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?
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.
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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