like us who are focused on the unique side of our businesses to double down, because I think now is certainly the time.

TU: Absolutely. Well, I’m excited about that class, especially learning some specific action items that our partners can implement. So, I want to know a little bit more about you. I read that you “fell into” the vacation rental industry. Can you tell us what you meant by that?

Matt Landau Quote

ML: Well for me it meant studying something entirely different – economics. And then becoming a professional in an entirely different industry – travel. And then literally falling into having the opportunity to buy a fleet of vacation rentals in the historic district [in Panama] fall into my lap. None of it was planned. None of it was trained for. I think in that sense, I’m not unlike most independent property managers in that none of us really studied or prepared for this. We stumbled on something that we’re really good at and that we really enjoy, and that’s our recipe for a great business.

And in my case here in Casco Antiguo, I learned vacation rentals the hard way for the first five and a half years. I was the only luxury place to stay in the entire historic district. That came with its fair share of challenges (which is a story for another day). But, in the process of learning all this, I just began documenting what was working and what wasn’t. And that eventually led me to a platform where I could share this information with other independent owners and managers who were going through the exact same things. That became Vacation Rental Marketing Blog, which eventually consolidated into VRMB. I now spend most of my time observing and researching and synthesizing all the amazing case studies that I find into frameworks that we believe are necessary for our industry to grow.

TU: What was the most surprising challenge that you bumped into when you decided to take on that fleet of homes?

ML: I think it had to be the learning curve. It just takes time to figure out how everything works. It takes time to even identify what your problem is. So, when they arrive at Google, for instance, and they’re looking for a software, they don’t know exactly what to type in because they’ve never been prepared or trained for this. So in my case it was just learning everything the old fashioned way. Making a ton of mistakes. Choosing this industry because it was a lifestyle choice, not necessarily because it was going to make me the most possible money or because I could grow it into a massive empire. Having my eye on this goal of a sustainable business that was integrated with the community required a lot of research and education.

And, in the end, finding colleagues like you and other Inner Circle members and VRMB subscribers and people that I meet when I go to conferences who have more or less the same story. They’ve been through this learning curve the hard way. Finding people that we can talk with and share best practices with and commiserate with accelerates the learning curve. And I think that’s the beautiful thing about the people who are coming to Partner Conference.

TU: Absolutely. I often think about the sphere of influence our partners have within their communities, with their guests, and with their owners. With that reach, I think there’s really nothing to fear with the changes in the space. We just have to work together. And I think that’s one of the strengths of VRMB is that it gives property managers the chance to leverage all of their similarities and strengths to help the industry as a whole. There’s so much they can do if they come together.

ML: And, I think in the case of the vacation rental industry, I don’t know of a movement that is going to impact the future more than this niche, this travel sector. And like you said, a lot of owners and managers don’t realize how successful they already are and how much of a role they have to play in their respective communities moving forward, because this is really just the burgeoning tip of something much greater, I believe. That’s why I get so excited.

TU: Me too! Couldn’t agree more. So, last thing. If there’s somebody who hasn’t decided if they’re coming to Partner Conference this year, what would be your sales pitch? Why should they pull the trigger?

ML: I regard the LiveRez Partner Conference as pretty much the best that I’ve been to in the industry. It’s got a couple unique components. One, because it is put on by one company, everyone there is extremely similar in a lot of ways. They’re all dealing with the exact same types of challenges. Whereas association events, industry events, and things like that, people can be a little bit more varied in who they are and what they do.

Matt Landau Quote

The second thing is frankly you guys attract incredible people. And the partners that I met at the conference last year really opened my eyes to a world of professionally managed properties that I didn’t know existed. I knew it existed with owners, because that’s who I primarily used to work with. But, my experience at Partner Conference really helped me to see that there are managers on all sides of the spectrum who are incredibly serious, incredibly bright, have achieved amazing levels of success, and yet constantly want to move quickly and learn more and meet people who are doing things even better than them. That attitude is infectious. And even if I wasn’t a client of LiveRez, I would probably see if I could sneak in just so I could hang out with that type of personality, and through osmosis let it improve me as a manager.

TU: I love it. I totally got vacation rental goosebumps. Thanks for taking the time to be with us! We’ve got some exciting things we’re doing with VRMB. So, everyone stay tuned for when we debut some of that at the conference!

ML: Amazing. Can’t wait!

Meet Matt at Partner Conference!

Check out the 2017 Partner Conference website to get registered! You won’t want to miss the chance to meet Matt in Phoenix this year.

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.

At LiveRez, we take our partnership with each and every one of our property managers seriously. We believe in the power of community and teamwork, and, together with our partners, we win as a team.

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

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PODCAST: Breaking Down The Latest HomeAway Changes With Our Friend Amy Hinote of VRM Intel

podcast_cover

It’s been a week since HomeAway announced some major updates to their channel causing a pretty emotional reaction among LiveRez partners. (ICYMI: See their latest online booking and guest communication updates.)

So, what’s really happening here? And, what does it mean for the future of the industry? We reached outside the LiveRez network to help connect the dots.

In our latest podcast, Amy Hinote, founder and editor of VRM Intel, joins us to talk misconceptions about listings sites, what you can expect to see next and how there might just be a silver lining in all of this.

Next Steps

As promised in the podcast, stay tuned for more tips, tricks and resources for talking to your owners about the role that listing sites play in your marketing strategy.

But, before you talk to your owners, take a good hard look at where exactly your bookings are coming from. What will it take for you to step up your game, build your brand and increase your direct bookings? These resources will help you get started:

Asked and Answered: Am I Too Dependant on Listing Sites? – VRM Intel
9 Simple Hacks to Get More Direct Bookings – LiveRez Blog
Listing Site Independence – Matt Landau, Vacation Rental Marketing Blog

What do you think?

Is there a misconception about the dominance of listing sites? Or, are they really going to be the most prevalent channel for booking vacation rentals in the future? Weigh in 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.

At LiveRez, we take our partnership with each and every one of our property managers seriously. We believe in the power of community and teamwork, and, together with our partners, we win as a team.

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

Did you like this post?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.

Use These 9 Simple Hacks to Get More Direct Bookings for Your Vacation Rentals

THE FIVE (2)

With more and more listing sites transitioning to a strictly commission-based, online-booking-only model, a lot of property managers are starting to worry about their marketing strategy.

We can’t blame them. It’s a fundamental shift in the world of vacation rental marketing, and it’s poised to have a major impact on the way professional managers generate bookings. In fact, managers are already reporting a slew of challenges resulting from the new policies some listing sites are implementing:

  • Marketing costs are going up
  • Bookings are down
  • Communication with guests is being hindered
  • And managers’ brands are being hidden

And, it’s getting worse and worse every day.

In response, many professional managers are putting a renewed focus on building their own brands and getting more direct bookings.

And it’s working.

For years, we’ve been educating our property manager partners about the dangers of becoming too reliant on listing sites. The good news is that many have listened…and acted. They’ve built their own brands, and they control their own destiny.

If they can do it, so you can you. But how, you say? It’s actually quite simple:

You just have to start.

The problem is, many managers just don’t know where to start. So, in today’s post, we’ll outline 9 proven tactics we’ve seen professional managers use to get more direct bookings.

What We’ll Cover

Here’s a brief teaser of some of tips and tricks we’ll share today:

  • The undeniable facts about why booking direct is superior to booking through an OTA
  • Creative ways to ensure that your listing site guests know who you are, remember you, and book direct the next time they stay with you
  • Low-cost ways to build traffic and brand awareness that have nothing to do with listing sites
  • How to get more mileage out of your website traffic and inbound phone calls

But before we get into the specific tactics, it’s important to understand both how they fit into your strategic master plan for getting more direct bookings and the crucial talking points that should be the centerpiece of your messaging.

First, let’s dive into the four-tier master plan for getting more direct bookings.  

The 4 Fundamental Steps for Getting More Direct Bookings

THE FIVE (1)

Getting more direct bookings really boils down to these four high-level activities.

Step 1: Generate More Traffic and More Brand Awareness.

First, you need to generate more brand awareness and drive traffic to your website. The two work together hand-in-hand. Website traffic begets brand awareness and brand awareness helps drive traffic.

Having a hard time driving traffic? Don’t worry. We’ll go over some low-cost ways to get people to your website later in this post. We’ll also cover some ways to generate brand awareness among your listing site guests, which in turn will help drive future traffic.

Step 2: Build Your Contact Database.

Next, you need to build up your guest database.

In the past, many managers used listing sites like VRBO as a way to generate leads and build their contact database. But, these sites are quickly transitioning from a flat-fee, lead-generation model to a commission-based, eCommerce model. Because of this, you’ll need to find other methods of building your contact database.

The best way to build your database without listing sites is to capture more contact information from the travelers visiting your site and calling you.

Many of you may already have an existing database (or at least lists of past guests / inquiries), but you also need to add to that database by collecting emails (and other contact details) on your website and from inbound calls, as well as collecting contact information from all new guests that stay with you.  

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you are using a listing site to store all your lead information (which we don’t recommend), make sure you are downloading that information and storing back-ups. You never know how long the listing site will save that information. How devastating would it be to wake up one morning and see that all your saved leads have disappeared?

Step 3: Leverage Your Contacts.

Leverage this database to communicate directly with potential guests, past guests and, of course, your current guests.  Later in this post, we’ll go over many of the channels that allow you to leverage your existing contact database to reach guests (and most of them are pretty inexpensive).  

Step 4: Communicate the Benefits.

Make sure these travelers know about the benefits of booking direct with a professional manager. In the next section, we’ll go over the major benefits that you’ll want to make sure potential guests understand.    

The 5 Undeniable Benefits of Booking Direct

THE FIVE

As you build up your database of contacts, you’ll need to make sure they know the benefits of booking directly with a professional manager. Here are some of the ones we think will resonate most with potential guests.

FACT 1: Booking Direct Saves Guests (and Managers) Money

Booking direct saves money for both the guest and the manager. The guest doesn’t have to pay a guest fee and it also saves the manager from having to pay a booking fee.  Additionally, the manager might be running specials that aren’t available through the listing site or may be willing to negotiate the price.

FACT 2: Booking Direct Offers a Greater Selection of Professionally Managed Homes

Not all managers list their homes on listing sites, so guests could be missing out on a great home if a listing site is the only place they look. This is especially the case in certain established markets (like the Outer Banks of North Carolina) and for certain types of properties (like super high-end rentals).  Guests can often find homes that are not advertised on listing sites by doing a Google search for vacation rentals + the location and going directly to the managers’ websites.  The only downside is that guests may need to visit more than one website.

FACT 3: Booking Direct Allows for More Open Communication

When guests book direct, they can speak directly to a company representative that really knows the property. Guests can also choose how and when to contact the manager.  Unlike listing sites, there are no restrictions on communication when you book direct. Direct communication is good for both the guest and the manager. Guests may have specific questions that can’t be answered in the home’s listing. And, managers often want to vet the guests to ensure they meet the minimum requirements and are aware of the house rules (these managers have a duty to protect the home from guests who would abuse it and from guests that would cause disturbances to neighbors).  

FACT 4: Booking Direct Means Better Service

Professional managers can often offer guests additional services that aren’t available through listing sites (think grocery delivery, tee times, lift tickets, personal chefs, equipment rentals, discounts at local businesses, etc.). These managers are nearly always on-location and available pretty much around the clock in the case of an emergency. While some RBOs (rent by owners) do live close to their vacation homes and are more available, the majority of RBOs live hundreds of miles from their second homes and have lives (and jobs) outside of managing their home. For professional managers, managing vacation rentals is their only gig, and many are exceptional at what they do.

FACT 5: Booking Direct is More Secure

When booking with an established professional manager, you know the home exists. You can’t expect a large listing site to vet every home that is listed.  In fact, there’s no shortage of news stories out there about people running scams through listing sites. When a guests knows the manager they are dealing with, they can do their own research on that manager’s ratings and reviews online.

Unfortunately, many listing sites hide the brands of professional managers, making it pretty much impossible to do any research on the company you are booking with. They’re also making it much harder to even identify the property if it’s listed somewhere else. All you can really go on is the reviews for the property and hope they’re legitimate.

9 Specific Tactics for Getting More Direct Bookings

THE FIVE (3)

Okay, now that you know the high-level steps you need to focus on, as well as the benefits of booking direct that you’ll be sharing with guests, it’s time to move on to some specific tactics you can implement right away.

Tactic 1: Change Up Your Marketing Budget

If you want to build your own brand and get more direct bookings, you’ll want to dedicate some of your marketing budget to do so. This means pulling some of the money you’re spending on listings sites and instead spending it on things like building out your website and driving traffic to it through online advertising, search engine optimization and email marketing, among other things.

VACATION RENTAL MARKETING TIPS

If you’re looking to learn more about driving traffic to your website, check out some of these other resources:

Tactic 2: Start Collecting Emails on Your Website

Most professional managers are going to see online booking rates of less than 1%. In some markets, half of that is a good conversion rate. But, if you’re looking to really leverage the traffic you’re sending to your website, you need to find a way to gather contact details from a higher percentage of your website visitors.

Because giving out your contact information is a much smaller request than say committing to a 7-day vacation for hundreds or thousands of dollars, you’ll generally be more likely to get a guest to opt-in to receiving your emails or to submit a contact form for more information on a property.

Don’t get me wrong, a completed booking, either online or over the phone, should be your first goal, but make sure your website is also set up to gather contact details from those visitors that aren’t ready to pull the trigger on a booking.

Most email marketing programs make it really easy to link or embed opt-in forms on your website. And if your website has a content management system (like LiveRez offers), then it’s really simple to just paste in a line of code for the opt-in form.

Make sure to sell the benefits of opting in to receiving your emails, either in the form itself or on the page where the form is embedded. Even though you’re not selling guests something, you are asking them to give you something. The value of receiving your emails needs to be greater than the potential pain of their email inbox getting filled with more promotional emails. Try offering them an incentive up front (like a special guide or a discount on their next booking), and make sure you demonstrate the value your emails will deliver.  

Tactic 3: Gather Contact Info over the Phone 

If a guest calls you about one of your properties, you should leave that call with their contact information. Here are a few tactics for doing that without annoying guests:

  • Collecting Phone Numbers – When the call starts, have your reservationist get the potential guest’s name and a good contact phone number, so they can call back if they get disconnected.
  • Collecting Email Addresses – Offer to send the guest more information (like quotes for properties) while you’re on the phone – that way you can get their email address. LiveRez has a feature called instant quotes, where the reservationist can send multiple bookable quotes to a guest within seconds. The great thing about this is that those quotes are automatically saved as a lead in LiveRez’s CRM system.

Tactic 4: Start Marketing to Your Guest Database

Once you have emails (and even mailing addresses) for people who have stayed with you (or were interested in staying with you), you can start marketing to them directly. Here are a few ways to leverage that information in your marketing efforts:

  • Email Marketing – You can send marketing emails to your database to keep them informed about the area, your properties and your company. LiveRez makes it really easy to export lists of your past guests, leads, and even owners, which you can then upload to an email marketing service like Mail Chimp. Just be careful about blindly adding people to your email lists. Make sure the emails are something they would expect to receive. Consider the level of your relationship with them: Are they past guests? Did they freely opt-in on your website? Are they a lead that never booked? Also consider how long it’s been since you’ve last been in contact. Would they remember who you are?  
  • Facebook Custom Audience Advertising – Not a ton of people know about all of Facebook’s options for advertising. For a basic Facebook ad, you might target people based on their interests or their demographics. But, if you have a large enough list, you can upload it to Facebook and let Facebook match the people on the list with their Facebook profiles. Once that is done, you can create Facebook ads and only show them to people on the list you uploaded.
  • Direct Mail Print Advertising – This one is a little bit more expensive, but it can be a great way to reach guests. Basically, you create some sort of marketing collateral (a letter, a post card, etc.) and then mail it directly to the people on your list. Make sure your offer is strong, and do your best to make it personal and relevant to the guest. 

Tactic 5: Leverage Remarketing

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could show ads only to people that you knew at least visited your site? Well, it’s actually pretty easy to do. There are a lot of different services available, but our two favorites are Google Remarketing and Facebook Remarketing.

  • Google Remarketing – Google really has a corner on online advertising. They show ads in search results, and they can also show ads on millions of web pages across the world, thanks to their Adsense program. With Adsense, Google lets online publishers put a code on their website that dynamically shows relevant ads to a visitor, and once a visitor takes an action on the ad Google pays the publisher some money. How do they do this? Well, as an advertiser, you can opt in to remarketing from Adwords. You just need to put a special piece of code on your website that tracks the visitors to your site, and then when those visitors come to a site that is running Adsense, your ad has a chance to display. Most consumers don’t know about this, so when they see your ads all over, they’ll not only be constantly reminded about you but they’ll also think you’re more credible (because obviously you have to spend a lot of money to advertise on all these sites, right?). In reality, though, remarketing is quite affordable for most managers, and generally cheaper than traditional Adwords ads.
  • Facebook Remarketing – Another similar tactic is to install a Facebook tracking pixel on your website, which will record anyone who visits your website while logged into Facebook. You can then create Facebook ads that are only shown to people who have visited your website. Like Google remarketing ads, these ads are fairly inexpensive when compared to other types of ads.

Tactic 6: Partner with Other Businesses

You aren’t the only person out there who stands to benefit from people booking direct with professional managers. Here are few other people that have a dog in the fight:

  • Other professional managers
  • Service providers that you partner with for those concierge services that you can’t offer through listing sites
  • Local businesses that you work with to negotiate special perks for your guests
  • Local chambers that promote tourism in your area
  • And, if you’re a LiveRez partner, as your software partner, we have a vested interest in helping you get more direct bookings

All these people have incentives to be another voice espousing the benefits of direct bookings. The more you can work together to communicate the value of direct bookings to consumers, the more educated consumers will be about the benefits of booking direct.

LiveRez is even actively developing technology that facilitates managers working together to get each other more bookings. For more information, check out our interview with VRM Intel.

Tactic 7: Make sure your guests know who you are

This may seem really simple, but especially for guests that book on listing sites, they may not be aware of your brand and the people behind it. People like to buy from people, and from the brands (and people) that they trust. You’re missing a huge opportunity if guests go through an entire stay without learning more about you.

Here are a few ways to make sure your guests know who you are:

  • About Us Page  – Create an About Us page on your website that tells the story of your business, shares your values as a company, and highlights the people behind the brand. Consider including a group photo of your team and maybe even individual photos and descriptions of your key team members.
  • Onsite Information – Have printed materials and signage at the property that lets guests know more about your company.
  • Office Signage – Put a sign up in your lobby where guests check in that talks about who you are and also lets them know about the benefits of booking direct.
  • Pre-Stay/Post-Stay Communications – If possible, communicate with your guests before arrival. Make sure to include your branding in those communications (you might even be able to fit in some of the benefits of booking direct, too).
    • LiveRez’s CRM system can help you automate these communications, while making them more personal and more professional looking. Not only do these emails let the guest know who you are, they can greatly enhance the guests’ experience and answer questions before they are asked.  

Tactic 8: Use Branded Giveaway Items

One way to keep your brand top of mind is to give your guests branded items that they actually want to use.  They’ll take these items home with them and be reminded of you every time they use them. Plus, who doesn’t like getting free stuff?

If you’re looking for a good vendor for branded items, check out our friends at BeachHouseLogos.com, who specialize in the vacation rental industry.

Tactic 9: Offer Amazing Guest Experiences

Want your guests to remember you and come back and book with you over and over again?

Make sure their vacation is out of this world!

Go above and beyond in making sure every part of their vacation is perfect. They certainly deserve it after saving up both their limited vacation time and the money for their vacation. As you know, some guests save for years for a big vacation.

Many successful managers strive to offer a “Wow” moment for their guests. Strive to do something that is relevant, personal and unexpected (leave roses and champagne for a couple celebrating an anniversary, decorate the house for a guest celebrating a birthday, etc.).  It will certainly stand out in their minds – not to mention, the famous marketing book Influence says that when you do something personal and unexpected for someone up front, they’re likely to return the favor somehow (in your case, hopefully that’s repeat business).  

Weigh In

These are just a few of the ways we’ve seen managers increase direct bookings. What tactics have you used to increase your own direct bookings? 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.

At LiveRez, we take our partnership with each and every one of our property managers seriously. We believe in the power of community and teamwork, and, together with our partners, we win as a team.

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

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9 Things You Can Do Today to Cut Down on Unnecessary Guest Questions

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Okay, we’re all friends here. Let’s keep it real.

Some days, you’re on it. You have time to greet your guests when they arrive and you tackle guest requests left and right. Heck, you even have time to post the #perfect pic on your new company Instagram account.

But, when busy season hits, all bets are off. When it’s all you can do to get your guests in and out in a somewhat organized fashion, the flood of calls and emails from guests with yet another question about the WiFi password can just about send you over the edge.

Sound familiar? You’re not alone. We reached out to some property manager all-stars to discover their secrets for mitigating the seemingly endless guest phone calls. Here’s what they had to say.

BEAT YOUR GUESTS TO THE PUNCH

The guest experience starts before they step foot in the home. Make a personal call to your guests a day or two before arrival to make sure they have received the arrival instructions and answer any last-minute questions. – Matthew Tesdall, Family Time Vacation Rentals

You know your guests will have questions when they first arrive, so why wait for them to call? Reach out an hour or so after they check in. This way you can address any questions right up front. – Emily Carrico, Seabrook Cottage Rentals

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Don’t have the staff to make post-arrival calls? Consider keeping the line of communication open via email. Set up a CRM message to automatically send out one day after they arrive to see if there is anything you can do or if there are issues that need to be taken care of. –  Matthew Tesdall, Family Time Vacation Rentals

Regardless of how you communicate with guests, what’s important is to identify any issues right at the beginning of the stay. Exceeding guest expectations right off the bat really helps to give guests the experience of staying in a professionally managed home. Show them the difference! – Mark Tolan, Seaside Vacation Homes

ELIMINATE COMMON QUESTIONS

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Question #1: “How do you work this dang TV?”

Ask housekeeping to turn the TV on to a music channel before the guests arrive, so you know it’s already set to the right input. – David Angotti, SmokyMountains.com

Take a picture of the TV/DVD player remotes. Then, create a custom instructional sheet with the photos and step-by-step operational instructions that can be placed on the coffee table in front of the TV. – Justin Ford, On the Water in Maine

Question #2: “What’s the WiFi password?”

Send the WiFi password in a pre-arrival email using the new CRM WiFi macro, so they have it handy when they check-in. – Debbie Lipscomb, Eastern Shore Vacation Rentals

Set your WiFi passwords so they’re the same for all units. This way your team can answer WiFi password questions quickly. You can also provide the internet service’s contact information, so the guest can try calling them first if there’s an issue. – Justin Ford, On the Water in Maine

Question #3: “When is the garbage truck/lawn service/etc. coming?”

They’re angry when the grass is long. And, they’re angry when the lawn service shows up… What can you do? The best way to handle this is to overcommunicate about when things like garbage pick-up, lawn care or pool service crews will be coming by the house. – Debbie Lipscomb, Eastern Shore Vacation Rentals

BONUS: Having trouble identifying your common issues? Have a debrief meeting with your team after each rental season to pick their brains on what guests were asking most often about and brainstorm ways to tweak your processes moving forward. – Debbie Lipscomb, Eastern Shore Vacation Rentals

What about you? What creative strategies have you implemented to make your guest communication seamless? Let us know in the comments!

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.

At LiveRez, we take our partnership with each and every one of our property managers seriously. We believe in the power of community and teamwork, and, together with our partners, we win as a team.

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

Did you like this post?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.

Data-Driven SEO: Estimate Your Returns in Just 4 Steps

Search Engine Optimization is a total mystery to many professional vacation rental managers. You know you need to do it. You’ve been told it will help you get more bookings. But, maybe you don’t know where to start, or even how to judge if what you’re doing is paying off.

The organic traffic you get from search engines is free, but SEO is far from free. You have to consider the time and effort you’re putting in to do the work, or the amount of money you’re paying for someone else to do your SEO.

Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to put a value on your SEO efforts and even estimate your potential return on investment? And what if you could do that before you even started? Interested?

Well, today we’re going to show you a method for doing just that.

The Power of Data

We live in a world where it’s easier than ever to track your website’s performance, thanks to a growing number of tools online (most of them free). In this post, we’re going to show you how to use the information from those tools to estimate your potential return on investment from an SEO campaign.

It all comes down to understanding how Google works and what tools are available to help you assess how SEO could help you get more traffic and ultimately more bookings and more revenue.

So without further ado, let’s get started.

Where You Rank Correlates to Traffic

The first step in understanding how ranking better can help you get more bookings is to understand not only that where you rank correlates to how much traffic you get, but also being able to estimate how much traffic you can expect to see at different search engine ranking positions.

Using the following tools and formulas, we’ll show you the potential return you can expect for improving your ranking for a single keyword. Ultimately, you’re going to want to repeat this analysis for every keyword you’re considering. In fact, this process can even help you determine which keywords are most worthwhile to rank for.

For the process to work, you need to understand four key metrics per keyword (explained in the sections below)

  • Search volume for the term
  • Average clicks rates at different search positions
  • Your website’s conversion rate for each term
  • The average revenue per conversion

Let’s get started by exploring how you can estimate a keyword’s monthly search volume.

Estimating Search Volume

The first thing you need to do is estimate how many total searches a keyword gets every month. There are a lot of tools you can use to do these estimates.

Google Search Console – If you’ve got Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools) set up and you’re already ranking for some terms, you can go to the Search Traffic > Search Analytics section to see how many total impressions those keywords are getting you each month. You can also get a good estimate from Google of your average position, as well as the click-through rate to your website from search results.

Other Tools – You can use a number of other tools like SEMrush, SpyFu or even the Google Adwords Keyword Planner to estimate how many monthly searches a term gets.

Here’s quick overview of SEMrush’s keyword analytics tool. For this exercise, you’ll be most interested in the Search Volume for the keyword.

Estimating Click Through Rate by Position

The next thing you need to do is look at some of the click-through-rate studies for organic search. Now, every year and with every new Google feature (think local result carousels or rich snippets), this data can change. But, taking these into consideration, you get a rough idea of your click-through-rate at different positions by looking at some of these studies.

This study from AdvancedWebRanking.com does a good job explaining what type of click-through rates you might see at each position. Let’s look at some of the findings:

Position 1 – 28.9%

Position 2 – 14.3%

Position 3 – 10%

Position 4 – 6.47%

Position 5 – 4.58%

Position 6 – 3.29%

Position 7 – 2.43%

Position 8 – 1.87%

Position 9 – 1.41%

Position 10 – 1.06%

As you can see, there is a noticeable drop-off between the top position and the second position, and by the time you get to the end of page one, you’re barely getting 1% of clicks.

But, now that you know how many clicks you stand to get, you can estimate how much traffic you’ll get at different search positions. Just take the total search volume for the term times the click-through rate for the ranking position. For example, if the term got 1,000 monthly searches and you ranked No. 1, you could expect to get about 290 clicks (1000 x .289 = ~290 clicks).

Estimating Traffic Conversion

Now that you have an idea of how much more traffic you can get by ranking higher, you’ll need to understand how that traffic converts to bookings. The problem is that back in about 2011 Google Analytics removed the ability for you to track organic traffic by keyword. However, you can still track conversion by keyword for Adwords terms. This is the next best thing.

So, if you’re advertising for that term on Adwords, take a look at how that keyword is performing in Google Analytics.  

First, head over to Acquisition > All Traffic > Source/Medium.

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Then, click on google / cpc in the list.

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Under the secondary dimension drop-down, click on Advertising > Keyword.

Analytics-Acquisition2keyword

This will show you a breakdown of every keyword you are bidding on. If you have eCommerce set up on your website, it will tell you your conversion rate for the term (and even the revenue that term is bringing in, if that you have that configured in eCommerce). If you’re using LiveRez, all of our websites are set-up for this eCommerce tracking (you just have to enable it).

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Not bidding on the term through Adwords? The next best bet is to look at your overall conversion rate for the website, or even your overall conversion rate for organic traffic. This won’t be as accurate, but it will still give you something to go on.

Estimating Revenue Per Transaction  

Now, that you have this data, you can use it to estimate how much more revenue you could expect from the extra traffic.

First, you want to figure out what your average revenue per transaction is for that term (just take the revenue and divide it by the number of transactions). To get a more accurate representation here, you might want to expand your dates to a full year. 

Then, take the amount of traffic you expect to get from Google (covered in the first two sections) and multiply that by the conversion rate for that term. That will give you a rough idea of how many conversions you can expect a month for that term.

Next, take the number of conversions and multiply them by the average revenue per transaction. That will let you estimate the total monthly revenue you can expect from ranking for that term at that position.

Putting it All Together

Here’s a quick example to explain the entire process.

Step 1: You find the search term is getting 1,000 searches a month.

Step 2: You determined based on the CTR studies that if you rank No. 2. for the term you can expect to get about 143 clicks a month from that term.

Step 3: You look at your conversion rate for that term in Adwords and see that it is at 1%. Therefore, you can assume that of those 143 clicks a month, you’re going to get about 1.4 bookings.

Step 4: You look at some historical conversions for that term and find out that the average conversion (or booking) for that term was worth about $2500 dollars. So, those 1.4 extra bookings a month would amount to about $3500 of booking revenue.

BONUS: If you’re a professional manager, you’re probably only going to be getting a certain percentage of that booking revenue. Let’s say between your commission of the booking revenue and your take of the additional fees, you’ll see a net of about 35% of the booking revenue. That means you would essentially earn about $1225 a month from ranking for that term in that position.

How Much Should You Pay for SEO?

Now comes the fun part. First, run the math for where you rank right now. Then, run the math for where you want to rank (or realistically think you can rank). How much more money would you be making if you improved your ranking position?

This is important information to have when you put together your SEO strategy, especially if you’re thinking about outsourcing your SEO efforts. If what you’re paying in SEO is more expensive than the potential return (all keywords improved), you might want to re-evaluate your strategy.

Additional Considerations

If you haven’t already caught this, the method we’ve laid out today isn’t an exact science. It’s just a data-driven way to estimate your results. As such, here are a few things to take into consideration when using this method.

  • Search volume estimates may vary by tool.
  • Click-through rates can vary, especially if the search results for the term are leveraging a newer Google feature, like a local results breakout or a featured rich-snippet answer.
  • Your Adwords conversion rate by keyword might vary from your organic conversion rate (but it’s the closest metric we can use to compare).  
  • You’re going to get the most traffic from terms where you can rank in the top few results. So, instead of trying to rank for a really competitive term, you might try ranking for multiple long-tail keywords (these generally have lower search volume, but less competition – and because they’re more specific, the traffic to your website generally converts better).
  • Also, remember that sometimes the guests that find you for the search term choose to book over the phone instead of online. It’s much harder to track this, so you’ll want to take this into consideration. In most cases, you’ll probably end up getting even more return than you can estimate because you can’t track the offline bookings as well.
  • Many times the SEO work on your website will have additional benefits. Sometimes it helps your website conversion. The additional content created through SEO efforts can be valuable to guests and help you attract more back links. And back links don’t just help you rank higher, but also get traffic from the sites linking to you.

Want to Learn More about SEO?

If you’ve interesting in learning all about vacation rental SEO, check out our whitepaper: “The Ultimate Guide to Vacation Rental SEO.”

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.

At LiveRez, we take our partnership with each and every one of our property managers seriously. We believe in the power of community and teamwork, and, together with our partners, we win as a team.

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

Did you like this post?

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.

10 Tips for Tackling the Busy Summer Season

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Memorial Day is fast approaching, so you know what that means… The crazy summer season is just about here! This time of year usually finds me ramping up my workout schedule (and wondering what the heck I was thinking waiting until May to start getting into summer shape). Anyone in the same boat? Just me? Okay, moving along.

This time of year also finds property managers scrambling to get ready for the busy summer vacation season, which makes it the perfect time to whip your business into summer shape, too! We put our heads together with a few LiveRez partners to come up with the top 10 things you can be doing right now to help ensure your summer season is smooth sailing.

  1. Tackle your to-do list. When your summer calendar is packed with back-to-back reservations, it can be tough to find time to take care of property updates. Bradie Beagley-Reiner from Bluewater Vacation Homes likes to use this time to tackle that list of upgrades they haven’t gotten around to just yet.
  2. Deep clean. Your properties are about to get some summer love from countless vacationers. Before the masses roll into town, ask your cleaning team to spend a little extra time scrubbing and polishing to make sure all of your properties are ready to take on the busy season.
  3. Spend some time outside. More than likely, it’s been a while since the patios, pools and other outdoor spaces have been utilized by your guests. Don’t wait for your guests to tell you the grill is busted or the lawn furniture has seen better days. Be proactive!
  4. Make it personal. When things get busy, it’s easy to forget about those little personal touches that make you stand out! CJ Stam from Southern Comfort Cabin Rentals recommends increasing that personal touch by sending a company branded postcard out to every booking.
  5. Send good summer vibes. Take some time to consider how you can start your guests’ summer vacations out on the right foot. From pool toys and beach towels to kites and sunscreen, providing thoughtful summer-focused amenities is a great way to show guests how much you care about their vacation. The little details make a big difference!
  6. Refresh your welcome book. Flip through your current welcome book, and take note of ways you could make it more focused on summer activities. This might include things like a special section about the best patio dining, your favorite places to take a picnic, local beach rental shops, etc.
  7. Freshen up your website. Your website is an important part of your business, so don’t forget to give it a little touch of summer, as well! First, be sure to remove any expired winter specials. Then, consider replacing any wintery photos of your area with more summery ones. Lastly, take a look at your local area guide to make sure your summer activity recommendations are front and center.
  8. Simplify your business processes. A busy summer booking calendar will likely mean less time for you to accomplish your day-to-day business tasks. Brainstorm ways you can simplify your business processes to free up time that you can spend taking care of your guests. For you, this could mean finally getting your CRM system set up to automatically send out emails that you’re currently wasting time sending manually. Or, signing up for eSignature, to cut down on the time you spend mailing out rental agreements.
  9. Get your staff pumped up for the season. You’re going to need your team firing on all cylinders this season, so Bradie from Bluewater Vacation Homes makes sure they’re trained and equipped to take it on! If you need to bring on more people, don’t wait until you’re desperate. Take the time to find the right person before things get super busy.
  10. Breathe. You got this!

How do you get ready for the crazy summer season? We want to know! Share your summer hacks in the comments section below.