Recently, Heather Weiermann of The Vacation Rental Coach joined Amy Hinote, Founder and Editor of VRM Intel, and Julie Byrd, VP of Sales at Cabovillas.com to discuss vacation rental industry trends with NAVIS. The free panel-style webinar covered some of the most important topics in VR management today, including predictions for HomeAway, how to jump-start direct bookings, and what the ideal marketing mix looks like. What’s clear from the conversation is that property managers have to juggle, perhaps more than anyone else in the industry, with third parties, recruiting new homeowners, growing profitable direct business, and so much more.
You’ll have to listen to the webinar to get every juicy detail from these industry icons, but we’ve handpicked a few of our favorite topics for those that haven’t had a chance to register, yet.
What is the most important thing for vacation rental managers to focus on to grow business right now?
According to Heather Weiermann, VRMs must give guests a reason to book. She says, “If you’re just on listing sites or just sending emails with pretty pictures, anyone can send an email with the same pictures. You have to provide a reason that someone would want to book with you. It’s great service, extra amenities. It’s going above and beyond to help them have an amazing vacation.”
Julie Byrd adds that Cabovillas.com has been upping their amenities for arrivals to give them more value for their stay and now the company’s project is to spread the word about these changes. After taking a break from Google pay-per-click for several years because they were able to get their traffic through VRBO and their brand website, Cabovillas.com has decided to reinvest in PPC. She notes that “Being able to see the PPC campaigns and see the results that we get from them through NAVIS is super helpful in being able to use our marketing money effectively and smartly and being able to convert that PPC advertising.”
Why do you feel that so many property managers invest in commission-based advertising instead of investing in ads over which they have more control?
For older vacation rental companies that began before the listing sites came along, this isn’t as much of a challenge, but for newer companies that came along after listing sites, it was easy to put listings up and have that be your marketing.
As Amy Hinote says, “It’s harder to look at a diversified marketing strategy if you’ve been getting bookings from one source and now you have to move away from it. A fresh start approach is what I see will happen this year. Going back to the drawing board and looking at Who? What? When? Where? Why? Who is your guest? Why are they coming? One of the benefits is bringing the enthusiasm back into the marketing campaign.”
Heather Weiermann adds that property managers need to control their brands. “You can pay for control and manage your brand and have unique marketing and create that unique relationship through your brand… or you can hand over control to someone else.” For smaller vacation rental managers, Weiermann suggests finding a company to partner with and finding the most valuable marketing resource whether that’s PPC or email marketing. But she notes, “Email marketing gets the biggest bang for your buck. You can’t blast, though. You have to know who your guests are and personalize your email marketing.
Cabovillas.com ran website analytics and decided to focus on keeping guests on the website longer. Julie Byrd notes, “Giving really engaging information on our website… is giving us better conversions on our website, people spending more time on our website, people filling out more forms on our website. It’s really making the investment in making your website very user-friendly.”
What key things do you focus on to get homeowners to use professional management?
The consensus on this topic is that homeowners are moving back toward professional management for a variety of reasons. As a result, there is a great deal of opportunity to bring them into the managed environment.
Hinote says that it’s getting harder to find housekeepers and technology requirements are getting to the point that it’s not worth it for homeowners to manage themselves, while Byrd added that managing diverse channel partners is their biggest challenge and most homeowners don’t want to deal with it. With this comes the opportunity to grow your business, especially by responding to the problems that homeowners have had with third parties. Hinote says that listing sites have dropped bookings, haven’t communicated with guests, and have quit vetting guests to make sure the match is good. These are specific ways in which professional managers can show value to homeowners.
For more on trends in inventory, how guests are responding to changes at HomeAway, and segmented marketing best practices, among other things, register to receive a recording of Vacation Rental Marketing: A Fireside Chat.