Photo Gallery: LiveRez 2016 Partner Conference – Night One

Partner Conference is back and bigger than ever! Nearly 400 of the nation’s best property managers descended on the beautiful Lost Pines Resort in Austin, TX today, marking the beginning of what is sure to be our best conference week yet.

We kicked the conference off with a true Austin-style party. From BBQ food trucks to corn hole competitions to a blazing bonfire, it was the perfect time for partners to reconnect with old friends and make new ones.

Here are a few pictures from the event! Stay tuned for more photo updates throughout the week.

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

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

By Tina Upson
LiveRez VP of Operations

“Asked and Answered”

Tina Upson - LiveRez VP of Operations

Tina Upson, LiveRez’s VP of Operations.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here goes…

Step 1: Institute Tracking

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

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

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

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

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

Step 2: Calculate Your Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

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

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

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

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

Step 3: Calculate the Diversity of Your Marketing Portfolio

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

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

  • Total Revenue From Channel / Total Revenue from All Channels

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

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

Step 4: Create a Game Plan for Fixing the Issues

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

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

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

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

In short, it puts YOU in control.

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

Learn from Marketing Experts at Partner Conference

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

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

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

Click here to check out the schedule!

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

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

Learn More About LiveRez

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

Visit LiveRez.com to learn more:

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Honey Badger Award: BRIC Vacation Rentals Goes Extra Mile in Giving Back

Each month at LiveRez, we give out our Honey Badger Award to partners and team members that are making a big impact. This month the partner award goes to BRIC Vacation Rentals, and the team member awards go to Mark Sams and Luis Calas. Let’s learn more about what makes them special.

Partner Award: BRIC Vacation Rentals


BRIC Vacation Rentals - Honey Badger Award

Company Gives Generously to Community, Helps Other Partners

On its website, BRIC Vacation Rentals highlights a quote from St. Francis of Assisi: “For it is in giving that we receive.”

But if the company’s actions are any indication, it’s more than just a quote: It’s a mission statement.

BRIC is serious about giving back, whether it’s volunteering to keep local beaches clean in its hometown of Playa del Carmen, hosting golf tourneys to raise money for Keeping Kids in School, or donating vacation rental stays to doctors performing pro-bono surgeries for children in the Cancun area.

Recently, the company has gone out of its way to help other partners in setting up businesses in Mexico. You see, starting a business in Mexico can be a tough proposition if you’re unfamiliar with local laws and practices. BRIC already has a thriving business in Playa del Carmen, and they’ve recently gone above and beyond in helping other partners wade through the process of getting set up.

BRIC gives and gives, and never asks for anything in return. And to us, that makes them the perfect candidate to receive this month’s partner Honey Badger Award!

Team Member Awards: Mark Sams and Luis Calas


The team member Honey Badger Award goes to LiveRez employees that always put the team first, make others around them stronger, and exemplify the culture and DNA of LiveRez.

Our winners this month are Mark Sams and Luis Calas. Let’s learn some more about them.

Mark-Sams-hb3

Mark Sams

Mark is a key member of our development team at LiveRez. Recently, he’s been instrumental in developing a number of soon-to-be-released features, such eSignatures and Responsive Check-Out.

Around the office, Mark is known as the resident pool shark. Beating him even once is considered a badge of honor. Mark was also a competitive racquetball player and still plays recreationally today. He loves being outdoors, camping with his family and seeing new places. While in college, Mark had a technical paper on an original data structure published in Dr. Dobbs Magazine.

Luis-Calas-HB

Luis Calas

Luis carries our design team at LiveRez (just see the photo above). Born in Cuba and raised in New Jersey, Luis has an eye for style (but not so much fashion yet, he says). He loves designing for web and print. For Luis, making it all come together is key, no matter what the medium.

Luis holds a Bachelor of Arts with a concentration in Computer Graphics from Fairleigh Dickinson University. He just celebrated his 18-year anniversary with his wife, Tiffany. In his free time, he enjoys coaching his three boys (Ian, Luke and Gabe) in baseball, basketball and football. Luis said his dream in life is to beat Mark Sams (this month’s other Honey Badger) three times in a row in pool.

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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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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Honey Badger Awards: Big Bear Luxury Properties Sees 40% Increase in Revenue Thanks to Airbnb Integration

Congratulations to the winners of this month’s Honey Badger Awards! The monthly award highlights members of the LiveRez community, both partners and LiveRez team members,  that are going the extra mile and making big impacts on their organizations. This month we highlight Big Bear Luxury Properties (Partner Winner), and Josh Hurst and Justin Borchardt (Team Member Winners)!

Partner Winner – Big Bear Luxury Properties

Company Grows Revenue 40% with Airbnb Integration

Big Bear Luxury Properties

Each month, we highlight a partner that is making big strides in their business. This month the award goes to Big Bear Luxury Properties in Big Bear Lake, CA.

Big Bear Luxury Properties is absolutely killing it on Airbnb. For the first quarter this year, their rental revenue has increased 40% year over year. And, a big part of that growth has come from their Airbnb bookings.

Jo Ann Cecil, owner of Big Bear Luxury Properties, said she’s definitely thankful that LiveRez partnered with Airbnb. She said not only has it “been a breeze” to add homes to Airbnb, but the support from both LiveRez and Airbnb has been great!

“There is never a question that goes unanswered from both LiveRez and Airbnb,” Cecil said.

One of the keys to the company’s success on Airbnb has been their team’s dedication to learning more about Airbnb and how it operates.

“We look forward to our continued partnership with LiveRez and Airbnb!” Cecil continued. “Here’s to more and more bookings!”

Team Member Winners

The team member award goes to LiveRez employees that always put the team first, make others around them stronger, and exemplify the culture and DNA of LiveRez. Our winners this month are Josh Hurst and Justin Borchardt.

Josh Hurst

Josh Hurst - LiveRezThe Do-It-All Programmer
Josh is a key member of our development team at LiveRez. Throughout his seven years with the company, Josh has worked in just about every department, except billing.

Some fun facts about Josh: He’s been riding the unicycle since he was 11, can beat his older brother Tyler (LiveRez’s VP of Sales/Marketing) in an arm wrestling competition, and is a self-taught web developer. In his free time, Josh reads programming books to keep up on the latest trends.

Justin Borchardt

Justin Borchardt - LiveRezA Black Belt in More Than Just Karate
Justin is a key member of our support team, playing multiple roles in addition to tech support, like handling SSL certificates, DNS updates and working with the engineering team on issues.

Justin has a degree in IT and is pursuing a degree in mobile application development. In his free time, he likes to spend time with his three kids, and enjoys tuner cars and outdoor adventures, like fishing and camping. He also holds a black belt in American Kenpo.

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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Honey Badger Awards: Big Sky Vacation Rentals Uses CRM to Boost Sales 38%

Honey Badger Awards

Each month LiveRez gives out its Honey Badger Awards to highlight team members and LiveRez partners that have made big strides during the month.

This month, we have a new partner award winner and two team member winners.

Partner Winner – Big Sky Vacation Rentals

Newsletter-Cover-Big-Sky

Each month, we highlight a partner that is making big strides in their business. This month the award goes to Big Sky Vacation Rentals in Big Sky, MT.

Big Sky Vacation Rentals’ Owners Mike and Kirsten King recently hired rockstar employee Shelley Henslee, who dug into LiveRez’s lead management system and revolutionized the company’s use of it.

Thanks to her efforts, the team has dramatically increased it close rate for leads. By utilizing the lead status field, Henslee was able to better organize the team’s efforts in working leads.

This led to an impressive close rate of 35% and a whopping 38% increase in booking revenue! Over the course of the year, this improvement in close rate could help Big Sky VR add more than $1 million in additional revenue!

Team Member Winners

Mike-Rob-312

Mike Luna (left) and Rob Holderness (right) are this month’s Honey Badger Award Winners.

The team member award goes to a LiveRez employees that always put the team first, make others around them stronger, and exemplify the culture and DNA of LiveRez. Our winners this month are Mike Luna and Rob Holderness.

Mike Luna

Mike works on our development team, helping build the world’s greatest vacation rental software. Most recently, he’s played a big role in developing LiveTrust, our new trust accounting solution.

When Mike isn’t burning the midnight oil laying down code, he enjoys playing with his two sons, performing science demonstrations for youth groups, playing basketball, cooking, watching movies and wood working (which he started when he built a cradle for his first child).

Rob Holderness

Rob executes LiveRez’s marketing and public relations efforts, plus writes documentation and manages the FAQ system. He also writes blogs (like this one).

A few fun facts about Rob: He wrote his Master’s thesis on a single episode of South Park, played baseball in college, and enjoys playing guitar, fishing and brewing his own beer.

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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LiveRez Announces March Honey Badger Award Winners!

Honey Badger Awards

Each month LiveRez gives out its Honey Badger Awards to highlight team members that always put the team first, make others around them stronger, and exemplify the culture and DNA of LiveRez. This month, we have two new winners, as well as the addition of a Partner winner that’s putting in the extra effort to make an impact in their market.


Partner Winner – New

Great Smokys Logo.png

 

 

This month we’re honoring Great Smokys Cabin Rentals, which manages more than 50 homes in Bryson City, NC.

Great Smokys was an early adopter of LiveRez’s review and survey system. Since turning on the system, they’ve has amassed a whopping 2,654 guest reviews — the vast majority of which are 5 stars.

They said that making the investment in collecting their own reviews has helped them get more bookings and kept guests from searching for reviews on third-party websites like FlipKey, where “they might then select properties from someone else.”


Team Member Winners

Brittney FunkBrittany Funk

Brittany works in our partner success department, helping managers to get the most out of their LiveRez software. She joined LiveRez in 2014 after working for professional management companies.

Brittany says her family, faith and friends are her foundation. When she’s not working, she enjoys playing beach volleyball, going to the gym and traveling.

 

 

Ryan NortonRyan Norton

Ryan is one of the longest-tenured members of our sales team. If you’re one of the 600 or so partners that signed up for LiveRez in the past four to five years, you’ve probably talked to him.

Ryan grew up in Wyoming, helping his parents at their Pizza Parlor and Ice Cream Shop. Outside of work, Ryan likes wood working projects, hiking, camping, playing basketball, and spending time with his wife and four kids.

 

 


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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