What I Learned on My Vacation Rental Road Trip

LiveRez VP of Operations Shares Her Insights from a Recent Trip to Visit Partners

By Tina Upson, LiveRez VP of Operations

Tina Upson - LiveRez VP of Operations

Tina Upson, LiveRez’s VP of Operations.

Earlier this month, my LiveRez team members and I took a road trip to go and visit some of our awesome partners in the southeastern part of the country.

In just one week, we were able to get into the offices of no less than 10 LiveRez partners. Plus, we had another two partners stay with us in our vacation rental – who said sleepovers have to end at 17?

We observed office procedures, coached on underutilized tools, and then worked our butts off to help partners with any work involved in implementing the new features.

Along the way, I learned a lot not only about our partners, but about myself as well. In this post, I’ll try to touch on the big things I learned and share some of the advice I gave to the partners we visited.

Vacation Rental Managers Are My Type of People

Our beautiful home for the week!

Our beautiful home for the week!

I have a reoccurring thing that happens to me, where I am talking nonstop about the Vacation Rental industry to just about anyone who will listen. Then, I see that look in their eye…They really have NO idea why I’m so passionate about what I do for a living.

Ultimately, I’ve come to realize that it’s the people in this crazy industry that I really love. Mostly, because they are my kind of people – fast-paced, social, hard-working, with about zero healthy work boundaries. Most of them are on call 24/7, striving to keep two people – the homeowner and the guest – happy at all times. Holding it all together is quite the accomplishment!

So, when we can make their lives even a little bit easier, it’s incredibly rewarding. And sometimes the best way to understand how we can help is to go visit managers on their home turf.

Changes in Distribution Channels a Big Concern

The common topic that came up at all of the onsite visits I did was distribution channels, especially all the changes we’ve seen in the past months. Overwhelmingly, this has been the topic of conversation throughout all of our partner base. But, sitting face-to-face with partners and walking them through what we are seeing across the industry made me realize the level of unrest there is right now. I felt like after each deeper dive into what partners need to know and what they need to do, there was more confidence and less fear of the unknown.

That being said, how in the world was I going to get an hour-long, face-to-face with each partner at LiveRez? The truth is, I cannot. So I’ve decide to blog about it, and see if I can reach a few more people and help add some transparency to a murky situation.

Distribution is NOT a new topic of conversation. Many people know that at LiveRez we have preached listing site independence and diversifying your marketing portfolio since the beginning of time. But seeing a problem isn’t the same thing as taking steps to fix it.

So let’s talk about Step 1 – the first thing that a PM needs to do in order to feel in control of their business – and that’s getting the data.

DATA is Key

Growing up my dad owned a truck scale company and always said, “You can’t improve what you cannot measure.” So my advice to all partners and others navigating this ever-changing VR space is to get data.

First, you need a list of ALL avenues or channels that bring bookings to your company. This would be any OTAs, your own website, and any other places where you list your properties or advertise your business. The data needs to be sorted by channel. And, here are the questions needing answered for each channel:

  • What percentage of your overall bookings does this channel bring in?
  • What is the Cost Per Acquisition (CPA)? That’s how much you spent on that channel versus how much money that channel brought in (shown as a percentage). For example, you spent $1,000 on HomeAway advertising and made $3,000 in booking commissions and fees from this HomeAway advertising (that’s a 33% CPA).
  • What’s the Booking Pace (rate at which bookings are made for a particular date)?
  • What’s the Booking Window (time between guest booking and arrival)?
  • What is your Average Daily Rate? This is the average a guest pays per night to stay in one of your properties.
  • What is your average Length of Stay? This is how many nights each booking is on average.
  • What are your margins? How much of your revenue is profit? Are you working harder to fulfill bookings from one channel versus another? Are increasing marketing costs cutting into your profit?

Once you have this data, you’ll understand which channels you’re most dependent on and how each channel is performing. Armed with this data, you’ll be ready to put together a plan to make the necessary changes to be successful.

I’ll cover Part II in an upcoming post.

Your Brand Matters

A huge part of taking control of your business is building your brand through a diversified marketing portfolio. Every partner I talked with wanted to build up their brand. They just needed a realistic plan to get started.

These conversations really reinforced my confidence in what we’re planning for the 2016 Partner Conference. This year, every company that attends the conference is going to walk away with a both a business plan and a marketing plan. And, we’re in the process of lining up some of the top experts in the industry to come in and teach them how to do this in our “Coaches Track.”

The other training track, the “Athletes Track,” will teach your on-the-ground team members how to better utilize the system…which bring me to my final point.

Getting More Out of LiveRez

Even before my trip, I had noticed that even our best partners could still get more out of their LiveRez software. As much as we try to let partners know about new features and how to use them, there’s still a lot of partners that don’t realize all the awesome things LiveRez can do. Others know there are parts of the system they could be using, but haven’t had the time to implement them yet.

In our visits, we were able to help our partners start implementing some of these time-saving features. And, just like our partners who wished they had more time to implement some of these new feature, I wish my team and I had more time to go visit every LiveRez partner and give them that final push to help them get set up.

It’s funny how sometimes a lack of time is what’s holding us back from implementing something that will save us a TON of time in the future. Sometimes all you need is a little push.

That’s why I think events like the Partner Conference are so important. Not only do I get to see all my LiveRez peeps from around the world, but it’s also a great time for them to focus on their businesses and take the time to implement all the functionality they haven’t had a chance to yet (and with the whole LiveRez team there to help!).

Closing Thoughts

If you take away nothing else, let it be this…

  1. Our Partners are Incredible People
  2. Your Brand Matters
  3. Get Your Data about All Channels before I Blog about Step II
  4. Register for Partner Conference (if you haven’t already)

UPDATE: Check out the second part of this blog series: Asked and Answered: Am I Too Dependent on Listing Sites?

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

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

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