Four “Smart Moves” for Professional Vacation Rental Managers

Today’s professional vacation rental managers are integrating technology into their operations more and more, and reaping all sorts of benefits, from increases in bookings and inventory to greater operational efficiencies and reduced overhead.

One of the newest subsets of technology in the vacation rental industry is smart home technology. And in today’s post (courtesy our friends at PointCentral), we’ll be exploring how making your homes smarter can increase your profitability.

Smart Move No. 1: Ditching Keys

According to HistoryOfKeys.com, the first keys were invented some 6,000 years ago in ancient Babylon and Egypt. So, they’re hardly a technological advancement. But, in all those years, we really haven’t seen a smart alternative, until recently.

The problem with keys for vacation rental managers is they’re hard to keep track of and expensive and time consuming to change out. And, when you have hundreds of different guests sharing the same keys over a period of years, they’re hardly secure either.

But smart locks eliminate a lot of the hassle and security issues associated with keys. You install them once, and they can be changed instantly and dynamically, thanks to new technology and the prevalence of wireless internet service. This is the bread and butter of what PointCentral offers VRMs.

A big advantage with the PointCentral solution is that all of this happens via the cellular network. A smart communications hub installed in every property connects every PointCentral device in the property to the cellular network, thus eliminating the need for a Wi-Fi connection. This architecture, proven in more than 5 million homes in the U.S., is much more reliable than Wi-Fi, which often requires a manual restart.

With LiveRez’s deep integration with PointCentral, not only can you automatically change the lock codes with every new reservation, but you can unlock doors remotely. All a manager has to do is click a button within our RealTimeManager (RTM) dashboard to unlock the door for a guest. No need to get in the car (at whatever hour) and drive a key out to a guest.

LiveRez PointCentral Integration

Smart Move No. 2: Leveraging Real-Time Insights

Another great thing about using codes instead of keys to enter a house is the tracking that comes with it. From LiveRez’s RTM dashboard, users can see the real-time occupancy status of every property based on the arrival and departure lock codes entered by the guest. These lock codes are generated automatically with every new reservation in LiveRez, and are available as a mail merge macro in our CRM system, making it easy to include them in personalized emails to guests (which can also be automated from within LiveRez).

Cleaners, maintenance workers, and inspectors can also be given their own codes to enter the house. And when they input their entrance and exit codes, events are sent to LiveRez, which can then automatically update the home status on the RTM dashboard. This allows managers to have real-time visibility over the status of their operations. These events not only trigger status changes in real time, but also create an audit trail of who entered and exited the house (and when).

LiveRez-PointCentral Integration

Smart Move No. 3: Tapping Into Energy Savings

Another way that smart home technology can save managers (and their home owners) money is by monitoring and optimizing the energy settings in the house. You can program PointCentral’s  smart thermostats to increase or drop the temperature around check-ins and check-outs, and even monitor and control room temperature remotely, allowing you to spot potential issues quickly and address them proactively.

The energy savings are the real deal. In an initial test, one LiveRez partner reported a 38% decrease in its homes’ gas bills and a 14% decrease in its homes’ electricity bills.

Smart Move No. 4: Leveraging Smart Assistants  

Just days ago, PointCentral announced an integration with Amazon Echo and Google Home Voice Assistants. Basically, this allow guests to control smart devices (like locks, thermostats, lighting, etc.) with their voice. Imagine being able to advertise that to prospective guests?

Learn More

From eliminating keys and remotely controlling locks, to real-time property intelligence and automated alerts, VRMs are enjoying significant operational savings from implementing Smart Home technology.

If you want to learn more about how PointCentral and LiveRez can help you improve the guest experience, increase your operational efficiency and offer your owners significant savings on their utility bills, contact us via the information below:

LiveRez Announces VacationRentPayment as its Platinum Sponsor for the 2017 Partner Conference

VRP-Logo

VacationRentPayment, an industry leader in payment processing solutions, will also offer educational sessions at the conference

Eagle, IDLiveRez.com, the most widely used cloud-based software for professional vacation rental managers, today announced VacationRentPayment as its platinum sponsor for the 2017 LiveRez Partner Conference, which runs Oct. 8-11 at the Wigwam Resort and Spa in Phoenix, AZ.

VacationRentPayment, a service of YapStone, is the vacation rental industry’s top provider of payment processing solutions and has been one of LiveRez’s preferred industry partners for many years.

“We’ve worked hand-in-hand with VacationRentPayment for many years to offer our property manager partners real-time payment processing for their bookings,” said LiveRez CEO Tracy Lotz. “They’ve been outstanding industry partners, and we’re thrilled to have them as the featured sponsor for this year’s conference.”

In addition to being the event’s top sponsor, VacationRentPayment will also present educational sessions, including a workshop on how the chargeback process works and a review of rental agreements.

Each year the conference brings together hundreds of professional vacation rental managers from all across the globe. Many of these managers already use VacationRentPayment as their merchant processor, but company representatives said they wanted to make sure their customers knew about all the ways VacationRentPayment could save them money and make their lives easier.

“LiveRez has been a true partner of VacationRentPayment for over five years,” says Tom Villante, CEO of YapStone. “We’re proud to continue our relationship by providing engaging content and sharing industry advancements at their upcoming Partner Conference. Our goal is to help LiveRez partners better run their businesses through integrated payment solutions.”

To learn more about the 2017 LiveRez Partner Conference, visit LiveRez.com/2017Conference.

About LiveRez

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. To learn more about LiveRez, visit LiveRez.com.

About YapStone

YapStone is one of the leading payment providers for large, complicated and under-served markets, including marketplace companies, vacation rental, storage, and property rental industries.  YapStone will process over $18 billion in payment volume this year and, unlike competitors, they facilitate the entire payment transaction from beginning to end. Through robust services, YapStone handles risk, compliance, and fraud, so that marketplaces are free to focus on their core business.

VacationRentPayment is a service of YapStone that delivers payment solutions for vacation rental managers, owners and their guests. VacationRentPayment empowers homeowners with a comprehensive, yet easy-to-use electronic payment platform that directly integrates with many of the leading vacation rental softwares. This platform delivers simple, monthly statements for easy reconciliation and flat-rate pricing, giving you transparency into your growing vacation rental business.

VacationRentPayment has over 17 years of deep industry-specific payment processing expertise and a leadership team with sophisticated payments experience that helps deliver their services to more than 400,000 vacation rental properties across the country.

PODCAST: Get to Know Blizzard Internet Marketing + Tips on Leveraging Past Guests for Future Reservations

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In this industry, a strong digital marketing plan is essential. But in reality, between delivering amazing guest stays, dealing with your owners, and managing your team, it can be tough to dedicate the time needed to do it well. Just finding the time to vet marketing agencies and pick one you trust to help you out is difficult.

The LiveRez team wanted to take some of that work off your plate, so we’ve spent the last few months interviewing marketing teams to find a company that not only offers best-in-class digital marketing services, but also really values partnership the way LiveRez does. We finally found someone you’re really going to love.

We are so excited to announce our new preferred partner for online marketing services: Blizzard Internet Marketing! Here are just a few of the reasons we felt Blizzard was a great fit for our partners:

  • Blizzard has 20 years of experience in the lodging industry. One size definitely does not fit all when it comes to marketing. Blizzard understands the specific challenges that vacation rental businesses face.
  • Blizzard does it all under one roof. From SEO and PPC to email marketing and social media. While you focus on your core business, they’ll create and execute on a customized marketing plan that works together to get you the best results.
  • Digital marketing is their bread and butter. That means you’ll be working with a team that is laser focused on keeping up with industry trends and utilizing proven methods to get you results.

PODCAST: Get to Know Blizzard

 

We sat down with Susan Blizzard herself to get her tips on easy (and free!) ways you can get past guests to stay with you again and again:

  • (9:13) – Do less work and spend less money by turning past guests into repeat guests.
  • (10:21) – People buy from people. You’re not renting a property. You’re selling someone a dream.
  • (12:25) – The competitive advantage for property managers is your local expertise and personal connection with the guest.
  • (14:25) – Case study: A property manager’s exclusive offer to past guests generated 18 new bookings!
  • (19:39) – Referrals always work best when it’s a win-win-win for all three parties – your company, the referrer and the referee.
  • (21:55) – Some of the highest email open rates come from newsletters and area updates like new restaurants, etc.
  • (25:28) – Your booking calendar could be completely full without ever getting another new traveler. Period.
  • (28:02) – If guests book through one of the OTAs, they have no real connection with you. It’s like saying that you bought your plane ticket from Expedia. Create that connection through thoughtful content marketing.

Work with the Blizzard Team!

Set up some time to talk with the Blizzard team about how they can deliver results for you. Just email [email protected] and let them know you’re ready to learn more!

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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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:

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.

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

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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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