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No Vacancy: Maximizing ROI

3 Posts tagged with the love tag

As business owners we are all driven to find new and creative ways to make more cabbage.  (Cabbage is a technical term for revenue.)  I’ve got a crazy one for you; let people stay in your home for FREE! According to a recent survey from HomeAway, more than half of owners have donated or considered giving their home away for free to a charity.  


Donating nights in our vacation homes at little or no cost to guests has led to:


  • Priceless endorsements and some of our most fantastic guestbook comments
  • Goodwill and publicity for our business that would have otherwise been unattainable
  • Exposure to paying customers who may not have otherwise known about us
  • The fulfillment and joy of using our business to Love guests who needed to be Loved


“But how will letting people stay for free increase my cabbage,” you may be wondering?  Good question. 


Have you ever been WOW’d by a business? WOW’d in such a way that you not only couldn’t keep yourself from telling people about your great experience, but you almost felt obligated to bring that business new customers?  Wouldn’t it be a tremendous WOW to let someone, particularly someone in need, stay in your home at little or no cost to them?


Consider what your reaction would be if someone offered you time in a vacation home, one just like yours, to you and your family for nothing in return.  Take it a step further and suppose you were in some type of need, say on an unplanned last-minute trip, maybe visiting a Loved one because of a medical emergency.  Would you become an advocate of your generous host?  How far out of your way would you go to “repay” their Loving act? 


This was the case for one of our donations when our guest wrote my wife, Angela, and said,


“Oh Angela!  I cannot begin to express my appreciation.  It was so perfect!  And your home made it possible for this to be such a lasting, awesome memory for me…and hopefully my kids.  I wanted you to know that we had an awesome time and how forever grateful I will be.  And I will tell everyone I know about your place.  I’ve already posted on my Facebook about your home [and] a small video clip of my favorite moments of the whole trip.  Thanks again and God Bless you and your beautiful family!”  


Angela and I believe that if we keep our primary focus on Lovingly hosting as many guests as possible, even if some of them aren’t paying us, the seeds we’re planting will continue to grow and bear good fruit.   


The steps to driving your occupancy and your revenue up by donating your home are pretty straightforward.

  • Decide if you are willing to donate nights in your home and what it should look like for you. 
  • Decide which dates or times of year would be most ideal for you to offer your home for free.
    • You can give away time all year or aim for a time that may likely go unoccupied anyway.
    • The further out you can set aside dates the more successful you’ll be at donating them.
  • Spread the word and be on the lookout for donation opportunities, find a cause to support.  
    • Reach out to church groups, children’s charities or military veteran’s associations.
    • Google search “donate a vacation home” to explore resources that can help you connect with charities if you are unable to fill a direct need on your own.Screen shot 2011-08-31 at 8.22.06 AM.png


The Bottom Line:  Donating nights in your vacation home will create goodwill and awareness of your business while endearing you to particular groups of people.  Donations will lead to fantastic guestbook comments, enthusiastic guest referrals, and perhaps most importantly, give you the opportunity to bless others tremendously in the name of Love.  Using your vacation home business in this way will also increase the joy and contentment you derive from being in one of the most rewarding businesses in the world…and it might even lead to additional bookings.


So here’s to converting your Love into new cabbage!






Delightful Memories = Repeat Guests + Referrals

Hey everyone, sorry I’m late!  Angela and I have been eagerly putting the final touches on the new house before our first guests arrive this week.  We are setting this home, like the others, with the primary goal of creating delightful memories for each of our guests.  

In my previous blog, I mentioned that we should be generating repeat guests and referrals.  The simple answer for getting more repeat guests and referrals is to create more memories for your guests.


As vacation home owners, we have a unique opportunity to go far beyond providing accommodations at a good value with friendly service.   



POP QUIZ:  What product do you sell? 


A.    A comfortable night’s sleep? 

B.    A base station for your guests’ vacation? 

C.    Service with a smile? 


Those all sound a lot like what motels sell to their customers.  


In our business, Angela and I sell delightful memories. 


Ultimate Comfort.  Ultimate Convenience.  Ultimate Memories.


That’s our tagline, and it’s what we do in a few short phrases.  Comfortable, convenient and  memorable.  Everything we do with our vacation home business revolves around these three concepts.  Delightful memories get talked about over and over; sharing delightful memories allows the Love to live on.


We have found that delightful memories are the ones that keep our guests coming back (as repeat customers) in addition to recommending our home and sharing their experience with others (referrals).       


A guest review we received on a couple weeks back made me think about the memories this new home will create.  The review says “….We had the time of our life….we would most definitely return here….Thank you for giving us our favorite family vacation!!”  


Those sound like the words of a highly satisfied customer.  Their words; ”time of their life, their favorite family vacation,” and most importantly, “we would most definitely return here” to our home. 


So how do we create memories that delight our guests into coming back while recommending our homes to all who will listen? 


If we are intentional about creating scenarios for delightful memories to unfold, we can more easily identify the opportunities to create those memories for our guests before they arrive.  The idea is to be intentional about creating scenarios for delightful memories to occur.


Here are three examples where being intentional resulted in incremental bookings for us. 


Opportunity 1:  During the booking process, a youth basketball team mentioned they needed to cook lots of rice.  We purchased two large rice cookers for $40 each and let them know several weeks prior to check-in we had done so… just for them.


Result:  The team had a great time; have stayed with us three years in a row and are booked in two houses for a week this July.  Plus, now we have rice cookers at the houses for other groups. 


Opportunity 2:  Two years ago, a couple with a 3-year-old daughter booked our house for a week.  It was her first trip to Disneyland so we purchased Tinkerbell pajamas, an autograph book and mouse ears hat that were left out on her bed.


Result:  Their daughter calls our home her “Disney House,” and they recently booked their third vacation with us for November 2011.     



Opportunity 3:  Four businessmen checked out of our home two years ago and mentioned what a great time they had playing ping-pong after long days of seminars.  When they checked in last year we left four premium ping-pong paddles and 3-star balls with a note that read “Let the games begin!”   


Result: They immediately called to thank us when they found the paddles and booked their week for 2012 the day before they checked out this year!   


The Bottom Line:  Giving your guests a reason to come back and refer your home can reduce your marketing costs, build your customer base and your annual revenue.  So far, in 2011 we have seven reservations accounting for 49 nights that are repeat guests, an incremental seven percent increase in occupancy for both houses! 


For many of us peak season is around the corner, here’s to creating delightful memories that keep them coming back for more, the kind they’ll tell all their friends about… 


Tell me about some of the things you do to create memories.




One of the most uncomfortable questions a vacation home business can face is the dreaded “do you offer any discounts?”


It’s a perfectly legitimate question. Who of us, as consumers, doesn’t gain pleasure from garnering a great deal?  Consumers Love (again, with a capital L) a deal, travelers included. This fact was further echoed by other owners at the HomeAway Summit this past weekend.


On the flip-side, as business owners, discounts lower our nightly revenue and ultimately cost us money, don’t they?  I can vouch for that, discounts cost our business more than $15,000 in lost revenue in 2009 just on one house.  BUT, it’s not why you think. 


In our case, the average nightly revenue of this particular house climbed $29 from ’07 to ’08, then another $26 from ’08 to ’09. A fifty-five dollar per night increase over a two-year period?  Great results…right? 





Although our average nightly revenue had gone up by $55 per night in 24 months, our total revenue was down $15,659 because we booked 29 fewer nights in ’09 than in ‘08.  Increasing our nightly revenue earned us a $15,000 per year pay cut.  Arriving at that realization stung a little. 


In January, 2010 with our 2009 results in front of us, Angela (my wife) and I had a business meeting (time we have set aside each month to improve our business).  By then we were several years into our ongoing debate about our nightly rates.  I usually think the rates could be higher, she usually doesn’t. 


The revenue decrease caused us to agree that we ought to begin “discounting” this house.  However, we also agreed not to lower our top-of-market advertised rates.  Maintaining our rates would still allow us the opportunity to get full price when possible for the value we provide.


We had already begun returning all inquiries via phone, the new idea we implemented for those inquirers still hesitant to “book now” was to simply ask what type of discount they were seeking.  Some have a firm budget they are working with.  Others simply want to feel like they are getting a deal. 


Here are the questions we ask ourselves when considering discounts:


•    Based on our history, will we for sure book these nights if we pass on this “discounted” inquiry?

•    Does it seem likely this inquiry won’t book if we do not offer something? 

•    What is the minimum we can offer to get this inquiry to book with us right now?


For those looking for a deal, we decided we would be more than willing to make them one now!  We established some “deals” we could offer.  Some that continue to be most popular with our deal-seeking guests are:


•    25-50% off the black holes (nights that will not book)this new reservation leaves before or after. (LOVE this one!)

•    Complimentary rental of our gaming system package or complimentary pool heating.

•    Early check-in or late check-out when available at no additional fee to the guest.


These “deals” cost us zero out of pocket and give our guests a reason to book with us right now, filling vacancies on our calendar.  Plus, they give our guests the satisfaction of getting that deal they are seeking. 


For inquirers with a firm budget, we are usually facing a take it or leave it scenario because they either have the money or they don’t.  With these, also consider the size of the group (your costs), nature of their visit (can they be repeat guests,) and whether the booking butts up to another or creates black holes.


The Bottom Line:  Offering discounts and being more flexible with our rates increased our occupancy and our annual revenue.  With the new “discounting” practices in place for this home we booked 40 additional nights in 2010 with great results.  Although our average nightly revenue dropped $47, our revenue for the year increased $16,817.


Now….everybody can Love discounts!